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Disputes about child custody (known in Illinois as “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time”) are unpleasant affairs, whether they occur during a divorce or afterward when parents are trying to rewrite their parenting plan. Although parents are encouraged to come up with a parenting plan on their own, this is not always possible. Personal conflict and disagreements about essential values can make it very difficult to reach an agreement.

When this happens, a judge may become more involved in making decisions about child custody that can seem arbitrary or confusing to the parents. The judge is charged with finding the best interests of the child and then creating a parenting plan that reflects those interests. However, to the parent in the case, the decisions of the judge and his or her reasoning may not be clear. In this blog, we will discuss the factors an Illinois judge is required to consider when determining the best interests of the child.

Determining a Child’s Best Interests in Illinois Custody Cases

There are many different factors that a court takes into consideration when making decisions about a child’s best interests. Not every factor is relevant for every situation, but in general, these are the factors that can apply:

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Il divorce lawyerWhile divorce is typically not a pleasant experience, certain relationships involve a high amount of interpersonal conflict and when high-conflict couples get divorced, the process can become downright nasty. Of course, true abuse or neglect can and should influence the outcome of a divorce, but false accusations have the potential to do so as well. If you are worried your spouse might escalate to the level of accusing you of having hurt or neglected them or your children, you need the help of an experienced family lawyer right away.

How Should I React to Accusations of Abuse or Neglect?

It may appear patently obvious to you that your ex’s accusations are false, but a judge still needs to consider the accusations and weigh any evidence carefully. Therefore, it is in your best interests to be on your best behavior, no matter how outraged, hurt, or confused you may feel by the accusations being made against you.

Your attorney can counsel you throughout the divorce process to ensure you are acting in a way that does not plant the seeds of doubt as to your innocence. This includes:

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Posted on in Divorce

IL divorcer lawyerEven when the outcome is ultimately welcome, the process of getting divorced is exhausting more often than not. You and your spouse will need to divide your belongings, make tough decisions about your parenting plan for any minor children, reach a settlement on spousal support, and much more. Dealing with these challenges can be easier with the help of a support team.

One such supportive individual that you may want guiding you throughout your divorce is a divorce coach. Divorce coaches are becoming more popular and offer several advantages. Read on to learn more about divorce coaching, and then contact an Illinois divorce attorney who is willing to work with you to complete your divorce in a way that feels right to you.

What Does a Divorce Coach Do?

The role of a divorce coach is to act as a trained mental health professional who deeply understands the potential impact of divorce on individuals and works with them to mitigate divorce’s negative effects. A divorce coach could help a client with co-parenting issues, understanding their child’s reaction to divorce, and overcoming feelings of anger or resentment towards a partner who may have done more than their fair share to end the relationship.

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IL divorce lawyerAs a marriage begins to irretrievably break down, both spouses are usually aware that they are headed for divorce. One of the most common consequences of this knowledge is the gradual separation of each spouse’s income and belongings, especially if one spouse moves out or plans to move out. However, despite their best efforts at separating personal and marital property, spouses must still face the scrutiny of a judge’s approval when getting divorced.

Following Illinois law on property division when it comes to things like bonuses, stock options, performance incentives, etc., can be challenging - especially when spouses disagree about whether they should share this compensation. Read on to learn how bonuses are handled in Illinois divorces and then schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.

How Are Bonuses Handled in Illinois Divorces?

Under the law, marital assets and debts must be divided fairly. This does not necessarily mean equally, and spouses are free to propose or negotiate asset divisions that they both consider fair, although any proposal must be approved by a judge.

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DuPage County Divorce AttorneyDivorce is rarely simple or pleasant, but certain types of personalities tend to make the divorce process much more hostile. This can include personality disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, and even people who, while having no diagnosable issue, are just plain cruel or vindictive. 

Yet the divorce must go forward and for parents of young children, this means seeking a resolution to complex issues of parental responsibilities and parenting time. It can feel impossible to do this, but eventually, every divorce is concluded and every set of co-parents finds or is given a parenting agreement and you will get through yours, too.

Let Your Lawyer Protect You

While the divorce is ongoing, it is important to let your attorney manage issues with your spouse by communicating with your spouse’s attorney. If at all possible, avoid speaking with your spouse. You can request an interim parenting plan that dictates how parenting time will be shared and how children will be moved between households; doing so may be the best way to protect yourself and your child. If you must communicate with your spouse, do so only in writing so you can document any abuse or hostility. Depending on the levels of abuse, you may need to seek an Order of Protection that prohibits your spouse from contacting you or your child altogether. Each case is unique and your attorney can help you decide the best path forward.

