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How a Postnuptial Agreement May Strengthen Your MarriageCreating a postnuptial agreement seems like a sign of weakness in a marriage. Why would you need an agreement that prepares you for a potential divorce if your marriage is strong? A postnuptial agreement is a practical document that you should create when you and your spouse are cooperating. Having a postnuptial agreement means you recognize that you could divorce and that you may disagree on what to do with your assets at that time. Instead of a weakness, negotiating a postnuptial agreement can be healthy for your relationship:

  1. You Are Discussing Your Finances: Financial struggles and disagreements cause marital conflict that can lead to divorce. You may have financial concerns but are avoiding a conversation with your spouse because it is stressful. Ignoring the topic will not make the problem go away. Negotiating a postnuptial agreement forces you to talk to your spouse about your finances.
  2. You Discover What You Disagree About: You may have a different philosophy about spending and saving than your spouse. Your negotiations are your chance to say that you are concerned about your spouse’s spending choices and how they may hurt your marital assets. Your spouse may have his or her own concerns about your spending habits. You can plan so that you both would have enough assets to support yourselves in case of a divorce.
  3. The Negotiations Encourage Honesty: Even when together for several years, you may not know all of the assets your spouse owns or how much money he or she earns. It is appropriate for you to ask your spouse for details about his or her finances during the negotiations. Your postnuptial agreement would be invalid if your spouse hid significant assets from you. Believing that your spouse is not hiding anything from you will improve your trust in your marriage.
  4. You Are Working Together Towards Solutions: Creating a good postnuptial agreement requires finding compromises for complicated financial issues. You want an agreement that is fair to yourself and your spouse. By the end of the process, you will have gained experience in cooperating with your spouse to solve difficult situations.

Worthwhile Process

You may never need to use your postnuptial agreement but will be happy that you created one if you ever divorce. The agreement saves you time by settling some of your divorce’s most contentious issues in advance. A DuPage County family law attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can help you make a postnuptial agreement or review an existing agreement. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.

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Your Options When Your Spouse Refuses to DivorceYou can file for divorce without your spouse’s consent, but your spouse can prolong the process by contesting you. There is little chance that your spouse’s arguments will cause the court to stop your divorce. Illinois courts do not accept a reason for divorce other than irreconcilable differences, which either spouse can independently cite. Unfortunately, your spouse may be reacting emotionally, either not understanding the futility of his or her actions or delaying the divorce to spite you. How you respond to your spouse’s actions depends on how your spouse is being uncooperative.

Not Responding

You must send your spouse a notice of your petition to divorce and the scheduled court hearing as part of the filing process. Once your spouse has received notice, he or she has 30 days to respond by declaring whether he or she will appear in court and contest the divorce. If your spouse does not respond or attend your hearing, you can request a default judgment in favor of your petition to divorce. The court may set another date for the default judgment hearing to give your spouse a chance to respond. If the court issues you a default judgment, your spouse will no longer have a voice in determining your divorce settlement.

Cannot Be Found

A court will not grant a default divorce judgment unless it is satisfied that your spouse is aware of the divorce and the hearings. Your spouse may hide from you in order to avoid receiving notice of your divorce petition. You can still complete your divorce if your spouse is missing, but you must:

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How to Tell If You Are in a High Asset DivorceA high asset divorce means high stakes for both sides during the division of property. The properties in a high asset divorce are both valuable and numerous, making the property assessment process more difficult. How do you identify whether you will be going through a high asset divorce? Besides the incomes of yourself and your spouse, there are several types of properties that are typical in a high asset divorce:

