Stay at Home Parents and Divorce

September 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am

DuPage County divorce attorney, file for divorce, stay at home parents, temporary alimony, prenuptial agreement, postnuptial agreementStay at home parents can face unique disadvantages in divorce, despite the fact that, according to U.S. Census data, there are tens of millions of stay at home parents taking care of children across the country. Stay at home parents often run into trouble following a divorce because they chose to give up careers to take care of their families. However, this can leave them without options to support themselves after the divorce.

In the past, this was less of an issue because permanent alimony was more common, but recent changes to the law have made temporary alimony a more likely outcome. Such alimony is designed to allow the stay at home spouse time to get back on their feet and reenter the workforce.

Difficulties Faced by Stay at Home Parents 

Stay at home parents who have been provided only temporary alimony by the court often face challenges for which they need to be prepared. First, many stay at home parents attempt to reenter the workforce too quickly because they know that they are working under the deadline of their alimony ending. While this impulse is understandable, and in some cases necessary, many parents can afford to take longer than they do to attempt to reestablish old professional contacts or to develop new marketable skills. Second, stay at home parents, especially those who reenter the workforce too quickly, can often find themselves without benefits, like health insurance, for which they had been relying on their spouse.

How They Can Protect Themselves

Unfortunately, the best ways for people to protect themselves from these issues are to take precautions before the divorce happens. For instance, people should maintain contact with the professional world after they stop working full-time. This could be as simple as seeing old colleagues for lunch every so often, or it may even involve working part-time or freelancing if their type of profession can accommodate that sort of a schedule. For those who have already cut themselves off from the working world, it may be beneficial to start moving back towards it before the divorce process begins. This could involve dredging up old contacts and rebuilding a professional network, or maybe even finding a new part-time job.

Another way stay at home spouses can protect themselves is through either a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. These agreements allow couples to decide issues like spousal support for themselves, and thus allows for the creation of a safety net for the spouse who chooses to stay at home.

If you are considering filing for divorce and would like more information about the process, reach out to a DuPage County divorce attorney. Our firm is happy to help you better understand your rights and your options.

Pre-Pups: A New Trend in Divorce

September 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am

divorce trends, DuPage County family law attorney, prenuptial agreements, pre-pups, personal property, shared custody, shared pet agreement, pets and divorce, pet visitationThere is a new trend in family law aimed at protecting people’s relationships with their pets. Prenuptial agreements related to pet custody are now being referred to by some as “pre-pups.” These new agreements stem from a variety of factors. First, many are choosing to marry and start a family later in life. As a result, couples are embracing a joint pet as a stepping stone along that path.

However, according to a CBS report, this new trend is causing pet owners, overwhelmingly dog people, to try and protect their relationship with their pets once the relationship with their significant other ends. Second, the law treats pets as personal property for the most part. This means that shared custody and visitation—ideas that were developed for children—do not have legal relevance to pets. Hence, people need to make private agreements to mimic those ideas.

How the Law Views Pets

One of the driving forces behind these new agreements stems from the way the law regards pets. The law in relation to animals was developed during a time when animals were more tools than companions, and they worked on farms, lived as livestock, or were used for hunting. This meant that the value of the animals was more practical. Courts developed doctrines that considered animals, whether pets or otherwise, as ordinary personal property. Consequently, for purposes of divorce, deciding who received the family dog became an issue of property division rather than an issue similar to custody dispute over children.

However, there is some evidence that this legal view of pets is changing. The prevalence of disputes over family pets has led some jurisdictions outside Illinois to begin treating the issue of pet custody like child custody, and thus look to the spouse who will take better care of the pet. Additionally, Illinois is one of the few states that allows for pets to benefit from the protection of restraining orders, therefore signifying the special place companion pets hold in people’s lives.

What Pre-Pups Can Do

Pre-pups allow couples to determine what happens to their beloved pets in the event their relationship does not work out. While they can simply be used to determine which partner receives custody of the pet, they can also be more sophisticated. Some couples choose to use them as a way to mimic more complex custody arrangements like those that exist for children. These can include things like joint custody, visitation rights, and even support obligations for the couple’s pet.

If you are currently considering purchasing a pet with a spouse or significant other, contact a DuPage County family law attorney. Our firm can help you arrange for an agreement to help handle the logistics of owning a pet in the event the relationship ends.

