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Lombard family law attorneyIn September of last year, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a measure that amended several laws related to divorce in the state. The two biggest changes pertained to the calculation of spousal support, or maintenance, as it is formally known in Illinois. The law went into effect on January 1, 2018, so if you have recently filed for divorce, it is important for you to know how your case may be affected.

New Income Guidelines

For several years, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act has provided a formula by which a divorce court is expected to calculate how much maintenance should be paid in a particular case. The formula is a weighted function of each spouse’s annual gross income designed to offer extra support in situations where one spouse makes substantially less than the other. Specifically, the law states that the amount of maintenance to be paid is found by taking 30 percent of the payor’s income and subtracting 20 percent of the recipient’s income, as long as the maintenance plus the recipient’s income did not exceed 40 percent of the couple’s combined income.

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Lombard guardianship lawyersIf you wish to be the primary caregiver of a friend or family member who is unable to care for themselves, one option which you have available in Illinois is guardianship. Guardianship can be granted by a judge to help an adult who cannot make general life decisions on his or her own. Guardian responsibilities are categorized into two groups: financial/estate responsibilities and personal responsibilities. In Illinois, there can be separate guardians for a person and their estate or the same person can look after the disabled individual’s personal needs and make estate decisions.

Guardian Qualifications

In order to become a person’s legal guardian, you must be at least 18 years old, not legally disabled, a United States resident, cognitively capable of caring for another, and free from certain prior felony convictions. If the disabled person in question wishes for you to become his or her guardian, such wishes will be considered by the court, but the court is not obligated to approve you as a guardian.

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Lombard family law attorneyOn June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that states could no longer legally ban gay individuals from getting married. Since then, many same-sex couples have married, and some have chosen to start families of their own. Being a same-sex couple can bring up certain legal complications when children are involved, but fortunately, Illinois has measures in place to help potential parents obtain parental rights. One method some same-sex couples use to legally adopt a child into their family is second-parent adoption, also called co-parent adoption.

Second Parent Adoption Does Not Require Terminating Anyone’s Parental Rights

In most circumstances, when a person wishes to adopt a child, the child’s original parent or parents must terminate their parental rights. For example, when a woman places a baby up for adoption after giving birth, she signs documents which relinquish her rights to that child. A second-parent adoption is unique in that a parent can adopt a child without the child’s other parent losing their parental rights.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAccording to a CNBC.com survey, over one-third of high-net-worth families have failed to take even basic steps to provide for their loved ones when they die and to ensure that their final wishes are granted. More specifically, 38 percent of people with over $1 million or more in assets have not created an estate plan.

Many people do not realize the ways a comprehensive estate plan can help them and their loved ones, while others mistakenly believe that they do not make enough money to qualify for an estate plan. Another reason many otherwise financially-savvy people do not have an estate plan is because it can be exhausting and overwhelming to try to plan everything on your own. Studies show that some individuals suffer from what is called “estate planning fatigue” which makes them less likely to have up-to-date, enforceable estate plans.

Constant Changes to the Federal Estate Tax Laws Have Been Confusing

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DuPage County divorce lawyersThe roles of women and men have changed dramatically throughout the last 100 years. Women have gone from being treated as second-class citizens to earning the same rights as men. Even the last few decades have seen a dramatic increase in women in positions of power and authority. Many more women are choosing to make their career a top priority than in the past, and this has resulted in more families with a female breadwinner. If you are the primary earner in your marriage and you are considering divorce, you probably have many questions and concerns. Every divorce is different, but there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Know What Your Rights and Responsibilities Are

When we think of divorce, many consider the higher-earning spouse as more of a liability than an asset. After all, the spouse who brings more property and resources to the table has more to “lose.” The law treats marriage as a partnership, and most assets and debts accumulated during the marriage are considered to be marital property. However, many spouses struggle not to feel like certain things, such as retirement accounts or savings, are solely theirs. After all, they earned the money, so they believe they should get to keep it, regardless of the divorce.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerDo you know someone who is struggling to manage their life due to advanced age, illness or disability? Most of us know a person like this in our own families. In many cases, it is possible to help a person manage their affairs by sitting down with them and assisting them with paying bills, making health care decisions, and other aspects of everyday life. While this type of assistance is fine in some situations, others may require more drastic measures. One such option may be for you to seek guardianship of the person in question, but doing so can be complicated.

