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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard family law attorneysThere are many reasons that a couple may choose not to marry. Some have become disheartened with the increasing prevalence of divorce and, therefore, do not see the point in marrying. Others want to maintain their single status for political, religious, or personal reasons. Some same-sex couples live in parts of the country where same-sex marriage was not legal until very recently. Only the individuals in a relationship can decide if marriage is right for them, but it is important to know that there are steps unmarried couples can take to protect their rights and assets.

A Cohabitation Agreement Can Protect You in the Case of a Breakup

Common law marriages have not been legally recognized in Illinois since 1905. This means that two people can share their lives together, live in the same house, help each other pay bills, and raise children together without being considered legally married. Couples that live together but are not married do not have the same rights and protection under the law as those couples that are married. Those who split up after sharing a life together may find themselves in a legal mess. For example, if the couple has brought property, real estate, expensive home goods or vehicles together, it is difficult to establish how this property should be divided following a breakup.

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard divorce attorneysMany people in struggling marriages wait until later in life to divorce. Couples consisting of partners aged 50 and above now account for a full quarter of all divorces in the United States. Divorce between older individuals has been nicknamed “gray divorce,” and has been on the rise in this country for a number of years.

Couples get divorced after many years of marriage for various reasons. Some do not want to upset the family balance while there are children living at home. Others wait for financial or career-oriented reasons. Still others may have tried for a long time to salvage the marriage and finally decide to call it quits. While a divorce is a life-changing event for individuals of any age, waiting until later in life to get a divorce comes with its own special challenges.

Factors to Consider When Divorcing After the Age of 50

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Lombard estate planning lawyersFor the more vulnerable members of society, especially the disabled and the elderly, life can become a complex dance of government forms and applications. Social Security (SSI/SSDI) is a prime example of this, with lengthy proofs required as to why disability is necessary and how to show you are not ‘gaming the system.’ However, the strictures of being on disability mean that a person is not entitled to possess assets above a certain amount, which can be prohibitive. Special or supplemental needs trusts (SNTs) have been used for years to help address this disparity.

What Is the Purpose of an SNT?

The primary purpose of an SNT is to help a disabled or elderly person afford better care than that to which they would otherwise be entitled. While Social Security disability (SSDI) has no asset limit, many people do not qualify for it, and instead apply to receive SSI (the program for low-income workers). However, when one is ruled eligible to receive SSI, one is entitled to retain only a certain amount of assets - for most people, no more than $2,000 in value. This is tenable for some, but for many others it amounts to enforced poverty. For those who are physically disabled, having such minimal assets and no ability to work (because a bank account and a paycheck are resources) can result in privation.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerFor most couples, divorce is a difficult, time-consuming, and often expensive process. The considerations that accompany a divorce can seem almost endless, from determining who will keep which assets, how parental responsibilities will be divided, and whether spousal support is necessary. In the back of your mind, you probably realize that, at some point, you will need to update your will and other estate planning documents to address the property and obligations allocated to you during the divorce. But what if something were to happen to you before your divorce is finalized?

Your Estate Plan After Divorce

According to Illinois law, a divorce judgment will make certain changes to most estate planning documents in the event that a person dies before amending his or her estate plan. For example, if you named your spouse as the executor of your estate in your will and you pass away after your divorce has been finalized, the will shall be treated as if your spouse died before you. The same is true if your will left property to your former spouse, as well as if you appointed your spouse to be your power of attorney.

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Posted on in Child Support

Lombard family law attorneysIf your income has declined in recent months due to a change in employment or other factors, you may be struggling to make your court-ordered child support or spousal maintenance payments. You may also be wondering if there is anything you can do about it. Can you go to the judge and have your child support and maintenance payments modified accordingly?

Changing these, and other, financial provisions in a divorce is possible under Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). Any party to the case can ask the court to modify the existing order if there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.” The statute lists a number of specific factors, as well as the general inclusion of “any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable,” for the court to take into account.

