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Wheaton divorce lawyerAccording to statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth, around 22% of all marriages end within the first five years, and an estimated 53% of marriages dissolve by the 20-year mark. With these statistics in mind, it is not surprising that divorce is common for Americans. Getting a divorce has been said to be one of the most stressful life events, second only to the death of a loved one. One of the ways you can help alleviate some of this stress is by effectively preparing for the end of your marriage. Here are a few tips to help you get your affairs in order before you begin your divorce:

Get a Clear Picture of Your Finances

First, you should have full knowledge of your financial situation. It is not uncommon for one spouse to be more in tune with the family's finances than the other. However, it is important to be in the loop when it comes to your income, assets, expenses, and other financial matters, since everything will be divided in the end. Make a list of all of your marital assets and debts so you can figure out what you actually own and owe. Next, make a preliminary budget for what you need to live off of after the divorce is said and done. This will help you figure out what you should fight for during the asset division process and whether you might be eligible to receive spousal maintenance.

Talk With Your Children

If you have children, you are probably worried about how your divorce will affect them. Many parents are hesitant about getting a divorce, because they do not want to hurt their children. However, ending a marriage that is full of conflict and arguments can often be the best thing for your kids. Studies have shown that children who have divorced parents often have fewer emotional issues than those whose parents stayed together but were unhappy with each other. If you have children, the first step to a healthy transition period is to talk to them about the divorce and explain to them what is happening. You might be surprised at how much they understand, and they may even have a positive opinion about the upcoming changes to their lives.

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Wheaton debt division lawyerDealing with the marital estate is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce. Contention over who gets to keep the family home and who gets the money in savings accounts can be the cause of many arguments during the asset division process. One thing to note is that property and assets are not the only things that must be divided during this division process you must also allocate your debts between the two of you. Allocating debt can prove to be a stressful process, especially since debts created by one spouse may need to be divided between the two of you.

Is it Marital or Non-Marital Debt?

The first thing you must do is determine which of your debts are actually part of the marital estate and which of your debts are personal debts. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), any property or debts acquired between the day you were married and the day you filed for divorce are considered to be part of the marital estate. If the debt was acquired before you were married or after you filed for divorce, it will probably be considered individual debt. Marital debt can include:

  • Credit card debt

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Wheaton uncontested divorce lawyerWhile it is true that some couples do not end their marriages on the best of terms, many divorces are amicable, with both partners knowing that divorce is the best option for everyone. Getting a divorce means you will have to make some difficult decisions about your life and your children’s lives. Even though you may not agree on everything, your divorce does not have to be a strenuous process. An uncontested divorce can be preferable and beneficial for everyone involved -- that is, if you are able to cooperate and negotiate with your spouse.

Understanding an Uncontested Divorce

In the most basic of definitions, an uncontested divorce is simply one that is able to be negotiated and settled without the intervention of a court or a judge. There are certain things that all divorcing couples will have to decide before they can complete their divorce. These issues can include:

Naperville adoption lawyerAs soon as you have made the decision that you want to adopt a child, you are then tasked with determining which type of adoption you want to pursue. There are many types of adoptions, but the first decision you must make is whether you want to adopt a child domestically or internationally. There are certain unique aspects that come along with each type of adoption, creating benefits and drawbacks to each. Deciding between a domestic and international adoption dictates how you begin the adoption process and will determine the steps taken throughout your adoption journey. Here are a few considerations that you should keep in mind when deciding between an international and domestic adoption:

Communication With the Birth Family

In the United States, very few adoptions are "closed" nowadays. There is usually some degree of "openness" in domestic adoptions, and adoptive children will typically have some form of contact with one or both of their birth parents. In some cases, the birth mother may receive periodic updates on the child and their life. In others, the birth mother may spend holidays or other special occasions with the adoptive family.

In international adoptions, birth mothers are rarely in contact with their biological children once they have been adopted. Though it is not impossible to keep in touch, contact with the birth parents typically ends once the adoption process is finalized.

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Naperville child custody lawyerFor divorcing couples with children, a parenting plan must be created before you can tie up the loose ends of your divorce and move on with your life. Illinois courts urge parents to create a parenting plan together that contains all of the provisions and stipulations that they wish to abide by once their divorce is finalized. If you do not come up with a parenting plan, or if you are unable to agree upon one, the responsibility then rests on the courts. A judge, along with a team of professionals, will create a parenting plan for your family, but this often results in one or both of the parents being unhappy with the terms of the agreement.

