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Wheaton family law attorney stepchild

The United States is a nation in which a majority of families are divorced. However, many people find love again and choose to remarry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 1,300 new stepfamilies are formed every day. Becoming a stepparent can be stressful and intimidating. However, with realistic expectations and a certain approach to building a relationship, a sustaining bond can be created. In some cases, a stepparent may even wish to legally adopt his or her stepchild. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney assist you throughout the legal process.

Blended Families 

A remarriage often involves more than just a couple. One or both parents may have children from their previous marriages or relationships. If you are getting remarried after a divorce, and you will have a stepchild, keep these tips in mind for a smoother transition for everyone involved:

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DuPage County divorce lawyer name change

Getting a divorce can be a very complicated process. It may be difficult to think about the decision to keep your married name or revert back to your maiden name when there are so many other pressing issues that need to be resolved. Because of this, many women choose to continue using their married names for the time being. However, if they choose to go back to using their maiden names, a skilled family law attorney can help you complete the legal steps to do so. 

Reasons for Changing Your Name

Changing your last name after your divorce is one of the first steps in getting your original identity back. Whether this decision is emotionally difficult or easy, consider these factors when deciding:

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DuPage County divorce attorney parenting time

It is only human nature for children to want their parents to remain married “till death do us part.” However, in some cases, that may not be possible. Regardless of whether infidelity played a role or a couple simply grew apart, it may be in everyone’s best interest to part ways. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 40–50 percent of married couples in the United States get divorced. Telling your children about your divorce may be one of the toughest conversations you will ever have. Despite the difficulty and intense emotions that may arise, keeping your child in the know is crucial to a smooth transition.

Discussing Your Divorce with Your Children

Whether you think the divorce will come as a shock to them or not, keep these tips in mind when breaking the news to your kids: 

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Wheaton property division attorney

During the divorce process, couples must go through financial documents when determining how to divide assets and property and addressing issues such as spousal maintenance (alimony) and child support. In many marriages, a couple’s finances are straightforward, but that is not always the case. In some situations, forensic accounting may be necessary to analyze financial data more closely. If you are considering a divorce and are not sure how forensic accounting may benefit you, it is essential to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help you explore your options. 

What Is Forensic Accounting? 

Forensic accountants utilize accounting and auditing skills as well as investigative skills to perform a thorough examination of individuals’ financial records. Forensic accountants can be useful during a divorce because they are adept at uncovering financial information that a divorcing spouse may have attempted to hide from his or her spouse and the courts. Forensic accountants may review several types of documents, including:

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DuPage County child custody attorney psychological expert

Even when spouses have the best intentions to end their marriage peacefully, divorces have the potential to be filled with contention. Throughout the divorce process, a couple must make many life-altering decisions, including how assets are divided, the details of a parenting plan, and decisions regarding spousal support. In many cases, the decisions regarding children can be the most difficult. When determining the allocation of parenting responsibilities, it may be beneficial to seek the professional opinion of a psychological expert. If you are facing a custody case, your family law attorney can help you explore your options and provide you with advice on when to use a psychological expert. Below are three important factors to consider during your custody case:

Can Psychological Experts Impact the Outcome of a Custody Case?

When parenting plans are determined, the most important factor is the well-being of the child. For this reason, it is not uncommon for a parent (or both parents) to undergo a mental health evaluation per Illinois Supreme Court Rule 215. For example, a judge may order a mental health evaluation if there is any doubt regarding mental illness, addiction problems, or other psychological conditions that could impact the life of the child. During the exam, a psychological expert, who may be either a psychologist or a licensed clinical social worker, will determine:

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Wheaton spousal maintenance attorney

The decision to end a marriage can be emotionally, financially, and even physically devastating. A trusted therapist may help ease emotional stress, but what about the worries regarding finances? Regardless of whether your divorce is amicable or tumultuous, you will need to understand how to protect your rights to the marital estate. If you are facing a divorce and are unsure how to protect your financial interests, you should speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to explore your potential next steps. In the meantime, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about finances during divorce:

How Much Will a Divorce Cost?

