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Cook County high conflict divorce lawyerIn the past, most spouses resolved their divorces in court through litigation. It was frequently a strenuous process, even for those in less contentious relationships. Today, collaborative divorce techniques provide an effective alternative to divorce litigation. While amiability can be helpful in reaching a satisfactory compromise on each issue, it is not necessary. Even warring spouses can avoid the stress and cost of litigation by using alternative dispute resolution methods that do not require them to work together directly. Attorney-facilitated negotiation and certain styles of mediation can work well for those who cannot hold a civil conversation or tolerate being in close proximity to their spouse. Resolving a divorce out of court is often in each party’s mutual interests, so it is often possible for spouses to come to an agreement. If you are interested in resolving your high-conflict divorce out of court, it is important to hire an attorney who is a skilled negotiator. 

Tips for Resolving a Contentious Divorce Out of Court 

Taking your case to litigation to spite one another is not likely to leave you in a more advantageous position than an uncontested divorce would unless your spouse truly will not participate in collaborative divorce in good faith. Tips for succeeding in reaching an agreement despite a high level of conflict include: 

  • Stay apart - Often, bringing spouses face to face raises the level of conflict and makes it less likely that a resolution will come about through collaborative divorce. It may be wiser to pursue a method of mediation or negotiation that does not involve being in the presence of your spouse or speaking with them directly. 

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Divorce Concerns for Long-Married Spouses

Posted on in Divorce

Cook County divorce lawyerWhen you have been married for a very long time, divorce can be a drastic change for you and your entire family. It can be challenging to go from being partnered to living solo after a long-lasting marriage. Yet for many spouses who divorce after decades of marriage, the divorce has been a long time coming. You may have felt that your marriage was no longer working out years ago, but delayed your divorce for a number of reasons. Some spouses wait until their children have flown the coop, or spend years separated without actually ending the marriage. 

There are specialized divorce concerns for older adults leaving long-term marriages. Everything from working out alimony to dividing substantial marital assets and untangling complex financial situations can be a little different. It is important to work with an experienced divorce attorney when you are seeking to end a lengthy marriage. 

Things to Think About When You Are Ending a Long Marriage

In a long-term marriage, you and your spouse likely settled into a pattern of life that is now changing. Some special concerns you should be aware of include: 

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Chicago divorce lawyerIt has become a common trope in movies and music to portray a wealthy person who gets married and subsequently divorced losing half of his—usually the subject is a man—property to his ex-spouse, regardless of the fact that he owned most of the same assets at the time of the marriage. While such a cliché situation is technically possible under the law in some states, the reality in Illinois is generally much different.

Fair Does Not Always Mean Equal

Property division following a divorce in Illinois can be rather complicated, as the law requires marital assets to be divided according to what is equitable and just. While this could result in a clean 50/50 split, there is no guarantee. Rather, the specific circumstances of the marriage, divorce, and expected post-divorce realities must be taken into account to determine the appropriate allocation of assets.

Yours, Mine, or Ours?

The other major point that television portrayals of divorce get tend to get wrong involves what property should and should not be subject to division. In Illinois, only assets that are considered to be part of the marital estate are to be included in the process, not absolutely everything owned by either spouse. The law provides that marital property is any property acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage with very limited exceptions for gifts and inheritances. Generally, this also means that any property that a spouse owned prior to the marriage is not part of the marital estate. There are ways that separate property may become marital property, and such situations can be very complex.

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Chicago family lawyerAs a divorced or single parent, you understand how challenging it can be to provide all the things your child needs to thrive. In an ideal situation, your child’s other parent would also be committed to helping, both financially and as an active participant in the child’s life. But what happens when you want to pursue opportunities that would force you to relocate to a new city or state with your child? Do you have the right to simply pick up and move? As with most issues of family law and co-parenting, the answer depends on the circumstances of your particular situation.

Evolving Laws

For many years, the laws in Illinois were fairly subjective about moving with your child. While there was no specific prohibition or distance limitations for an in-state move, if the move presented major obstacles to an existing custody or visitation order, it could potentially be challenged in court. An out-of-state move with a child subject to a custody or visitation order statutorily required the other parent’s consent or an overriding court order.

Thanks to changes in the law that were made a few years ago, the expectations and restrictions on moving with a child are now much clearer. As part of the update that transformed child custody into the allocation of parental responsibilities, lawmakers made the entire statute far easier to understand for all parties involved.

