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Kane County, IL parental alienation lawyerParental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) has been recognized by some in the medical community since 1985 when one child psychologist identified the similar behaviors that children exhibit when they have been exposed to parental alienation by one or both parents. In the decades since, the syndrome has yet to be recognized by the American Psychological Association or the American Medical Association.

Despite the debates over whether PAS per se actually exists, there is no debate about the existence of parental alienation. Unfortunately, it occurs far too often in divorce and child custody situations.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is when one parent disparages the other parent to their child, deliberately manipulating the child’s perceptions of the parent, with the goal of turning the child against that parent. For example, a father may tell his children that their mother will stop loving them just like she did him or a mother tells her children that their father is going to forget all about them now that he has a new girlfriend.

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Posted on in Family Law

St. Charles prenuptial agreement lawyerWhen a couple is planning their wedding, they are usually focused on their future together and their goals for their married life. Divorce is not usually a topic that comes up during this planning, but national statistics belie that optimism. Although the divorce rate has dropped over the past several years, it still hovers at close to 50 percent. The percentage is even higher for second and subsequent marriages.

This is one reason why engaged couples should have prenuptial agreements on their wedding to-do lists. A prenup is a contract the couple enters into that details what would happen in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements are legally binding contacts and are enforceable, but like many contracts, there may be legal issues a spouse can cite in a divorce that would nullify the prenup.

Contents of a Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement can address several issues that the couple would need to agree on in a divorce, essentially stating the rights and responsibilities of each spouse in the event of a divorce. Some of the issues that can be included in a prenup include:

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St. Charles, IL divorce lawyerAccording to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, approximately 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute. Statistics gathered by Illinois domestic violence advocacy organizations reveal that domestic violence also continues to rise in the state of Illinois, which saw a 40 percent increase in requests for services last year. More than 40 percent of women in Illinois and 25 percent of men say they are survivors of domestic violence.

If you are a domestic violence survivor who is seeking to leave your abusive partner, it is imperative for your safety and your children’s safety to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. A Kane County divorce attorney can help. One of the first things your attorney can do is help you obtain a protective order against your abuser. 

Emergency Orders

When the survivor is facing an imminent risk of harm, they can file for an emergency order of protection. In these situations, the alleged abuser is not notified of the requested hearing or given a chance to object to the petitioner’s request in order for the court to issue the order. Typically, the emergency order will be in effect for 14 to 21 days, but when the court issues the emergency order, it also schedules a hearing for a plenary (long-term) order before that expiration date. If the hearing cannot be scheduled before the expiration date, the court will extend the emergency order’s date.

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St. Charles, IL child custody lawyerPart of our job as parents is teaching our children how to be independent. This includes encouraging them so they are ensured their voices are heard and that their opinions and feelings matter. This process is an ongoing one and there are times when parents do need to overrule what their child wants because it is not in their best interest. One question that parents going through a child custody case often ask is whether or not the court will take into consideration the child’s wishes. Although in many cases the judge will consider the child’s wishes, it will not be the deciding factor.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

In 2016, there was a major overhaul to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). Lawmakers eliminated the phrase “child custody,” replacing it with the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. What did not change is how family court judges decide the allocation and parenting time, basing those decisions on the best interest of the child doctrine.

When it comes to whether or not the child’s wishes have any sway in the court’s decision, that often depends on the age of the child. Under the statute, the court will take into consideration the child’s “maturity and ability to express a reasoned and independent preference.” While this usually refers to older children, it can also apply to a younger child who is especially articulate and mature for their age and is able to clearly express their wishes in a manner that assures the court they are not just repeating what they have overheard or been told what to say by one of the parents.

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Kane County divorce lawyerAlthough the divorce rate has somewhat decreased over the past few years, it is still high. Approximately half of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce. Sixty percent of all second and 73 percent of all third marriages also end up in divorce court.

