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Illinois business lawyerFor many business owners and, in fact, people in everyday life, a promise and a handshake mean more than anything that could be captured in a legally binding document. The physical manifestation of a person giving his or her word regarding an agreement or transaction still carries a great deal of psychological weight, even in today’s litigious society. While it would be wonderful to be able to consistently rely on another’s good word in business dealings, the reality is that contracts are often necessary, and, sometimes, one party fails to comply with his or her end of the deal. When that happens, your only option may be a breach of contract claim.

Three Main Elements

All contracts represent some form of a legally enforceable promise. Some, of course, are more complicated than others, but all provide certain rights and responsibilities to each involved party. In the context of business, most contracts address the purchase of items, goods, or services rendered. When the other party fails to comply with the terms of an agreed-upon contract, you may be able to bring a claim for breach of contract before the court. To win your claim, you will be required to show:

  • A Valid Contract Exists: Contracts can be written or oral, although oral contracts may be more difficult to prove. To prove the validity of the contract, you will need to demonstrate that there was an offer, that the offer was voluntarily accepted, and the contract included reasonable consideration for each party;
  • Breach of Terms: You must be able to point to specific parts of the contract that the other party has violated. For example, if the other party was contractually required to deliver a certain product by designated date, once the date has past and the product has not been delivered, the court may determine the missed deadline to be a breach of contract. In general, the breach must have had an effect on the value of the contract to you in order for the claim to be considered; and
  • Breach of Contract Damages: Beyond the fact a provision of the contract was violated, you will also need to prove that you or your business suffered harm due to the breach. Damages generally include lost money, time, and other measurable losses, and, in some cases, the court may also award punitive damages as well. Provisions in the contract that address breaking the contract, including specified penalties or fees, could also be enforced.

While you have every right to enforce a valid contract, you will also want to be sure that you have fulfilled your contractual obligations before moving forward with a claim. You cannot expect a court to hold the other party responsible for breach of contract if you have breached its terms as well.

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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 family law attorneyWhen you are navigating the process of divorce, you and your spouse must be open and honest about your individual finances and those you share as a couple. Without both parties being forthcoming, you will not ever be able to divide your marital property as prescribed by Illinois law. Even the court will not be able to make such decisions without all of the necessary information.

Unfortunately, is not uncommon for one spouse to hide property and revenue streams in an effort to keep them away from the asset division process. While it may be possible to track down these assets before a judgment is entered, sometimes the property will remain hidden until the divorce has been finalized. If you have recently gotten divorced and you just found out that your ex was being deceptive during the process, you can still take action to remedy the situation.

Getting Your Divorce Reopened

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Lombard estate planning lawyersThe passing of a loved one is almost always a terrible ordeal to endure. When a relative passes without a will, the process of managing the deceased person’s final affairs only adds to the difficulty. A person who dies without a will is considered to have died “intestate.” Illinois intestacy laws determine how a person’s property and debt are distributed after their death when a valid will is not present.

Laws of Intestate Succession When No Valid Will Exists

The rules regarding how a deceased person’s property should be divided are largely dependent on the deceased person’s surviving relatives. When a single person with no children passes away, his or her estate will go to his or her parents or siblings. If that person does not have living parents or siblings, their estate will go to nieces and nephews or more distant relatives. If an unmarried person with children passes away, their estate will go to their children. If a married person passes away, their spouse will usually receive the part of the estate which is considered marital property. Unfortunately, unmarried couples do not have any legal right to their partner’s property if that partner passes away without a will.

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Lombard divorce attorneysIdeally, every divorcing couple would be cooperative and amicable during the divorce proceedings and the time leading up to it. However, this is not how a large number of divorces go. Spouses are often at least partially resentful of each other or harbor negative feelings about their soon-to-be-ex. In most instances, these hostile feelings only result in a few sideways glances or muttered insults between the spouses. In more extreme circumstances, one spouse may try to “get even” or hurt the other spouse through excessive spending or squandering marital property. This wastefulness is called “dissipation of assets,” and Illinois courts take the matter very seriously.

What Exactly Does "Dissipation of Assets" Mean?

The concept of dissipation can be hard to understand. The formal definition of dissipation comes from the Illinois Supreme Court. Dissipation formally refers to “the use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time that the marriage is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.” In order to know if your spouse is guilty of dissipation, you need to determine what property has been misspent. Generally, marital property includes any property or income which was accumulated by either spouse during the marriage. So, if a spouse wasted money from a bank account which was used for shared expenses like bills and household expenses, he may be guilty of dissipation.

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Lombard divorce attorneysWhen a couple is getting divorced in Illinois, the law provides that all of the couple’s marital property should be divided in a manner that is fair and just. To determine a “fair and just” allocation of assets, the court will take many factors into account, including each spouse’s age, health, and employability, as well as their contributions to the marital estate. The court must also consider any claims made by either spouse against the other regarding dissipation of marital assets.

What Is Dissipation?

The Illinois Supreme Court established a definition for dissipation as “the use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time that the marriage is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.” Over the years, the state legislature has alternated between including and excluding non-marital property in its definition of dissipation. The most recent version of the law provides that only marital property can be dissipated.

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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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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 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 attorneyResearch shows that only about half of Americans have any estate planning documents in place. Those without a last will and testament and other critical estate planning documents risk having their estate decisions made for them if they pass away or become incapacitated. One vital piece of estate planning that is important for anyone to have is a power of attorney. A durable power of attorney is a legal document which gives someone else the authority to act on your behalf if you cannot do your yourself.

