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shutterstock_373550518.jpg If you feel that your relationship with your spouse is ending, you may be ready to terminate your marriage. Choosing to divorce a spouse is not easy, and most partners conduct lots of research before making this life-changing decision. Spouses may look into the cost of divorce, how to divide shared property, and use testimonies from other divorced couples to understand the divorce process. However, just like each couple, every divorce differs in many ways. 

Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Illinois 

Divorces can come in many forms. The most common distinction between divorces is whether the process is contested or uncontested. In a contested divorce, spouses will disagree over an aspect or multiple aspects of the divorce outcome. For example, a contested divorce could include a husband and wife in complete disagreement over who will remain living in the shared family home. On the other hand, an uncontested divorce is typically collaborative, and the spouses work together to form a mutual divorce agreement. In an uncontested divorce, there likely won’t be much fighting or disagreement. 

Due to the lack of contention, uncontested divorces can be resolved without significant litigation, making uncontested divorces much less expensive than other forms of divorce resolution. 

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dupage county divorce lawyer Separation before a divorce can be confusing for many reasons. While you are still legally married, you and your partner may live apart. Your partnership may feel more like a series of legal obligations to sort through before your divorce is finalized. While being separated allows couples to begin independent lives as single individuals, spouses still have legal obligations to one another. Partners must make many decisions during separation, including how to remain financially afloat. 

Who Pays the Bills?

Illinois courts will attempt to maintain the status quo when deciding who pays which bills throughout the divorce process. Essentially, this means that whatever the strategy was for paying the bills before separation will be maintained. For example, if your spouse would typically pay the mortgage payments, and you would pay for the cars, this payment schedule is expected to be maintained throughout the separation. 

Maintaining the status quo for bill payments throughout separation is beneficial because it helps prevent unnecessary contention between spouses. As the divorce process unfolds, couples may argue over various decisions, such as child care, property division, and debt allocation. By enforcing each spouse to maintain the bills they were capable of paying before separation, family units will have one less task to consider.

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naperville divorce lawyerThe divorce process opens the door to new discussions for partners. It can be challenging to know how to navigate the many gray areas uncovered throughout a divorce, such as how much spousal support will be awarded, who will stay living in the shared family home, and which financial assets belong to each respective spouse. One common question posed during a divorce is how to pay bills during the marriage dissolution process. In short, the answer to this question is that it depends. There are a few key distinctions to consider when deciding how to pay family bills during the divorce process. 

Consideration One — Joint and Separate Assets  

In Illinois, whoever owns the financial asset, whether a mortgage or other payment, is responsible for maintaining that payment, even throughout a divorce. If you and your partner share the deed to the house, you are both responsible for paying the mortgage until the divorce is finalized. Couples should consider which assets are individually owned and which are shared to create a plan for maintaining those bills throughout a divorce. 

Consideration Two — How are the Bills Already Split?

How are bills currently split between you and your partner? Do you both have a system that is working for you? Has one partner decided to stop paying their portion of bills? Has either of you had a change in income or job status? 

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shutterstock_298029158.jpgChoosing to divorce your spouse is a difficult decision. There are various reasons that couples make the final decision to dissolve their marriage, from infidelity to unmatched values. Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, which means that spouses do not need to express the reasoning behind the divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the only grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences. 

Defining Irreconcilable Differences

When things are irreconcilable, they are unable to be made compatible. In divorce terms, irreconcilable differences refer to couples being completely incompatible and unable to resolve their differences. This is an overarching term used to describe the many reasons that couples argue, leading to a divorce. For example, in a state with fault-based divorce, infidelity may be listed as the grounds for divorce. However, infidelity and other marital miscouduct usually has little bearing on the outcome of an Illinois divorce.

Illinois law on the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act describes irreconcilable differences as meeting these four criteria:

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shutterstock_1040307988.jpgThroughout a marriage, couples wind up sharing virtually everything from a house to bank accounts. When spouses decide to make the difficult decision to file for divorce and dissolve their marriage, they must discuss how to divide this shared marital property. They may consult a divorce attorney to discuss who will remain in the family home, which spouse will receive most parenting time or custody of the children, and how debt payments will be divided and paid off. Most people focus on these big-ticket items. However, many other types of overlooked shared marital property are essential to consider when filing for divorce

Pets

Spouses may overlook pets when considering how to divide shared marital property during a divorce. Although pets may feel like family members, pets are considered property in Illinois. Before 2018, when deciding who gets what during a divorce, pets were treated the same as any other type of property. The court did not award joint ownership or make “pet custody” arrangements. New provisions enacted after 2018 allow spouses to create joint ownership agreements for pets and consider the pets’ best interests.

