Posted on in Divorce

Illinois divorce lawyerOnce you determine that your marriage is over, you have a lot to do before and after you file for divorce. One important step is to start working with an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights and interests are protected and promoted through the divorce process.

The other steps you take before you file for divorce can make a big impact on your divorce’s progress and its ultimate outcome. During your initial consultation with a lawyer, talk about what you can do to streamline the divorce process. Every divorce is unique, but most benefit from taking the following actions:

Separate your Finances and Create Preliminary Property Division Plans

Your marital assets and debts will need to be divided between you and your spouse in your divorce. You can let the court handle the division process on its own or you can be proactive and make your own property division choices. This latter route generally enables the couple to retain greater control over how their property is divided.

One of the simplest steps to take before your divorce is to divide your bank accounts and credit card debt on your own. Transfer the balances on your joint credit cards to separate cards and close the original accounts. You can also do this with checking and savings accounts.

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Illinois divorce attorneyIn a divorce, the couple’s marital assets are not the only thing that has to be divided. Their marital debts, too, must be divided according to the doctrine of equitable distribution. Just like marital assets, most debts accrued during a couple’s marriage are considered to be property of both parties. In a divorce, the court consider a variety of factors, such as each partner’s income and contributions to the marriage, to determine an appropriate way to divide these debts.

Examples of Marital Debts

Marital debt can include:

  • The outstanding mortgage on the couple’s home;
  • Debt owed on joint credit cards;
  • Student debt for education pursued during the marriage;
  • Medical debt; and
  • Outstanding debt on financed vehicles.

Dividing Debt According to Equitable Distribution

Even if a specific debt was accrued primarily for one partner’s benefit, such as medical bills for one spouse’s treatment or student debt for his or her degree, both partners are liable for it during and after their divorce.

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Illinois divorce lawyerWhat was once known as legal custody is now known as parental responsibilities. This is the right to make decisions on a child’s behalf that impact the child’s lifestyle and future. Under Illinois law, a parenting plan must touch upon all of the following subjects and state which parent is responsible for making decisions in each subject area. Both parents can be named in one or all subject areas, granting them both the right to make decisions and requiring them to work together in their child’s best interest:

  • Education;
  • Healthcare;
  • Extracurricular activities; and
  • Religious upbringing.

There are many competing philosophies on education and even among married couples, parents can disagree about the best course of action for their child’s education. If you find yourself disagreeing with your former spouse’s thoughts and choices regarding your child’s schooling, keep the following in mind:

If You Share the Responsibility to Make Choices About Your Child’s Education, You Have to Work Together

When you share parental responsibilities with a former spouse, you have to cooperate for your child’s sake. Making decisions about moving a child to a different school, keeping him or her back a year, handling behavior problems in the classroom, and discussing issues related to your child’s learning disability or need for an individualized education program (IEP) can be stressful.

Take yourself and your feelings about your former partner out of the equation and focus solely on your child’s educational needs. Use concrete facts like progress reports and report cards to guide your conversations with your former partner. Remember that sometimes, a parenting plan needs to be altered to give a child the best chance for academic success.

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Illinois divorce lawyerIn an Illinois divorce, the couple’s assets must be divided equitably. This is only possible when both partners are transparent about the assets they own and the assets’ values.

Sometimes, dishonest individuals use their partners’ lack of knowledge about their marital assets to try to keep the assets out of the property division process and leave the marriage with more than their fair share of these assets. If you are thinking about doing this, stop that train of thought. You should not try to hide assets from your former partner in your divorce, and this is why:

Your Former Spouse Can Find the Assets You Hide

If your spouse has a feeling you are hiding assets, he or she can uncover them through some detective work with his or her lawyer and/or a forensic accountant. There is no “safe” way to steal assets from your marital pool – whether you think you can hide assets by transferring them into a custodial account for your child, having a friend “hold” your assets in their account for you, or making cash purchases to liquidate the money in your joint accounts, your spouse can always trace your steps and find the money if he or she is willing to do so.

Your Unwillingness to Cooperate with the Court Can Haunt You Later

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Illinois divorce lawyerYou cannot separate education from a child’s life. Think it like trying to extract a career from an adult’s lifestyle and perception his or her role in society. When you first meet somebody, one of the first questions you ask is “what do you do?” For a child, school is what he or she “does.” Because of this, a child’s academic needs are considered heavily when the court develops an appropriate parenting plan for him or her. And although child support orders are created using a formula, special academic needs can force the court to deviate from this formula.

Child Support can be Used to Cover School Expenses

For most children, school expenses include:

  • School supplies;
  • School clothing; and
  • Occasionally, field trips and other special events.

In some cases, a child needs far more support for his or her education. This can be the case when a child attends private school and needs parental support for tuition and uniforms of when the child has a severe mental or physical disability that requires him or her to attend a specialized school.

