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Winfield divorce name change attorneyThere are many reasons why a person would want to change their name or the name of their child--adoption, marriage, establishing parentage--but for many people, a name change can be the last step in the divorce process. Many people--women, especially--change their last name to match their partner’s when they get married. In the event that you get divorced, changing your last name to what it was prior to the marriage is a way that many people emotionally detach themselves from the marriage and their ex-spouse. The easiest way to change your last name in the event of a divorce is to add it to the divorce decree, but you do not have to do it then. You can change your name at any time after the divorce.

Seven Steps to Changing Your Name After a Divorce

Changing your name in Illinois is a relatively easy process. As long as you have been a resident of Illinois for at least six months, and you have not been convicted of a felony or a sex crime, you can proceed with the steps to change your name. 

1. Prepare the Forms Required

There are two forms required to change your name: a petition and a Notice of Filing for Change of Name. The petition is the formal request asking the court to change your name. In it you must state why you want to change your name, and you must also include proof that you meet the residency and felony requirements. The Notice of Filing for Change of Name is the public notice, which is required by law, that you are changing your name. The notice also includes what name you are changing yours to and the date of the hearing.

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Winfield intercountry adoption lawyerWhen it comes to adoptions, there are a couple different methods that prospective parents can choose from. One of the first decisions you have to make is if you want to go through a domestic adoption, meaning you are adopting a child within the United States, or an intercountry adoption, meaning you are adopting a child from another country and bringing that child back to the United States to live with you. Both types of adoptions can be difficult and tedious, but intercountry adoptions have specific rules and regulations that domestic adoptions do not.

Hague vs. Non-Hague Adoptions

Two types of intercountry adoptions exist for U.S. citizens: Hague and non-Hague adoptions. The country you decide to adopt from will determine which process you will adopt by.

Hague Adoptions

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, also known as the “Hague Adoption Convention,” is an international treaty that was created to protect the best interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents involved in adoptions.

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Posted on in Family law

Warrenville family law attorney adoption guardianship parental rightsThere are two legal routes of establishing care for a child whose parents cannot provide them with an adequate home: adoption and guardianships. In some cases, adoption, which severs any legal relationship between a child and its mother, is not in the best interest of the child. This is when guardianship comes into play, usually as a temporary legal status.

Adoption

In an adoption, the adoptive parents are given all of the legal rights and responsibilities that previously belonged to the birth parents. The birth parents either have to voluntarily give up their parental rights or have them involuntarily terminated. Adoption is a lifelong, permanent legal relationship.

An adopted child has all of the same legal rights as birth children if the adoptive parents die and do not have a will, meaning the child is entitled to any inheritance or survivor’s benefits in the event of a death. In an adoption, all decision making is up to the adoptive parents, including decisions about schooling, medical treatments, or visitation of birth parents, depending on the terms of the adoption.

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Warrenville parental responsibility attorneyNobody thinks of the end of a marriage when they get married, and even though the divorce rate in the United States is declining, divorce is still common. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that 29,331 divorces were granted in the state of Illinois in 2016. Divorces are stressful and emotional, and they become more so when children are involved. When children are a part of divorce, they bring issues with them that need to be resolved, such as child custody, child support, and visitation.

Parental Responsibilities Instead of Custody

The state of Illinois no longer refers to custody of children. Since a new law was introduced in 2016, what used to be known as custody is now referred to as parental responsibilities, and the amount of time children spend with each parent is known as parenting time. Parental responsibility consists of significant decision-making for children, and there are four types of decision-making:

  • Education, including choosing schools and tutors.
  • Health, including decisions pertaining to the medical, dental, and psychological well-being of the child.
  • Religion. 
  • Extracurricular activities.

Unless an agreement is submitted to the court that details the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court will determine which responsibilities are allocated to each parent. The law also states that there is no requirement to allocate any responsibilities to each parent.

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Warrenville divorce lawyer college expenses modificationAfter a divorce is finalized, and the divorce decree is entered into court records, former spouses must abide by all terms concerning child support, spousal support, the allocation of parental responsibility, and the division of the marriage’s assets and liabilities. The decree may only be modified if a valid reason exists. These reasons may include changes in employment and/or income, parent and child relocation, a change in marital status for either party, a change in health status, and the educational needs of children.

With regard to a child’s educational needs, when a child is at or near the age of 18, one parent may petition the court for a modification to compel the other parent to help bear the cost of college expenses. The purpose of this article is to explain the basics of a divorce decree modification petition regarding a child’s college expenses.

