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DuPage County family law attorneyEvery year, we publish dozens of blogs about a wide variety of topics related to divorce and family law. Our goal is to provide people with helpful information about issues that they may need to address when getting divorced, settling disputes over marital property or child custody, or handling other matters in family court. Our most popular blogs that people have read over the past year have covered many areas of the law and other issues that affect families, and we encourage you to read these articles and share them with those who may find them helpful:

  1. When You Can Extend Child Support Beyond Age 18 - We look at when divorced parents may be required to contribute to their children’s college expenses or provide other forms of financial support.

  2. Remarriage Can Affect Child Support Payments - While child support payments are typically based on parents’ incomes, in some cases, a parent’s marriage to a new spouse may affect the amount they will be required to pay.

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Naperville IL divorce lawyerWhen you get divorced, you will likely be concerned about your finances. Shifting from sharing financial resources with your spouse to supporting yourself on a single income can be a difficult adjustment, and the decisions made about how you and your spouse will divide your marital assets can also affect the resources that will be available to you. Unfortunately, these issues can become even more complicated and difficult if your spouse has spent, wasted, or destroyed your marital property or if you are worried that they plan to do so. However, with the help of a skilled attorney, you can protect against the dissipation of marital assets and make sure you will have the financial resources you need.

What Is Asset Dissipation?

If one spouse uses marital funds or property for their sole benefit and for purposes unrelated to their marriage during the period where the marriage is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown, this is considered asset dissipation. For example, a spouse could spend marital funds while pursuing an extramarital affair, such as by buying gifts for someone other than their spouse or going on trips with that person and paying for plane tickets, hotel rooms, and meals. Dissipation could also include spending money on gambling or to further a drug addiction, buying expensive items solely for one’s own benefit, or intentionally destroying property.

If one spouse has dissipated assets, the other spouse can make an asset dissipation claim during the process of dividing marital property, asking the court to address this issue by requiring the spouse to reimburse the marital estate for the dissipated assets or grant the other spouse a larger share of marital property. A dissipation claim must be made at least 60 days before a divorce trial begins or 30 days after the end of the discovery process. Dissipation must have occurred after the date that the couple’s marriage began undergoing an irretrievable breakdown, and a spouse cannot make a dissipation claim more than three years after they knew or should have known about the dissipation or for an incident more than five years before either party filed a petition for divorce.

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Naperville IL family law lawyerFollowing your divorce, it is likely that you or your ex-spouse will plan to move to a new home at some point. This is a normal activity, and a relocation may be planned for multiple reasons, such as to begin a new job, to be closer to family or a new partner, or to live in a larger, more comfortable home. However, parents should be aware that a move may require them to make changes to their parenting plan, and in certain cases, they will need to get approval from the court to complete a parental relocation.

When Is Approval Required for Parental Relocation?

A move to a new home is only considered parental relocation if a parent who has the majority of parenting time or shares equal amounts of parenting time plans to move to a new home a certain distance away from the child’s current home. For those who live in counties around the Chicago area (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Will, Lake, or McHenry), a move of at least 25 miles will be considered a relocation. Relocation rules will also apply to a move of 50 miles or more from another Illinois county or a move of at least 25 miles to a location outside of Illinois.

At least 60 days before moving, or at the earliest practical date within 60 days, a parent must notify the other parent and the court where their divorce case was heard. If the other parent does not object to the relocation, and a judge agrees that the move would be in the child’s best interests, the relocation will be approved. If the other parent objects, a court hearing will be held, and the judge will decide whether to grant the move based on a consideration of several factors, including the reasons for the planned move, the reasons the other parent is objecting, the ways the move is expected to affect the child, and whether changes can be made to the parenting plan that will minimize the negative effects on parent-child relationships.

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DuPage County family law attorneyDivorced parents will usually share custody of their children, and when doing so, they will follow the parenting plan that was included as part of their divorce decree or judgment. This document will address the allocation of parental responsibilities (commonly known as “legal custody”), and it will include schedules for parenting time (also referred to as “physical custody” or “visitation”). A parenting plan will provide a framework for how parents will work together to raise their children. Because parents’ and children’s lives may change in the years following a divorce or breakup, modifications to child custody arrangements may be needed. Parents should be sure to understand when these types of changes may be made and the steps they will need to take to do so.

