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Barrington child support lawyerOne of the primary challenges of being a single parent is finding the money to provide for all of a child’s needs. Divorce and separation can drastically change the financial means of the child’s primary caregiver, and the law expects that both parents will contribute to the financial support of the child until adulthood.

In the abstract, this ongoing obligation seems logically appropriate and fairly easy to arrange, assuming both parents can cooperate. In practice, however, parents may need to fight to establish and enforce child support, and they can face significant obstacles when child support orders are ignored by the other parent.

A recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times noted that there are millions of dollars in overdue child support owed to children living in Illinois. Unfortunately, the child is the person who most suffers when financial support is withheld, as well as the one who will most feel the burden of having less than what he or she really needs. The most effective and fastest route to receiving regular child support is to work with an experienced family law attorney who has the means and knowledge to ask the courts to take action designed to ensure compliance. 

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Arlington Heights divorce taxes lawyerResponding to the changes brought on by divorce is no easy matter, as they encompass nearly every aspect of a person’s life. One’s finances are heavily impacted by this process, since the resources available to each spouse will be reduced after one household is split into two. The payment of child support and alimony are further expenses that can strain a person’s budget.

Taxes is one area that is less discussed but is still vitally important to achieving a fair property settlement and understanding how one’s financial picture will look for at least the next few years. Spouses should understand the tax consequences of divorce, including how taxes apply to the division of assets and debts, as well as their post-divorce income tax liability. This issue is of particular importance, as the window to take advantage of the current tax law that allows the payor to deduct alimony payments is closing at the end of 2018.

Because some tax repercussions do not appear immediately, the real economic implications of divorce agreements and associated court orders may not be felt until the divorce has been completed. Understanding these issues can help divorcing spouses avoid being blindsided by potential tax liabilities in the future. 

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Arlington Heights child custody lawyer parenting time denialProtecting a child from harm is the number one priority for parents. Rarely does this danger come from within a family, but when it does, a parent may be forced to make hard choices to ensure the child is properly protected.

Parents are presumed to have a fundamental right to spend time with and make decisions for their children, and this is reflected in the child custody laws that govern divorce cases in Illinois. As a result, in the vast majority of divorces, both parents will receive some amount of parenting time on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, this arrangement is not always appropriate, and in some cases, corrective action needs to be taken to ensure the child’s safety.

The normal way to address children’s safety involves requesting a modification of the family’s parenting plan, but this process takes time, and that is something a parent concerned about his/her child’s safety may not have. However, refusing to allow parenting time that has been allocated in a divorce decree is a direct violation of court order, and this can have serious consequences. Parents may wonder what to do if circumstances exist that would negate this rule for the child’s sake.

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Mt. Prospect gray divorce property division attorneyThe common perception is that couples who are older and have weathered decades of ups and downs in their relationship will stay together forever. Of course, this is not always the case, and older couples do get divorced, even after 30 or more years of marriage. In fact, divorce among spouses over the age of 50 (known as “gray divorce”) has doubled since the 1990s, meaning more people approaching or in retirement must make major life changes.

Divorce between older couples may be more amicable, but different financial considerations come into play that need to be addressed. Regardless of the length of a marriage, spouses are required to divide marital assets and debts. However, older couples have less time to recover from the financial consequences of dividing everything by half, and they often have more complicated asset portfolios to distribute. Importantly, property division is rarely, if ever, revised by the courts after a divorce has been finalized, so getting it right the first time is crucial.

General Property Division Concerns

Illinois follows the equitable distribution model for property division in divorce that means marital property is divided according to what is fair, rather than strictly down the middle. Marital property includes anything acquired by either spouse during the marriage, as well as certain commingled marital and non-marital assets.

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Inverness family law attorney divorce petitionDeciding to file for divorce is never easy, and most spouses agonize over what the right choice is for themselves and their families. Ideally, when couples mutually agree that ending their marriage is appropriate, they can execute an uncontested divorce that takes much of the time, cost and uncertainty out of the legal process.