Types of Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney assigns an agent which will be responsible for the medical decisions, legal choices, personal banking, investment, insurance and real estate transactions of the person signing the document (the principal) should they become incapacitated. A special power of attorney allows the principal to be more specific. He or she can narrow down the types of choices the agent(s) can make. It is possible to have several different powers of attorney for different purposes. An individual may choose their spouse or family member to make medical decisions on their behalf, but he or she may choose another individual to make financial or business decisions in the event they are incapacitated.

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Lombard family law attorneysPeople do not stay in one place as often as they once did. With the global economy entirely interconnected and the job market in a seemingly constant state of flux, family moves are more common. However, so are divorces. In Illinois, the laws regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities—formerly called child custody—provide requirements that must be met before children can be moved a significant distance from their current home.

A Child’s “Home State”

For the purposes of parenting plans, a child must have a “home state.” This is the state in which a court would have jurisdiction to decide cases involving the child. Illinois is a child’s home state when (1) that child has lived in Illinois for six months (or since birth, if the child is not six months old yet), and (2) the child has no other home state, and/or the child (or their parent) has significant connections to the state. If a parent intends to move to another state and take their child with them, the child’s home state will change.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersThere are many things to consider when you are creating your Last Will and Testament. One you may have not considered is what will happen if your will is contested. A will contest is a lawsuit that an individual files in order to invalidate a deceased person’s will. Someone might file a will contest because they don’t believe a family member’s or friend’s will accurately reflects their true final wishes. Any intestate heir or beneficiary named in the person’s will can file a will contest.

In previous blog posts, we have talked about challenging the will of a recently-deceased loved one using a will contest. Today, however, we will look at how you can help prevent your will from being challenged. There are a few things that can be done to protect your will. One of these is a provision included in the will known as a “no-contest clause.”

What Is a No-Contest Clause?

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard guardianship lawyersIn Illinois and indeed all over the country, there are children and disabled people who require a bit of extra help to have their needs met. While most often, people have family members to act for them, those who do not may need temporary or permanent guardians. There are specific procedures one must follow to become one and specific rules to be followed once one has the position.

General Guardianship Information

Most guardianship proceedings are conducted through the probate court. However, guardianship of a child differs slightly from seeking the guardianship of a disabled person in that guardianship of a minor automatically ceases when that child turns 18. Able-bodied adults over 18 are entitled to a rebuttable presumption that they can handle their own affairs. As such, obtaining guardianship for a 17-year-old may be more difficult and less practical than seeking guardianship over a 10-year-old simply because it would expire so quickly.

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Lombard family law attorneysUsually, when a couple decides to divorce, the court prefers that the spouses create their own divorce agreement dealing with subjects like maintenance and child support. More often than not, couples are able to agree on these subjects and a divorce decree can be approved by a judge with minimal court intervention. However, there are cases when the agreement will be denied, and either the couple will need to fix a few things or the court will have to make a ruling in accordance with the current law.

Unconscionability

Illinois law holds that an agreement to divorce must not be unconscionable. Unconscionability is a doctrine dealing with contracts that prohibits terms that are so grossly unfair or skewed in favor of one party that it shocks the conscience. While this applies to all contracts, it is seen fairly often in divorces. The aim of a divorce settlement is to leave both spouses with the tools they need to live independently, and sometimes people create agreements that do not meet that criteria, whether they realize it or not.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerEstate planning in Illinois or any other jurisdiction is more than simply determining what legal documents are most appropriate to protect the value of your assets after death and achieve the goals and desires you have for the disposition of your property. Equally as important as choosing the right estate planning documents is choosing the right person to handle your affairs and exercise the powers those estate planning documents provide.

The Dangers of Selecting the Wrong Individual

Regardless of whether you named an individual as executor and administrator of your will, as a trustee overseeing your trust, or as your power of attorney, your estate planning documents give the individual significant powers. In the wrong hands, this person could potentially:

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Lombard family law attorneysPrenuptial agreements, or prenups, are becoming more common, as they acquire a solid reputation for safeguarding one’s interests and assets. However, they are not cure-alls for marriages. There are some things that simply cannot be addressed in a prenup. It can help avoid disagreements if your prenuptial agreement is crystal clear on what it disposes of and if you do not try to do too much with it.

DO: Distinguish Between Marital and Non-Marital Property

This is arguably the primary purpose of a prenuptial agreement. Illinois law lists it as the second right that couples have in the creation of such a document, and indeed, that is what most are used to accomplish. Dividing one’s property in a prenuptial agreement can save significant time and trouble in divorce court, which can provide a significant boost to post-marital relations.

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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 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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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 Paternity

Lombard family law attorneyFor many fathers, it can be extremely difficult to maintain an active role in the lives of their children. This is especially true for a father who has gone through a divorce or breakup with his child’s mother. In many cases, it feels like the proverbial deck is stacked against a man when it comes to child custody decisions—now known as the allocation of parental responsibilities under Illinois law. Unfortunately, many such issues are based on the persistent public perception that men are less qualified to serve as primary—or even equal—caregivers for their children.

Anecdotal Examples

Recently, a discussion on the social media site Reddit addressed the various ways that men have experienced sexism in their lives. Many responses dealt with female-dominated work environments, physical abuse at the hands of female partners, and distrust from authorities when a man has been the victim of domestic violence. However, there was a substantial number of responses that described the experiences of men when they are seen in public with children—including their own.

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