Airline and Travel Points 

Credit cards and shared debts are often considered in divorce proceedings. However, many people tend to push aside included assets, such as airline mileage points. If both spouses shared a credit card or had shared expenses and debts, they will also share the incentives, such as travel points. 

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naperville divorce lawyerMost people believe that a divorce attorney is only necessary for a contested, highly volatile divorce. This theory is often portrayed in the media, from high-profile celebrity divorce cases to movies that depict lawyers fighting for their clients in court. Although attorneys can be used in contested situations or to help provide mediation between parties, divorce law can cover a variety of situations, including uncontested divorces. Even when both spouses agree about divorce issues like property division and parental responsibilities, a lawyer can help facilitate the process, file the correct documents with the court, and ensure the marriage dissolution is completed correctly. 

What Can a Divorce Attorney Do For Me? 

Many life-changing decisions are made during a divorce. While these choices may be challenging for some couples, some spouses can agree quickly. In an uncontested divorce, spouses can agree on issues such as who will remain in the shared family home, how financial assets will be divided, and who gets the majority of parenting time if the couple shares children. Even if there are no negotiations or mediation necessary between spouses, an attorney is helpful. A divorce lawyer can:

  • Help spouses complete the paperwork to file for divorce in a no-fault divorce state 

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naperville divorce lawyerEvery divorce is different and unique to the family undergoing marriage dissolution. When spouses cannot agree upon these decisions together, there are many different routes that families can take to complete a divorce, such as mediation between spouses. During a divorce, litigation is usually seen as a last resort. Litigation can be intimidating, time-consuming, and expensive. If a settlement is not reached, litigation will move to trial.   

The Reason Why Divorce Cases Move to Trial

The main reason divorces move to trial is because spouses are unable to reach an agreement about one or more divorce issues. A trial will leave the decision-making to the court, not the spouses themselves. Many decisions made during a divorce are problematic because they drastically change the family dynamic moving forward. For example, many couples will disagree regarding child custody and visitation arrangements or ownership of shared marital property. Firm disagreement over divorce issues results in a contested divorce

Three Steps to Prepare for Trial

Litigation, especially during divorce cases, can be nerve-racking. The idea that decisions will be left for a judge to decide makes many individuals feel uncertain about their futures. It is critical to work alongside a skilled divorce attorney who can advocate on your behalf during the divorce trial. Here are three steps to take to maximize your chances of a favorable divorce outcome:

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naperville child custody lawyerIt can seem like a nightmare scenario when your ex-spouse withholds visitation or parenting time with your children. However, there are many legal avenues that a parent can take to ensure they receive their fair share of parenting time with their children. Typically, the allocation of parenting responsibilities and parenting time is detailed in the divorce agreement — a legally binding document. Since the divorce decree is a court order, spouses must uphold it. If either spouse or parent chooses to breach the terms in a divorce decree, they can face significant consequences. 

Option 1: Mediation

Sometimes, parents need to reevaluate the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time and make modifications to their Parenting Plan. Parents may be able to reach an agreement about parenting time and parental responsibilities through mediation. Alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation offer ways to handle legal issues without going directly to a court judge. Mediation involves a neutral third party to assist parents in resolving legal matters. 

If you and an ex-spouse are having trouble sticking to the custody, parenting, or visitation plan outlined in your divorce agreement, a mediator may be able to help. Seeking mediation rather than court intervention could save you time and money. However, mediation only works if both parents are willing to communicate. Mediation is appropriate for parents looking for a trained individual to help facilitate negotiation. However, mediation is not helpful if there is contempt between spouses, ongoing refusal to adhere to the parenting plan, or if a parent suspects abuse or neglect by the other parent. 