There are certain commonalities that all parenting plans must share, but parents are given a generous amount of freedom in regards to what can be included in a parenting plan. Here are a few things that may not come to mind right away, but are worth consideration for your plan:

  • Religion: This can be a point of contention between parents, especially if the parents are not of the same religion. Since religion is such a personal matter, it is highly recommended that you and your former spouse make the decision about the child’s religious upbringing together. If the court is forced to intervene, they will most likely make a decision based on prior conduct in regards to the child’s religion.

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DuPage County divorce attorney

Marriage may look bright and shiny on the outside, but it can be a difficult relationship to maintain over the years. As people change, sometimes their partners do not change alongside them. No couple stays the same throughout the entirety of their marriage. For some couples, this can lead to new adventures throughout life’s stages, while for others, it can cause them to grow apart with no hope for reconciliation. Every marriage is unique, but there are a few common denominators that experts have found to be frequent causes of divorce

Money, Money, Money

In the past, many couples got married at a young age, meaning that they often did not have much money to their names. This has shifted in the last decade, as millennials decide to wait a little longer before tying the knot. Money troubles are common for young couples looking to start a life together. Rather than taking the time to build up a fair amount of savings, these couples can find themselves struggling to pay their bills, putting their relationship on the back burner. Although this is common with younger couples, those who get married later are far from exempt from financial issues. Some are used to being independent and find it difficult to share finances with their partner, while others run into hard times financially due to a job loss or medical care costs. Regardless of the reason, disagreements regarding money are common for all couples, and they can sometimes make or break a relationship.

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Wheaton high asset divorce attorneyThe financial aspects of divorce can be an additional stressor for those in the process of ending their marriage. For some, this stress comes from worrying about the cost of divorce. But for couples who have money to spare, their extensive assets can actually be the root of the divorce anxiety. During divorce, couples who have a high net worth have a few different issues that many other couples typically do not have to worry about. If you are going through a high net worth divorce, here are a few mistakes you should try your best to avoid:

Concealing Assets From Your Spouse

Trying to hide assets from your spouse is not uncommon in high net worth divorces. This is possibly one of the worst mistakes you can make, because not only is it unfair, but it is illegal. During divorce negotiations, you are required to be completely truthful with your spouse and their attorney. If you do not fully disclose all aspects of your finances during the discovery process, including the income you earn, the assets you own, and the debts you owe, you could end up paying a lot more than what you would have originally, causing you to lose the assets you were trying to protect.

Forgetting About Tax Issues

Getting a divorce involves a lot of financial decisions that can affect you for the rest of your life. One thing you must keep in mind when making these decisions is how it will affect your taxes after the divorce papers are signed. With the many financial aspects of divorce, there are tax implications that can come up in the future. Issues such as spousal support can affect the amount of taxes that you pay, along with 401(k) distributions or selling certain assets.

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Naperville holiday parenting time lawyerIn the midst of the holiday season, families across Illinois are planning how to spend time together during Christmas and New Year's. In addition to the vacations surrounding these days, there are plenty of other holidays and special days throughout the year that can be fought over by parents who are no longer married. Parenting plans are required by all Illinois couples who are divorced and have children. These legal plans must contain a parenting time schedule that is followed throughout the year. Also included in the parenting plan is how holidays will be spent between the two parents. The holiday parenting time schedule will usually supersede the normal parenting time schedule, so it is important for you and your ex to agree on one that works for you.

Examples of Holiday Parenting Schedules

There are a few ways that are commonly used to distribute holiday time amongst parents who are divorced. The Illinois Supreme Court has published a sample parenting plan that is accepted in all Illinois courts and provides more than one way to settle holiday parenting time issues. For simplicity, you can choose their premade holiday parenting plan, or you can determine which specific holidays each parent gets to spend with their child. Many parents choose to personalize their holiday parenting plan so they can create an arrangement that both parents agree on. Common holiday parenting time schedules include:

  • Alternating Years: One of the most common ways parents agree upon sharing holidays is by celebrating them on a rotating schedule. For example, if mom gets the kids for Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Halloween in even years, then dad gets to spend those holidays with the children in odd years. In such an arrangement, you are guaranteed to spend time with your child for almost every holiday on a semi-annual basis. 