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DuPage County Asset Division LawyerMany people put off initiating divorce because they worry about the impact divorce and living alone afterward could have on their finances. This makes sense - after all, life is rarely less expensive when you are managing a home on a single income. But staying in an unhappy or abusive marriage is often untenable, even when finances are a compelling factor in the decision-making process. If you are considering divorce and are wondering how the asset division process could impact your financial portfolio, especially your hard-earned retirement, contact an Illinois divorce attorney. 

What Happens to Retirement Accounts in Divorce? 

Retirement accounts are treated like any other part of the marital estate in a divorce. Illinois law requires marital assets to be divided fairly, although not necessarily equally, and this is true for retirement accounts as well. If you earned any portion of your retirement account before getting married, it is important to determine how much of the overall value of the account is made up of pre-marital funds. These are your personal property and will likely belong to you after the divorce, regardless of what happens with the remainder of the value of the account. 

Unless it was protected by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, however, any other money earned by either spouse and placed in a retirement account during the length of the marriage is considered marital property and will need to be divided. However, couples are free to create a property division agreement that they both find suitable. This means that, when taking other financial factors like spousal support (alimony), the marital home, or savings accounts into consideration, a spouse may be able to negotiate a greater portion of his retirement account for himself. 

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DuPage County Divorce LawyerVery few things in life are as challenging as managing a pregnancy. In addition to morning sickness, mobility difficulties, and the chronic discomfort of being able to smell everything around you in acute detail, a crumbling marital relationship can add a burden that feels too much to bear. Unfortunately, many women in Illinois find themselves in a situation where they urgently want or need to leave their relationship, despite being pregnant. If you are in this situation and are considering divorce, it is important to understand your options. 

Do I Need to Wait Before Filing for Divorce if I Am Pregnant? 

Illinois does not prevent a divorce from moving forward simply because a woman is pregnant. However, it is important to know that you will be expected to create a parenting plan with your soon-to-be ex that delineates how you and your ex will share decision-making responsibilities and parenting time (visitation). Sometimes, you will need to return to court to address these issues after your child is born. This is especially true if there is a question as to the child’s paternity. 

Will I Need to Prove Paternity? 

If your divorce is finalized before your child is born, or if the child is born within 300 days of your divorce or separation, your ex-husband will be legally presumed to be the child’s father. If he contests this, you may need to do a DNA test to prove your ex is the father. If your ex-husband is not the child’s father, you may need to pursue paternity proceedings against the man who is. An attorney can help you with all of this, and Illinois law is on your side. Whether he wants to be involved in the child’s life or not, a child’s father is responsible for providing financial support to the child. 

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DuPage County Divorce AttorneyWhile prenuptial agreements can be a wonderful source of constructive conversations before a marriage and a protective measure for both spouses before divorce, not everybody wants to write and sign a prenup. While there are good reasons for both having and not having a prenup, everybody feels differently about these legally-binding contracts, and the feeling that a prenup constrains a marriage in a way that feels overly financial or transactional is very common. 

Furthermore, a prenuptial agreement is often not simply the product of an engaged couple. The parents of one or both spouses may encourage the couple to sign a prenup, and some parents insist that a prenup be signed before doing important things like helping the couple pay for their wedding. Again, while the parental desire to have a prenup to protect an engaged child is understandable, the kind of pressure parents put on a couple may actually backfire by invalidating the agreement. To learn how a prenuptial agreement could be invalidated in Illinois, read on. 

When Parents Make a Wedding Conditional on a Prenuptial Agreement

Illinois law requires prenuptial agreements to favor both spouses fairly and to be signed without the influence of coercion or duress. While coercion and duress may look different to one person than another, courts will look for certain signs that indicate coercion may have been at play when the prenup was signed. These include, but are not limited to: 

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Wheaton, IL alimony lawyerAlimony, spousal support, and spousal maintenance are all terms that are used to describe money that one spouse pays to the other after a divorce or legal separation. In Illinois, spousal maintenance may be agreed upon by the spouses, or the court may order one spouse to pay maintenance to the other. If you are getting divorced, you may have questions about whether you will be required to pay alimony. The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the length of your marriage, the incomes of both spouses, and the contributions each spouse made to the marriage.

Negotiated Spousal Maintenance Settlements

Like other elements of a divorce, spouses may be able to negotiate the terms of spousal maintenance through a marital agreement or during their divorce. If the spouses had previously made an agreement regarding maintenance in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the court will typically uphold that agreement during divorce.

If the spouses do not have any previous agreements, they may be able to reach an agreement about the amount and duration of spousal maintenance during the divorce process.

