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Wheaton IL family law attorneyUnder Illinois law, if the biological parents of a child are not married (or in a legal civil union) at the time of their child’s birth, the biological father is not automatically considered to be the legal father, regardless of whether the parents live in the same home or if they plan to get married. Until paternity is established, the father will not have any parental rights or grounds to pursue custody. Fortunately, there are a few different ways for a man to become legally recognized as a child’s father.

Legal Presumption of Paternity

The legal relationship between a father and his child is known as “paternity.” When the mother of a child is married or in a civil union with a man at the time of the child’s birth, or within 300 days of the child’s birth, the law presumes that man to be the child’s father. This means that the man is recognized as having parental rights, and that he can petition for parenting time and parental responsibilities if he is no longer married to the child’s mother.

Establishing Paternity

When a man is not married to or in a civil union with the mother of his child within 300 days of the child’s birth, he will have to acknowledge or prove paternity to be considered the child’s father under the law. After paternity is established, a child may then have access to a variety of benefits, including:

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DuPage County parenting plan lawyerA divorce is never a walk in the park. However, if you and your spouse have children, it can make the ordeal even more complex. In Illinois, you are required to create a parenting plan that describes how you and the other parent will take care of your kids after your divorce is finalized. Including the right elements is critical to promoting your children’s well-being, and it can also help you maintain a positive co-parenting relationship with your former spouse.

Elements You Must Include in Your Parenting Plan

According to Illinois law, there are certain elements that should be included in your parenting plan, including:

Wheaton IL family law lawyerMany people nowadays consider their pets an important part of their family. Dogs and cats provide companionship and can reduce your anxiety and depression. If you and your spouse have recently filed for divorce, you may wonder who will get the family pet. Your furry family member likely means the world to you, and imagining your life without it may be difficult. In Illinois, pets were once considered marital property in a divorce. However, as of 2018, pets are looked at somewhat similarly to children during divorce proceedings.

Factors Judges Consider When Determining Custody of Pets

Before 2018, pets would be given to one spouse in a divorce based on what was fair and equitable. These days, however, a family court judge will assign custody based in part on the animal’s well-being. A judge may look at many different factors before coming to a decision, such as each spouse’s relationship with the pet and contributions to its care. If one spouse, for example, spends more time with the pet and has paid for the majority of the food, vet and grooming bills, the judge may grant custody to that spouse. Your testimony and evidence of expenditures and care for the pet may help to strengthen your case.

In some cases, the judge may grant joint custody if it would be in the dog or cat’s best interests to keep a relationship with both partners. For example, the judge may rule that the pet will be on the same parenting schedule that your kids are on.

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Wheaton IL divorce attorneyA divorce is a long process and may involve several complexities, including alimony. If you have been the primary breadwinner in your marriage, a judge may order you to pay your former spouse alimony if you get a divorce. Also known as spousal support or maintenance, alimony is typically paid on a monthly basis and intended to support an ex-spouse financially after a marriage has ended.

How Spousal Support Is Calculated in Illinois

In Illinois, spousal support is only part of a divorce resolution if the spouses agree to it, or if the court determines that it is warranted based on each spouse’s situation. Factors that the court will consider include each spouse’s needs, income and assets, and earning capacity now and in the future. If the court decides to order spousal support, there is a standard calculation that is typically used to determine the amount.

If a divorcing couple’s combined income is less than $500,000, a judge will use statutory guidelines to figure out how much and how long maintenance must be paid. In Illinois, spousal support is calculated by taking 33.3 percent of the paying spouse’s net income and then subtracting 25 percent of the receiving spouse’s net income. For instance, if you make $6,000 a month while your ex earns $1,000, you could be ordered to pay $1,750 per month in alimony.

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wheaton divorce lawyerIn the years after a divorce, finding a new partner and planning to remarry can be a major bright spot in your life. If your partner has children, you can also look forward to becoming a stepparent, an experience that can be both challenging and rewarding. You may be intimidated by the prospect of bonding with your partner’s kids, but there are things you can do to help these new relationships develop in a positive direction.

Getting to Know Your Future Stepchildren

If you know that your relationship is serious and could lead to marriage, it is a good idea to start getting to know your partner’s kids. It is normal for children to be skeptical or even resentful of a parent’s new love interest, but spending short periods of time with them can help them grow more comfortable with you and the role you will play in their lives. Make an effort to take genuine interest in the things that are important to your future stepchildren, and find common interests that you can bond over.