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Wheaton property division lawyerFinancial issues are some of the most commonly-cited reasons for divorce. In some cases, one spouse may not have believed in overspending, while the other spouse was comfortable with leaving a balance on the credit card every month. In other situations, spouses may have disagreed about how much to spend on daily necessities or luxury items. Whatever the reason for the financial mismatch, tensions can increase when the decision to get a divorce is made. It is not uncommon in a marriage for one spouse to be the “go-to” spouse for all things money-related. In situations like these, it can be tempting, and rather easy, for that spouse to conceal or hide assets in hopes that they will not have to share them with the other spouse.

Protecting your finances during your divorce is extremely important, because it can dictate your financial health for the rest of your life. Even if you were the spouse in the marriage who did not handle the majority of the finances, you will want to make sure you are receiving your fair share of assets in the divorce. If you suspect your spouse might be hiding assets from you, here are a few ways you can uncover them:

Start With the Tax Returns

The first place you should begin looking for any financial wrongdoing is on your tax returns. If the tax returns contain itemized deductions, scan through them and see if anything jumps out. For example, a deduction for property taxes can reveal a hidden property. You should also pay attention to capital gains and losses, which can help you discover hidden real estate or stocks and bonds.

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Naperville property division attorneyGetting a divorce is never easy, especially when it comes time to dividing your marital property and assets. One of the most valuable and treasured things you and your spouse own is most likely your family home. Divvying up such a big and expensive asset can create contention, making the rest of the property division process uncomfortable. For many couples, the family home can be a sentimental asset, especially if you have raised children in the home. When it comes down to it, there are three basic options you can choose from when deciding what to do with the home: continue co-owning the home, sell the home and split the proceeds, or allow one spouse to “buy out” the other spouse.

Co-Own the Home With Your Spouse

For some couples, keeping things just the way they are is the most beneficial option. If you have children who want to stay in the home, it can be helpful to keep the home ownership under both of your names. This can also be an option for spouses who cannot agree on what to do with the home or who want to defer decision-making regarding the home until a later date, such as when children have graduated from high school.

Sell Your Home and Split the Profits

The most popular option that couples choose when getting a divorce is selling the family home and dividing the proceeds that come from the sale. This is typically the easiest way to deal with the home, but it can have certain consequences. If your house has appreciated significantly, you may have to pay capital gains taxes on the sale, which must be paid when you file your income taxes. Divorcing couples who decide that this option is best will also have to take the time to find new living arrangements.

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Naperville divorce attorneyIt is not impossible to have an amicable divorce - some people are able to get a divorce without any major disputes. However, there are many couples whose relationship is so contentious that they are unable to be civil while they are going through a divorce, especially when it comes to child-related issues. Parents can turn into completely different people when there is an issue involving their child. Sometimes during a divorce, parents can lose sight of what is best for their child because of all of the arguing and anger. In cases such as those, the court will often appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to help make sure the child’s needs are being met and decisions are being made in their best interests.

What Is a GAL?

A GAL is an attorney who has been appointed to a case involving disputes regarding children. The attorney has special training in family law and child issues and has two main roles: to determine the best interests of the child and to conduct an investigation and report the findings to the court. In simple terms, the GAL is responsible for reporting recommendations for custody arrangements or other areas of family law.

What Does a GAL Do?

As soon as the court appoints a GAL, they will begin to observe the parents and try to understand the issues that exist in the case. In many cases, parenting time arrangements are one of the main points of contention. The GAL will then begin to conduct their investigation by looking into the parents’ lives and backgrounds. To do this, the GAL will conduct interviews with various individuals, including the parents, the child, and other relevant family members. If the GAL deems it necessary, they may also interview other people such as the child’s teachers, doctors, or the family’s neighbors.

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Naperville open and closed adoption attorney

Adoption is defined as the act of legally taking on the responsibility of another person’s child and bringing the child up as your own. It can be a wonderful way to achieve your dream of becoming a parent if you are unable to have biological children. Increasing the size of your family comes with a long list of decision-making, and choosing to adopt is only the first step in the process. The prospective parents must then decide if they would like to conduct an independent adoption or find their child through an agency. Once this is decided, the prospective parents must consider the terms of each adoption, otherwise known as open or closed adoption.

Leave Things Open or Close Them Altogether?

Regardless of the means of adoption that you choose, you will have to consider the degree of “openness” that you would like your future child to have with his or her birth parents. Open adoptions allow some form of contact between the adopted child and his or her biological parents. This can include the simple exchange of information, direct contact before the finalization of the adoption, and/or the creation of post-placement contact agreements. Closed adoptions eliminate all forms of contact, keeping the biological parents' identities unknown to the child and the adoptive parents.

