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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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Kane County divorce lawyerAlthough Illinois is considered a no-fault divorce state, there is no doubt that infidelity and other extramarital affairs can be the root cause of a failed marriage. Cheating in a marriage can cause lasting damage to a relationship, often leading to divorce. However, unfaithfulness cannot be used to negotiate a more favorable divorce plan for one spouse over another. The court will see infidelity as a mutual disagreement between partners, not as a way to blame a cheating spouse. However, infidelity can still affect a divorce in a few ways. 

Understanding Irreconcilable Differences 

“Irreconcilable differences” is the legal term used in no-fault divorce states to express that a marriage is beyond repair. The term irreconcilable differences is meant to blame both partners equally, hence the term no-fault divorce. Essentially, this means that both partners have had substantial enough disagreements throughout the marriage that renders the relationship unfixable. 

Irreconcilable differences in a no-fault divorce state allow the court to emphasize an equitable division of shared marital property. No matter the reason for divorce, both parties will have their property split fairly and equitably. However, infidelity can still affect the divorce process in other ways. 

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Kane County family law attorneyWhile divorce is difficult for most couples, it can be especially challenging for parents who share children. There are many considerations, such as child support payments, custody, and visitation arrangements. However, parents feel blindsided when unexpected expenses pop up after the divorce is finalized. If you and your partner share custody of the children and are equally invested in them financially, emotionally, and physically, extracurricular costs could pop up from time to time. Here is a list of five unexpected expenses parents may have to split following a divorce. 

College Tuition

In Illinois, age 18 deems a child an adult, as long as the child has graduated from high school, meaning parents are no longer required to support them financially. However, like many laws, the end of child support payments comes with a catch. Parents often have to extend child support payments throughout a non-minor child's post-secondary education. Illinois courts require parents to pay for a child's educational wellbeing, including their college tuition and expenses. For example, parents will have to cover the costs of attendance, rent, and essentials for the college child.

Tutoring 

Like college, parents must pay for a child's educational wellbeing. Parents may be asked to provide financial support if a child needs extra help in a particular subject or requires tutoring for standardized testing. When parents share custody and are equally invested in their child's future, child expenses, including tutoring, will be split between parents. 

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Illinois family law attorneysA divorce can be unsettling for all family members, especially for children. Parents may worry that changes following a divorce can lead to lasting emotional trauma for their kids. Many lifestyle changes can confuse young children, and it is essential for parents to try to provide stability during the divorce process and after the marriage has been dissolved. Parents looking to provide stability and maintain a successful routine for their children post-divorce should encourage a structured routine, communicate about co-parenting rules, and encourage open dialogue with their kids. 

Stick to a Structured Routine

According to Head Start, the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, everyday activities and routines can comfort children during uncertain times. As parents make decisions regarding child custody, living situations, and division of parenting time, children may feel worried that they are losing quality time with one parent over another or fear the loss of familiar family routines. Ways to incorporate familiar activities into children's lives during the divorce process include:

  • Sticking to the typical morning or nighttime routine
  • Continuing parent-child dates
  • Allowing the child to stay in the same school following the divorce 
  • Keeping siblings together following the divorce 
  • Allowing the parent with the majority of parenting time to remain in the family home 

Another fundamental way to incorporate structure and routine for children following a divorce is to integrate new practices that promote stability in the new family structure. For example, a parent should stick to a new morning routine for children who have been uprooted during a divorce to encourage familiarity and give the children a sense of comfort and control.

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St. Charles divorce attorneyWhen couples find themselves fighting and preparing for a divorce, one spouse may choose to leave home. In Illinois, the family home will usually be considered joint marital property, meaning it—or it’s value—will be considered and divided between the spouses during the divorce judgment. However, in some highly volatile cases, one spouse might pose a severe threat to the other family members. Even though a shared house may be joint property and subject to being divided equitably in a no-fault divorce state, there are ways for spouses to remove a partner from the family home when necessary.

