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Recent Blog Posts

Do I Need a Guardian Ad Litem?

 Posted on April 01, 2018 in Divorce

Getting a divorce in Illinois is an emotional experience that can have a profound effect on all parties involved, including of course the divorcing couple and any children that they may have together. While some parents are able to work peacefully together to determine what a time-sharing agreement will look like when the divorce is finalized, others are not, and reaching a custody decision may prove very difficult and contentious. In many cases, a guardian ad litem will be brought in – here’s what you need to know:

What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Also referred to simply as a GAL, a guardian ad litem is an attorney who is responsible for representing parties’ children in a divorce. Essentially, the job of the GAL is to find out as much as possible about the child’s living situation and the child’s best interests, and then make a recommendation to the court about parenting time and decision-making based on investigations. Again, the GAL is responsible for representing the child, and does not work for either parent. The biggest difference between a GAL and a child representative is that the former can be called as a witness to provide testimony.

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Benefits of Mediation

 Posted on April 01, 2018 in Divorce

Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution that is used to help divorcing couples understand each other, and work together to reach an agreement about tough issues in a divorce. While mediation is not always effective, it can be one way to mitigate litigation, as well as the high costs, time expenses, and emotions that accompany going to court.

Mediation may be something that couples choose to engage in on their own, or it may be court ordered. Either way, there are multiple benefits of mediation, including:

Mediation Can Be Less Expensive

Costs in a divorce increase dramatically when a couple needs to go to court to resolve issues, such as how property will be divided or who will get custody of a shared child. These expenses are comprised of both court and lawyer fees and going to court can wind up costing thousands of dollars. If you want to avoid the highest costs of divorce, mediation is often a much less expensive option.

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How Does Property Division Work in a Divorce?

 Posted on March 01, 2018 in Property Division

One of the greatest challenges of getting a divorce is unraveling the years’ worth of property entanglement that has occurred by virtue of marriage. Indeed, it can be impossible to know who owns what, as in the majority of cases, both parties have invested in or contributed to the purchase of nearly all assets in a marriage. Which leads to the question: How does property division work in a divorce? Here’s what you need to know about property division laws in Illinois:

Illinois is an Equitable Division State that Recognizes Marital Property

Unlike community property states that require that property in a divorce is divided equally–which means a 50/50 split–Illinois is an equitable division state, which means that all property must be divided in a manner that is equitable, or fair, but not necessarily equal.

Further, the state also recognizes the concept of marital property, which refers to all property that was acquired during the course of the marriage. Separate property, on the other hand, is that property that was acquired before the marriage, or was acquired during the marriage in a specific manner, such as gift or inheritance. All marital property is subject to equitable division in a divorce.

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Can I Get Visitation with My Pet?

 Posted on March 01, 2018 in Divorce

For many people, having a pet, such as a dog or a cat, is not equivalent with just having another asset that is to be divided at the time of separation or divorce; instead, the relationship with a pet more closely resembles that with a child or close family member, and therefore losing custody of a pet can be a very emotional experience.

For those who are divorcing and who have a close relationship with their pet, asking for pet visitation may be an option. Here’s a look into what you need to know regarding getting visitation with your pet during an Illinois divorce:

Recent Change to Illinois Law Allows for Pet Custody Decision

Prior to 2018, pets in an Illinois divorce case were treated like property and divided per the state’s equitable distribution laws as such. Following a law that went into effect in January 2018, however, family courts in Illinois can now consider the wellbeing of animals (similar to how the best interests of the child are weighed) in allocating sole or joint ownership/custody, as explained by an article in the Chicago Tribune. As a note, the new law excludes service animals, who will be awarded to the party who requires service.

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Can I Contest a Parenting Time Arrangement?

 Posted on March 01, 2018 in Child Support

When parents of a child are separating or filing for a divorce, they must come to an agreement regarding how time with their child will be shared. Illinois courts refer to this as “parenting time,” with 750 ILCS 5/600 distinguishing parenting time from significant decision-making responsibilities, explaining that parenting time is the time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions in regards to a child. Separating parents must create a parenting plan that addresses parenting time.