Your Child’s Academic Needs Are Considered when Your Parenting Plan Is Developed

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Illinois divorce lawyerDomestic violence is far more than hitting and other forms of physical violence. It can involve psychological and emotional manipulation to maintain control over the victim. In many cases, emotional and psychological abuse occur alongside physical abuse. Other forms of violence, such as financial control and sexual abuse, can also be present.

Below are four forms of psychological abuse that can go unnoticed because they tend to be subtle. Look at the examples provided for each to help yourself determine whether psychological abuse is happening in your household.

Triangulation

Triangulation is a manipulation meant to pit two parties against each other or control the flow of information between two or more parties. It is the use of a third party to relay information to another individual when there is no reason to involve the third party, thus making a “triangle” of communication.

Examples of triangulation include:

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Illinois custody attorneyLife rarely keeps us in one place forever. You might be offered a new job opportunity, get accepted to your dream school, meet a new partner, or face financial and personal conditions that make moving away not just an option, but the ideal course of action for you. Before you had children, decisions like this were easy to make. With children, they are far more challenging. And when you have a parenting plan for your child, moving can require court approval.

Not all proposed moves require court approval. A parent can move across town or within a small radius without getting permission from his or her former partner or the court. It is only when a proposed move is far enough that it would require altering an existing parenting plan that the parent cannot simply pack up and go.

Determine How Far You Can Move without Permission

In Illinois, where a parent currently resides determines how far they can move without his or her former partner’s consent or court approval. For parents in Cook, DuPage, Kane, McHenry, Lake, and Will counties, this limit is 25 miles from their current residence. For parents in all other Illinois counties, the limit if 50 miles. These limits apply to inter and intrastate moves, except for when a move is both out of Illinois and at least 25 miles from the child’s current residence.

Get Your Former Partner’s Consent to the Move

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Illinois divorce lawyerWhen a couple cannot stand to be around each other, they are often advised to file for divorce. But a divorce is not feasible in all cases. When there is a barrier to a couple divorcing, whether that barrier is their cultural or religious beliefs about marriage, their financial situation, or just their own perspective of the marriage and the prospect of ending it, legal separation can be a useful way to detach from each other without actually ending the marriage. Some legally separated couples do go on to divorce while others remain content living singly while legally separated. Still, others use their separation as a time to reflect on their marriage, repair the issues that drove them apart and find ways to be a successful couple.

Below are four common reasons why Illinois couples choose legal separation.

Your Religion Prohibits Divorce

Many religions prohibit divorce. Sometimes, individuals’ personal convictions make divorce an unattractive, or even unacceptable, option. For individuals whose religious or philosophical beliefs make divorce a taboo subject, legal separation can be a way to exit an unhealthy marriage without actually violating these beliefs.

You Are Not Sure if You are Ready for a Divorce

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Illinois divorce attorneyWhen a pregnant woman is subjected to domestic violence, she is not the only one who can suffer an injury. The fetus she is carrying at the time of the abuse can suffer in many different ways, some of which do not manifest until after birth.

Pregnancy is stressful for any couple. Sometimes, this stress drives individuals to behave in ways they never behaved before. When violence is already part of a relationship, a pregnancy can cause the violence to become more frequent or more severe. Below are various ways domestic violence can harm a fetus and eventually, a newborn and infant. If you or somebody you know is in an abusive relationship, pregnant or not, it is important that you or the victim exit the relationship safely.

Miscarriage and Stillbirth

Extreme violence can kill a fetus, which can result in a miscarriage or stillbirth. These events can be psychologically traumatizing for a mother. Miscarriages can also put women at risk of suffering physical injuries like excessive bleeding and infection.

Injuries to the Fetus

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Illinois custody attorneyWhen a divorcing couple has children, a child support order and parenting plan are part of their divorce settlement. But what if one or more of the couple’s children are still in the womb? The court cannot create a child support order or parenting plan for a fetus. These can be established after the child’s birth, at which point the child’s legal parentage becomes an important issue to consider if he or she is not actually a product of the marriage. When the child is the product of the couple’s marriage and the parents intend to establish a parenting plan for him or her, it can be easier to wait until the child is born to complete the divorce process. However, this is not required in Illinois like it is in a few states.

A Baby Born to a Married Woman or a Woman Married at the Time of Conception Is Legally the Spouse’s Child

Legal parentage is not the same thing as biological parentage. When a woman who is currently married or was married at the time of conception gives birth, her spouse is automatically the baby’s legal parent, regardless of whether the spouse is the child’s biological parent. This can create difficulties in cases where another man fathers a married woman’s child.

A non-biological legal parent who does not want to be the child’s legal parent must terminate his or her parental rights, which is easier to achieve with the aid of an experienced family lawyer. Conversely, an unmarried biological parent must establish his parentage to become his child’s legal father, which can be done in a few different ways.

Applying Illinois’ Parenting Time and Child Support Laws after Birth

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Posted on in Child Support

Illinois child support lawyerWhen a child support order is created, it is created to provide for the child’s needs effectively based on his or her parents’ income level. It is rare for a child support order to remain appropriate until the child turns 18, the point at which most child support orders terminate. If you are currently paying or receiving child support and your order no longer covers your child’s needs, you can modify your child support order.

Child Support Orders Are Eligible for Review Every Three Years

In Illinois, a child support order can be reviewed every three years to determine if it still meets the child’s needs without creating an undue burden on the child’s parents. During this review period, you and your former spouse have the right to request a modification to your order. After requesting a modification, the court reviews your request to determine whether it is appropriate and applicable.

If you receive child support enforcement services from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, you must prove that a modification would result in a difference of at least 20 percent of your current child support amount and one created with an updated application to state guidelines during this review period.

If an Immediate Change Is Necessary, You Will Have to Prove Why It Is Necessary

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b2ap3_thumbnail_child-custody.jpgThe parenting agreement you sign at the time of your divorce might not serve your child well until he or she becomes an adult.

A parenting plan is divided into two components: parenting time and parental responsibilities. You can modify one or many items in your parenting plan by filing paperwork with the court to alter it. If you and your former spouse agree to the change, this is an easy process. If you do not agree on the proposed changes, you will have to demonstrate to the court that circumstances in your lives have changed and the proposed new plan is in your child’s best interest.

Your Child’s Needs Change as He or She Grows

When your child is in elementary school, remaining in the same school after your divorce could be in his or her best interest because this means one less disruption. By high school, attending a school that has greater academic resources might be a higher priority, which can mean changing districts. In this case, consider altering your parenting plan so your child attends the school that can serve him or her better.

Changes in a Parent’s Household Impact the Child

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b2ap3_thumbnail_mediator.jpgOnce you and your spouse have determined that you are a good fit for divorce mediation, you need to find a mediator who is a good fit for you. In order to find the right mediator for your case, you will need to do some research. Look up divorce mediators in your area and read their reviews online. Schedule a consultation with a few mediators to get a better sense of each of their approaches to the mediation process and how they can help you. Arrive at each consultation with the following questions prepared:

What Will It Cost to Work with You?

The average divorce mediation costs $7,000. That might sound like a lot, but compare it to the average cost of divorce litigation: $25,000 or more.

Ask your prospective mediator what it will cost to work with him or her before you sign a contract to work together. He or she should be able to give you a reasonable quote that you can compare with other mediators’ costs.

How Do You Conduct Mediation Sessions?

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Posted on in Child Support

b2ap3_thumbnail_child-support_20171102-005221_1.jpgIn nearly every divorce between parents, a child support order is part of the divorce settlement. This is the court order that requires one parent to make payments to the other to help cover the costs of raising a child. It is not uncommon for a parent to be curious about how the support he or she pays is used, especially if it does not outwardly appear that the children are benefiting from these payments. If you suspect that your former spouse is not using your child support payments appropriately, talk to your lawyer about potentially modifying your child support order or parenting plan. Violating a court order is contempt of court, and if you can demonstrate that your former partner willingly violated his or her child support order, he or she can face legal consequences.

Child support covers a broad range of needs. Basically, it can be used to help with any costs your child incurs for your former spouse. These costs generally fall into the following categories:

Your Child’s Medical Needs

One parent is required to include the child on his or her healthcare insurance plan. If this parent is the one who receives child support, the money received can be used to help offset insurance costs like copays and premiums. Child support can also be used to cover a child’s uninsured medical needs, like the need for over-the-counter medication.

Your Child’s Day-to-Day Care

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Illinois divorce lawyerNo matter how you approach your divorce, you will need to work through the division of your marital property. When you divorce through mediation, a neutral third party guides you and your spouse through each issue to be resolved and finalized in your divorce settlement. For many couples, the division of their marital property is the most complex of these issues.

Before you begin working with a mediator, talk to your lawyer about how you should approach your property division. You will need to be your own advocate during the mediation meetings, which can be confusing and overwhelming if you do not completely understand why a specific breakdown of your marital assets is in your best interest.

What Are Your Current Financial Needs?

If you do not make enough money to cover your home’s mortgage and property tax payments on your own, it is probably not in your best interest to fight to retain the house. In this scenario, you might see a much greater benefit by selling the home and splitting the profit with your former spouse. If you receive spousal maintenance, this could be a consideration in your property division. If you are a parent, your parenting plan could also be a point to consider when dividing your assets.

Think of the Future

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Yes. But you cannot officially establish your child’s parentage until he or she is born. In other words, though you might know who fathered your unborn child, that man does not have parental rights until the child is born and if you are not currently married to him or were not married when the child was conceived until he officially acknowledges his parentage or the court makes this determination.

It is important to note that although the term “paternity” is often used in this type of discussion, the Illinois Parentage Act contains gender-neutral language. When a child is born, any individual who was married to the child’s mother at the time of conception or birth has automatic parental rights to the child, regardless of his or her gender.

Prenatal Paternity Testing

There are a few different ways to determine paternity before a child is born. The most accurate method is known as Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity (NIPP). It can be performed any time after the eighth week of pregnancy by taking a sample of the alleged father’s blood and the mother’s blood and comparing it to the fetus’ DNA that can be found in the mother’s bloodstream.

Other methods of prenatal paternity testing include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.

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Illinois divorce attorneyDivorces occur between all types of couples for a variety of reasons. Just like no two couples and no two marriages are alike, every divorce is unique in its own way. But this does not mean that there are not measurable patterns and statistics that can help us learn more about which types of couples are most likely to divorce and why couples choose to end their marriages. Data from many different studies can tell us quite a bit about who is most likely to file for divorce and why.

According to a 2015 study of 2,262 adults in heterosexual marriages, women initiate approximately 70 percent of divorces. The most common reason for divorce is dissatisfaction with one’s marriage, which women are more likely than men to experience and take action to address by filing for divorce. This is not a new phenomenon. Women have been more likely than men to file for divorce since the 1940s.

Married Women Report Lower Levels of Marital Happiness than Married Men

The study reported that married women are more likely than their male counterparts to rate their relationship quality as “low.” Interestingly, breakups between non-married couples are initiated almost equally between men and women, so this is not the case of women simply being more likely to become dissatisfied in their relationships and choose to end them. Rather, there are specific demands that come with marriage that weigh more heavily on women, pushing them to seek divorce at greater rates than men.

Marital Dissatisfaction Largely Comes from an Unequal Division of Household Labor and Gender Expectations

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Posted on in Mediation

illinois divorce attorneyIf you and your spouse decide to complete the divorce process through mediation, you will work with a divorce mediator to reach an appropriate, equitable divorce settlement. Although many divorce mediators are lawyers, your divorce mediator will not act in this role. Rather, he or she will act as a neutral third party who does not work “for” you or your spouse, but for a fair resolution to your divorce.

The Mediator Is There to Guide You Toward a Fair Settlement

In mediation, you and your spouse work with the mediator to reach agreements about your divorce settlement. The mediator acts as a guide to these conversations, asking questions about your marriage and divorce goals and helping you and your spouse work through your disagreements. You and your spouse will negotiate with each other under the mediator’s guidance.

A Mediator Asks Questions to Provoke Thought and Gain Insight

Arrive at your mediation sessions prepared to answer questions. The questions you could receive include:

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Posted on in Divorce

Illinois divorce attorneyWhen you are facing difficulties in your marriage, do not jump immediately to divorce. If you and your spouse are willing to put in the work, you can overcome your difficulties and emerge as a stronger couple than you were previously. But this is only possible if you are both committed to trying to save the marriage and even then, sometimes it is simply not possible.

The following four questions can help you and your spouse determine if you can save your marriage. Your answers might surprise you – you could learn something new about yourself or you could find that divorce is the right way to go.

Are You Both Willing to Take Action?

You cannot just stand back and wait for your problems to resolve themselves. You also cannot expect your spouse to do all the work to repair your marriage, even if he or she was the one who cheated or committed another transgression. You both have to be willing to make changes to your lifestyle and seek professional help if necessary.

Are You Both Willing to be Honest?

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Illinois custody lawyerThe short answer is this: it depends on the child and the circumstances he or she is facing. Typically, Illinois courts permit adolescents age 14 and over to weigh in on their parenting time schedule. When a young man or woman expresses a well-developed opinion about his or her parenting time, the court will often consider it alongside other factors to determine an appropriate parenting schedule for him or her. But a child’s opinion cannot be the only thing the court considers, and it is not required to consider the child’s opinion if there are other, more significant, factors present.

Yes, but the Court Can Overrule Your Child’s Choice

When the court develops a parenting time arrangement, it creates the arrangement that it determines to be in the child’s best interest. In most cases, it is in the child’s best interest to maintain a consistent relationship with each parent. One parent could be deemed to be better equipped to care for the child, and when this happens, that parent generally has a greater share of the child’s parenting time.

When the court considers a child’s opinion about his or her parenting schedule, it must determine whether the child’s opinion was logically developed or if he or she is being impulsive. The court must also determine if one parent manipulated the child into voicing such a request in order to receive a larger share of parenting time or “punish” the other parent.

Factors the Court Considers When Determining a Parenting Schedule

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