However, this best-case scenario does not always happen, and in fact, some spouses actively fight against the possibility of divorce. This stance can manifest as an unwillingness to participate in the case or a refusal to sign necessary documents. One example of the lengths some reluctant spouses will go to in hopes of stopping an impending divorce is found in the case of former Chicago Board of Trade Chairman Patrick Arbor, who fled the country to avoid paying a $18.3 million divorce settlement and said he was invested in finding another solution that did not involve ending the marriage.

While an unresponsive spouse is frustrating, this does not have to serve as a complete barrier to divorce.

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Schaumburg divorce lawyer college expensesDivorced parents rightly assume that their obligation to pay child support ends when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. Financially supporting a child until he/she is legally able to engage in full time employment makes sense from a practical and legal perspective; however, many children go on to attend college and obtain a degree, causing them to incur the sky-high cost of a college education in America.

Unless a child receives a full scholarship that covers tuition, room, board, books and other expenses, the financial assistance of their parents is often necessary to help pay for their college education. Paying for college is a struggle for many parents, and divorced parents face the added pressure of juggling this cost while maintaining separate households. 

While educational expenses for primary-level instruction are included in child support formulas, college expenses are not. If a parent wants to ensure that the other party helps cover the costs of a child’s college education, they will need to file a petition requesting contribution toward college expenses. 

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Hoffman estates collaborative divorce attorneyDivorce may be the best thing for a couple in the long-term, but in the short-term, it tends to release a stream of negative emotions, and bitter Court battles will likely increase the level of conflict. Divorce cases, particularly high-conflict ones, can greatly complicate settling outstanding issues, make it more difficult to move on emotionally and physically, and negatively impact a child’s relationship with one or both parents. While litigation is the traditional way to seek divorce, other options are available that are less confrontational and are designed to help couples find common ground, allowing them to resolve their disagreements privately and without Court intervention. 

The newest divorce method endorsed by the Illinois legislature is the collaborative law process, and a law governing how it applies to divorce and family law cases went into effect at the beginning of 2018. This non-adversarial approach allows spouses to preserve a working relationship and implement better communication strategies that they can use going into future interactions after their divorce. The format and process of collaborative divorce is quite different than litigated divorce, and it can be a good option for couples seeking an alternative that promotes compromise when addressing how to resolve differences.

The Collaborative Process

Collaborative divorce is an alternative dispute resolution method that starts with both spouses and their attorneys signing a participation agreement in which they agree to make a good faith effort to settle their divorce without Court intervention and promise to freely share information. In addition, the parties must also recognize that if the collaborative process is terminated for any reason, their collaborative law attorneys will be disqualified from representing either client in future litigation.

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Inverness spousal support attorneyAnyone who is currently paying alimony (legally referred to as spousal maintenance in Illinois) or considering this issue in the midst of divorce is likely aware that as of 2019, the tax rules for this obligation will change dramatically. Currently, the payor receives a deduction for this expense, and the recipient is required to report the payments they receive as taxable income. This arrangement relieves some of the financial burden this support can cause, which can serve to facilitate divorce settlement negotiations. However, under the recent federal tax reform laws, both the ability to deduct alimony and the need to report it as income will be eliminated for any divorce finalized on or after January 1, 2019.

Legal and financial analysts worry that this change will drastically increase the amount of conflict between spouses and greatly deter the payor spouse from agreeing to any type of ongoing spousal support. Recognizing the significant issues this change will introduce into the divorce process, Illinois lawmakers passed a new law this year that allows for adjustments to modification awards in hopes of making the transition under the new tax law easier. A discussion of the changes in Illinois alimony law will follow below.

New Baseline Spousal Maintenance Formula

Alimony is always a contentious issue in divorce, as the spouse asked to pay rarely has any desire to support an ex-partner once the relationship is severed. Further, unlike child support, which is the legal right a child holds until adulthood, alimony is essentially discretionary, and courts must determine if such support is appropriate before moving forward. To make this assessment, a long list of factors must be evaluated, and if the request is granted, the amount and duration of spousal support must be calculated.