Of course, you may not agree with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s proposed parenting plan and time-sharing agreement and may want to contest the proposal. You may also want to contest a court’s decision to award parenting time in a manner that you find unfit or unfair. Here’s what you need to know–

Contesting Your Spouse’s Proposed Parenting Plan

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5 Ways to Avoid a Complicated Divorce

 Posted on March 01, 2018 in Divorce

There is no disagreement about the fact the divorces can be complicated as well as financially and emotionally complex. However, not all divorces have to be messy and contentious; there are many things that you can do to mitigate battles and avoid catastrophe. Here are five ways to avoid a complicated divorce in Illinois

1. Don’t Take Advice from Unqualified Individuals

If you’re going through a divorce, chances are you’ve told your closest family members and friends about the divorce and may have even shared the news with other parties, ranging from your neighbors to your hairstylist and more. While these parties may all want to provide you with advice–and have good intentions in doing so–remember that these individuals are not qualified to represent you during a divorce and may not have the education or skill set to provide you with sound suggestions. Essentially, don’t act on the advice of someone unqualified.

2. Watch Out for the Power of Emotions

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Taxes and Divorce

 Posted on February 01, 2018 in Divorce

When you get divorced and separate from your spouse, there are a lot of things to consider, including your financial picture. Indeed, one way that divorce can affect your financial status is by affecting your taxes. If you are filing for divorce–or have recently divorced in Illinois–make sure you understand how your divorce will affect your relationship with the IRS.

Filing Status

Getting a divorce will likely affect your filing status, as you will now be filing as “single” rather than “married.” However, remember that if you were still married during the tax year that you are filling for, you will need to file as “married.” For example, if you were married throughout 2017, your divorce was finalized in January 2018, and it’s now April and you’re getting ready to file your taxes for the previous year, you will need to file as married.

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Can I Change My Children’s Last Names after Divorce?

 Posted on February 01, 2018 in Divorce

If you are currently married and planning to divorce, or have recently divorced, dropping your spouse’s last name and going back to your own may be on the top of your to-do list. Depending upon your circumstances, you may also be hoping to change the last names of your children (assuming they have been given your ex-spouse’s last name). Here’s what you need to know about doing so:

Petition to Change a Child’s Name

Changing a child’s legal name is a process that requires going through the court. There are three likely forms that you may need to complete in order to petition to change your child’s name (work with an attorney to figure out which form specifically applies to your case):

  • Request for name change;
  • Notice of court date for request of name change; or/and
  • Order for change of name.

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Can I Refuse a Paternity Test?

 Posted on February 01, 2018 in Paternity

Establishing paternity is important for children, fathers, and mothers alike. Indeed, not only does establishing paternity help to ensure that a mother and child get the benefits to which they are entitled (such as a child support benefits), but also that a father is able to seek custody or visitation with his child, and maintain legal parental rights.

That being said, who the father is of a given child is not always clear. When this is the case, a mother may request that an alleged father take a paternity test. For myriad reasons, the father may be in opposition to this request.

If you have been requested to submit to a paternity test, here’s a look at what you should know about your right to refuse:

When You Can Refuse a Paternity Test

If you are an alleged father who is asked by a mother–and not another entity–to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity form or/and to submit to genetic testing to determine paternity, you have the legal right to refuse to do this. However, while you are legally allowed to refuse–and to do so without consequence–keep in mind that the mother has other legal resources at her disposal, including the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS).

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How Do I Divorce My Spouse if I am Unable to Locate Them?

 Posted on February 01, 2018 in Divorce

When a party to a marriage wishes to divorce, they typically initiate the process by telling their spouse they want a divorce, filing the appropriate papers with the court, and then serving their spouse the divorce summons. After the summons has been served, the receiving spouse will have an opportunity to reply to the summons, and the divorce will be officially underway.

But what does an individual do in the event that he or she cannot locate a spouse, and therefore is unable to serve the spouse with a divorce summons? Can they still seek a divorce?

Make a Good Effort to Find Your Spouse

The court tasks a spouse who wishes to file for divorce with the duty of making a good faith effort to find a spouse in order to serve them with papers. This may mean asking your spouse’s family and close friends if they know where your spouse is, reviewing your spouse’s cellphone or credit card history to determine a location, and using the internet and other search techniques (including, in some cases, even hiring a detective) to locate your spouse. The court will ask for proof that you made a good effort, so it is important that you not only do all of the above, but record it as well.

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