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Kane County Divorce AttorneyThe winter holiday season is a special time of year for many of us. Families that celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, or other winter holidays will gather for special meals, the exchanging of presents, and reunions with old friends. As the holiday season continues, many hopeful romantics are making one the biggest decisions of their lives: getting engaged to be married. In fact, Christmas Day is one of the most popular days of the year for popping the big question. If you are planning to get engaged this holiday season, firstly – congratulations! As you plan for your wedding, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Prenuptial Agreements

As you plan for the big day, one decision you and your partner will need to make is if you will sign a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements are also called premarital agreements or "prenups.” The purpose of this legal document is to ensure the property and financial rights of each spouse in the event that the marriage ends in divorce. Obviously, planning for a possible divorce before a couple has even gotten married is not exactly romantic. The topic may be uncomfortable to talk about, but prenuptial agreements can be vital in protecting your financial interests and rights.

Even if your current relationship is strong and you believe that the marriage will last, it is important to plan for the worst-case scenario. Having a prenuptial agreement in place can be invaluable during a divorce. It can simplify property division and spousal support decisions, as well as save the couple from tedious negotiations.

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Kane County Child Custody LawyerHalloween has come and gone, which means that the winter holiday season is almost upon us. Over the next few weeks, there will be a number of holidays that you and your family may choose to celebrate.

If this is your first holiday season as a recently separated or divorced parent, you may understandably feel upset and disappointed. Holidays are simply not the same without the familiar sounds of children laughing and having fun. Parents may argue about which parent will spend which holiday with the children because they simply do not want to miss the experience. While there is no way to eliminate the pain of missing your children, there may be a way for you and your child’s other parent to work out a holiday parenting time schedule that works for both of you.

Put Holiday Arrangements in Your Parenting Plan

As a parent getting divorced in Illinois, you will be asked to create a parenting plan or parenting agreement. The agreement must include several provisions that detail how parental responsibilities and parenting time are divided between the parents. You will also want to include information about where the children will spend the major holidays. Some parents choose to split the holidays between them. For example, one parent may have the children on Thanksgiving and the other has the children on Christmas. Other parents decide to make a rotation schedule so that parents spend certain holidays with the children every other year. The most important thing is to decide on an arrangement as soon as possible so that you can avoid having the same argument about where the kids will spend holidays every year.

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geneva divorce lawyerFor parents with young children, celebrating Halloween can be quite a joy. Many parents enjoy dressing up their children in cute costumes and taking them trick-or-treating. Divorced parents generally want to join in the fun, too - Halloween only comes once per year. It can be difficult for divorced parents to plan out how they will celebrate the holiday with their child. Generally, neither parent wants to be left out, but the child cannot be in two places at once. Many parents solve this problem by deciding who will participate in which tradition with their child or by planning separate events at separate times. When this planning is done well, both parents can experience the joys of celebrating Halloween with an excited child. Having an enjoyable Halloween can take a bit of planning. You may need to communicate with your child’s other parent quite a bit while making a plan, and you may both need to compromise. When both parents are willing to participate, everyone - including the child - can have a wonderful Halloween. 

Tips for Divorced Parents Planning Halloween Celebrations

With a little planning and cooperation, Halloween can be great fun for parents who are divorced and their children. Helpful tips include: 

  • Consider combining - If you and the other parent are amicable, you may still enjoy taking your child trick-or-treating as a team. This arrangement allows you both to enjoy watching your child collect candy. However, be sure that you can do so without having an argument. 

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Kane County child custody lawyerAs a parent, it can be worrying to learn that a guardian ad litem has been appointed for your children during custody proceedings, incident to a divorce or otherwise. The term “guardian” carries connotations that can be concerning for parents, but rest assured that guardians ad litem are a perfectly normal part of a custody case. When it begins to appear that a dispute regarding the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities is likely to be litigated, courts frequently bring in a guardian ad litem to help the court understand what type of arrangement is likely to be best for the children. 

In Illinois, all concerns regarding child custody are to be resolved in the best interests of the children. It can be difficult for a court to discern the children’s needs and wishes without an investigation by a guardian ad litem, as children, particularly young ones, are not able to speak for themselves in court as an adult could. If you expect that your child custody dispute will need to be resolved judicially and a guardian ad litem is involved, it is critical that you are represented by an experienced attorney. 

