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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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Geneva Divorce LawyersThe division of assets can be one of the hardest parts of the divorce process, both because of the financial implications and the personal attachments that each spouse may have to the property. Your home may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about dividing property in a divorce, but you will also need to determine how to handle a variety of different financial accounts including bank accounts, investment portfolios, and retirement accounts. Each of these has its own unique considerations when it comes to dividing them while protecting your interests.

Which Accounts Are Considered Marital Property?

In Illinois, assets are considered to be marital property based on when they were acquired. If you opened or made contributions to a financial account during your marriage, that account is most likely a marital asset and subject to division in your divorce. Importantly, an account does not have to be jointly held in both spouses’ names in order to be a marital asset. However, if you have an account that was funded entirely before your marriage, or funded entirely with non-marital assets like an inheritance, the account may belong entirely to you.

Dividing Different Types of Accounts

Here are some of the most common types of financial accounts that married couples may have, as well as what you will need to consider when dividing them:

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Geneva Child Custody LawyerWhen parents get divorced in Illinois, one of the most important considerations is how to address child custody through the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. These decisions should be made in the children’s best interests, and this typically means that it is important to maintain stability in the children’s living arrangements as much as possible. However, it is not uncommon for a parent to move to a new location in the years following a divorce. If you or your children’s other parent intends to relocate, it is important to understand what this could mean for your parenting plan.

Parental Relocation Requires Approval

In Illinois, if a parent who has equal or majority parenting time wants to move with their child, they will need to determine whether that move requires approval from the other parent or the court system. The need for approval is based on the location of the child’s current primary residence and the distance of the relocation. If the child currently resides in Cook County, Kane County, DuPage County, Will County, Lake County, or McHenry County, approval is required for a move of more than 25 miles within Illinois. If the child resides in any other Illinois county, approval is required for a move of more than 50 miles within Illinois. Additionally, any out-of-state relocation of at least 25 miles from the child’s current Illinois residence requires approval.

Generally, a relocating parent must notify the other parent of the intended move at least 60 days in advance. If the other parent consents, the move will likely be approved. However, if the other parent contests the relocation, the court will need to consider the child’s best interests to determine whether the move should be approved.

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Kane County Property Division LawyerFinancial issues are likely to be one of your primary concerns when you get divorced. Decisions about how to divide your marital property will affect the resources available to you after you finalize your divorce. You will also need to be aware of the tax implications of these decisions and the expenses that come with ownership of certain assets. Addressing your marital home can be difficult, since it may be one of your most valuable assets, and both you and your spouse may have emotional attachments to it. By understanding the available options, you can determine the best approach to take as you divide your marital assets.

3 Options for Handling Ownership of Real Estate

If you and your spouse bought your home after you got married, it will be considered a marital asset, even if it was only titled in one spouse’s name. This means that the equity in your home will need to be included in the division of marital property. If either of you owned your home before you got married, it will usually be considered separate property that is not part of the marital estate. However, if the home increased in value during your marriage due to contributions by both spouses (such as using marital funds to pay for home improvements), the spouse who owns the home may be required to reimburse the other spouse for their contributions.

Typically, you will need to take one of three approaches when addressing ownership of your marital home:

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Kane County family law attorneyDuring a divorce or child custody case, parents may disagree about multiple different types of issues, including how they will share in making important decisions for their children and when children will live with each parent. While parents may be able to resolve these disagreements by negotiating with each other and their respective attorneys or participating in mediation, there are some cases where parents may reach an impasse and be unable to resolve these matters on their own. When decisions about child custody are left up to a family court judge, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) may be appointed to help determine how to resolve these issues.

Understanding the Role of a Guardian ad Litem

When a judge is asked to make decisions about child custody, they may not have enough information about the case to be able to determine what arrangements would be in the children’s best interests. To gain the necessary information, the judge may appoint a Guardian ad Litem, who is an attorney that will advocate on behalf of the children rather than either parent. A parent may also request that a GAL be appointed during their case.

The GAL will use a variety of methods to gather information about the case. These may include:

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geneva child custody lawyerIn a divorce proceeding that involves a child, one of the most important and often contested matters that ex-spouses have to settle is the allocation of decision-making responsibilities. While some couples can agree on the allocation of these responsibilities with relatively no issues, others may struggle on certain topics. If you are a parent who is seeking sole decision-making responsibilities of your child, it is imperative to discuss your case with an experienced family law attorney.

What Decision Making Responsibilities Can the Court Allocate?

If the parents of a child cannot agree upon the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities in writing, the court system will make that determination. With the goal of determining the child’s best interests, the court will consider many factors before granting this privilege to one or both of the parents. According to 750 ILCS 5/602.5, these responsibilities include but are not limited to the following:

  • Choice of education

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I Need to Modify My Child Support

Posted on in Family Law

       

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       As of March 31, 2020, Governor Pritzker has confirmed that the shelter-in-place order shall remain until at least April 30, 2020.  Regretfully, many people and businesses alike are feeling the financial hardship that COVID-19 has caused to the economy. Moreover, it has led many people to fear that they will not be able to pay their court ordered child support or maintenance as a result of the loss of income and/or employment. 

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