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DuPage County parenting time lawyersBack-to-school can be a fun and exciting time for families, but for couples in the midst of a divorce, communication is critical to avoiding arguments. Learn how you and your spouse can foster a positive co-parenting experience during this hectic period with help from the following. 

Get on the Same Page (or as Close as Possible)

When it comes to educational goals, parents need to be on the same page—or at least as close as possible. Common areas of contention involve debates over private versus public school, the district in which the child should attend school, and whether extracurricular activities will be covered by child support, or if each parent will contribute to the cost of their own volition. 

Remember, at the end of the day, what you and your spouse really want is to provide the best possible education for your child, at a cost that each of you can reasonably afford. Also, keep in mind that you may spend a great deal of time, negotiating an arrangement that works for all involved parties. 

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Wheaton divorce attorneysDivorce can make a massive impact on your life, especially when it comes to financial matters. Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate the risks. Learn more about managing your finances while pursuing an Illinois divorce in the following sections. 

Create a Pre- and Post-Divorce Budget 

Divorcing parties are often aware that a new budget is necessary. One budget may not be adequate, however. You may need both a pre- and post-divorce budget. The first (your pre-divorce budget) addresses how you and your spouse will handle any joint accounts in the months leading up to the divorce, along with your own personal financial responsibilities. The latter (the post-divorce budget) focuses on how you will manage your financial obligations once the divorce has been finalized. 

Consider Paying Down Debt Before the Divorce 

While it may be tempting to wait to pay down your debt until after receiving your divorce settlement, such a plan can create unnecessary financial risks for you once the divorce has been finalized. Interest rates may increase the amount owed. Accounts may be sent to collection agencies, which can hurt your credit. Lastly, your settlement amount may not be enough to cover any overdue balances. Alternatively, by using the settlement to cover the debt, rather than forge a new future, you could increase your risk of long-term financial issues. To avoid such an issue, consider paying down your debt before filing for divorce. 

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Illinois divorce attorneysPeople often see kids as resilient, but the truth is, they are no different from other people. They may struggle to cope with difficult situations. Such is often the case in a divorce. Determine if your child may need therapy to cope with your separation by looking for the following signs. 

Difficulty in School and Social Life 

Children who are depressed and out of sorts may find it difficult to concentrate in school, or they may begin to lose interest in their social life. Watch for slipping grades, poor behavior, and an overall disinterest in social activities. They may also avoid their friends. Alternatively, your child’s social circle may begin to change; they may start to hang out with delinquents or kids who drink and do drugs. A chance to talk about their feelings may help to improve the situation, but if you are concerned about your child’s safety or future, it may be time to seek professional help. 

Regression and Behavioral Issues at Home

When children go through a difficult or traumatic event, they may display regressive behaviors, such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting. Alternatively, your child may start acting out at home. Some become aggressive and lash out at their parents or siblings. Others may steal, lie, or attempt to manipulate. Most of the time, these behaviors will subside with time, but if they are severe or persist, you may need to seek counseling for your child. 

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Illinois divorce attorneysDivorce requires you to make multiple life-changing decisions. One of the first determinations is deciding when to tell your spouse that you wish to end the marriage. Time it poorly and you could compromise the outcome of your case. Wait too long and your spouse may become resentful, which can make negotiations more difficult. Time it just right using these guidelines. 

When You Anticipate a Simple Divorce 

In a simple divorce, there are very few issues to argue about during proceedings. Marital assets are either clearly defined or minimal. There are no involved children. Issues that cause distrust, such as asset hiding are non-existent. Timing in these divorce cases are less critical than in other situations, but you should still wait to tell your spouse about the divorce until speaking with an attorney. Even the simplest of divorces can become contentious under the right circumstances. Your attorney can help you avoid some of those potential pitfalls before they ever occur, increasing the chances that your case will remain simple. 

When You Feel Distrust Toward Your Spouse 

Asset hiding, lying, and infidelity can erode trust in a marriage. In a divorce, they can become catalysts for highly toxic situations. As such, it is highly recommended that you do not tell your spouse about the divorce until instructed to do so by your lawyer. That may even mean waiting until you have moved out and the paperwork has been filed. 

