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dupage county divorce lawyerParents frequently disagree about issues related to the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time during their divorce. When parents cannot reach an agreement or create a parenting plan, mediators or a collaborative divorce team may be able to help. However, if other methods fail or if a case is extremely contentious, parents may end up litigating their custody dispute in an Illinois family law court. Although there is no failsafe way for a parent to ensure they get what they want in a court hearing, there are certain mistakes that parents should try to avoid. 

Sharing Details of the Dispute on Social Media

Nearly everyone uses social media, but during a contentious divorce, putting too many details on social media accounts can have negative consequences. Even with the most private account settings, information can be obtained and used as evidence in court. Trash-talking the other parent, posting pictures of late-night parties, and even photos of fun but risky behaviors with children may be used to try to prove lack of parental fitness in court. When in doubt, less is more when it comes to social media use. 

Trying to Get Revenge on an Ex

Parents who use court disputes to hash out resentments over their relationship issues look petty, mean, and even potentially uninterested in what is best for their children. Although spouses may have very good reasons for disliking each other once a divorce has begun, allowing that bitterness to influence negotiations over the children will get in the way of discovering and pursuing the children’s best interests. Judges have seen many parents arguing over their children, and can tell when one spouse is trying to get back at the other. Save frustrations with a spouse for a therapist and use the court to find a good solution for the children. 

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chicago prenuptial agreement lawyerAlthough prenuptial agreements are famously used by people with high-worth assets, the truth is that prenups can protect many different people in many different situations. One of the best uses of a prenuptial agreement is when a parent of children from a previous marriage in Illinois  wishes to get married again. 

Having a well-written, legally enforceable prenup can save a parent’s children and second spouses from fighting over assets in court if the marriage ends in divorce or if the parent passes away. A great prenuptial agreement can bolster a will and trust, and is an important part of financial planning before getting married again. 

Using Prenuptial Agreements for a Second Marriage

When a parent dies, it is always a tragedy - but the sadness can be made much worse when a second spouse is fighting over assets or inheritance with children. A great prenuptial agreement that details exactly how belongings, savings, and other assets will be allocated in the event of a parent’s death can save children and second spouses from the time, expense, and heartache of fighting over assets in court. This is also true if the second marriage fails and a couple disagrees about how their assets should be divided. 

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lombard estate plannig lawyerChildren are often the people those making an estate plan are most concerned with protecting. Before you begin working on an estate plan, it is important to understand who would or would not be counted as your child. Under intestacy law, the definition of a child is fairly rigid and cannot be altered. Modern family dynamics can be complicated, and it is quite common for children to be raised by someone other than their biological mother and father. The legal definition of a child may not encompass everyone who you consider to be your son or daughter. 

The language used in your estate planning documents is very important and cannot be left ambiguous. If your family situation is complex and you are not sure whether an individual is legally your child for inheritance purposes, it is best to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney. 

Who Is Considered One of My Children For Estate and Inheritance Purposes?

You probably have a fairly clear-cut idea in your head of who you consider yourself a parent to. Whether you belong to a large blended family or a small nuclear family, you know who you want to be counted as your child for inheritance purposes. If your idea of who your children are does not match the legal definition, you will need to use language in your estate planning documents to specify how you define “child.” 

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lombard estate planning lawyerPairs of people who are each other’s next of kin, such as a married couple, often leave everything to each other in their estate plans. The idea is that when the first passes away, the second will inherit and enjoy the estate until she too passes away. Sadly, sometimes a couple passes away at the same time, for example, in a car accident. However, it is unlikely that both people died at exactly the same moment. Odds are, one person survived longer than the other - maybe by a few seconds, maybe by a few weeks. 

The problem for estate administrators is sorting out who inherits the estate of the person who died first when the person who dies second does not live long enough to claim the first person’s estate. Survivorship period laws simply require that the beneficiary of an estate outlive the decedent by a certain amount of time before benefiting from the estate. 

What Problem Does Survivorship Laws Address?

Mandatory survivorship periods are one of the ways Illinois lawmakers seek to solve this problem. To illustrate the problem, imagine that a married couple, Ashley and Beth, have made wills and left their entire estates to each other. If Ashley and Beth are in a car accident together and both fatally injured, with Beth outliving Ashley by a matter of hours, it makes little sense from a policy standpoint to pass Ashley’s estate property to Beth when Beth is not around to enjoy it. But, without survivorship period laws, Beth still becomes the legal owner of Ashley’s estate property. 

