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Palatine high asset divorce lawyerRecently, Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced via Twitter that they were going to divorce. Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon and is thought to be worth approximately $136 billion, making him one of the wealthiest men in the world. The public was soon shocked to learn that they did not have a prenuptial agreement. What does this mean for the Bezos’ divorce? Is it possible that MacKenzie could be left with nothing?

That scenario is not likely. Due to the fact that the Bezos’ live in Washington, a community property state, both spouses are probably going to receive 50 percent of all assets accumulated during the marriage. The news has also left many wondering how this division of property would work if the couple lived in Illinois. The question is a good one, as Illinois operates under very different rules.

Community Property States

Currently, only nine states in the country are community property states: Louisiana, Arizona, California, Texas, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and of course, Washington. In these states, any income, property, or other assets acquired during a marriage are considered community property. Upon divorce, each spouse will then receive 50 percent of those assets, in most cases. This means that even without a prenuptial agreement, MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos will likely each receive half of the income earned from Amazon during their marriage, in addition to half of the many real estate properties they own and any other financial assets.

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Rolling Meadows divorce lawyer court trialThe divorce process involves multiple steps, even if the spouses are able to reach an agreement and execute a settlement on their own without the need for court intervention. However, if litigation ensues, and a trial is required to resolve any outstanding issues, the process can be especially involved. Typically, if a judge is asked to decide any legal issues between a divorcing couple, multiple requests for information and motions related to the claims each party is making will be filed, ultimately culminating in a trial, where the judge will hear arguments, accept evidence and render a judgment.

Even in uncontested divorces, attending multiple hearings is not uncommon before the final divorce judgment is issued, and this can be a nerve-racking experience, regardless of the level of mutual agreement. By contrast, if a couple’s divorce gets to the trial stage, this event can trigger a lot of stress and worry for each spouse. Emotions run high during divorce, and the thought of appearing before a judge to find out what the terms of the settlement will be is understandably overwhelming for both parties. However, as in all things, information is power, and having a basic understanding about how hearings and trials work during the divorce process can go a long way toward defusing some of the anxiety that these appearances provoke.

When Are Court Appearances Necessary?

How often and how extensive court appearances will be depends on the outstanding issues that must be resolved in a divorce case. Some appearances can be handled by a spouse’s attorney without his or her involvement, but other issues do require the attendance of both spouses before the court will enter an order. For example, if there are requests for temporary child support, alimony, and/or child custody arrangements while the case is pending, each spouse will be expected to appear in person.

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Posted on in Divorce

Arlington Heights divorce attorney foreclosureStruggling to make ends meet puts a strain on the best of relationships, and if it lasts for a considerable period of time and/or is extreme, overcoming this challenge may prove more than a couple can bear. Marital assets and debts must be divided in divorce, and when finances start to break down, the ramifications can reach all the way to the possible loss of a home through foreclosure. Navigating the divorce process is hard enough in straightforward circumstances, but it can become quite complicated when an active foreclosure is being sought, because the mortgage lender has a legitimate interest in how this asset is divided. This situation may be further complicated if one spouse wants to attempt to save the home and assume sole possessory rights and ownership.

In an unusual case, an Illinois appeals court upheld a default judgment that terminated the interest of a divorcing couple’s mortgage lender in the marital home, which was in the middle of a foreclosure, because it failed to respond to a complaint by the husband challenging its validity. While uncommon, this case highlights how intertwined a divorce and a foreclosure can be.

Who Is Responsible for the Debt?

Financing the purchase of a home involves the legal assumption of the obligation to repay a promissory note, the contract that outlines how long and how much the buyer must pay to satisfy the loan. In addition, a lien is placed on the property, which gives the lender the right to repossess the property in the event of default. Most couples jointly sign these documents, making both spouses liable to meet the terms or face foreclosure.

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Hoffman Estates divorce lawyer substance abuseDeciding to take the final step to end a relationship is never an easy decision, but divorce can become much more complex when one spouse has issues with a psychological condition that compromises his or her capacity. Mental illnesses and cognitive conditions are challenging to recognize and adequately address, and staying in a marriage with a person experiencing these issues may not be advisable if issues of safety and emotional stability are an issue for either spouse.

Divorce requires making a number of significant and binding decisions, and the presence of mental illness or cognitive dysfunction can greatly alter how these decisions are handled, as well as how the impaired spouse may respond to divorce as a whole. The overarching influence of mental illness in some divorces is rarely discussed, primarily due to the stigma associated with mental illness in this country generally. However, mental health issues can take many forms, from alcohol abuse to bipolar disorder, and these issues can affect a relationship in a wide variety of ways. Mental illness will touch more couples than is generally recognized, and it can affect divorce proceedings in the following ways: 

Grounds for Divorce

A number of states include a provision in the law that authorizes a divorce if mental incapacity of a spouse is established; however, Illinois is not one of them. Until 2016, Illinois retained a divorce system that was primarily fault-based, and one possible grounds for divorce was drug and alcohol addiction, conditions that are known to alter the abuser’s mental state at least temporarily, and sometimes permanently. Qualified no-fault divorce did exist, but it required lengthy separation and other requirements that could be burdensome to satisfy.

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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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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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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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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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Palatine family law attorney, end a marriage, divorce, annulment, seek an annulmentHearing that a family member, friend or acquaintance is ending his or her marriage automatically provokes the thought of divorce. Divorce is a legal process by which a Court says a couple is no longer married in the eyes of the state, and no longer has rights to the legal benefits granted to those in a valid marriage, such as the right to inherit a spouse’s property or have an ownership claim to the marital estate.

Divorce is the most popular method of ending a marriage, especially now that Illinois is a no-fault state. However, another possibility exists for ending a union — annulment.

Annulment is a concept many people take to be antiquated and associated with religion. However, while there is a separate religious procedure to annul a marriage, a Court also has the ability sever a marriage in a similar manner.

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Barrington family law attorney, medical decisions, decision-making responsibilities, divorce, child custodyAs the summer comes to a close, parents of children entering school for the first time must adjust to the change in routine and their child's daily needs. Yet while this transition is challenging for any parent, those who share child custody have the added factor of coordinating decisions on education, transportation and health with an ex-spouse.

Most schools, including those in Illinois, require all incoming students to prove they received certain vaccinations as a measure of preventing the spread of dangerous diseases. The vaccination of school-aged children has become a controversial issue in recent years, with some parents opposing the practice due to fears that vaccinations can provoke serious physical/developmental reactions in children. A difference of opinion on this issue can create complications when parents are together. However, conflicting viewpoints post-divorce can lead parents to seek Court intervention if a compromise cannot be struck.

Decisions related to a child's health are some of the most important matters a parent will ever consider, and determining how to balance this shared responsibility with an ex-spouse is a critical aspect of co-parenting.

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child custody, divorce, special needs child, child support payments, allocation of parental responsibilitiesDivorce has the potential to completely uproot a child's sense of stability and security when child custody considerations (now titled decision making and parenting time under Illinois law) are not handled properly.

Raising a child under the best of circumstances is a challenging endeavor, and this responsibility is greatly increased when a couple has a child with special needs. In the event of divorce, deciding how to split parental responsibilities under these circumstances can be especially difficult due to the additional attention and/or medical care special needs children often require.

Further, special needs children often require some level of care for their entire lives that has direct implications on child support from both parents and is another issue that most divorced parents do not have to face.

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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 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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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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Posted on in Divorce

divorce tax consequences, Palatine divorce lawyersMany couples who are facing divorce often question what to do with the marital residence, which often is the parties' most valuable asset and an asset that neither spouse may be able to maintain on his or her own. As a result, many individuals in this situation opt to sell the marital home, either during or just after their divorce. A recent online article highlights the potential benefits of the federal gains tax exclusion that divorcing couples can receive if they decide to sell the marital residence. These benefits may allow you and your spouse to receive proceeds from the sale of the home free of federal income taxes, which can give you the money to downsize into a more affordable home.