Modifying a Parenting Plan Because of Changed Circumstances

Illinois law states that changes to the allocation of parental responsibilities cannot be made within the first two years following the issuance of a divorce decree or child custody order, although exceptions may be made if the court determines that a child would be at risk of physical or emotional harm in their present environment. Parenting time, on the other hand, can be modified at any time, either by an agreement between the parents or because of a “significant change in circumstances.” After the first two years, legal custody modifications may also be made based on changed circumstances.

Significant changes in circumstances may include any issues that affect either the parents or the children and require changes to how parents make decisions about the children or adjustments to the time the children spend in each parent’s care. For example, one parent may begin a new job that will require them to work during their scheduled parenting time, and they may ask that the schedule be changed to ensure that they can continue to spend the same amount of time with their children. Legal custody may be modified if children experience changes that affect the parents’ ability to make decisions. For instance, a child may experience a serious illness or health condition, and the parent who primarily provides care to the child may ask for the sole authority to make the necessary decisions about the medical care the child will receive.

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DuPage County child custody lawyerDuring a divorce, child custody is often one of the most important concerns that a couple will need to address, but it can also be one of the most divisive issues. When the relationship between parents has broken down, they will be unlikely to agree about what is best for their children, and each parent may believe that they should be granted sole or primary custody. Those who are going through a divorce will need to understand how the law applies to their situation, and by working with an attorney, they can ensure that their parental rights will be protected while also arguing for what is in their children’s best interests.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Child custody consists of two separate, but related, issues. Legal custody, which is known in Illinois as the “allocation of parental responsibilities,” addresses the decisions parents make about their children’s lives, including their education, the medical care they will receive, religious practices or training, and the extracurricular activities they will participate in. Physical custody, which is known as “parenting time,” is the time children will spend in the care of each parent. During their parenting time, each parent will have sole responsibility regarding the routine decisions about children’s day-to-day lives, as well as the right to make emergency decisions about children’s health and safety.

While it is possible for one parent to be granted sole legal custody, courts usually believe that it is in children’s best interests for both parents to be involved in children’s lives, and parents will usually share parental responsibilities. However, different areas of responsibility may be allocated solely or primarily to one parent in some cases. For example, if only one parent had been involved in the children’s education during their marriage, such as by helping with homework and attending parent-teacher conferences and school events, that parent may be allocated sole responsibility in this area.

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Naperville IL child support modification attorney2020 has been a difficult year for many families. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of stress for many people, requiring them to stay at home and avoid contact with others whenever possible. Parents have had to determine how to provide for their children’s educational needs as they learn from home or attend in-person classes part of the time, and they may have struggled to balance these concerns with the need to work from home or follow the proper safety measures while in public. On top of everything else, many parents have had to deal with financial difficulties due to layoffs, business closures, or restricted working hours. Divorced or separated parents will want to understand how changes to income or other financial obligations will affect the child support they pay or receive, and they may need to take steps to pursue a modification of their child support orders or other terms of their parenting plan.

Modifications Based on a Change in Circumstances

Typically, the terms of a divorce decree or child support order will only be changed if it can be demonstrated that a parent has experienced a significant change in circumstances. A change in the income earned by either parent will usually qualify as a significant change. For example, a job loss may cause a parent to be unable to meet their child support obligations, and they may ask for a reduction in the amount they will be required to pay. If a parent who receives child support suffers a loss in income, they may ask for an increase in the amount of child support payments to ensure that they can continue to meet their children’s financial needs.

Parents are required to continue to pay child support until a modification goes into effect. To ensure that they do not suffer legal consequences, a parent may need to use unemployment benefits, personal savings, or other financial resources to pay child support. If a parent owes child support, any COVID-19 stimulus payments they receive from the government may be intercepted and applied toward the amount owed.

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Naperville IL divorce attorneyGetting divorced can have a major impact on your finances. You will probably need to make a number of adjustments as you shift from managing a home using the income that you and your spouse earned together to using a single income to cover your ongoing expenses. If there is a disparity between the income you earn and the amount your spouse makes, this could introduce additional complications into your divorce proceedings. In these cases, spousal maintenance, which is sometimes referred to as spousal support or alimony, may be appropriate.

When Is a Spouse Eligible to Receive Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is not appropriate in every divorce, but it may be awarded if one spouse earns the majority of the family’s income or if the other spouse has been reliant on the wages and benefits earned by their former partner. For example, a stay-at-home parent may not currently earn any income, and their former spouse may be required to make ongoing payments to ensure that they can maintain their accustomed standard of living following the divorce.