New Study Suggests Wealthy Children Are More Affected by Divorce

September 19th, 2014 at 7:00 am

affected by divorce, children and divorce, divorce trends, life after divorce, wealthy children, Wheaton divorce attorneyWhile everyone acknowledges that divorce can be difficult on children, new research reveals that a family’s income level may play a role in just how much children are affected by divorce. A new study by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago, and being published in the journal Child Development, posits that young children of wealthy families may be more adversely affected by their parents’ divorce than similarly situated children of less well-off parents. The study’s authors did not focus on the causes of the difference, but they did put forward several theories.

What the Study Found

The new study examined data related to almost 4,000 children between the ages of three and 12 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data included information about the children’s family income levels as well as surveys regarding the children’s behavior. The children’s behavior was analyzed using a 28-point survey that was developed to quantify adolescent behavioral issues.

The study’s authors analyzed the behavioral patterns of the children based on age and income level. They then divided the income levels into three groups based on those living at or below the poverty line, those living at one to three times the poverty line, and those living at more than three times the poverty line. The study found a greater increase in behavioral problems for the wealthiest group of children, provided that the children were under the age of six. Additionally, the study also examined the effects remarriage and blended families had on children. The authors found that children in higher income brackets and over the age of six fared better than their less wealthy counterparts when it came to reintegrating into a blended family structure.

Possible Explanations

Although the study did not focus on the reasons for this correlation, the study’s authors put forward a variety of theories as to why this trend might occur. One initial theory was simply that more well-off children were more likely to experience a substantial dip in income as a result of the divorce, and thus lead to behavioral issues. However, an analysis of the data showed that that explanation was not backed up by the facts. Instead, the authors suggest that it could be a function of the different social norms among the income brackets. Children of wealthy families tend to be more used to stable home lives, and their peer groups tend to involve traditional family structures. This means that the divorce process can be less familiar and more stressful for them, which may lead to their acting out if that stress is not properly managed.

If you are considering filing for a divorce and would like to know more about the process, contact a Wheaton divorce attorney today. Our dedicated professionals are here to answer your questions, and help you understand your different options.

Senior Citizens and Cohabitation Agreements

September 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am

cohabitation agreements, DuPage County family law attorney, senior companion, cohabitation, cohabiting seniors, legally binding contract,  cohabiting couplesWhen people discuss cohabitation, they often focus on young couples who have moved in together as a step before marriage or similar couples who think marriage is unnecessary. However, there is a new demographic now entering into cohabiting relationships with more and more frequency: senior citizens. In fact, according to U.S. Census data reported by The Washington Times, the number of cohabiting seniors has nearly doubled from 2000 to 2008, rising from 1.2 million to 2.2 million.

There are a variety of reasons that seniors choose to live together without opting to enter into a formal marriage. Some seniors who have already lost spouses do not want to replace them, but are still looking for companionship. Cohabitation strikes a balance between those two factors. Other seniors simply do not see the need to formalize their new relationships so late in life. Formal marriages between seniors can also cause problems with social security, pensions, estate planning, and debts from medical care. Still, there is a way for seniors who are living together to legally organize their affairs and their relationship without dealing with a full marriage. These seniors can enter into cohabitation agreements.

Cohabitation Agreements Explained

Cohabitation agreements are contracts that lay down the rights and responsibilities of the two people who are in the relationship. In some senses, this is very similar to a marriage, which also functions as a legally binding contract. However, these cohabitation agreements are much more limited. For instance, provisions of cohabitation agreements that relate to children or child custody will not be enforced. Instead, cohabitation agreements focus on how to deal with the end of a relationship and divide up the property in the event that the relationship ends. In this way, these sorts of contracts function much like a prenuptial agreement would during a divorce.

The Benefits of Cohabitation Agreements

Cohabitation agreements are a low-key way to ensure that winding down a relationship occurs as easily as possible, regardless of whether it is the result of a simple parting of the ways or the untimely death of one of the participants. Cohabitating couples often acquire property together in much the same way that married couples do, but they do so without the safeguards that come along with a marriage contract, with no default rules that allow for a division of that property. The use of a cohabitation agreement allows both members of a relationship to set their own rules for division ahead of time, so that they, or their family members, are not stuck figuring out what to do with property that the couple acquired together.

If you are a senior and are currently living with a romantic partner, contact a DuPage County family law attorney with any questions you may have about cohabitation agreements. Our experienced attorneys can help you better understand your options.

