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How to tell children about divorce

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After reaching the difficult decision to divorce, it is necessary to be open and honest with children. Discussions need to vary based on the age and maturity of the children. In the process, children need to be reassured that they are loved, will continue to see each of the parents and are not to blame.

Child-related issues in divorce will revolve around custody, visitation and child support. But children should not be brought into these issues. The one exception might be for an older child and the court or a guardian ad litem may ask about custody and visitation preferences.

What you need to share and when to bring up the topic

While children have the right to know what is going on, it is often best to wait until you have made some final decisions and can provide a plan and answers to questions. It is best if you and your spouse can talk to your children together.


In Illinois, when a child is born to a married woman, the woman’s husband is automatically presumed to be the legal father of the child. However, when a child is born to an unmarried woman, the biological father does not have any automatic legal rights. This is true even if the child’s father is in a long-term relationship with the mother.

As such, it is extremely important for unmarried fathers to take steps to protect their rights when a child is born. Fathers should establish paternity as soon as possible. In addition, they should work with a family law attorney to create a parentage agreement that clarifies both parents’ rights and obligations with regard to custody, visitation, child support and other issues.

Establishing legal paternity

Illinois law recognizes three ways to establish legal paternity. The easiest way is for both parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. In most cases, this will be provided to the parents when the child was born. If the parents do not sign the form at the hospital, they can get another copy online or from a Human Services, Child Support or County Clerk’s office.


During the course of a divorce, it sometimes becomes necessary for one party to file an Order of Protection (OOP) against the other. An OOP is a court order which will provide protection for victims of domestic abuse. In a divorce situation the victim is typically a spouse, and in some cases an OOP may also provide protection for the children. It is important to understand the basic requirements that must be met and to know where to find the resources in your area to obtain an OOP.

Regardless of the county in which you live, in order to file an OOP it is necessary to fit into certain criteria. These criteria may have minor variations depending on where you reside. For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on DuPage County in Illinois, one of the counties served by the Law Office of Ronald L. Hendrix, P.C..

Requirements to Obtain an Order of Protection

There are three basic requirements for an OOP case. First, the person who you are pursuing an OOP against (or the Respondent) must be related to you in one of the following ways: a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, currently sharing a residence with you or have in the past, your legal caretaker, you have a child together or they are a family member (i.e. parent, child, sibling, step-parent, step child). An OOP only covers these types of domestic relationships, however, there are other Orders you may be able to obtain if you do not meet this criterion.


Recently, Illinois passed a new statute for the calculation and award of maintenance that is effective January 1, 2015. Until now, there has been no specific guideline for determining maintenance, as there is for child support in Illinois. Judges could use their own discretion in the final decision of the amount and duration of an award of maintenance.

Prior to this change, the court primarily considered twelve factors which are set forth in the statute before awarding maintenance. These factors include but are not limited to the length of the marriage, the ages of the husband and wife, the income of each party, and the standard of living established during the marriage.

Under the new statute, these twelve factors are still considered to determine if maintenance will be awarded. However, if maintenance is deemed appropriate, there are now guidelines for the judges to follow with regard to the amount and duration.


When a divorce settlement is final, the legal document known as the Martial Settlement Agreement will detail how a divorced couple’s marital assets will be divided. This includes all substantial property, including retirement plans. In order for the division of a retirement account to take place there may be the need for a legal mechanism, referred to as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO (pronounced “quad row”).

What is a QDRO?

Simply put, a QDRO is a court order which recognizes an alternate payee’s ownership of a portion of an employee benefit or pension plan subject to ERISA (Employment Retirement Income Security Act), a federal law dating back to 1974 that provides structure for the types of retirement accounts available to employees.

Preparation of a QDRO is a multi-step process, and it is important that it be prepared properly. When seeking a divorce attorney, include questions about experience completing QDROs, what the office’s process is, and the approximate cost.

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