Illinois Extends Child Support Obligations to Include College Expenses

Illinois is one of several states in which parents’ child support obligations may include post-secondary (college) educational expenses for adult children. Either parent can petition the other for financial contribution to the child’s college expenses. Ideally, the parents address the issue of post-secondary expenses during the original divorce settlement, so that each party is clear as to terms and conditions and can plan years before tuition and board fees are ever due. However, as college may seem far away at the time of divorce, it is not uncommon for the issue to go unaddressed. Later, when the issue must be confronted through a divorce modification petition, lawful “educational expenses” for which contributions may be sought by either parent include:

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Winfield child relocation lawyerRelocating to a new home for work is complex when divorced parents share custody of a child. This is because Illinois has strict regulations regarding the processes parents must follow when moving with a child. As such, the very action intended to benefit yourself and your child – a promising employment opportunity – may be complicated by the allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time set forth in your court-ordered divorce decree. 

In some cases, your former spouse may be supportive of work-related relocation, even if it has support and custody-related implications. In other instances, however, the two of you may not agree about modifications to the allocation of parental responsibility when attempting to initiate child relocation. In times like these, it is essential to have experienced legal representation.

Relocation is a Question of Distance

If you were divorced in Illinois, provide your child’s primary residence, and are moving to a new residence in the state less than 25 miles from your current residence for work-related reasons, you do not have to worry about revisiting the existing allocation of parental responsibility ordered by the court in your divorce. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyer taxes spousal maintenanceWith the IRS tax filing deadline coming up later this month, it is time for recently divorced or soon-to-be divorcing spouses to become acquainted with the tax implications of divorce. While child support payments do not have any tax implications (that is, they are not tax-deductible for the paying parent, and they are not considered taxable income for the receiving parent), spousal maintenance (alimony) payments do. Whether you are paying or receiving spousal maintenance in Illinois, you need to account for it on your taxes.

Spousal Maintenance Is Tax Deductible for the Payor

If you are currently paying spousal maintenance to your ex-spouse, know that these support payments are tax deductible. As such, you may end up being required to pay less taxes than expected. Awareness of such positive tax implications should allow you to better plan your finances, whether you are budgeting in the short-term or saving and investing for the long-term.

Spousal Maintenance Is Taxable Income for the Recipient

If you are currently receiving spousal maintenance from your ex-spouse, know that the support payments constitute taxable income. Because of this, you may end up being required to pay more taxes than expected. Anticipating and accounting for this reality well in advance of the tax filing deadline can help you budget and plan your finances as so to avoid experiencing unexpected and stressful monetary burdens at tax time.

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Wheaton divorce mediation lawyerWhile divorce is often portrayed as inherently acrimonious in television, film, and literature, the truth is that it need not be so. Not every divorce is the result of infidelity or abuse. Sometimes, spouses realize that they are unhappy and not getting along despite repeated efforts over a long period of time, or it becomes apparent that they rushed into the marriage without a shared vision of the future. In such completely common and understandable circumstances, it is possible to end the marriage amicably and cooperatively through the process of mediation. Unlike litigation, which is inherently adversarial, mediation is a more harmonious means of resolving the family and financial issues that must be addressed during the dissolution of a marriage.

Mediation Is a Form of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Mediation occurs out of court. This change of venue is symbolic of the non-adversarial nature of the process, in which parties sit across the table rather than on opposing sides of the courtroom. The issues addressed are the same as those in a contentious or contested divorce, and they include: 

  • The fair and equitable division of marital assets and liabilities.
  • Whether and in what amount spousal maintenance (alimony) will be paid by one spouse to the other.
  • Whether and in what amount each parent will pay child support.
  • How parental responsibility (child custody) and parenting time (visitation) will be allocated between each parent.

So, then, the difference between adversarial divorce and mediated, non-adversarial divorce is one of disposition, or attitude. Moreover, obviously, the family law-related issues of child support and the allocation of parental responsibility are only applicable to spouses who have children. For divorcing spouses who are not parents, the process of a mediated divorce is often even more straightforward. 

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Warrenville divorce attorney single parentIn most circumstances, it is in the best interests of a child’s parents to share the allocation of parental responsibility (formerly known as child custody) following divorce. This is a “two hands are better than one” philosophy, with former spouses, even after divorce, working to share resources and balance work and family responsibilities in a way that supports the child’s education, health, and well-being every bit as much as if the parents were still married and living together. 

