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Wheaton divorce lawyersIn the past, pets were treated as property in a divorce. Of course, a pet cannot be divided, so instead, the courts examined financial factors to determine who received the family’s furry friend at the end of the proceedings. Thankfully, the laws have now changed, ensuring that the owners’ emotional attachment and time invested are considered when determining who should get the family pet in a divorce. 

That has not been the only change to the law regarding pets. Families can also set up a “custody plan,” so long as both owners are fully and completely invested in the animal’s happiness, care, and well-being. Learn more about how “pet custody” works in today’s Illinois divorce in the following sections, and discover what our seasoned divorce lawyers can do to help protect the interests of you and your pet in contentious or potentially dangerous situations. 

How Illinois Determines “Pet Custody” in Divorce

While pets and children are very different, Illinois family law courts now recognize that animals do have feelings and needs - and that their well-being is worth protecting. So, when determining who takes the family pet in divorce, various factors are considered, including:

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Wheaton divorce lawyersBack in 2015, a groundbreaking study determined that some 7.2 million Americans are hiding money or lines of credit from their spouses. If you think that statistic is alarming, consider how many of those same couples will ultimately divorce (current statistics suggest a little less than half). Then contemplate whether a spouse is more likely to hide assets in divorce if they did so in marriage. Could you be at risk for asset hiding during your divorce? Learn how to protect yourself from such practices, and discover how an attorney can help you fight for your fair share.

Signs and Symptoms of Asset Hiding

To find hidden assets, you must first determine if you may be at risk. Look for strange business behaviors, secretive practices, evasiveness, and overall defensiveness anytime money is discussed. Also, watch for any signs of overseas travel, new sales or purchases (including strange, odd, or even seemingly low-value items), loans, sudden or frequent business trips, gifts to family and friends, and other uncharacteristic practices or behaviors. Be especially alert if you have a high net worth marriage or are a disadvantaged spouse (meaning you earn less than your spouse or do not earn any of your own money). Couples that have a business as a part of their marital estate (joint, or single-owned) should also be extremely conscious of strange or out-of-character behaviors or practices, including any that may pertain to the business itself.

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Illinois divorce lawyersParents know that divorce can negatively impact their children, which is why most will go to any lengths to protect them. Nesting divorce – an arrangement in which the children keep the home, and the parents rotate in and out – is one of the most recent strategies for minimizing the potential damage. Is it beneficial though, or is it more of a hindrance for young children?

Potential Advantages of a Nesting Divorce

Most children can benefit from a healthy and continued relationship with both of their parents after a divorce. Nesting divorce not only encourages this relationship, but it also carries that relationship out in a familiar setting. Parents can maintain schedules and minimize changes (i.e. school, home, friends, etc.) immediately after the divorce, which may also assist the child with the coping phase of a divorce. However, experts believe there may be areas where the purported benefits of nesting divorce are over inflated.

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DuPage County divorce attorney, children and divorce, adjusting to divorce, divorce process, divorce isolationPsychology experts tell us a variety of studies have shown that children of all ages tend to struggle with change, especially where routine is concerned. Divorce is easily one of the biggest threats to a child in terms of disruption of an established routine. This is particularly the case for young adults, due to age-related brain developments. Younger children have been shown to adapt with more ease when they feel safe, and when parents communicate with them about the changes happening in the household. Still, even younger children thrive on routine and rely on it to feel secure.

How Do You Know if Your Child is Struggling to Cope?

As a parent going through divorce, you have a whole range of challenges to deal with on your own. You experience many of the same emotions your child does, with the added pressure to care for him or her as well as yourself. In the midst of such big lifestyle changes, it is easy to miss signs that your child is having trouble adjusting to the divorce.

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DuPage County divorce attorney, kids and divorce, divorced families, divorce transitions, divorce processAlthough the effects of divorce can be far reaching and mentally draining for the whole family, the end of a marriage can be especially emotionally charged for the children. A number of factors can impact and shape the divorce experience for children, however.

Research shows that a majority of kids from divorced families actually adjust very well, and over a fairly short period of time. In fact, experts from Psychology Today report that studies reveal how 80 percent of children recover so well, most of them experience no lasting negative effects. These findings apply to all areas of life—social adjustments, educational performance, and overall health.

Helping Your Child Thrive

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divorcing parent, DuPage County divorce attorney, parenting plan, parenting agreement, allocation of parental responsibilitiesAs a divorcing parent, the pressures you face are amplified, as your responsibilities are nearly doubled due to the transitional needs of the entire family. Not only do you need to make living and financial arrangements for yourself while also looking after your physical and emotional health, you must make arrangements for any children you share with your spouse, too. A solid parenting agreement is essential when entering post-divorce life, as it will provide the legal blueprint for how you will continue to raise your child once you are separated.

