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Naperville divorce attorneyThe decision to end your marriage is likely one of the biggest decisions of your life. There is no “undoing” a divorce once it is finalized. Consequently, some states require married spouses to wait a certain amount of time before they can get divorced. Illinois used to have such a requirement; however, there is no longer a mandatory separation period or waiting period for divorce in Illinois. That being said, there are still certain criteria that must be met before you can divorce in Illinois.

Divorce Requirements and the Separation Period

To get divorced in Illinois, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for 90 days or longer. You may divorce in Illinois even if you were not married in the state.

Before changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, spouses also had to live apart for a certain period of time before they were eligible for divorce. In 2021, though, there is no longer a mandatory separation period. Furthermore, there are no longer fault-based grounds for divorce in Illinois. The only reason you can seek a divorce in Illinois is “irreconcilable differences.” In other words, you and your spouse simply cannot get along anymore, and you wish to terminate your marriage relationship.

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Wheaton prenup attorneyPrenuptial agreements are marital contracts that cover a wide range of issues. These documents are grossly misunderstood by the general public. Some people assume that prenuptial agreements are only necessary if a spouse intends to get divorced or does not take the marriage seriously. Others assume that if a spouse asks for a prenuptial agreement, he or she plans to take advantage of the other spouse financially. Although these myths are slowly being replaced by facts, it can still be a difficult topic to broach with a fiancé(e).

Wait Until the Right Time to Talk About a Prenup

Prenuptial agreements are increasingly popular among engaged couples, especially couples who own substantial assets or investments or have substantial debts. If you are interested in signing a prenup before tying the knot, you may be unsure of how to bring it up with your partner.

If you and your significant other have just gotten into an argument or you have a dinner date scheduled in 40 minutes, that is not the right time to bring up a prenuptial agreement. This conversation is extremely important, and it deserves ample time and attention. Wait until you have several hours free and you and your partner are on good terms before bringing up the prenup.

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Naperville divorce lawyerIf you are getting divorced, you may be completely unsure of what to expect. How long will the divorce take? Will I need to go to court? What steps are involved in the divorce process? Questions like these are important. While there is no way to predict exactly how your divorce case will unfold, educating yourself about the Illinois divorce process will help you prepare for the different possibilities. The “discovery” phase of the divorce involves gathering facts and information using discovery tools such as interrogatories and depositions.

Discovery Depends on the Spouses’ Transparency

Divorcing spouses are asked to fill out a financial disclosure form in which they list assets, income, and other financial data. If both spouses freely disclose accurate financial data and other relevant information, the discovery process involves little more than confirming this information. Unfortunately, in many divorce cases, spouses are not fully transparent about financial issues or other divorce concerns. They may refuse to disclose certain information, hide assets, or lie about parenting matters. Consequently, the spouses’ attorneys must use various legal methods to obtain this information and ensure its accuracy.

Types of Discovery Tools Your Attorney May Use to Gather Information

Interrogatories are formal questions that a divorce attorney may send the other spouse. Document Requests are, as the name states, requests for certain records or documents. You or your spouse may be asked to turn over bank account statements, retirement account or life insurance statements, credit card statements, tax returns, mortgage statements, property appraisals, and more.

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Naperville divorce lawyerAlimony, spousal maintenance, and spousal support are all terms used to describe the financial assistance an individual provides to his or her spouse during or after divorce. In Illinois, you can request temporary spousal maintenance while your divorce is ongoing through a “temporary relief order.” You may also receive payments after the divorce is complete. However, spousal maintenance is not guaranteed, and many divorce cases conclude without a spousal maintenance order. Read on to learn about how, why, and when spousal maintenance is awarded in Illinois.

How Can You Get Spousal Support?

Spousal maintenance may be awarded to a spouse if the spouses agreed to maintenance in a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. The spouses may also reach an agreement on the amount and duration of maintenance payments during settlement negotiations in their divorce. Lastly, a spouse may request maintenance by filing a petition with the court.

When Does the Court Award Alimony?

Illinois courts make decisions about spousal maintenance by evaluating the spouses’ needs, financial circumstances, employability, and other relevant factors. The length of the marriage and the standard of living during the marriage also impact this decision significantly.  Maintenance is often awarded to a spouse if he or she gave up career or education opportunities to raise children or be a homemaker; however, maintenance decisions are made by evaluating the totality of circumstances.