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DuPage County, IL child relocation lawyerWhen parents divorce, there are many different child custody issues that can lead to conflicts and disagreements. One of the most emotional issues is that of relocation, or when one parent wants to move away with the children. If you and your spouse are having trouble agreeing on whether or not your ex should be allowed to move away with the kids, it’s important to understand what your rights are under Illinois law.

Illinois Parental Relocation Laws

In Illinois, if a parent moves a certain distance away, it may classify as a "relocation." All parental relocations must be approved by the court. If the parents agree to the relocation and the relocation is in the child's best interests, then the process of getting approved is relatively straightforward. However, the process is more complex if one parent contests, or disagrees with, the relocation.

The main question the court will consider when it comes to a proposed relocation is whether the relocation is in the child's best interests.  If the court decides that it is not in the child's best interests, the court can deny permission for the relocation. The court may consider a number of different factors when making this determination, including:

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DuPage County child support lawyerChild support payments are used to cover the cost of a child's housing, food, education, and other needs. However, if one parent is not truthful about his or her income, the child may not receive the full support they need. Illinois child support orders are calculated using the Income Shares method, which takes both parents' earnings into account. Parents who lie about how much money they make inevitably skew the calculations, resulting in an unfair child support arrangement.

Illinois Child Support Calculations

Prior to 2017, Illinois based a parent's child support obligation on the paying parent's income and how many children needed support. For example, if the paying parent (obligor) had two children, 28 percent of his or her income was earmarked for child support.

Recognizing the limitations of this method, Illinois switched to the Income Shares approach in July 2017. The new method seeks to more accurately reflect the amount of financial support a child would have if both parents were still together and sharing costs. Both of the parents' net incomes are added together and then the combined income is compared to the Income Shares schedule, which provides the basic support obligation (BSO). The BSO is the total amount of money that an average family would use to pay for child-related needs. The BSO is divided between the parents based on each parent’s percentage of the combined income. For example, If a father's earnings represent 70 percent of the parents' combined income, he pays 70 percent of the BSO.

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DuPage County prenuptial agreement lawyerPrenuptial agreements are rising in popularity. More and more couples are signing prenuptial agreements before they say "I do." Modern couples are realistic. Drafting a prenuptial agreement is not exactly romantic, but it is one of the most responsible decisions you could make before getting married. If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, here are five reasons to get one.

To Protect Your Assets

If you have significant assets, a prenuptial agreement can help protect them in the event of a divorce. When people get married, their finances inevitably become mixed. Any property or money that a spouse earns while they are married is added to the marital estate. If the couple divorces, any property contained in the marital estate is divided between the spouses. With a prenuptial agreement, you can keep your assets separate. This means that in the event of a divorce, your assets will not be considered part of the marital estate and will not be subject to division. You can also use a prenuptial agreement to protect inherited property or gifts from family members.

Some married couples prefer to keep their finances separate. Instead of mixing property and debts, they use a prenuptial agreement to classify their assets and debts as non-marital. This means that in the event of a divorce, each spouse will keep their own property and debts.

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DuPage County legal separation lawyerA legal separation does not end a marriage. However, it does allow spouses to make legally binding decisions about child custody, property division, and other issues typically decided on during a divorce. There are several reasons a married couple may choose to seek a legal separation rather than a divorce, including religious beliefs or personal preferences. In some cases, couples may also use legal separation as a way to test whether they want to end their marriage,

If your marriage is experiencing turmoil, make sure you understand the advantages and limitations of legal separation before making a decision.

Basics of Legal Separation in Illinois

When a couple gets divorced, they are no longer married in the eyes of the law. This means that they can remarry if they choose to do so. A legal separation does not end your marriage, but it does allow you to create a separation agreement - a document similar to a divorce decree. Your separation agreement may contain determinations regarding:

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DuPage County asset division lawyerAccording to the most recent estimates, there are approximately 5.5 million family businesses currently operating in the United States. Running a family business can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be a challenging one. If you and your spouse co-own a business together and are considering ending your marriage, there are some important things to keep in mind. You will need to plan your divorce carefully to protect your business interests and avoid any potential disputes down the road.

Valuing the Business is Often the First Step

If you and your spouse co-own a business, the first thing you need to do is determine how you will value the business for the purpose of property division. This can be a complex process, as businesses are often worth much more than their physical assets.  You will need to consider the value of the business's goodwill, any intellectual property it may have, and its current and future earning potential.