Business Owners and Divorce

September 12th, 2014 at 1:22 pm

business owners, business owners and divorce, business valuation, DuPage County divorce lawyer, business value, business and divorce, business assetsDivorce is a stressful and emotionally trying time for any couple, but it can have added layers of complexity if one or both of the spouses owns a business. If spouses are not aware of these extra wrinkles heading into the process, then they can make for an unfortunate surprise when going through divorce. A recent case involving the divorce of an Oklahoma oil and gas magnate highlights some of these issues.

First, there is the issue of valuing a company for the purposes of division. This will require experts to come in and testify as to the company’s worth, and may require expensive financial analysis. The second major issue that business owners face is the loss of control of their company in a divorce. If they are forced to cede equity to their former spouse, or if they are forced to sell their equity interests because they need the cash, they may find themselves without a controlling stake in the company.

Valuing the Company

The first hurdle that business owners have to face will be the valuation of their company during the divorce. This can be especially complex because most companies, unlike the oil and gas company above, are not publicly traded. This lack of an open market on which shares can be bought and sold makes it harder to figure out the actual price for the whole company. Consequently, valuing the company will likely require a person to retain an expert witness who has the skill to understand the different methods available for valuing private companies.

These different methods can be financially complex, but they can be broken down into three basic styles. Some valuators may look at other transactions such as the sale of similar businesses or past sales of the same business. They can then use these sales prices as a starting point to analyze the business value. Others may focus more on the company’s income. By examining the company’s cash flows, the valuator can make estimates about the total worth of the company. Finally, some valuators simply choose to value the business’ assets individually and then subtract out any debts that the company may owe.

Losing Control of the Company

The other issue related to business owners and divorce is whether they can maintain control of the company throughout the divorce. If the company was founded after the marriage, then it qualifies as marital property and both spouses have a stake in it. This requires the founding spouse to either split the company with their soon-to-be-ex or to negotiate a buyout. While many spouses are amenable to a buyout, having no interest in running a company with their ex, pulling together the cash to do it can be difficult. Consequently, savvy business owners should be aware of this possibility and make sure they have the cash to handle the buyout, lest they find themselves selling off equity in order to fund it.

If you are considering filing for divorce and have questions about the nuances of the legal landscape, reach out to a skilled DuPage County divorce lawyer today. Our team of dedicated attorneys stands ready to help answer any questions you may have.

Military Divorce: Child Custody during Deployment

September 9th, 2014 at 5:27 pm

child custody case, custody hearing, DuPage County child custody lawyer, military divorce, divorce decree, child custody cases, custody disputeService members in the U.S. military often experience extra strain on their marriages due to the stress of military life, especially during long deployments. Research by the RAND Corporation reveals that the military divorce rate exceeds the civilian divorce rate, and the risk rises higher with each successive deployment. However, a recent child custody case in Washington state revealed that the issues with divorce and deployments do not end once the divorce decree is finalized. A naval service member was issued a warrant for his arrest when he failed to show up for a custody hearing that his ex-wife had scheduled while he was deployed.

The Washington Case

The Washington case centered around a Washington-based submariner who was currently on deployment in Michigan. The submariner had primary custody of his daughter, and had left the daughter in the care of his new wife while he was deployed. The man’s ex-wife filed a petition to change the custody order while he was serving in Michigan. The submariner naturally failed to appear, and the judge, who was unaware that he was currently deployed, issued a warrant for his arrest. Once the judge was made aware of the submariner’s deployment, all proceedings were properly postponed.

Service Members’ Rights

The law provides military personnel with a variety of rights and protections during these sorts of child custody cases to ensure that their service to the country does not interfere with their ability to raise a family. For instance, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows deployed personnel to apply for a 90-day stay of their legal hearings. Such a stay requires the service member to show the following:

  • How his or her military service prevents him or her from appearing in court at the present time;

  • A statement from his or her commanding officer corroborating the above;

  • A statement from his or her commanding officer certifying that the service member is not on leave; and

  • A date that he or she will be able to appear in court.

Additionally, the law allows service members to file for a stay of longer than 90 days if they can show cause for such an extension.

The law also provides other protections to deployed service members. For instance, courts are not allowed to permanently alter custody orders while the parent is deployed. Further, upon returning from a deployment, the parent has the right to revert back to the custody plan that was in place before they were deployed, unless the other parent can prove that such a reversion would not be in the best interests of the child.

