Recent blog posts

Barrington family law attorney, spousal maintenance awardsTransitioning from a two-income household down to one, following divorce, is a large adjustment for most individuals. In most instances, though, each party is able to financially support himself or herself, excluding child support, without contribution from the former spouse. However, maintenance, or spousal support, is sometimes necessary to sustain a former spouse while he or she, for example, gains new skills or training to make him or her more employable.

Illinois amended the laws on spousal maintenance in 2015 to make these awards more predictable by removing any subjectivity on the amount and duration of the maintenance obligation — although, a Court's obligation to first determine if maintenance is appropriate remains the same. A set formula now determines how much and for how long maintenance awards will be, and only marriages of 20 years or more are eligible for permanent maintenance, which is left to the Court's discretion to decide.

However, even though maintenance awards are easier to predict under the new provisions, changes may occur once the Court order is in place that justify a modification or cancellation. Someone subject to pay maintenance should not be locked into this obligation if circumstances make this arrangement untenable or unfair.

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Arlington family law attorney, parenting responsibilitiesRaising a child is no small task, and includes an incredible amount of responsibility. Most parents try, and have a vested interest in, basing their decisions on what is best for their child. This selfless tendency is part of the reason why the law favors awards of shared parenting time between parents in divorce or paternity proceedings.

Children thrive most when both parents play a large and consistent role in their lives; though in practice, one parent usually provides the majority of the childcare. However, Courts have the authority to deviate from the shared model when circumstances warrant such a decision, including and up to giving one parent sole physical and legal parental responsibilities of the child.

Even if one parent is given sole responsibility, the other is usually granted some degree of visitation and communication with the child to prevent the total loss of a parent. This type of restricted visitation is used when the child's safety or development is threatened, but the parent with primary responsibility for the child cannot impose or deny visitations without a Court order, even if his or her concerns are legitimate.

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Palatine family attorney, custody ordersBalancing work and family following divorce is bound to involve many challenges and tradeoffs, particularly when child custody is shared. The logistics of transferring a child between parents and households is often tricky, especially as the needs of the child change over time. These difficulties exist when parents live in close proximity to one another. However, they are greatly magnified by distance.

Once state lines are crossed, visits may become less frequent. Visits may also last for days or weeks on end instead of just one weekend. When distance is a factor in visitation, one concern that either parent may have is enforcing the terms of the parenting plan. If a parent decides to withhold visitation, limit communication, or refuse to return the child as agreed upon, then the other parent will likely need to initiate legal action to force the other parent to comply. Still, with parents accessing Courts in different states, the possibility exists that Courts could issue conflicting custody orders resulting in the child pinging back and forth between parents. This situation is not in the child's best interest, and 49 states, including Illinois, have passed a uniform law that governs how Courts should treat custody disputes that cross state lines.

What Are Courts Allowed to Decide

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Palatine divorce attorney, valuing assets, high net-worth divorceA complex divorce tends to center around conflict and is related to two key issues — parenting responsibilities and property division. Both parties have a lot at stake and are invested in each matter. Hence, each party has much to lose if the outcome is not in his or her favor.

Specifically, with regard to property division, the number and type of property that is potentially subject to division can require a complicated analysis to determine if the property qualifies as marital and what the likely value is for that property. While one spouse may think he or she has a complete picture of all the property owned by the other party, analyzing and verifying the information listed in the mandatory financial affidavit must serve as the starting point for division.

The issue of property valuation is particularly important in divorces where considerable wealth has accumulated during the marriage. Securing proper valuations of all marital assets is crucial to ensuring that the division of property is fair and will provide the income/financial resources as intended.

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Posted on in Divorce

Palatine divorce attorney, mental health issuesDivorce is an emotional process that can sometimes bring out negative aspects of a person's personality. However, these behaviors are momentary lapses. When one spouse has a mental health issue, what is already a difficult process becomes exponentially more complicated.

Marriage to someone with mental health issues that manifest as erratic behavior, severe mood shifts and the potential to harm him/herself or others can quickly become overwhelming.