Parental responsibility is typically shared when a divorce is as harmonious as can be expected, with parents collaborating to create a parenting plan in compliance with state law, and sometimes even when a divorce is filled with acrimony and collaboration is difficult. There are, however, some circumstances in which it is in the best interests of the child for parental responsibility to be solely allocated to one parent. 

A History of Violence, Abuse, or Neglect Is Relevant to Child Custody

With the “best interests of the child” being paramount in the allocation of parental responsibility, it is important to identify certain behaviors that are not in the best interests of the child. Among these behaviors – all factors at issue in a family court judge’s consideration of custody-related matters – are:

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West Chicago division of marital assets lawyerNo couple expects their marriage will end in divorce when they first get married. The beginning of a marriage is a typically a time of peak trust and solidarity, with spouses willingly assuming the roles believed to contribute to a happy and successful union, “Until death do us part.” However, it is important for both spouses to understand their rights, especially when it comes to ownership of the assets they have acquired over the course of their marriage.

Even in a society that is gradually becoming less gendered in matters of economic opportunity, it is still common for one spouse to assume the role of income earner, and the other the role of stay-at-home parent. In such an arrangement, a knowledge gap may come to exist with regard to the marriage’s income, assets, liabilities, investments, and other financial information, with the income-earning spouse handling most financial matters and the stay-at-home parent focused on crucial parenting responsibilities, such as the education, healthcare, nutrition, and transport of the children. 

When the unthinkable happens and the marriage ends divorce, the stay-at-home parent must suddenly close this financial knowledge gap, prepare for life as both a parent and manager of finances, and ensure that he or she receives, in addition to all appropriate child support and spousal maintenance, an equitable portion of the marriage’s assets. When there exists reason to suspect that the income earning spouse is not cooperating in the equitable division required under state law, it is necessary to utilize the legal process of income discovery.

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Wheaton divorce lawyer hidden assets discoveryPlanning for life after divorce is tough enough, even when there are no child custody and support matters to address, and both spouses will continue on in their careers without interruption after the marriage’s dissolution. Divorce takes an emotional toll even in circumstances where the decision is mutual and there is no animosity. Many divorces, however, are rife with tension and disagreement over financial issues, including the division of marital assets, spousal support, and, when there are children involved, child support. 

In obtaining the fair and equitable distribution of assets required by Illinois law, as well as in securing the spousal and child support you need and deserve, the legal process of discovery is instrumental in uncovering income or assets which a spouse may intend to hide from the asset division process.

Illinois Divorce Law Utilizes a Principle of Equitable Distribution

When divorce occurs in Illinois, the state utilizes a principle of “equitable distribution” with regard to a marriage’s income and assets. An equitable distribution is not necessarily an equal division, but is defined broadly as the division of property in “just proportions.” 

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West Chicago divorce lawyer for stay-at-home parentsDivorce can bring unique stress and uncertainty for people who have chosen to assume the valuable role of stay-at-home parent. If you are such a person, you know all too well the worrisome thoughts that hover. How am I going to earn money and be there for my children? Can I even start a career now? How is it fair that my ex-spouse is leaving the marriage with their career intact, while I am entering the job market for the first time? 

Each of these concerns is both legitimate and commonplace. Fortunately, Illinois state law (which governs divorce, child support, and spousal support) acknowledges and respects the trade-offs and sacrifices in marriages in which one spouse assumes the role of income earner and the other the role of stay-at-home parent.

Equitable Property Division for the Stay-At-Home Parent

Just because one spouse earned the majority of the income during a marriage, that does not mean that he or she is entitled to all or most of the marital property. Illinois recognizes that stay-at-home parenting is in itself a valuable contribution, representing both a benefit to the well-being of children and a sacrifice of career opportunities. 

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Winfield divorce attorneyDivorce is a state law issue. This is a simple but important distinction to keep in mind when going through divorce in the state of Illinois, as the legal guidelines concerning spousal maintenance and property division may prove different than what you have may have heard about how divorce works under legal frameworks utilized by other states (e.g., California’s “community property” model). 

Illinois Uses a Unique and Evolving Set of Terminology in Matters of Divorce

In Illinois, “spousal maintenance” is the official terminology for what is elsewhere referred to as “alimony” or “spousal support.” This somewhat abstracted language pairs with that used by the state with regard to child custody (“allocation of parental responsibility”), asset division (“equitable distribution”), and even the terms concerning the state’s position regarding the issue of fault in the dissolution of a marriage (“irreconcilable differences”). 