Identifying the Need for a Guardian

According to Illinois law, guardianship for an adult can only be granted by the court, but before the court can appoint a guardian, it must first determine that the adult is in need of one. Specifically, the court must find that the person in question is disabled due to deteriorating mental faculties, physical incapacitation, mental illness, or developmental disability. The court may also find a guardian to necessary for a person dealing with severe gambling, drinking, or drug problems.

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Lombard divorce attorneyMost of us know at least one married couple who are living separately. In some situations, spouses may experiment with a “trial separation” while in others, they are living on their own as they prepare for a divorce. Living separately is a common precursor to divorce, but there are some things you should know about separating before you or your spouse moves out.

What the Law Says

Prior to 2016, the law in Illinois required a couple to live separate and apart for a minimum of six months before they could pursue a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. The standard requirement, in fact, was two years, but if the spouses agreed, the separation period could be reduced to six months. Today, a couple can only seek a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences in Illinois, but the separation requirement has been eliminated altogether. The law was changed in 2016 to allow couples to pursue a happier post-divorce future without having to simply watch the calendar for months. If the spouses do not agree on the divorce, however, a six-month separation period is considered by the court to be irrebuttable proof that the marriage has broken down beyond repair.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersAccording to surveys, only about 40% of Americans have a last will and testament and much fewer have a comprehensive estate plan. There are many reasons why people neglect to plan for their future in this way. Some people are simply unaware of the ways an estate plan can help protect their wishes and decrease the burden on their family. Others assume that they do not have enough assets or make enough money to qualify for estate planning. The reality is that everyone can benefit from planning for the future using estate planning tools.

They Think They Do Not Need a Will If They Are Young and in Good Health

In movies, wills are only written by characters who have just learned that they have a terminal illness or are otherwise planning to die. This is very misleading. One of the worst times to write a will is when you are in bad health. A person should write a last will and testament while they are still cognitively competent to do so. A will written by a person of questionable mental capacity due to old age, dementia, or another illness is very vulnerable to being contested, or formally disputed in court. Furthermore, there is no need to wait until an advanced age to write a will or create a trust which determines how your assets are distributed after your death. The best idea is to create a will while you are young and to simply update it as your life circumstances change.

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Posted on in Divorce

DuPage County divorce attorneysDivorce is a tough process for anyone. After all, no one gets married with the intent to someday divorce. Women sometimes experience different challenges during divorce than men do. There is no perfect way to end your marriage, but there are some things you can do to minimize your stress and help the process go more smoothly.

Take Care of Your Needs

Women often put other’s wants before their own. Wives and mothers are sometimes so busy looking after others that they rarely stop to think about their own needs. According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, getting divorced is the second-most stressful life even a person can experience. Only the death of a spouse is considered to be a more stressful life event. During this time, it is important to charge your emotional battery. Whether that means going to the spa, out to lunch with friends, or sitting in your own backyard with a good book, do not be afraid to take time to de-stress while your divorce is ongoing.

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Lombard advance medical directive attorneysAlthough it has been nearly 13 years since she passed away, many people still remember the name Teri Schiavo from the famous right-to-die legal case which spanned from 1990 to 2005. Schiavo was only 26 years old when she suffered cardiac arrest which left her in a persistent vegetative state. Although the young woman was alive, doctors explained that she would probably never gain full consciousness.

Schiavo’s husband felt that his wife would not have wanted to be kept alive through machines and fed through feeding tubes and requested that his wife have her feeding tube removed. The woman’s parents fervently disagreed with this plan and battled in court to keep their daughter alive. The case sparked increased interest in advance directive measures that allow a person to ensure their wishes regarding medical treatment will be followed in the event they are incapacitated.

Half of Elderly Hospital Patients Unable to Communicate Wishes

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Lombard family law attorneyIf you are a parent who is getting divorced or planning to, you are probably concerned about how you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will raise your children. If you plan on raising the kids together through a shared parenting scenario, you should know that there are some unique methods of co-parenting which have helped many families. These growing trends offer an alternative to traditional post-divorce living situations.

Nesting Arrangements

The majority of couples who get divorced end up living separately from each other. The most common living arrangement for parents who get divorced is for children to visit each parent at their home. Some experts find this arrangement to be especially burdensome on the children who are splitting their time between two homes. As an alternative, some parents are choosing to use what some call “the bird’s nest” strategy: The children live in one home and the parents take turns living there. For example, a parent may stay with the children one week in the “nest” home and then the other parent comes to stay with the children the following week. When the parents are not at the nest home, they are living in their own individual home. While many find this co-parenting strategy to be effective, it can also be quite expensive since it usually requires the couple to finance a third home for the children.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysFor many, estate planning is similar to doing your taxes. You know you should do it, but you put it off or procrastinate. Estate planning is especially difficult because it forces you to face your own mortality and have what can be uncomfortable conversations with loved ones about a time when you are not around anymore. Creating a comprehensive estate plan is critical to ensuring that your property and assets are distributed according to your wishes and that the end of your life is how you intend it to be.

Unfortunately, only four in 10 American adults have a will or living trust. The other 60 percent will have significantly less control regarding their property and final wishes than those who plan ahead. Luckily, there is no wrong time to start planning for the future, and there are estate planning steps that you can take at each stage of your life.

In Your 40s and 50s

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Lombard family law attorneyToday, families in the United States come in all varieties. More single parents and unmarried parents are raising children than in the past. Same-sex couples are also raising more children than they did twenty years ago. Families are often blended, with children from several relationships living together under one roof. Grandparents are also increasingly taking the place of biological parents in children’s lives. 

Voluntary Relinquishment

There are several ways that grandparents can get custody of their grandchildren. The first way is through petitioning the court for custody of the grandchildren. Both parents of the child must voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to the child unless there is another issue like abuse. Parents may give up the rights to their children for many deeply personal reasons. Sometimes addiction issues or mental health concerns make a parent unable to raise their child. Other times, very young parents relinquish their parental rights so that a grandparent or grandparents can adopt the child.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is never too soon to start planning for your future. At every age, there is an opportunity to make estate planning decisions and preparations that will benefit you and your family in the future. The most financially successful individuals among us will tell you that it did not happen by accident. It is important to be aware of your financial situation and to be intentional about the way your plan for the future. At every stage of life, there are some estate planning steps that you should take in order to minimize complications or expense in the future.

Over the next few weeks, we will discuss how you can consider the future, no matter how old you are right now.

In Your 20s

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysThere is some confusion in the general public as to the extent that a spouse’s adultery can affect a divorce case. Television and movies often show an enraged husband or wife discovering that their partner is having an affair and yelling about how they are going to take the house and have full custody of their children. Although adultery is still frowned upon by society, it is usually irrelevant to divorce proceedings.

No-Fault State

Since the beginning of 2016, Illinois has been what is called a “pure no-fault state.” A no-fault state is one which does not require divorcing couples to report the reason or “grounds” that they are seeking the divorce. In the past, things like mental cruelty or adultery could be reported as the official reason that the marriage ended. Today, all divorcing couples in Illinois as assumed to be divorcing on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”  More specifically, a divorce will only be granted when “irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.”

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Lombard estate planning attorneysImagine this scenario: Your elderly grandmother has lived with a caretaker for several years. She passes away and upon reading her will, you find that your grandmother has left all of her assets and belongings to the caretaker and none to her children or grandchildren. For many people, this would raise red flags. There are countless scenarios like this which lead to families contesting the validity of a loved one’s will.

When Should a Will Be Contested?

If you think that your loved one’s will does not accurately reflect his or her final wishes, you should contest it. Contesting the will means that you are asking the courts to deem the will invalid. Probate courts in Illinois can invalidate a will for several specific reasons. Firstly, a will can be thrown out if can be shown that the deceased person, or the decedent, was unduly influenced by someone during the will's creation. For example, in the hypothetical scenario above, the caretaker could have coerced the elderly grandmother to leave her property to him instead of her family.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysNo matter how old or young you are, if you are married, there is the possibility that you could get divorced. Most people, however, tend to think of divorce as a reality that mostly affects couples who are relatively older. These notions may be linked to movies and television where a wandering eye or a mid-life crisis drives spouses apart when they are in their early forties or older. Divorce, however, can also become necessary for couples who are far younger, and those who get divorced in their 20s may face years of potential complications. This is especially true for 20-somethings with children.

Finding a Niche

Human beings are social creatures, and most of us derive a sense of belonging when we find a peer group where we feel comfortable. If you are recently divorced with no children, it may be relatively easy to socialize with other younger singles. If you have children, however, you may feel stuck in the middle. On one hand, our parental responsibilities may not allow to you enjoy the spontaneous, carefree lifestyle of single people your age. On the other hand, you may not feel very comfortable among other parents, especially those who might be a bit older or whose marriage is still intact. It is, however, important to avoid cutting yourself off completely from social situations. Find a sitter every now and again, and go out and a have a good time.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyWhen you hear or read the phrase “estate planning,” what comes to mind? If you are like most people, you probably think about wills or maybe trusts that are used to protect a person’s property and distribute it to the person’s heirs upon his or her death. While the protection and transfer of assets are certainly a major focus of estate planning, there are other elements that deal with the quality of a person’s life as he or she gets older. Unfortunately, many of these important subjects are uncomfortable or difficult for many people to talk about, leading to assumptions and misunderstandings that can create serious problems in the future.

Deciding on a Caregiver

Most of us are hesitant to consider a time when we are no longer able get by on our own. The reality, however, is that many of us will need someone to help us with the activities of daily living, especially as we get older. A large number of American adults assume that their children will step into the role of caregiver when the time comes. In fact, according to at least one survey, about three-fourths of parents expect at least one of their children to provide physical or financial help as they get older, and 60 percent of those parents expect to be their daughter.

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Lombard divorce attorneysParents who get divorced almost always share the same top concern: how will the divorce affect their children? Divorce is a deeply stressful even for children of all ages to go through. They are losing the only reality they have ever been familiar with and plunging into the unknown. However, there are also many benefits to children when their parents’ divorce, some of which may surprise you.

Decrease in Household Tension May Come as a Relief to Children

Researchers from UCLA looked at 47 studies that connected children’s experiences in tension-filled home environments to later problems in adulthood. The researchers found what many would suspect:  Children that experience high levels of conflict at home had more physical, emotional, and social issues later in life compared to control groups. As adults, those who grew up in homes with intense arguments or feuding parents, were more likely to report vascular and immune problems, depression, substance abuse and addiction, loneliness, and problems with intimacy that those who did not grow up in high-conflict households. Research also shows that it is not only households with a lot of overt aggression or yelling that cause these issues for children. Stonewalling or a parent giving the other the “silent treatment” were also destructive actions with regard to children’s long-term mental health.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMany people realize at some point in their lives that they need to start planning for a time when they are not around. It could be the addition of a new baby in the family, retirement, or a medical crisis that spurs a person’s interest in estate planning. For those seeking the cheapest estate planning process possible, using online legal document services may seem like a good idea. Although some do use these types of products with success, relying on an online service to plan your final affairs can be a risky move.

Do Not Be Fooled By a Professional-Appearing Website

Online legal document services may appear to offer the same benefits as a law firm, but they do not. These types of services do not hire attorneys, but instead “document assistants”—individuals who do not have nearly the extensive education and training an attorney has. A document assistant cannot help you choose the best legal option for your unique estate circumstances or warn you if you are making a grave mistake while creating your plans. Because the people involved in these online service websites are not lawyers, they cannot give you legal advice of any kind. In fact, the websites cannot even promise that legal documents drafted though the service will be valid or that there will be a usable result from the time, effort, or money spent on these online services.

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