This National Spouse’s Day: Exploring Legal Separation

Although divorce doesn’t come to mind when celebrating National Spouse’s Day today, many Americans are now looking for ways to help fix their relationship without ending their marriage legally; including legal separation.

National Spouse’s Day is a chance to celebrate your spouse and show your better half that they are appreciated. Let’s admit it, sometimes married couples need reminders to leave the hamster wheel that is everyday life. January 26, however, can either be the remedy to all couples’ woes, or a sign to explore legal separation.

Here’s a look at legal separation and what it could mean for you depending on your personal situation.

What Is Legal Separation?

A divorce means the marriage is legally over. A legal separation is a court-ordered arrangement where a married couple lives apart, leading separate lives. A legal separation is a popular alternative to a divorce when the parties are unsure of the state of their marriage but want to establish boundaries on finances and responsibilities. Oftentimes this includes separation of assets, custody of dependents, and child support.

Although the reasons for seeking a legal separation vary, there are some common ones worth noting. Some religions prohibit married couples from divorcing and a legal separation grants most of the benefits of a divorce without compromising religious tenets. Also, those unsure of their marital future may opt for a legal separation, hoping for a reconciliation. 

When crafting a legal separation, both spouses should thoroughly address any issues about responsibilities, shared assets, or any other situation specific to the marriage that needs to be addressed. If the terms of the agreement are not clearly defined in the petition, the judge won’t be able to help you. Every petition for legal separation must include the following information:

  • The legal names of both spouses
  • The date and location of the marriage
  • The names of any children or dependents of the marriage
  • The proposed custody arrangement of the children
  • The dates and addresses where the couple began living apart
  • Any child support arrangement, as well as any other financial responsibilities to which both parties have agreed

Separation vs. Divorce vs. Annulment

Though a divorce marks the official end of a valid marriage, an annulment treats the marriage as if it had never happened. In other words, a judge grants an annulment indicating that the court does not recognize the arrangement as having been a legally valid marriage. There are a number of scenarios in which a person can request an annulment:

  • The marriage was a result of force, fraud, or physical or mental incapacity.
  • The marriage took place when one or both spouses were under the influence.
  • The marriage took place when one or both spouses were already married.

In most cases, the legal termination of a marriage will result in a divorce. Unlike a separation, a divorce is permanent. This means both spouses are free to remarry. However, depending on the state where the couple lived and how long the marriage lasted a divorce also means the termination of economic benefits such as shared insurance and assets. Ultimately, electing for a divorce over a legal separation is a personal choice.

Pros and Cons of a Legal Separation


Couples may choose to be legally separated rather than getting a divorce for various reasons. But before they make a decision, one must consider the pros and cons associated with separating legally and if it would be a better option than a trial separation or divorce.

Pros:

  • Divorce is a very final process. Even though a couple has determined that they can no longer live together as a couple, they may not be ready to go through a full divorce. They may wish to legally separate and get the distance they need to make the ultimate decision about divorcing with a clear head.
  • People elect to legally separate when they have religious or social objections to divorce. In such a scenario, separating legally allows the couple to not violate the religious beliefs and live separately.
  • Another reason people elect to legally separate is when they have religious or social objections to divorce. A legal separation allows the couple to live independently of each other without officially divorcing.
  • A few people might have the option to remain on their partner’s medical coverage plan in the event that they are legally separated rather than being divorced. There likewise might be other monetary advantages to separating legally over divorce.

Cons:

  • One of the biggest disadvantages to a legal separation is that you and your spouse remain married. If you want to remarry, you will not be able to do so unless you obtain a full divorce. However, if you decide to divorce, having a legal separation already in place can make the divorce process more efficient as you have already agreed on terms.
  • With similar legal requirements as a divorce, paperwork, litigation, and trial proceedings, separating legally can be as much taxing as a divorce.
  • If you ultimately do decide to divorce, getting a legal separation first can end up costing you more money. Because you must get a court order recognizing your legal separation, you will be subject to court fees. Before going through a legal separation, you should consider the likelihood of divorcing down the road and whether or not a legal separation is more beneficial to you than a full divorce.

Final Thoughts

Like Illinois, most states allow legal separations—the exceptions are Florida, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The length of the separation process can vary depending on the state and the complexity of the agreement, but the process typically takes around six months to a year. You can begin a legal separation by contacting your family law attorneys at Masters Law Group, or by filing a petition with the Circuit Court Clerk of the appropriate county. For a list of circuit courts, view the Illinois Courts website.

If you are considering a legal separation, you should consult with your lawyer to make sure it is the best decision for you. Every case is different, and your attorney can use their experience to help guide you in making this important decision. At Masters Law Group, our team of attorneys are experienced in handling Legal Separation, and Divorce Cases.

