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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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Naperville IL family law attorneyIn today’s world, most divorces are settled in some sort of amicable fashion. As the understanding of family, child, and adolescent psychology has evolved in the past couple of decades, family courts have increasingly advocated for couples to settle their issues in agreement with one another, which can lessen the burden on everyone. Unfortunately, however, not everyone is able to do this. Some couples end up in contentious situations that breed resentment that follows them into their post-divorce life.

Child-related issues such as parenting time and parental responsibilities are very emotionally driven topics that are often the cause of disputes after the divorce is final. Sometimes, a parent can take a dispute to the extreme and begin to interfere with the court-ordered parenting plan, which causes even more stress for the family.

Creating a Parenting Plan With Court Intervention

When you get a divorce as a parent in Illinois, one of the things you are required to do prior to finalizing the split is submit a parenting plan to the court. A typical parenting plan contains detailed information about how you and your spouse will parent your child from this point forward. This information will include things such as how parental responsibilities will be allocated to each of you and how parenting time will be distributed. If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of your parenting agreement, the court will intervene and make the final determination, though this can leave some parents unhappy with the court’s decision.

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DuPage County marital debt division attorneyWhen going through the divorce process in Illinois, couples typically focus on how to divvy up assets they acquired during the marriage. Less attention is paid to the financial obligations the parties incurred since the wedding date, so debt in divorce is often overlooked. In particularly contentious cases, bitter disputes and court battles may erupt as one spouse attempts to hold the other accountable for the amount due. Even if you are on relatively good terms, marital debts can often stand in the way when you are trying to reach an agreement on distributing real estate and personal property.

It is always wise to rely on experienced legal counsel when addressing divorce-related issues, so you should consult with an attorney about your specific circumstances. However, an overview of Illinois law may help you understand the basic concepts.

Illinois Law on Dividing Assets and Debts

Illinois’s statute on the disposition of property in a divorce requires an equitable distribution of all property and assets that belong to the marital estate. The law goes on to include debt and financial obligations in the definition of “marital property.” Therefore, it is important to consider the following regarding any debt belonging to you or your spouse:

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Naperville IL divorce lawyerDivorce can be a particularly expensive legal endeavor, especially for couples who already have complicated finances. When a couple or one of the spouses is struggling with debt, the costs of divorce can be incredibly difficult to bear. Many people benefit from pursuing debt relief through bankruptcy around the time of their divorce, but if this is something you are considering, you should understand how the timing of your filings can affect your finances and the divorce process.

Timing Your Divorce and Bankruptcy Filings

Some couples choose to file for bankruptcy together before beginning the divorce process. One benefit of doing so is the ability to share bankruptcy fees and costs with your spouse. Filing for bankruptcy before divorce can also help to simplify the division of marital assets and debts, especially in the case of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, through which certain assets are liquidated in exchange for the discharge of debt. Having a more clear understanding of where your finances will stand after bankruptcy can lead to a more equitable distribution.

However, there are situations in which waiting to file for bankruptcy individually after the divorce is a better option. For example, if a spouse has mostly non-marital debt, it is likely in the other spouse’s best interest to stay out of the bankruptcy process. Filing for bankruptcy separately may also be necessary to ensure that each spouse qualifies for Chapter 7 bankruptcy according to the terms of the means test. Alternatively, if you are interested in pursuing Chapter 13 bankruptcy so that you can retain more of your assets, it may be best to wait until after the divorce, as this process can last for between three and five years.

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Naperville IL parenting time attorneyAfter the divorce process has been initiated, one of the most difficult things for parents to adjust to is the change in their parenting schedules. Instead of seeing and spending time with your child every day, you might only be spending a few days with your child each week. For many parents, this can feel as if they never get to spend enough time with their children. One option that can help a divorced parent spend more time with their children is including a clause known as the right of first refusal in the parenting agreement. An Illinois family law attorney can help you draft a parenting plan that includes this provision.

What is the Right of First Refusal in a Parenting Plan?

The right of first refusal means that when one parent is unable to take care of the child during their scheduled parenting time, they are to first check with the other parent to see if they would like to care for the child before making alternative child care arrangements. The idea behind this is to allow both parents to spend as much time with their children as possible rather than resorting to another option, and in some cases, it may even help parents save on child care costs.

Awarding the Right of First Refusal

As with the parenting time schedule, it is preferred if the parents can agree to a plan for the right of first refusal between themselves. However, if the parents are unable to do so, the judge will determine whether or not awarding the right of first refusal to one or both parents would be in the child’s best interest. To make this determination, the judge would use the same criteria that are used when making decisions on parenting time.

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Naperville IL family law attorneyIn many divorces, the most contentious issues tend to be those involving the children. Both parents are usually concerned with protecting their rights, and it is not uncommon for parents to disagree on issues such as the allocation of parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Even after the dust has settled, these disagreements can be dragged up again and get even more heated when one of the parents requests a modification to the parenting plan because of their intention to relocate with the children. If you are opposed to your former spouse’s relocation, you may have options to prevent it from happening.