Understanding the Role of a Guardian ad Litem

The duty of the guardian ad litem is to conduct an investigation into the children’s or child’s best interests. There is an enumerated list of factors that courts must consider in making decisions regarding the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities. A guardian ad litem is familiar with these factors and will investigate accordingly. 

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Kane County Marital Asset Division LawyerDividing marital property during divorce can be a difficult process. When one household splits into two households, both need things like furniture - then of course, there is the house itself. Courts in Illinois aim to divide marital property in a fair and equitable way. Of course, you and your spouse are likely to disagree about what type of division is fair and equitable. It can be very challenging for a judge who does not know much about your and your spouse to arrive at a decision that is fair to both of you. There are a number of factors that courts can consider when trying to divide the money, debts, and property that married couples have acquired. Keep in mind that if you are not happy with the idea of letting a court make these important decisions, you have the option of using mediation or negotiation to work out a fair division with your spouse. You should be represented by an attorney throughout either process. 

Factors Illinois Courts Use to Make Decisions About Marital Property

Fair and equitable does not mean completely equal. You and your spouse have different needs and abilities, and that could affect how your property will be distributed. Factors the court may consider include: 

  • Contribution - Although this factor is not decisive, courts will consider whose income was used for certain things and which party made greater economic contributions. If you are a homemaker, do not worry, courts view domestic labor as a valuable economic contribution. 

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Using Social Media Wisely During Divorce

Posted on in Divorce

Kane County Divorce LawyerSocial media can be a great way to stay in touch with loved ones near and far at a time when you may feel very isolated and alone. You may, very understandably, want to vent to your followers on Twitter or update your relatives as a group via Facebook. However, this can backfire in sometimes unforeseeable ways. Especially during a divorce, you do not want to accidentally post something that your spouse could later use against you in some way. Even if you post privately, there is a strong chance that the post will be leaked to your spouse in some way. It is best to avoid talking much about your divorce, your spouse, and your marriage on social media and to keep your posts focused on yourself. If you are ever unsure about whether a post might cause trouble, you can always check with your lawyer before you click “post.” 

Strategies for Careful Social Media Use With a Pending Divorce

Even if you are positive that your divorce will not go to litigation, it is still best to avoid potentially troublesome posts. In fact, if you are actively negotiating with your spouse in an effort to resolve your divorce, then it may be of particular importance that you avoid antagonistic posts. Some helpful tips for using social media during divorce include: 

  • Leave the past alone- You have nothing to gain from rehashing your marital woes in a public or semi-public forum. You are free to do so over a glass of wine or dinner with your friends, but it is not wise to blog about the breakdown of your marriage. If nothing else, your spouse may see it and retaliate in kind. 

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Kane County Family Law AttorneyIf you are a parent involved in an ongoing legal battle over parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilities, you may be wondering whether your child will have any say in the matter. Since Illinois courts are required to decide all child custody issues in favor of the child’s best interests, it would only seem natural that the wants and needs a child expresses would be important. However, children are not always the best at recognizing their own self-interest. This is what parents are for–deciding what is best for the child and doing it. While a child’s expressed wishes are relevant to a court’s custody decision, parenting time arrangements are never left up to the child. If you are fighting for custody of your child, it is important to have an attorney who understands the court’s decision-making process. 

How Are a Child’s Wishes Factored into the Court’s Decision?

Illinois courts use a list of factors to help them determine what course of action is in the best interests of the child. Other factors include things like the mental and physical health of all parties, and how well the child is adjusted to their current school and community. One of those factors is the expressed wishes of the child. However, the court will also consider the age, maturity, and capacity to make responsible decisions. 

As a parent, you are likely aware that young children in particular are easy to manipulate. Parents may try tactics from bribing a preschool-aged child with ice cream to badmouthing the other parent to a middle schooler in order to manipulate the child. A child who has been bribed or influenced may tell the court that they wish to remain with the manipulator-parent, but courts can take these words with a grain of salt. 

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Kane County Family Law AttorneyAdopting a child can be an amazing way to grow your family. People adopt for all kinds of different reasons. Some do it out of necessity because the child of a family member or friend needs a new loving home. Other couples adopt because they are unable to have children of their own - gay and lesbian couples often fall into this category. There are also people who choose adoption for moral reasons, preferring to give a home to existing children in need rather than trying for a biological child. No matter the situation, adoption can be a long and costly process. Only the truly committed prospective parents make it through the process and are finally able to bring home their new legal child. However, children older than babies may have some trouble adjusting. A little patience and understanding can go a long way. 