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DuPage County divorce lawyersDivorce consultations are designed to help you take the next step in your case. They are also meant to ensure you pick the “right” lawyer for the job. Avoid the possibility of an ill-fitting divorce attorney by asking these five questions during your initial divorce consultation. 

#1 - Who Will Work on My Case? 

The person you meet during your consultation may not be the one assigned to your case. Some attorneys work in teams. Others hand off a portion of their cases to a paralegal. Seeing that communication during your case is critical and you will spend months working with this person or team, it is important that you meet everyone involved before proceeding. Determine what role each person plays, know who will be with you during each phase of the divorce process, and ask about each person’s experience and commitments. 

#2 - Do You Have Time for My Case?

Like most people, attorneys can over-commit themselves. If that happens, your simple divorce or low-level case may be pushed to the back. Avoid this situation by asking your attorney if they have any high-profile cases on their docket. That way you know, upfront, whether he or she can provide you with the time and commitment that your case deserves. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersEven in the simplest, most straightforward of divorces, the division of assets can lead to contention. In those with complex assets, the stakes are inevitably raised. Ensure you get your fair share during your Illinois divorce by understanding how complex assets are divided. 

What Are Complex Assets? 

For most assets, the value is straightforward. As an example, consider the balance of your bank account. Its value does not change, based on circumstance or the market. Instead, it is a real asset; its value is the displayed amount. Complex assets work differently. Their value may be difficult to determine because the value is constantly changing, based on market trends or future value (stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, real estate, etc.). Other assets are based on obscure factors, such as buyer interest or individual appraisers (artwork, jewelry, collectibles, etc.). Needless to say, dividing assets like these can be difficult and complex. 

Determining Your “Fair Share” in an Illinois Divorce 

Illinois is considered an equitable distribution state, meaning each party gets a “fair share” of the marital assets. In mediation and other alternative dispute resolution situations, the parties negotiate and agree upon their shares. In court, a judge makes the decision. There is no “right” or “wrong.” Instead, there are parameters used to determine what a spouse may be owed in divorce. Some of these factors include the: 

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DuPage County family law attorneysFor most divorcing parents, the primary concern is the safety and well-being of their child. The weight of that concern increases even further when there is a family history of domestic violence. Thankfully, there are preventative measures that parents can take to protect their child from abuse during and after a divorce. Learn how to utilize them through your Illinois parenting plan, and discover how our seasoned Wheaton divorce attorneys can assist with the process. 

Domestic Violence and the Propensity for Child Abuse 

Spousal abuse is not a definitive predictor for child abuse, as some abusers will harm their intimate partners but do not their children. Domestic violence within the home is considered a risk factor for child abuse, however, because it indicates that the abuser has a propensity for violence. Victims are encouraged to watch for potential signs of abuse in their child and to take preventative measures to protect their child from the possibility of violence or abuse. 

Recognizing the Signs of Child Abuse 

Victims of domestic violence tend to be astutely aware of the signs of physical abuse, such as unexplained (or poor explanations for the causes of) bruising, scrapes, and broken bones, they may be less likely to notice the subtler psychological signs. Often, this is because the victim is still healing and does not recognize the ways that abuse has changed their own personality. As a reference, consider these non-physical signs of abuse to determine if your child is being victimized by your spouse: 

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Wheaton alimony attorneysAt the start of 2019, the federal government eliminated the 70-year-old tax deduction associated with alimony payments. For receiving spouses, it may seem beneficial to no longer have to claim alimony payments as income, but the change actually leaves less money for the entire family. That is because paying spouses, who remain at the same tax bracket, may need to decrease their support amount to balance out their financial obligations. Thankfully, there are some alternative strategies that families can use to preserve their wealth after a divorce. 