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lombard divorce lawyerSame-sex couples in Illinois get married with high hopes of long-term marital success. Unfortunately, staying married forever is not always possible and divorce becomes necessary. Since same-sex marriage became legal in the United States, the divorce process for same-sex couples is usually the same as ending a marriage for heterosexual couples. 

Regardless of the gender of your spouse, it is important to understand the divorce process so you can make your divorce as smooth and fair as possible. 

The Divorce Process in Illinois 

Before a couple can get divorced in Illinois, one spouse must be a resident of Illinois. To be a resident, a person must have lived in Illinois for the past 90 days or, if they are an active duty member of the military, must have been stationed there the past 90 days. If children are involved, the children must have been residents for at least six months. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerWhile wills and trusts are both ways to pass money and property to your survivors, there are a few major differences. For example, a will has no effect until the testator has passed away, while a trust takes effect immediately. Many strong estate plans use a combination of a will and a trust, or trusts, as a way to make sure everything is covered. It is important to work closely with a qualified estate planning attorney, who can help you determine whether your ideal estate plan includes a will, trust, or both. 

What are the Major Differences Between Wills and Trusts? 

When you begin working on your estate plan, your attorney will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of both wills and trusts to help you decide what is best for your individual situation. A few key differences are: 

  • Timing - A will and trust take effect at different times. A living trust may immediately transfer ownership of any property you place in the trust to the trust. A will, on the other hand, has no legal effect whatsoever until you have passed away. 

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lombard child support lawyerDifferent states have different methods for handling child support when either parent remarries. Illinois uses a method known as the “income shares model” to determine each parent’s financial obligation to their children and whether one parent must pay the other monthly child support. Parents’ incomes and the parenting time they have are the primary factors of child support payment calculations. Because remarriage potentially affects the remarried parent’s overall financial situation, either parent, paying or receiving, could request that child support payments be modified by an Illinois court. 

Remarriage as Grounds For Child Support Modification

If the parent with the majority of parenting time gets remarried, the other parent - the one making the child support payments - may request a modification. Although the spouse of the remarried parent has no legal obligation to help pay for the children, having a second household income reduces the remarried parent’s financial burdens and gives them more disposable income to provide for the children.

If the parent making payments gets remarried, their child support payments are unlikely to change without otherwise having a significant change in their overall financial situation. Because the financial obligation to their children does not change with a new marriage, courts do not often change child support when a paying parent gets remarried. 

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wheaton divorce lawyerAlthough getting divorced is never easy, the divorce process can quickly become a nightmare if your attorney has become non-responsive or shows up to meetings unprepared. Besides the expense of hiring an unhelpful attorney, you may now be faced with the additional burden of finding and hiring someone else. 

But before you decide to change your divorce attorney, it is important to set clear expectations so you know what could change and what will likely stay the same. There are certain things you can expect of your attorney, but some frustrations with the divorce process are natural and will happen no matter how great your lawyer is. 

When is Hiring a New Attorney a Good Idea? 

Although anyone can generally fire their attorney for any reason or no reason at all, you will be more likely to experience a smooth transition if you take certain steps first. Firing your attorney without having a new attorney already may lead to delays in your case and difficulty getting information transferred to your new lawyer. 

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wheaton estate planning lawyerIf you have already created estate planning documents, but it has been years since you looked at or thought about them, it might be time to speak to an estate planning attorney about updating them. You may find that your circumstances or wishes have changed substantially since the last time you looked at your will, trust, or healthcare planning documents. Even if you are confident that your estate planning documents still accurately reflect your wishes, laws change over time that may affect your estate. It is always a good idea to periodically review your estate plan with an attorney’s help to ensure everything is in order. 

When is it Time to Review my Estate Plan With a Lawyer? 

A variety of life changes may trigger you to want to update your will or trust, or other documents like your Healthcare Power of Attorney and Advance Directives. It may be time to see an attorney about your estate plan when any of the following changes occur: 

  • Family Structure - If you have recently gotten married or divorced, had a child, had a grandchild, or even reconciled with a formerly estranged relative, you may want to update your estate plan to reflect these changes. 

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lombard divorce lawyerIf you are getting divorced but the thought of spending hours in court negotiating with your spouse makes you queasy, there are other options. In fact, only a small percentage of Illinois divorces are actually litigated in court because the alternatives to litigation have so many advantages. 

This article looks at the two primary alternatives to divorce litigation: mediation and collaborative divorce. Although they are similar, mediation and collaborative divorce are not the same, and it is important to understand their differences, so you know whether one of these options is right for you. 