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Arlington Heights divorce attorney protecting privacyAdvancements in technology have changed the landscape of life for most people around the world, and the dynamics of marriage have certainly been altered due to the communication and information storage opportunities couples can use to share their lives. While this sharing is wonderful when a relationship is intact, sharing creates very real and significant detriments, if divorce is pursued.

Couples routinely share passwords, accounts, link devices and use smart technology throughout their homes to coordinate their lives in a more integrated way. In fact, the integration of technology in most marriages is so complete, if divorce does come, many are taken unaware when the other spouse uses this access against him or her. 

People, understandably, tend to associate cybersecurity concerns with outside companies or government agencies, not families, and certainly not a spouse; however, depending on how acrimonious or accepting a spouse is of the situation, a pending divorce will move some to take drastic measures to gain the upper hand. 

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Barrington family law attorney, children and divorce, counseling and divorce, post divorce parenting class, Illinois divorce proceedingsChildren are known to suffer negative emotional and social effects following divorce, and parents must be willing to address these issues both during and after a divorce case concludes to prevent long-term damage. To support the wellbeing of children struggling with the adjustments divorce demands, various counseling programs are specifically targeted to this group and often need tailored approaches to avoid the academic, behavioral and financial repercussions.

After parents seek to intervene (and in some cases before), Courts also have the authority to order counseling as a measure to potentially save a marriage and help families with child-related issues deal with this difficult transition.

Consider the following information with regard to when a Court may order participation in counseling, as well as an overview of the parenting class all divorcing couples must attend, which is intended to facilitate more effective communication and parenting post-divorce.

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Mt. Prospect family law attorney, parenting plan, non-compliant parent, child custody violation, allocating parental responsibilitiesTrusting an ex-spouse to follow the terms of a parenting plan is one of the harder aspects of shared child custody. While most parents truly make an effort to abide by the provisions in good faith, others take advantage of the requisite trust to abuse their authority and take impermissible acts, such as taking extra parenting time or making educational decisions without consulting the other parent. 

Parents should primarily seek to work out disagreements between each other, both for a quicker resolution and for the child’s sake; however, a parent willing to take unilateral action solely for his or her own benefit, and often to the detriment of the other parent, should not be allowed to proceed without comment and consequences. The more a parent is allowed to disregard the terms of a parenting plan, the more likely the other parent’s rights will be eroded over time and the parent/child relationship damaged.

One example of the lengths a parent must sometimes go to stop abuse of parental authority by another parent is illustrated in the recent story of a Bloomington mother who will soon be reunited with her son after eight months. An arrest warrant was issued for the father after he failed to appear in Court five consecutive times to justify his removal of the boy to Boston and his refusal to return.

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Inverness family law attorney, parenting responsibilities, parental rights, child custody and religion, parental responsibilitiesFew topics arouse more tension and conflict than religion. Religious beliefs have fomented wars, destroyed countries and displaced countless people across the globe since ancient times. Religion is just one of many child rearing issues divorced parents must handle as part of sharing parenting responsibilities.

Due to the animosity, anger and resentment disagreements that religion tends to produce, Illinois family law provisions specifically address how to divide this responsibility in the hopes of reducing or preventing conflict when this subject arises. Conflict over religion is primarily generated when interfaith couples divorce and fail to clearly articulate and decide each parent’s expectations for the child’s religious upbringing. Regardless of the source, disagreements over religion and raising a child needs resolution, and Courts will establish guidelines if necessary.

Religion is especially a point of contention if one or both parents follow highly regulated belief systems, common among Judaism and Islam, that make compromise extremely difficult. Consider how Illinois Courts view religion in the context of divorce, and ways in which this responsibility may be divided.

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parenting time awards, Illinois fathers, Illinois child custody, Barrington family law attorney, parenting timeStudies repeatedly support the fact that continuous engagement with both parents is key to a child’s long-term development and wellbeing. Divorced parents in Illinois are expected to divide parenting responsibilities (absent issues of danger or neglect), including childcare duties; however, this mandate does not necessarily translate into equal time for both parents. While a growing number of states at least state a strong preference for, if not outright demand, equal parenting time, Illinois has no such provision and merely says both parents are presumed fit and some amount of parenting time should be allocated to each.

A recent study by Custody X Change that looked at how states divided parenting time between mothers and fathers found that Illinois ranked among the bottom, only surpassed by Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Specifically, Illinois fathers, on average, get 23.1 percent of time with their children. Obviously, this number is low, and does not bode well for fathers who must rely on the Court system to make this decision. Consider the following on how Courts evaluate parenting time questions, as well as strategies to boost a father’s chance at receiving more parenting time.

Court’s Assessment of Parenting Time

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Barrington family law attorney, non-parents and custody, children and divorce, custody rights, child custody rightsParents are traditionally, legally and historically associated as the primary caregivers in their child’s life. This standard is supported by the fact that society and the law presume parents to be the most fit individuals to provide for their child’s needs and to make decisions in their child’s best interests. This paradigm works well in the vast majority of families, including those in which child custody is shared following a divorce or separation. However, in a minority of families, one or both parents are unavailable to provide adequate care, usually due to illness, substance abuse, or criminal issues. These children still require care, and if the living situation at home is unsafe or unstable, then alternate arrangements must be found.

The question that routinely arises in these situations is the long-term custody rights of non-parents to care for these children. In the worst case, these children end up — at least temporarily — in foster homes or State shelters. In fact, a recent article about Illinois’ handling of children unable to live with their parents reveals hundreds suffered unnecessary weeks and months in State psychiatric facilities, even though cleared for release, because there was nowhere for these children to go. Children should always have the benefit of growing up in a supportive environment.

Who Can Request Custody Rights

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Palatine family law attorney, child legal advocates, children and divorce, child custody, divorce proceedingsDivorce, child custody and child support are all emotional and difficult legal issues that separated families face. Parents typically intend to shield their children from the stress and negative emotions of these proceedings; however, sometimes, they leach out anyway. Further, even in the best of situations, the best interests of the child can become lost in the midst of legal battles.

To ensure the child’s needs are properly addressed and considered, a Judge has discretion to appoint a child advocate to help him or her better understand the child’s situation and the type of arrangement that would best promote the child’s healthy development. Attorneys are used for such an appointment and would serve in one of three differing capacities intended to provide a voice to the child’s past and current situations.

Consider the following three roles an attorney may play as a child advocate in family law cases, and examples of circumstances that may prompt a Judge to make this type of appointment.

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Posted on in Spousal Support

Hoffman Estates family law attorney, enforcing alimony, maintenance payments, Illinois spousal support, divorce and financesFormer spouses who receive alimony, or maintenance, are often cast by society as greedy and lazy, using this support to avoid becoming employed and self-sufficient. What many people fail to understand is that alimony is rarely a permanent form of financial assistance, and the vast majority of recipients need that money in the short-term to get their lives in order after a divorce. Recipients count on this money as a major part of meeting financial obligations, and suffer huge detriments when it is not paid.

Payors sometimes feel resentful over this obligation, and some choose to sidestep the responsibility by failing to pay the required amount. Alimony awards are legally enforceable, and the party denied rightful payment has the ability to petition a Court to force compliance. Usually, any penalties associated with violations are limited to additional financial outlay; however, in more extreme cases, criminal charges are possible.

The former head of the Chicago Board of Trade, Patrick Arbor, fled the country five months ago to avoid paying the alimony and property settlement award ordered in a divorce from his wife of 17 years, and was recently arrested by Boston Police when he re-entered the country, though quickly released when Illinois authorities declined to extradite him. While the circumstances of this case are somewhat outside the norm, it does illustrate seriousness of flouting Court-ordered obligations.

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Inverness family law attorney, dividing cryptocurrencies, property division, marital property, non-marital propertyLooking for points of disagreement in a divorce is not particularly hard to do. Couples facing the end of a marriage often find the avoidance of giving in to volatile emotions that are easily triggered difficult. One area that is especially prone to the dispute is the division of marital assets. The more complex and valuable the property at stake is, the more invested each spouse is in getting the share he or she thinks is appropriate.

