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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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IL divorce lawyerIt happens to many Illinois couples - they feel that their marriage has reached an insurmountable hurdle and initiate a divorce, only to later reconcile. Sometimes this happens because one party acted too hastily during a fight. Other times, a couple has slowly drifted apart only to rediscover a spark when they attempt to finally split. Luckily, there are ways that a couple who is thinking about staying married after all can call off their divorce, or even just delay the process while they make a decision. If your divorce has already begun and you are hoping to reconcile, a qualified divorce attorney can help you understand what options you and your spouse may have.

What Is the Reconciliation Calendar?

Putting your divorce on the court’s reconciliation calendar immediately suspends all divorce proceedings for couples who may not want to get divorced after all. Cases on the reconciliation calendar are not dismissed outright, only paused. If you decide that you do in fact want to go through with the divorce after failing to reconcile, you can more or less pick up where you left off.

This is often a good option for couples who are on the fence. In cases where one spouse is adamant that he does not want the divorce, but the other is hesitant, pausing the proceedings can be a low-risk way for the hesitant spouse to consider his options without needing to start all over if he still wants the divorce in a few months.

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Who Can Adopt in Illinois?

Posted on in Family Law

IL family lawyerAdoption can be a beautiful way to grow your family. However, the adoption process can be complicated, and sometimes take years depending on the circumstances. Not everyone is qualified to adopt a child in Illinois. There are certain requirements that the state sets out limiting who will be permitted to become an adoptive parent. These rules are in place to protect the safety of children who are eligible for adoption. The state has a strong interest in making sure that adopted children are placed in safe homes with capable and caring parents. While many adults will have no trouble qualifying, others may have difficulties for any number of reasons. An attorney can offer assistance if you anticipate any trouble.

What Are the Requirements to Adopt in Illinois?

The requirements to adopt a child may vary depending on the circumstances. If the child to be adopted is already related to the prospective adoptive parents, some requirements can be waivable. Many adoption petitions are very much decided on a case-by-case basis. However, typical requirements to become an adoptive parent include:

  • Age - In Illinois, adoptive parents must typically be 18 years old. Exceptions are only made for good cause. For example, the court may allow an older teenager to adopt her siblings after the loss of their parents if doing so is in everyone’s best interests.
  • Spousal participation - If a married person is seeking to adopt, their spouse must also be a party to the adoption and meet all requirements. Unmarried people can adopt without restriction. However, this may not be necessary for spouses who are separated and have been living apart for at least a year.
  • Residency - Adoptive parents must have resided in Illinois for six months. For those who are in the military, 90 days of residency is sufficient. This requirement may be waived in related adoption or for other appropriate reasons.
  • Reputation - Illinois law states that “reputable” adults can adopt. This requirement may seem a bit strange and is heavily case-specific.
  • Criminal background - Adoptive parents must submit to a criminal background check. Merely having a record will not necessarily prevent you from adopting. A non-violent misdemeanor that is at least a couple of years old is unlikely to get your adoption petition denied. However, more serious convictions or any record involving crimes against children may be a bar to adoption. Courts will not place a child with a person who has a history of harming children, nor will they want to risk exposing children to drug crime or violence. If you have an offense of this nature on your record you will need an attorney.

Many adults have some type of concern about being approved to adopt. Speaking to a qualified attorney may help set your mind at ease, or at least give you a realistic idea of what to expect.

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Kane County Divorce LawyerMost people going through a divorce want the process completed as quickly and easily as possible. Unfortunately, for many, there will be nothing quick or easy about the process. Certain issues, such as child custody or a demand for spousal maintenance are more likely to be contested than others. In other cases, one spouse’s wrongful conduct, like theft of marital funds, can drag out the proceedings. When you are faced with a complex divorce situation, it is important that you work with a qualified attorney who will advocate for your best interests. 

What Circumstances Can Make Getting a Divorce More Complicated? 

Simplified paths to divorce, like mediation, can be wonderful in some situations. Even some complex divorce issues can be resolved through mediation. However, some problems are likely to lead to litigation or other need for judicial intervention. Your divorce may be more complex than most in these circumstances: 

  • High-asset - There are particular concerns that may come with high-value divorce cases. Some assets may need to be appraised or valued during equitable division. There may be disputes over what is or is not marital property, and concerns regarding potential concealed assets are common. Dividing complicated assets like stock portfolios can take some skill and patience. 

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Kane County Divorce LawyerMore and more couples are turning to divorce mediation to settle the issues surrounding their divorce without litigation. When it is successful, mediation can take a lot of the stress and uncertainty out of a divorce. Instead of leaving things up to the court, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse reach an agreement with the help of a mediator. Unfortunately, divorce mediation may not work for all spouses. There are situations where litigation will be necessary.

If you are considering resolving your divorce through mediation, you should speak with an experienced divorce attorney. A lawyer may be able to help you decide whether mediation is worth trying. 

What Are Some Good Signs That Divorce Mediation Could Work For Me?

Divorce mediation works for spouses who are both willing to put forth the effort. Reaching an agreement about divorce issues like child custody and division of property can be difficult. Both parties will need to be willing to compromise. Your lawyer may suggest settling your divorce through mediation in these circumstances: 

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Is Open Adoption Right for My Family?

Posted on in Family Law

Kane County Adoption LawyerAdoption can be a beautiful way to expand your family. When you consider adopting a child in Illinois, there are a lot of choices to be made. Will you adopt after starting as a foster parent, or directly pursue adopting a newborn? Will you work with an agency? And now, will the adoption be open or closed? In the past, nearly all adoptions were closed but there is a growing trend towards open adoption. However you choose to go about adopting, it is important to have a lawyer you trust overseeing the process. 