A study conducted in 2011 looked at the impact of mental health disorders on the rate of marriage and divorce found that these issues increased the likelihood of divorce from 20 to 80 percent, varying by the type and degree of disorder present. Mental health issues often result in high conflict relationships that are hard to endure long-term. If a couple shares children, the implications of mental health disorders on a spouse's ability to parent effectively and safely become a major concern that Courts do carefully consider.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Palatine family law attorney, custody in IllinoisNo issue is more important to a parent than the role he or she plays in a child's life. The importance of this active participation in a child's life particularly comes into play during divorce. The process of separating and dividing a household and family brings unavoidable change to a parent's relationship with his or her child. In an ideal situation, parents work out a shared custody arrangement so the child does not lose too much interaction with either parent. Still, parents do not always agree on what is best for the child.

If a Court has to intervene and decide child custody, Illinois has a specific set of provisions that govern how Judges should make these determinations. Currently, Judges have discretion to order the custody arrangement they decide is in the best interests of the child. However, several groups supporting the rights of fathers in Illinois are pushing for legislation that would create a presumption in favor of joint custody, requiring a parent who opposes an agreement to argue why joint custody is not appropriate.

Judges and family advocacy groups disagree such a change is prudent since a 50/50 split is not workable in some families. Given that child custody is such an integral issue for any parent contemplating divorce, an overview of how Courts assess this issue is necessary.

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Palatine family law attorney, parenting plansWhen couples divorce, crafting a parenting plan to regulate child custody is one of the more challenging aspects of the process. The age of the child and the employment of each parent are major factors affecting the type of arrangement that best suits the circumstances of the family. The best interests of the child is the primary motivating factor in these decisions, but discerning what a child needs to ensure the best possible opportunity to develop is likely to change over time. What is best for a child at the age of six is likely to differ substantially from what a child might need at the age of 15.

Further, the circumstances of the parents may change as jobs come and go and other life adjustments are made over time. As a result, allocating parenting time and responsibilities may need to be shifted to address the changing needs of the child and the ability of each parent to adequately fulfill these responsibilities. While each parent is obligated to follow the terms of a parenting plan, Illinois law does allow parents to request modification under certain circumstances.

When a Request May Be Filed

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Palatine family law attorney, domestic violenceLeaving a marriage with domestic violence requires planning and support to ensure the victim and his or her children are safe. Usually, a victimized spouse must leave in secret and must also leave most possessions behind, so the abusive spouse does not discover the plan in advance. The law recognizes that domestic violence is an all-too-common issue in marriages, and therefore seeks to make keeping an abuser away easier for victims and their families.

In 2014, Illinois law enforcement received more than 65,000 calls related to domestic violence. Hence, knowing how to get retain legal protection against an abusive spouse, as well as how the Court views this issue in divorce/child custody cases, is crucial.

Orders of Protection

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Palatine family law attorney, prenuptial agreementIn the days leading up to engagement and marriage, thinking about the negative possibility of divorce is not a topic most couples want to contemplate. Visions of growing old and all the things they hope to accomplish together usually overtake any concerns about the relationship not lasting.

While expecting a marriage to last a lifetime is the reasonable way to approach a new relationship, no one knows the future. Hammering out how to handle property division and payment of support in the event of divorce through the use of a prenuptial agreement may not be romantic or optimistic, but sometimes pragmatism is more important in the long-term. These conversations are especially important if a couple is older and/or is bringing a lot of assets and other financial resources into the marriage.

Figuring out these issues before divorce is on the table will make the process of dissolving the marriage easier by reducing the likelihood of disputes and the time needed to negotiate a settlement. The terms of these agreements must be memorialized in writing and executed prior to marriage. Further, Illinois regulates the formation and types of provisions these agreements can legally contain.

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Palatine divorce attorney, temporary supportRegardless of whether the decision to divorce is mutual, at least one spouse will typically deal with substantial financial fallout. While some couples make enough money individually to weather the repercussions of divorce with minimal adjustment, in many households one spouse makes substantially more than the other. This disparity means that the lesser-earning spouse is forced to scramble for alternative ways to obtain money.

Borrowing from family and friends or selling possessions are methods commonly used to make up the shortfall. While this situation is hardly sustainable in the long-term, the situation should still be addressed in the short-term to prevent irreparable financial loss. Illinois allows parties with pending divorces to request temporary support until the dissolution is finalized and property division and spousal/child support is established on a more permanent basis.

Ex-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson, are currently facing this situation. Sandi Jackson alleges Jackson Jr. is not contributing to household expenses while their divorce is pending, leaving her to ask friends for money and selling belongings to make ends meet. Given how contentious the issue of support is in divorce, understanding when support may be temporarily awarded is important.

