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DuPage County family lawyerUPDATE: This post was originally published in March 2015. Since January 1, 2016, Illinois law no longer uses the terms "custody" and "visitation" to refer to arrangements between a child's legal parents. Instead, in a divorce, both parents are usually granted a share of parenting time, meaning that the child will spend significant time living with both parents. This language treats parents more equally, but one parent may still have a larger share of parenting time based on the child's best interests. Additionally, parenting time can be restricted for a parent who endangers a child's health or well-being.

The term "visitation" is still used for grandparents, siblings, and other relatives who seek to secure the legal right to spend time with a child. However, legal action of this nature is usually only warranted when the child's parents are preventing a relative from seeing the child, and there is evidence that doing so is causing the child harm. If you are seeking visitation as a grandparent or another relative, you will need to demonstrate to the court that your visitation is in the child's best interests.

For legal assistance with your parenting time or visitation case, contact the Wheaton, IL family law attorneys at Davi Law Group today by calling 630-580-6373.

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dupage county parenting time lawyerIn Illinois, parents have many important issues to resolve during the divorce process, not the least of which is creating a parenting time schedule. Decisions about parenting time will affect the daily lives of both parents and children, so it is important to reach an agreement that meets everyone’s needs and allows for positive parent-child relationships and effective co-parenting. 

Understanding some of the basics of parenting time can help you approach this issue in your divorce.

Parenting Time Replaced the Concept of Visitation

Before 2016, Illinois family courts would often grant one parent primary physical custody and the other parent visitation. However, the state legislature recognized that this language tended to favor one parent unnecessarily. It was not reflective of the degree of involvement that most parents have in raising their children during a marriage and after a divorce. As a result, the term “visitation” is no longer used, and both parents are instead allocated a share of parenting time.

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DuPage County Spousal Maintenance LawyerSpousal maintenance, commonly referred to as spousal support or alimony, is not a part of every divorce in Illinois. However, it may be awarded upon the court’s determination that it is warranted to provide for a spouse’s financial needs, or based on an agreement between spouses, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or a divorce settlement. Maintenance orders typically do not specify what the recipient must use the payments for, but if you are fortunate enough to be granted maintenance in your divorce, it is a good idea to think carefully about how best to use the funds.

How Can Spousal Support Help?

For budgeting purposes, you can think of spousal support similarly to any other source of income, with the added benefit that as of 2019, it is no longer taxable for the recipient. However, support payments usually come with a definitive end date, so it is important to use them to your advantage while they last. Here are some possible uses of maintenance that you may find beneficial:

  • Paying for basic living expenses. First and foremost, you should ensure that you have the resources available to provide for your own basic needs, including food, clothing, housing, transportation, and utilities. If you are staying in the marital home after your divorce, maintenance could also help you pay the mortgage and other house-related expenses.

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Wheaton divorce lawyerIn an Illinois divorce, all property and assets belonging to the marital estate must be distributed fairly between the two spouses. However, certain assets known as non-marital property are not included in the division. If you are preparing for a divorce, it is important to review your finances to identify any non-marital property that you can protect. However, the process of protecting your non-marital assets can begin even before your marriage.

Strategies for Protecting Non-Marital Property

Under Illinois law, non-marital property includes property that was owned by either spouse before the marriage, as well as property acquired by either spouse during the marriage through a gift or inheritance. However, even property of this nature can become a factor in the division of assets if you are not careful to keep it separate from the marital estate. Here are some strategies for protecting your non-marital assets both before and during your marriage:

  1. Create a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If you have substantial assets before getting married, you can ask your future spouse to work with you to create a prenup that specifies the assets that will remain non-marital property. You can also create a postnuptial agreement during the marriage that accomplishes the same purpose.

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DuPage County divorce attorneysWhen a couple gets divorced in Illinois, all of their financial assets will need to be considered in order to determine a fair distribution of marital property. Many people are aware that this includes properties like the marital home, vehicles, and joint bank accounts, but it also includes some assets that you may not expect, like businesses and individual retirement accounts. One of the most complicated kinds of assets that may need to be divided in a divorce is a settlement or verdict from a civil lawsuit.

