In April of 2019, daytime talk show host Wendy Williams filed for divorce from her husband, Kevin Hunter. During the divorce proceedings, Hunter requested a substantial amount in spousal support, as well as child support for the couple’s 18-year-old son, Kevin Junior. Hunter relied on his job as executive producer on Williams’ show for an income, and he was also her personal manager. Now, after being fired from both jobs, he has no source of income.
This case is interesting, raising several questions. One significant issue involves Williams’ claim that she should not have to pay spousal support because Hunter cheated on her. Those who are divorcing in Illinois may wonder how the state’s laws would address these issues. Does adultery affect the terms of a divorce?
Adultery as Grounds for Divorce
In Illinois, the only grounds for divorce is “irreconcilable differences.” This simply means that there has been a breakdown in the marriage and that there is no hope that the couple will reconcile. This is different than how divorce worked in Illinois historically, as previously, there was once a long list of grounds for divorce, including adultery....
The completion of divorce proceedings has an air of finality. The marriage is officially over, the sometimes long and drawn out divorce process is finished, and both parties can move on with their lives. However, just because a divorce is final does not mean those involved will live by their divorce decree forever. Like everything else in life, the terms of a divorce often change, sometimes years after they were finalized.
Remarriage is one of the biggest reasons the terms of a divorce will change. When one of the ex-spouses gets remarried, both parties will want to consider how spousal maintenance and child support will be affected.
Remarriage and Maintenance in Illinois
Generally speaking, when a person who is receiving maintenance gets remarried, their former spouse will no longer be required to pay alimony. The only exception is when the two parties have come to another agreement. The person making alimony payments can stop doing so upon the date of the remarriage. They do not have to return to court or ask for an order of termination of support....
In any divorce, there are a wide variety of complicated issues that must be addressed and resolved, and disputes over child custody, child support and property division can make emotions run high. However, there are some divorce cases that have all of these issues and even more. High net worth divorces can be extremely complex, since they will have the same issues as any other divorce, along with additional factors that can make resolving these cases more challenging. These factors may include:
The Scope of Assets
Typically, there are many assets in a high net worth divorce, and determining how to divide marital property can be difficult, especially when this property includes assets such as real estate, investments and retirement accounts. An asset acquired before the marriage will typically be considered separate property that is not divided during the divorce process. However, if a non-marital asset appreciated in value during the marriage, the courts may view this appreciation as marital property. Determining what assets are considered marital property and how to divide them fairly and equitably during divorce can be a complicated undertaking....
If you feel that your marriage may end in divorce, you are probably wondering about the steps that you will need to follow to complete the process of dissolving your marriage. Since divorce almost always causes financial upheaval, you also may be wondering if you can save money by attempting to complete the process without being represented by an attorney.
Should I File for Divorce Without a Lawyer?
In Illinois, everyone has the right to represent themselves in court and that includes while getting a divorce; however, if you and your ex-spouse will need to resolve disputes through litigation in court, you should seek the help of an attorney. A lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process and help you understand the steps that will be followed and the requirements....
Illinois is an equitable distribution state. This means that when two people get divorced, the courts will divide their marital property equitably, or fairly. This type of property division is usually fairly straightforward, but there are certain factors that can make it more complicated. Today, frozen embryos are one issue that can make a divorce case especially complex.
There are currently hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos in the United States, and because of this, the number of divorces involving frozen embryos is likely to increase. Since the courts in Illinois have not yet set a precedent for dividing frozen embryos between divorcing spouses, the decisions made during a divorce will likely depend on the facts of the case. So, what facts are taken into consideration when frozen embryos were part of a marriage and are now part of a divorce?...
Divorce is rarely easy, but there are ways to manage stress and create an amicable separation. Like any other contract, there are ways to leave marriage on secure and reciprocal terms, which is why many married couples choose to pursue an uncontested divorce in Illinois. By doing so, they are reducing the amount of stress felt by both the couple and any children they share. An uncontested divorce can also save both parties time and money.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to the terms of dissolving the marriage. These terms can include everything from the division of property to child custody and child support arrangements. For a divorce to be considered uncontested, both spouses must agree on all terms. If there is even one point of contention, the divorce will be considered contested. At that point, the couple will then need to determine if they wish to use mediation, get a collaborative divorce, or go through litigation in court.