One of the major issues that divorcing couples need to decide is how their marital estate will be divided between the two of them. This can be difficult enough, but when one or both spouses own a business, that equitable division of assets can become very complicated. This is just one more reason why anyone going through a divorce should have a skilled divorce attorney advocating for them.

Is a Business Marital Property?

If the business was formed while the couple was married, the court will likely rule that the business is a marital asset. This applies no matter what type of business structure – partnership, LLC, or corporation – that the business was formed under.

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St. Charles family lawyerIn most situations, an Illinois family law judge will not make a decision regarding the custody of a child unless both parents are able to present their side/argument to the court. However, there are situations where the court will grant one parent temporary emergency custody based on that parent’s testimony alone, often without the other parent even being notified of the hearing if there are allegations that the child is in some kind of danger of abuse or neglect if they are left in the other parent’s care. These child custody orders are referred to as “ex parte” orders.

When Are Ex Parte Orders Issued?

As mentioned above, under normal circumstances, the court wants to hear from both parents – along with any witnesses they may have – as to what their preferred role in the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time should be.

Unfortunately, there are circumstances where one parent’s behavior or choices place the child in a dangerous and/or unhealthy living situation. It is in these situations that the court will allow a hearing where the other parent can present their allegations and evidence to the court showing that the parent is putting the child in danger, without the parent being present or even notified that a hearing is taking place. There is often a concern in these situations that if the allegedly abusive parent was aware of the hearing, they might take off with the child, creating an even more alarming and dangerous situation.

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 St. Charles, IL divorce attorneyThere is no denying that divorce and all it entails takes a heavy emotional toll on a family, especially on the children. But not every divorce needs to be a contentious one. In fact, more and more couples are realizing the benefits of using mediation as a major component in the divorce process. A mediation attorney from our law firm can explain how this less stressful and friendlier process can be used to obtain resolutions to issues of child custody, division of assets and property, spousal support, and more. Below is a brief overview of how divorce mediation works. Call our office for more details about how it could work in your situation.

Mediation Process

The goal of mediation is to avoid having to litigate your case and go to trial. Not only does this cut down on the emotional side of divorce, but it also helps the financial side. It is recommended that both spouses still have their own attorneys during mediation because there are legal requirements that Illinois family law statutes may require that could affect the agreement you and your spouse come up with. Having your own attorney also ensures your rights are protected and you are not being taken advantage of by the other party.

You and your spouse will work with your attorneys to identify which issues need to be addressed, share what ideas you both have on how they should be addressed, and work towards meeting an agreement on those issues. When it comes to child support, the state has its own guidelines which must be followed; however, you and your spouse can work out an agreement for those expenses that child support does not always cover, such as the costs of extracurricular activities your child may be involved in.  

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St. Charles Family Law AttorneyOn January 1, 2020, recreational marijuana use in Illinois became legal. Although this law means that a person could no longer be criminally charged for possessing cannabis, it did not address how family courts should address the issue when it comes to parental responsibility and parenting time issues, except to say that marijuana use, like alcohol use, cannot in and of itself be considered when making decisions about custody. 

The Best Interest of the Child Standard

When an Illinois family court judge is determining child custody, their decision will be based on the best interest of the child. It is generally accepted by the majority of judges that a child’s best interest is served best when both parents are actively involved in their life. There are exceptions to that, however, such as in cases where the welfare of the child could be in jeopardy because of the actions or behaviors of a parent.

One of the most common of these exceptions is substance abuse. When a parent struggles with a substance abuse issue, the court often imposes certain restrictions on how much and/or the type of parenting time the parent will have with the child.

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Kane County divorce lawyerYou have finally made the difficult decision to end your marriage but now you are unsure of how to begin the process. Dealing with the emotional aspects of a divorce can be hard enough, and the stress and worry about your future and your children’s future can feel overwhelming. But the steps you take at the beginning of this process can go a long way in protecting that future, especially the financial side of it. The following are some steps you can take to begin the divorce process while protecting yourself financially. For more details, contact a Kane County divorce lawyer.