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Wheaton domestic violence attorneyDomestic violence is something that is, unfortunately, all too common. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than 12 million people experience some sort of violence or abuse by family members or romantic partners each year. According to Illinois law, domestic violence occurs when a family or household member commits any act of abuse toward you or other members of your family or household. You do not have to be related by blood or even marriage for an act to be considered domestic violence; it can occur between people who are dating (or formerly dated) or even just people who live together (or formerly lived together). Abuse is not limited to physical harm, but can also be sexual or emotional.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family members if you are experiencing domestic violence. Getting an order of protection can be extremely beneficial in any domestic violence situation.

What Is an Order of Protection?

An order of protection is a civil court order that can protect those who have experienced domestic abuse. The order of protection will contain certain stipulations that limit what the respondent (your abuser) cannot do or is required to do. These rules are known as “remedies”. As a court order, the respondent is bound by law to obey the terms of the order, or they could face criminal penalties.

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Naperville spousal maintenance attorneyThere is no guarantee that either spouse will receive spousal maintenance in an Illinois divorce. Though 40 or 50 years ago, spousal support or alimony was rather common in divorces, today it is more of an exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself. There are a few situations in which you might receive spousal maintenance. Your case might involve spousal maintenance if you and your spouse have a significant difference in income or if one of you sacrificed your career to stay home and raise the kids or take care of family responsibilities. Whatever the case, there is a formula used to determine the amount of maintenance to be paid in Illinois.

How to Calculate Spousal Maintenance

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) specifies the formula that is used to determine how much spousal maintenance is to be paid and how long those payments will last. The formula contained in the act applies to couples whose combined gross annual income is less than $500,000. Anything more than that, and the court can use its discretion to determine an appropriate amount of maintenance.

Currently, spousal maintenance is calculated by taking 33.3 percent of the payor’s net annual income and subtracting 25 percent of the payee’s net annual income. The result of that calculation is the annual amount of spousal maintenance that must be paid. To determine the monthly payment amount, the annual spousal maintenance amount is divided by 12. It is also important to note that the payee's net annual income and the amount of maintenance, when added together, cannot be higher than 40% of the couple's combined net annual income.

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Wheaton spousal maintenance attorneyFor many people, one of the biggest stressors in their marriages is money. Unfortunately, financial stress does not go away if you decide to get a divorce. Couples that are used to living off of two incomes can find it difficult to revert back to a single paycheck each month. After divorce, a two-income household becomes two households running off of two separate incomes. Some spouses may wonder how they are going to make ends meet when it is just their income paying for everything, especially if children are involved. In order to avoid leaving one spouse in financial distress, Illinois law may require some spouses to provide spousal maintenance payments (also known as alimony) to their former partner after finalizing their divorce.

Factors for Receiving Spousal Maintenance

Not every divorce case involves a spousal maintenance award. In fact, today’s divorce cases do not involve spousal support unless a serious need is established for this form of compensation. If one spouse requests maintenance, the court will look at a variety of factors to determine whether or not a maintenance award is appropriate. These factors include:

  • Each spouse’s income, taking into account marital property that has been allocated to each spouse and any financial obligations resulting from the divorce

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Naperville divorce attorneyFor some, divorce can feel like a fresh start after being in an unhappy marriage; however, divorce can also bring out the worst in people. Many partners think they know their spouse, but there are times that a divorce can change a person completely, prompting them to act in ways that their spouse never imagined. Some divorcing couples become extremely argumentative and combative, making the divorce more difficult and emotionally stressful for everyone in the family. Whether you anticipated your spouse’s difficult behavior or were surprised by their attitude, here are a few tips to help you get through a divorce with a high-conflict spouse:

Minimize Contact With Your Spouse

One of the most important things you can do to deal with a high-conflict spouse is to limit your contact with them. Avoid speaking to them unless it is necessary for your divorce or for parenting reasons. When you do contact them, try to do so in written form, such as texting or emailing, to make it easy to record the conversation in case it may be necessary to provide evidence of your interactions. 

Remember to Pause and Breathe

High-conflict spouses will often do anything they can to get underneath your skin. They will try to push all of your buttons to get a reaction out of you, because for them, conflict is enjoyable and can be used to their advantage in the divorce proceedings. Do your best not to give them the reaction they are looking for. Take a deep breath, formulate a response, and then talk to them in a calm and collective manner. 

