House Bill Poised to Change Visitation Rules

April 22nd, 2014 at 5:22 pm

child custody, visitation, divorce, family law, Wheaton divorce lawyer, Illinois family lawerA new bill currently making its way through the Illinois legislature could have a big impact on how judges assign visitation rights. The bill, HB 5425, recently made its way out of committee and is now headed to the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives for debate. At present the bill’s chances of passing are still unclear. Its sponsor has agreed to refrain from calling for a vote in light of a family law overhaul bill that has been waiting for a vote since 2012, but that may change if the omnibus bill stalls for much longer.

 The Bill’s Provisions

 If HB 5425 does make it into law, it could have a profound effect on the way judges handle visitation for non-custodial parents. The first portion of the bill gives parents a 90-day window to produce their own, mutually-agreeable parenting plan. If the parents cannot agree, then the bill gives the court the power to make visitation decisions.

The legislators developed the bill with the view that it was important to foster strong relationships between parents and children. To that end, it creates presumption that children are best served by spending equal time with both of their parents. Because it is just a presumption, the parents are both allowed to introduce evidence to try to show that equal time is not in the best interests of the child’s “physical, mental, moral, and emotional health.” If one of the parents can prove that by “clear and convincing evidence,” then the court is allowed to place restrictions on the parenting time. However, the bill appears to place a mandatory floor of no less than 35 percent of parenting time to the non-custodial parent.

 Opposition to the Bill

 The bill has also generated opposition from some parts of the state government. People are concerned about both the presumption that equal time is best for the child and the 35 percent floor for non-custodial parenting time. They feel that a child custody decision is a fact-intensive inquiry that benefits from strong scrutiny on a case-by-case basis, and that a formulaic set of rules is not the best way to make those decisions.

Proponents of the bill, including some therapists, respond to that criticism by pointing out that the adversarial process that makes up the current court system is not the best way of deciding child custody issues, and that the conflict can cause children emotional distress. They believe that if this bill becomes law, it can reduce that problem by streamlining the divorce process and making it more collaborative rather than confrontational.

 With law surrounding divorce and child custody constantly changing, it is important to find an experienced DuPage County divorce lawyer to help you receive the most up to date consultation on your family law issues.

Techniques for Coping with the Stress of Divorce

April 17th, 2014 at 12:52 pm

divorce stress, life after divorce, coping with divorce, Illinois divorce attorney, Wheaton IllinoisOne of the hardest parts about going through a divorce is handling the daily stress that comes with it. While many people think of stress as a purely mental issue, it can also cause physical health problems. One divorce counselor has even compiled a Divorce-Stress scale to help people assess specific risk factors.

Of course, staying in an unhealthy marriage can also cause significant stress, so often people’s best option can be to move forward with a divorce and learn to manage the stress associated with it. Some of the best strategies include reaching out to a support network, staying active, and seeking help from a therapist.

Find a Support Network

Using a support network is one of the best ways for someone to cope with the stress of a divorce. This is because many of the difficult emotions that arise from a divorce relate to the loss of a partner. This means that divorce can lead to a strong sense of loneliness, unless you make a conscious effort to maintain or rebuild relationships with friends and family. This can both help to reduce any possible feelings of isolation, and also provide an outlet to help you discuss other problems that could be causing stress. Similarly, many areas have divorce support groups that meet regularly to help people in similar situations find others who understand what they are going through.

Stay Active

Staying active is another great way to help reduce stress. Physical activity can help reduce tension and anxiety in addition to its other health benefits.

However, staying active can mean more than just developing a workout routine. Activities beyond exercise can also help improve people’s moods and happiness. Many people find developing a new hobby or rekindling an old one can keep themselves grounded and help them begin to adjust to their new lives. The new interest can also help function as another social outlet to boost your support network.

Speak with a Therapist

Another method of decreasing stress can be to seek help from a professional counselor or therapist. Divorces can be overwhelming, and involve losing a close companion. For many people, that means that they no longer have someone to help them talk through any emotional issues that they might be facing. A therapist can help fill that gap. Having someone to talk to can help you put things in perspective, and work through some of the more difficult emotional troubles of a divorce that you may not feel comfortable sharing with friends or family.