After becoming a stepparent, you should keep in mind that your stepchildren may be resistant to viewing you as a parental figure, especially if they have a strong relationship with their other parent. Try to give your stepchildren their space and respect their boundaries, and start with a foundation of mutual respect. Over time, this respect can grow into a stronger relationship.

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dupage county divorce lawyerOver the last several weeks, we have discussed the common issues that parents of minor children are likely to encounter when getting divorced, focusing on the differing effects on different age groups, including infants and toddlers, elementary-aged children, and teenagers. Adult children, meaning those at least 18 years old, can also be impacted by their parents’ divorce. While you may not need to address matters like child support and parenting time for your adult children, you should still consider how the process and outcome will affect them.

How Does Divorce Affect Adult Children?

With the increasing prevalence of “gray divorce,” a term for a divorce that happens when the spouses are at least 50 years old, many adult children are faced with the prospect of a huge and unexpected change in their family life. Unlike younger children, adults will not have to cope with changes to their daily routine due to divided parenting time. However, the divorce can affect everything from communication with each parent to holiday plans to relationships with grandchildren.

Divorce can also take an emotional toll on adult children, who may be forced to reconcile with the fact that the family dynamic they have become accustomed to throughout their childhood and beyond will never be the same. Adult children can also find themselves stuck in the middle between two parents who expect them to take a side, or they may feel anger and resentment toward a parent whose behavior seems to have caused the divorce. Parents may be able to prevent some of the worst effects by resolving their divorce amicably, but even so, it is important to communicate with your adult children and possibly even encourage them to join you in family therapy.

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dupage county divorce lawyerIn recent weeks, we have looked at some of the common challenges that arise for parents of infants and toddlers and elementary-aged children during the divorce process. This week, we continue with helpful information for parents of teenagers. Parenting teenage children can be challenging even under the best circumstances, and it can be especially difficult to help them cope with your divorce. It is important to make an effort to understand their needs and to address them through your child support order and the allocation of parental responsibilities.

The Effects of Divorce on Teenagers

Teenagers are likely to cope with divorce very differently when compared to younger age groups. On the one hand, their advanced maturity level may help them better understand the reasons for your divorce, and you may be able to have more meaningful conversations with them about the process. However, you should still try to keep the parent-child relationship in mind and avoid treating your child like a friend or confidant, especially when it comes to complaining about their other parent.

On the other hand, teenagers may also turn to unhealthy or destructive coping mechanisms if the divorce process is particularly hard on them. They may be susceptible to substance abuse and other risk-taking behavior, and they could struggle to maintain healthy relationships with their friends or romantic partners. Many teens also see their academic performance suffer during the divorce process, and they could even begin to show symptoms of serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression. If you see that your child is having a difficult time, make yourself available to talk and consider seeking help from a professional therapist if necessary.

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dupage county child custody lawyerIn our last blog, we discussed some of the challenges that Illinois parents of infants and toddlers often face when getting a divorce. We know that parents of children of all ages need support during the divorce process, and we continue this week by addressing some important considerations for parents of children who are in elementary school. The unique needs of children of this age require special attention when it comes to issues like child custody and child support.

How Do Elementary-Aged Children Respond to Divorce?

By the time children reach the age of 5, they are starting to form more lasting memories and become more aware of the world around them. This awareness only increases as time goes on. Elementary-aged children may pick up on signs of the divorce, especially if there is visible conflict between their parents, but they are unlikely to fully understand what is happening and why. As a result, they may have many questions about the divorce, most of which revolve around their concerns that they are at fault. They may be worried that their behavior is making one of the parents want to leave, or even that their parents do not love them anymore. The stress of the divorce can also affect a child’s relationships with their friends and peers, as well as their performance in school and their general mood. In many cases, a child psychologist or family therapist can be beneficial to help children of this age cope.

Providing for Elementary-Aged Children in Your Divorce Resolution

Children between the ages of 5 and 10 are often more amenable to shared parenting time arrangements, and this is an important consideration when you and your spouse are working out a parenting plan. However, elementary school children also have a school routine to consider, and they are often starting to get involved in sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities.

