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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney co-parenting

If you are a parent who is recently separated or is planning to divorce, you probably have concerns about the upcoming holiday season. You may be especially concerned about how your children will deal with the holidays. Between COVID-19 concerns, remote learning at school, and your divorce, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to make the best of the situation. Fortunately, there is a good deal of research about how to alleviate the stress caused by divorce and the holidays.

Make Detailed Holiday Co-Parenting Plans

Divorcing parents in Illinois must submit a “parenting plan” that describes how parental responsibilities and parenting time will be allocated to each parent. If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court may determine a suitable plan for them. If you have not yet filed for divorce, you may not have any formal parenting plans in place. In order to reduce the chances of conflict and confusion during the holidays, make a plan with your spouse ahead of time about how you will share custody. Include the days and times that the children will stay with each parent, how the children will be transported between homes, and other relevant information.

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Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorney parenting time

If you are a parent who is facing a breakup or divorce, you may struggle with the idea of splitting custody with your child’s other parent. When you are used to seeing your child on a daily basis, the thought of seeing him or her a limited number of days can be heartbreaking. In Illinois, divorcing parents are required to create a “parenting plan” that outlines arrangements for parental responsibilities and parenting time. One of the provisions in this plan is the “right of first refusal.” This provision may enable you to enjoy additional time with your child during the other parent’s absence.

Requiring Your Child’s Other Parent to Contact You Before Contacting a Babysitter

Parenting time, previously called visitation, refers to the time a parent spends directly caring for his or her child. If a parent cannot fulfill his or her parenting time responsibility because of a vacation, work obligation, or another reason, that parent may choose to hire a babysitter or ask a relative to watch his or her child. This can leave the child’s other parent frustrated and upset. The right of first refusal refers to a parent’s right to be informed about parental absences and given the opportunity to “refuse” additional parenting time. For example, consider a situation in which a mother has the children Monday through Friday and the father has the children on the weekends. The mother will be out of town on a work trip Monday and Tuesday. Because the parents’ right of first refusal provision dictates it, the mother is required to inform the father that she is going out of town and ask him if he wants to keep the children on Monday and Tuesday. If the father cannot watch the children those days, the mother is free to hire a nanny or find different childcare arrangements with other family members.

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Posted on in Divorce

Arlington Heights divorce attorney QDRO

Retirement savings are some of the most valuable assets people can have, and dividing them during a separation or divorce can be complicated. Even with a precise division of assets defined in your divorce agreement, tax implications prevent that money from being dealt with properly. To get around this hurdle and ensure that a retirement account holder or provider can issue payments without the payee being penalized, you will need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO.

When Is a QDRO Necessary? 

A QDRO can apply to child support, alimony, or property rights, but divorcing couples use them frequently to instruct a retirement plan provider on how to adhere to the division of assets outlined in your divorce agreement. For this reason, many retirement plan providers have their own QDRO forms that you can submit. Most people will use these standard forms, but if the division of the account is complicated, you may want to draft your own QDRO. Regardless of whether you take advantage of existing forms or draft your own QDRO, you should enlist the help of an experienced divorce attorney to fully protect your interests.

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\Arlington Heights divorce lawyerMany divorce settlements include terms for spousal support, where one former spouse provides financial support to the other until they can fully support themselves. Spousal support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, can be made in regular payments or a lump sum. The terms, either agreed to in mediation or ordered by a judge, are legally binding. There are a few ways that a court will enforce a failure to adhere to your alimony payment schedule. If your ex falls behind on spousal maintenance payments, contact a divorce attorney before acting.

Enforcing Court-Ordered Spousal Support

Before bringing your case to court, you should try to communicate with your ex-spouse to find out if there are any circumstances preventing him or her from making payments. Common reasons include the recent loss of a job, illness, and injury. If your former spouse is willing to cooperate, you can form an agreement until he or she is capable of catching up with the payments. For instance, you both could suspend alimony payments until the paying-spouse returns to work. You should have an attorney draft this agreement. Informal contracts can lead to misunderstandings and difficulties in court if you need to opt for that route.

If your ex-spouse refuses to make support payments or fails to adhere to any new agreement you made due to his or her income reduction, you can take the issue to court. Failure to follow a court order means the court will hold the offender in “contempt.” In this case, you would file a motion for enforcement or contempt of court. To ensure that you eventually receive your support payments, a judge may garnish your former spouse’s wages, bank accounts, or tax returns. You may also explore alternatives like increasing the duration of support or adding interest to future payments. Continuous non-compliance could result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Courts issue significant fines and jail time for these offenses.

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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 attorneysFor a couple with children, a divorce or separation can be particularly challenging. In addition to the difficulties inherent to every other marital dissolution, such as property division and alimony, divorcing parents are also faced with the prospect of sharing parental responsibilities. As with most aspects of divorce, the court can and will determine arrangements for dividing these responsibilities, but only if necessary. Illinois courts and the law much prefer that divorcing parents reach an agreement of their own, as a negotiated arrangement is more likely to be followed than one simply imposed by a judge. Drafting a parenting plan that works well for you, your spouse, and your child is a vital part of the divorce process for parents.