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Wheaton, IL divorce attorneyEvery couple is different, but it is not uncommon for one spouse to have most of the responsibility when it comes to the family’s finances. This can be troublesome during a divorce, because the spouse who did not handle the money during the marriage often gets the short end of the stick, especially when it comes to the asset division process. Divorce can wreak havoc on your financial well-being, especially when it comes to your credit score. If you are getting divorced, it is important to take control of your finances and ensure you come out of the divorce without taking a huge hit to your financial health and credit score.

Tips to Maintain and Improve Your Credit Score

Simply getting a divorce will not affect your credit score. However, other things that happen during a divorce can affect your credit for the worse. To protect your credit score and make sure you come out of the divorce with acceptable credit, here are a few tips you should follow:

  • Joint accounts should be closed. If you and your spouse share any checking, savings, or credit card accounts, you should stop using these accounts and close them immediately, if possible. If your spouse has control over an account with your name on it, you may be responsible for any charges or expenditures they make. Leaving accounts open, especially credit card accounts, is playing with fire.

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DuPage County prenuptial agreement lawyerPrenuptial agreements have become more common than ever, yet many couples continue to tie the knot without this form of additional security. There is a preconceived notion that prenuptial agreements are only beneficial for the wealthy; however, every couple can benefit from a prenup. A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that outlines how certain issues will be handled if the couple ever files for divorce. The agreement must be signed by both parties, of their own free will, before the wedding takes place. There are many things that you can include in a prenuptial agreement, and it is important that you consider all of your options before you sign it.

The Engagement Ring

One of the basic purposes of a prenup is to protect your personal property from being considered marital property in the event of a divorce. Since the engagement ring is given prior to the marriage, it is technically the property of the receiving spouse. In order to protect this asset, you should have your ring appraised to know its financial value, then include it as one of your personal assets.

Your Pets

Another thing that many couples do not plan for beforehand is the placement and ownership of their pets post-divorce. Many people consider their pets to be part of the family, so they can easily become a point of contention in a divorce. You should list any pets in your prenuptial agreement and clearly state who will care for that pet, both physically and financially.

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DuPage County paternity lawyerEstablishing paternity is not something that many mothers think about, since most fathers are presumed. In a legal sense, paternity is the established legal relationship between a child and their father. Establishing paternity gives both the child and the father rights that they would not have without the legal classification. Many (including Illinois courts) agree that most children thrive when they have both parents playing an active role in their lives. Not only does establishing paternity authorize legal rights, but it also helps facilitate the parent-child relationship. Many other benefits come with establishing the paternity of a child, which is why you should consider completing the legal process if your child’s paternity has not been legally recognized.

Presumed Paternity

In the state of Illinois, paternity is presumed if the mother and father were married at the time the child was born or if they were married within a 300-day time period before the child was born. If neither of those situations applies, either the mother or father must take action to legally establish the paternity of the child. This can be done by filling out a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form while at the hospital or by filing it with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Paternity can also be established through the use of genetic testing and an administrative or court order.

Benefits of Establishing Paternity

There are many reasons why a mother or father would want the court to recognize their child’s biological father. In most cases, the parent seeking to establish paternity of their child does so because they want to initiate the legal relationship and the benefits that go along with it. Benefits of establishing paternity include:

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Naperville family law attorneyStarting a new life after divorce can be tough for everyone, but for children, the adjustment can be especially challenging. Kids are accustomed to having both parents constantly in their lives and any change can be difficult. They thrive off of stability and permanency, which is why co-parenting arrangements can sometimes be disruptive to children. One alternative solution to the traditional co-parenting structure is called a “nesting” plan. This type of plan does not work for every family situation, but it is an option worth considering.

What is a Nesting Plan?

A nesting plan is a type of alternative co-parenting arrangement in which the children remain in the family home and the parents take turns living in the home with them. This type of arrangement allows children to have minimal disruptions in their everyday lives and continue to live under the same roof at all times. Rather than requiring the children to pack up and move between two households, the parents take on that burden for the benefit of their children. 

Considerations for Nesting Plans

As with anything, there are pros and cons to a nesting plan. Many families believe this alternative arrangement is beneficial because it takes a more child-centered approach to co-parenting. The children remain in the family home longer and continue to see both parents within that home, just not at the same time. Nesting plans are typically temporary, but they provide a secure way for children to transition into life with two unmarried parents.

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