Navigating Civil Unions During Pride Month

June is known worldwide as Pride Month, a time when the LGBTQ+ community and its allies come together to advocate for a more inclusive future. As we celebrate Pride Month, we must recognize civil unions’ role in providing legal protection for same-sex couples.

Illinois became the first state to legalize civil unions on June 1, 2011. For many same-sex couples, civil unions represent the legal acknowledgment of their relationship, offering rights and responsibilities similar to those of marriage. However, navigating the legal complexities of civil unions can be challenging, especially in jurisdictions where LGBTQ+ rights are still evolving. In this blog, we will explore civil unions, dissolutions, and how a family law attorney can help. Here’s what you should know.

What Is A Civil Union?

Civil unions allow two adults of the same or opposite sex to enter a legally recognized relationship. Contrary to a common misconception, civil unions are not exclusive to same-sex couples. Same-sex and opposite-sex couples can enter into a civil union in Illinois. Partners entering a civil union are entitled to the same legal obligations, protections, and benefits that state law provides to married spouses, including:

  • Property rights.
  • Healthcare decisions.
  • Inheritance rights.
  • Access to family-related legal protections.

Civil unions help ensure that couples receive equal treatment and recognition under state law. Understanding the distinction between state and federal recognition is vital for couples considering a civil union. However, if you have entered a civil union with your partner but have decided to move on, you will need a civil union dissolution.

Understanding Civil Union Dissolution

In Illinois, the process of dissolving a civil union follows similar procedures to that of a traditional divorce. A party to a civil union may petition the Court to dissolve the civil union just as with the Dissolution of Marriage. You must draft a Petition to Dissolve a Civil Union alleging similar facts as in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and follow similar procedures below. Here is a closer look at the dissolution process and what a family law attorney can guide you through:

  1. File a Petition to Dissolve a Civil Union with the county circuit court clerk where it was granted.
  2. Provide the respondent with a copy of the petition and a summons, notifying them of the dissolution proceedings.
  3. Attempt to reach a settlement agreement through negotiation or mediation outside of Court.
  4. The case may proceed to trial if no settlement is reached or there are contested issues.
  5. The Court will issue a final judgment of dissolution.
  6. After dissolution, obtain a certified copy of the Dissolution of Civil Union records from the county circuit court clerk for legal documentation.

Consulting with a divorce attorney experienced in civil union law can help ensure that the process proceeds smoothly and that your rights are protected.

The Role of a Family Law Attorney

Establishing or dissolving a civil union can create unique challenges and legal complexities. At Masters Law Group, our attorneys provide professional legal representation for civil unions. Our attorneys have dedicated years and resources to understanding and fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. To showcase our experience, here are a few ways we can help:

  • Experienced Mediators: Erin E. Masters is approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. The firm’s mediation counselors have extensive experience in family law and are skilled in facilitating productive discussions between divorcing spouses.
  • Experienced Litigators: Our attorneys meticulously prepare legal arguments, gather evidence, and strategically plan to help secure your most favorable outcome.
  • Conflict Resolution: Our divorce attorneys are well-rounded in conflict resolution. We focus on finding peaceful solutions for all parties involved, including their children.
  • Protecting Your Interests: Masters Law Group attorneys work to protect your legal rights and the best interests of you and your children.

LGBTQ+ individuals can benefit from accessing diverse community resources tailored to their needs, complementing the assistance a family law attorney provides. These resources offer emotional support, legal guidance, and connections within the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ Community Resources

Chicago, Illinois, boasts a vibrant LGBTQ+ community with numerous resources dedicated to supporting individuals in civil unions. The Center on Halsted is a comprehensive LGBTQ+ community center offering various services, including legal clinics, counseling, and support groups.

The Howard Brown Health Center also provides LGBTQ+-affirming healthcare services, including primary care, mental health services, and special programs for transgender and non-binary individuals. 

The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance focuses on creating safe and inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ youth in schools through advocacy and education. These organizations are vital in providing support, resources, and community connections for individuals in civil unions.

