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Recent blog posts

Do Not Underestimate the Impact of Divorce on Your ChildrenDivorced spouses may feel relieved to have ended their contentious marriage. The hostility between them made their lives miserable. If the former spouses are parents, they may believe that the divorce will benefit the children, as well. After all, children feel stressed and unhappy when living with parent who are often fighting. However, children are unlikely to view the divorce in that way. The positives that come from not witnessing their parents' hostile relationship are outweighed by feelings of loss and betrayal. Parents must understand how their divorce will affect their children.

Through a Child’s Eyes

For children, there is no fresh start or optimism after their parents separate. The divorce has abolished the two-parent home that they knew and replaced it with an unfamiliar living arrangement. Normally, parents put their children's needs first. A divorce tells the children that their parents' needs are more important than keeping the family together. Though they may not say it, children can blame their parents for not saving their marriage. If not their parents, they may blame themselves. Adults understand that divorce is a natural and often necessary outcome when spouses have irreconcilable differences. For children, divorce is unnatural because it destroys their family.

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Structured Settlements Defer Compensation for Marital PropertyMarital properties in a divorce must be equitably divided between the two parties, according to Illinois law. However, cleanly dividing the properties can be challenging or, in some cases, seemingly impossible. Properties can differ based on their assessed value and liquidity. Some of the most valued properties in a marriage, such as real estate, are not liquid, unless the parties agree to sell the property and split the proceeds. For instance, only one spouse can receive the marital home, and the other spouse must be compensated for the assessed value of the home. If a non-liquid asset is by far the most valuable property in a marriage, the remaining properties may be insufficient in value to serve as compensation. In such cases, parties in a divorce can agree to a structured settlement that will compensate a spouse over time.

Deferred Payments

The division of property for many divorces is a lump-sum settlement, in which both parties immediately receive the full value of their share of the assets. A structured settlement defers compensation, which one party will repay the other over time. So, a spouse who receives the marital home in the divorce may compensate the other spouse through monthly payments, often including interest. The court considers the owed payments to be part of the marital properties that are divided.

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Change of Circumstances Allows Immediate Modification to Parenting TimeWhen former spouses determine parenting time during a divorce, they are creating a schedule that works best at that moment. The needs of children and parents change as they get older. So, it is natural that a parenting time schedule will need to change at some point. A court must approve any modifications to a written parenting time agreement for them to be legal. The difficulty of the process may depend on: 

  • How significant the changes are;
  • How much time has passed since the agreement was created; and
  • Whether both parents agree to the changes.

New Laws

If your parenting time agreement was approved before 2016, you may hear unfamiliar terms when you return to court to modify it. For instance, your parenting time schedule may have been called a visitation schedule. Illinois enacted new divorce laws in 2016, and the new terms reflect a change in philosophy for creating parenting agreements. Parents are allocated responsibilities instead of being granted custody, and parenting time is one of the primary responsibilities. The language in your visitation agreement may be out-of-date, but the agreement can still conform to the law. As long as the court is satisfied that the agreement is in the child’s best interest, you may be able to preserve the parts that you do not want to change.

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How Social Media Can Hurt Your Divorce CaseMany users of social media have gotten into the habit of oversharing personal information. They have an unfounded belief that only a select group of friends will see what they post online. A savvy user knows not to post embarrassing or incriminating information about themselves to Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other popular social media applications. People going through a divorce must be even more cautious about how they use social media. A divorce attorney will investigate the opposing spouse’s social media accounts for evidence to use against him or her. Seemingly benign posts can damage someone's reputation in the context of a divorce. Divorce courts are given discretion in settling cases, and damaging social media posts may affect the:

There are several instances in which social media can be used against you during a divorce.

Attacking Your Spouse

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High Income Divorce Can Change Child Support CalculationsThe process for determining child support payments is mostly standardized during Illinois divorce cases. An Illinois divorce judge is likely to adhere to the state’s child support formula, which was recently changed to an income shares model. The parents’ net incomes are combined, and each parent will pay a proportionate percentage of child expenses based on comparative income and the division of parenting time. Illinois’ child support law gives divorce courts discretion in determining the payment in certain circumstance. Thus, child support in high income divorces may be calculated differently than when using Illinois’ standard model.