  1. Multiple Real Estate Properties: Your home is often the most valuable property in your marriage. In a high asset divorce, you may own several real estate properties, such as a seasonal home, undeveloped land, or a building which you allow other people to rent.
  2. Multiple Vehicles: Each spouse has his or her own vehicle in a typical divorce. In a high asset divorce, you may have additional vehicles that you use for recreational purposes or keep as collector’s items. Common examples include vintage cars, motorcycles, and boats.
  3. Business Ownership: Owning a business can be more lucrative than being an employee. If your spouse is a business owner, he or she has likely invested substantial money into it and has many valuable assets tied to it. A business valuation can determine the current and potential value of the business, which may be a marital property.
  4. Investments: Money in the stock market or business interests may be paying dividends now or promising payouts in the future. You need to carefully evaluate these assets during your divorce. Some investments have a low current value but have the potential to increase in value. However, it is risky to overvalue the potential of investments in case they do not increase in value as expected.
  5. Benefits and Insurance: People in high asset divorces have often been saving towards their retirement for years. You are entitled to a fair share of the retirement benefits that your spouse has accumulated during your marriage. Your spouse may also have a life insurance policy with cash value that you can divide.
  6. Collectibles and Luxury Items: People use their disposable income to purchase items that interest them. In a high asset divorce, those items may be valuable, such as art, jewelry, and memorabilia. The value of these items is part of the division of property because marital income was used to buy them.

Property in a High Asset Divorce

You should not assume that you know the actual value of your marital assets during your divorce. You need a professional assessor to identify valuable properties from your marriage and determine their worth. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., has experience working with clients in high asset divorces. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.

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Posted on in Divorce

Avoid Dating Until After Your DivorceAre you legally allowed to date someone before you have officially divorced? The answer in Illinois is “yes.” Some states recognize marital misconduct such as adultery as a reason for divorce and will penalize the spouse at fault in the divorce settlement. Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that spouses do not cite a reason such as adultery when filing for divorce. However, dating during your divorce is still a poor decision because it can needlessly complicate the process and put you at a disadvantage.

Harming Negotiations

Your spouse will be upset if he or she learns that you have started dating while you are still settling your divorce. Your spouse is likely still emotional about the end of your marriage, and knowing that you are seeing someone else will cause him or her to feel hurt, angry, jealous, and/or depressed. He or she may use your divorce negotiations as a way to get back at you by:

Your decision to start dating has injected fresh emotions into the negotiations, which makes the process more contentious and time-consuming.

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Improving as a Father Through DivorceSome men become more active and involved fathers despite the obstacles that their divorces create. Courts often grant less allocation of parental responsibilities to fathers, which means that fathers have less time with their children and less say in parenting decisions. As a father, you are always a full-time parent, even if you see your children only part-time. You need to change what you require of yourself as a full-time father.

Parenting Time

You should treat your time with your children as a precious resource. When you were living with your co-parent, you could be less active with your children because you were sharing parental responsibilities. Single parents cannot avoid interacting with their children and taking direct responsibility. This should include:

  • Talking with your children individually;
  • Helping them with their homework or life problems; and
  • Having fun with them.

You need to adjust the rest of your life's schedule to make the best use of your parenting time. You may need to shift your work hours so that you can be with your children during your parenting time. Social activities with friends or romantic interests should always be secondary to your time with your children.

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Do You Qualify for a Joint Simplified Divorce?Illinois offers a quicker and easier divorce process for some spouses, called a joint simplified dissolution of marriage. The process has less required paperwork and can often be resolved in one court hearing. However, there are several strict requirements that spouses must meet to qualify for a joint simplified divorce. The state created the process for spouses who have not been married long, have limited assets and will not remain connected to each other after the divorce. Check this list of requirements to determine if you qualify for joint simplified divorce:

  1. Marriage Duration and Separation: Your marriage must be less than eight years old, and you must be living separate and apart from each other.
  2. Agreement on Divorce: You and your spouse must both agree that irreconcilable differences are the reason for your divorce.
  3. Children: You cannot have any children from your marriage or be expecting any children through pregnancy or adoption. The existence of children would require child support and the allocation of parental responsibilities, which a simple court hearing cannot determine.
  4. Spousal Maintenance: The spouses must waive their right to receive support payments from each other after the divorce.
  5. Personal Incomes: Your individual annual gross incomes cannot exceed $30,000, and your joint annual gross income must be less than $60,000.
  6. Marital Properties: You cannot own any interest in real estate or have retirement benefits of a combined value of $10,000 or greater. The value of your marital properties subtracted by your marital debts must be less than $50,000.
  7. Property Division: You must create a written agreement that divides all marital properties that are valued at more than $100, as well as any marital debt. You and your spouse must disclose your tax returns from the years you were married and all of the assets and debts you accumulated.
  8. Pet Ownership: You must have a written agreement that determines the ownership of a companion animal and allocates responsibility for that animal. Service animals are considered separate from companion animals.