Celebrating Pride Month With Masters Law Group

As we celebrate Pride Month, it’s essential to recognize the ongoing struggles of same-sex couples. Seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney can help individuals navigate civil unions successfully.

At Masters Law Group, we provide professional and individualized legal representation for various family law concerns, including civil unions. Our firm has dedicated considerable time to becoming knowledgeable and up-to-date in this new area of family law. Whether you want to form a civil union or need a civil union dissolution, we will take the time to fully understand your situation and provide honest advice regarding your options.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Divorce vs. Mediation – Which Path is Right for You?

When deciding how to handle a divorce, it’s important to consider the benefits of traditional divorce versus mediation. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks, so understanding the differences is key to making the right choice for you and your family. 

Divorce can be emotionally challenging no matter where you are in life. Masters Law Group, based in DuPage County, Illinois, with offices in downtown Chicago, is committed to helping couples navigate these tough decisions and offers a comprehensive approach to divorce resolution. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Divorce

Divorce involves each party retaining their attorney to represent their interests in court. This process can be adversarial, with a judge often making negotiations and decisions if the parties cannot agree. There are three major types of divorce: contested, uncontested, and civil union. 

Contested divorce occurs when there are contentions between spouses and requires numerous steps. An uncontested divorce occurs when there is agreement on all aspects of the divorce. Civil union divorce follows similar divorce processes, but the couple leaves the state where they were granted civil union. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of divorce.

Divorce Litigation Pros:

  1. Legal Advocacy: Each spouse has dedicated legal representation to navigate the complexities of divorce laws and procedures.
  2. Court Intervention: A judge can resolve disputes when the couple cannot reach agreements on their own.
  3. Protection in High-Conflict Situations: In high-conflict cases, where emotions run extremely high or concerns about safety and abuse arise, litigation may provide a more structured and protective environment. Court orders can include provisions for restraining orders, protective orders, and supervised visitation to help ensure the safety of all parties involved.

Divorce Litigation Cons:

  1. Longer Resolution Process: Laws vary by state, and the process begins with how long one has lived in the state before filing for a divorce. The process can vary depending on the type of divorce. Contested divorces usually take over a year to finalize—although divorces can be completed in as little as three months.
  2. Impact on Children: The contentious nature of traditional divorce can have a negative impact on the children involved, potentially leading to increased stress and emotional difficulties.
  3. Lengthy Resolution of Disputes: Divorce can take longer to resolve disputes over issues like property division or allocation of parental responsibilities, further prolonging the overall process.

Understanding Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation involves a neutral third-party mediator facilitating discussions between the spouses to reach mutually acceptable agreements. Unlike judges, a mediator cannot decide for you or your spouse. Their job is to keep you and your spouse focused on your needs and interests instead of faults.

When a couple begins divorce mediation, they choose the mediator in advance, or the court may appoint one. Both spouses provide documentation to support their viewpoints regarding disputed issues, while the mediator works with both sides to find a resolution. The mediator’s job is to reach an agreement between the two parties. Here are the pros and cons of divorce mediation.

Divorce Mediation Pros:

  1. Faster Resolution: Mediation often leads to a quicker resolution than a court-based divorce. Mediation sessions can be scheduled at the convenience of the parties involved, and they can work at their own pace, leading to a faster outcome.
  2. Reduced Conflict: Mediation often helps couples improve their communication skills and learn effective ways to resolve conflicts, which can lead to the resolution of family disputes.
  3. Reduced Post-Divorce Disputes: Because mediated agreements are reached through mutual understanding and cooperation, there may be fewer post-divorce disputes and a higher likelihood of compliance with the agreed-upon terms.

Divorce Mediation Cons:

  1. Voluntary Participation: Both parties must be willing to engage in meaningful negotiations for mediation to be successful.
  2. Potential Inequity: Without legal representation, one spouse may feel disadvantaged in negotiating legal and financial matters.
  3. Not Suitable for All Cases: Mediation may not be appropriate for high-conflict divorces or situations involving domestic abuse or significant power imbalances.