State Guidelines

In response to the new child support law, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services created a new income shares table for determining child support obligations. The table uses the parents’ combined monthly net incomes and the number of children they have to calculate how much of their incomes should go towards supporting their children. Each parent pays a share of the child expenses that is proportionate to his or her share of the combined incomes. However, the table ends at a combined monthly income of $30,024.99. Illinois law states that the court can use its discretion in determining child support when the combined income exceeds the limits of the table. The only stipulation is that the child support obligation shall not be less than what is listed for the highest income in the table.

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Preparing a Legal Guardian for Your ChildrenProtecting your children means preparing for their needs in case you can no longer be their parent. Your death, incapacitation or incarceration would prevent you from performing your parental duties. Planning for your absence is particularly important for single parents. If the other parent is not available to assume the allocation of parental responsibilities, your children must have a legal guardian to care for them. You can appoint a standby guardian to immediately take care of your children in the event that you are no longer able to.

What Is Guardianship?

A guardian is a person that a probate court appoints to oversee a child’s care when a parent is unable to. The legal parent retains his or her parental rights during guardianship and may reassume parental responsibilities once a court determines he or she is capable of doing so. To qualify as a guardian, a person must be:

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Safeguarding Your Business During DivorceBusiness interests are regarded the same as other properties during a divorce. If your business is classified as a marital property, it is part of the equitable division of property between spouses. While you both have a stake in it, the business may be more important to you if you are the primary owner and operator. It is your life’s work, as well as your main source of income. During the divorce, you want to:

  • Maintain control of your business; and
  • Keep the assets that your business needs to succeed.

In order to protect your business during a divorce, you may need to compromise on other marital properties.

Business as a Marital Property

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Unfit Parent Claim Can Restrict VisitsIllinois law presumes that both parties in a divorce are fit parents, allowing them an equal right to the allocation of parental responsibilities. The parenting time and decision making may not be evenly split between the parents, but the divorce settlement will give reasonable responsibilities to each side. However, a court can limit or deny a parent’s responsibilities if it determines the parent is a threat to the child. Unfit parents may be required to use supervised visits in order to see their children.

Determining Unfitness

A parent can claim that the other parent is unfit during or after the divorce. Because of the presumption of fitness, a parent who believes his or her former spouse is a danger to their children must provide evidence to support the claim. A court needs documentation or reliable testimony that a parent may harm a child’s physical or mental health, such as:

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Getting Divorced After a Short MarriageAfter their actual honeymoon, newly married couples typically go through an extended honeymoon period, when the excitement and happiness of marriage outweighs any negatives. Researchers estimate that the honeymoon period typically wears off after three to five years, when stresses test the strength of a marriage. Some marriages do not survive the test, as studies in the U.S. show that approximately 20 percent of first marriages and 31 percent of second marriages end within five years. In rare cases, a couple may not need even a year to realize they made a mistake. Settling a divorce after a short marriage involves many of the same issues as longer marriages, but the duration of the marriage may affect how the issues are decided.

Division of Property

Illinois requires divorcing spouses to equitably divide their marital property, but a court is allowed to consider the duration of the marriage when determining the division. Courts will generally put greater importance on fairly dividing property in cases involving longer marriages, though there is no official number of years that are required for a longer marriage. For short marriages, it is also important to distinguish between marital and non-marital property. Spouses who have not been married for long are less likely to have accumulated shared assets, including:

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How to React When Divorce Catches You by SurpriseEveryone would like to believe that they understand the status of their marriage well enough to know when a divorce is imminent. However, some people are caught off guard when their spouse asks them for a divorce. Suddenly being served with divorce papers can be emotionally jarring. Your immediate reaction may be to ask yourself:

  • How did I miss the signs of my marriage falling apart?
  • Can I save my marriage?
  • What will happen to me and my children after a divorce?