There are multiple ways to appraise a family business, including: 

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DuPage County divorce lawyerContested divorce cases often become contentious. Disputes may arise regarding the division of property and debt, the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, spousal maintenance, child support, and other issues. In some situations, depositions are used to gather information and evidence relevant to the disputed issues. If you are getting divorced, it is important for you to understand how and when depositions may be used in your case.

What is a Deposition?

Depositions are interviews that take place under oath. In a divorce deposition, each spouse and his or her respective attorney answer questions pertinent to the divorce case. Most depositions are conducted in person, but some take place over phone or video conferencing.

Spouses may be asked to answer questions such as:

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Wheaton, IL child support lawyerChild support obligations in Illinois are based on both parents’ net incomes. For many payers, or “obligors,” child support payments represent a major monthly expense. If someone is already making child support payments to an ex, he or she may worry about how he or she will afford additional child support payments. People in this situation are usually filled with questions. If a parent has children with multiple partners, does he or she pay child support to every partner? How much does he or she pay? These questions can cause great concern for both payers and recipients of child support in Illinois.

Read on to learn how Illinois courts handle child support when someone has multiple families and what you can do if you need help establishing, changing, or enforcing a child support order.

How is Child Support Usually Calculated?

As of July 1, 2017, Illinois uses the Income Shares formula to calculate child support. The parent with less parenting time is responsible for paying child support to the parent with more parenting time. The amount he or she pays is determined by a formula that uses both parents’ net incomes. The basic steps of the Income Shares calculation are as follows:

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Wheaton Adoption LawyerDeciding to adopt is a serious matter and can be complex depending on your situation. Adopting a child can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life! Since 2000, our team at Goosetree Law Group has helped families through the process of different types of adoption in Illinois, including co-parent adoption

What is Co-Parent Adoption?

Co-parent adoption is when one biological parent of a child agrees to let another person legally adopt the child. This type of adoption is most common in cases of third-party reproduction, in which a couple uses someone other than themselves to create and bring a child into the world. If one member of the couple is the biological parent but the other is not, they can use co-parent adoption to make the other person a legal parent as well. This is also a common scenario for same-sex couples and couples who use surrogacy or donor conception.

Co-parent adoption has a similar process as other Illinois adoptions. In order to adopt, the parent wishing to adopt must file a court petition and may have to make one or more appearances in court as well. The court will, in some cases, order a social worker to visit the family's home to ensure that the home is suitable for children. 

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Naperville Family Law AttorneyAll divorcing couples are required by law to fully and frankly disclose all of their assets (and income, expenses, and debt). Sadly, though, it appears that some individuals simply cannot resist the temptation to steal or lie in order to retain at least a piece of those riches for themselves.

If you suspect hidden assets in your divorce, you may want to work with an attorney experienced in forensic accounting

Red Flags for Hidden Assets

Financial red flags might be simple to identify. There is a long list of questionable actions your spouse might take, but here are a few:

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Naperville Family Law AttorneyWhen a divorcing spouse is a doctor, accountant, attorney, or another professional with a private practice, this can heavily influence the property division process during divorce. A professional practice is often considered a marital asset, which means it would be subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. However, there are certain special considerations that must be taken into account when dividing a professional practice. It is important to seek legal counsel early on in the divorce to determine how best to protect your interests.

Spouses May Both Have a Right to a Portion of the Professional Practice’s Value

If a professional practice is considered marital property, both spouses may have a right to the value of the professional practice. This is likely to occur if the practice was opened during the marriage or if the non-owning spouse contributed to the development and growth of the practice. 

Professional practices that are considered marital property must be assessed and divided during property division, just like any other asset. Ideally, the spouses can work out an agreement regarding the division of marital assets and debts and avoid a contentious court trial.  The spouse who owns the professional practice may need to compensate the other spouse for his or her share of the practice with other marital assets. If the spouses are unable to reach a property division settlement, the court will step in and make a decision about how to equitably divide marital proeprty. 

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Wheaton Family Law AttorneyIn July 2017, substantial changes to Illinois child support laws took effect. Instead of determining child support solely on the paying parent's income, child support determinations are now based on both parents' financial circumstances. The changes were made in an effort to make child support calculations more equitable.

Child support is usually calculated using the Income Shares formula.  The Income Shares model estimates the amount of money that would have been available to the child if the family had not been divided by divorce. This approach considers both parents' net incomes to determine a child support obligation. In some cases, however, a court may deviate from the typical calculation method. 

Deviating From the Income Shares Formula

Courts can deviate from the statutory child support formula if the court feels it is in the best interests of the child. In making a determination about whether to deviate from the Income Shares calculation method, courts will consider factors such as:

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