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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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DuPage County divorce attorneyBeing a physician can be an extremely rewarding career, but it can also be very demanding. In some positions, doctors can work long, tireless hours on their feet for days in a row, all for the benefit of their patients. Unfortunately, this can often be at the expense of their families. More hours at work often means less time spent with the family, which in some cases, can end up leading to a divorce. According to a study published in 2015, the divorce rate among physicians was around 24.3 percent, making divorce fairly common among doctors.

Considerations During Divorce

All divorce cases have the potential to be complex, though for physicians, there is a higher chance of certain elements such as owning a private practice that could possibly complicate your divorce. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when divorcing as a physician:

  • Marital and nonmarital property may not be as clear-cut as you think. In the state of Illinois, only marital property, defined as any property that either spouse acquires during the marriage, is subject to division. This means your business or private practice could be marital property if you started the business during the marriage. This would also mean that your spouse is entitled to a portion of the business. It is also important to note that debts are included in the division of property. If you incurred debt, including student loan debt, while you were married, both spouses could be responsible for repaying it.

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Naperville IL divorce attorneyIt is no secret that divorce can be messy. Emotions and tensions can run high, causing large amounts of stress that not everyone can handle. In some situations, a spouse may end up just fleeing or leaving the state entirely to get away from the situation or in an attempt to avoid getting a divorce. In other situations, a person may end up filing for divorce because their spouse has already disappeared. Whatever the situation, an absent spouse can be frustrating and can add steps to the divorce process, but it is still possible to complete the divorce, even if you are not sure where your spouse is located.

Getting a Divorce by Default

In any divorce case, the process is first started by filing a petition for divorce with the court in the county in which you reside. Typically, your spouse would then have 30 days from the filing of the petition to respond and notify the court of their appearance (or non-appearance) at the initial hearing. If they do not respond to the petition, or you do not know their whereabouts to serve their petition, it is still possible to get a divorce through alternate methods in Illinois.

A judge may grant you a default divorce judgment if your spouse is unwilling to cooperate with the divorce process or if your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown. Before the judge does this, however, they will want to know that you have done everything you can to find your missing spouse. During your divorce hearing, the judge will ask you what you have done to locate your spouse and will want to know specifics. Examples of looking for your spouse may include:

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DuPage County divorce attorneyWhen you get a divorce, there are dozens of things that you will have to do before the dissolution of your marriage is finalized. Many important issues must be settled, such as determining how you will divide your marital property and working out a parenting plan, and it is easy for some details to be forgotten or left on the back burner. Though your tax situation may not be at the forefront of your mind during the divorce, addressing it is important nonetheless. Here are three tax considerations that you should be sure to keep in mind.

Update Your Tax Filing Status

When you file your taxes each year, you will need to note your filing status, which influences the deductions you can claim and the income tax you may owe. Many married couples file their taxes as “married filing jointly,” but once you are divorced, you must revert to filing as “single” or “head of household” depending on your circumstances. However, your filing status will depend on when your divorce is actually finalized. The IRS considers you to be married for the entire year if your divorce was not finalized by December 31 of that tax year. On the other hand, you are considered to be divorced and unmarried for the entire year if your divorce is granted by December 31.

Determine Who Will Claim Dependents

If you and your spouse filed a joint tax return in the past, you may have both benefited from being able to claim your children as dependents. However, when you are divorced and file separate tax returns, only one parent can claim each child. You and your spouse will have to determine who claims each child and how the tax benefits may affect your allocation of property.

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DuPage County property division attorneyFor many Americans, having a vehicle is extremely important and practically necessary to live everyday life. In the suburbs of Chicago and surrounding counties, many people rely on their vehicles to commute to and from work every day, making them a vital asset. However, as a physical and often valuable asset, vehicles can be subject to division during a divorce. This means you and your spouse will be tasked with the job of determining how your vehicles will be handled. Before you start the negotiation process, there are certain considerations you should make pertaining to your vehicles.

