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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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Bolingbrook divorce attorney spousal support

A cheating or unfaithful spouse can put a huge strain on a marriage, and in many cases, one from which the marriage cannot recover. If your spouse has been unfaithful to you, you may understandably be angry and upset, and if you have cheated on your spouse, you may feel shame and regret. Beyond these emotional struggles, you and your spouse will likely face the difficult decision as to whether you should divorce in the aftermath of infidelity. If you do decide to proceed with legally ending your marriage, you should be aware of how the unfaithfulness can factor into the outcome.

Understanding the Impact of Adultery on a Divorce

Infidelity will almost certainly have some effect on the way you and your spouse go about the divorce proceedings, but it may not always have as much of an impact as you might expect. Some things to keep in mind about infidelity when going through your divorce include:

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DuPage County divorce attorney mediation

The stereotypical depiction of divorce is often more fiction than fact. You have likely seen couples in movies screaming at each other from across an empty courtroom as a judge tries to get control over the proceedings. While this may be the case for divorcing couples who have a complex, contentious relationship, most spouses keep things out of the courtroom. Before making a decision on how you would like to pursue your divorce case, you should be aware of your legal options in Illinois. In order to appeal to the varying dynamics between divorcing couples, many law firms offer a variety of divorce resolutions.

Divorce Mediation

For couples who are splitting amicably and have productive communication skills, mediation is a good option. This form of alternative dispute resolution allows the spouses to work together to create their own, unique divorce agreement, without court intervention. A third-party mediator will be present throughout the process to keep things on track while remaining neutral to both spouses. They will not advocate on behalf of either party but will be well-versed in divorce law and the details of divorce agreements. Both spouses should show the agreement to their own individual attorneys before signing to ensure neither party is benefiting significantly from the agreement. 

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Naperville divorce attorney parenting plan

If you are considering divorce and have children with your spouse, you may be wondering how things will be handled if you do decide to split. Not all divorcing couples experience contention in their parental relationship; some simply lose their romantic connection after some time together. Regardless of how amicable your relationship is, you are required to create a parenting plan according to Illinois divorce laws. Co-parenting can be difficult, especially with someone who you have legally divorced. This parenting plan will help guide you and your spouse with your future parenting arrangements and decisions, especially if you do not stay on friendly terms forever.

Illinois Requirements

Parenting plans are fairly customizable to fit each family’s unique needs; however, there are a few issues that are required to be addressed in an Illinois plan. The first topic that must be outlined is parental responsibilities. Divorcing parents must designate a custodial parent, or primary caregiver, and non-custodial parent. You should also detail who will be doing what, including each parent’s ability to make education, healthcare, and extracurricular activity decisions. Parenting plans will also include a detailed schedule, known as parenting time, which notes who will be caring for the child each day of the week. Each family’s parenting time arrangement will differ, with some choosing a more equal division and others having one parent be the primary parent. You must also include information about how you will handle disagreements on your parenting plan. Most parents will turn to mediation to avoid spending time in court, but if a history of abuse is present, this may not be applicable. One of the last required areas in an Illinois parenting plan is how to handle the relocation. If one parent wishes to relocate with his or her child out of state, he or she will need permission from the other parent, or the court, to do so.

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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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Wheaton Courthouse divorce attorney parenting time

Many people have experienced a long-distance relationship at some point in their life. Maybe you dated your high school sweetheart through college or perhaps you frequently traveled for business throughout your marriage. The most common consensus about long-distance relationships: They can be difficult to maintain. For divorced parents, living apart from their child can be a challenge, even if it is just down the street. For those who have relocated across the country, co-parenting might feel impossible. While you may not be able to see your child on a daily basis, it is still possible to remain an integral part of his or her life. Regardless of your location, and with a little extra effort, you can begin to close the gap even from afar.

Put Things in Writing

As a long-distance parent, it is even more important to have your legal rights listed. All divorcing parents must create a parenting plan, which they are able to adjust the details over the years as things undoubtedly change. Be sure to update your parenting plan with your co-parent before moving thousands of miles away. You should outline when you will see your child so that you can enforce the terms if necessary. This includes special considerations for holidays and school vacations. Travel costs can get fairly steep, so it may be easier for you to visit your child rather than have him or her fly to you.

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Will County divorce attorney spousal maintenance

When it comes to paying spousal support or maintenance (alimony), a common question is, “What happens if my ex remarries or starts living with someone else?” Do you still have to pay alimony in this situation? Under Illinois law, the remarriage of a former spouse receiving alimony automatically terminates the paying spouse’s obligations, unless the divorce settlement or judgment specifies otherwise. Even if the receiving spouse does not formally remarry, but instead starts “cohabitating” with another person, the paying spouse can still seek a court order terminating spousal maintenance. But keep in mind, unlike with remarriage, cohabitation does not automatically end alimony obligations.

Appellate Court Finds “Friends with Benefits” Relationship Not Enough to End Alimony

Indeed, just because you believe your ex is now involved in a “de facto” marriage with someone else, that may not be enough to convince a judge. Take this recent decision from the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court, In re Marriage of Blue. This case involves a couple that divorced in 2015. A marital settlement agreement between the parties required the former husband to pay the former wife $1,200 per month in alimony. The agreement followed Illinois law and specified that spousal maintenance would terminate if the former wife “cohabited with another person on a resident, continuing, or conjugal basis.”

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Will County asset division attorney

Retirement accounts are frequently among the most important assets involved in an Illinois divorce case. If pension benefits are earned by either spouse during the course of a marriage, they are considered marital property. So in the event of a divorce, a judge may issue a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which enables the division and transfer of retirement funds without incurring any legal penalties.

Appeals Court: Divorce Settlement Did Not Refer to Former Husband’s Disability Pay

A recent decision from the Illinois First District Appellate Court raised an interesting question related to divorce and retirement benefits–namely, does a QDRO affecting a former spouse’s pension also apply to any pre-retirement disability benefits they receive?
The facts of this case, In re Marriage of Sullivan, are fairly straightforward. A husband and wife divorced after nearly 13 years of marriage. During the marriage, the husband acquired pension benefits through several plans. Based on a marital settlement agreement (MSA) negotiated between the parties, a Cook County judge entered a QDRO, giving the wife 50 percent of all listed pensions.
After the judge entered the order and the divorce was final, the now-former husband applied for Social Security Disability insurance benefits. This was necessary so that he could also receive long-term disability benefits under his pension plans. When the former wife learned of this, she went back to court, arguing that she was also entitled to 50 percent of the disability benefits. The former husband argued the MSA and QDRO only applied to retirement benefits, not disability.
The courts sided with the former husband. The First District, affirming a Cook County judge’s prior ruling, noted that the “absence of an express or even implied reference to disability or disability benefits” strongly suggested that the “parties did not contemplate benefits at the time of dissolution.” Indeed, the agreement and QDRO only intended for the former wife to share in the former husband’s “retirement benefits.
The way that disability works, the former husband will receive those disability benefits until he reaches his normal retirement age of 65, at which point those benefits convert into the pension. So as the appeals court explained, had the former husband “never become disabled, he would not be receiving any payments” from his disability plan.

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Naperville legal separation attorney

Here is a common question regarding divorce in Illinois: If I divorce my spouse, can he or she still inherit property under my will? The short answer is that if you did not bother to change your will after the divorce–and you really should–then any language naming your ex-spouse as a beneficiary or executor is automatically invalidated. The remainder of your will remains valid; the law simply acts as if your former spouse had predeceased you. Of course, you are always free to sign a new post-divorce will naming your ex-spouse as a beneficiary or executor; this rule only applies to pre-divorce wills. If a person dies without a will, his or her estate is subject to distribution under Illinois intestacy law. Intestacy usually provides that the surviving spouse will inherit all or part of the estate, depending on whether or not the deceased had any children or heirs. But as with the rules governing wills, a former spouse’s right to intestate succession ends with the entry of a divorce judgment.

Property Settlement Waives Husband’s Rights to Inherit from Wife’s Estate

A less common question is what happens in the event of a legal separation? Although a separation involves many of the same formalities as a divorce, the parties remain legally married. So what happens when one spouse dies during the separation? Does the surviving spouse still have inheritance rights?
In some cases, the parties will already have a property settlement in place to address such contingencies. Take this recent decision from the Illinois Second District Appellate Court, In re Estate of Holms. This case involved a husband and wife who legally separated in 2017. At the time, an Illinois judge approved a judgment of legal separation that incorporated a property settlement agreement (PSA). Among other provisions, the PSA included a “release of claims,” which states the spouses “mutually release and forever discharge each other from all…claims against each other’s property,” except as otherwise provided for in the PSA or the court’s legal separation judgment.
The wife passed away in May 2018. She did not have a will. The husband then claimed he still had the right to inherit from her estate under Illinois intestacy law. The wife’s daughter filed an objection. She insisted the PSA’s release of claims barred the husband from inheriting anything from the wife’s estate.
A Lake County judge sided with the husband, holding that nothing in the PSA “referenced the possibility of death or clearly indicated the intent to surrender or waive” the surviving spouse’s inheritance rights. The daughter appealed this decision. The Second District took her side, holding that “the language of the judgment for legal separation and the PSA is susceptible to only one reasonable interpretation,” namely that the spouses “intended to waive all interest in each other’s property, including any spousal inheritance rights.” Put another way, the PSA was a “final settlement as to all property rights as a result of the marriage.”

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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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Bolingbrook child custody attorney parental relocation

It is not uncommon for one parent to move out of state following a divorce from the other parent. But when it comes to relocating with a minor child, an Illinois court must first determine if such a relocation is in the child’s best interests. Illinois law establishes a list of factors for the court to consider, including the circumstances and reasons for the relocation, the child’s educational opportunities at the new location, and whether the court can fashion a reasonable parenting plan if the move is allowed.

Illinois Court Reconsiders Earlier Decision to Deny Mother’s Request for Relocation

The parent seeking relocation bears the burden of proving that a proposed move will benefit the child. No parent should ever relocate under the assumption that the court will simply allow him or her to take the child along. In addition, should a court decide to reject a proposed relocation, the parent’s options for appeal can prove quite limited.

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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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Naperville divorce attorney judgment order

Divorce cases in Illinois often take many months--and sometimes years--to fully resolve. During this time, it is possible that one spouse may pass away. If this happens, what effect does it have on the divorce case? For example, can the surviving spouse enforce a property division order against the deceased spouse’s estate?

Deceased Husband Owes Wife $25,000 for Misconduct in Divorce Case

A March 2020 decision from the Illinois Third District Appellate Court, In Re Estate of Strong, addressed the rights of a person to assert a creditor claim against the estranged spouse’s estate. In this case, the husband and wife married in Germany in 1986. The husband returned alone to the United States in 2013 and filed for divorce in Illinois a year later. When the wife failed to respond, the Illinois court granted the husband a default judgment of divorce.

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Naperville child support attorney

Child support is considered a legal obligation. This type of financial support is used for a minor child’s basic needs, such as food and clothing. In some cases, it may also go toward housing, transportation, activities, and medical costs. When an Illinois court order requires a parent to pay child support, that order becomes an enforceable judgment in their divorce or child custody case. Like any civil judgment, failure to pay can lead to consequences, including an assessment of interest. According to the Appeals Court, interest is calculated based on when the parent stopped paying, not when the judge calculates how much money is owed. 

Calculating Interest 

A recent decision from the Illinois First District Appellate Court, In Re Marriage of Gloria Westlund, helps to illustrate how interest on unpaid child support works in this state. This case involved a couple that obtained a divorce in 2009. At the time, the parties had one minor child. The final divorce awarded the parents joint custody but named the mother as the custodial parent. The order also required the father, as the non-custodial parent, to pay child support.

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Will County child support attorney

There are many circumstances that can lead to a divorce, and every situation is unique. Illinois divorce law makes it somewhat easy to justify your reason for wanting to legally end your marriage. Citing irreconcilable differences is the only grounds for divorce in Illinois. However, nothing about divorce feels that simple when you are going through it, so having the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney can make the proceedings less intimidating. As you are preparing to file, it is important to consider the several routes that a no-fault divorce can take.

Illinois’ Divorce Laws

In Illinois, you do not have to find fault with your spouse to legally justify your reason for wanting a divorce. In the past, you would have to prove that your spouse was adulterous, an alcoholic, abusive, or engaging in other harmful behaviors. Since Illinois is a no-fault state, you can file at any time and get divorced in a fairly quick manner if both you and your spouse consent to the terms of the settlement. Your divorce decree will contain information on spousal support, property division, as well as child support and parenting time if you have children. 

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Plainfield parenting time attorney

When most people get married, they intend the union to last a lifetime. However, that is not always the case due to various reasons. Statistics show that between 40 and 50 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. In some cases, infidelity, abuse, financial or cultural differences can put a significant strain on a relationship, causing it to break down. Spouses may try counseling to save their marriage, but in many cases, it might be too little, too late, ultimately leading to the difficult decision to part ways. When a couple has children together, there are many issues that need to be resolved before the divorce can be finalized in Illinois. This includes the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, formerly known as child custody and visitation. Divorce typically requires an adjustment period for everyone involved, but an experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process.  

Creating an Effective Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines important matters that affect any children in a divorce, including how those decisions will be made. This plan also includes a parenting time schedule, which specifies what days of the week each parent sees his or her children. 

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