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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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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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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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