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DuPage County divorce lawyerMany parents who are thinking about ending their marriage have the same concern. They wonder, “How often will I get to see my kids if we divorce?” If you are thinking about divorce and you live in Illinois, it is important to understand how the state handles visitation. It is also important to know the vocabulary Illinois courts now use to describe parenting duties. In Illinois, the term “visitation” is no longer used to describe the time that a child spends with each parent. Visitation has been replaced by the term “parenting time.” Read on to learn about how parenting time decisions are handled in Illinois divorce cases.

How Much Parenting Time Does Each Parent Get?

Parents have the right to design their own parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval. As long as the parenting plan serves the child’s best interests, the plan will be approved and formalized into a binding court order. The parenting plan contains important information about how parents will make major decisions such as where the child goes to school, as well as the parenting time schedule. Some parents decide to split parenting time nearly equally. Others create a plan in which the child lives with one parent on the weekend and the other parent on the weekdays.

What if We Cannot Agree on a Parenting Time Schedule?

When you are used to tucking your child into bed every night, the idea of going days or even weeks without seeing him or her can be distressing. Consequently, parents often disagree about how much parenting time each parent should be allotted in the parenting plan. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, the first step is often to attend family law mediation and work with a mediator to reach a compromise. Your respective lawyers may also be able to help you negotiate an out-of-court decision on parenting time disputes. If you still cannot reach an agreement, the case may go to litigation.

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Naperville family law attorneyDomestic violence affects the lives of millions of people every day in the United States, and Illinois residents are no exception. If you or a loved one has experienced domestic violence or abuse, you may have questions about protection orders. In Illinois, an Emergency Order of Protection is often issued on the same day that it was requested. It prohibits the subject of the order from contacting or coming near the petitioner and may also contain other provisions such as a provision requiring the subject to surrender his or her firearms. An order of protection also helps to create an official record of the abusive person’s behavior. However, many abuse victims fail to get this important and potentially life-saving protection because they do not know if what they experienced was technically abuse under the law.

Can I Get an Order of Protection If the Abuser Never Physically Harmed Me?

A few years ago, the social media hashtag #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou flooded Facebook and Twitter. Using the hashtag, many abuse victims shared stories of abusive relationships that did not involve typical abusive tactics like punching, slapping, or kicking. The campaign was a valuable reminder to many that abuse takes nearly countless forms and not every form is physical.

If you are being stalked, harassed, financially manipulated, gaslighted, or otherwise abused in a non-physical manner, you may worry that you do not meet the criteria for an order of protection. Fortunately, Illinois law reflects the fact that abuse can involve much more than physical violence.

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Wheaton divorce attorneyWe typically think of marriage as a romantic partnership. However, marriage is also a legal relationship. When a married couple divorces, they will need to follow certain procedures to dissolve the legal marital relationship. If you are thinking about getting divorced in Illinois, you may wonder what the process entails. For example, you may wonder what the legal grounds for divorce are in Illinois, or whether there is a waiting period before you can file for divorce. The better educated you are about the divorce process in Illinois, the better prepared you will be to end your marriage on your terms.

Illinois is a “No-Fault” Divorce State

Sometimes, well-meaning friends and family members give inaccurate and outdated divorce advice. One reason that this happens is that laws are always changing. Prior to January 1, 2016, Illinois had two options for divorce: fault-based divorce and no-fault divorce. Fault-based grounds were things like infidelity or abuse. However, Public Act 99-90 eliminated all of the fault-based grounds for divorce in the state of Illinois.

Presently, there is only one possible “ground” or reason you can give when requesting a divorce: irreconcilable differences. To petition the court for a divorce, or “dissolution of marriage” in Illinois, you will assert that irreconcilable differences have led to the irreparable breakdown of your marriage.

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DuPage County adoption lawyerAdopting a child in Illinois can be an incredibly joyous and rewarding event. However, adoption is also a complex process that requires patience and diligence. Having an experienced adoption attorney will help you navigate adoption law, and understanding the process before you get started will help you set realistic expectations.

Am I Eligible to Adopt?

