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Grandparents Have Limited Right to Demand Visits with GrandchildrenA divorce or separation can affect children’s relationships with their grandparents, as well as their parents. Unlike parents, grandparents are not presumed to have the right to see their grandchildren. The grandparents’ son or daughter often allows them to visit their grandchildren. However, one parent who has exclusive responsibility for the children may prevent his or her co-parent’s relatives from seeing the children. In order to see their grandchildren, the grandparents will need to prove in court that denying their visits is harmful to the children.

Unreasonable Denial

Illinois family law presumes that parents have the children’s best interests in mind when they do not allow a non-parent to see their children. Grandparents can try to rebut that presumption by claiming that denying them visitation is unreasonable and emotionally harmful to the children. A court will permit grandparents to petition for visitation if one of the following conditions exists:

  • The children’s parents have divorced or separated and one of the parents does not object to them visiting the children;
  • The parents are unmarried and living separately;
  • One of the parents is dead;
  • One of the parents has been missing for at least 90 days;
  • One of the parents has been in jail for at least 90 days; or
  • One of the parents is legally incompetent to care for the children.

Granting Visitation

When hearing a petition for visitation, the court will decide whether it is appropriate to grant visitation to the grandparents against the parent’s wishes. The grandparents must prove that they have a strong and close relationship with the children and that denying them visits is emotionally harming the children. Illinois law instructs courts to consider whether:

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What Does Data Tell Us About the Divorce Rate?Researchers disagree on what is the actual divorce rate for couples in the U.S. Fifty percent is a popular number to cite but is based on projections that are decades old. Different studies claim that the divorce rate is either declining or staying steady, depending on the data used and how they are interpreted. We may be incapable of coming up with an accurate number that tells us how likely people are to get divorced. Instead, we can look at demographic groups that seem to have a greater risk of divorce.

Problems with Divorce Data

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the most popular resources for determining the divorce rate. Analysts use the divorce data from each state to determine the number of divorces per 1,000 people in the population, which is called the crude divorce rate. However, the crude divorce rate has flaws:

  • The total population includes people who have no risk of divorce because they are unmarried;
  • The CDC does not receive data from six states, including California; and
  • States are inconsistent in how they collect their data.

Some researchers prefer to cite the refined divorce rate, which is the number of divorces per every 1,000 married women.

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Reasons to Feel No Shame About Your DivorceSome people are still ashamed of getting divorced, even though divorce has become more socially acceptable during the past 50 years. People feel less obligated to stay in a marriage due to religious beliefs or fear of being ostracized as a single parent. However, they have more difficulty overcoming the misconception that divorce makes them failures. Your marriage does not by itself determine whether you are a successful person. Instead, divorce may be a step towards a happier and more fulfilling life.

Defining Your Marriage

The quality of a marriage depends on more than its longevity. Yet, people tend to label a marriage that ends in divorce as a failure. A marriage is usually a mix of good and bad. Even though your marriage ended with a failure to stay together, it may have been successful in:

  • Giving you your children;
  • Creating happy memories;
  • Expanding your circle of family and friends; and
  • Supporting you as you entered and advanced through your career.

You can regret how your marriage ended while still appreciating the positives that came from it. It would not be fair or accurate to think of your experience as a failure.

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What Can Make a Premarital Agreement Invalid?Spouses are bound to the terms of their premarital agreement when they decide to divorce. A court may rule that the agreement is unenforceable if:

  • One of the parties did not sign it voluntarily;
  • One of the parties did not reasonably disclose his or her individual assets;
  • The agreement terms were unfair at the time that the agreement was created;
  • One of the parties' circumstances changed in a way that could not be foreseen and makes the agreement unfair; or
  • The agreement determines child support and the allocation of parental responsibilities, which it is not allowed to do.

In the recent case of In re Marriage of Woodrum, an Illinois woman argued that her premarital agreement was unconscionable. The court rejected her argument because it found no evidence that the agreement was unfair or invalid.

