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Kane County divorce attorneysOne of the most difficult parts of the divorce process is the often division of assets. Married couples usually accumulate a significant amount of property during their marriage. When a couple decides to divorce, differentiating between martial property and non-marital property can become quite complex. Assets that were once considered personal, non-marital property can be transformed into marital property, which is then eligible for division. When property division issues become convoluted, it is best to hire a divorce attorney with experience managing complex property division during divorce.

Illinois Equitable Distribution Law

Illinois law regarding property division in a divorce follows a set of principles known as “equitable distribution.” Under the doctrine of equitable distribution, a couple’s marital estate is to be divided equitably, or fairly, according to each spouse’s needs and financial circumstances. There is no guarantee that each spouse will receive an equal share.

It is important to realize that only marital property is divided in an Illinois divorce. Marital property includes any assets which were acquired by either spouse during the marriage, and non-marital property includes assets which the spouses owned before the marriage as well as certain types of gifts and inheritances. Non-marital property is assigned to the original owner during a divorce. Asset division can become especially confusing when assets are commingled or mixed.

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Kane County child support lawyersWhether you are in the process of pursuing past-due child support, need to create a new support order, or are the paying parent facing collections for support, such expenses quickly add up and make a significant dent on your finances. The process of collecting or paying child support can take time, as each case is different and some are more challenging than others. Newly divorced parents who are being introduced to the process can feel especially overwhelmed, and those who have been long divorced can suddenly find themselves in the midst of all new tensions when financial disagreements arise. The mere subject of collection can be a touchy one, which is why it is so important to educate yourself at the onset of child support proceedings, no matter what role you play in your child’s life.

What Does a Child Support Hearing Typically Entail?

Should you be required to attend a hearing for your child support order, the hearing will be conducted by either a judge or the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). You will be expected to testify to a variety of questions, which will help the court determine how to proceed with your child support order. The questions you must answer will depend on the type of hearing you are attending and the circumstances surrounding your support case. Unwed parents who have not yet established paternity will be required to answer a different set of questions than newly divorced parents, as the legal circumstances differ. 

In general, however, there are some common topics every parent can expect to address at a hearing, including:

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Kane County family law attorneyWhether you are about to be a parent or have just recently experienced the birth of a newborn, the issue of paternity is a critical part of protecting not only your relationship with your child but also protecting your child’s best interests. Paternity is a term that defines the legal relationship between a father and his child. In the state of Illinois, an unmarried man is only considered the legal father of a child when his name is placed on the birth certificate, regardless of whether or not he lives with the mother or is engaged to marry. 

Why Paternity Is Necessary

There are many reasons why establishing paternity is crucial for both parents and for the child, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding the family situation. Here are some major points every parent should consider when it comes to making parental status official:

  • Your child’s security depends on it. By establishing paternity, your child will have the opportunity for financial security now and in the future. For example, they will have the right to social security benefits in the event that a parent passes away or becomes disabled, as well as the right to receive potential inheritances or veterans benefits, if applicable. Additionally, they will have the right to receive any health or life insurance benefits due to them.
  • Your child may need access to medical history records. When paternity is officially established, a child also has the chance to obtain important medical information about their parents, which can be useful throughout the course of their lifetime.
  • An unmarried father’s rights are limited without it. If an unwed father wishes to ask for any rights that allow him involvement in his child’s life—anything from visitation to custody, or a say in educational decisions—then  he must be recognized as the child’s legal parent.

How to Go About Establishing Paternity

Once you have explored the various advantages of establishing paternity and are ready to get started, you can proceed in any of the following ways:

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St. Charles family law attorneyDuring a divorce, parents may develop  a parenting plan that is beneficial for both themselves and their children. Although these plans are often created with much thought and detail, changes can occur that may require a modification. Updated schedules, unexpected relocations, and the children's education or extracurricular activities could cause issues to arise. Depending on the reasons behind the potential adjustment, as well as the agreement of both parents, a court may approve a modification request. Ultimately, the court will make a decision that is in the best interest of the involved children.

What Should Parents Consider Before Deciding Responsibilities?

Aspects of a person's life may change significantly after a divorce is final. For parents that are getting divorced, it is important to reach mutual agreements on key factors that will affect your future and that of your children. For example, the distance between each parent’s residences is a topic that may lead to significant difficulties if either parent wishes to find a new place to live. Although a new residence may work better for one parent, it might not be compatible with the children's school schedule. Furthermore, children may have difficulties adjusting to a new community. The wishes of each parent and the child (as appropriate) should be considered before a parenting plan is finalized.    