While it is natural to feel shocked, you must prepare yourself for what is likely an inevitable divorce.

Legal Representation

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Summer Break Planning for Divorced FamiliesSummer break is just around the corner for children in school. While this is normally a happy family time, it can be a shock for children whose parents have recently divorced:

  • Spending more time at home may remind them that their family has broken up;
  • Family summer traditions may be changed or eliminated; and
  • Summer parenting time schedules can greatly vary from the regular schedule.

Parents entering the first summer after a divorce may need to change the normal summer routine to prevent their children from getting the summertime blues.

Dealing with Absence 

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Identifying Silent Killers in a MarriageDramatic conflicts can kill marriages. When a spouse is cheating or abusive, it is easy to predict that a couple will seek a divorce. However, many marriages die slowly and for reasons that others may not understand. There are silent marriage killers that do not manifest as direct conflict but will gradually create a divide in a relationship. While it can be difficult to detect these killers, spouses who are aware of them may be able to work through their problems and maintain their marriages.

Lack of Communication

Not talking with your spouse is literally a silent killer in a marriage. You both need to communicate to express how you feel and show that you care about each other. You may have stopped having meaningful conversations in order to avoid conflict. You may be distracted by work or personal interests. Checking social media, in particular, has become an addicting hobby that draws people’s attention away from live interaction and towards their phones. Improving your communication may take a conscious effort:

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Handling Your Life Insurance During a DivorceGetting divorced in Illinois does not automatically kill your former spouse’s right to benefits from your life insurance policy. You can agree to give your former spouse some benefits in case of your death or choose someone else as your primary beneficiary. If you are responsible for spousal maintenance or child support payments, your former spouse can receive life insurance benefits as compensation for the payments he or she will no longer receive from you. Whatever your decision is, you must take specific action in order to change the division of your life insurance benefits after divorce.

Changing Your Policy

Under Illinois law, a divorce will automatically revoke some beneficiary designations, such as provisions in wills, trusts and power of attorney orders. If you do nothing to your life insurance policy, your former spouse may be entitled to the same benefits as when you were married. In order to change the beneficiary arrangement, you can:

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Seven Tips for Discussing a Prenuptial Agreement With Your Future SpouseCreating a prenuptial agreement can be a pragmatic step for a marrying couple. Marriages can end prematurely, either due to divorce or sudden death. A prenuptial agreement allows spouses to determine:

  • How property and debt will be divided;
  • Whether one spouse needs to pay alimony; and
  • Other matters that are not related to children.

You may see the logic in suggesting a prenuptial agreement, but discussing it can be emotionally awkward. How do you talk to your future spouse about being prepared in case your marriage fails? There are tactful and sensitive ways to start the conversation.

  1. Pick the Right Time: Plan to first mention getting a prenuptial agreement when you know you will both be calm and capable of having a long discussion. If your fiancé is tired or in a bad mood, the discussion is more likely to devolve into an argument.
  2. Broach the Topic Gently: Do not start with a demanding statement, such as “I want to get a prenup.” Frame the topic as a practical conversation about the benefits of having an agreement.
  3. Be Honest: Explain the reasons you want to have a prenuptial agreement. If you are concerned about the financial disparity between you and your future spouse, be upfront about it. Your future spouse is less likely to agree if he or she is wondering about your motives.
  4. Be Reassuring: Let your fiancé know that you are not suggesting a prenuptial agreement because you expect to get divorced. Tell him or her that the agreement is a practical document, similar to a will, that can protect both of you.
  5. Engage in a Conversation: Encourage your fiancé to participate in the discussion with his or her thoughts, questions and concerns. You may have a speech planned about why you want a prenuptial agreement, but be willing to stop talking and listen to your fiancé. If your fiancé is not talking, you may need to be the one asking questions to keep him or her engaged.
  6. Keep Calm: Try not to let your emotions lead the conversation. If you become angry, you cannot effectively discuss the topic, and your fiancé may feel poisoned to the idea of getting a prenuptial agreement.
  7. Know When to Stop: Be prepared to have multiple conversations about getting a prenuptial agreement. If you think the discussion is becoming an argument, it may be best to pause and start the discussion again at a future date.