Dividing Personal Injury Settlements and Other Lawsuit Awards

Illinois law differentiates between non-marital property that belongs to one spouse alone and marital property to which both spouses have a right and which must be divided in a divorce. Assets acquired before the marriage or after a judgment of legal separation are typically considered to be non-marital property, while most assets acquired during the marriage are considered to be marital property. These criteria can apply to lawsuit awards in the same way that they do for many other types of assets.

One common example of a lawsuit award that can complicate the divorce process is a personal injury settlement or verdict. These cases often involve injuries to just one spouse, so the logical assumption may be that compensation for damages would belong solely to the person who was injured. However, a 1980 Illinois Supreme Court judgment clarified that an injury settlement or award granted during the marriage can be considered marital property because it compensates for medical expenses and lost wages that affect the whole family. That said, because Illinois requires an equitable distribution of marital assets rather than an equal split, a court may determine that the injured spouse should be granted a larger share of the award during the divorce.

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Wheaton divorce attorneysThe recent passing of the American Rescue Plan Act, including another round of COVID-19 economic impact stimulus payments, has been welcome news for many families who have struggled financially throughout the pandemic. However, if you have been through a divorce in the past year, especially if you have filed taxes jointly with your former spouse, obtaining your share of the stimulus may be more difficult than expected. Understanding your eligibility for the stimulus, as well as how it is distributed, can help you ensure that you receive the funds to which you are entitled.

Who is Eligible for the 2021 Stimulus Payments?

The most recent round of stimulus payments provides up to $1,400 for each U.S. citizen or lawful resident who qualifies based on their adjusted gross income. Individuals qualify for the full amount if their annual income is $75,000 or below, or $112,500 or below if they file as head of household. Married couples who file taxes jointly qualify for $2,800 ($1,400 per spouse) if their adjusted gross income is $150,000 or below. Eligible individuals and couples will also receive $1,400 for each qualified dependent. Individuals and married couples with annual incomes above these thresholds may qualify for reduced stimulus payments, though payments phase out completely at an individual income of $80,000, a head of household income of $120,000, and a married couple income of $160,000.

How Are Stimulus Payments Disbursed to Divorced Couples?

Most stimulus payments for this round are distributed using information provided when filing either a 2019 or 2020 tax return. If you are recently divorced and you filed your taxes individually for both of these years, your stimulus payment should be sent to you, likely as either a direct deposit to your bank account or a check sent in the mail. However, if you filed taxes jointly with your former spouse in 2019 and/or 2020, it is possible that the full amount of the stimulus will be delivered to the spouse who still has access to the bank account that is set up for direct deposit, or who still lives at the address on file with the IRS.

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DuPage County divorce attorneysIn the midst of the breakdown of a marriage, many people turn to dating or a new romantic partner as a coping mechanism or source of comfort. Starting a new relationship after a divorce is perfectly normal, but attempting to move on too quickly can lead to personal and legal challenges, especially if the divorce is still pending. Nevertheless, if you do find yourself dating during or soon after your divorce, you should be aware of the potential outcomes from a legal standpoint.

Avoid Dissipating Marital Assets

Dating and more serious romantic relationships almost always involve spending money on your date or partner, and this can have a substantial impact on your divorce resolution if you are not careful. Before the divorce is finalized, any marital assets that you use for your own personal purposes, including dating or supporting a new partner, can be considered to have been dissipated. If your spouse becomes aware of this spending behavior, they can file a claim against you, and you may be required to reimburse them as part of the equitable distribution of marital property. Waiting to date until the divorce is finalized can help you avoid this issue.

Protect Your Children’s Interests

Dating or finding a new romantic partner will not necessarily adversely impact decisions regarding the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities. However, if your romantic life interferes with your children’s best interests, and especially if a new partner poses a danger to your children’s physical, mental, or emotional health, you could find your parenting time limited or restricted. Make sure you know someone well before bringing them into your children’s lives, not only to ensure their safety but also to allow them time to adjust before introducing another major change.

