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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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DuPage County Divorce AttorneyAccording to the American Psychological Association, more than 90 percent of individuals from Western cultures marry by the age of 50. Sadly, in the United States, 40 to 50 percent of these marriages end in divorce. However, while the nationwide average is high, not every state has such a high divorce rate. Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau found that Illinois has some of the lowest divorce numbers in the country, with there being 9.41 divorced individuals for every 1,000 married couples in the state. Other states, such as Hawaii, New York, Vermont, and New Jersey, have similarly low divorce rates.  What common factors do these states have that causes the divorce rate to be so low?

Why the Reduced Numbers?

It can be difficult to determine what the variables in a good marriage are. Studies of these states have found that there are commonalities they all share:

  • Reduced Student Debt: A common cause of divorce is financial stress. A couple’s financial state can sometimes make or break their marriage, depending on their situation. This is especially common for couples in which one person works while the other stays at home. Large amounts of student debt can be an immediate burden added to a marriage, particularly if the working individual is using their paycheck to pay off their spouse’s debt. Many of the “top five” low divorce states had lower average amounts of student debt owed.
  • An Age Range Change: Getting married young is not as common as it once was. Unlike their parents and their grandparents, millennials are choosing to get married at an older age. This has been attributed to higher education levels and increased opportunities, especially for women. Marriages that are officiated when the individuals are older have been proven to last longer. Many of the individuals in these five states wait until closer to age 30 to tie the knot.
  • Higher Income: Similar to the first reason, less financial burden equals less conflict about monetary constraints. The Census Bureau reports reflect a correlation between high divorce rates and large numbers of people who live below the poverty line. The opportunities that are available to people with higher incomes can reduce stress for couples, thus making them happier in their marriage.
  • Fewer People are Tying the Knot: Do not let the statistics fool you; fewer overall marriages means fewer divorces. In Illinois, less than 65 percent of people are married. This may also be attributed to higher education levels and greater independence for all genders, reducing the social requirement to get married. 

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Attorney for Assistance

Illinois divorce rates may be some of the lowest in the country, but many marriages within the state do still end in divorce. It is important to seek out an experienced attorney to help you with the legal issues that must be addressed during your divorce thus allowing you to focus on the life changes you are about to experience. If you are considering filing for divorce, contact a Lombard, IL divorce attorney at 630-426-0196.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard, IL divorce lawyers

Whether you call it empty nest syndrome or a mid-life crisis, many couples struggle when their children leave home and they go back to their previous “empty house” lifestyle. This life change can be a tough adjustment since a parent has gotten used to having their child living under their roof for 18+ years. Spouses are used to focusing on their child’s schedule and activities. This can make an empty house feel lonely and uncomfortable, sometimes so much so that divorce enters the equation. 

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Although it is not technically diagnosed, the commonality of empty nest syndrome illustrates its wide-reaching effect. Feeling a strong sense of sadness and loneliness after your children have moved out is the telltale sign of empty nest syndrome. Other symptoms include a lack of identity, extreme remorse, and a lack of self-worth. This lifestyle change can lead to clinical depression and apathy toward your spouse. Many feel as if they no longer have anything in common with their spouse since they have shared their child and the duties of parenting for the past decade. Although this can create a distance between spouses, there are various coping mechanisms for those who feel their emotions may be causing conflict.

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DuPage County Divorce Attorney

Divorce may have been taboo in the past but it is far from uncommon in today’s society. Statistics fluctuate year-to-year, but divorce rates are actually decreasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Illinois had one of the lowest divorce rates in the country in 2017. From 1990 to 2017, Illinois’ divorce rate decreased from 3.8 to 1.9 divorces per 1,000 people. The number of divorces may be decreasing, but the common reasons for divorce have essentially remained the same.

Infidelity

This is one of the most common reasons for divorce because a single action, or a series of them, can break down an entire marriage. Cheating on a spouse often begins as an innocent friendship and eventually transforms into a physical affair. Infidelity usually results in divorce because many couples see this as an act of betrayal that can never be forgotten.

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Lombard, IL Divorce Attorney

The annual military divorce rate is not as high as many people believe. The divorce rate has remained at 3 percent over the last four years. Numerically speaking, 21,290 of 689,060 married troops divorced in 2017. 

The legal issues surrounding military marriage and divorce can be difficult to understand, as military law is different than civilian law. Over the past few years, many changes have been made regarding military pension and its division with divorcees. 

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DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

Abuse comes in various forms, and unfortunately, many people experience some form of abuse in a romantic relationship. The three most common forms of abuse are physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. While the definitions of physical and sexual abuse are fairly clear, emotional abuse can be difficult to detect.

