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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_60018625.jpgA common question amongst people who are specifically filing for an uncontested divorce in Illinois is whether or not it is necessary to hire a divorce attorney. While not a requirement to retain legal representation when divorcing, people who are divorcing can benefit greatly from the guidance and experience of an experienced attorney.

But the reason this question is so commonly asked in the face of an uncontested divorce has everything to do with how easy people believe uncontested divorces can be. But why is that? And should you hire a lawyer if you are filing an uncontested divorce in Illinois? Here are the answers to these questions and more. 

What is an Uncontested Divorce? 

An uncontested divorce refers to a situation in which both parties have agreed on the terms of their divorce. Usually, couples must address the division of marital property and debts, spousal maintenance, the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, and other diviorce issues before they can finalize the divorce. 

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palatine divorce lawyerWhen Illinois parents file for divorce, they are asked to create a parenting plan. This plan outlines how the parents fulfill parenting obligations as a divorced couple. If the parents can agree on the plan’s provisions, they can create the plan together and submit it to the Court for approval. If they cannot reach an agreement, they can each submit their own separate plan to the Court for approval. If you are a parent thinking about divorce, make sure to avoid these common mistakes when creating your parenting plan.

Mistake #1: Undervaluing the Usefulness of the Parenting Plan

The parenting plan is not just another piece of paperwork to fill out. The plan is an opportunity for divorcing parents to decide in advance how they will raise their children as divorced co-parents. The more you and your spouse figure out now, the less you have to discuss in the future. Furthermore, if a parent fails to comply with the plan’s provisions, the other parent will have the ability to enforce the parenting plan through the Court. Do not underestimate the importance of this document and its usefulness in your co-parenting future.

Mistake #2: Forgetting to Account for Holidays and Special Occasions

A crucial aspect of your parenting plan is the parenting time schedule. Some parents assume that a vague weekly or monthly parenting schedule will suffice. However, failing to account for deviations and special occasions can lead to arguments and misunderstandings. Make sure your plan includes directions for how parents will divide parenting time during holidays, birthdays, school and extracurricular events, summer camp, and any other special occasions.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_356898968-4.jpg Domestic violence is much more prevalent than many people realize. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority reports that 42 percent of Illinois women and 26 percent of Illinois men have experienced intimate partner violence. If you have been harmed by a former or current family member or household member, you are not alone. Domestic violence may involve married couples, ex romantic partners, family members, or roommates. If you or a loved one were a victim of domestic violence, an order of protection may give you the legal protection you need.

When is an Order of Protection Necessary?

An order of protection, called a restraining order in other states, is a court order that can protect domestic violence victims from further abuse or harassment. If you have been physically injured or psychologically tormented by a family member, ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, or someone with whom you share children, an order of protection can force them to stay away from you and/or your children.

Do I Quality for an Order of Protection?

Orders of protection are intended to protect domestic violence sufferers from further mistreatment. Domestic violence and abuse does not only involve physical harm like punching or hitting. Per Illinois law, the following actions may also qualify someone for a protection order:

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 b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_394112632-min.jpgHigh net worth divorces share the same legal process as non-high net worth divorces, but the legal steps require a much more polished approach. With so much at stake, your spouse may go to greater lengths in an attempt to conceal finances and dividable assets. In the weeks and months leading up to a high net worth divorce, someone with a well thought out plan on how to conceal those assets may display some early warning signs to keep an eye out for, such as: 

Early Warning Signs:

Financial fraud in a divorce can take many forms; however, the following may be signs that a spouse plans to hide assets or manipulate the divorce’s outcome by lying about money. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1027563316-min.jpgWhen divorcing couples share children, they have a much greater number of decisions to make than couples without children. Furthermore, the consequences of these decisions can impact their families for years after the split. Deciding how to distribute parental responsibilities and parenting time can quickly become contentious – especially if the parents disagree about what is best for the children. Collaborative divorce is an alternative resolution method that may help divorcing parents make informed choices about child custody issues, property division, and other divorce concerns without needing to go to Court.

Collaborative Law is a Cooperative Process

Understandably, many divorcing spouses struggle to communicate effectively during the divorce process. Many harbor resentments and hurts from the past that inhibit their ability to discuss divorce issues in a productive manner. During a collaborative divorce, the spouses sign an agreement promising to negotiate in good faith and freely provide any necessary documentation or information. They agree to put resentments aside, cooperate, and find practical solutions to the unresolved divorce issues. Learning how to cooperate during the divorce can help parents learn the skills needed to cooperate in their post-divorce, co-parenting relationship.

