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Lessons You Can Take from a Billionaire's DivorceAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos is headed for divorce with his wife after 25 years of marriage. Given that he is the richest man in the world, it may be the most expensive divorce the world has seen. If they follow the standard equitable division of marital property, his wife could receive around $68 billion in assets. Your divorce will not have this extreme level of valuable assets, but you can learn what to expect from a high-asset divorce by watching his case.

Business Assets

The public question about Bezos’s divorce is how it may affect Amazon. Bezos founded the company after he was married, which means that his ownership of Amazon is marital property. There are several possible outcomes because of this:

  • His wife could obtain a share of ownership of Amazon;
  • She could sell her share to another party, possibly disrupting the company’s balance of power; or
  • Bezos could pay billions of dollars to purchase her share of the company.

Any business owner going through a divorce must weigh similar decisions, though most will have much less money at stake. Your business is a marital property unless you created it before your marriage and have kept its finances separate from your marital finances. It is important to maintain control of your business after your divorce, but you will need to give your spouse other valuable assets as compensation.

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How to Get Out From Under Child Support DebtYou can quickly amass a large debt if you fall behind on making your required monthly child support payments. You will not only owe back child support, known as child support arrears, but Illinois will charge nine percent interest per year when you are 30 days late on making a payment. There can be serious consequences for parents who do not pay their child support, including:

  • Fines;
  • Wage garnishment;
  • Withholding of tax refunds;
  • Driver’s license suspension; and
  • Jail time.

You should treat child support debt seriously by trying to pay it off and making sure you can afford future payments.

Debt Consolidation

Some people who owe child support arrears take out an unsecured personal loan in order to repay it. You would be shifting that debt from child support to a creditor, but there is not a risk of jail time if you are unable to keep up with payments on an unsecured loan. Whether a personal loan will help you depends on your credit rating. You must:

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Posted on in Divorce

Making Divorce Your New Year's ResolutionAre you considering getting a divorce but hesitating to go through with it? You can motivate yourself by making a New Year’s resolution. If you are unsure whether to divorce, you can resolve to come up with an answer. If you know you need a divorce, you can resolve to explore divorce resources and take the big step of telling your spouse about your decision. Following through on your resolution could help you find new optimism for the coming year.

Questioning Divorce

You should be confident in your decision to divorce because people rarely go back once they have started the process. It may help you to make a list of positives and negatives of getting a divorce. When creating the list, you can ask yourself:

  • How often am I unhappy in my relationship with my spouse?;
  • Would I be able to improve our relationship by communicating more?;
  • Does the idea of leaving my spouse make me feel more scared or relieved?;
  • Am I staying married because I am concerned about being able to support myself?; and
  • Am I staying married because I am afraid of how it would affect our children?

You may end up with more in the negative column than the positive column, but that does not mean you should not divorce. Your happiness and emotional health are important, and the divorce process has solutions to many of your negatives.

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Courts Allow Extension of Spousal Maintenance After Payment Period ExpiresParties in a divorce can schedule spousal maintenance to end after a set number of months or years, often determined by the length of the marriage and the recipient’s ability to support him or herself. The recipient can petition to extend the maintenance past the end date, but the payor is likely to contest the effort. In the recent case of In re Marriage of Wojcik, an Illinois man appealed a trial court’s decision to award permanent maintenance to his former wife on the grounds that:

  • She should not have been allowed to file the petition for an extension after her scheduled maintenance payments had expired; and
  • She is capable of supporting herself if she puts an honest effort into finding employment.

The appellate court disagreed with the man and upheld the maintenance payments.

Background

The two parties were married for 27 years before filing for divorce in 2005. At the time of the divorce, the couple had one minor child that required child support. The husband was making $386,000 in annual income, while the wife was re-entering the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom for most of her marriage. The divorce agreement stated that the husband would pay $13,500 per month in unallocated family support, which is a combination of child support and spousal maintenance. These payments would continue for 60 months, at which point their child would reach the age of maturity. After the 60 months had expired, the wife filed for spousal maintenance. The court ultimately awarded her $5,700 in monthly maintenance for an indefinite period and $239,400 in retroactive maintenance.

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Christmas Parenting Schedule May Require You to SacrificeThe holidays are supposed to be a happy time for your children, but your divorce has the potential to make it depressing for them instead. When arguing about parenting time on Christmas, it is easy to forget that you should base your decision on what will make your children the happiest, which may be different than what makes you the happiest. You will likely need to make sacrifices and compromises in order to give your children the best holiday experience that you can.

Holiday Schedule

Disputes about holiday parenting time often come down to which parent will have the children on Christmas. You both want to spend at least part of the day with your children, but trying to equally divide your parenting time puts more stress on them. It may be best for your children for one of you to make a bigger sacrifice than the other, such as allowing your co-parent to have the children for the entire day. You should consider:

  • Which home the children are more comfortable in;
  • Which of you is better equipped to create an enjoyable holiday experience;
  • Which other family members will your children be able to see by staying with one of you;
  • How much time your children would spend traveling between homes if you divided the parenting time; and
  • Whether the parental exchange will be too exhausting for your children.

A teenager may be mature enough to help you decide whether to share parenting time on Christmas, but you should make the decision on your own in most cases. Asking a child to decide is putting pressure on him or her to pick a parent.

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HInsdale IL hidden asset lawyerYou have probably heard of romantic infidelity, but have you ever heard of financial infidelity? Financial infidelity is when one person hides money or other assets from their spouse, and it is not uncommon. According to a report by Creditcards.com, about 15 million American adults currently have a credit card, checking account or savings account that their live-in spouse or partner does not know about. Another 9 million people admitted that they used to have a secret account but no longer do.

Financial infidelity can be stressful in any relationship, but it can become even more stressful in a divorce. Here are a few signs that your spouse may be hiding assets from you:

  1. You find unusual statements in the mail. This one can be the most obvious. If you have been getting account statements in the mail from banks or credit card companies that you are not familiar with, they could indicate that your spouse has an account with them that he or she has not told you about. 
  2. Your spouse is controlling your joint bank accounts. This one could be harder to detect if your spouse is usually the one who takes care of the finances. If your spouse all of a sudden begins being secretive or controlling of your joint checking or savings accounts, it could be a sign that he or she is trying to conceal certain financial actions.
  3. Your spouse has made unusually large purchases. You are probably aware of your spouse’s spending habits. If they are making unusual purchases or very expensive purchases, like cars or jewelry, without your knowledge, they could be attempting to underreport the costs of those items.
  4. Your spouse has opened a custodial account. While this may seem like a responsible and preemptive thing for your spouse to do, it may have happened for the wrong reasons. Opening a custodial account under your child’s name and social security number can allow them to put away money while saying it is for your child.

A Hinsdale, IL Asset Division Lawyer Can Help

When you get a divorce, you will eventually have to divide community assets between you and your spouse. If your spouse has an array of assets that you are on aware of, he or she could be getting much more than his or her fair share. If you have reason to believe that your spouse is attempting to hide assets from you, you need help from a knowledgeable and aggressive DuPage County community property attorney

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Investigating Business Fraud During Divorce NegotiationsYou should listen to your instincts in a divorce if your spouse’s reported business assets and income seem to not add up. You may not know all of the details about his or her business, but you know in general whether your family is doing well financially. Your spouse may be misreporting his or her business income or hiding assets. Business fraud is both illegal and detrimental to your financial interests in the divorce. Only a thorough investigation of your spouse’s business can determine whether your suspicions are true.

Examples of Fraud

Your spouse may use employee benefits to hide his or her income, such as deferred compensation and stock options. He or she may not tell you about a company expense account that will reimburse his or her expenditures. However, a spouse has more opportunities to commit fraud if he or she owns a business. Your spouse may mislead you about the value of the business by:

  • Not reporting or undervaluing business assets;
  • Taking on additional debts that will be repaid after the divorce;
  • Overpaying creditors with the intention of being reimbursed;
  • Understating the business’s total value or growth potential; or
  • Creating secret accounts or shell corporations for the purpose of hiding assets.

Motivation

The value of your spouse’s business interests helps determine the division of marital property, child support, and spousal maintenance. The business may be a marital property, giving you a right to partial ownership or equitable compensation for its value. The business is also a major component of your spouse’s income, which determines whether your spouse is responsible for support payments. Your spouse can gain a financial advantage in the divorce by misreporting the business’s value. However, he or she may be lying to you in order to hide other illicit activities:

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Does Cohabitation Before Marriage Lead to Divorce?Up until the 1990s, social researchers associated premarital cohabitation with higher rates of divorce. Both cohabitation and divorce were less socially accepted at the time, and conventional wisdom said that people who committed the taboo of cohabitation would be more willing to commit the taboo of divorce. Society’s views on cohabitation have softened in recent decades, and some divorce studies have concluded that cohabitation can decrease the likelihood of divorce. However, researchers lack a consensus on the effects of cohabitation before marriage.

Normalization

Cohabitation has become more common for younger couples because:

  • There is less stigma about premarital sex;
  • More people are waiting until they are older before they get married;
  • Some couples do not think marriage is important in their relationship; and
  • Living alone in urban areas is expensive.

A larger sample size makes it less likely that outliers will skew the final results. With cohabitation becoming more normal, the divorce rates for people who lived together before marriage should more closely resemble the average divorce rate.

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Why Fathers Can Be Less Happy, Healthy After DivorceStudies have shown that divorced fathers have higher rates of depression and suicide than divorced mothers. They are less likely to regularly seek medical attention and more likely to participate in risky behavior, such as substance abuse and unprotected sex. These facts should not dissuade fathers from ending a bad marriage, which also has a negative effect on their health and quality of life. They show that many fathers need to do more to preserve their happiness and health after their divorces.

Parental Rights

Fathers often feel discouraged or defeated after a divorce because they received fewer parental responsibilities than the mother. Though Illinois parenting laws are gender neutral, courts and divorcees have an unspoken presumption that the mother will be the children’s primary caregiver. Fathers feel frustrated that the divorce system is biased against them and does not equally value them as parents. You can have a better divorce experience as a father:

  • Do not simply concede a majority of the parental responsibilities if you believe you are an equally qualified parent;
  • Fight for as much parenting time and decision-making powers as you can receive, even if it is not a majority;
  • Make sure that your parenting schedule allows you to maximize your time with your children; and
  • Show the court and your wife that your responsibilities as a father are important to you and your children.

Support System

Men are generally less likely to seek help when they feel depressed and lonely. The male identity includes not showing signs of emotional weakness. Wives and children are often the only sources of emotional support that men feel comfortable opening up to. When both are gone, a father may respond to his negative emotions by becoming withdrawn and less concerned about his health. You can fight this response by:

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Extending Child Support for College ExpensesChild support payments in Illinois usually end after a child turns 18 or graduates from high school. However, a family court can order both parents to contribute toward a non-minor child’s post-high education. Paying for your child to attend college can cost tens-of-thousands of dollars each year, and getting your co-parent to help pay for it may be the best way to afford it. The court will not automatically award you child support to pay for college expenses. You must prove that the support payments are necessary, and your child student must meet certain conditions for the payments to continue.

Establishing Support

Child support payments were mandatory when your child was a minor. Now that your child is a legal adult, you have a burden of proof to show why your co-parent should continue making support payments. In reaching its decision, the court will consider:

  • Each parent’s financial resources;
  • How the parents’ divorce affected the child’s standard of living;
  • The child’s academic performance; and
  • The child’s own financial resources.

The court may want you to explore options that could save money on college before it awards support payments. This may include applying for financial aid or attending a more affordable college when given a choice of two schools that offer equal educational opportunities. 

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How Clinical Depression Affects Your Marriage and DivorcePeople commonly experience depression after a traumatic event, such as leaving a stressful marriage and getting a divorce. However, there is a distinction between trauma-related depression and clinical depression, which can be hereditary. Depression caused by trauma can gradually subside, though it may take months or years. Clinical depression, also known as major depression, likely existed before your divorce and may grow worse if left untreated. Research suggests that people with clinical depression are more likely to have conflict in their marriages, which may lead to divorce.

Recognizing Depression

Most people feel sad when they have bad experiences, but not everyone feels depressed. Clinical and trauma-related depression have similar symptoms that are greater than sadness, including:

  • Feeling hopeless;
  • Fatigue;
  • Irritability;
  • Insomnia;
  • Lack of concentration;
  • Change in appetite;
  • Losing interest in normal activities; and
  • Suicidal thoughts.

People with trauma-related depression can identify specific events that triggered their depression, which may help their treatment. Clinical depression may be related to someone’s brain chemistry and how his or her mind responds to stress. Negative experiences that some people consider to be minor may cause a more heightened reaction in people with clinical depression. A traumatic event such as divorce is almost certain to cause major depression in these people.

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Four Health Insurance Options After DivorceDivorce can have the unfortunate consequence of forcing you to find a new health insurance plan if you were previously on your spouse’s plan. You have several insurance options to choose from and should start shopping for one early in your divorce. The approval process can take weeks with some insurance providers. If you allow your insurance coverage to lapse, you risk having to pay out of pocket for an unexpected medical bill. However, you should also thoroughly research your options to find the best combination of benefits and affordability. Follow these four steps during your health insurance search:

  1. See If Your Employer Offers Insurance: An employer health insurance plan would likely provide you the cheapest and most comprehensive coverage. Getting a divorce immediately qualifies you to join an insurance plan, instead of waiting for an open enrollment period. However, a small business may not offer insurance, or the insurance plan may not have the benefits that you need.
  2. Ask Your Spouse About Staying on Plan: If you need to shop for a new insurance plan, ask your spouse if you can stay on his or her plan until your divorce is final. Your spouse can choose whether to keep you on or kick you off his or her plan while your divorce is ongoing. His or her response may depend on how contentious your divorce is.
  3. Apply for Continuing Insurance: You have 60 days after your divorce to contact your former spouse’s employer about remaining on the employee health insurance plan through COBRA. If you are approved, you can continue the coverage for as long as three years and with the same benefits as when you were married. However, COBRA insurance is your most expensive option because you will pay the entire cost of the group rate and a two percent administration fee.
  4. Shop for Individual Insurance: You can receive individual health insurance through the state exchange, the federal marketplace, or private insurers. As with COBRA, you have a 60-day special enrollment period after your divorce to apply. Through the shopping process, you can find insurance plans that you qualify for based on your income.

A Healthy Divorce

You must include the cost of paying for your own health insurance as part of your post-divorce budget. The extra expense may determine what compensation you need from your divorce. A Kane County divorce attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers will help you determine how your health insurance will affect your divorce. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611. 

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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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