Emotional abuse is classified as using a person’s emotions against them as a weapon of control. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly half of women and men have experienced psychologically aggressive behavior by an intimate partner. Emotional abuse may not be easy to recognize, but it is one of the most common forms of abuse that occurs between partners and often leads to divorce.

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DuPage County stepparent adoption attorneyBecoming a step-parent can be an overwhelming life change, whether you have biological children of your own or not. Approximately 40 percent of American families are blended families, making stepparenting a common occurrence. It can be a challenge to balance the desire to befriend your spouse’s child and earn their affection with the need to parent them when the time comes. Many stepparents form strong bonds with their stepchildren, and they should be sure to understand their rights and legal obligations both during their marriage and if divorce ever enters the picture. 

Throughout the Marriage

  • Discipline: Many stepparents leave discipline to their spouse, especially when they first join the family, but as time goes on, more and more responsibility can get placed in their hands. It is important to have a conversation with your spouse about parenting expectations. Though it may not feel like it, you must remember that discipline is intended to benefit the child, and as a parent, the child’s safety should be your first priority.
  • Education: Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), stepparents are allowed to receive and review their stepchildren’s school records. FERPA defines a parent as "an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or guardian,” thus giving stepparents educational rights in regards to their stepchild.
  • Traveling: There is no law stating that stepchildren and stepparents cannot travel alone together; however, it is important to have both biological parents’ permission, unless the stepparent has adopted the stepchild and become their legal parent. There are also consent forms that can be signed to ensure no legal action is taken against the stepparent.

After Divorce

  • Custody/Visitation: Stepparents and stepchildren often share relationships similar to biological parents and their children, especially when this relationship existed for most of the child’s life. If the biological parent decides that the stepparent cannot have visitation rights after divorce, there is often not much that a court can do, unless the stepparent has formally adopted the stepchild. Once the divorce is finalized, a stepparent will lack the biological and legal ties to the child that guarantee parental rights. A stepparent does typically have the right to request visitation, but the court may not grant visitation rights.
  • Solidifying Legal Rights: The only way to ensure legal rights of the child is through adoption. Many stepparents decide to adopt their stepchild, especially if the child’s other biological parent is no longer in the picture. It is easier to adopt the child before divorce, because the biological parents’ permission is required for an adoption.

Contact a Lombard Adoption and Divorce Attorney

Blending families and learning to be a good stepparent can be challenging tasks. Stepchildren often feel like one’s own children, and the possibility of losing the connection with them after divorce can be unthinkable. Our DuPage County family law attorneys can help you address your legal concerns regarding adoption, divorce, or other issues regarding your stepchildren. Contact us at 630-426-0196.

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Lombard divorce lawyer irreconcilable differencesThroughout the history of marriage, adultery has been socially frowned upon as a betrayal of trust, and it often leads to divorce. Public opinion and religious beliefs are often believed to be the driving factor behind these negative views, but the laws regarding marriage also play a role. However, many people do not understand how these laws may affect them.

The Legality of Adultery

As is common with most laws, the way adultery is defined and handled varies from state to state. What many fail to realize about adultery is that in Illinois, it is considered against the law and can result in legal repercussions. Illinois is one of 18 states that have made adultery a crime. Illinois law defines the act of adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse, if:

  • The person is married and knows the other person involved in such intercourse is not his spouse; or 
  • The person is not married and knows that the other person involved in such intercourse is married.

Based on the law, if two parties engage in such action, and their actions are “open and notorious,” they are committing a misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to a year in prison. However, even though this law exists, it rarely results in criminal prosecution, so a person is unlikely to actually receive jail time for their extramarital activities. 

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce lawyersEven for those who have never experienced such a situation, it is almost impossible to imagine a deeper pain or sense of betrayal than that which comes from being cheated on by a spouse. While each couple may have their own definition of what constitutes cheating, an unfaithful spouse’s behavior can have a devastating impact on the marital relationship. In many situations, cheating is a symptom of much larger problems but is often the one that prompts the “cheated-on” spouse to finally take action to either fix the relationship or to end it permanently. If your spouse has been cheating and you are ready to file for divorce, there are some important things to keep in mind about your spouse’s behavior and how it might or might not impact the divorce process.

Marital Infidelity Is Not Grounds for Divorce

In 2016, Illinois lawmakers eliminated all of the fault-based grounds for divorce in the state. Since that time, a divorce can only be granted in Illinois on the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences. Cheating can certainly create irreconcilable differences but will not be recognized as the official reason for your divorce.

