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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 child support modification attorneyWhile child support payments become stable and predictable when parents’ employment circumstances remain constant over time, instability and stress can ensue when there is an unexpected decrease in income. This is true for both the parent paying child support and, when payments fall short or cease altogether, for the parent and child receiving support. When people’s circumstances change, Illinois law allows parents to request a modification of a child support order to increase or decrease the amount of child support payments.

Either Parent Can Request Child Support Modification

Life happens. On the positive side, there are promotions and pay increases. On the negative side, there are layoffs, demotions, pay decreases, and job termination. Whether positive or negative, a meaningful change in the income source of child support payments bears on the support itself. When a paying parent’s income increases or decreases significantly, either parent may petition the court to modify child support payments accordingly. 

Importantly, child support payments cannot be modified informally, out of court. Only a judge is capable of entering a binding modification, and these modifications must be based on the supporting parent’s ability to make their required payments. This bright-line reality may be maddening for a child support payer who is in need of downward modification yet worried about court and attorney’s fees. Fortunately, an experienced family law attorney is well versed in efficiently and effectively navigating the support modification process.  

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Warrenville grounds for divorce attorneyIn January 2018, Illinois will begin its third year of “no-fault” divorce under state law. When spouses are considering divorce, it is important to understand this philosophical and legal principle that governs divorce in the state.

Irreconcilable Differences Are All That Is Required in a No-Fault Framework

On January 1, 2016, “irreconcilable differences” became the sole legal grounds for the dissolution of a marriage in Illinois. While irreconcilable differences could be considered possible grounds for divorce prior to 2016, they were not the sole grounds. For many years, fault-based grounds (e.g. adultery or mental cruelty) were considered relevant as well. However, this is no longer the case. Under current state law, irreconcilable differences, which speak to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage – the point at which present or future attempts at reconciliation become impracticable and inconsistent with the best interests of the family – is all that needs to exist for a marriage to be properly dissolved in the state of Illinois.

Agreement on Irreconcilable Differences Hastens a Divorce Decree

While both spouses do not need to agree that irreconcilable differences exist for a divorce to be obtained in Illinois, agreement allows for the pre-divorce decree waiting period imposed on contested divorces to be effectively waived. In other words, if the decision to divorce is mutual, expressed via the agreement of the existence of irreconcilable differences, a decree may be properly issued without delay. However, should one spouse contest the existence of irreconcilable differences, state law will only reach the irrebuttable presumption (final conclusion) that irreconcilable differences exist and thus justify a divorce decree if the spouses have lived “separate and apart” for at least six months prior to the entry of the final divorce judgment.

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Posted on in Divorce

West Chicago divorce hidden assets attorneyIllinois law requires the equitable distribution of all marital property in the event of divorce. Equitable distribution is, under state law, the fair and just division of marital property. Importantly, a fair and just division is not necessarily an equal division. Besides employment-based income, earnings from investments must also be analyzed, as well as benefits from pensions and other sources. Liabilities (e.g. debt) are also subject to equitable distribution. 

In all matters, both parties are obligated to be fully transparent regarding income, assets, liabilities, and other financial matters during a divorce. If you have reason to believe that your spouse is lacking in transparency with regard to their complete financial picture during your divorce, an experienced divorce attorney will work to compel the discovery of income and hidden assets.

Means By Which a Spouse May Attempt to Hide Assets

It is upsetting to learn, but there are several ways a spouse may be attempting to hide income or other financial assets. Once it is clear that the marriage will end in divorce, a spouse may attempt to defer income, including bonuses and promotions, so that it is received after the process of equitable distribution. Estate planning resources, such as a trust, may also be misused to place income in an account beyond the proper reach of equitable distribution. 

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Warrenville divorce attorney holiday parenting timeIf you have children and are recently divorced or are in the middle of the divorce process, issues related to parental responsibility and parenting time may be a significant source of stress right now. The reason: the holidays. As parents coordinate time family and friends, plan holiday activities, and determine schedules while kids are home from school during their winter break, a fair and reasonable allocation of parental responsibilities is imperative. 

Illinois Law Requires a Parenting Plan 

No matter whether you have an amicable or contentious relationship with your ex-spouse or ex-partner, when it comes to the allocation of parental responsibilities, you are bound by Illinois law to obtain a court-ordered parenting plan. With a well-crafted and drafted parenting plan, each parent and the state of Illinois will have total clarity as to the legal rights and obligations of both parents as concerns their children.