Get Legal Advice

The first thing you should do before moving forward is speak with a qualified divorce attorney. Even if you think your divorce is going to be friendly because you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to child custody and family finances, it is important to understand that once that divorce petition is filed, the process can quickly become a contentious one. Having an attorney dedicated to your best interests will ensure you are protected should this occur.

Protect Financial Accounts

Money can cause people to act in ways you may never expect. At our law firm, we have heard many stories from clients whose spouses wiped out their bank accounts as their marriage was falling apart. Contact your financial institutions to amend all of your accounts to now require both your and your spouse’s signatures in order to make any withdrawals. Once the divorce petition is filed, the court can issue a temporary restraining order that prohibits either spouse from moving or selling assets.

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Kane County divorce lawyerIn most cases of divorce, the erosion of the marriage takes place over a period of time. It is not uncommon for one or both spouses to change their minds many times before making a final decision about whether they truly want to end the marriage. Once that decision is made, however, the question then becomes when they should file their dissolution of marriage petition with the court. In some cases, the petition can and should be filed right away, but in other situations, it may be better for financial reasons to hold off for a bit before legally initiating your intention to end your marriage.

Equitable Distribution

When a couple is married, they amass what is referred to as their marital estate. This includes any real estate they own, financial assets, household property, and vehicles. Illinois is an equitable distribution state, which means that in a divorce, the court’s goal is to divide that marital estate in a fair and “equitable” manner. Keep in mind that equitable does not necessarily mean equal or 50/50 like in community property states. An exception to this division of assets is if the couple had a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place that stipulates what each spouse will end up with in a divorce.

Dividing the Marital Estate

Under Illinois law, the marital estate is distributed based on the valuation date. In most cases, the valuation date is the date of the divorce trial or as close to that date as possible. This means any assets that are acquired by either spouse up until the valuation date are considered joint marital assets.

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Kane County divorce lawyerNational statistics show that approximately 50 percent of all married couples divorce. The percentage for subsequent marriages is even higher – 60 percent of all second marriages end up in a divorce court and a whopping 73 percent of all third marriages also end in divorce. Illinois is ranked at number 44 when it comes to the national divorce rate with a rate of just over 6 percent; however, while that number may seem low, remember the population of the state is approximately 13 million people.  

Every divorce case is different – the process and resolution with some cases are quick, while the process and resolution with others drag on for months or even years. The constant in all Illinois divorces is that the court will issue a divorce decree that declares the marriage is legally over and stipulates the final decisions on child custody, child support, division of assets, alimony, and any other issues. And although this decree is a legal order from the court, some spouses fail to adhere to it. What legal options do you have if your ex-spouse is not obeying your divorce decree?

Ignoring the Decree

When your ex is failing to follow the divorce decree, the first thing you want to do is consult with your lawyer. There will be steps your attorney will recommend that may convince your ex to comply without having to go to court. Some of the things you should be doing that will help your case if you do have to go back in front of the judge include:

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Posted on in Illinois Divorce

St. Charles fathers rights lawyerDealing with a divorce is difficult for an entire family. However, unique issues can arise for non-custodial fathers after a separation or divorce. No longer living with your children is difficult, and it can be devastating for a parent. Suppose you are a father who is no longer the primary custodial guardian in your child's life. In that case, it is a good idea to prepare for this transition in a few ways. Here are four critical tips for dads during a divorce. 

Stay on Top of Your Parenting Plan 

When you are no longer the custodial guardian of your children, it is easy to overlook the day-to-day activities and responsibilities of being a parent. It is important to stay organized with your parental responsibilities. During the divorce, both parents are included in creating custody, visitation time, and responsibility plans for life after the separation. Typically, each parent is allocated specific responsibilities and visitation with the children. You must stay on top of these responsibilities to maintain an important role in their lives. 