Spousal Support and Property Concerns

It may be reasonable to believe that when you have been cheated on by your spouse, you should be entitled to a larger portion of the marital estate or perhaps additional court-ordered maintenance to compensate for his or her actions. Illinois law, however, expressly prohibits a court from considering “marital misconduct”—including infidelity—when deciding on property division and spousal support matters. It is the responsibility of the court to address each spouse’s needs and to provide for the equitable distribution of marital property, not to place a value on an unfaithful spouse’s behavior.

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Lombard divorce attorneysEven if you have never experienced it, you probably realize that a divorce can take a tremendous emotional toll on a person. You may also be familiar with the basic idea of dividing marital property. What may not be as obvious from the outside, however, is the potentially devastating effects a divorce can have on the personal financial situation of each spouse, which can be long-lasting and can even result in bankruptcy.

If divorce has become a strong possibility for you and your spouse, there are a few areas of concern that you can address along the way to prevent major financial problems down the road.

Consider the Type of Assets

The division of marital assets is an often contentious part of the divorce process. Although Illinois is equitable distribution state, meaning each spouse’s allocation should be fair, not necessarily equal, you and your spouse will probably try to reach a fairly even agreement. You should keep in mind, though, that certain assets are not as easily converted to cash in the event of unforeseen expenses. For example, if you got to keep the family home while your spouse was allocated an investment account with similar value, you may struggle to sell the home if you were to ever need to do so.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce lawyersImagine a plausible scenario: one day, you are sitting in your office, perhaps taking a break to read the morning newspaper and to refill your coffee cup for the second time. Suddenly, a person you have never seen before asks you to verify your name. When you do, he hands you an envelope and announces that you have been served. Confused, you open the envelope to find that—to your utter shock—your spouse has formally filed for a divorce. In a matter of moments, it may feel like your whole world has been turned upside down, but now you must take action in response. What should you do and where should you even start?

Analyze the Situation

If you have been truly blindsided by your spouse’s divorce filing, there are, to put it bluntly, serious problems in your relationship. Even the healthiest of marriages experience tough times every now and again, but through the difficulties, united couples will continue to talk and communicate their issues and concerns. There is a good possibility that the underlying issues that led your spouse to file for divorce have been going on for a long time, but communication was not a high enough priority. The problems were downplayed or completely ignored until, one day, enough was enough.

It Only Takes One

While a healthy marriage requires full cooperation and participation from each spouse, a divorce can be all but completed with the efforts of only one. Of course, if you refuse to cooperate with the divorce proceedings, the process will likely be much longer and more expensive. The other consideration is that it is unreasonable for you to try to stay married to someone who no longer wishes to be married to you. The better option is to get the help you need to get the through the process and to start a new life where you can be happier and healthier.

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Lombard divorce attorneysAfter months or even years of unhappiness, you have finally decided that it is time for your marriage to end. It happens. In fact, it happens to about 800,000 couples every year in the United States, or about 2,200 per day, including weekends. If you are like many individuals, it can be very tempting to take to Facebook or Instagram in celebration of your newfound freedom. Others, sadly, turn to social media as an outlet for disparaging their partners, in hopes of finding support from friends and loved ones, or simply out of anger or spite. Whatever the reason, it is often best to limit your use of social media during your divorce to prevent potential unforeseen consequences.

Social Media Affects Divorce Cases

According to recent study conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), as many as 99 percent of family law attorneys have observed an increase in the use of text message and social media evidence in divorce and family proceedings in the last few years. Many divorce attorneys are even incorporating strategies for uncovering such evidence. What was once the territory of private investigators with cameras and notebooks is now often covered by voluntary posts on Facebook.

Appearances Can Be Everything

While discovering damaging information on social media, such as your spouse’s illicit affair, for example, may irrevocably destroy your relationship, Illinois law prevents a court from considering marital misconduct in most proceedings related to divorce. Spousal maintenance and property division concerns are not dependent upon the behavior of either spouse. However, there are subjective factors that can greatly affect your case, especially when children are involved.

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Lombard divorce lawyersEveryone knows that when you get divorced, your ex-spouse gets half of everything—unless you have a prenuptial agreement. That is just the way it works, right? Well, not exactly. Not in Illinois anyway, along with about 40 other states. The idea of an equal 50-50 split applies only to the nine states that maintain a standard known as community property in divorce. The remaining states, including Illinois, use what is called an equitable distribution standard, which may vary slightly from state to state, but generally requires a more in-depth consideration of a divorcing couple’s property and circumstances.