If you are a service member who is involved in a custody dispute or a military divorce, contact an experienced DuPage County child custody lawyer today. Our skilled team of professionals can help defend your rights as a parent and as a member of the armed forces.

Keeping Down the Hidden Costs of Divorce

September 6th, 2014 at 9:09 am

cheaper divorce, divorce finances, DuPage County divorce lawyer, hidden costs, separation can save money, household budget, save money, spending moneyMany people who want to lower their divorce costs end up focusing on their legal fees. While this is a good strategy, and efficient use of attorney time can definitely result in a cheaper divorce, people often miss out on other parts of the divorce process that they can use to control costs. A study by the British insurance agency Aviva found that many people end up spending extra money on luxury items and other lifestyle costs as a result of going through a divorce. Paying careful attention to these sorts of line items on a household budget can often be another way that people going through a separation can save money.

What the Study Found

Aviva’s study revealed a surprising number of people splurging on post-divorce that they may not need. For instance, almost one in seven people who responded to the study reported that they took a vacation after their divorce. The average cost of one of these trips totaled nearly $3,200. About the same amount of people said that they responded to their divorce by purchasing some sort of new gadget like a computer or a new TV. The average cost of that purchase ended up being over $2,100. Picking up a new hobby after a divorce was an even more expensive endeavor. One out of every eight newly separated people spent on average almost $3,500 on whatever hobby they chose. If people are not careful, these sorts of hidden, discretionary purchases can really start to drive up the cost of their divorce.

Keeping Costs Low

Oftentimes, the best way for people to keep these sorts of hidden costs down is through awareness. Many people who get a divorce do not carefully reevaluate their finances, or at the very least, they do not do it quickly enough. This can lead to people living outside their means and spending lavishly on things like post-divorce trips, new electronics, or developing new hobbies. Spending money on any or all of these items may not be the wrong choice, and indeed many things like new hobbies or getting in shape can actually contribute to a person’s mental and physical well-being. However, people should not spend blindly. Instead, they should ensure that they have a clear picture of their finances. That picture can help people spot these hidden costs and make sure they stay reasonable and healthy, rather than cropping up as a major bill that needs to be paid at a later date.

If you are considering filing for divorce and would like more information on how it works, seek the counsel of an experienced DuPage County divorce lawyer today. Our team of skilled professionals can help make sure that you and your interests are fully and fairly represented in court.

How to Be the Best Divorce Client

September 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am

divorce client, DuPage County divorce lawyer, going through divorce, important court documents, divorce process, divorce preparationA legal proceeding like divorce is a team effort. It requires lawyers, paralegals, clerks, and legal secretaries to work together to all help reach the best outcome, and one of the key members of the legal team is the client themselves. Naturally, this can be a bit of a difficult adjustment for the client, since data from the United States Census indicates that the overwhelming majority of people going through divorce have never done it before.

Fortunately, this post highlights a few strategies that people can use to be more effective divorce clients like staying organized, taking an active role in the process, and keeping a level head. Divorce clients using these strategies can streamline and speed up the divorce process, which often means keeping their legal fees lower.

Stay Organized 

Organization can be a big help to moving the case forward quickly and effectively. While the attorney should also be tracking important court documents and filings, there are going to be certain things, like tax returns, that the divorce client is going to have to provide. Making sure these are readily available can ensure a speedier process.

Preparation is also a key part of organization. Coming to every meeting with the attorney with a list of questions and an agenda can help move the meeting forward, and it can ensure that the meetings cover everything concerned by the client. This can help prevent unnecessary follow-up emails with extra questions that do nothing but increase the cost of the divorce. Similarly, a client’s preparing a written list of goals at the start of the divorce can be helpful. This can allow the client to keep his or her eye on the ball, and it can make it easier to track the progress being made, which is an important morale booster.

Take an Active Role

Another important thing divorce clients can do is take an active role in their own divorce. By asking questions and making sure that they understand what is going on, they can become a bigger asset to the legal team. This includes volunteering documents and information that may be helpful, and making sure that the attorney’s understanding of the facts of the situation is as accurate as it can possibly be. This can help prevent unwanted surprises in the process.

Keep a Level Head 

The final piece of advice, and the one that can be the most difficult for some people, is to maintain a level head throughout the process. Divorces can be emotionally charged, and they can reopen old wounds. However, the more the two sides stay calm and approach things with reasonable goals, the faster, easier, and cheaper the divorce will be in the long run.