Prior Notice of Relocation Must Be Provided

If your ex-spouse wants to move from their current residence to a new residence and take your children with them, they are not always able to do so without your permission. In some cases, a parent’s move is considered a relocation, which requires certain prior documentation and notice to the other parent before the relocation can take place. A notice must be provided to you prior to the relocation if the other parent’s new residence will be:

  • More than 25 miles away from the child’s current residence in Lake, Will, DuPage, McHenry, Kane, or Cook Counties.

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DuPage County hidden asset divorce lawyerFor every divorcing couple, there will always be at least one issue that is likely to be contentious and cause issues during negotiations. For some couples, issues involving the children, such as the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities, can cause tension and difficulty. For others, the asset division process can be this source of tension. The financial side of divorce is extremely important to pay attention to, as it can greatly affect your individual finances for years into the future. Some people may even go as far as to attempt to hide certain assets from their spouse in the hopes that the asset will not have to be split upon divorce. Purposefully concealing income and other assets from your spouse during a divorce is illegal and can prevent a fair distribution of marital assets.

Hidden Assets and the Asset Division Process

Obviously, one of the issues that would be affected by your spouse hiding assets is simply how the assets are allocated between the two of you. Illinois law states that all marital property is to be divided in an equitable manner among both spouses, but marital property cannot be divided if it is concealed. Here are a few signs to look for that may indicate that your spouse is concealing assets:

  • Your spouse insists on maintaining complete control over the finances and access to online bank accounts.

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Naperville divorce finances attorneyIf someone were to ask you right now how much money you would need each month to live comfortably, do you think you could give them an accurate number? Most people have no idea how much money they actually need to survive each month or how much they actually spend, even if they do have a budget. However, when you go to get a divorce, it is important to have an idea of your spending habits and financial needs, as it will be one of the questions that your attorney will bring up when discussing issues including spousal support and asset division. Most of the time, people will significantly underestimate or overestimate what they actually need to live a comfortable life or to maintain the lifestyle that they had during their marriage. A lifestyle analysis can help to ensure that you are prepared for life after your divorce is final.

Components of a Lifestyle Analysis

The goal of a lifestyle analysis is to produce a report that contains all of you and your spouse’s recent financial information. The analysis will also establish a basis for what your standard of living was during your marriage, and it may help to identify any issues or discrepancies. Information in your lifestyle analysis may include:

  • Personal tax returns from at least the past three years for both you and your spouse, along with business tax returns if either of you owns a business

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Wheaton IL child support enforcement lawyerIn most situations in which a child’s parents are not married or in a relationship, there will be some type of formal custody agreement detailing the rights and responsibilities of each parent, including the allocation of parenting time between them. Both parents have a legal obligation to financially provide for their child, whether or not they are the parent who is required to pay child support to the other parent. Most often, the parent with less parenting time is the one who pays support, the amount of which is determined by a formula that considers income and other factors. There are a number of reasons why a person may not make their child support payments, which can be extremely frustrating and financially straining for the other parent. If your child’s other parent is behind on child support payments, an Illinois child support enforcement lawyer may be able to help.

Failure to Support in Illinois

In most cases, there are few excuses for a parent missing or not paying child support payments without first notifying the court or petitioning for a modification to their support payments. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) states that any parent who fails to comply with a child support order will be punished the same as in any other contempt case. Typically, a person will not be found in contempt of the support order unless they have willingly defied the order or there is a history of missed or late support payments.

Taking Action to Recover Child Support

If you are having trouble receiving timely and accurate support payments from your child’s other parent, you may be able to request a contempt proceeding to determine whether or not your ex really is in contempt of the order. This proceeding will allow your ex to come forward with an explanation as to why they have not paid the child support, such as losing their job.

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DuPage County spousal maintenance lawyerEven in today’s world where a two-income household is becoming more of the norm, it is not uncommon to come across a family in which one parent works while the other stays at home to take care of the children. This may work during the marriage, but if the couple were to ever get a divorce, the stay-at-home parent could be at a significant financial disadvantage. In these types of situations, spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance or alimony, is sometimes awarded to a lesser-earning spouse to help them become self-sufficient and to ensure they are able to enjoy a similar standard of living that they enjoyed during the marriage. 

How Long Does Spousal Support Continue?

The terms of a spousal maintenance award, including the duration of the payments, can differ from case to case depending on a variety of factors. However, there are a few situations in which spousal support will almost always automatically terminate:

  • Cohabitation: Illinois is one of the states in which spousal maintenance terminates when the receiving spouse moves in with or begins to cohabitate with a new partner. The spouse paying the support has the burden of proving the other spouse has a cohabiting relationship with another person, which is defined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) as two people living with one another “on a resident, continuing conjugal basis.”

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