Trading Alimony Payments for a Transference of Retirement Funds 

Depending on the ages of the divorcing parties, a transference of retirement funds may be preferable to alimony payments. In this option, the paying spouse makes a tax-free exchange of money by directing some of their retirement funds to the lower-earning spouse. The receiving spouse may also withdraw from the amount without tax penalty, so long as they are age 59.5 or older. If the receiving party has not yet surpassed the age threshold, divorcing parties may want to consider another alternative, as the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty may outweigh any potential benefits for the family unit. 

Using a Trust Account in Lieu of Alimony Payments 

Another potentially viable alternative to alimony payments is the use of a trust account. The most commonly used versions are the CRT (charitable remainder trust), QTIP (Qualified Terminable Interest Trust), ILIT (Life Insurance Trust), and Alimony Trusts. 

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Illinois divorce lawyersOut of all the assets that a couple owns, the house tends to be the most valuable. It only makes sense for parties to struggle when deciding what to do with it while going through a divorce. Its ability to cause contention between the parties is also understandable, yet arguments can cloud judgment. Stop fighting and start considering the pros and cons of selling your home in a divorce, which are outlined in this post. 

Reasons to Sell Your Home in a Divorce (and the Potential Benefits)

A house is more than just a building. It is full of family memories. It is, perhaps, where you raised your children. It is your home, and possibly the only connection you have to a happier time. As such, discussions about selling it may be triggering for either you or your spouse, yet there are many situations in which this might be the most beneficial route. 

It may be the only asset of value in your marriage, which means it may be the only way to ensure you have the money to start over. The cost of maintaining it (mortgage, maintenance, HOA fees, etc.) may be too much of a burden for either you or your spouse to bear. Selling it could allow you to pay off the mortgage and still have a little bit of money left over. 

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Wheaton parenting plan attorneysStudies show that children often fare best in a divorce when both parents remain in their lives. Parents can accomplish this with a well-devised parenting plan. How do you go about creating one of these? What works for most families? What will work for you? Keep reading to learn more about the most common parenting plans used in divorce, and how they can be customized to suit your family’s needs. 

Alternating Schedules 

Of all the different parenting plans, the alternating schedule is the most common and traditional. It involves the child spending uninterrupted time with one parent for a period (two days, three days, one week, two weeks, etc.) and then the other. There may even be mid-week visits or mid-week overnights for one or both parents. 

The time does not have to be equal. Children may spend two weeks with one parent and then one with the other, or a week with one parent and then just a weekend with the other. There is no right or wrong here. Just what works best for your family. 

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Illinois divorce lawyersMoney can be one of the greatest sources of contention in a divorce - and for good reason! There are some parties who are just dead set on getting more than their fair share. They will even go so far as to hide money and other assets from their unsuspecting spouses. Is your spouse participating in this underhanded (and illegal) activity? Look for these signs.

Your Spouse is Secretive or Defensive About Money 

If your spouse gets defensive whenever you talk about money or finances, it could be a key sign that they are trying to hide something. Alternatively, they may be secretive about their earnings, perhaps even going so far as to revoke your access to certain financial accounts. Some will even hide secret purchases (a commonly used tactic in asset hiding). 

Your Spouse Intercepts Bills and Financial Statements 

An asset hiding spouse does not want you to know where the family’s finances stand, so they will go to extreme lengths to ensure you never see a bill or statement. They may even have a secret post office box for receiving these pieces of financial information. 

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Illinois divorce attorneysThough divorce may be the right choice for a marriage, it is far from the easy one. It can be mentally and emotionally draining. As a complex and nuanced legal process, it can also be financially draining if not approached in the right manner. Reduce the risk of significant financial issues during your Illinois divorce by taking these five steps during the preparation phase.

1. Track Your Income and Expenses

Start tracking your income and expenses, as soon as you realize that divorce is inevitable. The more financial information you have, the better. Check bank accounts, stocks and bonds, savings accounts, any investment interests, retirement accounts, and any educational savings accounts that you and your spouse may have set aside for your children. Also, ensure you know exactly how much income you and your spouse bring in each month. 