What is Mediation? 

In an Illinois divorce, mediation is a negotiation process involving two spouses and an impartial third-party mediator. Mediators are trained professionals who can guide spouses through negotiations about important issues such as the division of marital property, parenting time, and spousal support.  Mediators are skilled in conflict resolution and can help spouses keep hostility to a minimum. Although each spouse usually still has an attorney, the attorneys are not a part of the mediation process. 

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chicago estate planning lawyerWhile estate planning is important for everyone, it is especially so for high-net-worth individuals. If you own high-value or complex assets, a number of estate planning tools are available to ensure that your wealth is distributed according to your wishes while minimizing your Illinois Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax liability. The greater the value of your estate, the greater the potential liabilities. An experienced attorney can craft an estate plan designed to preserve your wealth. 

Minimizing Taxes During Estate Distribution

Generally, trusts are favored over wills. Trusts serve one very important purpose-- avoiding probate. Probate can be costly and complicated, and it significantly diminishes your estate’s value. There are two types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Often, both are used to hold different assets and to serve different purposes. 

A revocable trust allows you to continue making modifications to it throughout your life. You can move assets in and out of a revocable trust. Any wealth contained in a revocable trust will not be subject to probate. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_149602157.jpgGetting used to parenting with your kids in two separate households is a difficult but necessary task for many families adjusting to life after divorce. The start of a new school year puts additional responsibilities on parents as they try to arrange schedules, buy supplies, and manage expenses.

Thinking ahead is crucial for creating an adequate parenting plan. Having a plan in place can help a family transition into the academic year much more smoothly. Whether you have been divorced for years or are still going through a divorce, here are some things to consider addressing in your parenting plan as your children start school. 

Share Unexpected Expenses 

Child support is generally expected to cover a child’s cost of living at one home, but school can add extra unanticipated expenses. Extracurricular activities, books, and fees for tests and college-level courses can add up quickly. 

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lombard power of attorney lawyerA power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person, called the “agent,” the power to make decisions on your behalf. Powers of attorney can be as limited in scope as allowing your agent to handle one specific transaction for you, or as broad as giving your agent general and permanent power to manage all of your finances and medical decision-making. It is very important to consult with a qualified attorney before you execute any power of attorney. These legal documents can be quite complicated, and an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the process and ensure that your wishes will be carried out correctly. 

What is the Difference Between Durable and Springing Powers of Attorney? 

The main difference between a durable power of attorney and a springing power of attorney is that a durable power of attorney takes effect immediately and gives your agent the ability to start making decisions for you, managing your finances, or any other included powers right away. It is effective for the rest of your life unless you revoke it. A durable power of attorney is not affected if you become incapacitated. One advantage of a durable power of attorney is that since it is already in effect, the transition after you become incapacitated can be seamless. 

A springing power of attorney does not give your agent any powers unless you become incapacitated. In Illinois, you are considered incapacitated when two doctors agree that you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. 

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lombard divorce lawyerIf you have decided to get a divorce, the next step is to choose an Illinois divorce attorney. But what makes a good attorney? Out of the myriad of options, how do you know what to look for, or even where to look?

Choosing a divorce attorney is an important part of the divorce process. The right attorney can make the divorce process smoother, less stressful, and will avoid unnecessary delays and mistakes that can cost you valuable time and money. This article discusses the process of choosing a divorce attorney, as well as some of the things you should look for. 

Where Should I Search for a Divorce Attorney? 

First, begin by speaking with trusted friends and family. If you know anyone who has recently been through a divorce, ask them how they felt about their attorney. You may be surprised to find that some people will even recommend their ex-spouse’s attorney rather than their own, simply because the attorney did such a great job of advocating for their client. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerOne of the most important parts of creating a successful estate plan is deciding who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes of your will. This person is known as an “executor.” Even if you think your estate is small, choosing a trustworthy executor is important for ensuring your last wishes are in good hands. 

What Does an Executor Do? 

Even for a smaller estate, an executor has many responsibilities. It takes about a year to completely settle an average estate, and sometimes it can take much longer. Your executor will file your will with a court to pay off any debt you may have, close all your accounts, hire any necessary experts, and ensure your assets are distributed appropriately. 

What Makes Someone a Good Executor?