Illinois Petition for Exclusive Possession

The governing law that dictates marriage dissolution and the divorce process in Illinois is the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). A petition for exclusive possession of the shared property is detailed for certain circumstances within this act. If a spouse felt that their partner posed a serious threat by staying in the home, they could file for exclusive possession and legally force their partner out of the house. To meet these criteria, a spouse would have to prove to the court that their partner poses a legitimate threat to the physical, mental, or emotional health of the other individuals living in the home. 

Within the IMDMA, the law states that if there is a complaint from a spouse indicating that they wish to have a temporary eviction of their partner, the court can grant that temporary eviction until the final judgment on who will retain the residence after the divorce.

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St. Charles paternity lawyerEstablishing paternity in Illinois is essential for many reasons. Not only do parents have legal rights to their children, but many parents wish to establish legal parentage as a way to feel bonded to their children. If the parents of a child were unmarried at the time of the birth, a father would have to obtain legal paternity. With paternity comes legal rights to the child, including custody and the ability to make crucial decisions throughout the child’s life. 

What is Paternity?

Paternity is the legal term for the relationship between a father and child. When a mother gives birth, there is no question that the child belongs to her. However, there is no natural way to determine the father of a child without established paternity or a DNA test. Paternity does not always refer to the biological father, either. A parent can obtain legal rights through adoption. 

Why Should I Establish Paternity?

An unmarried father can face hurdles with his legal rights to the children born out of wedlock. These issues arise because paternity has not been established. There are many reasons that fathers choose to establish paternity, including:

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Kane County divorce lawyerLies during the divorce process can seriously impact an individual's future and the outcome of their divorce. Exaggerating or falsifying legal documents during your divorce is a crime, leading to severe repercussions. Divorce attorneys can hire forensic accountants and other skilled specialists to look into a bank account and determine if there are hidden assets or falsified financial information. Here are common ways divorce documents are falsified and how hidden information can affect the outcome of your divorce.

Common Ways Divorce Documents are Falsified 

Perjury is commonly portrayed as lying during testimony on the witness stand, but there are other ways to perjure yourself in the court of law. Another common form of perjury occurs through falsifying court documents. Partners often lie in divorce cases to withhold shared assets or hide finances. In the case of divorce, perjury can be split into two main categories — direct and indirect acts. Direct acts of perjury include an individual explicitly lying. For example, a spouse claims they do not own any property besides the marital home, but there is a deed for another property with their name on it. Indirect perjury includes not sharing the entire truth. This form of perjury can look like undervaluing an asset to hide money. For example, a spouse values their business at $100,000, but an appraisal shows the company was worth $200,000.

Hiding assets is common for spouses to falsify information for personal gain in a divorce. Individuals may hide assets by:

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Kane County divorce lawyerMany lifestyle changes occur following a divorce, from living arrangements to property division. If you recently completed a divorce, you may have questions regarding how this significant change affects different areas of your life, including how to file for taxes as a single individual. Tax considerations are often addressed directly in the divorce decree before entirely dissolving the marriage. However, individuals may still have questions regarding how to make tax filing changes or how a divorce will affect their tax refund at the end of the year. 

Filing Taxes Separately 

Whether or not a couple in the process of getting divorced can file their taxes jointly depends entirely on when the divorce is finalized. Suppose the spouses are still legally married before the last day of the year, December 31. In that case, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) still recognizes the individuals as a legally married couple, and they have the option to file taxes jointly. Once the divorce is finalized, the IRS will require that taxes be filed separately for that tax year. 

You can amend your tax filing status by filling out a 1040-X form. Often, divorced couples will have changes in their total income or child custody arrangements. For example, individuals who now have sole custody of their dependent children must update this on their tax status. Similarly, if you no longer have full custody of your children, you must also document this in your tax file. It is crucial to make these modifications if there has been a change in:

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