Maddeningly, the closer you investigate the state’s divorce lexicon, the more circular or abstracted it becomes. “Equitable distribution” does not necessarily translate to “equal,” but rather to “fair and equitable.” “Permanent maintenance” has been reframed as “maintenance for an indefinite term,” though the duration, once determined, may for all practical purposes prove permanent. Divorce is hard enough on former spouses and any children they have, so the state’s arguably confusing language concerning the end of a marriage may seem downright inhumane. 

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Wheaton child relocation attorneyWhen parents divorce, the chain of cause and effect extends far into the future. Where there was once a unit, with each parent a party to mutual decision-making and sacrifice for vocational and educational opportunities, there are now separate, often largely independent spheres. Where one parent occupied an at-home role, both parents may now either need or want to work. Where there was a stable support network of grandparents and other relatives, there may now be more tenuous circumstances. 

Changes such as these reflect only a few of the variables in play following divorce – changes that may require or inspire one parent to look outside of the Chicago area or the state of Illinois for employment, educational opportunities (for him or herself or their child), and family support. Importantly, however, a divorced parent cannot just uproot and leave with their child in tow. The parental responsibility arrangement entered in their divorce decree must be honored, and modifications related to child relocation must be sought and obtained using formal processes in compliance with state guidelines.

Defining Relocation Under Illinois Law

Under Illinois law, “relocation” occurs in one of the following three cases:

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West Chicago divorce order enforcement lawyerPeople may behave irrationally in an acrimonious divorce, willfully disregarding court-mandated child support or spousal support. Reasons may involve wild recriminations or appeals to a misguided sense of justice separate from the judicial system. Make no mistake, though—the law is the law. When an Illinois court enters a divorce decree into court records, it is the last word on the subject, barring a judge’s formal legal modification. When a former spouse refuses to comply with their court-ordered child or spousal support obligations, the power of the law may be used to enforce the divorce decree and impose penalties for non-compliance.

Fault Is Not a Basis for Refusing to Comply with a Divorce Order

If, when refusing to pay court-ordered child support or spousal maintenance, your former spouse attempts to cast blame, remember that Illinois is a “no-fault” state in matters of divorce. The court that has already awarded child or spousal support is of course already fully aware of this fact, so it is doubly beside the point to attempt to evade an order by engaging in informal relitigation. 

After the divorce has been finalized, each party has a legal obligation to abide by the terms and conditions of the decree, including the allocation of parental responsibility and the payment of child support and, when applicable, spousal support. When there has been a legitimate and provable change in either party’s circumstances, formal petitions pleading for modification of the divorce decree may be filed. Again, however, neither party may unilaterally refuse to comply with the court’s original decree absent an official ruling on a formal petition for modification. 

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West Chicago divorce tax consequences lawyerJust as the legal formalization of a marriage has tax-related consequences, so does its dissolution. If you have recently divorced or are in the process of divorce, it is important that you understand and prepare for the tax-related consequences of the decisions made regarding spousal support, the allocation of parental responsibility, and the division of the marriage’s assets. In the interest of avoiding serious financial hardships, it is imperative that these issues are dealt with as early as possible. 

Child Support and Spousal Support Are Primary Tax-Related Issues Following Divorce 

Currently, child support payments and spousal support payments are taxed differently. Spousal support (sometimes termed “maintenance” or “alimony”) is tax-deductible for the payor and is classified as taxable income for the recipient, while child support is not tax-deductible for the paying parent or taxable for the receiving parent. In some cases, it possible for divorced spouses to reach what is termed an “unallocated support arrangement” in which child support and spousal support are not differentiated into separated payments. Rather, they are combined into one fully tax-deductible/taxable payment – a beneficial simplification in instances, for example, in which one spouse earns the bulk of the income and the other spouse has been and will continue to be a stay-at-home parent. 

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the way child support and spousal support payments are taxed will be changing significantly. Beginning January 1, 2019, spousal support will no longer be tax-deductible for the payor or taxable for the recipient. Divorcing spouses should be aware of how their tax obligations will affect the support they pay or receive, and they may wish to finalize their divorce prior to this change in order to take advantage of the current law’s tax benefits. 

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West Chicago divorce by publication attorneySome divorces hew surprisingly close to the dramatized version often depicted in television, film, and literature. There may be quarreling, recriminations, and accusations, all of which take place at a volume that would not be considered polite in domestic discourse. Other divorces, however, are the quite the opposite. Sometimes, in fact, divorce is a solitary affair. This may sound impossible, or at least paradoxical, until you consider the scenario in which one spouse has deserted the other. In such instances, when a spouse has left the state and refuses to return, or has altogether disappeared without a trace, it is still possible for the other spouse to lawfully obtain a divorce. 