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chicago child custody lawyerParenting time” is the term used to describe the time that a parent looks after his or her child. During a divorce or child custody case, the parents are encouraged to reach an agreement about how to divide parenting time. If the parents cannot agree, the court will make a determination based on the child’s best interests.

Illinois courts generally assume that it is best for children to spend time with both of their parents. However, when there are safety concerns, the court may order a parenting time restriction. Supervised visitation is one of the most well-known parenting time restrictions, but it is just one of many different restrictions the court may enforce.   

When is Restricted Parenting Time Appropriate?

Every child custody decision made by an Illinois court prioritizes one factor above all else: the child’s best interests. Parenting time may be restricted if the court finds that unrestricted parenting time would seriously jeopardize the child’s physical, mental, or moral health or development. The court will hold a hearing in which the parents can explain their reasons for or against parenting time restrictions. Often, a guardian ad litem provides professional insight about what is in the child’s best interests during the hearing.

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shutterstock_1407722624.jpgIn many family law cases, one of the most important issues that will need to be addressed is how parents will share the costs of raising their children. To ensure that children’s needs will be met, child support orders will usually be created as part of a divorce or child custody case. Children have the right to receive financial support from both parents, and child support orders will ensure that the parent who provides the majority of the child care will be able to cover various child-related expenses. By understanding how the laws in Illinois address these matters, parents can ensure that child support payments will be calculated correctly.

Calculating Child Support Obligations Based on Shared Income

Illinois law provides guidelines for how child support obligations will be calculated, and these instructions will usually be followed by family court judges. There may be some situations where a judge may choose to deviate from the guidelines based on extraordinary circumstances, such as when children have special needs that require parents to share the costs of medical care or other forms of treatment. However, the guidelines will apply in most cases, and the method used to calculate child support is as follows:

  1. Each parent’s net income is determined by taking the gross income they earn and deducting allowable expenses, including taxes, spousal maintenance (alimony) payments, and child support for children from a previous relationship.

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Chicago divorce lawyer for marriage problemsWhile every marriage is different, and the paths that couples take will vary, experts have identified five signs that can show that a divorce may be likely. For many, it can be hard to see some of these signs without taking a step back to reflect. If you are considering a divorce but are unsure if the time has truly come, see if any of these red flags are appearing in your marriage.

Look for These Signs, Then Decide on Your Next Steps

It may be one or both partners who are causing marital strife, but the following challenges to any marriage may be difficult to overcome. Here are some warning signs to look for in your marriage:

  • You no longer express appreciation – The small acts of kindness may be the first to go in a relationship that is headed for an end. If a couple no longer shows appreciation or gratitude toward each other, this may be a sign that the relationship is slipping away.

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north shore divorce lawyerMoney and financial disagreements are common causes of marital discord. It is natural for these disagreements to carry over even once a divorce is inevitable. However, until the divorce decree is final, both spouses must refrain from frivolous spending that only benefits themselves and negatively impacts the joint marital assets that are to be equitably divided. You may have found out that your spouse bought an expensive new car or took a trip with the person they have been having an extramarital affair with. This type of wasteful spending is known as dissipation, and it can have repercussions during the divorce process.

Impact of Dissipation on a Divorce in Illinois

For wasteful spending to be considered dissipation, it must have occurred after the marriage has undergone an “irretrievable breakdown.” Illinois law limits claims to spending which occurred five years before the claim is made and three years from when the other spouse found out about the spending.

Dissipation occurs when money is used or spent in a way that only benefits one of the spouses. If it is a purchase that you disagree with but which is generally for the benefit of the family, it is unlikely to be ruled as dissipation of marital assets. Behaviors that can qualify as dissipation include:

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chicago parenting plan lawyerDuring a divorce involving minor children, significant decisions always surround the division of rights and responsibilities of each of the parents in the children’s lives. Illinois law requires a comprehensive parenting plan during a divorce to clearly describe the detailed responsibilities of each parent. An experienced attorney can help you negotiate a parenting plan that serves your children's best interests while also meeting your needs.

Components of a Parenting Plan

Here are components that should be included in a parenting plan. While the first two are the most important, all parts of the plan are required by law and can help remove subjectivity over future decisions the parents may face.