Tips for Helping Your Adopted Child Adjust to Your Home

Toddlers and older children alike may experience emotional distress when they are moved into a new permanent home with their adoptive parents. Adopted children may have spent some time in foster care or a group home, or they may have had a difficult home life with their biological parents for some time. Some tips that may help you help them include: 

  • Therapy - If your new child is not already in therapy, now is the time to start. A qualified child psychologist may be able to help your child cope with any distressing feelings they are having about forming a new family. You and your partner may also want to consider therapy for yourselves to help you learn to adjust to parenthood. Family counseling can also be a great idea. A therapist can help you and your child communicate more effectively and understand each other better. 

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Kane County Protection Order LawyerIf you have an Order of Protection against your spouse, there is probably a very good reason behind it. While there are certainly a few people who use protection orders abusively, the vast majority of people who hold one truly need it to stay safe. Most protection orders force the dangerous spouse to immediately leave the marital home and not return, except with police escort to pick up a few personal items. You probably felt much safer knowing that your spouse cannot legally contact you or come to your home or workplace. Unfortunately, a protection order is a piece of paper, not a comprehensive security system. There is always a chance that your ex may choose to ignore it and contact you or show up anyway. It is important that you know how to handle this situation should it arise. An attorney can give you more specific advice that pertains to your own individual situation. 

Reacting to a Restraining Order Violation

Your safety and the safety of any children you have is paramount. If your spouse is willing to violate a legal protection order, you may be in danger. If your ex disregards your protection order, steps you can take include: 

  • Get to safety - If your spouse appears at your home, get to a secured area. Lock yourself and your children in a room that your spouse cannot easily get into if possible. If you have a defense weapon like a stun gun or pepper spray, take it with you. 

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Kane County Parenting Time LawyerDivorce can be difficult for children of any age, from infants to teenagers. Even adult children may struggle with seeing their parents get divorced. When you and your spouse have minor children at home, then working together to provide consistent and loving parenting during this time of transition can make all the difference. Custody battles in particular can be difficult for kids to cope with. Children need a sense of stability, so it is especially important to care for their emotional needs if their primary residence will change, or if they will enter a new school. While working with your spouse may not be easy, it may be necessary to protect the children’s well-being. It is also important to ensure that you are represented by an experienced divorce and child custody attorney. 

Meeting Your Children’s Needs During a Divorce

Children - in most cases - need love and guidance from both of their parents. Note that there are exceptions if your spouse has been abusive towards the children. If that is the case, then keeping your children safe from your spouse is the top priority. Otherwise, successful co-parenting can go a long way toward helping your children adjust to a new way of life. Tips include: 

  • Avoid blaming - It can be tempting to point the finger at your children’s other parent, especially if the divorce is a result of their wrongdoing. However, blaming each other is not going to help your children adjust and is only likely to lead to resentment. You should also be careful to ensure that your children know the divorce is not their fault. 

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Kane County Divorce LawyerWhile most spouses can make a divorce strategy like mediation or negotiation work, some cannot. Maybe your spouse is being utterly unreasonable and will not compromise. Or maybe your spouse has a substance abuse or mental health problem and will not participate in alternative dispute resolution. In cases involving spousal abuse, your attorney may recommend that you do not even attempt to resolve your divorce out of court. While few people want to go through divorce litigation, it may sometimes be your only option if you want to get your divorce finalized. It is important to understand what to expect during the divorce litigation process. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to work with an experienced and aggressive divorce attorney. 

What to Expect During Divorce Litigation

Litigation is rarely pleasant, but if you must go through it you should know what to expect. When you are going through a contested divorce, you should prepare for: 

  • Time commitment - Depending on factors like the value of your marital property and whether you share children, divorce litigation can be very time-consuming. You will likely need to take several days or more off from work to appear in court. 

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Making Divorce Mediation Work

Posted on in Divorce

Kane County Divorce AttorneyDivorce mediation offers a lot of benefits over divorce litigation. The results of litigation can be unpredictable, but with mediation, you and your spouse can remain in control. Mediation is also less costly and typically less time-consuming than going to court. It can also spare any children involved some stress and offer them a sense of stability knowing that their parents can still cooperate. However, actually going through the mediation process can still be difficult. It can take several sessions to get every issue worked out, or you could wind up going back and forth on the phone for a while. You and your spouse will both need to stay committed to the process. If you are interested in divorce mediation as an alternative to litigation, an attorney can tell you more. 