Spouses Are More Likely to Stick to Decisions They Made Themselves

When a divorce or child custody dispute is resolved through the Court, the spouses have little say over the Judge’s decision. During a collaborative divorce, the couples reach their own conclusions. Parents may be more likely to stick with decisions and plans they reached together than decisions handed down by a Judge. Parents can also include information in their Parenting Plan about how to handle any future disputes or modifications to the Parenting Plan. This can help parents avoid legal disputes over parenting time, relocations, or other child-related issues in the future.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1098684290-min_20211124-202445_1.jpgIf you are ending your marriage, you may be exploring the various divorce options available in Illinois. There are many routes to divorce, and the path you choose will depend on your unique circumstances and needs. Mediation is an alternative resolution method that may help you and your spouse end your marriage without Court intervention. Mediation can be a cost-effective means of resolving disagreements about child custody, the division of marital assets, spousal maintenance, and other divorce issues. However, many people are unfamiliar with the mediation process and how mediation can help them during a divorce. They ask, “What does a mediator actually do?”

Understanding the Role of a Mediator in an Illinois Divorce  

Before we discuss what a mediator does, it is useful to explore what a mediator does not do. A mediator does not make a decision for the couple or provide legal representation. He or she does not choose sides. The mediator’s job is to help the couple reach their own conclusions about divorce issues. To do so, the mediator may:

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palatine divorce lawyerWhether due to COVID-19 shutdowns or another reason, many people are finding themselves out of work. Unemployment can make it difficult for parents to cover child-related costs, including child support payments. However, a child’s financial needs do not change simply because a parent loses his or her job. Consequently, unemployment can create a challenging situation for both parents. 

If you are a payer or recipient of child support in Illinois, you may have questions about how unemployment affects your child support obligation. You may wonder if you or the other parent are still required to pay if you have zero income. The answer, like many answers in family law, depends on several factors. 

Child Support Payments Are Based on Both Parents’ Incomes 

In 2021, Illinois child support payment amounts are calculated using a method that takes both parents’ net incomes into account. The parent who spends the majority of the time caring for the child is the recipient of child support and the parent with less parenting time is the obligor or payer. When a parent has zero income, however, this does not mean that they are automatically absolved of child support obligations. 

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arlington heights divorce lawyerWhen a divorce involves a greater degree of disagreement than typical divorce cases, we often refer to this as a “high conflict divorce.” Spouses in a high conflict divorce face unique challenges both personally and legally. When spouses cannot cooperate, reaching an out-of-court agreement about divorce issues like property division or child custody can seem nearly impossible. Each situation is different and there is no perfect way to handle a contentious divorce. However, the following actions may help. 

Do Not Try to Face This Alone 

Many spouses underestimate just how complicated and frustrating a high-conflict divorce can be. They assume that they can handle the situation with little help from others. However, building a support team is one of the best things you can do to help you get through a contentious divorce. An experienced divorce lawyer can represent your best interests and provide legal guidance throughout the divorce process. However, in a high-conflict divorce, you may also want to work with additional professionals who can address the financial, personal, and psychological aspects of the split. A divorce coach or counselor can provide an outlet for you to vent frustrations and cope with difficult emotions. Accountants and other financial professionals can help you make sound financial decisions that benefit you both during and after the divorce. 

Prioritize Your Health 

High conflict divorce can feel as if it is taking over your life. Many people engaged in combative divorce cases struggle with insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other serious medical conditions. In a time like this, it is important to prioritize your own mental and physical health. This may require you to take some time off of work or reduce other obligations. Getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising has also been clinically proven to reduce stress and improve mental and physical wellbeing. 

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palatine divorce lawyerAlimony, called spousal maintenance in Illinois, can be a crucial form of financial assistance after divorce. If you are getting divorced, you may have questions and concerns about spousal maintenance. Unique financial situations, including variable income, can make the process of calculating a reasonable spousal maintenance award much more complicated. If you or your spouse are pursuing spousal maintenance in your divorce case, an experienced lawyer can provide personalized guidance.   

Calculating Net Income to Determine Spousal Maintenance

Illinois law sets forth a statutory formula for calculating alimony. The amount of alimony paid is equal to 33 percent of the payer’s net income minus 25 percent of the receiver’s net income.  A spouse’s net income is calculated by taking his or her gross pay and subtracting state and federal taxes, social security, certain retirement contributions, certain business expenses, and any spousal support or child support obligations from a previous marriage.

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palatine divorce lawyerOne of the most consequential factors in any divorce case is the division of marital assets and debts. Dividing the funds in a checking account or deciding which spouse will keep the furniture may be accomplished with relatively little complication. However, complex assets like pensions and other retirement accounts are much harder to deal with during a divorce.  One reason pensions are especially hard to divide is that the final value of the pension is often unknown at the time of divorce. If you or your spouse have a pension, a skilled divorce lawyer can help you decide how to divide this important asset.

Determining Property Rights in an Illinois Divorce

Illinois law divides property into two categories in a divorce. Marital assets are those assets that were accumulated during the marriage by either spouse. Non-marital property is property that was obtained by a spouse before the marriage. Both spouses have a right to a fair share of the marital property.

Some assets are partially marital and partially non-marital. The retirement funds that were earned before the parties wed is usually separate property. The retirement funds that a spouse accumulated during the marriage may be marital property and therefore subject to division.

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palatine family law attorney Divorce often creates an opportunity for a second chance at love. If you are engaged to be married, and the union is your second or third marriage, you are likely excited and enthusiastic about the upcoming wedding. However, it is important to remember that marriage is a legal partnership. Consequently, you should be aware of the legal concerns you may face.  

Your Marriage Can Influence Spousal Support and Child Support

Spousal support or spousal maintenance is usually ordered for a specific length of time. However, spousal maintenance almost always terminates when a recipient gets remarried – even if the original spousal maintenance order was intended to last longer. You are obligated to notify the paying party, your former spouse, at least 30 days before the marriage. This gives him or her time to file a motion to terminate spousal maintenance.

Child support payments are dependent on the parents’ net income. Your new spouse’s income is not included in child support calculations. However, your new spouse’s financial situation may influence your own financial situation that can impact child support.

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palatine divorce lawyerFor many, divorce marks the beginning of a new adventure. Unhappy spouses who finally decide to end their marriages may be excited and anxious to start their new post-divorce lives. If you are like many people getting divorced, you may wonder, “When is it a good time to start dating?” You may worry that dating before the divorce is final could count as adultery or negatively impact your divorce case. While the decision to date during divorce is completely up to you, you must consider how dating before the divorce is finalized may influence the divorce’s outcome.

Dating Before Finances are Separated Could Lead to Dissipation of Assets

There is no rule that says you cannot date before your divorce is completed. However, you should know that Illinois law allows spouses to file “dissipation of assets” claims if their spouse wastes or misuses marital funds prior to the divorce. One way to ensure that you do not accidentally commit dissipation of assets is to separate your finances and file for divorce before you spend any money on a new boyfriend or girlfriend.

Your New Partner Could Impact Child-Related Issues

Who you choose to date is your own business. Generally, dating does not affect child custody issues. However, if your new love interest has a criminal record – especially one involving sex crimes or child abuse charges, this could impact child custody. Even if your new partner poses no threat to your children’s safety, experts suggest waiting until the divorce is complete to introduce children to him or her.

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palatine divorce lawyerMany people assume that having money makes everything easier. However, owning high-value assets can actually make your divorce case much more complicated. If you or your spouse have a high income or own substantial assets, you must understand how this wealth will impact your divorce case. The division of property and debts, child support, spousal support, and other divorce issues are largely determined by the parties’ financial circumstances. Consequently, it is important for high-net-worth spouses to work with a divorce lawyer familiar with the types of challenges commonly encountered in high net worth divorce cases.

You Will Need to Properly Value Assets

In Illinois, both spouses are entitled to a portion of property held by the marital estate. However, before spouses can negotiate a property division settlement, they must value the property. Determining the value of property like stocks, stock options, investments, digital currency, real estate, business interests, and professional practices is complex and typically requires input from a professional appraiser.

The Consequences of Hiding Assets Are Greater

The greater degree of wealth a spouse owns, the greater the opportunity for financial deception. Often, the consequences of financial deception are also magnified in a high net worth divorce. Spouses may underreport income or business revenue, hide funds in overseas accounts, or fail to disclose hidden financial resources. If you suspect that your spouse will lie about finances during your divorce, you should work with a seasoned divorce lawyer.  

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palatine divorce lawyerDigital currency or “cryptocurrency” has skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Cardano, Ethereum, and Tether rely on cryptography to secure and verify transactions. The currency is not regulated by the government or tied to any bank. Unfortunately, these features make cryptocurrency a popular choice for spouses who wish to hide assets in a divorce.

Financial Fraud in an Illinois Divorce

Nearly every part of a divorce case is affected by finances – especially in a high net worth divorce. Even if spouses reach an out-of-court property division settlement, the agreement they come to is dependent on each spouse’s income, assets, and liabilities. Child support and spousal support are also calculated using each spouse’s financial circumstances. A spouse who wishes to sway the divorce outcome in his or her favor may underreport assets or “hide” assets by transferring the assets to another party. Because cryptocurrency does not show up on a bank statement, it is increasingly used to conceal wealth in divorce cases.

Signs that Your Spouse May Be Hiding Assets

Any divorce settlement or judgment should be based on accurate financial information. If you suspect that your spouse will lie about finances in your divorce, contact a skilled divorce lawyer right away. Your lawyer can help you find clues of financial deception and reveal hidden assets.

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palatine divorce lawyerAs a parent, you want the absolute best for your child. This includes the best possible child custody arrangement after a divorce. However, many divorcing parents disagree about what is best for their children. This blog explores some of the most popular dispute resolution methods for parents who disagree about parental responsibilities and parenting time. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for child custody disputes. The right approach will depend on your relationship with your soon-to-be-ex, your child’s needs, and a variety of other factors.

Family Law Mediation May Help You Resolve Child Custody Disagreements

A family law mediator is trained in conflict resolution, de-escalation tactics, and communication skills. During a child custody dispute, the mediator’s job is to help parents discuss child custody issues, find common ground, and reach compromises. Understandably, many parents have strong opinions about their children and can sometimes let their emotions cloud their judgment. The mediator helps parents avoid contention and stay focused on finding a solution.  

Reaching a Child Custody Agreement Through Collaborative Law

During the collaborative divorce process, parents work with a collaborative team to negotiate unresolved divorce issues including child custody. Each parent is represented by an attorney trained in collaborative law. The spouses and their attorneys may also work with child development specialists, child psychologists, or other experts. The spouses, attorneys, and other members of the collaborative team sign an agreement promising to negotiate in good faith, keep the conversations confidential, and keep the case out of Court.

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palatine divorce lawyerGetting married is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. However, even the most cautious individuals can find themselves in a marriage that they regret. Whether you were pressured into marrying by a well-meaning relative, you misjudged the situation, or you were just acting impulsively, regretting a marriage is an unfortunate situation to find yourself in.

If you recently wed and you regret it, you may wonder if you can get the marriage annulled instead of ending the marriage through divorce. Perhaps you have heard a rumor that a marriage can be annulled as long as it is not “consummated,” meaning the couple has not had sexual intercourse yet. Read on to learn about the criteria for annulments in Illinois and what you should do if you regret saying “I do.”   

How Can You Get Your Marriage Annulled in Illinois?

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palatine divorce lawyerWomen and men of every race, age, and income level can become victims of domestic violence. While many stay silent about the abuse, physical, mental, and sexual abuse is not uncommon in Illinois and across the United States. Studies show that approximately 42 percent of women and 26 percent of men in Illinois have experienced intimate partner violence at least once in their lives. If you are in an abusive marriage and you want to divorce, you need to prepare for the possibility of escalation.

What is Escalation?

The National Domestic Hotline describes escalation as the sudden or gradual worsening of the abuse. Many abusive people derive a sense of power and control by harming their victims. When the victim takes steps to stand up for themselves or leave the abuser, the abuser may fear losing this power and control. They may escalate their behavior. For example, a husband who has typically used insults and threats to control his wife may begin physically abusing her when she takes steps to leave him. Approximately 75 percent of domestic violence resulting in serious injuries occurs when the victim tries to leave the abuser.

How Can an Order of Protection Help Me?