  • Parenting time schedule – This describes how the children’s time with each parent will be divided and the specific plan for days or weeks spent at each home.

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chicago divorce lawyerFor various reasons, the rate of divorce among couples over the age of 50 continues to grow. While many divorces have specific characteristics in common, some issues become more pronounced for older couples. Child support and child custody arrangements may not be as common, but couples can face more significant challenges related to spousal support, division of marital property, retirement savings and Social Security, and complex financial situations.

Common Issues When Couples Divorce Near Retirement

With the complexities that older couples face, it is essential that you work with an attorney who is experienced in dealing with gray divorces and the issues they may face. Here are some of the more common issues to consider during your divorce.

Retirement savings and Social Security – For couples approaching retirement, assets such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and pensions take on greater importance. The portion of the retirement funds acquired during the marriage are divided equitably during a divorce, not solely to the spouse who earned or contributed to the accounts. Divorced parties may also be entitled to Social Security benefits based on their ex’s work history. However, your marriage must have lasted for at least ten years, and the benefits are not eligible to be divided until two years after your divorce is finalized.

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Chicago postnuptial agreement lawyerYou may be familiar with prenuptial agreements and their role in keeping assets separate as a couple enters marriage. Less well-known is the postnuptial agreement. Like a prenup, it can be an excellent way to protect individual assets, including property, life insurance considerations, and financial responsibilities. For a postnuptial agreement to be enforceable, it should be something that both spouses agree on. Working with a family law attorney before entering into any postnuptial agreement is also recommended.

What Are the Benefits of a Postnuptial Agreement?

A postnuptial agreement can:

  • Protect significant individual wealth - For partners who brought considerable wealth into a marriage, such as a business, real estate property, or retirement savings, those assets can be kept separate from the marital estate in the postnuptial agreement. A postnuptial agreement may also be a smart move for you and your spouse if one of you has recently experienced a significant financial change, including a large inheritance or gift, or has recently acquired valuable property.
  • Protect a spouse from the risks of the other spouse’s business venture - If one spouse starts a new business during the marriage, they may want to insulate their marriage assets from any debt the new business occurs. If the company were to fail, the agreement could protect the marital assets of the couple from being put at risk.
  • Safeguard assets if you are considering divorce - For couples who are having marital difficulties but who have not yet begun the divorce process, a postnuptial agreement can be used to safeguard certain assets that were brought into the marriage by each individual. However, you cannot make arrangements for child custody or child support in the agreement. Those decisions can only be made during the legal divorce proceedings.

How Is a Postnuptial Agreement Used in an Illinois Divorce?

If your marriage does end in a divorce, the judge will use a postnuptial agreement as the basis for property division as long as it is fair and both parties entered into the agreement in good faith. Since Illinois is an equitable distribution state, marital assets and property will be divided fairly, not evenly, between the spouses. Therefore, any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement will set a framework for the judge’s decision, but the final division of property is up to their discretion.

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Chicago alimony attorneyWhen a marriage is ended, some of the most far-reaching decisions revolve around finances and assets. Without a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the two parties or the judge must agree on whether alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, will be paid by one spouse to the other. There are different factors to determine whether alimony will be paid, how much the payments will be, and how long the support will continue.

Spousal support is not a required part of the divorce agreement. There are three main avenues for one spouse to receive alimony in Illinois:

  • Through a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. This agreement can cover the amount of the payments, the length of payments, or simply if payments will occur.
  •  A settlement or agreement by the two parties during the divorce proceedings. This can be negotiated directly by the two parties in an uncontested divorce or by their attorneys during divorce negotiations.
  • A petition of the court by one of the parties.

Determining Whether Alimony Will be Paid

If there is no spousal support agreement in place, the following factors are taken into consideration when determining if spousal support is to be paid:

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Chicago divorce attorneyDivorce statistics can vary from source to source, but most sources estimate the divorce rate for first marriages to be between 40 and 50 percent. For second marriages, the divorce rate is closer to 70 percent. If you are getting divorced for the second time, you are not alone. While you may assume that you know what to expect in this divorce since you have been through it before, each case is different and there are often additional issues to consider in a second or third divorce. To ensure that you make the best decisions possible and avoid mistakes during your divorce case, work with an experienced divorce lawyer.