Even though divorce can be stressful in the short-term, it may the best way to secure happiness in the long-term. If you would like to seek a divorce, contact a DuPage County divorce lawyer whose experience and understanding can help make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Child Support Payments and College Expenses

April 14th, 2014 at 3:10 pm

college  tuition, tuition costs, child support, college fund, child of divorce, Illinois divorce lawyerWith the cost of college rising and more people attending every year, a common question divorcing parents have is whether a child’s college expenses can be factored into divorce agreements. In Illinois, section 513 of the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides the answer. That section provides that judges may award “non-minor support” in the case of a child’s educational expenses in some circumstances. The law provides guidelines on what factors judges should take into consideration when they decide whether to award support, what the support may cover, and what rights are afforded to the parents in exchange for this support.

Factors Judges Consider

Judges in family court have a wide range of discretion in awarding this sort of support. The law specifically calls out several factors to which they should look in order to determine if the case merits the support, including:

  • The financial resources of both parents;
  • The standard of living that the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
  • The financial resources of the child; and
  • The child’s academic performance.

However, the law clarifies that this list is not exclusive and that the judge should take into account “all relevant factors that appear reasonable and necessary.” Furthermore, judges need not make these determinations at the time of a divorce. Instead, they can choose to see how the children’s academics and parents’ finances develop over the years before assigning support.

Expenses Support Can Cover

In addition to providing guidance about the criteria judges should examine for the purpose of assigning support, the law also provides a list of possible expenses that the support should cover, including:

  • Tuition;
  • Room and board;
  • Dues and fees;
  • Books;
  • Transportation;
  • Application fees;
  • Medical and dental expenses; and
  • Living expenses.

Once again, the law explains that this list is supposed to provide examples, and other costs may be included. Additionally, the court can also award support for expenses during breaks from school.

This wide variety of different potential expenses also gives rise to the practical issue of how parents actually pay the support. The court has the authority to order payment to the student directly, to either parent, or to the student’s school. The judge can also have the parents set up a trust or other special account to facilitate payment.

The drafters of the legislation were also conscious of the fact that all these expenses place an extra burden on a parent. To account for this the law does provide an extra right to a non-custodial parent who is required to pay non-minor support. The child is required to sign the consent forms necessary to give the parent access to the student’s records and grade reports.

If you have concerns about issues related to child support or other divorce proceedings, find a DuPage County divorce lawyer today and put their experience to work for you.

Tips for Talking to Your Divorce Attorney

April 10th, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Illinois divorce attorney, Wheaton divorce lawyer, DuPage County divorce attorneyYou and your divorce lawyer will be working closely throughout the divorce process to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome. Since the divorce process can last for months or years, learning how best to communicate with your lawyer early on can save you time, hassle, and money at a later date.

When talking to your lawyer, it is important to keep the goal of your relationship in mind. Your lawyer represents you and your interests in court. That means that when you talk to them, you should keep your focus on legal issues, be honest and forthcoming, and ask questions about any matters that you do not understand.

 Stay on Point

Staying focused on issues that are pertinent to your case can make meetings go much smoother and quicker. That does not mean though that it is not worth building a relationship with your attorney. The two of you will be dealing with each other often, and discussing sensitive issues from time to time.

However, spending an hour venting about the frustrations of your divorce is probably not the best use of your time with your attorney. While you want an attorney who is sensitive to the emotional issues that come along with these cases, spending too much time on them is an easy way to increase your bill unnecessarily.

 Be Honest and Forthcoming

Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is certainly important when you are under oath, but it is also a good policy to adopt when talking to your attorney. Your attorney is your advocate in the courtroom. To be an effective representative, they need a full, thorough understanding of your situation.

This might involve talking about sensitive subjects or opening up certain parts of your marital life. While that is not an enjoyable prospect for anyone, it is important for your attorney to be able to plan their legal strategy without being surprised at a later date.

 Ask Questions

 While asking questions of your attorney to speed up the process may seem counterintuitive, it can actually be helpful in the long run. Asking your lawyer to clarify issues can help you understand the progress of your case. Additionally, your lawyer may need your input from time to time on how you want certain parts of the divorce handled. The better you understand everything that has already happened, the faster you will be able to tell your lawyer your feelings on current issues. Of course, you do not need to understand the legal minutiae of each step of your divorce, but questions about the general steps and strategy of your case along with what might happen next can help you be prepared for future meetings.

 If you have yet to find an attorney and are considering divorce, contact a DuPage County divorce lawyer. Our team has experience handling a wide array of divorce cases, and can put that knowledge to work for you.

The Stages of a Divorce Proceeding

April 7th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

divorce, divorce process, Illinois divorce, Wheaton Illinois divorce lawyer, divorce attorneyAlthough divorces are common enough today that most people have some experience seeing them from the outside, many people do not understand the actual steps of a divorce. Divorce, like many legal proceedings, is broken down into a series of stages. It begins with filing the petition for divorce, and can move all the way into trial, with several steps in between.

