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Lombard family law attorneySpousal support—also known as alimony or maintenance—is found to be appropriate in many divorce cases, and is usually paid to the spouse with lower income. The situation may change, however, when the paying spouse reaches retirement age. It can prevent confusion and lost time if you and your former spouse do your research before retirement becomes an issue.

A “Substantial Change in Circumstances?”

Depending on your situation, the paying party may seek to have their support responsibility reduced or even terminated upon retirement. However, it is not as easy as simply petitioning the court and expecting your request to be approved. As with other requests of this nature, you must be able to present evidence showing that your current support responsibility is unreasonable or excessive in light of the reality of your retirement and the resulting financial effects.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen a person dies without a will or any other instruments of estate planning in place, his or her property will be distributed by the Probate Court in according with Illinois laws regarding intestate succession. Such cases often create significant disagreements among surviving family members. Of course, families may also fight when they discover what they are to receive in a will as well—and in some situations, things can get completely out of control.

More Than Money

While people often throw their familial allegiances to the wind and try to take as much as they can, family disputes on inheritance are not always about money. Conflict can arise for emotional reasons as well. While a grandson may not care to inherit a particular pie plate that his grandmother used for 30 years, for example, that same item could mean the world to someone else in the family. It is worth putting time and careful thought into your plan regarding who inherits the sentimental assets that you own. In doing so, there are a few things you should consider.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneyIn many divorce cases, the concept of marital misconduct is often discussed, if only to underscore the fact that any evidence of it is not applicable to most divorce-related discussions. While Illinois law expressly excludes it from playing a role in issues like property division, it is still important to understand exactly what constitutes marital misconduct and what is simply a difference of ideology or opinion between you and your spouse.

Marital Misconduct and Divorce

Marital misconduct is generally defined in the law as conduct of any kind that has helped erode the marriage. This can take many different forms, from the wasteful spending of marital money to adultery to domestic violence. In many states, this kind of conduct can have a negative effect on a spouse’s portion of the marital assets as well as on the amount of parenting time granted to them. The rationale behind such decisions is that someone who shows flagrant disregard for the marriage and its benefits should be entitled to less in a divorce.

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Lombard guardianship lawyerWhen you are the parent of a disabled child, it is common to assume that he or she will never be able to advocate for himself or herself. While some do require assistance during their lifetime, not every disabled person requires guardianship once they reach adulthood. It can often be up to you as a parent to decide whether guardianship is necessary or whether your child can handle his or her own affairs.

Dealing With Probate Court

Guardianship for adults is handled in Illinois by the Probate Court. Disability is not the only potential grounds for which a guardianship may be sought, but it is the most common. There is a rebuttable presumption in Illinois law that an adult over the age of 18 can manage their own affairs. If this is not the case for your son or daughter, you need to be prepared to show evidence to that effect, with a detailed report of your child’s challenges and strengths. Illinois is somewhat unique in that plenary or total guardianship is generally considered a last resort and is only used if the person in question displays a complete lack of ability to manage their own affairs. Limited guardianship is preferable.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerPeople often wonder whether they can handwrite their will or change their will by writing in new provisions or crossing things out. To be clear, if you want to be sure that your will is followed exactly after your death, all changes should be made with the help of your attorney. That said, whether you can handwrite a will or make handwritten changes to a will depends primarily on where you live and where your will is to be executed upon your death.

Jurisdiction Matters  

The validity of a handwritten will depends on the laws of the state in which you reside. Many states recognize handwritten wills as potentially valid, but each state may have different witness requirements. Witnesses ensure that you have the mental capacity and intent to make a will and that you, in fact, were the one to sign it. In some jurisdictions, a witness does not need to be present for a handwritten will to be valid. This type of will is known as a holographic will. In other jurisdictions, two witnesses must be present.

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Lombard family lawyerGenerally, Illinois courts do not have any interest in taking children away from their natural parents without immediate and pressing reasons to do so. However, when a parent’s fitness is called into question, obviously, due diligence must be performed lest children remain in harmful and dangerous situations. If you have been accused of being an unfit parent, it is important for you to understand what that means so you may best defend against it.

Statutory Criteria

Every state has its own definition of “unfit.” In Illinois, the guidelines can be found in the Illinois Adoption Act which sets out the criteria a judge may use to declare that a parent falls into that status. An unfit parent is defined in Illinois as someone who can objectively be found to not have the child or children’s best interests at heart. This can be shown by a lengthy list of considerations contained in the statute. Some of the more common concerns include abandonment, neglect, demonstrable cruelty toward the child, a lack of interest or responsibility, substance abuse, or addiction.

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Lombard family law attorneyPeople tend to forget or overlook things when they divorce. Dotting every proverbial “i” and crossing every proverbial “t” can be a difficult endeavor, especially when there are children involved. One of the most commonly overlooked issues—especially if a divorce is complex or acrimonious—is estate planning. Updating or re-drafting documents like wills and trusts can make all the difference in ensuring that your assets go to those who you have expressly chosen.