Property Division and Other Financial Concerns

Just as you did in your first divorce, you and your spouse will need to divide your shared assets and debts. You may have bought a home, made investments, taken out a loan, or made other financial decisions during your second marriage that you will need to address in your divorce case. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement or other marital agreement in place dictating property division, you and your spouse will need to either reach an out-of-court settlement or take the case to trial to divide your assets and debts.  An experienced divorce lawyer can help you explore your property division options and choose the option that makes the most sense given your particular situation.

Child-Related Matters in a Second Divorce

If you and your second spouse had children together, you will need to address the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Sometimes, spouses who were previously married have children from their previous marriages. You may have stepchildren that you have grown close to over the years. Unfortunately, stepparents do not have a right to parenting time with their stepchildren unless they have formally adopted the children.

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Chicago divorce lawyerFinancial issues are just one part of the marital relationship. However, financial concerns often eclipse other matters in a divorce case. A spouse’s income, debts, assets, and expenses influence almost every aspect of the divorce case. Child support, spousal support, and property division are all influenced by finances. This is why it is so crucial for divorcing spouses to ensure that financial disclosure is accurate and complete.

Some spouses try to manipulate the outcome of the divorce by lying about how much money they make or other financial information. If you are divorcing and believe that your spouse has fabricated financial information or soon will, take action now. You deserve a divorce outcome that is based on accurate financial information. A divorce lawyer experienced in complex financial concerns during divorce can protect your rights and help you take the next step.

Methods for Hiding Assets in Divorce

One of the most common ways that spouses try to gain an advantages by lying about finances is by hiding assets. A spouse may simply fail to list all the accounts and assets he or she has. Cryptocurrency, offshore accounts, or businesses may be vehicles for hiding assets. Divorcing spouses may also hide assets by transferring the property to a friend or colleague. For example, a husband may transfer $10,000 to a friend under the guise of paying back a personal loan. This shields the money from division during divorce. After the divorce, the husband simply gets the money back from the friend. Spouses may also underreport the value of certain items. Antiques, fine art, jewelry, or collectables may be worth much more than the spouse claims the assets are worth. Businesses and professional practices may also be vulnerable to undervaluation during divorce.  Some spouses go so far as to physically hide property or cash to prevent the property from being divided during divorce.

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Park Ridge paternity lawyerBeing a parent comes with its own array of practical, financial, and sometimes, legal difficulties. If you are a mother or father in Cook County, you may have questions and concerns about paternity. Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and his child. In some cases, paternity is presumed by law and no further action is required to establish the legal father-child relationship. Other times, the parents will need to take certain actions to establish the rights and responsibilities that come with being a father.

You May Need to Take Action to Establish Paternity

If the mother and father were married when the child was conceived and/or born, paternity is presumed. This means that Illinois automatically assumes that the mother’s husband is the father of her baby. However, if the parents are unmarried, paternity may need to be established through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). Paternity can also be established through a court order or administrative order through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). Sometimes, DNA paternity testing is needed to confirm the father’s biological relationship to the child.

You May Not Be Able to Get Child Support Until You Establish Paternity

Raising a child is expensive. Illinois expects both parents to contribute to a child’s financial needs even if the parents are unmarried or divorced. If you are a parent who is not currently receiving child support but you want to get an official child support order, you will need to make sure paternity is established. Once paternity is established through one of the means listed above, you can petition the court for child support. Child support is calculated based on both parents’ net incomes.

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Park Ridge custody attorneyWhen parents divorce or unmarried parents break up, they will need to determine how to raise their children. In Illinois, the two main components of child custody are the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities. Understandably, many parents have strong opinions about how to handle parenting duties, childcare, and other child-related matters. When parents have different opinions, the situation can quickly escalate. What starts as a minor disagreement can turn into a full-blown custody battle.

If you are in a situation like this, know that you are not alone and that you have options. An experienced family law attorney knowledgeable in child custody matters can help you understand these options and take the next steps.  As you navigate the process, keep the following tips in mind: 

Educate Yourself About Illinois Child Custody Law

Each state handles child custody differently. In Illinois, divorcing parents are asked to create a “parenting plan.” This document describes how the parents will share parenting time (formerly called visitation) and parental responsibilities (decision-making authority over the child). There are over a dozen specific elements you must address in the parenting plan. Reading through this information can help you prepare a well-thought-out plan.