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wheaton divorce lawyerThe birth of a child is often cause for celebration, and many parents find that their relationship grows stronger as they work together to raise their child. Unfortunately, however, some parents decide that their marriage is no longer working soon after their child is born. Getting a divorce when you have an infant or toddler can be especially hard, and it is important to think carefully about your child’s needs and best interests as you work to resolve divorce issues.

How Does Divorce Affect Infants and Toddlers?

Children under the age of three will not understand the reasons for a divorce, and research suggests that they may not even form lasting memories of the events surrounding the divorce. However, because these years are so important to a child’s development, divorce can still affect them significantly. Hurtful conflict between parents and constant interruptions to the child’s routine can cause trauma with effects that resurface as the child gets older. There may also be more immediately noticeable effects. For example, your child may become more dependent on you or the other parent or regress in their development with regard to sleep routines and potty training.

Parental Responsibility and Child Support Considerations

Often, the best way to support your infant or toddler throughout the divorce process is to commit to working together with your spouse to create a parenting plan that considers their best interests. Consistency is especially important for young children, so it may be best to create a parenting time schedule in which your child mostly stays with one parent while the other parent has scheduled visitation time.

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dupage county divorce lawyerOn May 20, Dion U. Davi, founding attorney of Davi Law Group, LLC, will be installed as President of the Cook County chapter of the Justinian Society of Lawyers. We are proud to recognize Dion for this honor and accomplishment, as well as for his service to the Illinois legal community throughout the last two decades.

The Justinian Society of Lawyers was founded in Chicago in 1921 as an association of attorneys of Italian heritage. It has since grown to encompass more than 250 lawyers throughout Cook and DuPage Counties, many of whom have held prominent positions in the local community as well as in the Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association. 

Dion has served as an officer in the Justinian Society for many years, first in the DuPage County chapter from 2006 to 2011, including as President from 2010 to 2011. Since 2016, he has served Cook County’s founding chapter in roles including Secretary, Treasurer, 3rd Vice President, 2nd Vice President, and most recently, 1st Vice President from 2020-2021.

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wheaton divorce lawyerBy the time you decide to file for divorce, you are likely ready to end your marriage as soon as possible. However, an Illinois divorce can be a long process, sometimes lasting many months or more from the filing date to the final approval of the divorce resolution. While it is difficult to avoid the waiting time altogether, several factors can make the divorce process move more quickly, allowing you to put your marriage behind you and move on with your life.

Options for a More Efficient Divorce in Illinois

The longest divorces involve contentious disputes between spouses that require court intervention and trial litigation to reach a resolution. You may be able to expedite the divorce process by committing to a more cooperative, amicable approach to resolving the issues at hand. Any of the following options can also lead to a faster divorce resolution:

  • Joint simplified dissolution - This is perhaps the most efficient method for ending a marriage in Illinois, but it is only an option for some couples. You may qualify if you and your spouse have no children and minimal income and assets. In this case, you will need to agree to a settlement regarding the division of marital assets and waive the right to spousal maintenance.

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wheaton divorce lawyerIn large part, getting a divorce is a financial transaction that requires the couple to fairly divide their marital assets and debts. This can include everything from the marital home and the associated mortgage, to bank accounts, retirement savings, vehicles, and household items. However, one of the most contentious subjects for many couples is how to handle credit card debt. If your marriage and finances are currently struggling, here are some things you should consider.

Credit Card Debt is a Common Cause of Divorce

A recent study shows that divorce is up to 30 percent more likely for married couples who argue about finances, and credit card debt is a common focus of such arguments. Unlike a mortgage, credit card debt can accumulate due to a spouse’s irresponsible spending habits, sometimes before the other spouse even realizes what is happening. This can contribute to mistrust and resentment that ultimately leads to irreconcilable differences. If you hope to have a chance of saving your marriage, working together to manage your debt may be your best option.

Most Credit Card Debt Will Need to Be Divided

If you do proceed with a divorce, you should know that in most cases, all credit card debt incurred by either spouse during the marriage will be part of the division of marital property. This includes debt from joint credit card accounts, as well as debt from individual accounts in each spouse’s name. You may be able to prepare for your divorce by paying off as much debt as possible ahead of time. For any debt remaining, you will likely either need to fairly divide it between you and your spouse, or offset it through the distribution of assets. In either case, you should try to update your accounts to prevent a situation in which both spouses are still liable to creditors.

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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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