Getting Organized

Although the pressure may be overwhelming as you address the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and parenting time (visitation), there are a few ways to to help streamline the parenting plan process and ensure you start off on the right foot. Here are some key steps to drafting an effective parenting plan:

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DuPage County divorce attorney, Illinois divorceThe most common reason for not hiring a lawyer to assist with divorce in Illinois isn not surprising: Many spouses believe they cannot afford legal representation, so they decide to go it alone. You may agree with this position yourself, thinking you can rely on the Internet for assistance with the process. However, attempting to represent yourself in divorce without a legal background is a mistake—similar to trying to fix your car without mechanical training.

Trying to save money on legal representation will likely cost you more in the long run. Hence, you should work with an experienced Illinois divorce lawyer to represent you.

Knowledge of the Law

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Posted on in Property Division

DuPage County divorce attorney, high asset divorcesDivorce is a complex emotional and financial event. This is true for couples regardless of their financial status. Wealthy couples with high assets will face a unique set of challenges and stress during their divorce. You and your spouse will need to work through the emotions of a divorce and defend the financial assets you have built. You will also have the difficult task of sorting through your stocks, property, IRAs and 401k accounts. Additionally, in many cases, you will need to investigate your spouse's finances to ensure that you have identified all available assets to divide in the divorce. In many high asset divorces, property division can become the central issue.

Protect Assets with a Prenuptial Agreement

While prenuptial agreements are not just for the wealthy, it is probably a good idea for wealthy couples to consider drafting such a contract. Under Illinois law, couples can use a prenuptial agreement to make decisions about their assets and other issues that may arise in a divorce. Issues that you can incorporate in your prenuptial include:

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Posted on in Family Law

DuPage County divorce attorney, family court decisionLawyers do not like to lose in court. This is particularly true in divorce cases where the attorney knows the “losing” party might experience a tremendous financial change or lose parental rights.

When you lose in court, you may feel like you want a second chance to change the court's decision. Many individuals have heard of the term ‘appeal,’ and understand that an appeal can reverse a court's decision on a matter. What you may wonder after a decision in a divorce is whether or not you can appeal the trial court's decision; and, if so, if you in fact should appeal the decision.

Ultimately, the answer depends on the specifics of the case, which is why it is important to speak to an attorney beforehand.

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Posted on in Divorce

DuPage County divorce attorney, default judgmentUnderstanding divorce and the associated timeline can be confusing. However, it is important that you respond to request from the court and show up for court when you have a hearing. If you do not appear at hearing related to your divorce, it is possible that a court may decide to enter a default judgment against you in the divorce proceedings. When the court enters a default judgment, this means that the court has decided that you did not properly respond or participate in your divorce proceedings. If the court believes you have not properly responded, the court will make a judgment in favor of your spouse.

Once a court enters a default judgment entered against you in your divorce, you need to respond quickly. There is still time to protect your rights and interests that were not addressed by the judgment. It may even be possible to have your default judgment vacated. However, whether this is possible depend on the reason you were not able to appear in court.

Vacating a Default Judgment

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Posted on in Property Division

DuPage County divorce attorney, hiding assetsOftentimes, one spouse is responsible for managing household finances, while the other spouse may not have a clear idea about the family’s income and expenses. Handling finances this way is fine when both spouses plan to stay in the marriage. However, if the marriage begins to deteriorate and divorce becomes a possibility, then the spouse handling family finances may try to take advantage of this situation by hiding assets. 

Most divorces will involve the division of property, including marital financial assets. Spouses may hide assets in an attempt to avoid losing all or part of these assets in the divorce settlement. They may plan to then use these hidden assets for their own gain later on. Hiding financial assets is unethical and illegal.

Stay Involved in Household Finances

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DuPage county divorce attorneys, legal separationThe Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows for legal separation. Legal separations are not very common, since the expense of a legal separation is similar to a divorce. However, it is possible that a couple may prefer legal separation over divorce.

If you and your spouse are considering a legal separation, then there are a few factors you may want to consider as you begin the separation process.

What Are the Requirements for a Legal Separation?

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DuPage County divorce attorney, marital and non-marital assetsDivorcing couples must decide how to divide assets and marital property. If a couple can decide how to divide assets without contention, this process can be simple. Sometimes, however, it is not easy for a couple to identify marital assets or decide on how to divide the assets. When this happens it is important to understand how marital property is defined. Understanding basic differences will allow a divorcing couple to properly discuss marital assets with their divorce attorney. 

Defining Marital Property

Illinois is a non-marital property state. This means that property either spouse gained during the marriage is marital property. It does not matter if only one spouse has the title to the property. If the property was purchased during the marriage it will be divided in the divorce. Examples of marital property acquired during a marriage include: 

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Posted on in Divorce
Common Causes of Divorce

Former spouses may find it difficult to put their finger on a specific event that foreshadowed the end of their marriage. Yet for others, changes in their lives can be easily identified. Common developments that can prompt the breakdown of a marriage include job loss, childbirth, living apart, trauma, illness, children leaving the home and infidelity.

Reasons for Separating

Changes to a spouse’s job, especially layoffs or severe reductions of hours or pay, are a common factor in the deterioration of marriages. Studies show that unemployed spouses are more likely to leave or be left by the other spouse. Understandably, the loss of a job by one or both partners in a marriage can cause stress about finances and can easily translate into marital dissatisfaction. Changes to work schedules can impact how couples spend time together, de-prioritizing a marriage in order to focus on work responsibilities can cause in isolation and resentment between spouses.

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Spousal Support After a Divorce

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is intended to provide a financial cushion for divorced spouses who find themselves at a financial disadvantage after the end of the marriage, often because they declined to further pursue their education or career in order to care for the family. As traditional gender roles shift, it is increasingly common for ex-husbands to turn to the court to require their ex-wives to pay them spousal support. Although women, in general, still earn less than men in this country, many wives contribute significantly or solely to the family’s finances.

The Process of Deciding on Alimony Amounts

Some former spouses are able to come to an agreement about the amount of alimony that the more financially advantaged spouse will provide to the other spouse, either independently or with the help of a divorce lawyer.

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Posted on in Divorce

Under Illinois child custody law, the idea of custody encompasses two sets of rights: physical custody, which is the responsibility for the child’s personal care; and legal custody, which involves making major decisions about the child’s life. Custody can be shared by both parents, or vested only in one parent, depending on what a family law judge decides is best for the child.

For all court decisions relating to children, the central consideration is the best interests of the child. Many factors go into determining the best interests, including the wishes of the child, the wishes of the parents, the quality of the relationship of the child with her parents, siblings, or other close relatives, the child's level of adjustment to her home, community, and school, the mental and physical health of the child and parents, physical violence, threats, or other abuse by the parent, of the child or others, and the willingness of each parent to cooperate to allow for a relationship between the child and the other parent to continue and grow.

The default assumption for courts is that the involvement of both parents is best for the child, but this can be disproven if one parent raises valid concerns about the negative physical, mental, moral, or emotional impact of the other parent on the child. Based on their findings, a court will decide to either grant sole or joint custody over the child.

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Posted on in Divorce

chronology of divorce casesAs you are undoubtedly aware, divorce cases can drag on for months and even years, preventing the parties from moving on with their lives. But why does it take so long? The lifespan of a divorce begins even before either party files for dissolution of marriage under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, and lasts until a full agreement has been reached. Many cases involve complex circumstances that take longer to sort out. Below you will find more information on the main phases of a divorce.

Filing of a Petition for Dissolution

Your case officially begins when your lawyer files a petition in court. Once the petition is filed, you can wait before telling your spouse, if it is to your advantage, but you cannot wait forever. An attorney can help you decide when the time is right to ask the sheriff to serve your spouse with divorce papers.

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dissipation of assets, DuPage County divorce attorneyIf you are considering divorce, or are already beginning the process, and your spouse has been spending your shared funds imprudently, you may be able to get some of the money back.

Under Illinois’ marriage dissolution law, when one spouse uses marital funds for his or her own benefit, and not for the benefit of the marriage, it is called dissipation. For these purposes, marital assets include income from employment or investments, and funds in shared accounts such as IRAs, savings accounts, CDs, and 401(k)s that built up throughout the marriage. Senseless spending of such funds is only classified as dissipation if it occurs when the marriage is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.

Often, the date when this breakdown began is very hard to pinpoint, and is a source of bitter disagreement in itself, especially since it can impact how any funds spent during this time will be viewed by a court. Sometimes, the date of separation is used; more rarely, it could be the date when one party filed for a divorce. However, courts often find that the breakdown began well before either of these dates.

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nonmarital propertyAside from child custody issues, property division can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. Illinois courts apply principles of equitable distribution when determining which party should end up with what property at the end of the divorce. The first step during the property division process is generally classifying property as marital or nonmarital. The issue of contribution, however, can complicate this process during the very first step.

What is It?

The issue of contribution in regards to property division involves the situation where one party adds value to a particular piece of property that the other spouse claims to be nonmarital.  Think of the following example:

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attorneys fees in divorceWhile it is vital to hire an attorney to help guide you through a dissolution of marriage, the idea of paying that attorney’s fees can be daunting. At the beginning of a divorce, it is very common for one spouse to not have a significant paying job outside of the home. Even in marriages where this is not the case, it may be that one spouse primarily controlled the household finances. For someone who was never the primary wage earner or never had much to do with the marital finances, the thought of paying his or her own attorney’s fees may be especially scary. Fortunately, there are laws in Illinois that allow trial courts to order one party to contribute to the other’s attorney’s fees under certain circumstances.

The Law

As a general rule, each party to the dissolution is responsible for paying his or her own attorneys fees. However, trial courts are allowed to order one party to pay, or at least contribute to, the other’s attorney’s fees at the end of the divorce in certain situations. In determining whether or not they should award the payment of attorney’s fees by the non-client spouse, courts are told that they should consider the following:

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