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DuPage County parenting plan attorneysDuring the divorce process, parents have many important decisions to make regarding their children, especially when it comes to their living arrangements. Perhaps the most notable decision is how parenting time will be allocated between the two parents, but there are other important details to figure out as well. Some of these include how parents will handle transportation between homes, as well as traveling with their children.

Including Transportation Provisions in Your Parenting Plan

In Illinois, transportation arrangements for the children between the two parents’ homes are part of the minimum requirements to be included in a parenting plan. While such transportation may require a relatively small time commitment, thoughtful arrangements are crucial in order to ensure smooth exchanges and avoid encroaching on the other parent’s scheduled time. 

One of the most important questions to address is who will be responsible for transporting the children. For example, your plan could state that each parent is responsible for managing transportation at either the beginning or the end of each of their parenting time periods, or that one parent with reliable transportation is responsible for all exchanges. If there has been a history of conflict between you and your former spouse, it may be best for a trusted third party to supervise or manage the children’s transportation. You should also address the location where exchanges should occur. For example, will each parent pick up or drop off the children at the other parent’s home? Or, is it better to plan exchanges at a neutral location such as your children’s school or a point in between each parents’ residences? 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersAlthough it is possible to take steps to protect your financial interests during the divorce process, almost everyone comes out of a divorce in a worse financial situation than when they entered it. Between the division of marital assets, the loss of a spouse’s income and benefits, post-divorce support obligations, and the cost of the divorce process itself, it is not uncommon for the recently divorced to face financial stress. However, many people are able to recover over time after taking stock of their new financial reality.

Common Financial Impacts of Divorce

Being well-informed about your finances during the divorce process helps you to make a plan for achieving your goals in the divorce resolution. After the divorce is finalized, though, you should regroup and take the time to consider all of the following ways that your finances may have changed, including:

  • Reduction in income - If you and your spouse both work, the end of a marriage means that you will transition from a dual-income to a single-income household. If you were a stay-at-home spouse, you may find it particularly hard to adjust without your spouse’s income to support you. Additionally, the division of certain assets like investments and income properties can reduce each spouse’s earnings.
  • Remaining debts - Marital debts are divided in a divorce along with assets, and for any debts that you are left with, you will need to make a plan to stay current on payments. Being granted full possession of the marital home can impose a significant debt burden if the mortgage has not been fully paid.
  • Child support and spousal support - As a paying spouse, you will need to account for support obligations in your post-divorce budget. As a receiving spouse, you can factor support into your regular income, but you may need to keep in mind that support is temporary and start exploring other sources of income.
  • Changes in tax filing status - If you and your spouse filed taxes jointly, you will need to adjust your status to single, or possibly head of household, which will likely impact the amount you owe and your approach to withholding.
  • Effects on retirement savings - If your retirement savings were divided in the divorce, you  may need to adjust your saving strategy to build back up to the amount you need to retire comfortably.

After reflecting on all of these changes, it is a good idea to create a budget and set achievable goals for yourself. Decreasing your spending, increasing your income, and making smart decisions in the short term can help you establish financial stability in the long run.

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DuPage County family law attorneysAt Davi Law Group, our blog serves as a resource to answer questions and provide information and updates about family and divorce law in Illinois. We address issues related to child custody, parental rights, and adoption to help our readers understand the legal processes involved. Here, we look back at 10 blogs that our readers found most useful in 2020:

  1. How Does a Sex Offender Conviction Impact My Parental Rights? - We discuss possible restrictions on parenting time and decision-making due to a parent’s criminal sex offense conviction.
  2. DCFS Investigations in Illinois - What Are Your Rights And How Can You Protect Them? - We help parents understand the process of an investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and how they can protect their parental rights.
  3. Illinois Divorce Basics: How Long Will You Receive Alimony Payments? - We explain how the amount and duration of alimony or spousal support are calculated according to Illinois law.
  4. Emancipation of Minors in Illinois - We look at situations in which a child under the age of 18 can pursue independence from their parents.
  5. Terminating Parental Rights in Illinois - We discuss the criteria for declaring a parent unfit and terminating their rights, particularly during the adoption process.
  6. 5 Things to Get “Right” When a Guardian Ad Litem Has Been Appointed to Your Child Custody Case - We outline the role of a Guardian Ad Litem or child representative in family court and discuss how parents should handle interactions with them.
  7. A Guide to Adult Adoptions in Illinois - We walk through the process and requirements for legally adopting a person over the age of 18 in Illinois.
  8. Who Has Custody Over Your Child If There Is No Court Order? - We answer the complicated question of how custody rights are handled in cases of child abduction when parents are unmarried and have not established a custody order in court.
  9. Marriage Basics: How to Get a Marriage License in DuPage County Illinois - We provide information for DuPage County couples regarding how, when, and where they can obtain a license to marry.
  10. What Are Grandparent Rights in Illinois? - We look at cases in which a child’s grandparents and certain other relatives can petition for custody and visitation rights.

Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney

We hope you benefit from the information found in our blogs, and we are available for a free initial consultation when you are looking for qualified legal advice specific to your case and an attorney who can advocate strongly on your behalf. Contact our Wheaton family lawyers today by calling 630-580-6373.

DuPage County divorce attorneyA contentious divorce can be incredibly difficult when you have been accustomed to relying on your spouse for financial support, and this is especially true if your spouse has cut off your support in the time leading up to the divorce. Illinois divorce and family law statutes include provisions to protect financially disadvantaged spouses when it comes to the division of marital property and the allocation of spousal maintenance and child support in the final divorce decree, but a spouse with few resources of their own may find it difficult to support themselves and secure quality legal representation before the divorce is finalized. In such cases, it may be necessary to pursue temporary relief.

Temporary Relief Options During the Divorce Process

As your divorce approaches, there are a few legal options to protect your finances if you fear that your spouse might cut you off or if your spouse has already done so. These options include:

  • Petitioning for a temporary financial restraining order: A restraining order can prevent a spouse from transferring, hiding, or blocking the other spouse’s access to assets, except for the purposes of providing for their own necessary living expenses or regular business costs.
  • Petitioning for temporary spousal maintenance or child support: When a spouse has limited assets during the divorce process, a court may order the other spouse to make temporary payments to assist with living expenses for the spouse in need and the children of the marriage.
  • Petitioning for interim attorney’s fees: In some cases, the court may order a spouse with financial resources to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees to allow them to fairly participate in the litigation process.

It may be a good idea to focus on these petitions for relief early in the process while you have some resources available to hire an attorney. You will also need to prepare to support your petitions with financial affidavits demonstrating that you have a need for relief.

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Wheaton divorce lawyersWhen your marriage has devolved into destructive conflict, divorce is often the best option for you to remove yourself from a bad situation and start working toward a better and healthier future. However, before you can get to that point, you will need to make it through the divorce process, which can often be incredibly difficult in a high-conflict situation. As you prepare for your divorce, it is important to know how you can protect your rights and avoid a divorce resolution that leaves you at a disadvantage.

Taking Action to Protect Your Interests

If you are concerned about the damaging effects of conflict with your spouse during the divorce process, there are several important steps that you can take to create a more favorable situation for yourself:

  • Hire an attorney. It is rarely a good idea to attempt even an uncontested divorce without the assistance of an experienced attorney. In a high-conflict divorce, an attorney is especially important to help you stand your ground and prepare to make your case for your desired outcome in court.
  • Gather and maintain evidence. With your attorney’s assistance, you should start gathering all relevant financial records and documents to help you prepare for the division of property. If financial disagreements or dishonesty were a primary source of conflict in your marriage, it may be a good idea to hire a forensic accountant to help you find evidence of hidden or dissipated assets. It also may be important to keep records of your spouse’s communication or behavior that may be abusive, manipulative, threatening, or dangerous to you or your children.
  • Minimize communication with your spouse. Attempting to communicate with your spouse or responding to their communication can expose you to possible manipulation or a conversation that could trigger an unhealthy emotional reaction. It is often best to establish a buffer between yourself and your spouse, such as by communicating only in writing or through your respective attorneys.
  • Consider an order of protection. If you have suffered domestic abuse from your spouse or you believe you are at risk, petitioning the court for an order of protection can help you protect yourself from physical harm, as well as other unwanted behaviors like stalking or harassment. An order of protection may also grant you exclusive possession of your residence, ensuring that you have a safe place to live while your divorce is in progress.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Attorney

If you are anticipating excessive conflict in your divorce, the Davi Law Group can help. Our Wheaton, IL family lawyers will do everything in their power to ensure that you are protected and work with you to reach a resolution that allows you to end your marriage safely while securing your needs. Do not hesitate to contact us at 630-580-6373 to schedule a free consultation.