Divorce by Publication Is an Option for Deserted Spouses

It may seem too cruel to believe, but sometimes one spouse will leave the other in the lurch.  The absence may be willful, planned, and even carefully considered, or the disappearance may be related to issues of addiction or mental health. In addition, a spouse may disappear unexpectedly because of circumstances related to the criminal underworld (e.g., illicit means of debt collection and intimidation). 

Whatever the reason for a spouse’s disappearance or unavailability, it is possible for the other spouse to obtain a divorce in Illinois by means of Publication. Here, Publication is the alternative to the service of divorce papers. Since there is no known address for the documents to be sent to, notice of the divorce must be broadcast to the public through an advertisement in a newspaper in the area where the missing spouse was last known to have lived. 

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Winfield divorce discovery lawyerWhen parents divorce, the dissolution of the marriage must be formalized in a court of law, and decisions must be made regarding the allocation of parental responsibility, child support, and, when appropriate, spousal support. When, in a contested divorce, spouses cannot agree on child and spousal support, a full and fair financial accounting of income and assets is absolutely essential. In obtaining such an accounting, Illinois law provides spouses and their attorneys with processes which allow them to discover all income and assets relevant in establishing child and spousal support orders.

“Discovery” is the Legal Process Used to Determine Assets and Income

It is not uncommon, when a marriage is in disrepair and it becomes apparent that divorce is on the horizon, for one spouse to attempt to hide assets and other sources of income with the intention of lowering their anticipated child and spousal support obligations. Such efforts, however, not only stand in contradiction to the principle of equitable division of marital property mandated by Illinois law, but a spouse’s attempts to avoid paying their fair share of financial support can lead to a variety of legal consequences, including being held in contempt of court. 

When one spouse attempts to hide income or assets, the other spouse, with the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney, may compel them to disclose complete and accurate financial information. In this formal process, the legal tool of “discovery” is central. Specific forms of discovery include depositions (oral testimony), interrogatories (written answers), requests for documents, and court ordered inspections of financial records. The reason why the word “compel” is appropriate with regard to the discovery process is because discovery is conducted under penalty of perjury (lying under oath), which can result in grave legal consequences.

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West Chicago contested divorce attorneyDuring divorce, spouses must address and settle a wide variety of legal issues related to how they will divide the various aspects of their shared lives into two separate households. The agreement or lack thereof with regard to these important issues speaks to whether the divorce is “contested” or “uncontested.” When a divorce is contested, it is important for spouses to understand the steps they must take as they work to reach a resolution. 

Addressing the Issues Which Must Be Resolved During Divorce 

Whether a divorce is contested or uncontested in Illinois, the dissolution of the marriage is a formal process that begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and ends with an action by a court of law. A divorce cannot be finalized until all outstanding legal issues are resolved. With regard to a contested divorce in Illinois, the subject matter in contest (in dispute) includes some or all of the following:

  • Allocation of Parental Responsibility (formerly known as Child Custody)
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support
  • Property Division

With regard to parental responsibility, allegations of capacity or fitness-related deficiencies may be leveled by one party, accusing the other of failing to meet their parental responsibilities or a pattern of unlawful immoral activity (e.g., addiction-related issues). 

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West Chicago uncontested divorce lawyerWhen a marriage breaks down, and a couple decides to get divorced, they are likely to experience some emotional trauma, and their distress will only be compounded by uncertainty over the cost and procedures of legally dissolving their marital union. Fortunately, some anxiety can be avoided by informing oneself about divorce laws in Illinois. One thing divorcing spouses should be aware of is the difference between contested and uncontested divorce.

Understanding Contested Divorce in Illinois

In Illinois, the only grounds for divorce (that is, the legal requirement for ending a marriage) recognized by state law are “irreconcilable differences.” Rather than demonstrating a reason why the marriage should be dissolved, a person only needs to state in their divorce petition that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. If the couple does not agree that this is the case, irreconcilable differences will be presumed if they have lived “separate and apart” for at least six months.

Rather than describing a disagreement about the reasons for a divorce itself, a contested divorce occurs in Illinois when a couple disagrees about the legal issues that they must resolve as they go about dissolving their partnership. If a divorce is truly uncontested, and the spouses agree on all matters, they may attend a court hearing to finalize their divorce decree and complete the divorce process. However, it is likely that even if spouses are in agreement about most issues, some issues will be contested, and these issues must be resolved before the divorce can be completed.

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