Property division is even more important now that federal tax law eliminates deductions for maintenance payments (spousal support), thus giving the higher-earning spouse much less incentive to agree to pay maintenance as part of a divorce settlement or pre-/post- marital agreement. This means the lower earning spouse will have to hope a large property settlement comes his or her way.

One additional asset that is becoming more of an issue among high net-worth couples is cryptocurrency. This digital currency is known for wild swings in value, but is gaining ever-growing traction among mainstream financial institutions and the federal and State governments. In fact, Illinois is considering allowing residents to pay their taxes with bitcoin. This lack of stability, as well as the ease of concealing its existence, can present challenges when evaluating how to address cryptocurrencies in a divorce.

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Posted on in Divorce

Inverness family law lawyer, grounds for annulment, Illinois divorce, annulment or divorce, ending a marriageDeciding to marry should be a happy time for a couple — a time filled with celebration and joy, not thoughts of possible separation and divorce. A happy marriage inherently requires both parties to enter into the union voluntarily and freely. This dynamic is supported by age requirements that the law places on the ability of a couple to get married — the minimum age being 18 — without parental consent. However, even with this rule, not all marriages last and a significant percentage end their union at some point. Divorce is one option to which most couples instinctively turn when contemplating severing their marriage; however, annulment is an alternative some could consider.

Studies show that the younger a person marries, particularly prior to age 20, the more likely he or she will get divorced. Delaware, in an effort to eliminate the possibility of child marriage, is on the cusp of becoming the first state in the country to ban this possibility by removing any exceptions to the minimum age requirements. When a couple marries at a very young age, a higher risk of the relationship ending results. Thus, could an annulment be an option?

Annulment vs. Divorce

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allocating parental responsibilities, parental responsibilities, Hoffman Estates family law lawyer, child custody issues,  non-biological parent rightsDividing child custody (legally termed parent responsibilities) is a critical, complicated, and emotional undertaking that challenges even the most cooperative spouses getting divorced. Practically speaking, both parents will have to compromise and cede some amount of authority and autonomy over the child’s life in order to facilitate sharing responsibilities with the other parent.

Until a Court order says otherwise, both legally recognized parents (typically, those biologically related to the child) have full rights to make any decision on the child’s behalf and to determine the child’s physical location, without the other parent’s knowledge or permission. Once a Court order is issued, though, this expansive ability to make unilateral decisions stops if parental responsibilities are shared, which is almost always the case.

Biological parents have a tough time sharing these rights and duties, and when a non-biological parent seeks the same level of parental authority, the other parent is likely to push back hard against such claims. This situation occurred between a same-sex female couple from Rockford who used artificial insemination to impregnate one of the women, yet failed to legally acquire parental rights for the other spouse. An Illinois appellate court recently ruled that the non-biological former spouse had parental rights that she could attempt to enforce.

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Inverness family law attorney, substance abuse, child custody issues, alcoholism, alcohol abuseCouples decide to divorce for a variety of reasons, though finances and the stresses of parenthood are often at the top of the list. However, one factor that greatly increases the likelihood a marriage will end is alcohol or other forms of substance abuse.

Forming and maintaining intimate relationships with spouses and children when judgment is routinely impaired, and priorities are more often focused on finding the next drink, is almost impossible. This behavior can leave other family members feeling unsupported and neglected. Moreover, these issues can be of particular importance if the addicted spouse is entitled to ask for parenting time in a divorce.

The safety and security of minor children is a general societal concern, and both the Courts and state agencies have a vested interest in protecting children from possible harm due to a parent’s alcoholic tendencies. One woman, who was recently arrested in the Chicago area for drunk driving and dubbed “one of the worst DUI offenders in the U.S.,” lost custody of her 11 children due to past behavior and the number of convictions and outstanding warrants on her record. Alcoholism can cause a huge disruption in a person’s life, and this does not end when a divorce case is filed.

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