Case Details

The spouses in the case had cohabitated for six years prior to their marriage in 2007. Having both previously divorced, they signed a premarital agreement that stated:

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Internet Divorce Software Not a Substitute for an AttorneyThe wealth of resources on the internet encourages a do-it-yourself attitude for complicated tasks. Capitalizing on this, a divorce tool-kit industry has developed online, promising to help you file for divorce on your own and avoid the cost and hassle of hiring a divorce attorney. Certain tools are useful as a complementary resource to help you organize during your divorce, such as software for creating a parenting schedule. However, there are several reasons why no online tool can replace the services that your own divorce attorney can provide:

  1. Divorce Is More than Paperwork: Many online divorce software programs focus on helping you fill out the divorce paperwork, which is the end of the process. A divorce agreement involves complicated and sometimes contentious negotiations to decide your finances and parental responsibilities. You will likely disagree with your spouse on some issues and will need to come up with a creative solution that follows your state’s divorce laws. If your divorce process is simple and quick, you should be worried that you overlooked an important issue.
  2. Divorce Should Be Customized to You: Divorce software websites offer different products that are meant to fit divorces with different needs. As a consumer, how are you supposed to know which product is right for you? What if there is not a product that provides everything you need? A divorce lawyer creates your divorce plan based on your needs.
  3. Internet Tool-Kits Are Not Legal Advisors: Creating a good divorce agreement requires a nuanced understanding of divorce law. A divorce lawyer goes through years of education and training to become a licensed professional. Websites that provide divorce software include disclaimers that state that the site’s information does not constitute legal advice and that you should always consult a lawyer before making legal decisions.
  4. A Lawyer Is Your Personal Advocate: Using divorce software is similar to going through divorce mediation. It is most successful when the spouses can cooperate and negotiate in good faith. A software program cannot tell you which decision is in your best interest or protect you from a spouse who is bullying you to get what he or she wants. You need a lawyer to advise you on when to contest your spouse and when to compromise.

Useful Resources

There are uses for divorce software products during the process. A Kane County divorce attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers can recommend online resources that can help you stay organized and better understand your divorce. To schedule a free consultation, call 331-588-6611.

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Stress from Divorce Can Hurt Child's GradesA child’s academic performance often declines when his or her parents are going through a divorce. The amount of decline depends on how good of a student he or she was before the divorce. A normally good student may have an uncharacteristic dip in his or her grades. A struggling student may become uninterested in academics and receive more failing grades. Divorce-related stress can throw either type of student off his or her academic track.

Divorce Effect

Children of divorce feel many emotions that can change their behavior, including:

  • Anxiety about their future living arrangements;
  • Depression about the end of their normal family relationship;
  • Pressure to take on additional responsibilities at home;
  • Anger at their parents for breaking up the family;
  • Guilt if they blame themselves for the divorce; and
  • Loneliness because their parents do not have as much time to spend with them.

Parents are likely to notice the effect the divorce has on their children if the children are punished for bad behavior at school. An upset student may fight with classmates, behave rudely or skip classes. A dip in academic performance is more subtle but just as damaging.

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Posted on in Divorce

Letting Go of Your Divorce AttachmentsPeople hold onto things that they are familiar with, even if they know it is unhealthy for them. Divorce is a big step towards changing this behavior because you are letting go of your marriage. However, you may be keeping other things – both physical and emotional – that remind you of your marriage and are still causing you pain. The divorce process can help you let go of these marital attachments, though some memories from your marriage are harder to dispel.

Physical Reminders

You own items that you will always emotionally connect to your previous marriage. You may benefit from riding yourself of the reminders, such as:

  • Your wedding ring;
  • Your wedding attire and gifts;
  • Gifts you received from your spouse during your marriage;
  • Mementos from experiences during your marriage; and
  • Your marital home.

You should be practical before deciding to get rid of some of these properties. You may need your marital home if your children are living with you after your divorce. There are some marital properties that neither one of you will want to keep after your divorce, because of practical purposes or the memories they hold. When negotiating the division of property, you can sell the unwanted items and divide the proceeds as part of your larger agreement.

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How Your Behavior Affects the Allocation of Parental ResponsibilitiesNegotiating the allocation of parental responsibilities may try your emotions more than any aspect of your divorce. You are arguing for the time you get to spend with your children and the role you will play in their lives. A court will assume that you are both entitled to some responsibilities over your children but prefers to give a majority of the responsibility to one of you. The court will award primary responsibility to the parent who can best serve the children’s needs, and your actions during the case can influence a court’s decision. Here are five mistakes to avoid during a case to determine parental responsibilities:

  1. Do Not Assume the Outcome: A mother traditionally keeps the children after a divorce because she is often the primary caregiver. However, the law is supposed to be gender neutral. Mothers who assume that they will receive a majority of the parenting time may appear arrogant or fail to make a strong case. Fathers should not concede their parental rights without an argument because they assume they will lose their cases.
  2. Do Not Make the Case About Yourself: The court’s primary concern is the needs of your children, and each point you make in presenting your case should support that. The court may believe you are selfish if you focus on your desire to have a majority of the parenting time with your children without mentioning why it would be most beneficial to them.
  3. Do Not Behave Vindictively Towards Your Co-Parent: You have a responsibility to inform the court if your co-parent may cause actual harm to your children. However, you should refrain from bringing up your personal grievances with your co-parent. Disagreeing with someone does not make him or her a bad parent. Instead, you will appear bitter and petty, which diminishes you in the eyes of the court.
  4. Do Not Speak For Your Children: You can explain to the court why you are the best choice as the primary parent for your children. However, you should not claim that your children prefer you as the primary parent. You are being unfair to your children by implying that they have a favorite parent.
  5. Do Not Show Too Much or Too Little Emotion: Your behavior during the case should show that you care about your children and that you are a calm and rational parent. Showing too much emotion makes you seem unstable, but showing too little emotion makes you seem callous.

Determining Parental Responsibilities

You can help your case for being the primary parent of your children by showing that you will put their needs ahead of your own. A Kane County family law attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers can help you present an argument for the majority of the allocation of parental responsibilities. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.

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Who Keeps the Cars During and After Divorce?Vehicles are important properties to decide on during your divorce. The division can be relatively simple if you each have one vehicle that you primarily use. You can likely agree on who gets each vehicle without needing a divorce court to make the decision for you. However, issues related to your marital vehicles are not always simple.

Possession During the Divorce

Each of you will need to access and use your vehicles during your divorce. Unfortunately, spouses sometimes try to hurt each other by:

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How to Approach Your Financial Divorce NegotiationsGoing through a divorce forces you to become familiar with the art of financial negotiations. All of your marital assets will be part of the division of property, and each asset must be evaluated to determine an equitable division. You also may need to determine what your obligations are towards child support or spousal maintenance. Such tasks can feel overwhelming, regardless of your experience in personal finances or business negotiations. Keep in mind these four strategies for getting through a divorce negotiation:

  1. Understand What You Are Worth: Your personal income and individual assets will determine what percentage of your total child support obligation you must pay and whether you or your spouse are responsible for maintenance payments. A divorce court may also consider your individual worth when determining how to divide your marital properties. Your spouse may overstate your income and assets in order to argue that you should receive less marital properties and pay more for support. You must present an accurate financial profile of yourself by determining what you are actually worth in the present and what you will likely be worth in the future.
  2. Know Your Wants and Needs: You should have a list of marital properties and assets that are a priority for you to obtain during your divorce negotiations, as well as a list of properties that are a lower priority or you would be willing to give up. You should not waste time arguing over properties that you do not want. Save your negotiating for properties that you identified as priorities. You should understand which properties you can concede in exchange for other properties that you value more.
  3. Budgeting for the Future: You cannot identify what you need during the divorce unless you estimate your post-divorce budget. You will have reduced income and assets immediately after the divorce, which may affect your ability to support yourself and your children. You can calculate your monthly income and expenses and present that information as a reason why you need certain properties or spousal maintenance payments from the divorce.
  4. Bring a Constructive Attitude: Divorce negotiations run smoothest when both spouses are able to cooperate. You will disagree with your spouse at times but must remain calm and reasonable. As much as you can, try to separate your emotions towards your spouse from the business that must be completed during the negotiations. You can often create a better agreement together than if a divorce court must decide for you.

Your Divorce Team 

During your divorce, you need help from professionals with experience in both personal finances and divorce law. A Kane County divorce attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers can advise you throughout the divorce process. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.

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Using a Parenting Agreement to Anticipate ConflictDespite reaching a parenting agreement during their divorce or separation, it is common for co-parents to disagree with each other about parenting decisions afterward. Parents in a high-conflict relationship seem particularly adept at finding topics to argue about. You may wonder how effective your parenting agreement is if you continue to disagree on your parenting schedule and how to raise your children. Co-parents who anticipate continued conflict should create an agreement that is clear in stating how parental responsibilities will be allocated and when it will allow deviations.

Detailed Agreement

Co-parenting conflicts can arise when the language in a parenting agreement is ambiguous. Your co-parent may have a different interpretation of a vague section in the agreement. Even if that interpretation was not your intention when creating the agreement, your co-parent can take advantage of the ambiguity to use it as a defense for his or her actions. A high-conflict parenting agreement can avoid differing interpretations by being detailed, such as stating:

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Are You Staying Married for the Wrong Reasons?It can be admirable to stick with your marriage when it is going through a rough patch. However, there comes a point when you must question whether you are committed to your marriage or avoiding divorce. Remaining in a bad marriage is unhealthy for yourself and everyone else involved. You are causing yourself to feel stress and delaying a divorce that may eventually make you happier. Because it can be difficult to determine when you are better off getting a divorce, here are four questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Are You Trying to Improve Your Marriage?: Saving a broken marriage requires changing how you treat and communicate with each other. However, some couples resign themselves to staying the same. If you are unwilling or unable to make an effort to change yourselves, avoiding divorce will do nothing to improve your marriage. Instead, you are trapping yourselves in an unhappy and unhealthy situation.
  2. Is Fear of Being Alone Holding You Back?: Making a dramatic life change such as divorce is understandably frightening. You are unsure of what your life will be like after divorce and whether you will find the happiness you are missing. There is some comfort in having a spouse, even if you no longer like each other. However, divorce gives you the possibility of finding someone new to spend your life with. Being alone in the short term can also help you learn what you want in life.
  3. Are You Avoiding the Financial Consequences of Divorce?: You will lose some of your marital assets during your divorce as part of the division of property. It may be difficult to maintain your marital lifestyle with fewer assets and possible monetary obligations to your former spouse and your children. However, the duration of your marriage increases the cost of your divorce. You will have more marital properties to divide, and your spousal maintenance obligation will last longer. If divorce is unavoidable, you may be better off by not waiting.
  4. Are Your Children the Only Reason You Are Still Married?: Children are often the most difficult consideration when deciding whether to divorce. Your divorce will hurt them, disrupt their lives and change how they view you. However, you must also weigh how your marriage is affecting them. Watching your unhealthy relationship can be more damaging than experiencing a divorce. Freeing yourself from your marriage may allow you to devote more time to being a good parent.

Making a Choice

You should seriously consider the positives and negatives of getting a divorce before you decide. A Kane County divorce attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers can explain what to expect from the divorce process. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.

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Posted on in Divorce

The Right Way to Ask for a DivorceAsking your spouse for a divorce takes courage and resolve because you know the pain that will follow. Even if you concluded a while ago that divorce is inevitable, saying it to your spouse makes it real and likely irreversible. When faced with an uncomfortable task, sometimes you choose to act quickly so you do not have time to doubt yourself. However, asking for a divorce is not that type of situation. You need to carefully think about when, where and how you will have the conversation. Asking for a divorce in the wrong way can be needlessly hurtful and set the tone for a high-conflict divorce.

Timing

You want to ask your spouse for a divorce at a time when he or she is calm enough to handle the conversation. Timing can have multiple meanings in this case. There is literal timing, such as when in the day you will have the conversation. There is also a broader timing that considers the other factors happening in your spouse’s life. Examples of poor timing include:

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Determining Parental Responsibilities After Same-Sex DivorceSame-sex couples who have children together can face complications during their divorce or separation that their heterosexual counterparts do not. The right to the allocation of parental responsibilities is based upon both parties being legal parents of the child. Establishing parenthood is clear for most heterosexual couples because they are likely the biological parents of the child. Same-sex couples cannot both be biologically related to the child, and neither are biological parents if the child is adopted. It is in the best interest of the children to maintain a relationship with both parents, regardless of biological relation. However, one parent may try to use the other parent’s non-biological status as a reason to limit his or her parental rights with the children.

Establishing Parenthood

Absent a biological connection to the child, a person can still be legally recognized as a parent in five scenarios:

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Recognizing Codependency in Your MarriageCodependent behavior can be a symptom of an unhealthy marriage and a reason that a spouse does not pursue divorce. Codependency is defined as a relationship in which one person is willingly subservient to the other at the expense of his or her own needs. Such marriages are dysfunctional because:

  • One spouse may be emotionally manipulating the other;
  • The subservience is often enabling a spouse’s unhealthy behavior;
  • It ignores the balance of power in the marriage; and
  • Both spouses may believe that the behavior is normal.

Admitting when they need to change or even get a divorce is a big step for the recovery of people in codependent marriages. However, a history of codependency can cause a high-conflict divorce.

How Codependency Occurs

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Four Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering DivorceThoughts of divorce are natural when you feel your marriage is depriving you of your happiness. However, you should evaluate the reasons you want a divorce before making a decision. Getting a divorce can be a contentious and expensive process. You will lose some valuable assets as part of the division of property. There will be a grieving process for yourself and your children. Here are four questions you can ask yourself when deciding whether to divorce:

  1. How Are You and Your Spouse Communicating?: Frequently getting into arguments with your spouse is an obvious sign that you are not getting along. The conflict may become untenable if you are incapable of having a civil conversation or coming to a reasonable agreement. However, a lack of communication can be just as bad as fighting. You may be avoiding substantive discussions with each other because you believe they will lead to arguments.
  2. What First Comes to Mind When Thinking About Your Spouse?: You can disagree with your spouse but still feel love and respect for him or her when you have calmed down. There may be a deeper problem with your marriage if you instinctively think about your spouse in negative terms. You are quick to find flaws because you are looking for a reason to be angry at him or her.
  3. Are Your Arguments Getting Personal?: There is a difference between disagreeing with each other and blaming each other. In a disagreement, you are arguing about the substance of the issue, which may eventually lead to mutual understanding and a compromise. When blaming each other, the arguments are personal attacks against each other. Compromise becomes unlikely because the argument is now about your egos.
  4. How Has Your Behavior Changed?: Being in a contentious marriage can affect how you act in other parts of your life. You may be more irritable and prone to arguments with others. You may consistently feel angry, depressed, or stressed. It can be easy to ignore these behavior changes and not realize that your marriage is contributing to them. When you do identify that your behavior has changed, you must determine whether you can heal yourself while maintaining your marriage.

Making a Decision

If your answers to these questions all point towards divorce, you still must consider whether you want to reconcile with your spouse. Once you have started with the divorce process, it is rare to be able to save your marriage. A Kane County divorce attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers can explain the divorce process and potential benefits for yourself. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.

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Deviating from Child Support Expenditures TableWhen Illinois adopted its income shares model for child support, it created an expenditures table to determine the total child support obligation between both parents. The table uses the combined incomes of the parents and the number of children to calculate how much money is needed for child expenditures. The total is an obligation divided between the parents, with each parent paying an amount that is proportionate to his or her share of their combined incomes. The table amounts account for common child expenditures, including:

  • Food;
  • Clothing;
  • Housing;
  • Transportation; and
  • Various expenses that provide opportunities for the children.

The table amounts do not account for some major child-related expenses that can vary by the needs of the child. A family law court is given the discretion to add these expenses to the total child support obligation.

Healthcare Costs

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Guarding Your Assets During DivorceThe division of assets in a divorce is supposed to involve equitable gains and losses for each side. However, a financially savvy spouse may try to take advantage of you. There are legal means of doing so, such as having a better understanding of which properties may grow in value. There are also illegal means, such as hiding marital assets that should be accounted for during the divorce. You do not need to view your spouse with outright suspicion, but you should be cautious and aware of ways you can protect yourself.

Gaining Knowledge

Some marriages rely upon one spouse handling all of the finances. If your spouse serves that role, you may be at a disadvantage during your divorce. You must make yourself more involved in your marital finances. You have a right to know:

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Decreasing Your Children's Stress During DivorceDivorce is such a stressful process for yourself that it is possible to miss the signs that your children are also stressed. Children can express their stress through emotional outbursts and regression or retreat into states of depression and anxiety. When you are feeling stressed during your divorce, you are responsible for using coping mechanisms or seeking help. However, you should not expect your children to take the same personal responsibility. Unlike you, they have little control over the source of their stress. Instead, you must minimize the amount of stress that your children are exposed to.

Updates

One of your children’s main stresses during your divorce is their uncertainty about their future. They have many questions that they may be afraid to ask, such as:

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Four Redecorating Tips for After Your DivorceIf you keep your marital home after divorce, living there may be a frequent reminder of your marriage. You know you need to move on from your divorce, but there are visual cues that bring back memories, such as:

  • Empty spaces that your former spouse occupied;
  • Decorating decisions that you argued over; and
  • The ambiance of certain rooms that seems to reflect your former spouse’s style more than your own.

Life after divorce is your chance to change your living environment to better fit your new self and your new life. It could be a major remodeling project or simple adjustments. Here are four ways to improve your living space after divorce:

  1. Getting Rid of Clutter: Before starting any redecorating plans, you should take stock of your current items to determine if there any that you want to remove or replace. Some items are painful to look at because they remind you of your marriage. Other items are impractical for a single person to have or use.
  2. Filling Up Empty Spaces: After your former spouse removes all of his or her possessions from your home, the voids left over will be a sad reminder that one less person is living in your home. It is time to find a new purpose for those spaces. A home office or hobby room can become whatever you need it to be. You can strategically rearrange furniture so a room feels more open than empty.
  3. Remodeling a Room: Have you been dissatisfied with how a room looks because you had to make compromises with your spouse? You can finally change the room to fit your vision. Paint the walls a different color. Replace the furniture and decorations. Replace the carpeting with a hardwood floor, or vice versa. The look of the room can reflect how you want yourself to feel in it.
  4. Adding Accent Pieces: People have different styles, including their preferences in decorations. Maybe you have a piece of art you always loved but your former spouse thought looked terrible. Now you can proudly display that artwork in your home, instead of hiding it away. The same principle applies to any thematic choices you feel better represents your style.

Life After Divorce

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