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  • Discover if your spouse is hiding property with these 5 tips

    f1b8b678-e686-4e75-baf6-ab2ae45eeb22When going through a divorce in Illinois, one of the most complicated aspects of the process comes when a couple must divide their property. State law requires that all marital property be divided equitably, leaving each spouse with a fair share of the couple’s assets. However, some spouses have property that the other does not know about, or that they do not want divided by the courts. In these cases, one spouse may be left without access to large amounts of money, real property or other valuables that he or she has property rights to. Fortunately, there are ways to discover if a spouse has hidden assets, and to locate those items.

    1. Obtain access to bank accounts

    In many marriages, one spouse takes over control of paying bills and dealing with financial matters. While this may be convenient for some couples, it also leads to one spouse having full access to all bank accounts. Divorcing spouses should obtain passwords and information for all accounts in order to determine if the other spouse is hiding property in a fairly obvious location.

    2. Take time to read documents

    Spouses who are hiding assets often require the signature of the other spouse for documents such as tax returns or deeds. In order to keep assets hidden, the spouse needs the other to remain in the dark. Instead of signing a document without reading it through, perhaps because the spouse is acting pushy to complete the signing process, can lead to missed information about possible property.

    3. Ask for financial information

    It is important for both spouses to be aware of all financial information during the property division process. Spouses who suspect that their soon-to-be-ex is hiding property should ask for all financial documentation. It may not be possible to obtain this information without legal assistance, but some divorcing spouses may give it up when they feel the pressure.

    4. Conduct a public records search

    Any property that has not been disclosed may be discovered with a simple public records search. Looking under a spouse’s name or alias may turn up real property that was previously unknown to the other spouse.

    5. Utilize the legal system

    The divorce discovery process can provide a few methods of obtaining financial information with the help of the courts. An attorney can demand that a spouse produce financial information or answer written questions called “interrogatories.” If necessary, a spouse can even be ordered to provide testimony to compel compliance. If a spouse chooses to disobey a court order, the courts can impose monetary fines or other sanctions.

     

     

     

  • More men seeking spousal maintenance in Illinois

    Adult Male Ponders Future Looking Out Rain Covered WindowNot very long ago, it was extremely unusual for a man in Illinois to receive spousal maintenance from his ex-wife. Today, however, more men are seeking alimony from their partners following a divorce. According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 47 percent of the 1,600 member attorneys have noticed an increase in the number of wives making support payments in the last year.

    In the past, husbands were more likely to be the breadwinners in a family, leaving the wife out of the workforce or at a lower-paying job. If a couple decided to divorce, the ex-husband usually paid maintenance to help support the couple’s children, as well as the ex-wife. Experts suggest that today’s increase of women in high-paying careers is leading many men to ask for maintenance in Illinois and across the country.

    Maintenance in Illinois

    The state legislature recently updated spousal maintenance laws to include a formula for determining the amount and duration of maintenance that is paid to spouses. This formula accounts for the difference in the payer’s and the payee’s gross income and provides judges with an across-the-board way to award maintenance in the state. The laws do not distinguish between genders, but instead require the spouse with the larger income make payments to the lower-earning spouse when appropriate.

    A change in social mores

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only three percent of the 400,000 people who received maintenance in 2010 were men. As the number of women in the workforce continues to grow, it is likely that the percentage of men receiving alimony payments will grow as well. Women climbing the corporate ladder is accepted by society, when in the past it may have been frowned upon. Many men today choose to stay at home with the children while the wife works, leaving those men outside of the workforce and unable to earn an income in the event of a divorce.

    Moving past pride

    Some ex-husbands chose not to seek spousal maintenance simply because their pride stands in the way. Speaking with an attorney often allows men to see that support can mean the difference between enjoying a comfortable lifestyle and struggling to make ends meet. Both men with children and those without may want to consider adding maintenance requirements to the divorce settlement in order to have enough income to get back on their feet following a divorce.

    Obtaining legal assistance

    Men who believe they qualify for spousal maintenance can get the help that they need from an attorney who deals with maintenance laws.

  • Do Illinois children have a say in child custody decisions?

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    Determining child custody during Illinois divorce proceedings can be difficult, especially if the parents are unable to make an amicable decision together. The courts a required to make judgments regarding living arrangements for children, unless their parents can propose a custody agreement that is favored by both parties, which can sometimes lead to conflict within the family.

    Children who are older, or those who have strong opinions on where they would like to live, may want to have a say in custody decisions, but Illinois law does not provide a magic age where a child can decide which parent they would like to live with. Instead, children can express their wishes to a judge, who may then take the wishes into consideration.

    How child custody is determined

    In Illinois, family courts make child custody decisions by looking at several different factors. Taking into account the best interest of a child, judges must determine which parent and which living arrangement will most benefit the child. In order to make a determination, the courts consider the following:

    • The wishes of the parents
    • The wishes of the child, dependent on maturity
    • Relationships with parents and siblings
    • Mental and physical health of all involved
    • The child’s involvement in school and the community

    Along with several other factors, judges must weigh each factor in every individual custody case to decide which living arrangement fits with the best interest of the child.

    Considering a child’s wishes

    While there is no guarantee that a child’s wishes regarding living with one parent over the other will be granted by the courts, a judge may interview a child who shows maturity and understanding of the situation. A child’s wishes may also be articulated to a judge through an attorney; an outside expert, such as a child psychologist; or a guardian ad litem. When deciding a case in which a child has a strong preference, judges typically look at a few criteria, including the following:

    • The reasons the child provides for wanting to live with a particular parent
    • The stability of the preferred parent
    • The social, emotional, and intellectual development of the child
    • If the living arrangement is against the wishes of either parent
    • If there is a long-term benefit for the child
    • If the arrangement will separate a child from others in the family

    In many cases a child’s wishes may sway the courts to rule in his or her favor, however a judge cannot make a custody award that overrules the child’s best interest.

  • Debt and divorce: What are you responsible for?

    Unemployed and divorced woman with debts reviewing her monthly bills

    When marriages in Illinois end in divorce, there are often a lot of changes that the couple must make to their finances in order to separate completely. The law requires that all marital assets be subject to property division, but many people do not know that all debts are divided as well. Once debts are assigned to each spouse, it is his or her responsibility to pay for those debts, however, failing to do so does not always mean that the other spouse is off the hook.

    During the course of most marriages, many couples incur a significant amount of debt. As a result, it is not always easy to decide which spouse will pay for what debt without the assistance of the courts. Unless a couple can amicably come up with a plan for paying off debt, a judge may have to assign responsibility.

    How debt is divided

    In Illinois, all marital debts are divided by the courts during divorce proceedings. Any debts that have been signed jointly by both spouses are considered marital debts and typically include the following:

    • Automobile loans
    • Home mortgages
    • Credit cards

    Typically, a judge will assign the debt to the spouse whose name is on the account so that he or she is responsible for the debt he or she incurred during the marriage.

    Missing payments

    When it comes to debt and divorce, there are situations in which one spouse fails to pay the debts that have been assigned for the courts. Unfortunately, lenders are not required to abide by the terms of an Illinois divorce agreement and can begin collections against either spouse named on an account. Divorced individuals should be aware that if their ex-spouse stops making payments, the other spouse could become responsible for the delinquent payments.

    Avoiding issues regarding debt

    If possible, working with a spouse to pay off as much debt as possible prior to a divorce can be the best way to avoid conflict and collections. Cancelling jointly-held credit cards or deciding on how the debt will be divided together can help both spouses feel more in control of their financial situation. While there is not always a surefire way to ensure that one spouse will follow through on his or her debt responsibilities, being aware that lenders could potentially require the other spouse to pay can be a detriment against revenge spending.

    Obtaining legal assistance

    The division of debts can be a complicated process that can have a significant impact on the financial situation of both spouses. Many divorcing couples choose to look for legal counsel to get assistance with determining how to assign debt responsibility.

     

  • Tips on preparing for a child custody evaluation

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    When the custody of a child is contested during a divorce, the court may appoint an evaluator to analyze the parents and their living situations in order to determine which parent should be granted primary custody. The evaluator is an expert, typically a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker, and the assessment is conducted and analyzed objectively. A parent who is facing the evaluation process should take certain steps to be prepared and make a good impression on the evaluator so that the correct recommendation can be made to the court.

    Making a good first impression

    Part of making a good impression is the parent’s attitude toward the process. Expressing negativity or anger about the evaluation or the custody dispute can create an adverse impression, while full cooperation and a positive attitude reflect well on the parent.

    Another aspect of the first impression is arriving on time to all appointments with the evaluator and dressing conservatively. Before a home visit, the home should be cleaned thoroughly and the children provided with appropriate entertainment to keep them occupied during the appointment. Children should be prepared for the visit so that the evaluator is not perceived as a threat.

    Approaching the evaluation with honesty

    Many parents find the evaluation process unnerving and even emotional. The custody evaluator does not expect parents to avoid emotion or to attempt to conceal anxiety about the interviews and home visit. The evaluator does expect honesty, and this is a key factor in the evaluation process. During the interview, a parent should consider and answer all questions as honestly as possible and ask for clarification whenever necessary to provide complete answers.

    In addition to the things a parent should say and do, there are others that should be avoided at all costs, including the following:

    • Lying or exaggerating
    • Giving details about the divorce
    • Complaining about the other parent

    Evaluators are adept at identifying dishonesty and will include any instances in the information provided to the court.

    Preparing supporting documentation and information

    During a child custody evaluation, the evaluator often asks for additional information during the interview, such as school and health records. Having these organized and on hand is helpful. Personal references are also typically requested. A parent should speak to potential references ahead of time and gather contact information in order to have the documents available when they are requested.

    An attorney experienced in the legal issues involving divorce and custody can give guidance and help a parent to be prepared during an evaluation.

     

  • Handling in-laws after divorce

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    Some Illinois couples mistakenly assume that their divorce will only affect their immediate family. In reality, anyone who has built a relationship with either spouse will have to deal with the dissolution of the marriage. When a couple is married, two families are combined and in-law relationships are created. While some spouses are glad to have less contact with their ex-in-laws, situations are often much more complicated and require continued interaction, especially when children are involved.

    Whether the divorce was amicable or fraught with contact, there is bound to be tension and the possibility of conflict when dealing with in-laws. In order to keep things civil, it is important to navigate this new territory with a cool head and a focus on the well-being of the children.

    Maintaining contact

     When couples divorce, they often want as little contact between each other as possible. Depending on child custody arrangements, this is not always possible. Just as parents will have to see one another when dealing with their children, in-laws who want to stay involved in their grandchildren’s lives will need to be included. While there may be anger and animosity between ex-spouses and former in-laws, staying in contact can show children that all healthy family relationships are important and should be prioritized.

     Grandparent visitation

     Under Illinois state law, grandparents have a legal privilege to see their grandchildren. While this is not a legal right, grandparents can petition the courts for visitation. Many parents find that it is easier to arrange visits with grandparents than to deal with the legal recourse that can come with taking the issue to the courts. Rather than preventing former in-laws from seeing their grandchildren, parents should work to set up a schedule that works for everyone involved. 

    A child’s best interest

     It is not always easy for divorced parents to work out the differences they may have with each other or with their ex-in-laws. However, when children are part of the equation it is best to consider the best interest of the children. Determining whether staying in contact with grandparents should include considerations for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the child. When the focus is placed on the child, parents and grandparents are often better able to work together to handle any personal issues that they may have.

    Divorce often brings with it a new set of concerns that have to be dealt with. By handling any problems with in-laws well, parents can allow their children to foster relationships that have always been a part of their lives.

     

     

  • Choosing the right valuation date for property division

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    During the divorce process in Illinois, marital assets are divided equitably by the court. Factors such as spousal contribution and debt are considered before the judge determines the suitable division. Another important factor that affects the allocation of assets is their individual value. With some assets, such as money in a bank account, it is a fixed amount. The worth of more complex assets, such as real estate, antiques and stocks may be difficult to define because the value may fluctuate, at times even daily.

    Fixing the date to determine the value of assets

    If there is a period of weeks or months between the marital separation, the time of filing, or the final dissolution of the marriage, the value of these assets may have undergone a substantial change. Choosing a date at which to set the monetary value of an asset may result in a significant gain or loss for one spouse in the proceedings, and the way that this date is determined is not always fixed.

    Illinois law sets the valuation date at or near the time of the trial. Sometimes the date is based on the filing of the paperwork for separation or divorce. At times, a couple who seek legal separation may have a trial for the separation and then a later trial to finalize the dissolvement of their union. In these cases, the court may choose to determine the value of the property at either trial, or one of the spouses may choose the date.

    Bifurcation of a case often affects the date of valuation

    The court may allow the case to be divided into two separate parts, which is called bifurcation. Illinois courts are not quick to allow bifurcation, but it is justified in certain instances, including the following:

    • When there is a delayed property settlement or child custody battle
    • When maintenance payments would make a difference on taxes
    • When a bankruptcy is involved

    When this happens, the marital status and the other issue are considered separately, and the date chosen must be determined based on one trial or the other. Spouses who delay the process through bifurcation or other means may find themselves at an advantage, but these actions can also backfire. The date cannot be changed once it is set, and property may just as easily lose value as gain it.

    Property division is often one of the most disputed parts of the dissolution of a marriage, and the more assets a couple has, the longer the process is likely to take. A spouse who is involved in a complicated division process can benefit from the advice of an attorney who has experience with the Illinois legal system.

     

     

  • Illinois courts have right to suspend driver’s licenses over unpaid child support

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    In Illinois, divorcing couples must determine which parent needs to pay child support and how much by using the Illinois Child Support Guidelines that determines the proper amount based on income and the number of children for whom one is responsible. If a couple is unable to agree, a court order is required to set up child support. When a parent fails to pay child support, the state of Illinois can legally use the threat of driver’s license suspension to entice payment.

    The Family Financial Responsibility Act 

    In conjunction with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, the Family Financial Responsibility Act gives courts the ability to revoke the driver’s license of a parent who is more than 90 days behind in child support payments required by court order. The law allows for two methods of suspension depending on which state’s department invokes the law against the non-compliant parent.

    Court-ordered suspension 

    According to the Family Financial Responsibility Act, an Illinois circuit court judge can use the law when he or she rules that a parent has been delinquent in payments for over three months. The court is required to complete a record of nonpayment that is submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office, which then notifies the parent that their driver’s license will be suspended in 60 days unless full payment is made. A parent can avoid having his or her license suspended by doing the following:

    • Notifying the Secretary of State’s Office that the requirements have been met
    • Requesting an administrative hearing during the 60 days prior to suspension
    • Paying the missing and current child support in full

     DHFS-ordered suspension

    The second system for driver’s license suspension is used by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The DHFS can report directly to the Secretary of State’s Office when a parent has not been paying child support following a divorce. The process is then the same as it is through the court-ordered method once the Secretary of State’s Office is notified, with a notice of upcoming suspension sent to the parent. Both systems allow for the Secretary of State’s Office to provide a driving permit for the offending parent if needed for travel to work or for medical needs.

    The state of Illinois takes a hard stand on child support payment. Parents should be sure to follow through on financial responsibilities in order to avoid license suspension and other legal ramifications. Working with an attorney can help ensure that parents are held accountable for the financial well-being of their children.

  • Balancing the budget after divorce

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    Divorcing couples in Illinois face many major life changes when they decide to end a marriage. The disruption of such an important relationship causes the need for important choices regarding child custody, division of marital assets and how to best create a new lifestyle that works for both parties.

    One of the most significant impacts of divorce is caused by the changes in financial standing for both spouses. In order to maintain a semblance of the lifestyle that was enjoyed before the divorce, individuals should work to uphold a balanced budget that takes into consideration the many new expenses that are often faced after a divorce.

    Lower expectations 

    Dividing an income in two can have a big affect on both spouses. When both are used to a certain standard of living, it can be difficult to change expectations. The parent who has child custody often faces difficult decisions about cutting back on expenses for his or her children. Most parents do not want their children to suffer for the divorce of their parents’, preferring to continue paying for the same things as before, despite a limited income. Divorced couples should remember that because their finances will not be the same as they were before the divorce that their lifestyle expectations will have to be lowered, even in regard to the kids.

    Pay for responsibilities 

    When creating a new budget after a divorce, it is essential that spouses consider the legal responsibilities that they have. If a spouse is required by the court to pay child support, that financial responsibility should be part of his or her budget. Neglecting to pay child support can have serious legal ramifications in Illinois, including being held in contempt of court or having a driver’s license suspended.

    Stay in the loop 

    Some couples prefer to have as little contact as possible following a divorce, but it is often financially beneficial to maintain a working relationship, if possible. Over the course of a marriage, many spouses build up debt through the purchase of vehicles, homes and other big-ticket items. When a spouse chooses to ignore debt, it can ruin the credit of the other party. It is important to take accountability and build debts into a post-divorce budget in order to avoid creating credit problems for both spouses.

    From the addition of spousal support to divided mortgage payments, many budget items change after a divorce. By becoming more flexible and altering lifestyle expectations, divorcing couples are better able to get used to their new lives and financial needs.

  • Building a successful co-parenting relationship

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    Following divorce, ex-spouses can provide their children with a greater level of stability while also allowing them to build beneficial relationship with both of their parents by sharing custody. To form an advantageous co-parenting relationship, parents must strive to put aside their personal relationship issues and do what’s best for their children.  

    Guidelines to follow 

    Soon after their divorce is finalized, parents should sit down and make a plan that meets the needs of their individual children. This should include how visitation time, holidays and other special occasions will be handled. For example, a couple who has a child who is 11-years-old, has strong ties with her school and is heavily involved in extracurricular activities may alter their co-parenting plan to allow her to stay in the same school and continue to participate in the same activities she enjoys.

    Additionally, while developing their child custody plan, parents should agree upon behavioral guidelines and boundaries they will use for raising their children to promote consistency. For instance, parents should determine at what time their children need to be in bed every night, when meals will be eaten, how homework will be taken care of in the evenings and how discipline should be handled.

    Parents should also continue to communicate actively about each of their children’s development, recognize that their children may try to test the boundaries of their new situation after the divorce and commit to conducting themselves with emotional maturity when conflicts arise. 

    What to avoid 

    To ensure their co-parenting plan is successful after divorce and that they are able to maintain a healthy relationship for their children, parents should avoid the following practices:

    • Prohibiting their children from seeing their other parent during their assigned time or speaking negatively about their ex-spouse in their children’s presence
    • Forcing their children to side with one parent when a conflict or challenge arises regarding scheduling
    • Trying to become their children’s favorite by satisfying material desires during assigned visitation times
    • Using their children to find out information about their ex-spouse or manipulating them to act a certain way in the presence of their other parent
    • Depending on their children for emotional support to an extreme level due to feelings of hurt or loneliness 

    Although it may be ultimately beneficial for their children, parents may find that maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship can be extremely challenging following their divorce. Parents who are concerned about the effects of sharing custody with their ex-spouse may benefit from speaking with an attorney who can provide guidance and support during the creation of their parenting plan.