Illinois adoption law does not discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, or marital status. As long as you are over 18 years of age, you meet Illinois residency requirements, and you are determined to be a reputable person, you may be single, married, divorced, heterosexual, gay, or lesbian. Illinois may even allow a person under the age of 18 to adopt a child depending on the circumstances. If a couple wishes to adopt and they are married, both spouses must join the petition for adoption. If you wish to adopt a child who is over 14 years of age, the child must consent to the adoption.

What Do I Need to File?

If you have established that you are eligible to adopt and the child is available for adoption, you must file a petition. This will include, but is not limited to:

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Naperville IL divorce lawyerMost couples buy a home at some point in their marriage. The family home is often the most valuable asset a couple owns, and the prospect of figuring out how to divide it in a divorce can be daunting. Fortunately, Illinois courts have established means of handling property division during divorce, and homes are no exception.

Who Gets to Keep the House?

Sometimes, it is necessary for a divorcing couple to sell the family home and divide the equity. However, it is common for one spouse to keep the home. Which spouse that will be may depend on a variety of factors, including each spouse’s financial situation, employment, and personal preferences. If there are children involved, the parent who is given the most parenting time may get to keep the home. The spouse who leaves the home may be able to recover their share of the home’s value in one of several ways.

Buying Out the Value of the Home

The spouse who stays in the home will usually do one of the following:

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Naperville IL divorce lawyerRetirement funds, such as pensions and 401(k) accounts, are often a substantial issue in an Illinois divorce. For a couple who have earned average incomes throughout the duration of their marriage, retirement accounts can make up the majority of their accumulated wealth. As such, spouses are often concerned with the impact of a division of retirement savings as a consequence of their divorce.

In our last post, we discussed the impact of divorce on Social Security benefits. Here, we will examine the way that retirement accounts are handled in a divorce.

401(k) and Contribution Plans 

Unless spouses signed a valid prenuptial agreement stating otherwise, 401(k) plans with contributions during the marriage are considered marital property and may be subject to division. Though contributions from before the marriage may remain non-marital assets, contributions during the marriage belong to the marital estate.

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DuPage County family law attorneyThere are many factors to consider during your Illinois divorce, and one that is frequently overlooked is how Social Security benefits are handled. Social Security benefits are more complicated than other retirement assets like a 401(k), because federal law prohibits assigning, dividing, or garnishing Social Security benefits. This means that state courts cannot even consider Social Security benefits in the division of marital property, because dividing and allocating them–even by anticipating a larger future benefit for one spouse and allocating marital property to the other spouse accordingly–would contradict federal law.

However, that does not mean that you are not entitled to your own Social Security benefits according to your former spouse’s benefits. Federal law does allow for certain circumstances in which a divorced wife or husband of an insured person is entitled to Social Security benefits based on their former spouse’s work record.

When Can I Qualify for Spousal Benefits After a Divorce?

Federal law will consider the following factors when determining whether you are eligible for benefits:

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DuPage County divorce attorneyOnce a couple knows their marriage is over, spouses preparing to divorce in Illinois can become very competitive and hostile. One tactic a spouse might employ in an effort to get revenge, pay less future spousal support, or otherwise get the upper hand in the divorce, is to hide assets and sources of income.

This tactic is more common in high asset divorces, when a couple’s financial picture may be complex and one spouse may manage many or most of the assets, leaving the other spouse in the dark. Finding hidden assets and income that one spouse tries to hide from the other may even require the help of a professional with a special set of skills. Here are several things to keep in mind if you think your spouse may be hiding assets.

Participate in Discovery

The Illinois divorce process includes a period called “discovery” wherein couples request financial information from each other. If you are unsure whether your spouse is hiding assets or not, you can use tools like depositions and interrogatories (a legal interrogation requiring a response) to get a more complete picture. The information your spouse provides during discovery must be given under penalty of perjury.

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DuPage County divorce lawyerWhen you are in the middle of a divorce, there can be so many things to manage and negotiate that the custody of a pet may not immediately come to mind. However, if you are like most pet owners, your dog or cat is part of your family, and you care deeply about its well-being. You should be sure to understand your options for ensuring that your pet remains in your life after the divorce.

