Wheaton IL family law attorneyIn an Illinois divorce that involves children, parents are expected to reach a resolution on a parenting plan that defines the terms of how they will co-parent after the divorce. In some cases, the court must play a significant role in decisions regarding the parenting plan, including when there are major disagreements between the two parents. However, parents have the option of working together to create a plan that they both agree to, allowing them to retain more control over the resolution. A qualified family law attorney can help you create a parenting plan that protects the interests of you and your children.

What is a Parenting Plan?

Two of the most important components of a parenting plan are the parenting time schedule and the allocation of parental responsibilities.  The parenting time schedule should include the days that the children will spend living with each parent, as well as important details regarding transportation between homes, and in many cases, to and from the children’s appointments and events. The allocation of parental responsibilities outlines how the parents will contribute to decisions regarding the children’s activities, education, health, and other important matters.

Create Consistency in Your Parenting Plan

As you create your parenting plan, there are some important things to keep in mind, one of which is the value of consistency. A divorce will be hard on your children, so the more stability you and your spouse can create, the easier the transition will be for them. When establishing your plan, keep as many things in your child’s life consistent as possible. If your child has an extracurricular activity during the week, work that activity and any other regular events into the parenting plan. If your spouse picks up your child every day from school, continue that routine if possible. When changes do need to be made to the child’s schedule, communicate these changes with your spouse and make sure you both can commit to them.

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Wheaton property division lawyerNearly all financial aspects of divorce are complex, but few are quite as complicated and consequential as the 401(k). When a 401(k) is included in the division of assets, you may find yourself facing costly penalties if you do not take the steps to divide it correctly. Those who try to draw from their 401(k) to cover the expenses of divorce also often find themselves in financial trouble. However, with the assistance of an attorney, you can mitigate the risks of dividing your 401(k) and protect your assets for retirement.

Dividing Retirement Assets With a QDRO

Qualified domestic relations orders, or QDROs, are used to divide employer-sponsored retirement and pension plans in divorce. Their purpose is to allow for the transfer of a portion of the assets to an employee’s spouse without incurring income taxes or early withdrawal penalties. As such, they play a crucial role in preserving retirement savings for both parties in the divorce.

However, employers or third-party plan administrators often charge a fee for dividing a retirement account with a QDRO, so you should be prepared for the possibility of another expense during the divorce process. Fees and costs may increase if the QDRO is not drafted correctly, so it is important to work with an attorney who has significant experience with QDROs and dividing retirement assets.

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DuPage County legal separation lawyerAlthough many couples are sure of their decision to end their marriage and go their separate ways, there are others that may not be quite so certain. Alternatively, there may be extenuating circumstances, such as religious beliefs or financial concerns, that can either rule out or complicate the traditional divorce process. If you are wondering whether legal separation may be a viable alternative in your situation, a qualified family lawyer can help you explore this question further and provide you with some details that could assist you with your decision.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce

Some think that separation is like divorce. Others assume that it is the first step to divorce. Both beliefs may have an element of truth to them depending on the situation, but neither tells the whole story. Unlike divorce, legal separation does not break the legal marital bond. The spouses remain married, so neither party can remarry without a full, legal divorce. Separated spouses can pursue maintenance and child support, however, and they can seek a determination on the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time for any shared children. Additionally, legal separation is not a required step before divorce, nor does it always lead to divorce.

Why Choose Separation?

Since legal separation and divorce are different legal paths, and legal separation is not necessary for divorce, some may be confused as to the purpose of seeking a separation. Again, legal separation allows each party the ability to pursue certain forms of support, but it can do much more than just this. It can also give couples the space they need to work through their differences so they can reunite without ever having breached their marriage vows. Alternatively, legal separation can give spouses the time they need to decide if divorce may be the next step for them. It may also be used as an alternative to divorce if either party is strongly opposed to divorce, whether because of religious or moral values.

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DuPage County divorce attorneyFor many people, the decision to end their marriage is not a sudden one, but one that is made after a period during which there has been a gradual erosion of the relationship. If you are considering a divorce, or you have already made the decision, you should take certain steps to gather all the legal and financial information and documentation you will need to help you reach the best possible divorce settlement.

Preparing Yourself Emotionally for Divorce

Even if you are the one who is seeking the divorce, you will most likely find yourself navigating an emotional roller coaster over your decision. As difficult as it may be, try to avoid allowing these emotions to rule your behavior. Seeking out the services of a professional therapist often helps in staying focused, even more so than confiding in family and friends. A therapist is unbiased and can help guide you through working through the feelings you are dealing with about the divorce. What you share with the therapist is also confidential, unlike sharing with a friend, who may repeat what you tell them, possibly allowing the information to get back to your spouse.

Assessing Marital Assets and Debts

Before the divorce process begins, you should also do some research to find out the status of any assets and property that you and your spouse own. If you had a prenuptial agreement drawn up before you were married, it may include important terms related to property division. You should also look for ownership documentation for any property that you and your spouse have. Along with physical property, you should make a list of all of the joint and separate financial accounts belonging to you and your spouse. This not only includes checking and saving accounts, but also all retirement, pension, and investment accounts. Gather the most recent copies of each account’s statement so that you are well-informed about their current status and value.

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Wheaton family lawyerMost people have heard of prenuptial agreements, but many consider them something that happens in Hollywood or with other wealthy couples. However, there are quite a few ways in which an “ordinary” couple could benefit from drafting and signing a prenuptial agreement. While you may think that you will never split up, the reality is that a substantial number of all marriages—up to 40 percent or more, according to some estimates—end in divorce.

What is the Purpose of a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is primarily a formal way for a couple to decide how their property and assets should be split up in the case of a divorce. As such, it is somewhat like a property settlement that is agreed to before anyone is even thinking about filing for a divorce. It is important to keep in mind that a prenuptial agreement can also address concerns, such as investments and life insurance, that may be applicable during the marriage as well.  

Individuals with property, a business, or a potential inheritance often want to make sure these assets do not become marital property. A prenuptial agreement is one way for both spouses to keep the property they bring into the marriage separate. In a prenup, you can also choose to designate certain assets as marital property, even if they would otherwise be considered non-marital.

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