How a DuPage Divorce Attorney Can Help

Whether you choose traditional divorce or mediation, consulting with a skilled DuPage divorce attorney is crucial to protect your rights and interests. Masters Law Group’s divorce and mediation attorneys are fully prepared to advocate for you and your family. Here’s how our attorneys can help you:

  • Experienced Mediators: Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. The firm’s mediation counselors have extensive experience in family law and are skilled in facilitating productive discussions between divorcing spouses.
  • Experienced Litigators: A skilled litigator has the experience to present your case effectively before the judge. They meticulously prepare legal arguments, gather evidence, and strategically plan to help secure your most favorable outcome.
  • Conflict Resolution: They are professionals in conflict resolution, focusing on finding peaceful solutions for both parties and their children.
  • Protecting Your Interests: Masters Law Group attorneys work to protect your legal rights and the best interests of you and your children.

Our senior attorneys, Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph, are highly esteemed professionals recognized by prestigious publications, including Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and Leading Lawyers. This highly esteemed recognition provides you with trustworthy guidance during your divorce process.

Moving Forward With Confidence

Divorce is a difficult journey, but couples in DuPage County and across Illinois can access professional help to make the process smoother for everyone involved. Masters Law Group offers guidance on divorce and mediation, helping you find the best path forward for you and your family. We aim to help you achieve a resolution, allowing everyone to move onwards with peace of mind.

Contact us today to set up your complimentary consultation.

National Pet Day: Understanding Pet Custody Laws in Illinois

Navigating pet custody during divorce can be intricate, especially when our beloved pets are deeply intertwined with our family dynamics. As we celebrate National Pet Day on April 11th, it serves as a poignant reminder of the unique connection we share with our furry friends. Nevertheless, divorce often stirs intense emotions, further complicating an already delicate circumstance.

As attitudes toward pets evolve, so do the laws governing their custody in divorce cases. In Illinois, courts recognize the profound significance of pets in family life and consider their well-being when determining custody arrangements. Navigating these legal intricacies can be daunting, which is why seeking the guidance of a compassionate divorce attorney can be essential.

Join us as we explore the evolving landscape of pet custody in Illinois and how a divorce attorney can be crucial for protecting the best interests of your beloved furry companions.

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF PET CUSTODY

Traditionally, pets were treated as personal property in divorce proceedings, subject to division, and other assets such as cars and furniture. However, many pet owners found this approach inadequate, as it needed to consider the emotional bond between humans and their animal companions.

71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted pets. In one study of families under investigation for suspected child abuse, researchers found that pet abuse had occurred in 88% of the families under supervision for physical abuse of their children.

Recognizing this, several states, including Illinois, have adopted laws that allow courts to consider the pet’s best interests when determining pet custody arrangements. While pets are still technically considered property under the law, judges now have the discretion to award custody based on factors such as who primarily cares for the pet, who can provide a stable living environment, and the relationship between the pet and each spouse.

UNDERSTANDING PET CUSTODY IN ILLINOIS

Pet custody is a significant consideration in Illinois divorce cases. When spouses cannot agree, the court decides based on various factors. Unlike parental responsibilities, no strict guidelines lead to varied outcomes. Disputes over pets like dogs and cats are common in divorces. 

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act addresses custody-like provisions for family pets, also known as ‘companion animals.’ These pets are treated as marital assets. However, it’s essential to note that not all pets fall under this category. The specific provisions may not cover pets such as reptiles, birds, or small mammals for companion animals. Ownership may be determined based on general property division principles rather than considering the pet’s well-being.

Factors determining pet ownership include:

  • Who adopted the pet.
  • Day-to-day caregiving.
  • Each spouse’s ability to care for the pet.
  • Any emotional attachments to the pet.
  • Any ownership agreements for the pet.

The owner retains sole ownership if the court deems the pet a non-marital asset. If it’s a marital asset, ownership is allocated based on the pet’s well-being. It’s important to note that while courts may consider the pet’s best interests, their primary concern is still the parties’ welfare. Fortunately, Illinois law recognizes that pets hold a special place in families and takes their well-being seriously when determining ownership during divorce proceedings.