Modification Limitations

For children going through a divorce, having a relationship with both parents could be in their best interest. Creating a stable environment for children can help foster their growth and development. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Marriage Act, unless the children's well-being is at risk, an adjustment will not usually be made within the first two years of the original agreement.

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Kane County divorce attorneysA dissolution of marriage can be a difficult decision for a couple. Making drastic changes on your own can present more challenges than one would expect. Concerns related to your home, assets, businesses, and pensions are all worrisome topics that come to mind. Most concerning for many individuals facing a divorce, however, is the dispersion of debt between you and your ex. The state of Illinois recommends that a divorcing couple works together in order to divide their debts equally, however, decisions will be made by the judge if an agreement cannot be reached.      

Marital Debt vs. Non-Marital Debt

Illinois defines “marital debt” as any financial obligation acquired by either spouse after the marriage was finalized, and before the divorce is complete. An example of marital debt could be the amount owed on a credit card that was accrued while the marriage was intact. The court will take certain factors into account to ensure the accuracy of the determination, such as whether or not the credit card was opened prior to the marriage, or whether it is a joint or separate account. Hidden assets are commonly addressed in a divorce proceeding, as well. 

Non-marital debt, simply put, can be classified as financial obligations that are specifically assigned to the person that accumulated the debt. Non-marital debt typically happens before the marriage begins,but there are other ways for a debt to be considered non-marital. Examples of non-marital debt include:

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St. Charles divorce attorneysIn Illinois, basic child support payments end when the child reaches 18 years of age or if the child earns a high school diploma (whichever comes last). During the divorce process, parents can come to an agreement in regards to their child’s continuing education costs. If an agreement cannot be reached, either party can petition a family court to address the matter and possibly assign a fair amount to be divided between both parents and the child. This amount is intended to specific eligible expenses related to college, trade school, or other post-high school education programs (i.e. tuition, housing, textbooks, etc…). Pre-college expenses such as application fees and ACT/SAT test fees could be included in the parental support payment agreement.

Support can be granted for a college-level child until their 23rd birthday or their graduation (whichever comes first). For good cause shown, the court could extend the support until the child’s 25th birthday.

How Is College Expense Support Determined?

Many college students pay for tuition and other expenses on their own. Others are granted scholarships for academic or athletic ability to help with college expenses. Why then would it be necessary to order divorced parents to pay for their non-minor child’s school fees?

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St. Charles family law attorneyEvery child has the right to be supported by both a mother and a father. There are some cases in which this is unable to happen due to the death of a parent. However, in cases where two parents are alive, both should be responsible for the upbringing of the minor. Unwed couples often have a more difficult time raising a child together, especially if the alleged father is denying paternity of the child. Most men deny a child because they do not want to assume the financial responsibility of raising a baby with a woman to whom he is not married.

In these cases, a mother can ask the court to order a paternity test to prove that a man is the father of her child. Once paternity is established, the mother can move on to file a petition for child support, and the couple can work on visitation rights of the father.

Why is it Important to Establish Paternity?

Unmarried parents in Illinois must establish paternity if they birth a child before marriage or else the father cannot be llsted on the child’s birth certificate. The child will suffer as well if paternity is not established because he or she might not have:

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St. Charles child support lawyerIllinois considers it the right of any child to receive financial support from both of his or her parents. Child support can allow a child with divorced or unmarried parents to experience the same opportunities and quality of life as he or she would with parents who are together. Illinois courts use a specific method, called “income shares,” to calculate fair and reasonable child support obligations. However, if something major changes in the life of either parent or the child, the child support order may need to be amended. It is important to learn the steps you should take to request a child support modification in Illinois.

What Should I Do If I Cannot Afford Child Support?

Child support payments can often be a substantial part of a parent’s overall expenses. If you realize that you cannot make your support payment, never simply stop paying. Child support nonpayment is taken very seriously by Illinois courts and you could face serious consequences for neglecting your obligation. Parents who fail to pay their court-ordered child support can face steep fines, wage and bank account garnishment, property liens, interception of tax returns, and more. In the most egregious cases, failure to pay child support can be considered a criminal offense punishable by jail time. If you realize that you cannot make your support payment, notify the recipient of support and your local county court house. To request a change in child support, file a Petition for Modification of Child Support with the court.

Grounds for Child Support Modification

Child support obligations cannot be changed without good reason. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Division of Child Support Services outlines the grounds on which a child support order can be changed. You can qualify for a modification review if one or more of the following circumstances exists:

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