Change in Income

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersAs you look toward the future, you may realize that there could be a time when you are limited in your decision-making abilities. It may become impossible for you to express your wishes regarding your finances, property, and even your own medical care. To prepare for such a possibility, Illinois law allows you to select an individual to serve as your power of attorney for these types of decisions. Your power of attorney will have the authority to make decisions on your behalf if and when you are no longer able to do so.

The Right Person

The individual that you choose to serve as your power of attorney must be capable of handling his or her assigned responsibilities. This means that he or she should:

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Posted on in Division of Property

DuPage County divorce lawyersMaybe he is your best hunting companion, spending countless hours together in the woods or tracking game. Maybe she likes to curl up on your lap while you watch television or against your body while you sleep. Companion animals like dogs and cats play such a significant role in the everyday lives of millions of people. You would never consider taking your leafblower hunting nor would you want to cuddle up with a set of silverware and cup of hot cocoa. However, if you are going through a divorce, most states recognize companion animals simply as property, no different than the household items in these impractical examples.

Working Together

Communication and compromise are important tools for any divorcing couple when making arrangements for parental responsibilities and the division of property. Placing a dispute in the hands of the court to decide can lead to contentious hearings and an outcome that leaves one or both partners unhappy. When custody of pets is at issue, however, compromise is even more imperative. While there are some small signs of change around the country, most courts are not nearly as concerned with a pet’s best interest as they are with that of a child.

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Lombard family law attorneysNot many children get home from school excited to dive right into their homework. Almost every school-aged child has homework assigned at least a few nights per week and many have homework on weekends too. Under the best of circumstances, even the most dedicated students can get burned out. For a child dealing with their parents’ divorce, the issue of homework can become a battleground if the parents do not make the conscious effort to cooperate.

Parents want what is best for their children. In a divorce situation, emotions and stress can sometimes lead a parent to try to establish complete control over the child’s education and assignments. Children may benefit more, however, when both parents agree to each take responsibility, especially when their share custody during the school week. While the specific arrangements of any family situation will be different, there are a few things that divorced parents should strive to offer their children, regardless of whether the children are with Mom or Dad.

Consistency

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is never easy to think about our own mortality. In the back of our minds, we realize that we will not live forever, but the topic can certainly be uncomfortable and overwhelming. Unfortunately, this leads many people to procrastinate when it comes to estate planning, convincing themselves that they will address the issue when they are a little older or closer to retirement.

Sometimes, individuals need a wake-up of call of sorts in order to get motivated in their estate planning efforts. If you have not completed an estate plan yet, consider questions such as:

If you and your spouse both die, who will raise your children?

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Lombard family law attorneysIt is certainly not uncommon for divorcing spouses to fight over money. In many situations, finances are the only issue that keeps the divorce process ongoing—often for many months or even years. A large number of such cases include high-net-worth couples with significant assets and business interests, which can be very complicated to divide fairly. Other cases, however, involve one spouse hiding or obfuscating assets so that he or she will not lose them during the divorce.

Manipulating the System

Illinois law requires each spouse to make a full financial disclosure during the divorce process so that all marital property can be divided equitably. Too often, one spouse will attempt to leave certain assets or revenue streams out of his or her disclosure so that they will be “safe” from division during the divorce. This type of behavior defies the intent of the law regarding equitable distribution and is taken very seriously by the courts.

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DuPage County estate planning lawyerAs you look forward to the future, you will need to make some important decisions about the disposition of your property and the care of your dependents. These are the considerations that most people think of when they hear the term “estate planning.” Estate planning, however, also gives you the ability to make advance decisions for your own medical care and treatment so that in the event that you are disabled or otherwise incapacitated, there will be no doubt regarding your wishes.

Your Living Will

A living will is one example of an estate planning document that can be used to formally record your desires regarding the medical care you wish to receive—or not receive—in specific situations. It is a type of advance medical directive that can be used to give instructions to your medical providers as well as to any person you have appointed to make medical decisions on your behalf, such as a power of attorney.