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Palatine family law attorney,  divorce, moving out-of-stateThe mobility of Americans is one the hallmarks and benefits of living in this country. Moving to a new place for a job, better schools or a different lifestyle are common reasons people give for uprooting their family to a new home and community. Moving with children always brings additional considerations because leaving friends and transitioning to a new school is difficult for many children.

If a parent decides to move following a divorce, this decision is even more complicated. Because of the importance of this relationship, divorced parents who share custody of a child are not free to independently decide to move away with a child. Consultation with the other parent, and at times a family Court judge are necessary to stay within the bounds of the law and the parenting plan. Taking a child to another jurisdiction without permission can lead to serious consequences, including criminal charges for kidnapping or visitation interference.

A mother from Russia faced this situation when she was arrested at O'Hare airport earlier last year for removing her child to Russia without authorization from her ex-husband or a Court. She was placed under house arrest, but recently obtained approval from an Illinois Court to leave the U.S. with her daughter.

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Palatine family law attorney, child support ordersBeing a single parent is one of the hardest roles someone can fill. No one is there to take over and give the parent a break, and inevitably more of the financial burden falls on this parent. However, all parents have an ongoing obligation to financially support their child until he or she becomes a legal adult, and divorce or legal separation does not relieve this duty.

Child support is even more important today with the ever-rising costs associated with raising a child that is partially connected to new expectations of participation in extracurricular activities and use of technology. Thus, any parent who provides the bulk of childcare needs to be able to rely on regular child support payments to ensure enough money is available to provide for the child's needs.

Child support provisions are included in all divorce decrees between parties who share minor children and can also be obtained through a paternity action if the child's parents are unmarried. Understanding how the Court determines how much the child support payment should be, and how to enforce the obligation if a parent fails to pay, is essential information for any parent receiving this money.

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Palatine family lawyer, step-parent adoptionThe traditional definition of a family, comprised of a mother, father and children, has evolved into a much more fluid notion in modern society. As society becomes more accepting of different gender identities and lifestyles, the concept and content of a family must progress as well.

A longstanding method of expanding a family beyond conventional reproduction was through the adoption of children, including adoption by step-parents. Adoption offers blended families a greater ability to find cohesion, and gives a step-parent legal authority and rights over the life of a child likely viewed as equivalent to his/her own. Step-parent adoptions may appear as somewhat perfunctory and require minimal paperwork because the child is not from an outside source. However, adoptions of children are always treated with a high degree of formality because of the nature of the rights being granted and the necessity of terminating one parent’s rights in favor of the step-parent.

Hiring a Lawyer in a Step-Parent Adoption

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Palatine divorce attorney, legal separationWhen systemic problems appear in marriages that threaten their long-term survival, couples will typically try a number of palliative measures to fix these unhealthy issues. Divorce is not an option most go to easily or quickly but often sits as a possible remedy in the background.

Commonly, couples will look to the least disruptive method of resolving unhealthy issues before escalating to alternatives that may affect other family members, especially children. One option that is short of divorce, but allows struggling couples to obtain a formal arrangement to govern certain legalities as they live apart, is legal separation. This legal route differs from divorce because the marriage is not dissolved, but stills permits a Judge to impose legal obligations and property arrangements similar to those decided in divorce cases.

Legal separation requires the filing of a petition with the Family Court, so securing the services of an experienced family law attorney is the best way to ensure the procedure goes smoothly and results in the optimal outcome.

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formal divorce, Palatine divorce attorneyWhen couples decide to divorce, the belief that there is only one divorce form available is natural — especially considering the depictions of divorce on television. The typical TV version of divorce involves a long, drawn-out process that culminates in a trial where both parties verbally attack each other in Court. Certainly, this kind of divorce is possible, such as in the case of a divorcing couple who recently fought over Cubs World Series tickets. However, another way exists.

Traditional divorce cases are referred to as formal dissolution in Illinois. An easier, faster and less expensive way to end a marriage is called joint simplified dissolution. This option is not open to everyone because a number of requirements must be met to qualify. Yet for those who can use this type, joint simplified dissolution offers a streamlined route to divorce that could be important for parties who want a quick resolution to their case.

Formal Dissolution

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Posted on in Paternity

Palatine family law attorney, establish paternityThe birth of a child brings joy and excitement to parents, family and friends. This event also marks the beginning of the time a parent has to shape the child into the type of person he or she will develop into as an adult. People commonly assume that all parents have the full bevy of legal rights typically held upon birth. This is correct for mothers and married couples. However, unwed fathers have no right to custody or visitation with a child until paternity is legally established.