What is Open Adoption?

In a traditional closed adoption, records about the birth parents are sealed and the child has no contact with them, typically at least until adulthood. In an open or semi-open adoption, however, the adopted child will have some form of contact with her birth parents. Open adoptions may be preferred by birth parents who know they are not prepared to raise a child on their own, but do not want to completely lose contact with the child entirely, either. 

The level of contact between adopted child, adoptive parents, and birth parents can vary quite a bit depending on the terms of the adoption contract. Some adoptive and birth families only exchange occasional letters and pictures. Some live close to one another and visit frequently. It is generally left up to both sets of parents what type of frequency of contact they would like to share. 

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Kane County Divorce LawyerDivorce is that much harder when there are children involved. Deciding who will get parenting time (formerly called physical custody) and when can be a highly emotional process as well as a complicated legal one. Illinois courts always consider the best interests of the child when allocating parenting time and parental responsibilities. In considering the best interests of a child, courts will be interested in hearing what the child wants -- but the child’s wishes are not dispositive. Children, much like adults, may fail to act in their own best interest. This is why the judgment of the court is the ultimate deciding factor. 

If you are going through a divorce or separation from your child’s other parent, you will want a strong legal advocate on your side. The relationship you have with your child is precious and should be protected by an experienced attorney during parenting time proceedings. 

What is the Importance of the Child’s Wishes? 

When there is a dispute over parenting time and parental responsibility, courts will often appoint a special person called a Guardian ad Litem. The Guardian ad Litem will interview the child alone to get a sense of what the child wants and needs and how living with each parent would affect the child. To determine what arrangement would be in the child’s best interests, the court will take into consideration what the child wants. 

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Kane County Family Law AttorneyA lot of people in Illinois seek divorce because their marriage has become unsafe as a result of domestic violence or abuse. Any family, regardless of social or economic status, can be affected by violence in the home. As your divorce is processing, an Order of Protection can help keep you and your children safe. An order of protection forces the abuser to leave your home and not harm, or in some cases, even contact you. So who can get this order? If you need an order of protection in Illinois to keep you safe while you divorce your abuser, it may be wise to contact a qualified attorney for help. 

What Are the Requirements to Get an Order of Protection? 

There are two main requirements to get an Illinois Order of Protection. First, you must be a “family or household member” of the person you need the order to protect you from. Fortunately, this definition is pretty broad in Illinois. You do not even need to have been married to the abuser. “Family and household members” include: 

  • Couples - Spouses, former spouses, as well as couples who are dating or were dating can file. 

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What is a Guardian ad Litem? 

Posted on in Family Law

Kane County Family Law AttorneyA Guardian ad Litem is a specially appointed person whose primary goal is to protect the interests of a minor child who is involved in a court proceeding. Most of the time, a Guardian ad Litem is an attorney with special training who effectively represents minor children in family law proceedings. They are often called upon in contentious divorce cases but are also used in some adoptions or other family law matters. If a Guardian ad Litem has been appointed in your family law case, an attorney may be able to help you understand their role. 

When is a Guardian Ad Litem Appointed? 

A judge will appoint a Guardian ad Litem if a court proceeding involves minor children and the judge feels that the children need a trained adult to solely represent the interests of the children. A court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem in: 

  • Contentious Divorce - Parents going through a divorce in Illinois are always encouraged to reach an agreement when it comes to parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities, or other important decisions regarding the children’s upbringing. This is not always possible. If there is a dispute, the court may call upon a Guardian ad Litem to help determine what arrangement would be best for the child. 

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Geneva Divorce MediatorsIn Illinois, it is fairly rare for a divorce to be resolved entirely through litigation. Courts will typically encourage the parties to negotiate an agreement or settlement regarding as many issues as possible, and in cases involving the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court will usually require the parties to attempt mediation in order to create a parenting agreement. 

However, it is not necessary to wait for the court’s order before attempting mediation. You and your spouse may decide from the start of the divorce process that you want to pursue this alternative dispute resolution method. Mediation works very well for many divorcing couples, and it offers a variety of benefits when it comes to addressing all aspects of your divorce resolution.

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

If you and your spouse decide to pursue divorce mediation, together you will meet with a trained mediator who is skilled in the practice of helping spouses find common ground and reach mutually agreeable resolutions regarding issues like property division, child custody, and other divorce matters. The mediator acts as a neutral third party who does not represent either spouse or provide legal advice, but rather guides the spouses through productive negotiations as they work toward an agreement on their own terms.

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Kane County Family Law AttorneyIn Illinois, many divorced and single parents rely on child support to provide for their children’s needs. Unfortunately, however, many paying parents fail to fulfill their support obligations, leaving the other parent and the child in a difficult situation. If your child’s other parent is not paying court-ordered child support, it is important to take action to resolve the situation, and an experienced family law attorney can help.

Talk to the Other Parent

In some cases, it is worthwhile to try talking to your child’s other parent before taking legal action against them. If you tend to have a good relationship with the other parent and their failure to pay support seems unusual, you might simply ask them to explain what is going on. Perhaps they are going through a time of financial hardship and they intend to make up the missed payments as soon as possible. In this case, the situation may resolve itself in due time, or you may be able to agree on modifications to the child support order that allow the other parent to make payments within their current means.

Get Help From the Division of Child Support Services

The Illinois Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) provides many different services for parents who receive child support, including collecting and disbursing payments. If you are unable to resolve the other parent’s missed payments on your own, you can request help from DCSS to collect these payments. DCSS can enforce a number of consequences for delinquent parents, including garnishing wages, intercepting tax returns and casino or lottery winnings, suspending driver’s licenses, denying passport applications, and including the parent on a public list of delinquent parents.

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