HOW DOES THE COURT CONSIDER THE “WELL-BEING” OF THE PET?

It’s worth noting that, unlike the allocation of parental responsibilities, pet custody in Illinois is not based on the pet’s “best interests.” Suppose one spouse can demonstrate that they have been mainly responsible for the daily care and well-being of the pet, including feeding, grooming, and providing medical care. In that case, the court is more likely to award ownership to that spouse.

If you want to retain ownership of your pet after a divorce, it’s important to have evidence that shows your involvement in the pet’s life. This can include photographs and receipts for pet-related expenses such as veterinary bills. These documents show the court your commitment to caring for the pet and the bond you share with them.

It’s important to note that courts may consider parental responsibilities and parenting time when determining pet ownership during a divorce. Children often share a strong bond with family pets, and a spouse can argue that most parenting time could be affected. If spouses can’t agree on pet ownership, they may need to go to court to have a judge decide. Couples can mediate pet disputes when a divorce case doesn’t go to court. Regardless of the approach chosen, finding a solution that suits one’s specific circumstances is critical.

HOW A DIVORCE ATTORNEY CAN HELP

Navigating pet custody issues in divorce cases can be emotionally charged and legally complex. A divorce attorney can provide valuable assistance in protecting your pet’s rights. At Masters Law Group, you can confidently navigate the complexities of divorce and reduce stress. Your rights and the well-being of your family are our top priorities. Here are some ways our divorce attorneys can help:

  1. Negotiation and Mediation: Pet custody disputes can be resolved through negotiation or mediation outside of court. Your attorney can help advocate during these discussions to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that prioritizes your pet’s well-being.
  2. Court Representation: A skilled attorney is essential if negotiations fail and your case proceeds to court. Your attorney will present evidence and arguments to support your position, helping increase your chances of a favorable outcome in the judge’s eyes.
  3. Gathering Evidence: Your divorce attorney can assist you in gathering evidence to support your claim to pet ownership. This may include documentation of your involvement in the pet’s care, such as veterinary records, receipts for pet-related expenses, and witness statements attesting to your relationship with the pet.
  4. Addressing Parenting Time Concerns: If children are involved, a divorce attorney can help address concerns about how pet custody arrangements may impact parenting time. They can work to find solutions that prioritize both the children’s and the pet’s well-being.
  5. Emotional Support: A divorce involving pet custody can be emotionally challenging. Your attorney can provide compassionate support and guidance throughout the process, helping you navigate the difficult decisions and emotions.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Pets are uniquely positioned in divorce proceedings, representing shared property and emotional connections between spouses. Navigating the complexities of determining their custody and care can be challenging and emotionally charged. That’s why it’s crucial to have strong legal representation to assert your rights regarding pet ownership in an Illinois divorce.

If you’re contemplating divorce, mediation, or separation and have concerns regarding your pets, our attorneys are here to help. Contact us today to set up your complimentary consultation.

DuPage Divorce Mediation

The emotional turbulence of divorce and navigating the legal intricacies can seem daunting and overwhelming. However, in DuPage County, Illinois, there’s a pathway that offers a more amicable and efficient resolution: divorce mediation.

With the United States ranking third globally in divorce rates, at 2.4 divorces per 1,000 people, the need for effective resolution methods is more pressing than ever. In this blog, we’ll explore mediation and how a DuPage divorce lawyer can help you with the process. Here’s what to expect when pursuing this alternative method of resolution.

What Is Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that involves a neutral third party who facilitates communication between the parties to help them reach a mutually beneficial solution. Unlike a judge, the mediator does not make decisions for the parties; instead, they help them reach their agreement.

Mediation typically begins with both parties meeting with their mediator to discuss the issues at hand. The mediator then facilitates communication between the parties, helping them identify and address their concerns. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator drafts a written contract that both parties can sign.

In some cases, mediation may not be successful; especially surrounding domestic violence or substance abuse.  For those who have a more “black and white” separation vision, mediation helps the parties better understand each other’s positions and concerns, making future negotiations more straightforward. 