Illinois Law Regarding Pets in a Divorce

In January of 2018, Illinois law changed to treat pets more like children, giving couples the option to share custody of their pets after a divorce. Prior to this law, pets were considered regular property like a house or a car. This meant they would have to be divided up along with all the other assets and given to one spouse or the other. The spouse who was not awarded ownership of a pet had no legal recourse to do anything and was left to deal with their loss.

Joint or Sole Ownership

Today, although pets are still technically considered property, both spouses can ask for ownership. Judges in a divorce case can grant sole or joint ownership, possibly with a visitation schedule similar to those used for parenting time. Judges will take into consideration things like who does the most work in taking care of the pet, whether the pet was owned by one party prior to the marriage, and what factors play into the best interests of the pet.

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Naperville IL divorce attorneyOne of the most common but least discussed challenges of divorce is the loss of a shared social group. Adding to the sense of loss from a divorce, friends may pick sides, and precious relationships may be lost.

However, life does go on after divorce, and divorced individuals do make new friends and start meaningful relationships. Adjusting to a new lifestyle may be difficult, but it is important. Here are some tips for building friendships after divorce.

  • Go to a place of worship – If you’re religiously inclined (and even if you are not), a house of worship can be a great place to meet people and make new friends. Religious communities will often have organizations designed to help single, divorced, or widowed members meet people within their age group. You can also take part in events like potlucks and holiday celebrations, so you do not have to be alone on days you used to spend with your spouse.

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Naperville child custody attorneyAll over the U.S., individual states are changing their laws around marijuana use, making it legal at the state level even as it remains illegal under federal law. In Illinois, Governor Pritzker signed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act into law in 2019, changing much about how marijuana is regulated and treated under the law.

Because of this new law, marijuana can no longer be used to discriminate against parents when it comes to custody considerations–with certain limitations. However, stereotypes of marijuana users are still very much a part of society, and bias exists from spouses and judges alike. Here are a few things to consider when wondering whether your or your ex’s marijuana use could impact child custody decisions.

Keep Marijuana Away From Children

Whether it is taken recreationally or for medical purposes, marijuana is a drug. This means that parents should exercise great caution to keep marijuana out of the hands of children. Obviously, this includes marijuana flowers and paraphernalia, but edibles and other candies can be packaged and presented in a way that is especially attractive to children. Child custody battles can be tense even without accusations of allowing access to marijuana, so make it easier on yourself by keeping marijuana away from the kids. You should also plan for your visitation times and avoid marijuana use around your children.

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DuPage County family law attorneySome of the most heated disputes during an Illinois divorce are those that deal with issues concerning the children. In some cases, a parent may use the child as a way to hurt or “get back” at the other parent for whatever reason. In other cases, a parent may just be so worried about the outcome of the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities that they decide to take the child without the permission of the other parent before they lose them. If you believe that your child has been abducted or is at risk of being abducted by their other parent, you should speak to an Illinois family law attorney to discuss your options.

Defining Child Abduction

It can be frustrating when your child’s other parent is late to drop off the child or does not exercise their visitation rights consistently. However, in some cases, a parent may act much more irresponsibly than inconsistent drop-offs. In some cases, a parent may go so far as to even abduct the child from their other parent. In the legal context, child abduction is a rather specific act that comes with serious consequences.

According to Illinois law, child abduction occurs when a person:

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DuPage County family law attorneyMost people would agree that the bond between a parent and their child is a special, sacred one. Illinois courts have adopted this principle and use it in nearly all legal matters concerning children. When parents are unable to agree on certain issues, like parenting time or visitation, the judge will make the final decision with the intention of preserving the relationship the child has with each parent. Under Illinois law, fathers have just as much of a right to a relationship with their children as mothers do. Even though it may feel like a never-ending battle when you are an unmarried father, it is important to realize that there are ways to secure and protect your parenting rights regarding your child.

Is Your Child’s Paternity Established?

Before an unwed father can legally claim any rights to his child, he must first establish paternity of the child. In many cases, establishing paternity can be as easy as filling out and signing the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form at the hospital when the baby is born. In cases in which the child’s paternity is contested, you may have to use other methods of confirming the child’s paternity, such as genetic testing. Either parent can request genetic testing to determine whether or not the alleged father is truly the biological father. Once you have established paternity through any legally recognized method, you can petition for rights regarding your child, such as parenting time and parental decision-making responsibilities.

