Hollywood is accustomed to ugly divorces. In 2018, Jersey Shore actor Jenni “JWoww” Farley filed for divorce from her husband, Roger Matthews, and now Matthews is contesting the validity of the couple’s prenuptial agreement. While the concerns of reality TV stars do not apply to most of us, any couple can have a prenuptial agreement. If you are going through a divorce, and you have a prenup, you will want to be sure to understand how Illinois law will apply to your case, including whether your prenuptial agreement can be contested.
Prenuptial Agreement Laws in Illinois
The Illinois Uniform Premarital Agreement Act governs all prenuptial agreements filed in the state of Illinois. This law states that to be enforceable, both parties must agree to the prenup and sign it. The agreement will go into effect on the couple’s wedding day.
The Illinois statute includes some provisions on what is unlawful to include in a prenuptial agreement. These include any terms that violate public policy or criminal statutes. Spouses are also not allowed to waive the right to receive child support or agree that a parent will not be required to pay his or her child support obligations....
The terms of a divorce settlement or judgment will attempt to cover the many different issues the two parties will face as a divorced couple. However, marital settlement agreements cannot possibly cover every situation. One of the most common situations divorced couples with children face is whether or not parents should leave their child alone with another person, such as a babysitter, when they cannot care for them.
It can be upsetting to hear that a child was left with someone other than their parent. This is particularly true when one parent does not personally know the person watching the child. While this type of situation can be stressful and sometimes cause arguments, is it against the law?
The Right of First Refusal
Historically, Illinois did not have many laws on the books pertaining to someone other than a parent watching a child. However, as of January 1, 2014, parents can choose to leave their child with someone else, but they may first have to ask the other parent. This is known as “right of first refusal,” and this right is covered under 750 ILCS 5/602.3. This statute simply requires that, in certain cases, the parent caring for the child could be required to give the other parent the first opportunity to watch them....
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....
When Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced a proposal for his new tax plan in Illinois, he sparked debate throughout the state. Some praised what Pritzker called the fair tax law, saying it would only tax the rich and provide more money for low to middle wage earners. However, others have pointed to a major flaw in the proposal, and those opposed to it say it is going to hurt one more group: married couples.
The Marriage Penalty Under Fair Tax Law
Traditionally, when a couple jointly files their state or federal taxes, they file in separate tax brackets from those that file individually, allowing them to take advantage of tax savings. However, whenever two earners of the same household owe more taxes by filing jointly instead of separately, it is considered a marriage penalty. The new tax law proposed by Governor Pritzker does not provide different brackets that allow couples to reap more savings. Instead, couples are likely to owe higher taxes.
Under the proposed new tax law, when filing separately, each of the spouses’ first $10,000 earned is taxed at 4.75 percent. The next $90,000 earned is taxed at a rate of 4.9 percent. However, when a couple is married and filing jointly, the very first dollar made from the second income is taxed at an even higher rate of 4.95 percent....
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....
Taking care of a child is a monumental task that involves both physical caretaking and making decisions that impact a child’s daily and long-term life. While the specific duties shift over time as the child ages, the responsibilities of a parent never completely go away. Most parents perform these as simply a part of fulfilling this role, and a parent may never stop to consider whether he or she qualifies as a legal parent, or what this designation even means.
The designation of legal parent brings a number of rights and obligations that only certain people are eligible to receive, regardless of the love and care a person may give to a child. Specifically, legal parents are the only adults authorized to make decisions on behalf of the child, particularly those related to education and medical treatment. In addition, only a legal parent is permitted to request access to the child and parenting time in the event of divorce or separation. With all of the non-traditional family structures that make up society today, this status is not the given it was in the past.
Who Is a Legal Parent?
The law is fairly clear on who, when, and how a person is recognized as a legal parent, and practically speaking, fathers are the most affected by these laws. The reason for that dichotomy is that mothers automatically become a child’s legal parent upon giving birth to a child (aside from surrogacy situations), but fathers are not always so easily tied to the birth of a child. However, the law does recognize four situations in which a person is considered a legal parent:...
Child support is a relevant issue in any divorce that involves children under the age of 18. Once a judge issues an order for child support, that order is legally binding. If child support is not paid, the courts may find the non-paying parent in contempt of court. There are times, however, when a parent has a problem paying their child support payments. In these instances, is it possible to modify a child support order? It is possible, but it is not always easy.
Determining Child Support Payments...
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....