Using Simplified Divorce

People who qualify for joint simplified divorce can save time and money on the divorce process. However, the process is designed for divorces that are already relatively simple. Your divorce deserves more attention than a simplified process if you have several valuable assets from your marriage or must determine the well-being of your children. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., will help you create an advantageous divorce agreement while also respecting your time and expense. To schedule a consultation, call 630-393-3111.

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Responding When Divorce Catches You By SurpriseYou must act quickly and pragmatically once you and your spouse have decided to divorce each other. People who delay finding a divorce attorney and gathering information are put at a disadvantage when they must make important decisions. However, you may have a more difficult time overcoming your initial emotions if the divorce came as a surprise to you. You may initially react with anger towards your spouse or by fighting to save your marriage. Unfortunately, you cannot afford to avoid the practical concerns of your pending divorce.

Caught Off Guard

A spouse goes through an internal struggle before working up the nerve to say that he or she wants a divorce. The spouse concluded that:

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Financial Concerns When Going Through a Gray DivorceGray divorce, which refers to divorcees who are older than 50, has a different focus during negotiations than a younger divorce. The children in a gray divorce are likely no longer dependents or close to that age, which means that the allocation of parental responsibilities and child support may not even be an issue. However, the financial aspects of the divorce may be more complicated because of the duration of the marriage and divorcees’ stage in their lives. Financial viability after a gray divorce is more important than normal because the divorcees will have fewer opportunities to make up for lost assets.

Marital Properties

Gray divorcees have often collected numerous and valuable properties during their marriage, which they now must divide. The most valuable and vital properties for gray divorcees may be their retirement plans because it is the money they are counting on to support them for the rest of their lives. Most retirement plans are considered marital properties, including:

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Parenting Plans Should Be Specific, Yet FlexibleWhen it comes to a document as important as a parenting plan, you want to avoid vague language and unanswered questions. A weak parenting plan can create conflict between the co-parents, which may also harm the children. Your parenting plan can be as specific as you need to prevent your co-parent from interpreting it differently. However, the plan should also be flexible so that you can respond to unusual circumstances with practical solutions. A good parenting plan thoroughly addresses all of the known issues that are involved in co-parenting while allowing flexibility to adjust to unforeseen issues.

Detailed Document

Parenting time is rightfully the most discussed aspect of a parenting plan because it is the most fundamental part of co-parenting. However, there are numerous areas of co-parenting in which there is a potential for conflict if the plan does not specifically address them. Some of the most common questions that the plan should answer include:

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Posted on in Divorce

Divorce Can Unleash Repressed EmotionsSpouses who choose to end their marriage are divorcing each other emotionally, as well as legally. An emotional divorce is often compared to the five stages of grief. You must accept the fact that you divorced and let go of regrets about mistakes that you and your spouse made. Your negative emotions related to your divorce are what is most likely to delay your eventual acceptance. However, some negative emotions predate your divorce. They are feelings that you ignored or buried and have now been unearthed by your divorce. Dealing with these negative emotions may require understanding that your divorce is not their only cause:

  1. Betrayal: There are actual betrayals and perceived betrayals in a marriage. Your spouse cheating on or lying to you is an actual betrayal of your trust. Your spouse making decisions that conflict with your own interests may be hurtful but not necessarily a betrayal. The difference is whether your spouse intended to betray you. Your sense of betrayal may be a reaction to actual betrayals earlier in your life. You still feel hurt by those experiences and concluded that your spouse was motivated by betrayal in his or her actions.
  2. Abandonment: If your spouse initiated the divorce, it may feel as though he or she is abandoning you. Abandonment involves loneliness but is also blaming someone for causing that loneliness. It is more accurate to say that your spouse is abandoning your marriage. He or she has decided that it would be healthier for you both to no longer be married. By getting a divorce, your spouse is acknowledging his or her responsibilities to you. A repressed sense of abandonment often comes from the absence of a parent during childhood. The divorce makes you feel like you are reliving that experience.
  3. Inadequacy: Rather than regretting your decisions during your marriage, inadequacy is believing that you have inherent flaws that are to blame for your divorce. You may feel that you were not good enough for your spouse, whether it was your sexual appeal or ability as a provider. This logic is flawed because beauty and success do not prevent a divorce. Divorce shows a weakness in your marriage, not yourself. Inadequacy comes from low self-esteem, which is a deeper issue than your marriage.

Emotional Divorce 

It is common to feel negative emotions during your divorce. Most people do not complete their emotional divorce until after their legal divorce has finished. Problems arise when your negative emotions cause you to make poor decisions during your divorce. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can be the calm guide you need during your divorce. To schedule a consultation, call 630-393-3111.

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Remembering a Prenuptial Agreement for Your Next RelationshipGoing through a divorce is when you are most likely to realize how useful a prenuptial agreement can be. The agreement can save time on the negotiation of the division of properties and spousal maintenance. Unfortunately, it is too late to create a prenuptial agreement or even a postnuptial agreement if your divorce has already started. You should remember this lesson when you enter your next major relationship that involves sharing assets with your partner. Creating a prenuptial or co-tenancy agreement is a practical step towards protecting individual assets if you have previously divorced.

Second Marriage

There may be several reasons why you did not create a prenuptial agreement before your first marriage:

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Staying in a Bad Marriage Can Be Physically UnhealthyThere is a general consensus that people who are married live happier and healthier lives than those who divorce or never marry. People who are opposed to divorce will use this concept as a reason why struggling spouses should stay married and try to mend their relationship. However, a recent study concluded that a high-conflict marriage can also be detrimental to the spouses’ health. Researchers followed 373 couples during the first 16 years of their marriages, keeping track of the level of conflict in their marriages and their general health. Husbands, in particular, had a further decline in health based on the frequency of the conflicts. There are several ways that the stress of a bad marriage can have a negative effect on your health:

  1. Depression and Anxiety: Being unhappy in your marriage will wear you down and can affect your mental health. Interacting with your spouse may make you feel anxious and depressed, which may, in turn, lead to poor decisions. Anxious thoughts may disrupt your sleeping patterns because you are unable to calm down at night.
  2. Heart Disease: Constant stress, such as from a bad marriage, can be connected to an increase in your blood pressure and cholesterol. Stress causes your body to release hormones that temporarily raise your blood pressure. However, the long-term effects may come from changes in your dietary and exercise habits. You may react to your stress by overeating and excessive smoking or drinking. The stress and depression may make you more lethargic. These factors can increase the risk of obesity and heart disease.
  3. Weakened Defenses: The frequent output of stress hormones in your body will eventually have an effect. Stress can increase your risk of diabetes because it increases your blood sugar, which may cause your body to become insulin resistant. It can weaken your immune system because your body is not able to produce as many germ-fighting cells. Finally, a study showed that people in unhappy marriages healed at a slower rate than those in happy marriages.

Deciding to Divorce

The quality of your relationship matters more for your health than being married. You can try to repair your relationship through counseling, but you may need to admit that both of you would be better off if you divorced. You can find happiness and better health after your divorce, whether it is through a new relationship or other sources of fulfillment. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can start you on the path to a healthier life. To schedule a consultation, call 630-393-3111.

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Children Need Relationship with Both Divorced ParentsDetermining the allocation of parental responsibilities can feel like a competition between parents to see who can receive more parental powers after a divorce. Parents will present their own strengths and the other parent’s weaknesses, with the prize being a greater share of parenting time. However, a focus on winning parental control may ignore what is in the best interest of a child. A parent with a majority of the parental responsibilities should help the other parent maintain a strong relationship with their children.