Rights to Parenting Time

Any issue involving children in Illinois family courts is decided with the child’s best interests at the forefront. When it comes to parenting time, in most cases, the judge will determine that spending time with both parents is in the best interest of the child. In addition, the law clearly states that it is presumed that “both parents are fit and the court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time” unless it is found that either parent would endanger the child’s wellbeing.

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DuPage County divorce attorneyGetting a divorce is a stressful process for most people. In many cases, it can be difficult for a person going through a divorce to look toward the future and preemptively plan for something like their finances. However, it is extremely important that you begin looking at your financial situation before or during the divorce process so you do not suffer unnecessarily after everything is said and done. Most people who go through a divorce experience some sort of change in their financial situation, especially when it comes to their income and financial goals. Making a solid financial plan before you are thrust into post-divorce life can be helpful and even crucial for success after divorce.

Assessing Your Financial Situation

In many marriages, only one of the spouses really knows the details of the family’s finances. This person is commonly referred to as the “in spouse” while the other spouse is referred to as the “out spouse.” The “in spouse” is typically the person who pays the bills each month, does the investing, and possibly consults with a financial planner. Because of this, the “in spouse” usually has a leg up in a divorce because they have a better understanding of the household finances. If you are the “out spouse,” the first thing you should do as you prepare for divorce is to assess the situation and attempt to gain an understanding of your finances.

Seeking Professional Help

In most cases, the best thing for the “out spouse” to do is to seek help from a professional who is familiar with financial planning. In a divorce, the best type of person to contact is usually a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA). These professionals are highly trained and are certified to examine and analyze different financial aspects of divorce. Their job is to help you understand how the decisions you make about your finances can affect your future after the divorce. The CDFA will also help you understand any tax implications during the asset division process, determine whether or not you can afford to keep the family home, and explain how your retirement accounts may be affected.

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DuPage County divorce lawyerMaking the decision to divorce your spouse is a huge step. In many cases, making that decision takes months, if not years, to solidify and begin the process. One of the first steps in the process is to find a divorce attorney who can help you accomplish your goals in your divorce. Before you hire just any attorney, however, you would be wise to set up initial consultations with any lawyers you are considering working with. An initial consultation is a way for you to meet the attorney, ask questions, get to know your attorney, and discover how they can help you and what they can provide during your divorce. Many people getting a divorce find the process of hiring an attorney to be intimidating, but as long as you are prepared, your consultation can be a productive one.

Make Sure You Come Prepared

When you go to a divorce consultation, you are in control. You will get the most out of your divorce consultation if you bring information to the meeting. The more information you are able to bring, the more productive your consultation will be. You should try to bring basic information about your financial situation, like recent pay stubs and tax returns. If you and your spouse have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, you should bring that. You should also be prepared with basic information about you, your spouse, and your children, along with things like the date you were married and the date you and your spouse began your separation.

Ask About the Attorney’s Experience and Fees

An important thing to ask the attorney about is their experience handling divorce cases and how much they charge for the average case. You should be looking for an attorney who has experience dealing with the types of issues that you may be facing, such as divorcing as a business owner or dealing with divorces involving domestic violence.

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DuPage County family law attorneyOne of the biggest concerns that many parents have during the divorce process is the effect it will have on their children. The irony of this is that the parents themselves have significant control over how their children are affected. Many people think the mere fact that parents are splitting up will be enough to permanently harm a child for life, but studies have shown that the level of conflict parents display to their children is a much more important factor when it comes to determining how much of an effect a divorce has on the children. Children whose parents are constantly in conflict suffer from more negative effects than the children of parents who get along.

Co-Parenting For Your Children’s Best Interests

With this in mind, it is important that you and your spouse keep the conflict to a minimum, especially when around the children. Co-parenting after your divorce can be complicated, especially if your divorce was less than amicable. Here are a few things you can do to help keep the conflict at bay during and after your divorce:

  • Follow your parenting plan. One of the easiest things you can do to reduce the amount of conflict between you and your spouse after your divorce is simply to follow the terms of your parenting plan. Before your divorce is finalized, you and your spouse will be required to submit a parenting plan to the court to be approved by the judge. That plan should contain information about most issues that may arise while co-parenting and ways to cope with those issues.

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