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naperville child support lawyerWhen couples that have children together decide to file for a divorce, many challenging questions arise regarding how to continue raising and supporting the children. These questions include who will retain the majority of parenting time, where the children will live, how parents will divide custody and visitation time, and which parent will be required to pay child support. Child support is the amount of financial assistance that the parent with less parenting time will pay to the parent with the greater amount of parenting time. These payments are usually a part of a divorced couple's divorce agreement, and they are calculated using the Income Shares Model to ensure both parents' financial situations are being considered. 

Using the Income Shares Method for Child Support Calculation 

The Income Shares Model is a financial tool used to calculate child support payments in a way that is equitable and fair. The court will weigh both spouses' individual incomes and financial responsibilities against each other to determine how much child support to award the parent with the majority of parenting time. 

Parents can understand the Income Shared Method by breaking it into five key steps: 

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shutterstock_704183452.jpgMany elements of the divorce process are complicated and stressful. When spouses choose to dissolve their marriage, they must make many decisions regarding children, shared property, and finances. These agreements made between spouses during the divorce process can be life-changing, leading to contention between families. Suppose both spouses are looking to work together during the divorce process. In that case, there are Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options to help facilitate a smooth divorce and transition into a new phase of life, one being collaborative divorce between spouses. 

Understanding Collaborative Divorce 

A common issue that arises during the dissolution of a marriage is disagreement between spouses. Conflict can occur for various reasons, including the inability to agree on the division of property, tension regarding the allocation of parenting responsibilities, or poor communication between partners. Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR) are intended to give couples options for resolving disagreements without litigation. Litigation is more expensive and time-consuming, leading to another layer of stress for divorcing couples. Some common ADRs include mediation, arbitration, or collaborative divorce. 

Collaborative divorce is best for couples who wish to work together but have trouble agreeing on specific aspects of their divorce plan. Each couple will have their own divorce attorney separate from their spouse to represent individual interests during this dispute resolution process. However, both attorneys will work together to form an agreement without going before a judge. Typically, these negotiations are informal. Each partner's legal representation will advocate coming to a mutual understanding on a spouse's behalf.

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shutterstock_605213087-1.jpg Legal separation from a spouse is a legal term that refers to spouses who choose to place their relationship on pause. Separating from your partner does not mean that your marriage is over. Often, spouses will decide to separate to maintain their marriage but place some distance between each other to work through marital issues. Other times, religious or cultural beliefs prohibit a divorce, so separation is the best option. A legal separation will require spouses to follow a few key steps to ensure both partners receive equal treatment regardless of a couple's reasons behind separating. 

Divorce Versus Separation — The Difference 

Filing for and completing the divorce process includes dissolving the marriage and ending the relationship entirely. Separation does not end the marriage. There are a few main differences between how the court handles divorce and separation. In a divorce, the court may divide shared marital assets if the spouses cannot reach an agreement. There is no division of shared assets during a separation unless both partners explicitly ask the court to do so and agree to property division terms. 

Often, this is a significant reason why spouses choose to separate rather than divorce. Legal separation allows the couple to keep shared financial interests such as retirement plans, health insurance, or family businesses intact.

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naperville divorce lawyerMany difficult decisions are made during a divorce, one of which is choosing who will remain in the family home. Like many other legal questions, the answer to who gets the house relies heavily on a divorce's unique circumstances. Spouses must consider many factors to decide who will remain in the home, including addressing legal ownership, how much money each spouse makes individually, and if there are children or pets involved. With the help of experienced legal counsel, spouses can take a few steps during their divorce to address ownership of the home

Negotiation and Mediation 

The first way to address who will retain residence in the shared family home is through communicating directly. An open line of communication between both partners is advantageous. However, the dissolution of a relationship can cause tension between spouses, leading to a contested divorce. If both spouses can not agree on a decision as to who will remain in the home, there is a legal tool known as mediation that can help assist the situation. Mediation is where a neutral third party joins the conversation between the spouses to help negotiate. A mediator might help a couple decide by considering:

 Which spouse has the majority of parenting time or custody with the children

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naperville divorce lawyerLike any divorce process, divorcing during retirement has its unique challenges and hurdles. Divorces alone can be complicated, especially if the couple has been married for an extended time. Spouses wind up sharing many financial assets throughout a marriage, including retirement pensions and other savings accounts. An individual might be entitled to their spouse's retirement plans even if there was no contribution on that individual's end. When divorcing during or after retirement, spouses must be vigilant in protecting their savings to ensure financial health for their future. 