 The Divorce Petition

The divorce proceedings begin when the plaintiff, also known as the petitioner, files a petition requesting a divorce. This petition is a piece of paperwork that makes the court aware that the petitioner would like to dissolve the marriage. The actual form itself is often very short, only detailing things like the general grounds for the divorce, the number of children, and other pertinent information. An example of a divorce petition can be seen on the Cook County court’s website.

 Service of Process and Response

 Once the plaintiff files their petition, the next step is to notify the other spouse. This is known as the “service of process.” This involves the plaintiff, or more commonly their lawyer, providing the other spouse with a copy of the petition any other supporting documents that may go along with it. In more amicable divorces, this will often mean simply hiring an independent process server to deliver the complaint or perhaps sending it to the other spouse’s attorney, if they are already aware of the divorce and have sought legal counsel. However, in certain circumstances, the Sheriff’s Department can also be used to serve a spouse.

 Following the service, the other spouse has the opportunity to respond to the petition. This response is simply an acknowledgement that they received the petition, yet may also dispute facts to the extent that the responding spouse disagrees with the petitioner.

 Discovery and Negotiation

After the other spouse responds, the case moves into the discovery phase. This part of the divorce involves valuing the marital assets, which may entail going through the finances, interviewing the spouses, and possibly even retaining experts to give their opinion on the value of certain items. After the estate has been valued, negotiations over the division begin, and many times cases can settle at this point once both sides have come to an agreement with which they can live. These settlement negotiations often also include issues like visitation, child custody, and future support obligations.

 Pretrial Conference

Assuming the parties do not reach a settlement, then the case moves forward to the pretrial conference. This is a discussion between the judge and the lawyers where they talk about the issues that the parties have not been able to settle themselves. While it is not a full trial, this discussion can give the lawyers a sense of the strengths of their cases, which can often encourage them to settle.

 The Trial

If the case still has not settled, then it goes to trial. This is the formal proceeding where the lawyers present their evidence to the judge in open court. It can involve witness testimony, financial documents, and arguments by the attorneys. Once the attorneys finish presenting the evidence and making their cases, the judge makes the final decisions about issues like custody, division of assets, and support obligations.

 If you are thinking about filing for divorce and would like to learn more about the process and your individual case, get in touch with a DuPage County divorce lawyer today. We can provide you with tailored advice for your unique situation.

Asset Valuation in Illinois Divorce

April 3rd, 2014 at 12:06 pm

asset valuation, division of property, divorce, Illinois divorce, division of assets, Illinois divorce lawyer, divorce attorneyOne of the largest parts of any divorce process is the division of marital assets. In Illinois, judges divide the assets equitably, based on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to the following:

  • spousal contribution to the marital estate;
  • debts of the parties;
  • age of the spouses; and
  • tax consequences, among other things.

One important part of property division in divorce is the accuracy of asset valuation. This can have a large impact on how assets are divided because a mistaken asset valuation can lead to a judge’s incorrectly deciding what would constitute as equitable division.

For many assets, valuation is a simple, straightforward process. Items such as bank accounts and life insurance policies have readily accessible cash values that courts can use to make their decisions. The issue of value becomes less clear though, if the spouses have more complex assets, such as private corporations, stock portfolios, or real estate. These assets often exist without readily accessible markets to judge their worth, or have such rapidly changing value that getting a consistent estimation of their worth can be difficult.

Undeterminable Assets

 Many different types of assets fall into the first category of lacking markets capable of easily determining their value. The most common asset for which the issue arises is the couple’s home. Since each piece of real estate is unique, finding a fair value for it can sometimes be challenging. Some couples also have rare antiques, unique pieces of art, or expensive jewelry that may be difficult to value. High-asset or high-net-worth divorces can also introduce other complicated forms of property that the court will need to divide. For instance, couples who have interests in private, closely-held corporations will need to figure out the proper market value of those interests.

 Expert Testimony in the Division of Assets

Courts sometimes choose to solve these valuation problems through the use of expert testimony. The spouses’ lawyers will find witnesses who are experts in valuing the specific type of asset in question. These experts will examine the asset in question and use a variety of techniques to estimate its value. The techniques used will vary dramatically, depending on the specific type of asset. Home appraisal may involve looking at recent sales of comparably-sized homes in the neighborhood, while business valuation can involve calculating the value of all the business’s assets, along with its revenue streams.