Getting a Prenup

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Becoming the Guardian of a Disabled AdultBeing an adult does not mean someone is capable of making his or her own decisions. Adults may be unable to care for themselves because of:

  • Mental illness;
  • Developmental disability; or
  • Dementia.

To help adults with disabilities, an Illinois court may appoint a guardian to oversee his or her protection, health and estate. However, a potential guardian must prove that the disabled adult is incapable of caring for him or herself.

Types of Guardianship

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Paternity When the Husband Is Not the Biological FatherWhen a child is conceived or born while a woman is married, Illinois law presumes that the husband is the legal father of the child. In some cases, the husband is not the biological father, possibly because of adultery or a relationship prior to the marriage. If you are the presumed father of a child that is not yours, you may want to free yourself of any financial obligation to the child. Getting divorced will not change presumed paternity, but there are legal processes to establish the biological father as the parent.

Denial of Paternity

If both you and your wife acknowledge that the child is not yours, you can sign a Denial of Paternity form within two years of the child’s birth. The form, which is filed with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, states that:

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Benefits of Attending Divorce Support GroupsGoing through your divorce can be an intensely emotional and personal experience, but divorce, in general, affects a broad number of people. By discussing your divorce with others, you may discover that what you thought were your unique problems are actually common experiences. Divorcees are often advised to see a therapist for individual attention to their emotional needs. Attending a divorce support group can be a good supplement to individual therapy.

What Is a Support Group?

Divorce support groups are meetings for people who are going through or have completed a divorce. One of the members will lead the others in introducing themselves if they are new to the group and discussing their personal experiences with divorce. The atmosphere tends to be relaxed, and members try to be supportive in allowing others to express their feelings without judging them.

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Spouse may hide their assets during a divorceAs part of the divorce process in Illinois, the marital property of the two spouses is split in a way that is deemed to be equitable. Each side must identify and value its assets to determine the marital property that must be split. Diverse and high value assets can make this process complicated, and some spouses may try to take advantage of that by hiding some of their assets or the value of those assets. Besides being illegal, hiding assets during a divorce can result in an inequitable division of property, as one of the spouses has more financial resources than is legally disclosed. It can be hard to tell if your spouse is hiding assets, but there are common methods he or she may use.

  • Physical Assets: If you know your spouse has a collection of valuable items, such as cars or antiques, make sure those items do not get overlooked. If they suddenly disappear, your spouse may have hidden them with a friend or family member.
  • Bank Accounts: Your spouse may try to hide how much money he or she has in a bank account. Money may be withdrawn to be put in a safety deposit box or another account under someone else’s name.
  • Real Estate: Keep track of any properties your spouse owns. He or she may try to transfer that property to someone else for the duration of the divorce proceedings.
  • Work Compensation: Your spouse may underreport his or her work wages by deferring paychecks or falsely claiming a demotion. There is a greater possibility of deception if your spouse is self-employed or runs his or her own business.
  • Taxes: Your spouse may try to misreport his or her income when filing a tax return or overpay the IRS, knowing that he or she can receive a tax refund after the divorce.
  • Debt: Your spouse may collude with someone else to create a fake debt that he or she owes.

Consequences

If it is determined your spouse was hiding assets, the court may award you with a greater share of assets in the division of property or make your spouse financially compensate you. Depending on the severity of your spouse’s deception, your spouse may be found in contempt of court or face criminal charges.

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divorce and children, naperville divorce lawyerThe adjustment period for those going through a divorce can vary in emotional intensity and overall impact from person to person and from family to family. Children, in particular, are susceptible to high levels of stress and emotional turmoil, especially when the situation is not properly explained to them or communicated in a way that helps them understand the reason for the family separation.

Tips on Helping Your Children

If you are recently divorced and wish to provide your children with the ample support they need to grow up happy and healthy, making the following efforts can pay off in the long run:

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