Spend Time Helping Your Kids Cope

Divorces and separations can be highly confusing for young children. No matter your child's age, they may be grieving the old familial structure, especially if you are no longer living with them. During visitation time, or when you have your shared custody arrangement, take the time to speak with your children and support their emotions.

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St. Charles divorce lawyerFor many people, property division is one of the most challenging aspects of divorce. When it comes to business interests, dividing property becomes more complicated. Typically, the two ways to consider property division during a divorce are shared marital property or individual property. Depending on whether or not spouses share a business, there are different ways to protect your interests legally. 

Is Your Business Shared Property?

The first step in ensuring you retain maximum interests within your business during a divorce is understanding whether or not it is shared. Illinois law considers a business unshared if you owned the company before getting married, you built the business with inheritance or your own money, or a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement states that only one spouse owns the business.

A company may be considered shared marital property if:

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Kane County divorce attorneysOne of the most critical aspects of divorce is selecting an attorney that best fits your needs. It can become overwhelming to decide which divorce lawyer will represent your interests and help you secure the most favorable outcome of your divorce. A few key things to remember when selecting a divorce attorney include the type of divorce you are handling, your budget, and your personal ethics and values. Here are three essential tips for choosing the right attorney for your divorce. 

Consider the Type of Divorce at Hand

Before selecting the best attorney for you, it is crucial to examine what type of divorce process you are facing. There are a few different types of the divorce process that differ in price, complication, and duration, including:

Contested versus uncontested divorces are the most significant variation between divorce processes. During a contested divorce, both partners cannot agree upon at least one crucial aspect of the divorce process. These can lead to conflict, extended negotiation time, and even litigation. Uncontested divorces are more straightforward in that both parties agree on the outcome of the divorce and how property and other assets will be divided for the future. 

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Kane County divorce lawyersWhen dealing with a divorce, spouses tend to worry about how financial responsibilities will be taken care of when the marriage is dissolved. Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, refers to a series of payments made from one spouse to another following a divorce. Many couples going through a divorce wonder how to obtain spousal support or how the court will decide which partner is responsible for paying spousal support. If spousal support is found to be appropriate, the court will decide who pays spousal support by determining the supporting and dependent spouses. 

Supporting vs. Dependent Spouses 

When deciding which spouse will pay spousal support after the divorce is finalized, it is critical to analyze the financial health of both spouses. By looking at each spouse’s financial statements, a divorce attorney can help identify which spouse will be supporting the other. Below are the general characteristics of a supporting and dependent spouse.

A supporting spouse is a partner in a relationship that has the most substantial financial health and assets. Usually, this partner’s income takes care of the majority of the bills during a marriage. The supporting spouse often makes more money at their job, owns the most valuable financial assets, or is the primary family provider. 

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Kane County divorce attorneyOne of the most common questions asked during a divorce is how expensive the divorce process is. Creating a cost estimate for a divorce is difficult for many reasons. Costs affiliated with a divorce vary depending on factors such as the type of divorce, the duration of the divorce process, which attorney you hire, and the type of assets shared.

Divorces in Illinois vary in cost, but there are ways to gauge how expensive your divorce can become. Your best bet is to speak with a qualified divorce lawyer about your specific situation.

Finding a Cost Estimate 

By speaking with a skilled divorce attorney, spouses can usually get a rough estimate how expensive their divorce may be. Estimates can be made only after an attorney gathers the facts of your situation and determines a few factors such as:

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Kane County divorce attorneyThe divorce process can be complicated for many reasons, especially when dealing with property and asset division between two spouses. When dealing with a high-income, high-value divorce, the process can become more intricate to consider the significance of the assets at stake. Stress levels run high in any divorce, separation, or breakup. The essential nature of high-income asset division can exacerbate stress and cause high anxiety levels. If you are in the midst of a high-income divorce, here are three tips that may make the process more manageable for your situation. 