Overall, if you’re exploring legal separation it’s always best to consult an established family law attorney for a clear understanding of what your options are. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Determination of Parentage Under Illinois Law

What is parentage? Why is establishing parentage important? What is the process of establishing parentage or paternity? Find the answers to all your Illinois-paternity questions here. 

In parentage cases, also known as “paternity cases,” the court makes orders that say who the child’s legal parents are. If parents are married when a child is born, the law assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother, so paternity is automatically established in most cases. But for unmarried parents, the parentage of their children needs to be established legally.

Only after paternity is established, allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time and child support can then be set forth via a Final Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Judgment. While this topic can be very emotional to deal with, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about  Determination of Parentage in the state of Illinois.

Causes of Action Related to Paternity in Illinois

There are several causes of action in Illinois related to paternity, including establishing paternity by consent of the parents, contested paternity suits and suits to establish the non-existence of a father-child relationship. ‍All of these causes are governed by the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 which deals with issues revolving around children born out of wedlock. In Illinois, certain forms must be presented to non-married parents at the hospital upon the birth of a child, which allow the parents to establish paternity by mutual consent. The forms look like the following:

  • An agreed order to establish paternity by consent, and reserve issues of child support until a later date.
  • A verified petition to declare paternity.

‍If the parents are in agreement regarding paternity, they can deliver these forms to the clerk of court, whereupon the judge will enter the agreed order establishing paternity. ‍If there’s a presumed father other than the father signing these forms, the parents must obtain his signature as well. The Illinois Parentage Act states that a man is the presumed father of the child if any of the following statements are true:

  • He is married to the mother, or in a civil union or substantially similar relationship when the child is born.
  • He was married or in a civil union with the mother, but the marriage was terminated within 300 days prior to the birth of the child.
  • He married or entered into a civil union with the mother after the child’s birth, and he is listed as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate. 
  • The child was born during or within 300 days of an invalid marriage or civil union into which he and the mother entered in apparent compliance with the law.

Presumptions of Paternity Explained

The petitioner in a paternity action unfortunately bears the burden of proving paternity or absence of paternity by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the allegations in the petition are more than likely not to be true. When there is a “presumed father,” the presumption must be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, a higher standard of proof than preponderance of the evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is also required if paternity is sought after the death of a parent in order to determine heirship. 

‍A presumption of paternity arising from a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity becomes conclusive if the acknowledgment is not rescinded either within 60 days from signing the voluntary acknowledgement or the date that the paternity suit is initiated, whichever occurs first.  If the presumption becomes conclusive, paternity can only be challenged by the presumed father in the case of fraud, duress, or a mistake of material fact. 

DNA Tests in Illinois Paternity Cases

The court as well as any party involved in a paternity action can request a DNA test. If the party from whom DNA testing is requested refuses to submit to the test, the court will likely decide the case against them.‍ The court will appoint an expert to perform the DNA test. It’s important to note that each party involved has the option to hire an independent expert in addition to the court-appointed expert to perform tests or to testify regarding the court-appointed expert’s credentials.  

If the experts agree that the alleged father is not the natural father the case will be dismissed.  If the experts disagree, the court will weigh the experts’ separate testimony along with other evidence.  

Illinois Paternity Situations & Cases

In a paternity action, child support is treated as in a divorce case with two exceptions. Unlike child support in a dissolution case, if the suit was brought within two years of the birth of the child, the court has discretion to award reasonable expenses related to the mother’s pregnancy. Retroactive child support is also treated differently in a paternity case. 

In a dissolution case, child support may be awarded in certain limited circumstances.  However, in a paternity case, the court may award child support retroactive to the child’s birth, based on the following factors:

  1. The father’s knowledge of the circumstances of the child’s birth.
  2. The father’s previous willingness to help support the child.
  3. The extent to which the father was previously informed of the child’s needs and to which his help was sought in supporting or raising the child.
  4. The reasons that the mother did not file the parentage action sooner. 
  5. The extent to which the father was prejudiced by the mother’s delay in bringing suit.  

The difference between child support in a paternity case versus a dissolution case is, in a dissolution case, the couple was previously married and the father was contributing to the care of the child during the marriage. 

Final Thoughts 

If you find yourself in a paternity battle, and are in need of legal counsel, Masters Law Group can help. Hiring an attorney highly experienced in family law will help you understand your legal options and create a plan for what comes next. 

Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. We help clients put aside their grief and educate them about their options in Parentage as well as Child Support modifications. If you need help with a parentage  case in Illinois, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Illinois Divorce Q&A

Are you considering a divorce? Throughout this tough time in your life you might have a hard time figuring out where to start or have many questions that need answers. For anyone seeking a divorce it’s important to have a lawyer who has your best interests in mind. Here are a couple of the most important and frequently asked questions when it comes to considering a divorce.

Divorce law is complicated so, if you are considering getting a divorce from your spouse you may have questions about what it involves and how to proceed etc. In this article, our experienced Illinois-based Divorce and Family Law attorneys cover the top most common divorce questions and answers.  Let’s dive right in…

Q: Is Illinois a 50/50 State for Divorce?

A: Unlike other states that divide the marital estate exactly in half, Illinois instead considers a variety of factors to determine an asset division arrangement that is fair and reasonable on both ends. Unfortunately, Illinois is not a 50/50 state for divorce. This means that the court weighs a number of factors to determine how to fairly divide property rather than dividing property 50/50. These factors include each spouse’s contribution to acquiring the property, the value of the property, the duration of the marriage, and which party has more responsibility for any children of the marriage. 

Q: Do Both Parties Have to Agree To Get A Divorce?

A: Both parties do not have to agree to get a divorce. A divorce can be filed by either party by filing a divorce petition along with a summons with the clerk of court and having it personally served upon the other party. Although both parties do not have to agree to get a divorce, both parties do have to agree to waive the 6-month waiting period of living separate and apart prior to a divorce as discussed above.

Q: Can You Be Denied A Divorce In Illinois?

A: In Illinois, you cannot be denied a divorce. Some states have many grounds for divorce and may deny a divorce if you fail to prove the grounds that you allege in your divorce petition, such as adultery or habitual drunkenness. Prior to 2016, Illinois operated this way as well. However, since 2016, the only ground for divorce in Illinois is irreconcilable differences. 

This means that the only reason that your divorce would be denied would be because you failed to follow the court’s procedural requirements or because you did not meet certain prerequisites, such as the six-month waiting period. Even if your case was dismissed or delayed based on these grounds, with the help of an attorney, you would eventually be able to receive a divorce order.   

Q: How Can You Get a Divorce if Your Spouse Won’t Sign?

A: When one spouse challenges whether the couple should get a divorce or any other reason, you have a divorce dispute. This is referred to as a contested divorce and can take more than 18 months to be resolved. An uncontested divorce (referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” in the state of Illinois) means that both parties agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:

  • Dividing marital property.
  • Child custody and parenting time schedule.
  • Dividing marital debts.
  • Child support and medical insurance coverage for any minor children.
  • Spousal support (also called “alimony”).
  • Custody of pets.

Uncontested divorce is a great way to speed up the divorce process and make it less expensive. If both parties do not agree to the issues involved in the divorce, or even to the idea of getting divorced, this will not prevent you from receiving your divorce order.  

Q: How Can I Get a Quick Divorce in Illinois?

A: Divorces usually tend to be drawn out, especially when the parties cannot agree on how to handle issues such as child support, allocation of parenting time and responsibility, spousal maintenance, and division of assets and debts.  

However, if the parties can agree on the issues mentioned above, this is called an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties and their attorneys draft written agreements at the outset. These are known as Marital Settlement Agreements and Joint Parenting Agreements. Uncontested divorces can be resolved with one court appearance and can be finished as quickly as a month.  

Q: How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Illinois?


Those living in Illinois and thinking about divorce might be like many Americans in the current uncertain financial climate. In Illinois, there are no set costs for the divorce. There are, however, set costs for filing the paperwork with the court where you live.  If you are a couple who have been married a short period and have separated for at least 6 months, a divorce should be relatively easy – therefore more inexpensive – even if you hire an attorney. If you are married with children, have joint assets like retirement accounts, investments or own a home/business together, you may think it is easier to hire attorneys and let them work out the details.

Final Thoughts

While there are many questions and valid concerns that come with divorce, the divorce process itself does not have to be difficult, and you don’t have to go it alone. However, divorce is an investment with substantial risks.

Divorce cases involving considerable assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge. Masters Law Group is skilled at identifying and valuing assets and wealth, including real estate, securities, business interests, retirement funds, pension plans, tax shelters (domestic and foreign), overseas accounts, stock options, trusts and other actual or potential sources of wealth.

Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

If you are contemplating filing for divorce or learn that a spouse recently filed, Masters Law Group’s team of experienced attorneys can answer any questions you may have throughout this process.

For more information on the divorce process in Illinois, contact us here today.

 

Can I Protect my Kids From Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse, which is sometimes called psychological abuse, is a pattern of behavior that damages a child’s sense of self worth and negatively impacts their emotional development. Here’s what you can do if you suspect your child is suffering at the hands of a family member.