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Wheaton family law attorneysTalking to your partner about creating a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement may feel uncomfortable or unnecessary. However, considering that arguments about finances are one of the strongest predictors of divorce, there is clear value in openly discussing finances with your spouse and creating a mutually beneficial, legally binding document that addresses each spouse’s financial and property interests. If you chose to forgo a prenuptial agreement before getting married, it is important to know that it is not too late to secure the same benefits through a postnuptial agreement.

Reasons to Pursue a Postnup in Illinois

For many couples, the time before their marriage may seem too early in their lives and relationship to be worried about what happens to their property in the event of a divorce, especially if neither spouse has significant assets to their name. However, much can change throughout the course of the marriage when it comes to the couple’s financial situation and their outlook on life. With these changes often comes a more clear need to work together on a postnuptial agreement.

Perhaps the most common reason to establish a postnup is a large increase in marital or non-marital assets. For example, if you have acquired a business during the marriage, or if a business that you previously owned has increased substantially in value, it is often a good idea to establish in writing the financial interest that each spouse has in the business. Alternatively, if you or your spouse has been the beneficiary of an inheritance, it may be important to definitively establish its status as non-marital property. If you choose, your postnuptial agreement can address all assets belonging to the marital estate and each spouse individually. Doing so can prevent confusion, uncertainty, and conflict if you ultimately have to divide your property in a divorce.

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Wheaton family law attorneysWhether or not a child’s parents are married, the child often benefits from having both parents involved in his or her life. Many parents are also invested in securing and maintaining a relationship with their child. Unfortunately, for unmarried fathers, such a relationship is not necessarily guaranteed. However, there is a legal process that unmarried fathers can follow to secure the basic rights of parentage, along with an allocated share of parenting time and parental responsibilities in many cases.

Establishing Legal Paternity

Before an unmarried father can ask for parenting time or parental responsibilities, he will need to be recognized as the child’s legal parent. In Illinois, there is more than one way for a man to establish legal paternity. First, along with the child’s mother, he can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) and file it with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Provided that there are no objections or competing claims from other alleged fathers, this is usually the most simple method of securing parental rights.

If a VAP is not possible, perhaps because the mother is not in agreement or there is uncertainty regarding the child’s biological father, a man can petition the court for an adjudication of paternity. As part of this process, the man can submit to genetic testing and present other evidence and testimony to support his claim of fatherhood. If the results of the test show that the man is most likely the child’s father, the court can issue a judicial order of parentage, providing the father with basic rights and an obligation to contribute to child support.

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Wheaton divorce attorneysAs a parent, one of your biggest concerns in the divorce process is likely how the divorce will affect your relationship with your children, especially if they will not be living with you full-time. Fortunately, in most cases the court will try to establish an arrangement that allocates substantial parenting time to both parents, provided that doing so is in the children’s best interests. However, there are circumstances in which parenting time can be restricted, and it is important to understand whether they may apply to your case. 

Reasons for Restricting Parenting Time

The primary reason an Illinois court will order restrictions on parenting time is a finding that time with a parent is likely to put the children’s physical, emotional, mental, or moral health in danger. The decision to restrict parenting time is not taken lightly and requires substantial evidence of dangerous behavior on the part of a parent. Possible behaviors that may be considered to endanger a child’s health include:

  • Abandonment or neglect of the child
  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of the child or another person in the household
  • Criminal acts including sex offenses and other violent crimes
  • Substance abuse that interferes with parenting abilities
  • Relationships with other people who pose a danger to the child
  • Attempts to interfere with the other parent’s access to the child

In some cases, restrictions are included in the initial allocation of parenting time established during the divorce process. In other cases, events after the divorce necessitate restrictions or conditions on parenting time. This could be the case if new evidence comes to light, new behavior surfaces, or a parent violates or abuses the parenting time order. 