Contact a Financial Analyst

Many divorce and family law attorneys have contacts with analysts that assist in the divorce process. Financial experts are one of the most commonly consulted analysts during a high-value divorce. Alongside your legal counsel, a financial expert can examine the assets divided between two partners. Some of the most common monetary and business assets that are analyzed in a high-value divorce include:

  • Investments and financial investment accounts 
  • Income statements, including checking and savings accounts
  • Tax statements 
  • Owned real estate
  • Pension and retirement accounts 
  • Tangible valuables, including jewelry, cars, and other high-value items 

A financial analyst can examine the assets of two spouses and help create a unique financial plan that represents the best interests of both parties. 

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St. Charles divorce mediation lawyersBreakups, separations, and divorces can be difficult. Tensions run high, and many couples cannot communicate with their spouse about how to move forward after a marriage is dissolved. When spouses cannot communicate effectively, many people believe that the only solution is to resolve a divorce in court. However, other more cost-effective and productive forms of alternative dispute resolution can help couples get through a difficult divorce. One of the most beneficial alternative dispute resolutions for divorce cases is third-party mediation

Understanding Divorce Mediation

Alternative dispute resolutions are different techniques that couples can use to communicate with their partner and dissolve a tense marriage without defaulting to court litigation. A few different types of dispute resolutions are used for divorce, including mediation, settlement conferences, and arbitration.

The mediation technique for divorce resolution is one of the most common ways to solve contentious cases without moving to litigation. Divorcing spouses can understand the process of divorce mediation by breaking the process down into three key steps: 

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Kane County divorce lawyerWhen beginning the divorce process, many couples realize there are two main characteristics the state uses to divide property in Illinois— marital and non-marital property. Non-marital property includes assets owned individually by only one of the partners in a marriage. Marital property has assets accumulated throughout the marriage, thus belonging to both spouses. During the division of property, marital assets are split up between both partners in an equitable fashion. However, some assets, such as retirement accounts, have shared and unshared characteristics, making retirement plans much trickier to divide. 

Illinois Law on the Division of Retirement Plans 

The state of Illinois describes retirement plans as having both shared and unshared characteristics. Sometimes, a retirement plan is opened, and some of the retirement benefits are accumulated before that individual is married. However, once that individual is married, any retirement benefits collected can be considered shared property. The best way to determine which assets in a retirement plan are shared between spouses is to document the benefits awarded after the marriage is finalized. Any financial benefits accumulated before the wedding belong solely to that individual spouse. 

Shared property must be divided equitably between both spouses. However, equitability does not necessarily mean that a spouse is entitled to 50% of the earnings. Equitable division of marital property means that the assets awarded to each spouse are fair and just based on the entire situation. For example, a spouse could retain their entire retirement account and pension benefits. However, their spouse is awarded the family home. Similarly, your spouse could be awarded 50% of your retirement benefits. However, you might retain another financial asset to offset any unfair division. 

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Kane County child support lawyerWhen a marriage dissolution is finalized, a divorce decree is drafted. A divorce decree is a legally binding document that expresses all decisions made in a divorce arrangement, including custody arrangements, property division, and spousal maintenance. The court enforces a divorce decree, and must be upheld by both parties. However, individuals can make changes within a divorce decree when necessary. 

Requesting Additional Child Support 

It is not uncommon for parents to require more child support after the initial divorce decree is finalized. Lifestyle changes following a separation or divorce can drastically affect a parent’s ability to provide for their children. For example, a mother may have been able to support her children with the child support amount expressed in the divorce arrangement, but she recently finds herself unemployed. In this case, the mother must request more child support from the state. 

When Can I Modify My Divorce Decree?

Divorce agreements are eligible for modifications every three years. The court reviews these modifications to adjust legal documents to best fit a family’s current lifestyle. However, a decree modification can be requested before the three-year mark when there is a significant need for reevaluation.

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