Paternity is the legal recognition that a man is the father of a child. The establishment of paternity is necessary for unwed fathers who wish to assume the all the rights and obligations parents have over a child. Illinois offers several options to confirm paternity; however, not every legal procedure has the same effect. Therefore, understanding the consequences of each alternative is important when determining which to choose.

DNA testing is the gold standard for proving the paternity of a child, and is used today to unravel mysteries around unknown parentage. People are now even submitting DNA samples to online ancestry websites to find lost relatives and identify absent parents. Just a few years ago, this type of search would have been impossible, but advances in technology continually make connecting with others easier. Unmarried men wishing to remain an active presence in their children's lives need to understand the legal requirements to gain their parental rights.

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Palatine divorce attorney, parent decision making,No parent wants to tell his or her child the news of an impending divorce, especially if the child is young. There is no adequate way to explain why a divorce is happening, or to fully help the child understand what divorce actually means. In the best situations, parents try to make the process as stress-free as possible by making an effort to work together and actively attempt to minimize conflict.

Completely eliminating the disruption of the child's life is not realistic; however, taking steps to keep the child in the loop about changes in daily life, if age appropriate, will go a long way to mitigating some of the negative impacts of this decision. Deciding which parent will handle the bulk of the childcare responsibilities and who will make the major decisions related to the child's welfare, are key aspects of any divorce case. Typically, these obligations are shared by the parents. Still, situations exist that justify giving one parent full rights over a child.

Generally, people lump all child-related family law decisions under child custody, but Illinois no longer uses this phrase. Instead, the law divides these issues into two aspects of parental responsibilities: parenting time and decision-making authority. Much of the focus around the responsibilities of parents is on parenting time, which is certainly important. However, which parent has decision-making authority for the child is equally important.

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Palatine family law attorney, rights of grandparentsChildren of divorced parents must deal with losing the stability of a two-parent home, potentially moving away from friends and family, and adjusting to living in multiple households. Losing friends and family is often the most difficult part of the divorce process. One family member that would be particularly hard to lose is a grandparent.

Grandparents commonly play a large role in a child's life, and have a large impact on a child's development. In fact, some grandparents find themselves raising their grandchildren. More commonly, though, is the grandparent trying to stay in the good graces of both parents in hopes of avoiding a reduction or termination of contact with his/her grandchild.

Parents may choose to cut ties with an ex-spouse's family, particularly if there are issues of domestic abuse or protracted, high-conflict custody disputes. However, the end result is the grandparent and child losing this relationship. Legally, parents are given broad latitude in deciding who is permitted to see their children, and this authority extends to grandparents. Thus, if a parent decides to block communication between a grandparent and grandchild, there is typically little the grandparent can do. However, many states, Illinois included, are starting to recognize the value a grandparent brings to a child by passing laws that grant grandparents some visitation rights following a divorce.

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Palatine divorce attorney, parenting timeFew people walk away from a divorce happy. Children are especially affected when their parents sever ties — children often feel alone and isolated. In response to these emotions, children tend to withdrawal or act out.

Many states, Illinois included, require parents who are involved in active visitation cases to attend parenting classes. These classes aim to teach parents effective communication skills to help their children better adapt to the changing family situation. Additionally, the classes can help to reduce litigation and conflict between the parents.

As more parents become attuned to the long-term impact of divorce on child development, new parenting time arrangements are becoming more popular.

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Palatine divorce attorney, file for divorceFor better or worse, divorce is an event and concept that is firmly rooted in modern life. Yet while divorce is not a recent invention, divorce does not hold the stigma of previous generations.

A recent article looked at the history of divorce in America and noted that Americans have looked to this legal remedy to end untenable marriages as early as the American Revolution. In fact, Americans connected the right to dissolve union with England with the analogous right to end unions as couples. However, divorce is never an easy decision, now or 200 years ago.

Struggling couples may spend tremendous amounts of time and effort trying to save their relationships, but sometimes remaining together is not a viable option. Once the decision to divorce is made, the practical consequences of untangling two lives come into focus. Who will keep the family car? Should the house be sold? Where will everyone live? These are all questions that must be answered in a relatively short period of time, perhaps even before filing for divorce. At some point, though, addressing the mechanics of asking a Court to end a marriage is necessary, and consequently, understanding what the law requires from a party seeking a divorce is important to the process.

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