Decision Making and Parenting Time Are the Cornerstones of a Parenting Plan 

The legal rights and obligations allocated to each parent in an Illinois parenting plan cover two major areas: 1) decision-making responsibility, and 2) parenting time (sometimes termed “visitation”). In other words, a parenting plan concerns all of the important things that go together to form the upbringing of a child. 

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DuPage County divorce attorney division of marital propertyDivorce is common, an outcome dissolving between 40 and 60% of marriages in the United States. Importantly, the laws governing divorce are state-specific, meaning that, if you were married in Illinois, live in Illinois, and will divorce in Illinois, it will be Illinois law that applies to the division of marital property. When dividing property during divorce, Illinois law utilizes a principle of “equitable distribution.” 

Equitable distribution demands that all marital property – property acquired by either spouse while married – be divided fairly and equitably. Importantly, however, “fairly and equitably” does not necessarily equate to “equally.” Rather, the courts will attempt to divide property in a fair and just manner.

Marital Property May Include More Than You Realize

Cash, cars, and houses are three items that may spring to mind when contemplating the assets of a marriage. However, marital property often contains a far greater diversity of assets (and, in many cases, liabilities such as credit card debts) than a bank balance, residence, and means of transportation. 

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Winfield divorce attorney unfit parentWhen a divorce is contentious and can only be resolved through litigation rather than mediation, allegations concerning a parent’s “fitness” to raise a child can often be a flash point. “You are not fit to raise our child” are words that cut deep and may turn an already hostile process into the most bitter of contests. If you believe that your ex-spouse is unfit to raise your child, know that parental fitness is a legal question. In other words, you cannot unilaterally decide that your ex-spouse is unfit as a parent. Lack of fitness is a multi-factor inquiry that is considered formally and has important legal ramifications.  

Illinois Law Provides Criteria By Which to Establish If a Parent Is Unfit

On the ground in the real world, there are words that speak clearly to a lack of parental fitness: abuse, addiction, incarceration, and psychological instability, to name but a few. These blights on the welfare of a child are the true metrics by which the state of Illinois evaluates whether one or both parents of a child are legally unfit to have parental responsibility for their child. Here, the toughest of questions are asked: 

  • Does the parent have a substance abuse problem?
  • Has the parent physically abused the child?
  • Has the parent sexually abused the child?
  • Has the parent psychologically abused the child?
  • Has the parent been convicted of crimes of abuse? 

Obviously, a pattern of severe abuse will trend sharply towards a finding that an abusive parent is an unfit parent.

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DuPage County divorce lawyer for parenting time and parental responsibilityThanksgiving is only a few weeks away, and many families are currently making plans for the holidays. For recently divorced parents and their children, this season can be a stressful and even contentious time of year. The transition to living in separate households and abiding by custody and visitation arrangements can be difficult when children are used to spending holidays under the same roof. While parents and children need time to adjust to new arrangements, parents can decrease post-divorce stress and anxiety during the holiday season by staying informed about their parental responsibility rights. 

Child Custody vs. Parental Responsibility 

In educating yourself about Illinois child custody, it is important to know that, though the state has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which most states have used to define jurisdictional matters related to child custody, it uses the specific terminology of “allocation of parental responsibility” with regard to laws and processes concerning custody. Here, the thinking is that the new terminology at once resists contentiousness and promotes collaboration in arriving at a custody arrangement that is agreeable to divorced parents and children alike. 

Parental Responsibility and Parenting Time

In Illinois law, parental responsibility concerns the right to direct the upbringing of the child. Parental responsibility is about decision-making, specifically with regard to the areas of health, education, religion, and extracurricular activities. Making decisions about a child’s healthcare, where and how they will be schooled, whether or not they will attend church or participation in religious, and the types of extracurricular activities they will be allowed to engage in are all tremendously important matters – ones that bear heavily on a child’s formative years. In some cases, one parent or guardian may have sole responsibility in any or all of these areas. However, it is also possible for parents to work out an agreement in which they share responsibility for making important decisions. 

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Wheaton postnuptial agreement attorneyMost people are familiar with the concept of a “prenuptial agreement.” A legally binding agreement between two prospective spouses, a prenuptial agreement stipulates in advance how the assets and liabilities of the soon-to-be-married couple will be distributed in the event the marriage ends in divorce. Such agreements are relatively common when there is a sizeable age or wealth gap between prospective spouses, or when children from previous unions will be brought together by the new marriage. 