There are many expenses associated with the divorce process. You will be required to pay a variety of court costs and filing fees, and the costs of hiring and working with an attorney throughout the divorce process may add up to several thousand dollars or more. In addition, there are a variety of other ways that legally ending your marriage can impact your finances, including:

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Wheaton divorce attorney child support enforcement

Child support payments are typically ordered by the court as part of a divorce decree, but child support payments can also be included in a legal separation agreement. In some cases, both parties may mutually settle upon the payment arrangement. Regardless of the situation (divorce or separation), there are laws in Illinois that ensure that child support orders are enforceable. However, even though child support orders are legally binding, some parents may still struggle to collect payments from a former spouse or partner. Disagreements over late, missing, or inadequate payments can create heated disagreements and high tension in both newly divorced couples and partners who have long been separated. If you are struggling to collect child support payments, a knowledgeable child support attorney can advise you of your legal options.

What Happens During a Child Support Hearing?

In the state of Illinois, a child support hearing may be conducted in one of two places: a courtroom presided over by a judge or through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). During a child support hearing, each party will answer questions about their specific circumstances, which will allow the court to determine the correct amount of support. A couple who has not yet established paternity may need to address the issue of legal fatherhood first before a child support order can be issued.

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Wheaton family law attorney legal separation

When a married couple is struggling to live in harmony under the same roof, one person usually moves out of the shared residence. The distance and time apart may allow the couple an opportunity to work through relationship problems and determine their next steps. For a couple who can no longer reside together, there are several options available, including divorce and legal separation. If you are struggling in your marriage and would like to discuss your next steps, a family law attorney can explain your rights and your legal options.

What Are the Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

A divorce legally dissolves the marriage between two individuals, while a legal separation acknowledges that the couple is still married but lives apart from each other. Divorce is a permanent decree, but legal separations may be either temporary or permanent. A couple who is legally separated may eventually decide to file for divorce, but they also have the option to end the separation and reunite. It is important to note that during the legal separation, the spouses may not get married to anyone else.

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Lombard, IL family law attorney for parental relocation

When a couple decides to end their relationship, it is probable that at least one of them will no longer live in the home they once shared. In some cases, both spouses may move out of the marital home following divorce and relocate to smaller dwellings. However, while moving to a new home may be necessary, parents should be aware of the restrictions that may apply when they plan to move with their children. In some cases, parental relocation may require approval from the court. If you are not sure how a potential move may impact your rights as a parent, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to learn more about the child relocation laws in Illinois.

Why Do Relocation Restrictions Exist?

The parental relocation laws in Illinois have been put in place to protect a child’s bond with both of his or her parents. In cases that meet the criteria for relocation, the relocating parent must give the other parent at least 60 days' notice prior to the move, and they will need to receive approval from the court for any modifications to the parties' parenting plan. These restrictions ensure that all moves are made in good faith and that a proposed relocation will protect the best interests of the child. 

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DuPage County parenting time attorney

The dissolution of a marriage not only affects the divorcing couple but also any children in the family. Divorce often creates new living situations due to new jobs for the parents, which can result in a different school environment for kids. In some cases, one of the divorcing parents may move out of the family’s town or even out of the state. If you are facing a long-distance relationship with your child, speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to learn about your rights and options and how a parenting plan can resolve these important issues.

What Is a Long-Distance Parenting Plan?

During a divorce, there are many details to sort out, and a divorce with children in the picture can be even more complex. The important child-related matters that parents will need to address include parenting time (formerly known as visitation) and the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as child custody).

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Lombard, IL spousal maintenance attorney

There are many reasons why a couple may decide for one parent to stay at home with the children rather than pursuing a career. In some situations, a family simply cannot afford childcare, so a parent may stay home out of necessity. Other families may choose to have one parent dedicate their time to caring for children and maintaining the household. Today, the role of homemaker is not limited to women. In fact, more fathers are becoming stay-at-home dads, according to research published in Psychology Today. Regardless of a person's gender or their reasons for becoming a homemaker, divorce as a stay-at-home parent can seem intimidating, and it can cause a great deal of uncertainty about the future. If you did not work outside of the home during your marriage, and you are facing a divorce, you will want to work with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process of divorce and help you create a secure future.

Know Your Rights

Even if you were not your family's primary income earner, you still have rights regarding the property you own with your spouse and the income that was earned during your marriage. Under Illinois divorce law, marital property will be divided according to the principle of “equitable distribution,” and all property acquired during the marriage should be divided fairly, regardless of who earned the income used to purchase it. The contributions each spouse made to the marriage will be considered when determining a fair settlement. As a homemaker, even if you did not earn a financial income, you have still made many valuable contributions to your family, such as child-rearing, performing household duties (cooking, cleaning, doing laundry), and managing family finances.

