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Arlington Heights divorce lawyersWhen you got married, did you and your new spouse move into a home that one of your already owned or did you find a new house? Have you purchased a new home since your marriage?  The answers to those two questions could directly impact the division of property process should you and your spouse ever divorce.

Prior Ownership

According to the law in Illinois, all assets that were owned by either spouse prior to the marriage are considered individual property and are not subject to division upon divorce. Determining ownership is fairly easy for smaller items. For example, if you paid cash for a washing machine before you got married, you own it. Larger purchases and investments are a bit more complicated. Let’s assume that you made a $25,000 down payment on a house, for example, but you are only 15 years into a 30-year mortgage. Technically, the mortgage lender still owns about half of the house.

If you and your spouse moved into a home that you had already paid off at the time of the marriage, the house, in all likelihood, would not be considered marital property. If, however, you were still paying the house off for the first several years of the marriage, the funds used to pay off the mortgage were marital funds. Thus, the house, or at least a portion of its value, must be accounted for during the division of property.

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Arlington Heights family law attorneyDivorce involving children can be stressful regardless of the situation, but divorce involving parents who disagree on child custody issues can be especially difficult. In Illinois, the term “child custody” has been replaced with the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” Divorcing parents are expected to agree on a strategy for how parental responsibilities and parenting time will be managed after the divorce in their official Illinois “parenting plan.”

However, many parents do not see eye-to-eye regarding this plan. Parents may disagree on which parent will make major decisions about the child’s life and upbringing, the amount of time that the child spends with each parent, household rules, and more.  If you are in a contentious child-related legal dispute, the following tips may help you to cope.

Avoid Sharing Too Much Information on Social Media

Many people make the mistake of oversharing on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Although these may seem like the perfect places to air grievances against your soon-to-be-ex, doing so will likely worsen the drama surrounding your child custody dispute. In addition to causing later feelings of embarrassment and regret, sharing details about child custody matters online may also influence the case. Even if you decide to delete what you posted, other people can still save a copy of what you wrote and use it against you during any legal proceedings.

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Arlington Heights family law attorneyStatistics regarding the prevalence of abuse and domestic violence are shocking. One in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by a spouse or significant other according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Of course, domestic violence does not only involve physical abuse. Verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, stalking, psychological manipulation, gaslighting, and controlling a person through threats and intimidation are also forms of domestic violence. If you are considering divorce, and your spouse has abused you either physically, mentally, financially, or otherwise, there are several considerations you should keep in mind.

Filing for an Order of Protection

The foundation of most abuse involves the abuser’s desire for power and control. Sometimes, when a victim of abuse decides to leave an abusive partner, the abuser realizes he or she is losing that control and becomes even more violent. If you are planning to leave your abusive spouse, you may want to obtain an order of protection, sometimes referred to as a restraining order. An Emergency Order of Protection (EOP) is a legally-binding court order that prohibits an abusive or potentially abusive person from coming within a certain distance from or contacting the person who requested the order. An EOP can be obtained at your local county courthouse and lasts for up to 21 days. If you require protection after this period, you may petition the court for a Plenary Order of Protection which lasts up to two years. The order may also instruct the abusive person to stay away from your children. If you obtain an EOP against your spouse and he or she violates the terms of the EOP, you can call the police and have him or her immediately arrested.

Child Custody Concerns and Reaching a Fair Divorce Settlement

Domestic violence can have a significant impact on the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Illinois courts make all child-related decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests and will never place a child in a dangerous situation. This means that if your spouse has a history of violent behavior, his or her parenting time is likely to be limited. The court’s primary goal is to ensure that your children are safe and that their best interests are served. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you petition the court to give you full parental responsibilities. A lawyer is also an invaluable asset when it comes to reaching a fair property division arrangement and requesting spousal support, or alimony.

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Arlington Heights family law attorneysDomestic violence touches the lives of countless families in Illinois and across the United States. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that nearly 40 percent of Illinois women and over 25 percent of Illinois men have been the victim of intimate partner physical abuse, sexual abuse, or stalking. On a national scale, one out of every 15 children are exposed to domestic violence every year. Being witness to domestic violence can dramatically impact a child’s wellbeing. Consequently, Illinois courts heavily weigh accusations of domestic violence when making determinations about child custody and parenting time.

The Effect of Domestic Violence on Children

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 describes domestic violence as abuse as well as “interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation.” Domestic violence can include physical violence, threats, psychological manipulation, intimidation, gaslighting and more. When children witness a parent physically or mentally abusing the other parent, it has a profound effect on them. Children who are witness to domestic violence are much more likely to experience depression, anxiety, verbal, motor, and cognitive issues, aggressive behavior, insomnia, and other problems.

Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities

Illinois courts make all child-related decisions based on what is in the child’s best interest. A court will never assign custody or parenting time to a parent who is a danger to the child. In some cases, a judge may allow a parent who has been accused of domestic violence to have limited parenting time or supervised parenting time. The court may also require the transfer of the child to take place in public. If you are a parent who has been the victim of domestic violence at the hands of your spouse and you are divorcing, it is crucial that you notify the court of the abuse. If you are worried that your spouse will be a danger to your children, you can petition the court to get sole parental responsibility of your child. Speak with a divorce lawyer experienced in cases involving domestic violence so that you and your children’s rights will be fully protected during the divorce process.

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Arlington Heights family law attorneysIf you are a parent who shares parental responsibility, or custody, with your child’s other parent, you know how challenging and complicated a shared parenting arrangement can be. A joint parenting arrangement can become even more complicated when a parent plans to move away. If the parent with the majority of parenting time moves a great distance away, the other parent may worry that he or she will not get to see his or her child. Fortunately, a parent who is subject to a shared parenting arrangement cannot relocate a significant distance without input from the child’s other parent.

Defining “Relocation” Under Illinois Law

Illinois parents can only dispute a move if it meets the definition of “relocation” according to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. There are three different situations that can constitute relocation:

  • The parent lives in Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, McHenry County, Will County, or Lake County and is planning to move more than 25 miles away.
  • The parent lives in another Illinois county and wants to move to a residence that is 50 miles or more away.
  • The parent wants to move outside the state of Illinois to a residence that is more than 25 miles away.

If the relocation meets the above criteria, the parent planning to move must notify the other parent at least 60 days before the move. They must also provide the other parent with the new intended address.

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Arlington Heights family law attorneysIssues of family law, including divorce, parental responsibility concerns, and child support, can become extremely contentious and stressful.  Too often, the opposing parties become so focused on “winning” or proving a point that they lose sight of the real matters at hand. This can be especially tragic when children are caught in the middle, as they often become collateral damage when they should be the primary focus.

If you are in the midst of an ongoing legal struggle, there is, unfortunately, no quick fix. But despite being a popular Hollywood cliché, you may choose to take some inspiration from the spirit of the Christmas season. Perhaps, instead of continuing to find ways to “win,” consider proposing a more cooperative approach to settling your differences. For many families, mediation may be just the solution they need.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is used in a variety of applications under the law. In general, the process involves opposing parties meeting with a third party facilitator called a mediator, who is often also a trained attorney. With the mediator’s guidance, the parties discuss and negotiate the various aspects of their case, eventually working toward a mutually agreeable compromise. Civil courts encourage would-be litigants to seek mediation and to reserve the courtroom for those who simply cannot work out their differences any other way.

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