Despite the statistic that between 40 and 50% of U.S. marriages end in divorce, prenuptial agreements remain a rather touchy subject, perhaps because they are perceived as “unromantic” – the possible end of the marriage is the last thing one wants to contemplate prior to uttering the words “til death do us part.” Given the statistics, such a dismissive attitude is problematic. Prenuptial agreements, and their post-union counterpart, postnuptial agreements, are worth giving serious consideration to. With the assistance of an experienced family law attorney, it is possible to craft a pre- or postnuptial agreement without introducing excessive tension into a relationship. Really, it is just sensible planning.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements Are Legal Contracts

Because prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are contracts much like any other – a meeting of the minds in the form of offer and acceptance, and supplemented with consideration – it is imperative that one rely on an experienced family law attorney to do the drafting of the contract. Moreover, if tension does arise in the process of contemplating and executing a pre- or postnuptial agreement, an attorney certified in mediation will work to bring everyone together towards a mutually agreeable resolution.

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Winfield international adoption lawyerAdoption has been in the news more than usual of late. The reason: politics. Surprisingly, the issue of adoption is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible obstruction of justice on the part of the current U.S. presidential administration. While some people believe that members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign met with Russian officials with the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election, the administration contends that its members met with a prominent Russian attorney to discuss the issue of the adoption of Russian children. 

Beyond its political dimension, this news highlights the increased complexity of situations in which adoptive parents and children are of different nationalities. In these cases, it is important to secure the services of an attorney who understands the laws surrounding international adoption. 

The Hague Convention Applies to Intercountry Adoption

For a strictly domestic adoption of a child by an Illinois resident or family, the Illinois Adoption Act is applicable. However, in the case of intercountry adoption, in which a citizen of one country adopts a child from another country, one must look to both the laws of the country of which the child is a citizen and the Hague Convention. 

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Warrenville divorce parenting agreement attorneyDivorce is a foundation-rupturing event, especially for spouses who have children together. Whole worlds are upended for all involved – parents, children, and even grandparents and friends. Day-to-day life, living arrangements, holiday plans, and so much more are all subject to change in the wake of the dissolution of a marriage. This is especially the case when both spouses move out of what had been the family home or apartment, whether to new residences in the same town or city, or to a new state or even new country. 

When the spouses have children, parental responsibility (formerly known as child custody) must be allocated between the parents. In some cases, one spouse is awarded primary parental responsibilities in the areas of healthcare, education, religion, and extracurricular activities. In most cases, however, parental responsibility is shared between the parents. 

As you are surely already aware if you divorced, separated, or even considering a divorce or separation, working out an agreement for the allocation of parental responsibilities can be a complex matter, and in some instances, it can be an unfortunately contentious process. Here, a court approved parenting plan is a must. With so much already on your plate in terms of adjusting to life changes caused by a divorce, an experienced divorce and family law attorney is a valuable resource who can help craft a parenting plan that is compliant with the requirements of Illinois law.

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DuPage County divorce mediation lawyerDivorce is a difficult matter. If you have gone through a divorce or are currently in the midst of the divorce process, you know this truth all too well. Besides the emotional toll of a divorce, there are numerous complexities associated with the dissolution of a marriage. If there are dependent children involved, the issue of parental responsibilities and parenting time is of primary importance and one that becomes challenging to solve if one parent has moved or intends to move to a different state or country. Courts, as they should, consider the best interests of the child when crafting an order to allocate parental responsibilities – a calculus that can drastically alter parenting plans.

Whether or not the responsibility for dependent children is an issue in your divorce, property division almost certainly will be. Your primary residence, any secondary properties, vehicles, personal belongings, and items of sentimental value will likely be at issue as you and your spouse cease to live under the same roof. Dividing this property can be difficult, especially with regard to items that cannot easily be split in half. When division gets difficult, a certified Illinois mediator can prove invaluable in helping divorcing spouses to make difficult decisions and reach resolutions that are fair and agreeable to both parties.

Not All Property Is Equally Divisible During the Dissolution of a Marriage

Some pieces of property are easy to divide. Matching dressers?  No problem – each spouse can take one. But what about the family dog? Or a family heirloom, such as a collection of rare coins? Or an oil painting? How does one divide such items, especially if neither spouse wants to sell the item in question and split the proceeds?  These are difficult questions with difficult answers. Yet, one must ask and answer them. Here, a certified Illinois mediator can be of great assistance, overseeing even the most challenging aspects of property division.  

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