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Wheaton high-conflict divorce attorney

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), data from the National Survey of Family Growth shows that 48 percent of marriages end when they hit the 20-year mark. Despite this evidence and the colorful divorce horror stories we all hear from our friends, family members, and neighbors, the reality is that not all couples who make up these kinds of statistics experience a toxic divorce. Many spouses are not only able to make a mutual decision to end their marriage, but they are also capable of navigating the process amicably, even acting as a team to ensure a smoother experience for everyone involved. 

Avoiding a Contested Divorce

Not every divorce is messy, but those that are can have the power to wreak havoc on your emotional -- and sometimes physical -- well-being, especially if you do not know how to handle the conflict.

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Lombard, IL holiday parenting plan attorney

For most people, holidays are spent with relatives and friends. This may include large gatherings with extended family members or a small celebration reserved for parents to spend time with their children. Regardless of your family holiday traditions, they typically include time spent with your kids. This may seem like second-nature to married couples; however, those parents who are recently divorced must learn how to navigate these special days differently. To ensure that both parents can have quality time with their kids, it may be necessary to adjust parenting schedules during the holidays.

What Is Considered a “Holiday” By the Court?

It can be difficult for the court to address specific holidays, since they can vary based on families’ traditions and religious beliefs. However, there are guidelines provided to help those formulating parenting plans pin down what they consider a holiday. Thanksgiving and Christmas may be the two that come to mind, but there are various other holidays throughout the year that divorcing couples must consider. Holidays that result in three-day weekends, such as Labor Day and Memorial Day, can be listed as holidays in your parenting plan. Because the children are off of school, this can allow parents to spend extra time with their kids. 

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Wheaton divorce parenting time lawyerThe divorce journey looks and feels different for every couple, with varying shades of complexity. From the amicable to the horrendous, divorces manifest in all kinds of distinct ways, depending on the circumstances surrounding the relationship and if children are involved. Something every divorce has in common, however, is that they are all emotionally charged events by nature. Regardless of how civil both parties are with one another throughout the process, everyone involved is bound to experience emotional pain and discomfort, especially as the divorce proceedings develop. Difficult issues can arise that must not only be discussed but also resolved between both parties in order to make progress and move forward.

Typical Setbacks and What to Do When They Happen to You

Conflicts, even small ones, are inevitable throughout the divorce process. Here are some issues that commonly cause setbacks for both parties during the transition and how to address them when they happen to you:

  • Parenting time conflicts - If you and your spouse share children, you may quickly discover that you have different ideas of what parenting time should look like after the separation. It is not uncommon for couples to think they are on the same page regarding child custody issues, such as who will get the children on weekends and holidays, only to find they have drastically different feelings once the divorce is underway. Parenting time conflicts can turn into time-consuming, ongoing battles if not addressed early on. A positive course of action is to work with a well-seasoned, qualified family law attorney to create a fair, cohesive parenting plan to submit to the court for review. Should any modifications be necessary, your attorney can guide you through these changes from start to finish.

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Wheaton child custody attorney

Whether your child is in elementary school or is an adolescent in high school, they may experience the same emotional roller coaster that parents do when their family is going through a divorce. No matter how amicable or peaceful the decision to separate may be between parents, no one in the family journeys through the divorce process entirely unaffected. If your child is exhibiting certain signs, he or she may be having difficulty with the divorce. As a parent, it is important not to ignore these behaviors and instead address them head-on in order to maintain a healthy relationship with your child.

Recognizing When Your Child Is Having Trouble Coping

While studies show that civil, respectful relationships between divorced spouses can help support healthy healing for children of divorce, the emotional impact of the breaking of the family unit is still hurtful. Trouble coping is natural and to be expected in the midst of a family divorce, but if you notice any of the following changes in your child’s life on a day-to-day basis, it may be a sign that they are having an especially hard time adjusting to the change:

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Wheaton high-conflict divorce attorney

When it comes to divorce in the family, no one is fully immune to its emotional effects. Even the most civil of interactions between divorcing spouses can be deceiving. What might seem at first to be a friendly, mutual agreement may actually be subtly rife with tension. Conflict can simmer, and it may surface over time as the divorce proceedings unfold. By nature, divorce is a very emotional event in one’s life, and it tends to stir up a myriad of feelings for both parties, especially as the experience begins to feel more real and moves closer to its final stages. 