When Can You Use Mediation in DuPage?

In DuPage County, mediation can be used at any stage of the divorce process, whether before filing for divorce or during litigation. It’s particularly encouraged when couples wish to maintain a cooperative relationship and have more control over the outcome of their divorce.

Mediation offers a more private, confidential, and intimate setting, which can help to alleviate some of the stress associated with divorce. Parties can work together to resolve their issues in a safe environment without the added pressure of a courtroom setting. These agreements are typically confidential, meaning the dispute and resolution details are kept private. It can help protect the parties’ privacy and avoid potential negative publicity from a public trial.

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

Before diving into mediation, some groundwork is necessary. Start by gathering all pertinent information and documents related to the disputes in your divorce. For instance, if there’s contention over whether certain assets are marital or separate property, assemble the relevant financial records. 

Certain mediators may request this information as part of the initial intake process. Here’s how the process typically unfolds:

  • Choosing a Mediator: Couples typically select a mediator together, helping ensure they feel comfortable with the individual facilitating their discussions.
  • Initial Meeting: The mediator meets with both spouses to discuss the process, set ground rules, and identify the issues that must be resolved.
  • Negotiation Sessions: Over several sessions, the spouses, along with their attorneys if they choose to have legal representation, engage in discussions facilitated by the mediator. The goal is to reach mutually agreeable solutions on all aspects of the divorce.
  • Drafting the Agreement: Once agreements are reached, the mediator assists in drafting a legally binding agreement that reflects the decisions made by the couple.

What If You Don’t Reach an Agreement in Mediation?

While mediation aims to find common ground and reach agreements on all issues, it’s not uncommon for certain matters to remain unresolved. In such cases, couples have several options:

  • Continue Mediation: If only a few sticking points prevent a full agreement, couples can choose to continue mediation sessions to work through these remaining issues.
  • Seek Alternative Dispute Resolution: If mediation proves unsuccessful, couples may explore forms of alternative dispute resolution, such as arbitration or collaborative law. These methods offer different approaches to resolving conflicts outside of traditional litigation.
  • Litigation: Couples may resort to litigation for those specific matters when mediation fails to produce a comprehensive agreement. This involves presenting unresolved issues to a judge, who will then make decisions on behalf of the couple.

It’s worth noting that even partial agreements reached through mediation can still offer benefits. Resolving some issues through mediation can help streamline the litigation process, reducing the time and costs associated with court proceedings. Working with a DuPage divorce attorney can help you find the right solution based on your needs and goals.

Finalizing a Mediated Dissolution In DuPage County

Once the mediated agreement is drafted, it must be reviewed and approved by each spouse’s respective attorney before being submitted to the court for final approval. Upon approval, the mediated agreement becomes a court order, legally binding to both parties. 

Having a trustworthy divorce attorney by your side can help ensure a smooth transition. Our team of experienced divorce mediation attorneys is fully prepared to advocate for you and your family.

Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph have consistently earned recognition from esteemed publications year after year (including Best Lawyers, Best Law Firm, Top 100 Lawyers, and Leading Lawyers), a testament to their unwavering work ethic, strong character, and experience in family law. Our track record of success reassures you that you have a reliable and dependable ally throughout your divorce mediation proceedings.

Working with a DuPage Divorce Lawyer

While mediation is designed to be a collaborative process, having a DuPage mediator by your side can help provide valuable support and guidance. At Masters Law Group, serving clients in Cook County and DuPage County, Illinois, our experienced attorneys understand that divorce is stressful for everyone involved. 

We prioritize our clients’ assurance and well-being throughout the mediation process. Whether you are facing mediation, a contested, uncontested, or a civil union divorce, our attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Divorce Advice Every Woman Needs on International Women’s Day

At Masters Law Group, we proudly honor the trailblazing women within our family law firm and across all fields in every industry. As family law attorneys, we have firsthand experience with the complexities of divorce and helping women through this challenging time.