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DuPage County divorce attorneysNot all Illinois couples who are getting a divorce will have to resort to litigation to reach a resolution, but those who do will need to prepare for an often lengthy process with multiple steps. One of the most important steps that takes place before a divorce trial is the discovery period. As you prepare for your divorce, you may have questions about what discovery entails, especially if you have not been involved in any civil court proceedings in the past.

A Structured Exchange of Information

The purpose of the discovery period is to allow both spouses, along with their legal representatives, to obtain important, relevant information before the trial begins. Usually, this information pertains to each party’s finances and helps to provide a more complete picture to inform decisions regarding the division of marital assets, spousal support, and child support. There are a several ways in which information may be acquired during discovery, including:

  • Exchange of documents - Each party may ask that the other provide documents including income and tax statements, pay stubs, bank statements, and other financial documentation. In some cases, a subpoena can be requested to compel the other party to produce evidence that they do not willingly provide.
  • Interrogatories - These take the form of questions submitted by one party to the other, with written answers provided under oath, typically after consulting with an attorney.
  • Depositions - Each party may ask for oral testimony, given under oath, from the other party and other witnesses. Testimony provided in a deposition can later be presented as evidence in the trial.

The guidance of an experienced attorney is crucial during the discovery period, both to carry out a strategy for obtaining as much useful information as possible, and to advise you on how best to respond to the other party’s requests. The assistance of financial experts can also be important to help you interpret the information you and your attorney obtain.

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Wheaton divorce attorneysUnder any circumstances, it is important to thoroughly prepare for the divorce process so that you have a plan to achieve the best possible outcome. In the past year, uncertainty associated with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has made preparing for a divorce more difficult, but also more important. If you are looking to end your marriage, you should be aware of the ways in which the ongoing public health emergency can affect both the process and outcome of your divorce.

Important Considerations for Divorce During COVID-19

Almost every major decision related to the divorce process may be impacted in some way by COVID-19. You should carefully consider your needs and preferences related to each of the following as you prepare:

  • Divorce resolution methods and communication - In-person proceedings are limited or restricted in many Illinois courts, which means that you may need to anticipate delays in the divorce process, especially if you are resolving your divorce through litigation. If you and your spouse are open to other options, you may be able to help the process move forward by working out an agreement through virtual mediation or settlement conferences.
  • Property and asset division - It is always important to go into a divorce with a clear understanding of your finances and assets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you should be aware that the economic downturn may affect the value of certain properties like real estate, businesses, and investments. If you do not expect to keep your marital home in the divorce, you may also need to consider new housing options that fall within your current financial means.
  • Child support and spousal support - Child support and maintenance decisions are influenced by the spouses’ income and employment status. If you have lost your job due to the pandemic, or you are suffering from health complications that affect your ability to work, you should be prepared to discuss your needs and financial limitations during the divorce process so that you can work toward a fair outcome.
  • Parenting time and parental responsibilities - Creating a parenting plan that accounts for COVID-19 can be difficult. If possible, you should work with your spouse to create an arrangement that considers the health and safety of your children and other family members, as well as remote learning and work-from-home schedules and routines.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

At Davi Law Group, we strive to help our clients adapt to the ever-changing realities of COVID-19 as they pursue a divorce, and we are available for phone and video consultations to provide qualified legal guidance. For a free initial consultation, contact our Wheaton family law attorneys at 630-580-6373.

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Wheaton family law attorneysThe COVID-19 pandemic has left many people struggling financially, including parents who pay and receive child support. If you are the receiving parent under the terms of your child support order, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do if your child’s other parent is unable or unwilling to continue making payments during this difficult time. Fortunately, you do have options, and a family law attorney can help you determine the course of action that has the best chance of success in your case.