An uncontested divorce is the fastest way to get a divorce in Illinois, often taking as little as a few weeks or months. Getting a divorce any other way can take many months, and it may sometimes take years before the divorce is finalized....
When a couple chooses to get a divorce, it can be one of the most difficult decisions to make. However, once this decision is made, spouses quickly learn that they must also decide how to proceed with their divorce. In many cases, they will want to work together to settle their differences rather than pursuing costly litigation in court. Two methods of alternative dispute resolution are mediation and collaborative law. So, which is best for a couple to choose?
During divorce mediation, a couple will work with a qualified mediator. The full mediation process is outlined in the Uniform Mediation Act, found in the Illinois Compiled Statutes. Over the course of several meetings, the mediator will help the couple come to an agreement about the outstanding issues in their divorce. The agreement will include many different terms, including a parenting plan, child support and alimony obligations, and decisions about the division of property and debts.
The mediator will remain neutral throughout the proceedings, and he or she will not make any decisions for the couple. Instead, the spouses will have full control over the decisions made, and the settlement will only be legally binding if both spouses agree on its terms. After an agreement has been reached, the mediator will draft any paperwork that is required. This will include a Memorandum of Understanding that will outline the terms agreed upon....
The property settlement is often one of the most hotly contested aspects of a divorce case due to the financial stakes at play. Giving up a substantial portion of one’s wealth is not easy for some divorcing spouses to accept. Most spouses find a way to make peace with this part of ending their marriage, but others go to great lengths to avoid complying with the court’s orders or executing the negotiated agreement. Unfortunately, this choice can leave the other spouse in precarious financial straits, so it is important to understand the legal options for enforcing a divorce settlement.
An extreme example of tactics to avoid paying a property settlement is playing out in the divorce case of a former Board of Trade head who spent the holidays in jail for his refusal to pay his ex-wife the $18 million settlement she is owed. While most spouses do not have the means to transfer assets out of the U.S. and live abroad to avoid paying a divorce settlement, the mechanisms to force compliance are the same in all cases, and a spouse who violates the terms of a divorce settlement can face serious repercussions.
Petition to Show Cause
When a divorce settlement is entered into court records upon the finalization of the divorce process, it becomes a court order that both spouses are required to follow. A spouse who violates a court order can face serious civil and/or criminal consequences....
Every spouse has possessions they value more than others, and if divorce happens, these seemingly small differences will often take on a new significance when negotiating or litigating a property settlement. With most possessions, a level of detachment remains, even if a spouse does have an affinity for it in divorce. The same cannot be said for pets in most households, and many owners view pets as members of the family. Fortunately, Illinois is one of just a few states that has a law addressing the issue of pets in a divorce.
One woman wanted to prevent another occurrence of a sad situation she experienced at the end of her first marriage when her husband used her attachment to the family dog to get her to make concessions during divorce. When she decided to marry for a second time, she included the issue of pets in a prenuptial agreement so there would no question or fight about it if the marriage ended. Resolving this issue is a large concern for many divorcing couples, so it is important to understand how the law applies to these situations.
Illinois Pet Statute
Most animals that live in a household are there for companionship, and recognizing this distinction, the Illinois statute regarding pets and divorce only applies to pets that are considered companion animals and not those classified as service animals. Further, the animal must be a marital asset, meaning it belongs to both spouses. Assuming these prerequisites are satisfied, a court is empowered to award the pet solely to one spouse, or jointly to both, and is directed to take the well-being of the animal into consideration when making this decision. Thus, the analysis should include some consideration of where the pet would better adjust and thrive under the new circumstances....
The emotional and psychological fallout of separation and divorce can have a major impact on a family. Once the initial shock passes and the legal process is underway, children start to get a sense that the change of divorce is really happening, and they may need extra support to get through the transition. The need for assistance is especially prevalent in high-conflict divorce cases in which both sides seek outcomes diametrically opposed to one another. These situations often involve animosities that are transferred to the children. Studies have long shown that divorce can lead to a wide range of negative and long-term emotional and psychological damage in children if not properly handled.
Addressing the needs of a child going through a divorce is complicated, and parents may require the involvement of multiple adults to provide sufficient support. For children who are struggling and starting to exhibit destructive behavior, such as depression, skipping school, or outbursts of anger, more direct intervention may be demanded. The courts have the power to order two processes that speak to this situation: custody evaluations and counseling.
When parents cannot agree on parenting plans, and this stalemate lasts for a long period of time, courts are often asked to step in and make the decision for them. Each family is unique, though, and any decision issued by the courts will affect the quality of life for the parents and children for years to come. To help the court form a better understanding of the family dynamics, and more specifically, the best interests of the child, a judge may order a custody evaluation to look at the relationship between the spouses, the parent/child relationships, and the child’s overall welfare....
Once a married couple decides to split and file for divorce, the inevitable question, sooner or later, is when to move on and start dating again. Dating, in and of itself, presents complications, but when children are added to the equation, their opinions, as well as that of the other parent, may begin to matter.
A parent’s choice to begin a new relationship may play a part in decisions about the allocation of parental responsibilities and other divorce-related matters. Even if a parent begins dating after the divorce has been finalized, the other parent may potentially bring this matter before a judge and ask for a modification of the parenting plan. Thus, while there is no legal prohibition against dating, new relationships may have a practical effect on how a court may view certain behavior, and they may influence child custody decisions.
Dating During a Divorce
From the outside, dating while a divorce is still pending may appear premature, but couples may have extended periods of separation before taking the final step to formally end their marriage. That being said, appearances do make a difference in the outcome of divorce. Thus, starting an active dating life before the divorce has been finalized is likely to produce conflict and increase the odds that the other spouse will be less willing to compromise and more willing to litigate disputed issues. This can leave the other spouse with the choice of accepting a settlement that is less advantageous than they really want in order to avoid the time and expense of litigation, or they may choose to let a judge make the final decisions, which can be unpredictable and unlikely to produce a satisfactory outcome....
Divorce rocks the finances of every couple, including those with higher incomes and assets. Weathering the fallout of the loss of a combined income and the division of marital assets is one of the hardest adjustments any divorced person must make. Knowing which assets to take and which are better off relinquished or sold is not easy, especially when factoring in the emotional attachment spouses form over certain items. However, finding the right balance is the only way most divorced individuals have a realistic chance of recovering from this financial shift. The marital home is the largest physical asset most couples own, and it often looms large in the property settlement process.
Equitable division is the rule that governs property division in Illinois, which means the court will look for a fair division of assets, but not necessarily an equal one. Under this system, a spouse may be required to argue why he or she should receive a certain asset. When addressing the marital home, specific questions should be asked before making a strong stance in favor of keeping this property.
Questions to Ask About Keeping the Family Home
In many cases, at least one spouse will form a strong attachment to the family home, and either spouse may find it difficult to think of selling the home or giving up ownership to the other spouse. Good reasons do exist for keeping the home, including providing continuity for children, maintaining some form of financial security, and the possibility of appreciation in value....
The end of a marriage can occur for a wide variety of reasons – from the somewhat innocuous and slow-developing issue of growing apart to extreme acts of betrayal and violence. Most couples are somewhere in the middle, but a legitimate question may arise when one spouse is convicted of a crime, and the other spouse must choose whether to continue the marriage or use this event to justify divorce. Depending upon the circumstances of the criminal conviction, the repercussions on the integrity of the marriage can be significant, and spouses may wonder what impact the conviction will have on the outcome of divorce.
Unless a person comes into a relationship with a criminal history, spouses typically do not anticipate this possibility nor necessarily know how to respond if it does happen. A recent example of this conundrum involves the marriage of a man accused of kidnapping and killing an international student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His wife filed for divorce recently, citing irreconcilable differences and no possibility of reconciliation in her petition.
When couples divorce, it is common and understandable that each side wants to offer his or her perception of why the marriage did not last, but understanding what factors matter and why they will help to produce a more favorable outcome is crucial....
Recently, 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....
The 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....
Struggling 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....
Deciding 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....
Responding 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....
Deciding 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....
Divorce 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....