Category Archives: Family Law

IL divorce lawyerDeciding to get divorced is a big decision and one that you have undoubtedly spent countless sleepless nights agonizing over. Now that you have made up your mind that divorce is in your best interest, the prospect of having to go through the divorce process can suddenly seem extra daunting. Divorce is stressful, it takes half a year or more in many cases, and it puts extra strain on your children, your other loved ones, your career, and your finances. Below are four frequently asked questions about divorce that our clients commonly have.

Who Gets the Children?

In many divorces, the spouses are able to reach an agreement about child custody and the parenting plan with assistance from their attorneys. However, when agreement and compromise fail, a court will make the child custody decision for you. Judges always favor the custody arrangement that they believe will be in the child’s best interest. Long gone are the days when mothers were always given sole custody, in Illinois and across the country, fathers are fighting and lobbying to make joint custody the norm.

Are Marital Assets Divided Down the Middle?

Illinois is an equitable division state, which means that marital property is divided “fairly,” though not necessarily an even 50/50. In a contested divorce, courts look at the following information to help them decide which spouse gets what:

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IL divorce lawyerAdhering to a parenting plan is crucial for the wellbeing of your child. When the other parent decides to violate that plan by dropping off your child late or refusing to return your child to you, it becomes necessary to take legal action. Children need structure for proper development and growth, and violating a parenting plan is not only unfair to you, but denying your child this crucial structure is downright harmful.

How Violating the Parenting Plan Increases Hostility and Distrust Between Divorced Parents

There are many reasons why separated or divorced parents hold onto their anger or cannot forgive each other. One study found that social network disapproval toward the other parent (friends disapprove of the other parent) increases co-parenting conflict. Other contributing factors to continued hostility after the divorce or separation is in the past, like “trash talking” the other parent in front of the children, often include infidelity during the relationship and continued poor communication after the marriage or relationship has terminated.

However, one of the greatest sources of conflict between divorced or separated parents is caused when one, or both, parents violate the parenting plan. Dropping the children off late or refusing to make compromises are examples of how a parent may try to gain leverage or assert their authority over the other parent. This comes at a great cost to the children, who inevitably suffer emotional trauma at the expense of being in the middle of a game of tug-of-war between their parents. It is essential to take legal action when you believe the other parent is violating the terms of the parenting agreement.

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IL divorce attorneyThe most cherished “property” in many family households is not really thought of them as property at all, yet pets are, in fact, property. However, there is good news for pet owners in Illinois. While dogs, cats, and other pets were once considered nothing more than either non-marital property or marital property and custody was never an option, this is no longer the case. In 2018, the law was changed, giving judges the ability to grant custody of pets to their owners during a divorce. As such, a judge may grant sole or joint custody of a dog, cat, guinea pig, or other animal in contested divorce cases when the two parties are unable to come to an agreement. A joint custody decision might outline who gets the pet on which days, weeks, or months, while a sole custody decision would give full ownership responsibilities and rights to a single spouse.

The Law Only Applies to Marital Asset Pets

Nonmarital property is all property that a spouse had before marriage. This includes bank accounts, real property, automobiles, furniture, stocks, and more. Anything that was owned before the marriage papers were signed is nonmarital property, while just about everything owned or acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, except in a few cases such as inheritance, gifts that were given specifically to one party, and some civil lawsuit awards. With this in mind, was your dog or cat acquired during or before marriage? If a pet is acquired during marriage, it is considered marital property and a judge can assign custody. If the pet was acquired before marriage and is not marital property, whoever purchased the pet is the legal owner. Many pets are acquired during the relationship but before marriage, and determining who the rightful owner is can be challenging.

The Well-Being of Companion Animals Is Taken Into Account When Deciding Custody

According to 750 ILCS 5/503, Illinois courts have the authority to grant sole or joint custody of “companion animals” that are also marital assets. In determining custody, the court “shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal. As such, custodial decisions for marital asset pets can be decided in a similar fashion as custody for children. A judge may pose some of the following questions to get an idea of who the pets primary caretaker is and which party will be able to provide for the pet’s needs.

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IL custody lawyerIf you moved out of Illinois after a parenting plan was already in place, or your divorce is ongoing and you plan to move as soon as it is finalized, figuring out how to go about visitation can be difficult due to the physical distance between you and your child. If the original parenting plan is no longer applicable because it was created when you were still in Illinois, you may need to take your case back to court to have a new parenting plan created by a judge if the other parent is not in agreement with your wishes. It is not uncommon for custodial parents to deny you time with your child via phone, internet, or even in-person visits, particularly if you live in another state. A Hinsdale custody lawyer will be able to help you create a new parenting plan and take the matter to court to be approved by a judge if necessary.

Electronic Communication

Skype, Facetime, email, texting, phone calls, and other forms of electronic communication such as social media are often part of a parenting plan, even when both parents live in the same state. When a parent lives out of state, communication by phone and computer become even more important. However, custodial parents may attempt to interfere with your communication and even ban or limit the use of your child’s cell phone or computer. Eighty-eight percent of teenagers aged 13 to 17 have access to a cell phone, though that access may include their parent’s cell phone. Younger children have even more limited access to cell phones, and purchasing a smartphone for your child may be a necessary part of a parenting plan for out of state parents. Regardless of how the other parent is alienating you, it can be addressed by an attorney and brought to a judge’s attention.

Travel Expenses

Plane flights are an expense that keeps many parents from seeing their children as much as they would like. When an out of state parent travels to Illinois to visit their child, they have to take time away from work, purchase a plane ticket, pay for a hotel, and spend additional money on a rental car or other means of in-town transportation. It may make more sense to have your child visit you in addition to visiting them. And, in many circumstances, the custodial parent can be held partially responsible for purchasing the child’s plane ticket. A judge may decide that travel costs should be split evenly by you and the other parent, even if the child is visiting you alone.

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IL divorce lawyerDivorce often brings out the worst in people. Even spouses who used to get along somewhat amicably before the divorce, but decided it was still best to split ways, tend to grow colder to one another and communicate less. Things can really get nasty during custody battles or when one spouse feels that the asset division or spousal support proposed by the other is unfair at best and a slap in the face at worst. During contested divorces, it is best to keep a calm, thoughtful, and rational approach so as to increase your chances of a successful outcome. An experienced DuPage County divorce attorney is always necessary during divorce — particularly when there is as much controversy as there are issues at stake, such as support, custody, and asset division.

Legal and Potentially Useful Evidence in Divorce Proceedings

Child custody and division of marital assets are the two big conflict areas in divorce and for good reason. A variety of evidence can be used to make the case of either spouse. For example, a mother may wish to build her case that she was the primary caretaker of her child, and submit evidence of such in the form of medical and school records—appointments that she attended and the father did not—in order to substantiate her claim that giving her sole custody is in the child’s best interest.

  • Text message exchanges
  • Emails
  • Social media pictures, comments, and messages
  • Credit card statements
  • Bank account information
  • Tax records
  • Investment information
  • Receipts
  • Photos
  • Property appraisals
  • Wills
  • Medical records
  • Custody evaluation reports

Evidence That Can Hurt Your Cause

GPS tracking via hidden apps in cell phones, keystroke recordings on computers, hidden nanny cams, and secret recordings may seem like a good idea to catch your spouse off guard and get them to reveal the truth, but engaging in any of these activities can seriously harm the outcome of your divorce. For one, many “spy-like” acts, such as secretly recording conversations, are illegal. Under 720 ILCS 5/14-1, eavesdropping by secretly recording a private conversation is a felony.

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