The holiday season is not the most wonderful time of the year for so many people and families. But for many around the world, it’s a challenging time where family law issues are temporarily swept under the carpet to be dealt with at a later date. Perhaps you have waited to file a divorce or find protective orders until the holidays are over? But when it comes to the wellbeing of your child, you need to take action now. 

Here is everything you need to know about emotional child abuse and how you can take action to protect yourself and your children. 

What is Emotional Abuse?

If you hear a story about abuse of children, specifically when it comes to physical or sexual abuse by parents, it seems inconcievable and anger is most likely your response. You could never imagine what parents could do this to their child, or that this would ever happen in your own home. However, not all signs of abuse are physical. What if parental abuse comes in a different less visible form? What if no one is physically hurt, but there is parental emotional abuse through words and actions? 

The definition of emotional abuse, otherwise known as psychological abuse, is a pattern of behavior that damages a child’s sense of self worth and negatively impacts their emotional development.

Love and support is withheld, and oftentimes the person emotionally abusing the child also may reject, threaten, criticize, demean, and purposefully agitate the child. Abusers may also humiliate the child, participate in name-calling towards the child, and insult the child regularly. Although an emotionally abused child might not end up in the hospital with a broken bone or a concussion, the effects of emotional abuse can be damaging and long-lasting. In 2017, 2.3% of children in the United States experienced psychological or emotional maltreatment according to a report prepared by the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. However, this estimate is likely low because emotional abuse can be harder to detect than other forms of child abuse and typically takes place in the confines of a child’s home. 

Emotional abuse can be found in conjunction with physical or sexual abuse, and it is also one of the most difficult forms of abuse to recognize. Abuse in all forms is largely due to the need of power and control by the abuser, and emotional abuse is no different. In these abusive environments, the culprit manipulates and controls the child by using words and actions that are emotionally hurtful and damaging.

Identifying Emotional Abuse in Children

Emotional abuse experienced by a child may show certain behaviors that can be telling signs which you should watch out for. This would include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low performance in school
  • Loss of interest in social activities or other interests
  • Avoiding activities involving family bonding
  • Attempts to avoid certain situations (such as going to an activity or another person’s house)
  • Stunted development of emotions
  • Desire to self harm or inflict harm on others
  • Desperately seeking affection and attention from other adults
  • Regression of childhood development (a common example of this is bed wetting after previously mastering bladder and bowel control)
  • Complaining of stomach aches or other bodily symptoms with no known cause

While this behavior does not directly equate to a child experiencing psychological abuse, one or several of these behavioral symptoms can be a sign that there is protection needed for your child. Any signs of this behavior in children could be grounds for requesting an Order of Protection due to harassment or willful deprivation. 

Emotional Abuse Treatment

In the past, emotional and psychological abuse were not readily recognized in the eyes of the law. In today’s times, emotional abuse is often considered a major factor in family law cases and is reviewed closely in child abuse matters. In cases involving certain offenses, an individual should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced family law attorney in your area, who can assist with reporting emotional abuse or protection for themselves or loved ones.

Priority number one is always to ensure the safety of the child, of course. If your child is being emotionally abused, there are several steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of the situation at hand prior to legal help. The perpetrator of the abuse may need to go through treatment for their behavior, especially if the abuser is a parent of the child. Treatment can come in several different forms, which could include parenting classes, therapy individually or as a family, and even social services can be involved.

In addition to treatment for the abuser, the child experiencing the abuse will also most likely require medical attention. Those receiving the abuse and the repercussions may also benefit from therapy, either individually or with their family. Once they have the opportunity to process the emotional trauma, they are also aware of healthy coping mechanisms and how to resolve conflict in a healthier way.

If the abuse can’t be treated from these standpoints, and it needs to be escalated to legal assistance, Masters Law Group is here to help you with divorce consultation or an issuance of Order of Protection in the state of Illinois.

Emotional Abuse Protection

If you’re a parent and think your child is being emotionally abused by someone else—such as an ex, a teacher, a pastor, or coach—take steps to intervene.

Encourage the child in your life to contact the Child Helpline if they need some extra support to cope with what has been happening. They may find talking to somebody outside of the situation helpful. You could also try calling the National Parent Helpline in your state to discuss your concerns.

While all forms of abuse can feel like a never-ending hopeless situation, Masters Law Group is here to help you see a light at the end of the tunnel. We provide an array of family law services including Orders of Protection and divorce services for our clients. Our highly experienced family law attorneys offer skillful legal representation that will guide you through to safety for your children and yourself.

Get in touch with us here today to discuss and execute the best plan of action for you and your family.