Make a New Will or Trust

Illinois probate law can be quite complex, particularly if you are trying to modify an existing document. This is made even more confusing by the fact that Illinois law, upon divorce, revokes any gifts or positions of authority given to an ex-spouse. For example, if you named your now-former husband as the executor of your estate, that designation will be void upon your divorce. Sometimes this can be advantageous, but in certain cases, you may want to keep your ex-spouse in the will. Doing so may be beneficial in situations where young children are involved as potential beneficiaries.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Lombard family law attorneyIn most divorce proceedings, parents are encouraged to develop a workable parenting plan that outlines each party’s rights and responsibilities regarding their children. A parenting plan specifies how significant decisions regarding the child’s life will be made as well as a parenting time schedule. Your parenting time—sometimes referred to as physical custody of a child—is more than a right or a privilege; it is a responsibility. If you fail to safeguard your child or you leave them alone for too long during your scheduled parenting time, you will be deemed to have abandoned them, and you could lose your parental rights as a result.

Physical Abandonment

Child abandonment is defined in Illinois as any time that someone having physical custody or control of a child under age 13 “knowingly leaves that child” without supervision, or in the supervision of someone “irresponsible” (or underaged) for 24 hours or more. It implies a negligent or reckless disregard for that child’s safety, and it is a criminal offense in Illinois, carrying a sentence that can vary between probation and three years in prison, plus a $25,000 fine. If the abandonment leads to the child being injured or otherwise harmed, the parent may lose parental rights.

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Lombard divorce lawyerOver the past decade or so, one of the more common scenarios that have emerged in family courts across the country is where one or both spouses who are going through the divorce process make the decision to represent themselves instead of hiring an attorney. This is known as a pro se divorce.

Going Through It on Your Own

Couples who decide for forgo the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney may do so for a number of reasons, including:

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerDo you have a plan in place for what will happen to your body when you die? While this is not the most exciting topic to think about, it is an important consideration for you and your loved ones to make well in advance of the need. An overwhelming majority of Americans choose from one of two options: burial or cremation. Some families need the comfort that comes with being able to visit a grave or the closure of spreading a loved one’s ashes in a favorite place. There is a third option, however. You could choose to donate your body to science and provide ambitious medical students with their first patients.

Organ Donors vs. Whole Body Donors

In today’s society, there seems to be a stigma attached to the idea of donating one’s body to science or medical research, perhaps because it is simply seen as non-traditional. Burial rites play an important role in many religions, but orthodox adherence to religious customs has been on the decline for a number of years. Additionally, more than half of American adults—over 130 million people—are registered as organ donors. This means that while many individuals are willing to have their organs put to use in possibly saving another person’s life, they are significantly less willing to donate their entire bodies. Research suggests that there are fewer than 20,000 whole body donations annually in the United States.

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Lombard family law attorneyMost people are uncomfortable with confrontation to certain extent. While there are exceptions, you may have heard the phrase “going along to get along” used to describe the actions of a person looking to avoid a fight by placating someone else. This is a common trait among people with a so-called “easy going” personality. Going along to get along is a reasonable approach for most situations in life—deciding where to have dinner, for example, is not worth fighting about. When it comes to divorce, however, being afraid of making waves could leave you at a serious disadvantage, possibly for the rest of your life.  

Divorce Is Not Easy But It Is Worth the Effort

Nobody will try to tell you that a divorce is a simple undertaking. Just making a list of the issues that must be addressed can be overwhelming, not to mention actually addressing them. Despite the complications that may arise, the reality of a divorce is rather straightforward: if you do not advocate for yourself, nobody else will do it for you. If you think you are entitled to spousal support from your spouse, ask for it. If you want primary parental responsibilities regarding your children, develop your ideal parenting plan and present it to the court.

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Posted on in Domestic Violence

Lombard family law attorneysIf you have spent any time on the social media platform Twitter recently, you may be familiar with the hashtag “Maybe He Doesn’t Hit You.” The provocative message seeks to raise awareness about domestic violence—specifically psychological abuse.

Hidden Dangers

Psychological or emotional abuse often does not garner as much attention as physical abuse does. Physical abuse is often easier to spot because the victim may have visible bruises and scars or may need medical attention. Unfortunately, emotional abuse can go unnoticed by others until it becomes extreme. Even worse, many victims might not even realize that they are in an abusive relationship. People who have been victimized in the past or grew up with abusive or neglectful parents may consider certain abusive behavior to be normal. Victims of abuse may believe they deserve this damaging treatment because they are unworthy of more compassionate behavior. By sharing their stories of triumph over psychological abuse, men and women are taking the stigma out of discussing this form of domestic violence. The hashtag—a character used to track trending topics on social media—has been used in posts to share some gut-wrenching examples of psychological abuse, including:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysUnless you are one of those rare, fortunate individuals who inherited a great deal of wealth or hit the Powerball jackpot, you have most likely worked very to accumulate the property and assets that comprise your estate. You have put in the hours, made intelligent financial decisions, and were generally careful when making purchases both large and small. When it comes time to decide what will happen to your estate after your death, it is your right to make such decisions as you see fit.