How the Gains Tax Exclusion Works

If a couple decides to sell their home, they potentially may be able to receive gains from the sale of up to $500,000 without any federal income tax being assessed on those gains. Even if the couple is separated, they may still be eligible for the joint exclusion if they were still legally married at the end of the year in which the home is sold. If the couple is already divorced, however, and the spouse who receives the home through the divorce proceedings wishes to sell it, he or she can still receive tax-free gains of up to $250,000. If the parties still co-own the home and they are newly divorced, they potentially can each have gains of up to $250,000 free of federal income taxes, assuming that they meet the additional eligibility requirements described below.

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Illinois children of divorce, Palatine family law attorneyAlthough divorce is never easy, most couples feel a sense of relief when the divorce is finalized and each party can move on to the next phase of his or her life. But for the thousands of Illinois children whose post-divorce life is dictated by the terms of a child custody agreement, there is no sense of relief. Divided homes, blended families and constant uprooting due to visitation agreements can leave children feeling angry, hurt, and confused. There are, however, things you can do to help ease the transition for your children.

Make sure your children know they are not at fault. Children often believe they caused the divorce. As parents, your most important job is to let them know the divorce is not their fault. If possible, both parents should sit down together with their children and break the news of the divorce to them. Answer any questions they have as honestly as possible without going into more detail than necessary.

Do not discuss divorce details with your child. Details about the divorce negotiations may consume your life throughout the process. Refrain from discussing divorce details with your children, though. This may increase their fear that they caused the divorce, or make them feel they are causing you stress (especially if you and your spouse are arguing over child support or other financial concerns).

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Posted on in Annulments

annulment, divorce, matrimonial lawyer, Illinois family lawyer, Palatine family law attorneyprevious post on this blog discussed the concept of legal separation and why some people may consider it a more desirable option than divorce. For some people, however, neither option is desirable; instead, they may want an annulment.

What is Annulment?

When most people think of an annulment (now legally called a Declaration of Invalidity in Illinois), they think of it in a religious context. Some churches, such as the Catholic Church, prohibit divorcees from getting remarried until their ex-spouse dies (thus severing the marriage in the eyes of the church, thanks to the vow of “’til death do us part” literally coming true) or the marriage is annulled by the church. In these instances, the marriage is deemed null and void in the eyes of the church, as though it never happened.

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joint simplified dissolution of marriage, Palatine divorce attorney, Palatine divorce lawyerThe wedding is a faded memory now, and you and your spouse agree that divorce is the best option. You have accumulated very few assets, and you both agree on the division of assets. Since you are both on the same page, is there a faster, easier way to end the marriage? In Illinois there is, and it is called joint simplified dissolution.

Requirements for Joint Simplified Dissolution

Joint simplified dissolution is available to Illinois residents who have been married for less than eight years and can agree how to divide both the marital property and marital debts. It is a streamlined process that greatly minimizes the stress of a contested divorce and can keep costs down. You and your spouse can complete the paperwork together, and can appear in Court for the hearing and entry of judgment the same day the petition is filed. Only one Court appearance is required.

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divorce, estate plan, lawyer, attorney, family law, Palatine divorce attorneyThe divorce has been finalized; the property divided, and you and your ex-spouse have moved on to the next phase of your lives. There may be one thing you forgot though, something neither of you will remember until it is too late: updating the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Most people designate their spouse as the beneficiary of retirement benefits and life insurance proceeds, and then promptly forget about it. Or they may think that the divorce automatically revoked the now ex-spouse’s right to receive these assets at death. In Illinois, this could be a costly mistake. Failure to update your beneficiary designations following a divorce, or failure to include specific waiver of these rights in the divorce decree, can result in your ex-spouse getting the assets at your death.

Automatic Revocation of Estate Plan After Illinois Divorce

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legal separation, Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois divorce attorney, Palatine divorce lawyerDivorce is an unfortunate fact of life. Couples realize they are no longer compatible and agree to go their separate ways. For some couples, however, whether due to religious, health or financial reasons, divorce is not an option. Yet they are still incompatible and can no longer live together. For these couples, Illinois provides legal separation.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is more than what is commonly referred to as a “trial” separation. In a trial or physical separation, couples live apart while trying to decide if they should get divorced. There is no payment of alimony, no child support or custody agreement, no property division, and the Court is not involved.

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