Assets with Changing Values

 To deal with the second category of assets, those with rapidly changing values, the court will often pick a specific date to use as the reference point. While this date generally applies to most of the assets in the divorce, it often has the largest impact on things like stock portfolios, which can occasionally see noticeable changes day by day. In Illinois, the law states that the valuation date should be the time of the trial or a date as close to it as is practicable.

If you are interested in filing for divorce and believe you have complicated assets to value, contact an Illinois divorce lawyer today. An experienced lawyer can help you achieve the most equitable distribution of the marital property.

The Conversation: How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

March 30th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

initiating a divorce, lawyer, attorney, Illinois divorce, Wheaton divorce, separationPeople looking for a divorce often hold off on initiating the process for fear of beginning the conversation with their spouse. Sometimes, people choose not to have the conversation beforehand, instead opting to simply serve their spouse with divorce papers. Although this saves them the initial awkwardness of the first talk about the divorce, the surprise and formality of being served can start the proceedings off in the wrong way, and may lead to more complications further along.

While there is no way to avoid the uncomfortable nature of the conversation, the pain and discomfort can be minimized through careful planning of the discussion’s circumstances and content. The first part of the planning relates to choosing where and when to tell your spouse. Then, you should consider how to open the conversation. Finally, you should consider your spouse’s possible reactions and how best to respond to them.

Where and When to Tell Your Spouse

Planning the where and when of the initial divorce discussion can have a large impact on how it will go. Choose a quiet, private place, so that the two of you can have an honest talk. If you have children, make sure they are fully occupied or out of the house. Some experts also recommend turning off your phones during the talk to make sure that you are not interrupted.

As for the when, the length of these sorts of conversations can vary, but it makes sense to block out a large piece of time in case of a long discussion. Weekends are probably a good option, but evenings can work as well, though people may be tired and stressed after a day at work.

How to Tell Your Spouse

As far as initiating a divorce conversation goes, calm, direct, and respectful are all elements to focus on. It may be painful to say, but your spouse will find it easier to hear directly than if you spend time leading up to it indirectly. Simply let them know that the marriage is no longer working and that you would like to end it.

Furthermore, it may be tempting to start blaming the other spouse for problems in the marriage, but this will probably not be a productive track. It will only serve to make them defensive.

Reactions to the Conversation

Once you open the conversation, your spouse could have many different reactions. Often, the news will not catch them by surprise. They have been privy to the same parts of the relationship as you, so they may realize this is coming before the conversation starts. However, every person will react to the news differently. The most important thing to remember is to listen to their feelings and have an open discussion.

If you are thinking about starting the divorce process, but are nervous about taking the first step, reach out to a DuPage County divorce lawyer. They can help explain how divorces work, and provide you with more information so that you can confidently begin to put things in motion.

Living Together During Divorce

March 26th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

cohabitation during separation, divorce, legal separation, cohabitationNo one enjoys the thought of interacting with their soon-to-be ex-spouse on a daily basis, which leads to people often living apart during the divorce process. In fact, Illinois law even allows one spouse to temporarily remove the other from the home under certain, limited circumstances.

However, for a variety of reasons, many couples do continue to live together through at least part of the divorce process. Many people face financial constraints that make living apart difficult in the short-term, and strategic considerations surrounding the divorce may also make staying in the marital house advantageous. Consequently, many people need to develop strategies for peaceful cohabitation until they finalize the divorce.

Techniques for Civil Cohabitation

One simple strategy involves making sure that both parties have their own private space in the house. This does not mean dividing up the home room by room, but instead making sure that both spouses have a place they can go to be alone. Divorce can be a stressful experience, and it may become easier for everyone if the two spouses each have somewhere they can go to process that stress, without worrying about dealing with the other spouse. Dividing up bathrooms can also be a good strategy so that the spouses can each prepare for their days separately, for those cases in which they find it easier to minimize interaction.

One of the best things that separating spouses can do if they have children is to develop a parenting routine. This involves agreeing ahead of time which parent is responsible for handling the children’s needs, and when they are responsible. Common ways to divide the time include having a certain parent handle all of the needs on a certain day, or splitting up routines by time of day so that one parent handles the morning while the other handles the afternoon. This routine allows both parents to fairly spread the responsibility of raising the kids, and it allows the kids to begin getting used to the idea of relying on certain parents at certain times.

Spouses should also make sure to practice clear, calm, and civil communication during the cohabitation period. Living together while divorcing may cause some uncomfortable situations, but the potential for this can be reduced if each spouse is clear about their own needs, and deals respectfully with the other spouse. The separating couple will have a relationship that continues long past the official divorce’s end, especially if there are children involved. Maintaining civility and respect can go a long way towards making future interactions with each other much easier.

 If you are considering divorce and are looking for more information on the specifics of the process, or even what steps you should take, get in touch with a DuPage County divorce attorney. They can explain the divorce process and help guide you through it from beginning to end.

Dating After Divorce

March 21st, 2014 at 12:28 pm

newly divorced, dating after divorce, life after divorce, Illinois divorce lawyer, divorce attorney, family lawOne of the biggest steps people take after getting a divorce is deciding to move back into the dating pool. People can often be apprehensive about taking this step, since they fear they are out of practice or that dating has somehow changed in the interim. While these fears are understandable, there are many strategies for overcoming them and having a full romantic life after a divorce. With that goal in mind, here are a few tips for handling a first date post-divorce.

Make Sure You Are Ready

 The first thing to consider is whether you are actually ready to get back to dating. Many people start dating as soon as the ink dries on the divorce papers, or sometimes even earlier. While that can certainly be the right decision for some people, others do it reflexively, since they are not used to being single and just want to find themselves back in a relationship. It is important for each person to take a deep breath and decide for themselves how long they need to process the events of their divorce. According to the US Census Bureau the median time between divorce and remarriage is over three years, although the correct amount of time is up to each person individually.

Commit to the Process

 Once a person decides they are ready to start dating again, one of the most important things to do is to put effort into the date. Many married couples get used to wearing sweatpants or wrinkled clothes, as well as going to the same restaurants continuously. Reentering the dating world means trying harder, planning fun dates, dressing to make a good impression, and maintaining good personal grooming habits.

Avoid Certain Topics of Conversation

 After the date starts, it all comes down to standard etiquette. The one difference is that in a post-divorce date, people may possess longer or more serious romantic histories. While those may be important to discuss, the first date is not the time, nor the place. People should stay away from conversations about their ex-spouses, and if the other person does ask, it is appropriate to respond diplomatically. There is no reason for someone to burden a date with a complete history of their last marriage. The one exception to this rule may be if there are children from the last marriage. Some people think mentioning the children early may be a good idea, since kids can scare off potential partners, and doing it early may save time. Of course, that, like many things with dating, comes down to personal preference and what someone wants in a partner.

 If you are thinking about filing for divorce or would just like more information about your options, contact a DuPage County divorce lawyer today. They have a wide variety of experience with many different family situations and can help explain your rights and what choices you have.

Divorce Rates Rise Along with the Economy

March 19th, 2014 at 12:13 pm

bankruptcy, divorce rate, economy, divorce trends, Illinosi divorce lawyerEvery divorce is a unique and personal matter that hinges on many different factors. An event that leads to divorce for one couple may not disrupt the relationship between another. Each case is different. However, that is not to say that there are not trends.

For example, social scientists have long believed that the health of the economy can affect the divorce rate, but there has been some debate on exactly what effect it has. Some scientists argue that the additional stress of difficult financial times should cause an increase in divorces, but a new paper from the University of Maryland, College Park offers the opposite opinion. The paper’s author analyzed the historical divorce rate between 2008 and 2011, and came to the conclusion that a downturn in the economy can actually keep people’s marriages together.

 The author sampled the divorce rate among 2.8 million women, and found that the divorce rate fell from 2.09 percent in 2008 to 1.95 percent in 2009, which was a year over year decrease of four percent. In absolute terms, this means that 150,000 fewer divorces happened in 2009 than one would expect based on 2008. Then in 2010 and 2011, as the economy began a slow recovery, the divorce rate rose with it, climbing back up to 1.98 percent. Additionally, history shows that this is not the first time such a trend has happened. Divorce rates showed a similar pattern throughout the 1930s as a result of the Great Depression.

 What Causes This Change in Divorce Rate?

 The paper’s author gives two possible explanations that may work together to lower the divorce rate during the recession. First, some couples may react positively to the financial strain. Their monetary problems may allow them to come together in a time of crisis, or it may provide perspective that will allow them to overcome their disagreements. Second, the paper’s author points out the costs associated with divorce. Spouses going through a divorce will have to deal with more expenses, such as extra housing or childcare. The economic downturn can make people feel these costs more keenly, and deter them from getting a divorce.

 The author also points out that this could have effects going forward, since the second theory means that people will only delay their divorces, rather than permanently decide against them. As the economy improves, people will once again feel more comfortable getting a divorce, and the divorce rate will rise.

 If you believe that now is the right time for a divorce, or if your spouse has recently filed for a divorce, get in touch with a DuPage county divorce lawyer today. We can help you understand your rights and choices, and make sure that you receive full and fair representation in court.