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Chicago divorce attorneyA divorce ends one chapter in life but offers the opportunity for a new chapter as well. If you are getting divorced, you may feel a mix of emotions. On one hand, you may be grieving the end of your marriage, but on the other hand, you may be excited about the prospect of dating again.

Many people going through a divorce wonder if it is okay to date other people while they are still technically married. While adults have the right to date whoever they want, dating during divorce can have unintended consequences.

What If I Meet Someone While I Am Still Technically Married?

In many cases, spouses lead separate lives long before they are officially separated or divorced. If you are like many people seeking divorce, you may have felt like your marriage ended months or even years ago. Consequently, you may be ready to start looking for a new romantic partner.

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Chicago divorce attorneyThere is no getting around the fact that a divorce will likely have a significant impact on the spouses’ finances. For some divorcing spouses, divorce represents the loss of their only source of income or financial support. Fortunately, divorcing spouses in Illinois may qualify for alimony, or as it is called in Illinois law, spousal maintenance. Read on to learn about Illinois spousal maintenance laws and what you should do if you want to request spousal maintenance during your divorce.

Avenues for Collecting Spousal Support

Spousal maintenance or spousal support can provide much-needed financial aid to divorced spouses. However, spousal maintenance is not a guarantee. There are three main avenues through which spouses can get spousal maintenance in an Illinois divorce:

  1. Prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement – If the spouses had made spousal maintenance arrangements in a prenup or other marital contract, those arrangements will most likely be upheld during the divorce. The main exception to this is if the prenuptial agreement or other agreement is invalid. For example, a prenuptial agreement may be invalid and unenforceable if a spouse entered into the agreement through fraud, coercion, or force.
  2. A settlement or agreement during the divorce proceedings – Spouses have the right to determine their own arrangement regarding spousal maintenance. They may be able to reach an agreement through mediation or negotiations led by their respective attorneys.
  3. A petition for spousal maintenance – You can petition or request spousal maintenance during your divorce. However, you will need to demonstrate solid reasons for your request. Illinois courts consider the spouses’ financial circumstances, health, and employability, the length of the marriage and standard of living during the marriage, and other factors when deciding whether to award spousal maintenance.

How Much Are Spousal Maintenance Payments and How Long Do They Last?

Often, spousal maintenance is intended to be rehabilitative. The financial support gives the recipient time to get back on his or her feet after a divorce. Permanent spousal maintenance is rare, but it may be available if the marriage lasted 20 years or longer. The duration of maintenance payments is usually based on the duration of the marriage. The dollar amount of spousal maintenance payments is usually determined by a formula that uses both spouses’ net incomes.

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Chicago business valuation lawyerOne of the most difficult issues to resolve in divorce is small business ownership. For many people, growing their small business has involved an enormous amount of time and personal sacrifice, and the thought of losing the business and shuttering its doors can be devastating. Yet, because the value of many businesses increases during a marriage, the fact is that the increase in value is likely part of your marital property - meaning it is subject to division in divorce. 

Business owners who hope to retain total ownership of their business after divorce will want to learn as much as they can about business valuation methods and how they impact the way a business is treated during divorce. If you are in this situation, read on. 

The Most Common Valuation Methods

There are several ways a business’s value can be determined, and a trained business evaluator can help you choose one based on the type of business you have. The three primary methods of small business valuations are: 

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Chicago divorce lawyerThe division of property and liabilities is often a complicated and contentious aspect of the divorce process. When spouses own a small business, the issue of property distribution is even more complex. If you or your spouse own a business or you jointly own a family business, you may be unsure of how to handle the business during the divorce. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to business owner concerns during divorce. The way you handle ownership of the business will depend on your specific needs, financial resources, and long-term goals. When deciding how to proceed, consider the following questions.

Who Has Ownership Rights to the Business?

Per Illinois law, marital property is property accumulated during the marriage. However, determining the identity of your business as marital or non-marital is not as straightforward as you may think. If a spouse owns the business before getting married, it is usually considered non-marital property. However, if the other spouse contributed time or resources to the betterment of the business, the business may be considered partially or fully marital.

How Much is the Business Worth?

Whether you decide to do with the business, you will need to know the business’s value. There are several ways to value a small business, but many people use the business’s fair market value to inform the property division process. This is the price a buyer would pay for the business. It is recommended that business owners have their business professionally valued in a divorce. You and your spouse may choose to use the same business appraiser or separate appraisers depending on your particular situation.

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