Helpful Tips for Navigating Divorce Mediation

While going through mediation may bring up some strong emotions and feel stressful, it is still easier for most than going through a trial. Some tips that may help you successfully mediate your divorce include: 

  • Compromise - Accept that you are going to have to compromise. This may mean giving up something that you wanted in order to keep the process productive.

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Kane County Family Law AttorneyBeing married to someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can be intolerable. People with substance abuse disorders put their addictions first and their spouses and families second. When you finally decide that your marriage is no longer sustainable and divorce is your best option, you should be prepared for an uphill battle. Addicts and alcoholics are typically not the most reliable or reasonable people, which can make getting their cooperation during the divorce process very difficult. They likely manipulated you a lot during your marriage and will probably continue trying to do so during your divorce. You may face an emotional struggle on top of your legal struggle. It is important to work with a strong attorney who can help you stand your ground and protect your own interests and the interests of any children you share with your spouse. 

Tips for Divorcing a Drug Addict or Alcoholic

You cannot do anything to change your spouse’s behavior. If you are at the point where you are seeking a divorce, you have probably tried everything you can think of to help your spouse overcome their addiction. Some things to keep in mind during the divorce process include: 

  • Communicate through lawyers - It is probably best that you do not try talking to your spouse directly lest they resort to manipulation. They may promise to get clean and sober, or they may threaten to commit suicide. Your best option is to let your attorney handle all communication. 

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Kane County Divorce Mediation LawyerGoing through a divorce can be extremely difficult even under the best circumstances. Divorce litigation–that is, contested divorce–can be particularly stressful. It is also time-consuming and often expensive. If you and your spouse share children, a Guardian ad Litem is likely to be appointed. You should know that you have other options for getting divorced. In fact, various forms of out-of-court divorce are rapidly replacing litigation as the main way that people in Illinois get divorced. 

Even if your divorce is less than amicable, you and your spouse may still be able to use means other than litigation to settle your divorce. Divorce attorneys often encourage clients to use these simpler means in order to divide their property and create a new parenting plan. Your divorce lawyer will assess your situation to help determine whether one of these low-conflict methods may work for you. 

What Are My Options for Settling My Divorce Out of Court?

There are several methods for helping spouses reach an agreement out of court during their divorce. The method your attorney recommends will depend on your personal situation and circumstances. Options include: 

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Kane County Adoption LawyerAdopting a child can be a joyous occasion for many. When you choose to adopt a child in Kane County, there are a few things you should know and prepare for. The process of adoption can vary depending on the circumstances–a family adoption may look quite a bit different than an adoption through an agency or a foster child adoption. At times, the process may seem frustrating, redundant, or confusing. Having an attorney who is experienced with adoption can help simplify the process for you. 

What Should I Expect When I am Planning to Adopt?

The more you know about the Illinois adoption process in advance, the better you can prepare. While some parts of the screening or court proceedings might seem intimidating, keep in mind that you are not expected to be perfect. The state is mainly interested in making sure that you will be able to provide a safe environment for the child. Some things you should be aware of going in include: 

  • Screening - Kane County courts require all prospective adoptive parents to submit to a screening process. This is likely not as frightening or invasive as you might fear–again, you are not expected to be perfect. The screening includes a background check to make sure that nothing in your record suggests that you would endanger a child. It also may include a home visit to make sure that your home environment is safe and appropriate for a child. 

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Kane County Parenting Time LawyerLegal matters involving children are of special importance in the eyes of the court. Children are often in a very vulnerable position during a divorce, child custody dispute, adoption, or other legal matter. The court cannot call a small child to the stand and examine him or her the way the court may examine an adult. Furthermore, children may be manipulated by the adults in the case or afraid to tell the truth. Guardians Ad Litem are specially qualified professionals, often attorneys, who advocate on behalf of children during legal proceedings.

The Guardian Ad Litem Advocates for the Child’s Best Interests

Some people think that a Guardian Ad Litem works for one of the parties in a divorce or other legal matter. Others assume that the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is the child’s own attorney. In reality, a GAL does not represent any one person. The GAL’s job is to evaluate the facts of the case and determine what he or she thinks is in the child’s best interests.