Protecting Your Retirement Plans

Individuals typically open retirement plans such as a 401(k) or an IRA when preparing for retirement. These are considered financial assets, which could be divided equally between two spouses during a divorce. Pension benefits from a spouse's career may also be regarded as a shared marital asset and divided equally between both partners. According to Illinois law, retirement plans, including pension, are often considered shared marital property and must be divided as such. In a no-fault divorce state such as Illinois, the court emphasizes the equitable division of finances and other property. If you are considering or actively pursuing a divorce and wish to have your retirement plan and pension separated from your spouse, it is in your best interest to work alongside an experienced attorney who can help you understand ownership of retirement assets and how best to divide assets between you and your spouse. 

Will My Spouse Split my Social Security Check?

At the age of 62, Illinois residents can collect social security benefits. Depending on how long you and your spouse were married and the amount of social security your spouse collected, you may be entitled to social security benefits based on your spouse’s employment history. Typically, spouses married for ten years or longer may be entitled to the higher-earning spouse's social security. 

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naperville child support lawyerThere are many reasons why parents choose not to pay child support payments. Whether a parent doesn’t feel the child support order is justified, or a financial loss makes it hard to maintain payments, real legal consequences follow nonpayment of child support. After the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more parents found themselves in tight financial situations, causing difficulty paying child support. To avoid legal penalties for avoiding child support payments, parents in a tight financial situation can follow a legal modification process to change their child support order.

Legal Consequences

Child support orders are written as part of a divorce decree. The divorce decree is a legal document drafted for spouses after a divorce. Parents choosing not to pay child support are breaking a legal document and can face severe penalties. 

If a parent is not paying child support, the recipient parent may contact the Illinois Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) to enforce the child support order. After six months of avoiding child support payments, or after over $5,000 in outstanding child support has accumulated, the DCSS may choose to submit a prosecution request to the obligor parent through the state. 

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shutterstock_1934029718.jpgSeparating from a spouse and filing for a divorce is difficult, but creating a successful co-parenting plan can help alleviate quite a bit of stress. It is helpful to outline parenting time and child custody before completing a divorce agreement so that there is little confusion for the parents and children. Using mediation, hiring a trusted divorce attorney, and even seeking therapeutic help can contribute to a successful parenting plan that keeps everyone's best interest in mind. Below are three steps that parents can follow to create a co-parenting plan in Illinois. 

Make Custody Decisions First

Divorce decrees, which often include parenting plans, are legal documents that must be upheld. Illinois parents are asked to create a parenting plan that describes where the children will live and how much parenting time a parent will receive. They will also describe how major decisions about the child’s life will be handled including where the child goes to school or what types of medical care the child receives. 

In Illinois, divorcing parents with children must decide which partner the children will stay with primarily. Spouses can create joint-custody agreements that allow for both parents to maintain an active role in the children's lives. Typically, one parent will receive the majority of parenting time, which means the children will primarily live with that parent. Child custody decisions can help the parents make decisions about asset division. For example, the parent with the majority of parenting time may stay in the home to keep the children in a familiar environment.

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shutterstock_1329029675-1.jpgThe divorce process can be grueling. Between the long hours debating finances with your spouse, finding a new residence during a separation, or determining child custody arrangements divorce is stressful and time-consuming. It can be a difficult decision to decide to divorce a spouse, but there are ways to help make the process a bit easier. Divorce attorneys are available to assist spouses during a marriage dissolution, and they are there to help you with a lot more than just filing paperwork. 

Mediation

During a divorce, couples must agree upon multiple financial and personal decisions. Often, these decisions are difficult and it is hard for both parties to come to a consensus. A divorce attorney can help assist a couple through what is known as divorce mediation. This process involves assigning a neutral third party who can act as a mediator between both spouses when coming to an agreement. Many family law attorneys are also trained in mediation and may be able to act as a mediator between both spouses. 