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DuPage County divorce attorneysIn most types of court proceedings, there is a clear delineation between the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff—sometimes called the claimant—is the party that has decided to take some sort of legal action against the defendant. In a personal injury case, for example, the plaintiff may have filed a lawsuit to recover financial compensation for injuries that he or she believes were caused by the defendant. Likewise, the plaintiff in criminal proceeding—the state—is seeking a judgment of guilt and criminal penalties against a defendant believed to have committed a crime. Technically, a divorce is no different: the spouse that files the divorce petition is considered the plaintiff, making the other spouse the defendant. But, does it really matter which spouse is which?

Different Terminology

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) is a comprehensive compilation of statutes that govern the divorce process in Illinois. The IMDMA generally avoids the use of the terms “plaintiff” and “defendant,” instead using the more neutral “petitioner” and “respondent” in most cases. This highlights the concept that divorce does not need to a highly contentious battle in which there are clear winners and losers.

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DuPage County family law attorneysWe have all seen the tropes in movies and on television of regular clients at a beauty salon or barbershop. They come in for their cut, color, or style, and carry on a very familiar conversation with their stylist or barber. Unlike other media depictions, this type of scenario is extremely common in the real world. Many people—and especially women—come to view their regular hairdresser as a trusted friend and confidant. Thanks to a new law in Illinois, that trust will soon take a drastic step forward as licensed beauty workers have been tapped to join the battle against domestic violence.

Measure Amends Current Licensing Laws

Last summer, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill that requires licensed beauty workers—including hairdressers, braiders, barbers, cosmetologists, nail technicians, and others—to participate in domestic violence awareness training as a part of their licensing requirements. Initial training will be required for workers looking to obtain a license for the first time. For those who are currently licensed beauticians, an additional hour of ongoing domestic violence education will be added to the requirements for renewal every two years.

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Lombard family law attorneyIf you have ever helped a loved one apply for government assistance programs, you probably know that many such programs have qualification requirements that include income and asset limits. While such restrictions were originally put in place to reserve the benefits of such programs for those with the greatest need, they are also the source of intended consequences for many unsuspecting individuals. This is frequently the case when a person who relies on Medicaid, Social Security, or other government programs is named as a beneficiary in another’s will or estate plan. A sudden increase influx of assets or property, as often happens with an inheritance can affect the heir’s eligibility for the assistance on which he or she depends.

Government Assistance Programs

Many governmental assistance programs have been in existence for decades, with a number of them tracing their roots to the Great Depression recovery measures of the “New Deal” of the 1930s. Of course, such programs are often the subject of controversy as lawmakers debate the programs’ future and how they are to be funded. Few, however, debate their usefulness for individuals truly in need of financial assistance and medical care.

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Lombard family law attorneysWhen you share parenting responsibilities for your child with your former partner, things are not always going to be easy. You will almost certainly experience disagreements with the other parent over a variety of concerns including the child’s activities, your relationship with the child, and your ability to properly exercise your parenting time. Regardless of the difficulties, however, it is very important for you to continue following any orders entered by the court so that you do not put your parental rights in jeopardy.

Components of a Parenting Plan

Following a divorce or breakup of unmarried parents, arrangements must be made for the couple’s child or children. To facilitate the process, the law requires the parents to submit a proposed plan regarding each parent’s responsibilities for the child. Each parent may submit a separate proposal or they may develop one together. A parenting plan must contain a number of other elements, but the most important considerations include the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities and a parenting time schedule. Once a parenting plan has been approved by the court and entered as an order, both parents must abide by its terms.

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Lombard family law attorneyIf you are parent facing a divorce—or breakup if you are not married—you probably understand that a child support order may be in your future. In most separated parent situations, one parent is required to make payments to the other parent to assist with the costs of raising their child. Usually, the parent with fewer responsibilities and less parenting time is the one who must provide the support, but the law allows a court to order support payments from either or both parents as appropriate.