Decision-Making Authority

Your parenting plan must clearly lay out the rights and responsibilities for both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse regarding your child. Recent changes to the law in Illinois have eliminated the concepts of sole and joint child custody, so the two of you will need to decide who will be responsible for what, especially regarding significant issues like education, health care, religious training, and extracurricular activities. One of you may be responsible for all significant decisions, they may be split between you, or you may choose to make all such decisions together—presuming that communication is strong enough to facilitate cooperation.

Other Considerations

A workable parenting plan will also need to include some type of method for determining each party’s parenting time. Whether you decide to follow a strict schedule or use a more flexible arrangement, you are both entitled to time with your child. You will also need to decide which of your homes will be used for school enrollment and other custodial-type purposes. Your plan should also include, if appropriate, the right of first refusal regarding alternative child-care needs.

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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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Arlington Heights divorce attorneyHas your marriage reached the point where it is no longer a healthy part of your life? A marriage can deteriorate for many reasons, but according to Illinois law, there is only one legal basis for divorce. Thanks to changes to the state’s family law statutes several years ago, a divorce can only be granted on the grounds that irreconcilable differences have pushed the marriage beyond the point of repair.

Understanding Irreconcilable Differences

When Illinois permitted fault-based divorce, such grounds were fairly straightforward. They included behaviors like adultery, repeated mental or physical cruelty, abandonment, and other actions that were easy to understand, even if they were difficult to prove during a divorce. Irreconcilable differences, on the other hand, are rather vague. In fact, there is no single definition of irreconcilable differences contained in the law. Instead, the phrase is understood to mean that the spouses are no longer able to remain in a marital relationship with one another.

It is important to realize that the actions that were once grounds for a fault-based divorce could be contributing factors to a couple’s irreconcilable differences. If your spouse cheated on you, for example, that could be enough for you to recognize that the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed. On your divorce paperwork, however, you will need to cite irreconcilable differences instead of adultery.

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Arlington Heights family law attorneysIf you are thinking about filing for a divorce from your spouse, you will eventually need to know how to do so. Even if you and your spouse are in total agreement that a divorce is necessary, you are likely to have many questions about the divorce process.

Depending your circumstances and the dynamic of your relationship, you and your spouse may very well have spent many months preparing for your divorce—both logistically and emotionally—but the divorce does not formally begin until one of your files a petition for dissolution of marriage with the court. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) provides rules regarding who is eligible to get divorced in the state and where to file your petition.

Illinois Residency

You qualify to have your divorce handled in the state of Illinois if you or your spouse have been a resident of the state for no less than 90 days prior to the filing. If you or your spouse were stationed in Illinois as part of your military service, your time in Illinois would count toward the residency requirement.

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Arlington Heights divorce attorneysWhen a married couple decides to divorce, they have two options for property division: the couple can decide how to split their marital estate or the courts can make this decision. Usually, court intervention is reserved for couples who cannot come to an agreement about how assets and debt should be divided. Illinois courts use a methodology called “equitable distribution” to fairly divide assets and debt between the parties in a divorce.

When one spouse wastes or recklessly depletes marital funds, this is referred to as “dissipation.” If you have concerns that your spouse has dissipated assets, you may be able to recover the cost of these assets during property division.  

What Are Dissipated Assets?

In the realm of family law, the term “dissipation” generally means to waste by misuse or to spend extravagantly. The Illinois Supreme Court has defined dissipation as one spouse using marital funds for purposes not related to the marriage while a marriage is in the midst of an “irretrievable breakdown.” Not just any spending is considered dissipative; the spending must take place during a certain timeframe. The superfluous spending must be substantial, not beneficial to the marriage, and it must take place after the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage has begun. This “breakdown” is generally considered to be the time when the couple has ceased attempts at reconciliation and when divorce is inevitable.

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Arlington Heights divorce and child custody attorney

A divorce can be considered a good decision for some family units. However, when there is a child involved, the process can sometimes become contentious. Illinois law allows for parents to set up a schedule for child custody, now referred to as “allocation of parental responsibilities.” These are all based on what is in the best interest of the child.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

Most of the time parents agree to the terms of the allocation of parental responsibilities in court. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, then a judge will decide which parent will act in the best interest of the child. The court will decide which parent--or sometimes both--can make the best choice for the child in many different areas, including:

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Arlington Heights prenup lawyer

Going through a divorce can be a messy process, especially when it comes to splitting the assets between the two partners. Sometimes, it is hard to agree upon how to divide certain pieces of property, businesses, monetary assets, etc. so that both parties can separate happily. This is why many people do not enter a marriage without a prenuptial agreement. This is a legal and binding document signed before a marriage begins, and it predetermines who is entitled to what assets in case of a divorce.

What Can Be Included in a Prenuptial Agreement?

Illinois law says that issues related to a couple's children, such as child support and the allocation of parental responsibilities, may not be affected by a prenuptial agreement. Things that can be protected by means of a prenuptial agreement include:

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