You’ll also want to take stock of any assets that you and your spouse may own. This can include: 

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Wheaton family law attorneysIt takes a great deal of money to raise a child, especially one with special needs. There are often added expenses for medical treatment, therapies, and perhaps even therapeutic or medical equipment. Thankfully, when parents are separated or divorced, these added expenses can be factored into an order for child support. Learn more, including how a seasoned family law attorney can improve the outcome of your case, in the following sections. 

How Child Support is Calculated in Illinois 

Illinois uses what is known as the “income shares” model to determine the amount of support a parent owes. The process starts with an economic table, supplied by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, to determine the cost of raising the child. 

That amount is then compared to the net income of each parent to determine what their obligation of support should be. The closer the receiving parent’s income is to the obligated paying parent, the less the support will generally be. The goal is to try and balance out the cost and ensure that neither parent is overly burdened by the cost of supporting the child. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersThe division of assets can be one of the biggest sources of contention in an Illinois divorce. Part of the reasoning for this can be attributed to the term “equitable distribution,” which essentially means that each party is entitled to their “fair share” of the marital estate. What is your fair share, and how can you ensure you get it during your divorce? The following explains. 

Determining Your “Fair Share” in an Illinois Divorce 

Nothing in life is fair - especially not divorce. Yet, this is the terms that courts use when dividing assets in an Illinois divorce. What might your fair share look like? A few factors are used in reaching this determination, including: 

  • The overall value of your marital estate;
  • Your capacity to earn an income;
  • Your spouse’s capacity to earn an income;
  • Any involved children (and their needs);
  • Non-marital assets that may improve your living standard;
  • Which assets may be held by either party after the divorce; and
  • Any limitations that may hinder a party’s ability to earn a living. 

Essentially, the courts want to do what they can to ensure that you and your spouse are nearly equal in assets and income, once the divorce has ended. Achieving this lofty goal can be quite difficult, however, especially if there are hidden assets or deceptive practices involved. 

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DuPage County family law attorneysChild custody battles can get ugly, fast, and in some cases, there is a need to ensure that the child’s well-being is not at risk. In these situations, a Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed. What do you do if this happens during your Illinois custody case, and how should you respond? 

Avoid the Panic and Prepare for the Process 

When parents learn that a Guardian Ad Litem, they often go into panic mode. Unfortunately, this does nothing to benefit the case. In fact, if anything, such a reaction could jeopardize the proceedings and, ultimately, the outcome of your Illinois child custody case. As such, it is recommended that parents put their energy into preparation, rather than panic. 

If you have not done so already, ensure you have legal representation to help you through the process. Also, consider taking a parenting class to prove that you are not just a good parent, but a proactive one. Parents should also prepare for the interview and home study process, which are fairly standard in cases involving a Guardian Ad Litem. 

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DuPage County adoption attorneysAdoption can be a rewarding way to grow your family. Unfortunately, there are many would-be parents who worry that they are not “good enough” to adopt. Perhaps they struggle to balance their work and home life, or maybe they do not have the best upbringing. Rest assured that these issues may be less relevant than you think when trying to adopt. Learn more about what adoption agencies are looking for in an adoptive parent, and discover how our seasoned family law attorneys can help you skillfully navigate the emotionally trying and legally complex process. 

Adoption Agencies Want Loving and Committed Parents

Raising a child is hard work that takes a lot of love and dedication. Adoption agencies understand this, which is why they are less focused on perfection and more concerned with finding loving and committed parents. If you are willing to go the distance for your child, be it financially or by simply ensuring that they have a happy, stable childhood, then adoption may very well be the right path for growing your family. 

Adoption Agencies Want Children to Live in a Safe Environment 

Safety is a critical element in a child’s home - for both obvious and not so obvious reasons. Little kids move quickly, and they are often unable to recognize just how dangerous a situation or object can be. That is why they need attentive, loving parents to watch over them. If you can offer this, then you may be exactly the kinds of parent that the agencies are hoping will apply.

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Wheaton parenting time lawyersThe process of divorce can be messy, especially when children are involved. Fueled by a desire to ease the transition for their children, many parents are turning to “birdnesting,” a process in which the children stay in the family home and the parents take turns living there. Some say this gives children a more stable environment while the parents trudge through the legal process of divorce, but does it really work? 