Currently in Illinois, child support calculations are based on two primary factors: the net income of the supporting parent and the number of children that require support. Other considerations may be taken into account, but generally have less impact on the final order.

Need for Change

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Lombard estate planning lawyerDo you have a written plan for what will happen to your assets and debts upon your death? Is there a documented contingency plan in place for your children in the event that something happens to you? If the answer is yes to either or both of these questions, you have made excellent decisions in being prepared for the unexpected. If the answer is no, it is time to start looking ahead. For those that do have an estate plan in place, it is very important to revisit it from time to time, checking to make sure that the terms of your plan continue to be applicable to your current state of affairs. Estate planning is not a “one-and-done” type of affair; it is an ongoing process that you must continue to address to a certain extent for the rest of your life.

More Assets and Wealth

Assuming that you are still of working age, you will likely continue to accumulate wealth each year. You may set additional savings aside for retirement, or you may invest what you are earning in the hopes of a substantial return. As your wealth and net worth grows, you may wish to amend your estate plan to properly account for your added assets. There may be new tools or tax advantages available to you now with your additional wealth that were not available at the time your estate plan was created.

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Posted on in Adoption

Lombard family law attorneysAdopting a child can be one of the most rewarding decisions an individual or couple can make. A person or couple who chooses to adopt is giving a family to a child who may not have otherwise had one. Almost certainly, they will change that child’s life for the better. Whether you cannot have biological children due to a fertility issue or you are a same-sex couple wanting to start your own family, adoption is a choice that may allow you to fulfill your dreams of parenthood.

Some individuals choose to adopt a child on their own without a partner. You may have lost a partner or spouse, or maybe you just never met the right person. Through adoption, you can still have a child of your own. Others have no pressing need to adopt but decide to do so for personal reasons. Whatever your motivation for adopting, you are sure to make a difference in a child’s life.

As we get ready to begin 2017, many are preparing New Year’s resolutions. If you have been thinking about adoption, this could be the year you finally make it happen. Adoption may be the right avenue for you to grow your family because:

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Lombard estate planning lawyersIn the weeks and months following the death of a loved one, you are likely to experience a wide range of emotions. Grief and sadness, of course, are often the most common, but you may also feel twinges of anger, guilt, and regret over missed opportunities. If your loved one was very sick or in pain, there may even be a sense of relief. All of these feelings are a normal part of dealing with a significant loss and are to be expected.

If your loved one had a will or another type of estate planning document, the emotional rollercoaster may resume when it comes time to execute the will. Many of the same feelings may come flooding back, possibly accompanied by a great deal of surprise if the will contains unexpected terms and provisions or is not the same document you discussed with your loved one prior to his or her death. When such surprises occur, it is worth trying to find out if the will was the product of undue influence and whether contesting the will is appropriate.

What Is Undue Influence?

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Lombard child support lawyersIt seems that just a few short weeks ago, students around the country were preparing to go back to school. Retail outlets were full of pencils and notebooks, as well as dorm room furniture for those heading off to college. Suddenly, the fall semester is just about over, and most college students are looking forward to a couple weeks off before the spring semester begins. Others, however, may have rather unsatisfactory experiences at school this term along with poor grades. If you as a parent have been ordered to contribute to your child’s college expenses, his or her report card could be a sign that your obligation needs to be reevaluated.

Non-Minor Support for College Expenses

According to Illinois law, divorced parents can be required to contribute to the educational expenses of their children, even after the child has reached age 18 and started college. In ordering non-minor support, a court must take into account a number of factors, including the family’s financial situation before the divorce and each parent’s income and resources since the split. Other considerations include the child’s income and resources, such as his or her eligibility for grants, scholarships, and assistance programs. The child’s academic performance must also be factored into the decision.

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