If you want to leave your abusive marriage for good, you need to have a safety plan in place. One crucial component of this plan should be legal protection against further abuse. An Emergency Order of Protection (EOP) is often available on the same day that it is requested. You do not have to tell your spouse that you sought the protection order. Also, “abuse” includes not only physical violence but also harassment, intimidation, interference with personal liberty, and threats according to Illinois law. You do not have to wait until your spouse’s behavior escalates to physical abuse before seeking protection.

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palatine divorce lawyer Divorce cases vary dramatically in complexity. A couple who rents their home, owns few assets, and does not have children can typically expect a relatively simple, straightforward divorce. The more high-value assets a couple owns, the more complicated the divorce process becomes. If you or your spouse have a high net worth, own a business or professional practice, or have substantial investments, you should know that your financial success will likely complicate your divorce. The good news is that there are several different ways to get divorced in Illinois. For many high-net-worth couples, a collaborative divorce is the right approach.

Working Together to Resolve Divorce Issues

If you are like many divorcing spouses, you may want the divorce to be as non-adversarial as possible. Fortunately, as the name implies, collaborative divorce is designed to be collaborative. The spouses and their attorneys are focused on reaching solutions that both parties walk away from feeling good about. Attorneys trained in collaborative law understand that it is possible to protect their clients’ rights and advocate on their behalf without hostility or contention.  

Collaborative Divorce is Confidential

Court proceedings are a matter of public record. Divorce is no exception. The information presented during divorce litigation may be accessed by others unless the information is sealed by the court. In a collaborative divorce, all of the participants sign an agreement in which they pledge confidentiality.  If you are concerned about protecting your privacy during divorce, collaborative law may be a better option than litigation.

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palatine divorce lawyerGetting divorced is as much a legal and financial process as it is an emotional process. Undoing the financial entanglement characteristic of a marriage relationship can be confusing, complicated, and often, exhausting. Spouses’ financial circumstances play a massive role in the division of marital property and debt, child support, and spousal maintenance determinations.

So, what happens if a spouse lies about his or her assets and income during divorce?  If the other spouse does nothing to assert his or her rights, the answer may be that the deceptive spouse gains an unfair financial advantage during the divorce. This is why it is important for divorcing spouses to be vigilant for signs of financial deception.

Hiding Assets to Shield Them from Division During Divorce

Illinois law states that each spouse is entitled to an equitable, or fair, share of the marital estate during divorce. However, some spouses try to stop the other spouse from getting his or her fair share by hiding assets.

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barrington divorce lawyerIf you are getting divorced in Illinois, you may be interested in learning about alimony laws. Alimony, also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, is financial support a spouse is ordered to pay the other spouse after the divorce. For many spouses, divorce creates a serious financial burden. This is especially true when a spouse has limited employability because he or she is disabled or was a homemaker or stay-at-home parent prior to the divorce. If you are worried about your ability to make ends meet without your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s income, you may want to seek financial assistance in the form of spousal support.

Three Main Legal Avenues for Receiving Spousal Maintenance in Illinois

Alimony is not guaranteed. In fact, most divorce cases do not involve a spousal maintenance award. There are three main ways that a divorcing spouse receives alimony:

  • A valid marital agreement – Prenuptial agreements often specify the terms of spousal maintenance. Spouses may also reach a spousal maintenance agreement in a postnuptial agreement or an agreement after the marriage has taken place.
  • An agreement between the spouses – You and your spouse have the freedom to reach any type of marital settlement you want during your divorce negotiations. Some couples assign an asset of significant value, such as a business, to one spouse while the other spouse receives spousal maintenance. Other couples decide that a spouse will receive maintenance payments for a specified time after the marriage to give him or her time to become financially self-supporting. Your lawyer can help you explore the various options for including spousal maintenance in your marital settlement agreement.
  • Petitioning the court for spousal maintenance – You can ask the court to determine a spousal maintenance award by filing a motion for spousal support with the court. Illinois courts evaluate many different factors when deciding whether or not to order spousal support, including your financial needs, income, assets, and employability. The court will also consider any impairment to your earning capacity caused by time you spent as a homemaker or stay-at-home mother or father. Your spouse’s financial circumstances, each spouse’s health, length of the marriage, and the standard of living during the marriage will also play into the court’s decision.

Contact a Barrington Alimony Lawyer

If you are interested in seeking alimony in your divorce, contact Inverness divorce attorney Nicholas W. Richardson at the Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. for help. Call 847.873.6741 for a free, confidential consultation.

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