Challenges of Dividing Retirement Accounts in Divorce

Division of marital assets lawyerThe division of marital assets is one of the more complicated aspects of divorce, and retirement accounts present a number of unique issues that can make creating a fair settlement difficult. Since retirement accounts, especially 401(k)s, are accumulated through the individual efforts of one spouse, learning that this asset may be subject to division in a divorce is hard for many to accept. However, any amount in a retirement account classified as a marital asset must be divided, unless the spouses agree otherwise.

Valuing an account and determining how to structure a settlement are complicated matters that do not always have easy answers. Often, a spouse is forced to choose between the pros and cons of short- and long-term options when dividing retirement accounts, and working with an experienced divorce attorney is necessary to receive a complete picture of the implications of any decision. Retirement accounts are often a couple’s most valuable asset, so taking the time to assess how to approach this issue is one of the more critical aspects of a divorce case.

Classifying a Marital Asset

In Illinois, anything accumulated by either spouse during a marriage is considered a marital asset. Thus, for retirement accounts, funds contributed or earned before the marriage would be considered a non-marital asset and exempt from division. Any amount contributed to the account or generated during the marriage would be divided, meaning some percentage of a preexisting retirement account would be part of the divorce settlement. Because the value of retirement accounts can vary greatly from year to year, working with a financial expert to determine what the present and future value of this asset should be is key to working out an appropriate settlement. Assessments can differ, so working with a skilled attorney to negotiate an agreed upon amount is important to resolving this issue.

Unique Issues for Retirement Accounts

Because of the laws regulating the distribution of retirement accounts, simply agreeing on allocation in a divorce settlement is not enough to require a plan administrator to follow the distribution plan. To divide retirement accounts, an additional order must be entered, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which is signed by the judge and instructs the plan administrator to divide the account as intended. Most retirement accounts require this additional step, outside of IRAs, and significant tax consequences result if this step is not followed, including a penalty for early distribution. In fact, present and future tax treatment should be a big part of deciding when to execute the distribution to the former, as well as whether taking other assets in lieu of retirement funds would be a better alternative. Again, values of retirement accounts can fluctuate widely, so the amount ordered in the settlement and amount available at distribution may not match. Determining how to divide this type of asset should be thoroughly discussed with an experienced divorce attorney.

Call a Wheaton, IL Divorce Attorney

You need financial security to weather the changes of divorce, and retirement accounts are often the most accessible asset to provide that stability. If you have questions about dividing your assets, talk to the knowledgeable DuPage County divorce attorneys at the Andrew Cores Family Law Group. Our dedication and attention to detail will help you get the settlement you need to move on with your life. Contact us at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation.


Is Leaving a Child Alone Grounds to Modify Parental Responsibilities?

Wheaton Divorce LawyersChildren, as they grow up, assert their desires for independence, particularly about staying home alone, but there is a real question about whether leaving a child alone is safe, or even legal. Divorced parents who share custody of a child, known as the allocation of parental responsibilities under Illinois law, must concede some level of control when the child is under the care and supervision of the other parent.

Of course, parents should require the other parent to keep the child safe, including providing an environment that supports the child’s well-being. Leaving a child alone can become murky territory as a child becomes a teenager, and under Illinois law, leaving a child home alone under the age of 14 is a crime. Thus, any parent who leaves a child home alone risks child neglect charges and the possibility the other parent may file a petition to modify the parenting plan to give them a greater share of the parental responsibility.

Modifying Parenting Plans

While circumstances in life are bound to change, once a parenting plan is in place, courts are reluctant to upset the child’s life by ordering a modification unless there is a compelling reason. As a result, during the first two years after a parenting plan is established, the court will not consider modifying the plan unless a parent can meet the high burden of showing the child’s environment is a threat to their mental, physical, or emotional health.

After this period passes, a parent requesting a modification must prove a significant change in circumstances, such as a notable decrease in school performance, health problems due to a parent’s neglect, or new social and psychological issues with the child. Assuming a substantial change in circumstance is established, the parent must then show the best interests of the child justify modification of the current arrangement. A guardian ad litem is sometimes appointed to represent the interests of the child, as well as an investigation by a mental health professional. Modifications do not come easily, and the advice of an experienced family law attorney is essential to getting the desired results.