Separated or divorced parents have a lot on their plates in terms of providing the emotional and financial support a child needs to thrive. While a physical and emotional connection with parents is integral to a child’s development, a court cannot force a parent to have a genuine and meaningful relationship with his or her child. A judge can, however, compel a parent to pay child support, regardless of the quality of the parent/child relationship.
Child support is a right owed to the child, and a parent cannot shirk this responsibility as long as the law recognizes the person as the child’s legal parent. Further, the type of relationship the child’s parents have with one another, whether it be as husband and wife, live-in girlfriend/boyfriend, or former partners who were never married, has no bearing on the legal parent’s ongoing obligation to provide support until the child reaches the age of 18.
A common question connected with child support orders is how they are established, or more specifically, who may initiate an action for child support, and what is the process followed for establishing a legally enforceable obligation?...
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....
Getting the financial support a child needs to do well is a priority for all parents who receive this money. Often, this parent is the child’s primary caregiver, meaning without child support from the other parent, they would be solely responsible for the high cost of raising the child. Being a single parent has enough burdens without the added stress of not receiving regular child support and finding oneself struggling to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the child is the one who is the most negatively affected by this situation because the non-payment of child support means the child must forego certain opportunities.
The state of Illinois has a vested interested in both parents supporting their children and offers a number of enforcement options to compel payment. A standard consequence of failing to pay child support is the suspension of the delinquent parent’s driver’s license. However, starting this year, the penalty for being caught driving on a suspended license related to unpaid child support was reduced to a petty crime. Petty crimes are purely fineable offenses, whereas misdemeanors, the former classification for license suspension related to child support, could include jail time. Thus, the delinquent parent has less incentive to become compliant because the consequences for not paying are now lower. Child support enforcement should still be pursued, but this new change is worth noting.
Child support orders, whether issued as part of divorce or paternity proceedings, are not something a parent can choose to ignore without facing consequences. The parent receiving support is entitled to seek enforcement with the courts to secure this right for the child. The primary way a parent can ask the court to enforce a child support order is to submit a petition for contempt. Violating a court order is not permissible, and a judge can order a delinquent parent to settle the arrears that includes interest after 30 days, or the parent may face jail time until some portion of the amount due is paid. Probation may also be ordered, and if jailed, but released to work, a parent may have his/her wages garnished to settle the overdue amount. In addition, if the parent owns a business, the court can order the seizure of these assets to put toward the back child support....
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....
Being free to move about the country is one of the rights and privileges enjoyed by all Americans, and being divorced does not necessarily remove this option from the table, even if child custody is shared. For relocations of a significant distance, Illinois law requires a legal process to be followed, ensuring that the rights of both parents are taken into account, and most importantly, the best interests of the child. Ignoring these requirements can lead to significant consequences, including modification of the custody arrangement in favor of the other parent, so working with an experienced family law attorney to ensure the applicable rules are followed is critical.
In one recent case, a drawn out custody fight that now straddles the court systems in Illinois and Massachusetts illustrates how dire the consequences can be for violating parental relocation laws. This case includes an allegation of unauthorized parental relocation as one of the issues both courts are being asked to sort out, and the Illinois court issued an arrest warrant for the father after he failed to attend six hearings related to the relocation. Fortunately, conflict does not have to escalate to this level, as long as parents meet their legal requirements when relocating.
What Is Considered Relocation?
Not every move will trigger the provisions regarding parental relocation, just those likely to interfere with the other parent’s ability to participate in the child’s life. Thus, when a parent in Illinois who holds the majority of the parenting time, or shares parenting time equally, wishes to move with the child, court approval is necessary, if one of the following is true:...
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....
A spouse’s reaction to the news of divorce can vary widely. The significance and repercussions of divorce often make it difficult for spouses to cooperate with each other, and some may even feel compelled to engage in actions designed to punish or hurt the other spouse. One form of revenge, or perhaps just simple disregard for the laws of marriage and divorce, involves one spouse wasting or destroying marital assets during the time surrounding the divorce, thereby depriving the other spouse of the ability to receive these assets in a property settlement.
The financial fallout of divorce is one of the most difficult consequences that couples must face, and both spouses may struggle to support themselves if the terms of the divorce are not properly structured. The division of marital property is a huge part of finding financial security following divorce, and if one spouse deliberately misuses marital assets, this can put the other spouse in financial jeopardy.
Property Division During Divorce
Illinois follows the equitable division of property model, meaning marital assets will be divided according to what is most fair. Most settlements are roughly equal, unless circumstances require a different outcome....