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Bolingbrook divorce attorney legal separation

When a couple is having problems with their marriage, sometimes the decision to divorce is clear-cut. However, many couples are not ready to take the irreversible action of ending the marriage, and instead, wish to spend time apart while they contemplate their next step. For these couples, or for those spouses who wish to avoid divorce because of cultural beliefs or health insurance benefits, a legal separation may be a good option. If you do choose to pursue it, you should understand exactly what legal separation entails and how it differs from a complete dissolution of the marriage according to Illinois law.

What Happens in an Illinois Legal Separation?

For you and your spouse to be considered legally separated, you must be living in separate locations, and one of you must file a Petition for Legal Separation with your county’s Circuit Court. If your separation is approved, you should consider the following legal implications:

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Joliet Courthouse divorce attorney child support order

Divorce agreements are made with the intention that they will last forever. While this may be the case for those who get divorced and do not have any children or alimony requirements, divorce agreements rarely last the test of time. When children or monthly support payments are involved, things never remain the same over time. Luckily, the Illinois court system addresses this possibility within their divorce legislation. In order for modifications to be made to your agreement, you must meet the criteria outlined below.

Spousal Maintenance

The purpose of spousal maintenance is to even the financial divide between both spouses and provide the lower-earning spouse with financial assistance. The terms of these payments vary for each divorce agreement. Some may be expected to provide this support indefinitely while others have a specified timeline. Divorced couples always have the ability to revisit their agreement, especially if they feel that the spousal maintenance requirements are unnecessary or unfair. 

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Joliet Courthouse child support attorney

When it comes to modifying child support obligations in Illinois, a court must answer one basic question: Has there been a “substantial change in circumstances” justifying a departure from the original award of child support? What qualifies as a “substantial change” will depend on the facts of a given case. But one thing to keep in mind is that if a change was anticipated or expected at the time of the parents’ divorce, that alone will not guarantee that a court will increase or reduce a non-custodial parent’s support obligations. Below is a recent court case that involves parenting time and a request for a child support modification in Illinois.

Court: Will County Father Not Entitled to Reduce Support  

A Will County case from earlier this year, In re Marriage of Connelly, helps to illustrate what Illinois judges look at when considering a request to modify support. The parents in this case divorced in 2015. Under a joint parenting agreement (JPA) approved by both sides, the mother became the residential parent, with the father receiving certain visitation or parenting time rights. A subsequent marital settlement agreement (MSA) required the father to pay 28 percent of his income as child support.

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Naperville child support attorney

Child support obligations do not always end when a minor turns 18. In Illinois, the law also provides for non-minor support obligations. Specifically, a parent may be required to make certain “contributions” toward their adult child’s college expenses. Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act authorizes a judge to make such orders. Unless the parents agree otherwise, the court will not order parents to support their child’s education past their 23rd birthday. (In exceptional circumstances, this may be extended to the child’s 25th birthday.) In this context, educational expenses include not only tuition but also housing, medical, and other “reasonable” living expenses. That said, a parent is not obligated to pay the full cost of an out-of-state private school. Illinois law caps a parent’s total obligations based on the current in-state tuition and room and board rates used by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Contributions to College Savings Plans Do Not Reduce Obligations 

A recent decision from the Illinois Second District Appellate Court, In re Marriage of Wilhelmsen, illustrates how Section 513 of the IMDMA can be applied in practice. This case involved the parents of three children. The parents divorced in 2013. At the time of divorce, the parents entered into a marital settlement agreement (MSA), which was approved by the court as part of the final decree. Under the MSA, both parents agreed to share their children’s college expenses under Section 513. Separately, the father agreed that he would pay approximately $79,000 in back-owed support to all three children’s college savings (Section 529) plans.

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