Parenting Plans and Unsupervised Time Alone

Since changing a parenting plan is so challenging, having terms in place from the beginning to address and limit the ability of a parent to leave a child alone will make this issue easier to resolve. The first way to address this is to include a provision that gives a parent first right of refusal if the other parent will need to use another caregiver during their parenting time. This allows the parent to maintain control of who provides childcare and cuts down on the possibility the child will be left alone if alternate adults cannot be found. Further, specific prohibitions on leaving the child alone could also be included, and the parenting time schedule put in place should reflect the time each parent can spend with the child, so this issue does not become a recurring problem.

Get Help from a Wheaton, IL Family Law Attorney

Navigating parenting issues presents a number of challenges for divorced parents, and disputes sometimes arise. If you have concerns about parenting time or related issues and want to know your options, talk to the attorneys at Andrew Cores Family Law Group. Custody issues can quickly escalate, so contact our DuPage County family lawyers today at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation.


How Do Court-Ordered Parenting Classes Work?

DuPage County divorce lawyersDivorcing couples face stress from a number of places, including the legal system they need to officially end their marriage. One of the more difficult and complicated issues to address is the division of parental responsibilities. Child-related matters always spark strong emotions, and the sensitive issues that must be resolved as part of divorce only tend to exacerbate this tendency.

One requirement that confuses some parents is when they must attend a court-ordered parenting class before a divorce decree is issued. This is true even in uncontested divorces, and compliance is mandatory in all but a few cases. Thus, parents will need to arrange to complete a course no later than 60 days after the first case management conference. This requirement can seem frustrating and arbitrary to some parents, but understanding the purpose behind the course, what to expect during the course itself, and the consequences of not satisfying this requirement, may make it easier to get through the experience.

Why This Course Exists

To put it simply, this parenting course exists because the Illinois Supreme Court says all county and circuit courts must require them as part of deciding any child-related case. More specifically, the court is hoping to teach parents about the components of dividing parental responsibilities and how conflict over these issues impacts the mental well-being of the child. Thus, the intention is that by attending this course, parents will find an amicable path to resolving parenting issues that do not include intense court involvement.

What to Expect

Parenting courses are offered online and in person. Whether a parent is eligible for the online version depends on the county in which he/she lives. In Cook County, parents in an uncontested divorce can opt for the online program without specific permission, but contested cases must be completed in-person. Some counties require permission for any parent seeking to take the online course, and some do not offer an online option at all. The course itself is four hours long, and if taken in-person, the parents will not be scheduled on the same day to avoid the possibility of conflict. The content of the course is oriented around helping parents understand the child’s experience of divorce, the consequences of divorce, and how to help children process this transition. Note that many judges will not finalize a divorce without both parents proving they completed the course, so getting it out of the way as soon as possible is best.

Consequences of Not Completing the Course

Parenting education may seem like a minor detail in the scope of an entire divorce case, but ignoring or forgetting this mandate is not a good idea. Courts can sanction a party for failing to complete the course, and convincing a court to excuse attendance is an uphill battle. Getting excused from attendance requires filing a motion and showing good cause for the request, which will only be granted if it is in the best interests of the child. This entire process will take more time and money than taking the course, so it is rarely worth the effort. If being excused is a pressing issue, talk to a divorce attorney about the likelihood of convincing a judge this request is justified.

Contact a Wheaton, IL Divorce Attorney

Getting divorced requires more than just filing a petition. A number of supplemental issues must be completed before a court will sign off on a divorce agreement. Rather than risk your divorce being delayed because you missed one of these requirements, hire an experienced divorce attorney who can handle the court filings and let you know what you need to do to finish the divorce process. The skilled DuPage County family law attorneys at the Andrew Cores Family Law Group will use their decades of experience to help you get the best possible divorce terms. Contact us today at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation.