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Parallel Parenting Is an Alternative in High-Conflict DivorceCo-parenting after a divorce or separation requires that both parents communicate and cooperate with each other regarding the children. However, the relationship between some parents can be too volatile for them to remain calm around each other. Children may be more traumatized by watching their divorced parents continue to fight than by the change to their living situation. Parents in a high-conflict divorce can use an alternative form of co-parenting called parallel parenting. A parallel parenting agreement allows both sides to share in their parental responsibilities while minimizing the potential for conflict.

Schedule and Responsibilities

The first key to parallel parenting is creating a detailed parenting arrangement during divorce negotiations and adhering to it. The parenting plan should outline:

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Disability Benefits Separate from Retirement in Divorce SettlementsDivorcing spouses can divide the retirement benefits from a government employee pension by using a qualified domestic relations order or equivalent state order. However, a QDRO does not necessarily include disability benefits that are administered through the same pension fund. Police officers and firefighters may rely on disability benefits if they are injured in the line of duty and unable to continue working. Determining whether disability benefits are a marital property depends on whether the benefits are a replacement for lost income or early withdrawal from a retirement plan.

Recent Case

In the case of In re Marriage of Farrell, a woman argued that she should receive half of the disability benefits her former husband is receiving from the City of Chicago’s Fireman’s Annuity and Benefit Fund. The spouses divorced in 2010 after 19 years of marriage. As part of the divorce settlement, the former husband agreed to give his former wife half of his retirement payments upon his mandatory retirement as a Chicago firefighter at age 63. The former husband was injured on the job in 2013, after which he was put on active duty disability leave. The former wife filed a court order to receive a share of his disability benefits, which she claims are part of his retirement pension. The former husband countered that the disability benefits are not from his retirement fund but are to replace his income until he reaches retirement age.

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Preparing Yourself Before Dating After DivorceIf your divorce has not turned you off to relationships altogether, you may eventually feel the urge to start dating again. A new relationship can be healthy and give you a type of happiness that you have missed ever since your marriage fell apart. However, entering an ill-advised relationship can hurt you if:

  • You are re-experiencing the relationship conflicts from your marriage;
  • You wasted the money you earned from your divorce settlement; or
  • Your behavior during the relationship becomes a reason to question your parental fitness.

You should honestly assess whether you are ready before starting to date again following divorce, even if it means passing on enticing relationships.

Your Recovery

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Posted on in Divorce

Smart Ways to Save Money During DivorceSome expenses are necessary as part of the divorce process, but others are avoidable if you make the effort. Identifying the difference between the two is more complex than trying to cut down on your largest expenses. For instance, finding the cheapest attorney may cost you more during the divorce if that attorney cannot help you negotiate a favorable divorce settlement. There are several sensible ways to save on divorce expenses while still obtaining the divorce agreement you need:

  1. Do Your Prep Work: The time your divorce attorney spends researching your marital properties is billable hours. You can save your attorney time by providing a list of marital properties and financial accounts in advance. You can assume that your attorney will need to know the value of your home, major possessions, and savings accounts, as well as the average income for yourself and your spouse. You can also list other valuable properties that you are likely to fight over during divorce.
  2. Settle What You Can Out of Court: Any aspects of your divorce settlement that you can agree to during negotiations can save you money as opposed to forcing a divorce court to decide for you. A court-ordered settlement takes longer and will cost more in legal fees. By coming up with an out-of-court agreement, you may be able to find a more creative solution that benefits both of you financially.
  3. Set Your Priorities: You may have noticed that time is a major aspect of saving money on divorce. One of the biggest wastes of time in a divorce is needless arguments between spouses during the negotiations. There are some issues that both sides could easily agree on, but their animosity towards each other causes them to fight out of spite. Identify the issues that are worth arguing over and quickly settle issues that are not a priority. Do not let your spouse draw you into a pointless argument that has nothing to do with what you are trying to negotiate.
  4. Delegate Roles: Your attorney is your primary resource for legal guidance during your divorce. Asking for his or her help with issues outside of this area of knowledge is not the best use of either of your times. If you are struggling with the emotions of your divorce, a close friend or therapist is a better source of comfort.

Cost-Effective Divorce

Your attorney will understand that money is one of your primary concerns during your divorce. A Kane County divorce attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers can help you find ways to save money on your divorce costs. To schedule a free consultation, call 331-588-6611.

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How Stay-At-Home Spouses Find Work After DivorceDivorce is a stark financial adjustment for people who are stay-at-home parents or spouses. Women have traditionally been the ones to take the domestic role in a marriage, though an increasing number of men have become stay-at-home dads and husbands. The domestic spouse is likely financially dependent upon the working spouse, and this will initially continue after the divorce. Child support and spousal maintenance help but do little more than keep someone afloat. If you are a stay-at-home parent getting a divorce, there is no avoiding that you will need to find your own source of work income.

Returning to Work

Some spouses step away from their careers in order to raise their children or to accommodate a more lucrative career opportunity for their other spouse. After a divorce, these spouses have the advantage of previous experience and job skills when searching for employment. However, reentering the workforce can be difficult. You must consider:

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Changing Your Estate Plan After DivorceReviewing and updating your estate planning documents should be one of your top priorities after completing your divorce. Your documents likely name your former spouse as your primary beneficiary upon your death, as well as giving him or her power of attorney in case you are incapacitated. If you do not have an estate plan, it is vital that you create one. A living trust or will can dictate what actions should be taken after your death or incapacitation and protect your surviving children.

Clear Intentions

Failing to update your estate plan does not mean your former spouse will reap the benefits. A probate court or your family members can surmise that you did not intend to leave your estate to your former spouse or give him or her decision-making powers over you. However, your survivors may need a lengthy legal battle to determine what your intentions were. By updating the documents as needed, you are sparing your family from having to fight for your estate.

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Posted on in Divorce

Four Ways to Combat Post-Divorce GriefPost-divorce grief can vary as much as divorce itself. No two people are exactly alike in how they express their grief and how long the process lasts. Even within the same marriage, the two parties can have very different reactions to the divorce. Seeing your former spouse reach the acceptance stage of divorce grief before you may cause you to feel a mixture of anger and jealousy. However, your ability to process your own grief is more important than how someone else has dealt with it. There are several actions you can try if you are struggling with the day-to-day effects of grief and are unsure how to cope:

  1. Therapy: Seeing a therapist can help you process your post-divorce emotions. However, therapy is effective only if you are willing to be open and honest during the sessions. A therapist will base his or her advice on the information you share about yourself. Part of the benefit of therapy is verbally conveying your internal feelings, which may help you better understand them.
  2. Exercising: Depression and stress from your divorce can cause you to shut yourself down physically. You should counteract that inertia by encouraging yourself to be physically active. Exercising has many known physical and mental benefits. You are improving your physical health while also relieving stress. Afterward, you feel better about yourself, which helps with your confidence.
  3. Meditation: If your grief is overwhelming you at a particular moment, you may need an immediate coping mechanism. Meditation techniques are simple and can be used in almost any setting. The purpose is to calm yourself by focusing on external stimuli instead of your internal thoughts. Techniques often involve deep breathing, focusing on how your body feels and listening to your surroundings.
  4. Exploration: After your divorce, you are grieving the loss of part of your identity and purpose in life. Even if your marriage was making you miserable, its absence leaves a void that is also painful. Your new freedom allows you to explore other activities that may make you happy. If you lapsed on a hobby you once enjoyed, now may be the perfect time to pick it up again. You should also consider trying new experiences that you have long been curious about but have not had the time to pursue.

Coping with Divorce 

Divorce grief can start the moment you know your marriage is ending. Though the process is natural, you do not want to let it control your decisions during the divorce. A Kane County divorce attorney at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio can guide you in making responsible decisions during your divorce. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.

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Teenage Reaction Difficult to Read During DivorceTeenagers can already be emotionally volatile and confused before adding their parents’ divorce to the mix. They are dealing with physical changes while also trying to figure out where they fit in social structures. Even a stable environment may not prevent a teenager from being moody and withdrawn. A divorce is far from a stable environment and may exacerbate a teenager’s emotional issues. Though difficult, it is important for divorcing parents to support their teenage children and watch for signs of deeper emotional problems.

Varied Reactions

Compared to teenagers, it is easier to understand and predict the reaction of younger children to a divorce. Younger children are more likely to be visibly upset by the news and asking questions. Teenagers will have diverse reactions, depending on their maturity and personalities:

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Defining Marital Properties During SeparationMarital and nonmarital properties are often defined by if they were purchased during the duration of the marriage. The distinction is important because marital properties must be divided equitably during a divorce. Most properties obtained during a marriage are automatically marital properties unless they are:

  • Gifts;
  • Inheritances;
  • Acquired by using nonmarital property; or
  • Excluded from marital properties in a prenuptial agreement.

Properties purchased after the dissolution of a marriage but while divorce agreement negotiations are ongoing are nonmarital, unless they are acquired using marital properties. However, determining marital and nonmarital properties is murkier when the spouses are separated but not divorced. Properties acquired during a separation can still be marital property.

Legal Separation

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Four Divorce Mistakes You May Later RegretIt is understandable and likely unavoidable to feel some regret about the end of your marriage after your divorce. However, feeling regret about how your divorce turned out is a different matter. Mistakes during a divorce are largely avoidable with the proper mindset and strategy. Unfortunately, your emotions can cloud your judgment during your divorce. Feelings of anger, resentment, and dread can lead divorcees towards making poor decisions with financial and emotional consequences. Here are four mistakes that people often regret making after their divorces:

  1. Following Legal Advice from Non-Professionals: A divorce attorney is the best source for helping you make legal decisions during your divorce. Some people will instead turn to friends or try to conduct their own research. A friend who has already divorced can provide helpful advice on how to emotionally cope with the experience. However, he or she is not a reliable source for legal guidance. Only a divorce attorney will know how to best handle the specifics of your divorce, as well as relevant updates in divorce law.
  2. Involving Children in Fights: The allocation of parental responsibilities is one of the most heavily debated issues during a divorce. However, the children themselves should remain separate from the arguments involving them. Divorcing parents are tempted to bad-mouth each other in front of their child or even use the child as a messenger for their arguments. This may add to the child’s already traumatic experience because the child may have a more difficult time coping with the negative emotions between his or her parents.
  3. Picking Fights with Your Spouse: There is a difference between advocating for yourself and initiating conflict during your divorce agreement negotiations. Some divorcees fight over issues because they are angry at their spouse, not because they feel strongly about the issue. Starting unnecessary fights hurts both spouses by drawing out the negotiations. It also makes it more difficult to settle on the issues that are truly important to both parties.
  4. Overlooking Financial Subtleties: On the flip side of a combative spouse is one who is too quick to agree on issues. A spouse may want a speedy resolution because he or she is uncomfortable with the negotiations. However, you need time to carefully examine the financial consequences of your decisions. Some marital properties are more valuable than they appear. Others come with taxes and maintenance costs that may make them less desirable. Once a court has approved your divorce agreement, it is difficult to go back and correct these mistakes.

Divorce Without Regrets

You may not look back at your divorce as a positive time in your life, but you can feel content that you made the correct decisions during the process. A Kane County divorce attorney at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio can provide you with sound guidance during your divorce. To schedule a free consultation, call 331-588-6611.

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Enforcing Divorce Agreement May Require Court AppearanceAfter months of negotiating a divorce settlement, it is frustrating when your former spouse decides to ignore the terms of the agreement. Fortunately, a divorce agreement is a legally binding document that neither of you is allowed to disobey without first legally modifying it. If your former spouse is violating your divorce agreement, you can take him or her to court in order to enforce your agreement. The court may order a non-compliant party to compensate the other party and penalize him or her.

Agreement Violations

A divorce agreement establishes guidelines for financial and parental issues after the marriage has ended. A divorce court must approve the agreement, making sure that the terms are fair to both parties. When one party disobeys the agreement, the other party or their children may suffer. A former spouse can violate a divorce agreement by:

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Debate Continues on Merits of Equal Parenting TimeMore than half of the states in the U.S., including Illinois, are considering proposals that would make equal parenting time after divorce the standard. Illinois law currently presumes that children are better off living a majority of the time with one parent. An Illinois court will allow a 50-50 split of parenting time if the parents can show why it is in the children’s best interest. Because fathers are less likely to have a majority of parenting time, fathers’ rights groups have led the efforts for equal parenting time. However, critics argue that equal parenting time is of greater benefit to parents than the children.

Proposed Legislation

Members of the Illinois House of Representatives have presented a bill that would change the expectations for parenting time after a divorce. The law would advise Illinois courts to start by presuming that parenting time will be split equally and adjust it based on the individual circumstances of the case. The court may decide to award greater parenting time to one party based on:

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Posted on in Divorce

Challenges for Those Facing Grey DivorceGrey divorce is a term commonly used to describe when couples age 55 and older decide to end their marriages. Despite their years together, older couples can develop differences that make them unhappy in their relationships. Friends and family may be shocked at the timing of the divorce, but the spouses may have seen it coming long ago. All divorce agreements center on dividing properties and establishing support payments. However, grey divorce may require more focus on retirement accounts and spousal maintenance.

Spousal Maintenance

When Illinois courts must determine spousal support payments, they calculate the duration of the payments based on the number of years the spouses were married. Spouses in grey divorce may have been married for 20 or more years, which allows the court to award permanent spousal maintenance. Also, maintenance payers of all ages must back their payments with a life insurance policy, in case they die before the payments are set to expire. Life insurance will be more expensive for older individuals paying maintenance.

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Posted on in Divorce

Four Monetary Habits That Can Cause DivorceMoney ranks near the top of the list of disputes that can lead to divorce. Spouses with different values related to money will eventually be at odds with each other. The difference may cause a minor argument when the marriage is financially stable. However, financial hardship caused by different spending habits can create great conflict between the spouses. The two parties may feel distrust and resentment towards each other that grows to the point that they can no longer cooperate in a marriage. There are several monetary habits that can cause discord in a marriage:

  1. The Money Manager: When one spouse is more knowledgeable about budgeting and finances, the other spouse may cede all financial decision making to the experienced spouse. This may be practical, but it creates a power imbalance in the relationship. A spouse who unilaterally makes all of the financial decisions may not understand or respect the other spouse’s financial needs. The other spouse may eventually resent not having the ability to make his or her own decisions.
  2. The Breadwinner: One spouse’s willingness not to seek full-time employment puts a strain on a marriage. The employed spouse may feel he or she bears a disproportionate amount of the financial burden. As a result, he or she may resent the unemployed spouse. In turn, the unemployed spouse may feel unappreciated for what he or she does to manage the home and care for children.
  3. The Free Spender: Some people are more inclined to spend the money they receive than save it. Spouses commonly disagree on what percentage of their money should go towards luxury expenses and what should be kept in a savings account. However, some spouses are reckless in their spending habits, making large purchases without consulting their partners. This will frustrate a more fiscally conservative spouse and can put both parties at risk of increasing debts.
  4. The Penny Pincher: A tendency towards saving money shows financial responsibility, but a spouse’s saving habits can go too far. Spouses and families should be allowed to treat themselves occasionally by using their money for gifts and fun activities. A spouse who is always trying to conserve money may leave the other spouse unsatisfied in their marriage. 

Money Matters

Financial stress often spills over into other aspects of the marriage. When spouses disagree about how to handle their money, their arguments may lead to a breakdown in their relationship. Their different ideas about money will likely continue during the divorce negotiations. A Kane County divorce attorney at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio can help you handle financial disagreements during your divorce. To schedule a free consultation, call 331-588-6611.

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Courts Hesitate to Terminate Parental RightsCourts do not take lightly their decisions to terminate parents' rights. Even when one parent shows signs of being unfit or disinterested, the court is more likely to limit the parent’s rights than eliminate them. Illinois law allows two circumstances in which a court may rule on whether to terminate a parent’s rights:

  • When a non-biological parent is trying to adopt a child; and
  • When the state charges a parent with serious abuse or neglect.

Illinois courts work with a rebuttable presumption that a child is always better off having two legal parents, even if one of them is absent or unfit.

Parental Fitness

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How Different-Aged Children Respond to DivorceJust as no two divorces are exactly the same, no two children will react to their parent’s divorce in identical ways. A child who already has emotional resiliency is more likely to handle the divorce in a healthy manner. Conversely, emotionally fragile children may be prone to outbursts and bad behavior. Predicting how your child will react to your divorce is difficult because he or she may have never faced an event as traumatic as this. Age can be the best predictor because children tend to develop their maturity and understanding at similar ages.

Age 2 and Younger

Infants and toddlers are least likely to carry traumatic memories of their parents’ divorce. Infants are too young to have vivid memories of their parents. Toddlers start to form some memories but have no understanding of marriage and divorce. Though they do not know what divorce is, infants and toddlers do notice the absence of one of the parents. The detachment affects them on an emotional level. Toddlers may regress in their behaviors.

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Making a Good Impression During Your Divorce HearingWhen attending a divorce hearing, you want the court to judge the issues in questions without prejudice. However, inappropriate behavior and appearance can undermine your case because people form biases based on how you look and act. Looking disheveled and acting rudely suggests that you lack respect for the court and the hearing. From there, a judge may further question whether you are responsible with your financial decisions and parenting duties. Before your divorce hearing, you should prepare yourself to look and act professionally:

  1. Dress for Success: It is better to be overdressed for your court hearing than underdressed. Treat it like you would a job interview. Men should wear at least a jacket and tie, if not a full suit. Women should dress conservatively in a skirt or pants suit. Wearing a T-shirt, jeans or cap is completely inappropriate. You may be sent home to change your clothing if you dress that way.
  2. Grooming: You want to show that you care about your appearance and hygiene. For men, comb your hair and either shave or groom your facial hair. For women, do not overuse makeup to the point that it makes you look gaudy.
  3. Timeliness: Make sure you show up to your hearing on time or early, if possible. Arriving late will anger the judge because you are putting everyone behind schedule and showing a lack of respect for the court.
  4. Calmness: You do not want to be known as an agitator and malcontent during the hearing. Make sure you remain calm and professional throughout, even when your spouse says something that may upset you. Speak when asked to and stay on the subject. Let your lawyer do the objecting and arguing on your behalf.
  5. Body Language: How you act when you are not speaking can tell the court a lot about you. Slouching or staring off into space makes you seem disinterested. Fidgeting in your seat or playing with an object in your hands makes you seem nervous and impatient. Scowling or smirking shows disrespect towards the person who is talking. To look professional, sit up straight with your hands on the table. Focus your attention on the person who is speaking, while not letting your facial expressions betray your emotions.
  6. Obey the Rules: Courtrooms have certain etiquettes you are expected to follow, such as rising for the judge, not eating and not using your phone. Adhere to these rules to show that you respect the legal process.

Preparing for Court

Your attorney is your best resource if you have questions about proper etiquette in a courtroom. A Kane County divorce attorney at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio can coach you on how to dress and behave at your hearing. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.

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Restoring Your Parental Rights After PrisonPeople who served time in prison can struggle upon their release into society. They must acclimate themselves to normal life, with the new limitations that come from having a criminal record. Re-establishing their roles as parents can be one of the most difficult adjustments. Parents who are former convicts may need to take legal action to be able to see their children on a regular basis. Even after that is accomplished, the parents must work to build or repair their relationships with their children.

Parental Rights

Incarceration does not automatically strip a parent of his or her rights to see and make decisions about the children. A party seeking to limit or terminate a parent’s rights must prove that the parent is unfit and that the decision is in the best interest of a child. A court may decide based on:

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Posted on in Divorce

Six Behavioral Predictors of DivorceDuring and after a divorce, it is natural to want to know what caused your marriage to break down. The knowledge can help you find closure and make better decisions during your next relationship. Some people can identify specific events that hurt their marriages, while others do not know when it all went wrong. However, events are only catalysts for deeper relationship problems. There are several behavior patterns that often precede divorce:

  1. Contempt: It is understandable to occasionally feel anger or frustration with your spouse. Contempt is a stronger, continuous feeling that is more like hatred and disgust. Contempt allows you to think that your spouse has irredeemable faults that make him or her inferior to you. Your disdain for your spouse will likely grow until you address the problem or divorce.
  2. Criticism: Contempt can start from constantly pointing out each other’s flaws. The critic becomes frustrated if his or her spouse regularly makes the same mistakes, even after being corrected. The criticized spouse believes that the critical spouse is unreasonable.
  3. Stubbornness: Spouses need to be able to compromise in order to have a healthy relationship. This means sometimes acquiescing to your spouse in order to make him or her happy. Refusing to compromise with your spouse will hurt your relationship, regardless of the result. If you cannot agree, an argument can become a major divide. If your spouse is always giving in to you, he or she may become resentful.
  4. Avoidance: While arguments are uncomfortable, they are an important means of working through your problems with your spouse. Avoiding confrontation gives you temporary relief but is only delaying the argument. Minor disagreements can grow out of proportion into major arguments. An unwillingness to communicate with your spouse shows that you are no longer comfortable in the relationship.
  5. Suspicion: A marriage requires some trust between spouses. Frequently questioning your spouse’s loyalty or intentions will put him or her on the defensive. It also means that you are not confident in the strength of your relationship.
  6. Negligence: A relationship is something that you must maintain through continued interaction and conversation with each other. When you put all of your energy towards your career or your children, you may be ignoring your relationship's needs. This disconnect chips away at the intimacy that gives a marriage its strength.

Unhealthy Relationships

If you see these behavior patterns in your marriage, you can try to make changes in order to fix your relationship. However, it is sometimes healthiest to know when you should end your marriage. A Kane County divorce attorney at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio can advise you on the divorce process. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.

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Adult Children Can Rarely Sue for Unpaid Child SupportWhen a parent fails to make child support payments, the child is the one who may suffer the most. The money goes to the child’s primary parent, but it is solely meant to pay for the child’s needs. Once a child becomes an adult, he or she may better understand the effect of the missed child support payments and seek retribution. Illinois does not have a statute of limitations for suing a parent for missed child support payments. However, it is rare that a child who has become an adult is allowed to sue the parent.

Right to Payments

The parent with primary responsibility over the children will receive payments from the other parent until the children are legally emancipated, which typically occurs when the children graduate from high school or turn 19. The primary parent is always the direct recipient of the payments and is trusted to use the money towards child-related expenses. Thus, the parent is the only party that can sue for missed child support payments because they belonged to him or her.

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