Contested Divorce Litigation 

Divorce attorneys handle divorce proceedings in a variety of ways depending on the nature of the situation. Litigation is typically a last-resort option for couples going through a divorce. Appearing in court to fight for rights during a divorce is usually a product of a contested divorce, or a marriage dissolution that can not be agreed upon. Contested divorces may occur for different reasons including a partner refusing a divorce or the inability to agree on the terms of the divorce. During this process, your attorney will be your advocate and representative. 

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How Long Does an Illinois Divorce Take?

Posted on in Divorce

Naperville divorce lawyerWhen deciding that it is time for a divorce, many couples wish to speed up the process. Ending a marriage is not only an incredibly emotionally trying time, but it is also physically and financially difficult. Sometimes, divorces take months or years, which only increases the level of mental distress for both parties. There are many factors that can determine how long a divorce in Illinois will take, including the number of joint assets, children, and contested decisions. 

The Divorce Process

The process of getting a divorce may be different for every couple. There are many decisions to be made including how to divide assets or who will receive majority parenting time with the children. In Illinois, it is not necessary to provide the court with documentation of your spouse’s wrongdoings because of the state’s no-fault divorce laws. This means that despite infidelity, mistreatment, or other mistakes your partner made that led you to a divorce, Illinois is only interested in dissolving your marriage equitably and typically will not factor in those circumstances. 

Couples proceeding to divorce must:

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naperville retirement plan division lawyerDuring a marriage, couples share virtually everything from a home, to cars, to children. Property division can be a difficult, and often contested, hurdle to overcome during a divorce. Many times, physical property holds an important or sentimental value to you and your family, and it can be hard to decide who gets what during a divorce. It is important to protect each party’s financial wellbeing during a divorce, and this often includes dividing retirement plans. 

Understanding Your Retirement Plan and Marital Property

Any retirement plan strategies financial savings over the course of a person’s life to allow them the means to stay comfortable after retirement. It is fairly common for married couples to have retirement plans. As wealth is accumulated during a marriage and over the course of someone’s career, the money that is put into a retirement plan. Retirement funds accumulated by a spouse during the marriage are marital property to which both spouses have a right. When dividing assets during a divorce, this can be a tricky situation when deciding how much each spouse receives. Types of retirement plans can include:

  • Your 401(k)

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shutterstock_629079296.jpgThe decision to end a marriage can be both emotionally and physically taxing. Between child custody, property division, and spousal support, divorce orders can be very complicated. But what happens when a spouse contests a divorce? In a contested divorce, complications increase and conflicts tend to escalate. If your spouse and you disagree about how to handle divorce issues like asset division and child concerns, reach out to an experienced divorce attorney for help exploring your next options. 

What is a Contested Divorce?

In the state of Illinois, a contested divorce is defined as any disagreement or unwillingness during the divorce process. This can include:

  • Refusal to agree to divorce

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IL divorce lawyerWhile it will not be appropriate in every divorce case, there are some situations where one party will be required to pay spousal maintenance to the other. This form of financial support, which is commonly known as alimony, may be awarded in cases where one spouse earns a lower income than the other, where a spouse is a stay-at-home parent, or where a person would require assistance in order to maintain their accustomed standard of living. Once a spousal support order is created, financial support will need to be paid from one party to the other on an ongoing basis. However, following a couple’s divorce, situations may arise in which a spouse may believe that maintenance should be modified, or a person may request that their support obligations be terminated altogether.

Reasons for Modifying Spousal Maintenance

In most cases, spousal maintenance will be awarded for a fixed term that is determined based on the number of years the spouses were married. There are certain situations where a person may be ordered to pay maintenance indefinitely, including when a couple was married for at least 20 years. In some cases, maintenance may be reviewable, and after a certain period of time, the court may consider the circumstances of each party to determine whether payments should continue or whether they should be modified or terminated.

Requests to make changes to fixed-term or indefinite spousal maintenance will usually need to be based on changes in the circumstances of one or both parties. A change of circumstances must be substantial, and it will usually need to affect the financial needs of either party or impact a person’s ability to continue paying support to their ex-spouse. For example, if the person paying support experiences a disability that affects their employment, resulting in a lowered income, they may ask that for their spousal support obligations to be reduced or terminated. The payor may also ask for a reduction or elimination of support if they can show that their ex-spouse has begun earning a larger income and can fully support themselves without assistance.

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