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DuPage County divorce attorneyEnding a marriage is a difficult endeavor with many possible financial pitfalls from which a person may spend years trying to recover. In fact, one study suggests that it may take as long as five years to overcome the financial impact of a divorce. In some cases it may take even longer, possibly decades. However, there are ways to minimize the financial risks of divorce, especially if you are well prepared and you have the guidance of a qualified divorce attorney.

The Intersection of Divorce and Debt

Most Americans have debt. Some fail to manage it responsibly, but others are diligent about only taking on obligations they can afford. However, both groups are at risk of financial difficulties after a divorce. This is due, in part, to the splitting of one household into two. Each party must now cover their own separate bills, housing expenses, and utilities. They must also be able to pay the share of the marital debt that was allocated to them, which can be difficult to manage on a single income. The more debt a couple has going into the divorce, the higher their risk typically is.

How Divorce Planning Can Help

Instead of leaving themselves open to financial risks during and after divorce, couples can plan for the event and adjust their situation accordingly. This might mean putting off the divorce until debts are paid, or determining who will be responsible for each debt ahead of time. This can be done through mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Alternatively, if an agreement cannot be reached, it may be necessary to take an aggressive litigated approach to protect your interests during the divorce process. In either case, the assistance of an attorney is highly encouraged.

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DuPage County divorce attorney mediation

Many divorcing couples try to avoid the time, cost, and stress of a trial by pursuing an uncontested divorce, in which they come to an agreement on many important decisions. However, this can be easier said than done, and in many cases, it helps to seek the assistance of a qualified divorce mediator. Mediation can be especially beneficial when attempting to resolve the often complicated matter of dividing marital assets, property, and debts.

What Is the Role of an Illinois Divorce Mediator?

Unlike a divorce attorney, whose role is to represent the interests of one of the parties, a mediator remains neutral and seeks to guide negotiations between spouses to allow both perspectives to be heard, minimize conflict, and identify opportunities for agreement on the way to a finalized resolution. While there is usually some financial cost for divorce mediation, it is often lower than the expenses that the two parties may face if the divorce goes to trial.

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Lombard family law attorneyWhen you are going through a divorce, it is a reasonable to wonder how you and your spouse will divide the property that you have accumulated during the course of your marriage. For many couples, in fact, disputes regarding the division of assets are among the most contentious in the entire divorce process. If you and your spouse are not able to reach an agreement regarding your property, the court will rely on provisions in the law to determine which of you will be receiving what.

Not Necessarily Equal

Illinois is an equitable distribution state, which means there is not legal presumption that marital property should be divided equally. Rather than a guaranteed 50-50 split, equitable distribution holds that the marital estate must be divided in a manner that is reasonable and fair, based on the circumstances of the marriage and divorce. This means that every situation is unique and must be considered individually by the court.

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dissipation, wasting assets, Illinois family law attorneyOnce a couple has decided to separate or divorce, there will obviously be some expected costs. Often, the separation period currently required under Illinois law will force one spouse to find a new place, incurring expenses for rent, utilities, and day-to-day living. You and your soon-to-be ex may also spend money on counseling services, legal fees, and other incidentals, in preparation of or in reaction to the process of divorce. Sometimes, however, one or both spouses will use marital funds for other purposes while the dissolution is pending, which may be considered dissipation, depending on the circumstances.

Dissipated Assets

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers defines dissipation as "the use of marital property or funds for the benefit of one spouse for a purpose unrelated to the marriage." The caveat is that, in order to be dissipation, such use must occur while the marital relationship is irreconcilably breaking down, or after it has broken down completely. For example, a spouse in the midst of an otherwise healthy marriage who spends money on a lavish vacation with his or her friends may be guilty of misusing family money, but not dissipation. That same vacation taken as the marriage is falling apart may, in fact, be dissipation.

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gray divorceExpect more gray divorces in the coming years.

For one thing, the divorce rate among younger couples has decreased. More people staying married through their 30s and 40s means that there are more couples who could break up in their 50s and 60s. Additionally, people are living longer and enjoying sustained quality of life. To many people, "60 is the new 40" and "80 is the new 60."

Issues in a Late-in-Life Divorce

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inheritance in divorceFor the majority of people who get married, the assumption is that it will be "’til death do us part." Despite the high rate of divorce, most couples think they will beat the odds and live happily ever after. Typically, all the assets a couple acquires during the marriage are pooled – income, gifts, inheritances, etc. are all shared between the two spouses. The reality is, however, that at least half of marriages do end in divorce, with an even higher rate if the marriage is a second or third marriage.

Most divorce negotiations involve how finances and property will be divided between the couple, but what happens with the inherited assets? Unfortunately, in many circumstances, unless there was an agreement in place before the divorce, those assets just may be included in the marital estate. A person may be able to keep that expensive piece of jewelry their grandmother left them, but the value of that piece becomes part of the marital estate and the other spouse is entitled to receive something of equal value in their share of the marital estate. The same may be true for inherited real estate property, stocks and bonds, and cash.

There are ways a person can protect those inherited assets in the event their marriage does not work out. The first step is a prenuptial agreement. Engaged couples should consider prenuptial agreements for many reasons, and this certainly is an important one. A prenup can clearly outline that in the event of a divorce, inherited assets go to the spouse they were intended for and not considered part of the marital estate.

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divorce yard sale, garage sale, property division, divorce, Illinois divorce lawyerOne of the most acrimonious parts of a divorce can be the negotiations regarding how the marital assets are going to be divided. Even the friendliest of divorces can suddenly turn nasty over a piece of who is going to get a certain piece of furniture, book collection, paintings, etc.

The NY Daily News recently reported a story about one divorcing couple who, after a few years of fighting over how several hundred dollars’ worth of items should be divided between the two of them, are holding a "divorce yard sale." The couple will be auctioning off furniture, cars, clothing, jewelry, paintings and antiques. Selling off items that are part of a marital estate and splitting the proceeds is not uncommon. It is not only for people who are involved in high-asset divorce cases. Any couple who has items that they jointly own may decide to sell those items if they cannot reach an agreement as to who should retain ownership of which items. Depending on the value and number of the items you are looking to sell, there are several options to getting the most amount of money for your items. If you have antiques to sell, then you should contact an antiques appraiser/dealer to find out what the worth of these items is. A dealer may also be able to help find a buyer for the items. It is also probably in your best interest to have the items appraised by more than one dealer. If you have many items to sell, contact estate sale company to coordinate the sale. These companies will help coordinate how your items are marketed, selling large ticket items separately and dividing the smaller items into "lots" which multiple items sold together. Consignment shops are a great place to sell items like clothing and smaller household items, such cookware and decorating items. If you would rather not have to deal with transporting these items to the shop, there are online sites where you can also post these items for sale. On Ebay.com, your item is posted for a limited amount of time and interested parties can bid on it, just like in an auction. At the end of the auction – typically 3 to 5 days – the highest bidder wins the item. All transactions are done online and delivery is done through shipping.

Locally, Craigslist.com allows  you to list the items you have for sale online and determine cost and delivery/pickup method. It’s similar to having an online yard sale by putting you in touch with people who may be interested in your property.

However you decide to divide up your marital estate, make sure you have an experienced Lombard family law attorney representing you to ensure that you get what you are entitled to.
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