It is important to understand, however, that while you have the right to make estate planning decisions completely on your own, doing so could lead to problems down the road. For this reason, estate planning experts and legal professionals recommend discussing your intentions with family members and loved ones before finalizing your estate plan.

Preventing Misunderstandings

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneyAnybody who says that his or her divorce was easy either is misremembering the situation or is not telling the whole truth. Virtually every divorce will have its share of challenges as the process represents not on the end of a relationship between two people but also the dissolution of the marital contract. Along the way, most people who go through a divorce experience a number of challenges and difficulties often accompanied by a great deal of stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to limit the negative feelings and to focus on a happier, healthier future.

Commit to Cooperate

As you and your spouse approach your impending divorce, you have two basic options. You could choose to dig in and fight over every element—including the division of property, parenting plans, and alimony—or you could try to work things out amicably. It is important to realize, however, that negotiated, amicable divorce does not just happen. Instead, it requires a commitment from both spouses and concerted effort throughout the process.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysIf you were to ask your family members—including your spouse, children, grandchildren, or anyone else you wish to include—how your property should be distributed when you die, you would probably get a wide variety of responses. Some are likely to suggest that you divide your estate equally, though there are likely to be many versions of what “equal” means. Other family members may simply remind you that you have the right to make the decisions as you see fit.

Human emotion, however, is often unpredictable. Thus, the same people who tell you to do what you think is best may very well be the same ones who get upset when they find out that their inheritance is less than they expected to be. While you cannot control how your family will behave after your death, you can take steps to prepare them for that reality well in advance.

Decide What Is Important

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Lombard divorce attorneysThe practice of forensic accounting is based on the idea that careful analysis and investigation can reveal potential problems or concerns regarding the financial situation of the individual, business, or entity in question. Forensic accountants, for example, are employed by law enforcement agencies—including the FBI—to investigate white-collar crime. They may also play a role in divorce cases—especially when the couple’s finances are complex and hidden assets could present a problem.

The Problem of Hidden Assets

Illinois law requires the marital estate of a divorcing couple to be divided between spouses in a manner that is fair and equitable. The first step in dividing marital property is determining what assets the couple owns. If both spouses are not completely open and honest regarding their finances, determining the actual extent of the marital estate will be impossible. Too often, spouse will try to hide sources of revenue or even tangible assets during a divorce hoping to keep them from his or her soon-to-be ex-partner. Hidden assets may be a particular danger if one spouse maintains full control over the couple’s finances or if a spouse owns a business that could be used to cover deceptive behavior.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneyIf you are a stay-at-home parent facing divorce, you are not alone. Among the thousands of divorces which occur annually, a significant portion involves a parent that stays home, working to keep the house and family in order rather than working for someone else. Divorce has the possibility of being harder for these spouses than their counterpart, which does not need to be the case. The experience can be beneficial and positive with proper planning and preparedness.

Locate and Maintain Proper Records

You and your spouse’s separate lives have become fused into one shared life together through marriage, no matter how lengthy or brief. The process of divorce seeks to split the two into two equitable parts again. Everything from the house itself to the items within the home, to the finances and retirement plans, will need to be divided. Make these records available to make the process easier:

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyFor most people, the primary goal of estate planning is make sure that their wishes are carried out regarding their assets and property upon their death. Wills, trusts, and other instruments can help you do so, but the real challenge, in many cases, is figuring out exactly what you want for the future of your estate. An estate planning attorney cannot make such decisions for you, but we can give you some things to think about in making your choices.

Include a Variety of Heirs

Too often, people make the mistake of naming their spouse as the sole beneficiary of their estate. What if he or she outlives you? What will happen your estate plan then? You may also be tempted to leave everything you own to one of your children. As you develop your will, you must remember that you are looking toward the future, and the future is always full of uncertainty. If you choose a single beneficiary and something happens to him or her, the disposition of your estate could depend on that person’s estate planning decisions instead of your own.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneyWhy did you marry your spouse? Most people answer this question by explaining all the desirable characteristics that the individual had that made them a good potential partner. They tend to note that their spouse was kind, thoughtful, generous, or funny. In essence, their spouse had a personality which complimented their own. We often think of character traits or personality to be intrinsically woven into a person’s DNA. A person may learn and grow but his or her personality never really changes. If this is the case, then why do so many marriages end in divorce?

Researcher and psychologist Walter Mischel says that everything we thought we knew about the immutability of someone’s personality may be wrong. These revelations about the instability of personality could help explain how two people who started out in love can find themselves so distant from one another after a relatively short period of time.

Mischel's Cognitive-Affective Model

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Lombard estate planning lawyersLast week, we started a discussion about common myths that many people believe about the process of estate planning. In that post, we talked about how it is never too early to begin estate planning and why probate is not always a terrible thing. Unfortunately, there are a number of other misconceptions that can cause unsuspecting individuals to make preventable mistakes as they draft their estate plans. Let’s look at a few more:

Myth: If I Die Without a Will, the State Will Take Everything

While there is no question that estate planning is important, it is not uncommon for some people to develop a plan only out of fear. Such individuals often believe that if they do not draft a will or create an estate plan, their property will be seized by the government and not distributed to their family members.

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