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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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How Social Media Can Hurt Your Divorce CaseUnwise social media posts during your divorce can do damage to your case and personal reputation. Social media users either forget that their posts are public or are under the mistaken impression that the content is private. As long as someone can view your account, you should assume that any post can make its way to the people you do not want to see it, including:

  • Your former spouse;
  • Your children; or
  • Your employer.

You must exercise caution and restraint with your social media accounts during your divorce because you may feel tempted to post content that could later hurt you.

Problem Posts

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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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