Spouses may agree in their divorce settlement that maintenance will be paid, or the decision about whether to award maintenance may be left up to the judge in their case. This decision will be based on a number of factors, including the income each spouse earns, their ongoing needs, their ability to find work and earn suitable wages and benefits, and decisions about child custody and parenting time. A judge may also look at whether a spouse made sacrifices to their career because of the family or whether one spouse helped the other obtain education or training that helped them advance their career.

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Naperville IL divorce attorneyIf you have recently ended your marriage, or if you are currently going through a divorce, you may be dreading the holiday season. As a newly single parent, you may still be adjusting to spending less time with your kids, and the prospect of being alone during a time that had previously been focused on family may have you stressed out. When adding these concerns to the ongoing risks that everyone is facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering how you will get through the coming weeks. However, by making the right preparations, you can not only survive the holidays, but you can begin the next year on the right foot.

Suggestions for the Holidays After Your Divorce

Here are some tips you can follow during this time:

  1. Plan parenting schedules in advance - You and your former spouse may have already reached an agreement on how your children will divide their time between the two of you, or you may still be hammering out the details of your parenting plan. You will want to be sure to understand which days your children will spend with each of you during the holidays, how children will be transported between your homes, and any other details, allowing you to avoid conflict with your ex. You should also share this schedule with your children so they know what to expect.

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Naperville prenuptial agreement attorneyIn most cases, marriage is meant to be a permanent partnership, and a couple will plan to stay together for the rest of their lives. However, it is important to remember that a significant percentage of marriages end in divorce. While the actual divorce rate in the United States is difficult to determine accurately, it is generally considered to be between 40 and 50%. Even though it may be unpleasant to contemplate, recognizing the distinct possibility that your marriage may end in the future can help you consider how you want certain issues to be handled in a potential divorce.

By discussing these matters with your partner before you get married, you can determine whether a prenuptial agreement is right for you. This type of legal agreement can provide both of you with reassurance that you will have the financial resources you need if your marriage ends, and by making decisions now, you can take some of the uncertainty and conflict out of the divorce process. A prenup can also include provisions to ensure that certain assets will be given to your children, or it can be used to protect a business that you or your partner own from being negatively affected by a divorce.

Terms of a Prenuptial Agreement

A prenup will usually focus on financial matters related to the property owned by you or your partner, the assets you acquire during your marriage, and the income that each of you earns. You can specify how property will be divided or allocated if you get divorced or separated, if one spouse dies, or in the case of many other events that you may specify. Your prenup can also include terms detailing each spouse’s rights and responsibilities toward different assets during your marriage, including the right to buy, sell, use, manage, exchange, or lease property.

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Naperville divorce modification attorneyThere are many different important decisions made during a divorce, and in many cases, one or both parties may be unhappy with the final divorce decree or judgment. Fortunately, these decisions are not necessarily “set in stone.” If things have changed in your life or your former partner’s situation, or if you need to make adjustments to better meet your children’s needs, you may be able to pursue a post-divorce modification. However, you should be sure to understand what can and cannot be changed and the procedures that you will need to follow when doing so.

Allowed Modifications to a Divorce Order

While there are some parts of your divorce agreement or judgment that may be changed, one issue that cannot be updated after divorce is the division of marital property. Even if you believe that this division was unfair or did not take certain factors into account, you will be unable to reopen that issue and change the decisions that were made.

Other decisions, however, may be modified, but to do so, you will need to show that you, your ex-spouse, or your children have experienced or will experience a “substantial change in circumstances.” These changes could include the loss of a job or a promotion or demotion that has affected one party’s income, or it could involve significant changes in a person’s needs or abilities, such as a medical condition that would cause a parent to be unable to provide care for children. It may be possible to seek a modification of the following issues:

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Naperville IL divorce attorneyFor some couples, the idea of planning for divorce seems downright unnecessary. Not everyone sees the end of their marriage coming, even when it has been unraveling for some time. It is easy to remain in denial or to be so swept up in work, friends, and other activities that you do not realize the marriage is over until the warning signs are unmistakable. Marriages can end suddenly, and when they do, couples are often left to race around and pick up the pieces, with little to no preparation at all. 

How to Start Preparing for an Illinois Divorce

If you were not expecting your relationship to end so abruptly, you may be left with little choice but to face the music and begin chipping away at the filing process. Even the most peaceful splits entail a great deal of work from both parties. From arranging parenting plans and discussing possible spousal maintenance to dividing assets and planning for relocation, your hands will likely be full as you are thrust into the separation experience.

If you, like many spouses, feel blindsided by your suddenly imminent divorce, you can make the filing process as efficient as possible by making the following preparations:

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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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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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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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