Because an executor is entrusted with sensitive personal and financial information, not just anyone should be named as an executor. Ideally, an executor should be:

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lombard estate planning lawyerThere are several options for people in Illinois who want to ensure their assets are protected and their wishes are fulfilled after their death. Among these is something called a “living trust,” and it is one of the most valuable asset protection instruments someone can have. Living trusts are versatile estate planning tools that offer flexibility when transferring assets to loved ones. Better yet, they save your estate from having to go through a time-consuming and expensive probate process

What is the Purpose of a Living Trust? 

A trust is a legal arrangement in which one person - the trustee - holds assets on behalf of another person, known as the beneficiary. A living trust has the advantage of remaining under the control of the trustee for as long as they live, giving the trustee great flexibility over how the assets in the trust are handled. A trustee of a living trust can sell, mortgage, or give away assets held in the trust at any time. Once the trustee passes away, a successor trustee appointed by the original trustee distributes the assets to the trust’s beneficiaries. 

The primary benefit of a living trust is that the grantor - the person who gives the assets to the trust - can also be the trustee. A grantor who sets up a living trust and serves as its trustee retains control over the ability to modify the terms of the trust and control the use of their property however they see fit.

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lombard child custody lawyerIn 2016, a new law came into effect changing the way that Illinois’ courts handle child custody issues during and after divorce. Rather than calling a parent’s time and decision-making authority “custody,” the new law divides the parental relationship with a child into “parenting time” and “allocation of parental responsibilities.” 

Parents going through a divorce may find these phrases confusing, especially since parenting time and parental responsibilities are often still colloquially lumped into the word “custody.” However, there are important differences. This blog post will define and discuss these terms. 

Why Did Illinois Stop Using the Term “Custody”? 

Finding the old terms “custody” and “visitation” to be too vague and old-fashioned, Illinois law replaced them with phrases that are more specific and reflect modern reality. “Custody” and “joint custody” are no longer legally recognized at all, and “visitation” is only used in the context of third parties, such as grandparents’ visitation rights. Although the words “custody” and “visitation” are no longer meaningful in the legal sense, the concepts they described are still very much relevant.

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IL divorce lawyerTechnology has enabled us to do amazing things. We can now talk face-to-face with each other, anywhere in the world, at any time. Medical advances are moving forward in leaps and bounds, and if Jeff Bezos can go into space in his own brand new spacecraft, surely you can get divorced online, right?

Are There Any Advantages to Online Divorce?

“Do-it-yourself” divorce, or online divorce, can seem like a good option for a number of reasons. They advertise low costs, and they seem faster and less complicated than a normal divorce – no trial lawyers, no discovery, no fighting. If you do not have children or own property together, DIY online divorce can seem like a great alternative to the traditional courtroom divorce process. Just fill out the online forms, print them out, and send them to the family court in the county you live in. But is it really that simple?

What Are the Disadvantages of Online Divorce?

Unfortunately, the appeal of online divorce quickly fades as the real complications of divorce come to light. Using an online service to end your marriage opens the possibilities to mistakes and errors. Legal paperwork is technical and must be done correctly; even if a mistake was completely unintentional, if the paperwork is not done right, it cannot be filed.

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IL estate lawyerThe circumstances necessitating estate planning can be unpleasant to think about and people often avoid putting off writing their will. However, writing your will and establishing your priorities after your death is one of the best ways you can show love to the people you care about most. You may think you are too young to write a will, but the truth is that the sooner you write a will, the safer your loved ones will be.

If you have never written a will before, you may wonder what you should include. In this post, we will discuss some of the things you should consider when you are writing your will.

What Is a Will?

If you are writing your first will, you may be unsure about what a will is or what it does. Essentially, a will is a binding legal document that details what will happen to your property after you die. If relevant, a will can also address who will be appointed as a guardian for your minor children. A will also appoints someone who ensures the will is implemented correctly. This person is called an executor.

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Posted on in Adoption

IL adoption lawyerBlended families present unique challenges, and when it works well it can be a wonderful experience for everyone. Many new stepfamilies are created every day in Illinois, and many of those families create bonds that last forever. Stepparents who feel close to their stepchild and want to take on permanent parental responsibilities may consider adopting them.

In Illinois, stepparents can adopt their stepchildren, but it is not an easy process. Each situation is different, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you consider adoption:

There Can Only Be Two Parents

A child in Illinois can only have two legal parents. This means that, in order to adopt your stepchild, the child’s other parent must have their parental rights revoked or relinquished. That parent can relinquish their parental rights voluntarily by consenting to the adoption. If the parental rights are revoked as a consequence of neglect or abuse, this must be done in a court case wherein a judge will examine the relevant factors to determine whether the parent is unfit.

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