Whether you have already made the decision to file for divorce or you are still just thinking about it, contact a DuPage County divorce lawyer. An experienced legal professional can help answer any questions you may have, and can help you start moving in the right direction.

The Importance of Qualified Legal Counsel

August 29th, 2014 at 6:18 pm

child custody arrangements, child support, divorce papers, DuPage County divorce attorney, qualified legal counselA recent spate of cases involving courts citing businesses for the unlicensed practice of law highlights the importance of using a licensed attorney during the divorce process. A recent case on this issue comes from the Ohio Supreme Court, but it is a problem that can occur just as easily in any other state.

State governments closely monitor the people who practice law to ensure that they have the training to competently represent others in court. Those who are not properly licensed and trained can end up making mistakes that cost their clients. That is exactly what happened in the Ohio case that ended up with the company making a mistake that left their client’s divorce papers useless. Consequently, it is important for discerning people seeking a divorce to ensure that they use a properly licensed attorney if they want counsel during the process.

Fast Divorce Companies

The case in Ohio involved a woman seeking a divorce from her husband based on irreconcilable differences. This requires the person seeking the divorce, the petitioner, to file paperwork with the court. The paperwork needs to include a variety of different pieces of information and proposed resolutions to the divorce, like division of property. One of the things that the paperwork needed to include was proposed provisions for child support and child custody arrangements after the divorce. The paperwork, which cost hundreds of dollars to prepare, did not include such provisions, which meant that the court would not accept the filing, requiring it to be redone without assistance.

Making Sure Someone is a Licensed Attorney

In order to avoid such a thing happening, it is important to ensure that the person preparing the paperwork is a licensed attorney. Making sure that someone in Illinois is a licensed attorney is a simple task that can be done online. All attorneys must register themselves with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (“IARDC”). The IARDC is a service run by the Illinois Supreme Court that tracks all the state’s attorneys. The IARDC tracks an attorney’s business address, his or her current license status, whether he or she carries malpractice insurance, and a public record of any disciplinary proceedings that may have occurred related to the attorney. The website for the IARDC contains a public search function. This search, which operates based on the attorney’s last name, allows potential clients to access the IARDC information so that they can make an informed decision about who they would like to hire.

If you are considering filing for divorce, seek out help from qualified legal counsel in the form a DuPage County divorce attorney. Our skilled team of professionals can put their experience to work for you, guiding you through the entirety of the divorce process and making sure things get done right the first time.

Starting the School Year after a Divorce

August 26th, 2014 at 5:50 pm

after a divorce, children and divorce, DuPage County divorce attorney, filing for a divorce, parental custody, school year, new school year, divorced parentsAccording to divorce attorneys, the end of summer is a common time to start thinking about filing for a divorce. However, summer’s end is also a time for parents who have recently finalized a divorce to think about how it affects their children going off to school. Many parents choose to go through the meat of the divorce process during the summer, so that kids have time to adjust without also needing to deal with schoolwork. However, now that they are returning to their normal routine, parents need to be aware of what information the school needs, and they need to watch out for signs that their children may not be adjusting well now that they are back in school.

Information the School Needs

The divorce decree is going to generate a large amount of information and legal requirements, and children’s schools are going to need to be informed about some of those changes. For instance, schools are liable for the well-being of their students, so it is important to inform the school about which parent has custody, and which parent is allowed to pick up the kids. This is especially important in situations involving abuse, where there may be an order of protection in place. Similarly, parents should also inform schools about which parents have a right to request information about the children and who may attend parent teacher conferences, since non-custodial parents may still retain these rights.

Teachers as a Support Network

Depending on a parent’s relationship with the teacher and the school, it may also benefit the children to let the teacher or the school’s guidance counselors know about the divorce. If the children appear to be depressed or start acting out in class, this may help the teachers and the school administrators get to the root of the issue quicker and in a way that will be healthier for the student. This can also help put teachers on alert for a student’s declining academic performance, which may be the result of the divorce, so that steps can be taken to quickly remedy any issues.

Speaking to the school’s counselor about the divorce may also help the child, since it will give them an extra space to come deal with their emotions. Guidance counselors are trained professionals, and they may be able to help the student work through some of the issues that come with the divorce. Some schools or counselors even run support groups made up of children who have recently gone through divorce so they can share their experiences with each other.

If you are currently considering seeking a divorce or you simply have some questions about the process, reach out to a DuPage County divorce attorney today. We can help answer your questions and guide you through this complicated time.