Data Regarding Birdnesting is Limited 

Child development experts, healthcare professionals, psychologists, and other child specialists have been compiling and examining data on the impact that divorce has on children for decades now. Because of that, we now know that divorce is not necessarily what hurts children as much as it is the nature of the proceedings. Yet, when it comes to birdnesting, data is still sorely lacking. Quite simply, this divorce strategy has not been around long enough to determine, for sure, that it is beneficial to children during the divorce process. 

Many Families Swear by the Birdnesting Method

Although the birdnesting process lacks any hard data, many families are singing its praises. They claim that their children seem to be more grounded, even if they themselves are struggling to cope with the process. Many of these families also continue on with their regular traditions, such as family dinner nights. These families claim that their children seem to feel more secure in the love that both parents have with them. Moreover, parents say that their birdnesting arrangement is a strong jumping point for the co-parenting relationship ahead. 

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Wheaton parenting time attorneysDivorce can bring out the worst in people - and that includes parents. Unfortunately, the stakes of divorce tend to be higher when there are children involved. They can suffer from maladjustment issues, a strained relationship with their parents, and even poor academic performance when the proceedings are not carefully managed.

Thankfully, there are tools and resources that parents can use to mitigate such issues during a divorce, even if the parents themselves cannot seem to get along. Learn more with help from the following sections. 

Start with a Solid Co-Parenting Plan 

The first step to protecting your child in a divorce is ensuring you have a solid co-parenting plan, moving forward. Determine how often your child will be with you, and how often they will be their other parent. Also, consider matters like who will drop your child off at school. Who will pick them up? Who can provide the best accommodations of your child over the weekend? Holidays, birthdays, and summers with your child should also be carefully considered. 

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Wheaton divorce attorneysMoney can be one of the most contentious aspects of an Illinois divorce case. Yet, when divorcing parties know how to effectively manage their own money during the process (instead of simply waiting on their settlement to get their financial life in order), the proceedings tend to be less stressful for everyone involved. Learn more about how you can start to improve your financial life, today, before you even begin your divorce, and discover how our seasoned attorneys can assist you with the process in the following sections. 

Create a Budget and Spending Plan

The first step to starting your new life is knowing what you own, what you make, and what you must spend. This information can all be obtained and understood with a budget and spending plan. These financial tools can also cue you into any potential problems that may be looming on the horizon. 

Know Where You Stand, Credit-Wise

Financial security requires you to look at more than just your income and expenditures; to create true hope for your future, it is important to also know where you stand with your credit. Not only is it the key to forging your new life, but it is also a tool that your ex can use to sabotage your future. Pull it before you file, monitor it during the process, and if you need help to get things back on track, contact a financial advisor for guidance and assistance. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyersLife’s catastrophes do not care what your circumstances are; they just are. Such is the case with job loss and divorce. So what do you do when you or your spouse loses a job whilst knee-deep in divorce negotiations? The following information can help to provide some answers. 

Notify Your Attorney of the Situation

Notifying your attorney of the situation is your first (and perhaps most important) step in managing a job loss during divorce negotiations. If you are the one now unemployed, your attorney can help you devise a strategy for moving forward, which may be critical to your financial well-being if you were positioned to pay child support or alimony. If your spouse was the one let off from their job, attempt to understand the cause of the job loss to the best of your abilities and relay that information to your attorney. Depending on the situation, your total settlement may not change (i.e. your spouse voluntarily quit their job or was terminated for attendance issues, which they can control). It is important to note that their obligation to pay spousal support or child support may be temporarily placed on hold, but that does not necessarily mean it will disappear entirely. 

Create a Plan for Moving Forward

Regardless of whether it was you or your spouse who experienced the job loss, it is important that you devise a plan for moving forward. If you are the one currently unemployed, take an inventory of any savings you may have on hand to tide you over until new employment can be found. If your spouse is the one now unemployed, determine how you will forge forward if your settlement suffers. Some ideas might include:

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