Common Triggers in High-Conflict Divorces

Conflict in divorce often stems from sensitive issues like money and child-rearing. These topics can be very touchy for everyone involved, even when both parties are working together to resolve the problems. Here are some of the most common sources of conflict for divorcing spouses:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysThere are many reasons and situations that require an update to your estate plan. Divorce is one of the most common and potentially catastrophic situations. Unfortunately, it is also easy to overlook or forget. There are many loose ends to tie up once the divorce process is complete, and with more to manage, estate planning can easily slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, if something does happen to you before you have made changes to your estate plan, assets may not go to the people and places you had hoped. Do not let this happen to you. Learn what and when you should update in an estate plan after divorce.

Changing Your Beneficiaries

If you have a 401K, IRA, or other retirement plan, the beneficiary listed on your policy should be checked upon completion of the divorce. Of course, you may have to split some of your savings with your former spouse, but the remaining amount should go to you. If you do not want the remainder to go to your ex upon your passing, and he or she is listed as the current beneficiary, it is important that you change this in your policy. Alternatively, if you wish your spouse to be listed as a trustee for your children, ensure the policy and your other estate planning documents reflect this wish.

Updating Your Powers of Attorney

If you are like most people, you probably have your spouse listed as your power of attorney (the person that acts and makes decisions for you in the event of incapacitation). Now, it is possible to keep your spouse as your power of attorney, but few divorces end quite that amicably. Instead, you might want to consider naming a close friend, a sibling, a parent, or an adult child. Make sure they are someone you can trust to carry out your wishes.

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DuPage County family law and divorce attorney

When it comes to the end of a marriage, there may be no such thing as an easy divorce. Even couples who remain civil and separate amicably do not escape the end of the relationship without experiencing hurt and pain. Having to let go of someone you loved, possibly still love, and shared a home and a life with can be irrevocably damaging, regardless of the circumstances. Still, some divorces are flat-out toxic from start to finish and result in ongoing conflict and heated legal battles. A contentious divorce is undeniably the most taxing kind, as it takes a toll on the whole family mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Minimizing Divorce Stress 

Spouses can disagree about nearly everything in a contested divorce case, from the division of assets and debts, to spousal maintenance (alimony), to child support and parenting time. If you find yourself in high-conflict divorce and cannot manage to find middle ground on any topic, you may not be able to change the relationship dynamic, but you do have some power over how you handle the inevitable stresses of the divorce process. Psychology experts recommend the following activities to lighten your burden during this difficult transition:

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Lombard estate planning attorneysAs we all know, not all marriages stand the test of time, and a divorce can be a messy undertaking. In previous posts, we have discussed in a fair amount of detail how a divorce can affect a person’s already existing estate plan. In most cases, the divorce will nullify any provisions that pertain to the person’s spouse. But, did you know that the terms of a divorce settlement agreement could create obligations for a person to meet in his or her estate plan in the future? A recent ruling by an Illinois appeals court shows how such a thing could happen.

A 33-Year Old Divorce Agreement

In the case in question, a couple got married in 1963, had six children together, and got divorced in 1982. As part of their divorce settlement agreement, which was entered as part of their divorce judgment, each party agreed to create a will that left 50 percent of their estate to be divided equally among their six children.

In 2014, while suffering from a bone marrow disorder, the husband executed a new will and restated a trust, of which his new spouse was named a co-executor and co-trustee along with another person. The husband died three months later.

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Lombard, IL divorce lawyer

Divorce is a difficult time and transition for everyone involved, but children have a different experience altogether. Children often do not understand the reasoning behind the divorce and can blame themselves for the conflict between their parents. This is most common in young children but can also happen for older ones who have experienced their parents fighting throughout their lives. One of the most confusing parts of the divorce process is the transition from living under one roof with both parents to living part-time in two separate homes. 

Moving During Divorce

Custody arrangements look different for every family. Some share equal time with both parents while others only stay with their non-custodial parent on some weekends and holidays. While there are a variety of different arrangements, a house should feel like a home regardless of the amount of time a child spends there. The following are tips to make your house more comfortable for your child:

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