Parental Roles

Illinois family courts presume that it is in a child’s best interest to have two strong parental figures unless one of those parents is demonstratively harmful to the child. Children benefit from an active relationship with both parents because:

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Protecting Your Electronic Communications from Your SpouseSome people going through a divorce resort to eavesdropping on their spouses in hopes of obtaining sensitive information that can be used in the case. With the proliferation of electronic communications, there are several ways to surreptitiously track someone’s correspondences and online history. Illinois law states that evidence obtained through eavesdropping is inadmissible in court in most cases. However, you do not want your former spouse to be able to monitor your electronic devices, even if you have nothing to hide. Electronic monitoring can be a way of embarrassing or asserting control over a former spouse. Cybersecurity has become an essential part of protecting your privacy during your divorce.

Uncoupling Yourself

It is common for spouses to have shared online accounts, including:

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Watch for Business Deception During Divorcebusiness in a divorce is at the same time a marital property and a complex entity. It is a major source of income for at least one spouse and has great value as an asset. While it is possible to divide business ownership, it is more common for one spouse to have complete ownership after the divorce. In return, the other spouse is compensated with properties of equal value. However, one spouse may use his or her knowledge of the business to prevent the other spouse from receiving equitable compensation in the division of property. You must be wary of how your spouse may try to deceive you about his or her business during your divorce.

Business Valuation

Your spouse likely has a better understanding than you of the value of his or her business if you are not involved in its operation. During your divorce negotiations, your spouse has an incentive to undervalue his or her business to prevent you from receiving full compensation. He or she may underreport the business’s profits or give a conservative estimate of the business’s future value. There are also ways that your spouse can artificially lower the value of the business, such as:

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Prioritizing Concerns Helps Manage Early Divorce StressThe decision to divorce may provide you some relief because a resolution to your unhealthy marriage is in sight. However, your relief may turn to stress once you realize how much work will be involved in the process. A divorce agreement involves making tough decisions about money, property, and parenting. If you feel overwhelmed, you must remind yourself that you cannot complete the process all at once, even if you wanted to. When starting a divorce, you can divide tasks between what needs to be done immediately and what you should keep in mind for later.

Immediate Concerns

Your most urgent tasks at the beginning of your divorce involve your day-to-day needs. Your divorce has disrupted your life, and you need to create some stability before you can focus on larger issues. Immediate concerns include:

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When You Can Extend Child Support Beyond Age 18In most cases, divorced or separated parents’ obligation towards child support for an individual child ends when the child turns 18 years old. If there are other children who are still minors, the support payments must be modified to reflect one less child. Otherwise, the support payments end once the last child becomes a non-minor. A parent may not feel like his or her parenting expenses are over if the non-minor child continues to live with him or her or is still financially dependent. There are three situations in which Illinois law allows the primary parent to continue receiving child support payments after the child has become a legal adult.

College Students

Young adults often choose to obtain a post-secondary education, but attending college is expensive. Illinois parents can petition to continue child support payments to cover a non-minor child’s college expenses, including tuition, housing, textbooks, school supplies, food, and medical expenses. Students who commute to school while still living with a parent are eligible, though the living expenses will be less. However, there are qualifications and limitations to the support payments:

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Six Factors That Determine Duration of DivorceA survey of divorcees found that a divorce takes on average about 11 months to complete, from the initial filing to the final court-approved divorce agreement. There are unusual cases in which the duration is much shorter or longer, but the complicated issues of a divorce can easily take most of the year to complete. You have incentives to want to complete your divorce in a timely manner. A drawn-out divorce will cost more in legal fees, and the process is emotionally taxing. There are several variables that will determine how long your divorce will take:

  1. Location of Divorce: Court availability is a factor for all divorce cases, but some county courts are subject to more delays than others. How soon you can have a court hearing depends on the number of cases the court has and how efficient the court is with its cases.
  2. Filing for Divorce: Your divorce may be delayed from the beginning if your spouse does not cooperate after being served the divorce papers. In some cases, a spouse may be difficult to track down. In others, a spouse may contest the dissolution of marriage. Courts rarely deny a dissolution of marriage request, but you will need to attend additional hearings to resolve the matter.
  3. Existing Agreements: Having a premarital or postmarital agreement can shorten the negotiation process. However, your attorney will need to review the agreement to determine whether it complies with divorce law. A premarital or postmarital agreement cannot settle issues related to children.
  4. Parenting Issues: Spouses often dispute the allocation of parental responsibilities and child support payments during divorce negotiations. Not having dependent children may save months on your negotiation time.
  5. Value of Properties: High asset divorces can take longer to negotiate because there is more financially at stake in dividing properties. You must assess the value of all of your properties, determine which ones are marital properties and negotiate who will retain each property.
  6. Level of Conflict: A divorce moves quicker if the spouses can agree to a settlement without needing a court to decide. In a high-conflict divorce, the spouses may be unwilling to agree on basic issues during negotiations. It takes only one obstinate spouse to cause negotiations to break down.

Taking Your Time

While there are ways to complete your divorce sooner, you should not rush to a conclusion that puts you at a disadvantage. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can help you create a favorable divorce agreement without unnecessary delays. To schedule a consultation, call 630-393-3111.

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Elimination of Alimony Deduction Gives Urgency to DivorcesNegotiating spousal maintenance agreements during divorce may become more contentious because of a change to a long-standing tax law. The federal tax reform bill passed in late 2017 eliminated the popular alimony deduction for federal income taxes. The deduction is an incentive for higher-income spouses to agree to pay spousal maintenance. With the uncertainty that the change has created, many divorcing couples are rushing to complete their agreements before the law goes into effect.

How It Works

The current tax law allows spousal maintenance payers to deduct the value of their annual payments from their total taxable income. The maintenance recipient must report the money as taxable income. The change to the law will make maintenance tax-neutral. The payer can no longer claim a deduction, and the recipient will no longer pay taxes on the payments. There are three caveats to the law that benefit those who want to continue using the alimony deduction:

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Getting Divorced Does Not Make You a FailureReconciling your divorce with your own emotions may mean overcoming the idea that you are a failure. Your vow upon marriage was to spend the rest of your lives together. Ending your marriage before then means you failed in that mission. Once you have convinced yourself of that idea, it is easy to extend that failure to your marriage as a whole and yourself. However, success in a marriage is defined by more than its duration, and people who chose to divorce are not themselves failures. Keep these points in mind:

  1. Forever Is a Long Time: Staying married for life is a worthy goal, but how realistic is it? There are many conflicts and unforeseen circumstances that can occur during a marriage. To create a relationship that can withstand every test is remarkable. Making it 10 or 20 years is also a feat. Rather than disparage the marriages that do not last forever, we should be impressed by the ones that do.
  2. Quality of Marriage Matters: Success in a marriage means more than whether it still exists. Which would you consider a more successful marriage: A miserable couple who never divorces or a couple who had several happy years together but eventually decided to divorce? Most couples would not consider a marriage rife with conflict and misery to be successful. The happy times during your marriage means that there was some success.
  3. You Are Better Because of Your Marriage: A marriage that ends in divorce should be a learning experience for both sides. You understand the mistakes you made during your marriage and can apply what you learned to your future relationships. Also, consider what you gained from your marriage, especially if you had children. Being a parent can always be the positive that comes out of a marriage, meaning that the marriage had value.
  4. Your Divorce Does Not Define You: Even if you believe that your marriage ended in failure, that does not make you a failure. Your relationship broke apart, but you are not broken as a person. You have already proven that you are capable of finding someone who wants to have a meaningful relationship with you. You may eventually find another relationship that is stronger than your past marriage. However, you should not let your relationships define your success as a person. Your identity is more than that of a spouse.

Deciding to Divorce

You should not fear divorce, thinking that you are admitting failure in your marriage. Ending an unhealthy marriage gives you a chance at future successes. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can help you through the divorce process. To schedule a consultation, call 630-393-3111.

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