Are Your Vehicles Subject to Division?

Before you do anything, you should determine if your vehicles will even be included in your marital estate. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA,) only marital property, meaning that which was acquired during the marriage, is subject to division. If the vehicle was purchased prior to the marriage, it is likely not considered marital property and therefore not subject to division in your divorce.

Debt Still Owed on a Vehicle

When allocating vehicles in a divorce, many people can forget that some vehicles may still carry debt with them. In a divorce, not only do you have to allocate any shared property that you may own, but you must also allocate any shared debt that you have, which may include a vehicle loan. Typically, the spouse who is keeping the vehicle is responsible for paying the vehicle loan, but under some circumstances, the other spouse can be ordered to pay the loan.

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Naperville child support attorneyDivorce affects families from all walks of life, but the specific issues that each family deals with are different depending on their circumstances. When it comes to families with high incomes, the division of property and assets can be especially challenging. Child support can also easily become a contentious issue between high-earning parents, especially if the parents’ financial situation is not covered under the Illinois child support guidelines.

Understanding the Income Shares Model

In an effort to maintain as much fairness as possible, the state of Illinois currently uses an income shares model to calculate the amount of child support that should be paid each month. It is not the responsibility of just one parent to financially support a child, and as such, instead of just the paying spouse’s income being considered, both parents’ incomes are taken into consideration when the payment calculation is made. The calculation also takes into consideration the number of children that are being supported and how many overnights the children spend with the non-custodial parent each year.

Situations With Income Above and Beyond Guidelines

Calculating child support is standardized in Illinois according to the guidelines set forth by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). In the vast majority of cases, these guidelines will make sense and will work. In some cases, however, the judge may deviate from the guidelines if he or she believes that using the guidelines would create a situation that is unequal or inappropriate. If parents earn income that is above and beyond the income shown in the basic child support schedule, the judge has the discretion to determine the amount of child support to be paid each month, though it cannot be less than the highest amount in the shares schedule.

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DuPage County divorce attorneyThere are not many divorces that are completely amicable, with both spouses on the same page about all of the issues to be resolved. Sometimes, disagreements between spouses can lead to one or both lashing out in the form of destructive, high-conflict behaviors. Not only can this distress everyone around them, but it can also make the divorce much more difficult. Going through a divorce with a high-conflict spouse can be unpredictable, but temporary orders can help take some of the uncertainty away.

What Type of Temporary Orders Can I Petition For?

In almost all divorce situations, the family unit has been disrupted and the household no longer functions as it used to. Both spouses may not even live in the same home anymore. In high-conflict divorces, this marital breakdown can bring much uncertainty, especially when it comes to things such as spending time with the children and paying household bills. Temporary court orders can be requested when there are concerns of a high-conflict spouse.

A temporary court order during your divorce is legally binding, the same as an order for child support you might get after your divorce. The difference here is that these orders will be focused on your immediate needs and will only last until your divorce is finalized. There are various things that you can request to have included in a temporary order during your divorce. Some of the most common and useful inclusions in a temporary order can be:

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DuPage County divorce attorneySo many uncertainties pop up when you know that divorce is in your future, and one of the biggest questions people have is about the price tag. It is no secret that getting a divorce can be expensive, but many people do not realize just how expensive a divorce can be until they are in the middle of the chaos. Some divorces can be completed for as little as a few thousand dollars, while other divorce price tags can jump into the hundreds of thousands. But why is there such a big price difference from divorce to divorce? For the same reason there are such big differences in the divorce agreements: no two situations are the same.

Factors That Influence the Cost of Divorce

There are various elements that factor into a divorce that can affect the cost of the process. These factors can include:

  • Whether your divorce is contested or amicable: One of the biggest factors in determining how expensive your divorce ends up being is the ability for you and your spouse to cooperate. If you and your spouse are on the same page and you do not have any major disagreements, your divorce will likely cost much less than if the same issues were contested.

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