Determining and Valuing the Marital Estate

The equitable distribution guidelines in Illinois are contained in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The process begins with establishing which assets belong to the couple and which belong to each individual spouse. Those that belong to the couple include all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage with limited exceptions for gifts, inheritances, and judgments. Assets owned by either spouse prior to the marriage, along with the exceptions to marital property, are non-marital property and not subject to division. The value of the marital estate must also be determined, which may require the assistance of various experts, including real estate appraisers, financial advisors, and other professionals.

Considerations for Equitable Distribution

Once the marital estate has been established and valuated, the court must make a determination regarding the portion of the estate to be allocated to each party. In doing so, the court is required by law to take into account:

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Lombard divorce lawyersOnce you have reached the decision to end your marriage, the real work must begin. You and your spouse will need to decide how to divide your property, how to make arrangements for your children, and how to adjust to your new post-divorce lives. Before you can get there, however, one of you will need to start the legal process of divorce by filing a petition for the dissolution of marriage at the county courthouse. Many clients approach us with questions about this, often wondering how important it is to be the one who file for divorce and whether it makes any difference at all.

Knowing the Law

The divorce process in Illinois is governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), which is a comprehensive collection of statutes that address matters from choosing a venue to how parenting time matters will be decided by the court. A divorce, as a matter of law, is essentially a legal action used to dissolve a marital contract between two parties, and, as such, in every divorce, there is technically a plaintiff and a defendant. These terms, however, are far less important in a divorce than in other areas of the law, such as personal injury or criminal law, and, in fact, the IMDMA refers to the parties in a divorce as a plaintiff or defendant in just one paragraph.

The IMDMA does, however, make more references to a petitioner and a respondent. The petitioner is the spouse who initiates the proceedings by filing the divorce petition, making him or her formally the plaintiff. The non-filing spouse is the respondent and is given the opportunity to file an answer to the petition including motions of his or her own. For the remainder of the proceedings, each party maintains equal status as a party to the case, with the ability to file motions, request considerations, and present evidence. From a legal standpoint, therefore, there is little official advantage to filing for divorce before your spouse does.

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Lombard spousal support attorneysIf you will soon be getting divorced, you may believe that you have the right to receive spousal support—also called maintenance—payments from your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. Spousal support, unlike child support, is not automatically assumed to be necessary in every Illinois divorce. Under Illinois law, the court must take each case individually to determine if a maintenance award is actually needed to promote an equitable outcome. This means that if you think you are entitled to support, you will probably need to ask for it explicitly.

Marital Misconduct Is Not a Factor

Unless you and your spouse included behavior clauses in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the court will not consider the conduct of either party when deciding whether to award maintenance. While your spouse’s behavior may leave you feeling like he or she owes you some type of restitution, the law in Illinois specifically prohibits marital misconduct from being a factor in maintenance proceedings. Spousal support is meant to help you meet your financial needs and obligations, and is not intended to be used as a punitive measure against your spouse.

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Lombard divorce attorneysIf you are considering ending your marriage, you probably have a thousand different concerns. Will I be too lonely living by myself? How will the divorce affect my children? How will I tell my friends and family? Unfortunately, there is no way of getting through a divorce pain-free, but there are some steps you can take to help you cope with the emotional burden of ending a marriage.

Strategy 1: Do Not Take It Personally

It is reasonable to assume that if your marriage was unhealthy, the divorce will not be the most cooperative or collaborative process either. Often, couples getting divorced continue to struggle with the same issues they struggled with when they were married. If your spouse attempts to sabotage efforts to end the divorce efficiently and amicably, do not take it personally. Someone acting out in childish or hurtful ways toward you does not reflect on your character; it reflects on theirs.

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Lombard family law attorneyAs a divorced parent, you have probably had to work through a number of difficult discussions with your child. You may have been the one to break the news of your divorce to him or her and, in the time since, you may have answered dozens—if not hundreds—of questions about the future. Now, as you consider getting remarried, you will need to address difficult topics with your child once again.

Every Family Is Different

Your approach to talking with your child about remarriage will depend on a number of factors, including how long it has been since your divorce, the role of the other parent in the child’s life, and your child’s age and maturity. The relationship between your child and your new partner is also a major consideration. For example, if your child was very young at the time of your divorce and has come to see your new partner as a member of the family already, the conversation may much easier in many regards. By contrast, if you only recently got divorced and your child is extremely close with your ex-spouse, your child may not be prepared to accept a new stepparent so willingly just yet.

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