Options for Pursuing Court-Ordered Child Support Payments

The first thing to note in a child support case is that an order issued by the court is legally binding, and it is never acceptable for a parent to simply stop making court-ordered payments. That said, the way in which you go about resolving the situation with the other parent may depend on your relationship with them, your willingness and ability to work together, and the reasons why they have stopped paying.

If you know that the other parent is experiencing financial hardship related to unemployment or health problems, it may be a good idea to try for a sympathetic approach. Your attorney can help you communicate with the paying parent nonconfrontationally and attempt to reach an agreement on a short-term modification to the payment amount that allows them to contribute within their current means. You can then submit this agreement to the court for approval so that it becomes legally binding. This option may not result in you receiving the full amount you are accustomed to, but some support is often better than none at all.

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DuPage County family law attorneysIn an Illinois divorce, spousal support may be ordered when one party has a financial need or limited means of providing for oneself. However, these spousal maintenance payments usually are ordered for a fixed duration, after which the receiving party will be expected to support him or herself without the assistance of the former spouse.

Under normal circumstances, it may be possible for the receiving spouse to attain financial independence before support payments end, but the economic stresses and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have made this much more difficult for many people, especially now that they have lasted for nearly a year. If your spousal maintenance order is set to terminate soon and you are concerned about your ability to support yourself, you may be able to petition for a modification that extends the duration of payments.

How Does Illinois Determine the Duration of Maintenance Payments?

Usually, if the court decides that spousal maintenance is necessary, it will order payments for a duration based on a calculation involving the length of the marriage. After a marriage of less than five years, maintenance will likely be ordered for less than one year, and usually only in the case of a marriage of 20 years or more will the court order spousal support for the full length of the marriage or an indefinite time period. However, the court will sometimes vary from these calculations if there is good reason. If you are in the process of a divorce and you are struggling financially, your attorney may be able to help you make the case for larger payments or a longer duration.

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DuPage County family law attorneysA prenuptial agreement can help both you and your spouse enter your marriage with peace of mind regarding your finances, and if your marriage later ends in divorce, a prenup can make the process much easier by laying out the terms for property division and spousal maintenance. However, in order for the agreement to take effect and be upheld by the court at the time of your divorce, it must be legally valid. There are a few things that you can do when creating your prenup to make sure that this is the case.

Establishing a Legally Valid Prenup in Illinois

As you prepare to draft your prenuptial agreement, consider these suggestions to ensure the agreement is enforceable:

  • Make sure the agreement is written and signed. A valid prenup must exist as a written document. Verbal prenups are not legally binding, nor are written prenups that have not been willingly signed by both partners.
  • Be open and honest with your partner. Concealing or lying about your assets and debts when creating a prenup results in an agreement in which your partner does not have the information necessary to make a decision. If evidence comes to light that you were dishonest with your partner about your property and financial situation, your prenuptial agreement will likely be considered invalid.
  • Aim for an agreement that is fair. Each individual or couple has different priorities when creating a prenup, and what is acceptable to you and your partner may be different from what is acceptable to another couple. However, it is important to ensure that the terms of your agreement would not cause undue hardship to either party in the event of a divorce. If the court determines that an agreement is not equitable, it may decide to award spousal support in a way that differs from what the agreement stipulates.
  • Avoid addressing child-related issues. Illinois law states that a prenuptial agreement cannot negatively impact a child’s right to support, so it is important to ensure that any of your minor children will have access to child support no matter the terms of your agreement. A prenuptial agreement also cannot address parenting time or parental responsibilities, so those matters will need to be addressed separately during the divorce process.
  • Consider updating your agreement over time. An agreement created before your marriage may lose relevance over time as your financial situation changes. If you or your spouse believes that the original agreement is no longer fair or suitable, you have the option to amend it to better reflect your current needs as long as both of you agree to the changes.

Contact a DuPage County Prenuptial Agreement Lawyer

Another way to ensure that your prenup is legally valid is to create it with the assistance of a qualified Wheaton family law attorney. At the Davi Law Group, we will work with you and your partner to help you reach an enforceable agreement that meets your unique needs. Contact us today for a free consultation at 630-504-0176.

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