The Guardian Ad Litem May Conduct Interviews and Investigations

Before the GAL can form an opinion about the case, he or she must fully understand the facts of the case. The GAL often acts as the eyes and ears of the court. It is not practical for the judge presiding over a case to visit the parents’ homes and see first-hand what is going on. Instead, the court assigns a trusted GAL to investigate the parties’ homes, conduct interviews, and gather information.

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Kane County Divorce LawyerIn general, just about everything you and your spouse have acquired during the course of your marriage is considered marital property. Marital property is to be equitably (fairly) divided during a divorce. However, it is possible for a married person to own separate property, that belongs only to them and not to their spouse. Separate property is not subject to any kind of equitable division during divorce. The spouse who owns it keeps it. One of the first steps towards dividing property in a divorce involves identifying what is marital property and separate property. Your lawyer will be able to help you determine what is or is not your separate property. 

What is Considered One Spouse’s Sole Property?

Even when you are married, you can have property or money that only belongs to you. This type of property include: 

  • Premarital Property - Getting married does not mean that all of your property abruptly becomes your spouse’s property too. If you came into the marriage with it, you can leave the marriage with it as well in most instances. For example, if you are still driving the car that belonged to you before you got married, your spouse is not likely able to claim any ownership interest in your vehicle. This does also includes any debts you had before you got married, like student loans or old credit card debt.

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Kane County Parenting Time LawyerYou are probably familiar with terms like “custody” and “visitation.” Terms like these have been used across the country for a long time. You do not need to have a legal background to know that “physical custody” has to do with who the child is physically with. Illinois uses updated terminology for a number of reasons. Some of the old terms no longer reflect the current reality of Illinois families. Others were changed because they carried unintended implications. This changing terminology came as part of a broader overhaul in divorce law and other types of family law related to children. While you may still hear the old terms used in less formal settings, it is helpful to understand the terms you will hear in the courtroom. 

What Child-Related Family Law Terms Should I Know?

It can be easy to get a little confused in court or during mediation if you have not been made aware of the updated terminology. Here are a few terms specific to Illinois that you should know:

  • Allocation of Parental Responsibilities - The term “child custody” is no longer used at all in Illinois courts. Instead, the process of determining who a child will spend time with and when, as well as who will have decision-making power is called the “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.” This reflects the idea that both parents still have and share responsibility for their children. 

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A Guide to Marital Property in Illinois

Posted on in Divorce

Kane County Divorce LawyerIf you are going through a divorce in Illinois, you are likely concerned about what will or will not be considered marital property for the purposes of asset division. Division of marital assets works a little differently in Illinois than it would in a community property state. Rather than dividing marital assets equally (50/50), assets are divided equitably, or in a manner that is fair to both parties. The first step is usually determining what is and is not a marital asset for purposes of equitable division. If you are going through a divorce, it is important to be represented by your own legal counsel. 

What is Marital Property in Illinois?

Most property purchased, earned, or acquired during the marriage would be considered marital property, even if the title is in only one spouse’s name. Common examples of marital property include: 

  • Accounts - This includes bank accounts, retirement savings accounts, and investment accounts. 

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Geneva Family Law AttorneyOrders of protection can be excellent tools to help victims of domestic abuse stay safe. Unfortunately, they can also be used abusively in high-conflict divorce cases. These orders typically prevent the alleged abuser from contacting the alleged victim and returning to the marital home. The requisite abuse need not be physical or violent in nature. Courts will grant restraining orders if they believe that harassment, restrictions of personal liberty, or other forms of abusive behaviors are taking place. In some cases, children may also be named as protected parties. If you are served with one, it can put you in a very difficult position. Your best bet is to immediately contact a qualified attorney and follow their instructions. 

My Spouse Obtained an Order of Protection Against Me. Now What?

The first and most important thing you must do is to obey the order exactly as it is written. Should you violate it, you could be arrested and charged with a crime. Even if the protection order came from the divorce court rather than any criminal court, it is illegal to violate it. You do not want to be battling a criminal case and your divorce case at the same time, and a protection order violation will do you no favors in divorce court. Here are some steps you can take if your spouse has you served with an order of protection during your high-conflict divorce: 

  • No contact - The order of protection will almost certainly prohibit you from having any contact with your spouse. This is not limited to in-person contact. Do not call your spouse, send them a letter, ask a mutual friend to pass along a message, or write an ambiguously-addressed social media post. 

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