Every year on March 8th, we celebrate International Women’s Day, recognizing the achievements and resilience of women everywhere. Being a female going through a divorce can be an isolating and overwhelming experience. If you’re a woman feeling unhappy in your marriage, you’ve likely considered initiating divorce. However, determining whether it’s the right choice for you, your children, and your spouse can be daunting. That’s why seeking personalized divorce advice is crucial for making well-informed choices.

Leaving a marriage is a woman’s toughest decision, often presenting unique challenges. There are important factors to consider upfront and inevitable hurdles along the way. Here are some practical tips to help protect yourself during the divorce or separation process.

Why Women Initiate Divorce

In the United States, women often initiate divorce more frequently than men. This trend has grown as women now have more job opportunities and higher independent incomes, which reduces the financial risks associated with divorce compared to the past. Here are some notable statistics:

The divorce process has also become more accessible, especially with the legalization of no-fault divorces in certain states. Illinois is one of the states that follows a no-fault divorce model. This means couples can dissolve their marriage without having to prove fault or wrongdoing by either party. This can simplify the process, offering a straightforward route from an unsustainable marriage.

Preparing Yourself Emotionally 

When you initiate the discussion of divorce with your spouse, and especially when you take the definitive step to file, you’re entering a realm with no clear path back.

At the core of any amicable divorce lies open and sincere communication. If possible, both partners must come together to express their feelings, concerns, and expectations. This fosters trust and clarity, reducing misunderstandings and unnecessary conflicts.

If conversations become difficult or communication proves challenging, consider involving a mediator, therapist, and divorce attorney. These professionals offer guidance and a neutral space for productive discussions, aiding both parties in reaching fair and mutually agreeable resolutions.

Remember, if you are initiating divorce due to dangerous behavior, such as physical and emotional abuse, drug addiction or other factors, you can seek an Order of Protection. Let’s explore this more.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is described as abusive behavior when a family or household member uses physical or mental maltreatment toward another family or household member. The IDVA uses the following terms as abuse:

1. Physical abuse
2. Harassment
3. Intimidation of a dependent
4. Interference with personal liberty
5. Willful deprivation
6. Exploitation
7. Stalking

What is an Order of Protection?

An Order of Protection is a court order made in writing which prohibits, by law, further abusive behavior.

Who are persons considered to be family or household members?
The IDVA defines members to include:

1. A spouse
2. Ex-spouse
3. Girlfriend/boyfriend who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship
4. Parents
5. Children
6. Stepchildren
7. Significant other/partner
8. Persons who share or allege to have a blood relationship through a child
9. Persons who live together or formerly lived together
10. Persons with disabilities and their personal assistants

Need an Order of Protection in Illinois? Contact us to help you file in Illinois Civil court.

Prioritizing The Well-Being Of Your Children

If you don’t have the safety of yourself and/or family to worry about, if you have children, their well-being should be your top priority. If possible, maintain a united front when it comes to co-parenting decisions. Create a comprehensive parenting plan that outlines responsibilities, schedules, and guidelines. Keep children out of adult conflicts and reassure them of your love and support.

Whether it’s parenting time, asset division, or spousal support, your DuPage divorce attorney will help that your voice is heard and that the court’s decision is fair and aligned with your best interests. Furthermore, during court proceedings, your DuPage or Chicagoland divorce attorney can address unexpected challenges and legal objections and help ensure that all legal procedures are followed diligently.

Their presence in court assures you that you have a dedicated legal professional fighting on your behalf, helping you navigate the complexities of the judicial process during an emotionally challenging time.

Consider Options for Equitable Distribution

As couples navigate the challenging path of divorce, alimony, and asset division are critical aspects that demand attention. Unfortunately, Illinois is not a 50/50 state for divorce. This means that the court weighs several factors to determine how to fairly divide property rather than dividing property 50/50. Illinois follows a more intricate approach called “equitable distribution.” Here’s how it works:

  1. Contribution to the Marriage: The court looks at what each spouse brought to the marriage regarding money and non-money contributions like caring for the home or children.
  2. Duration of the Marriage: How long the marriage lasted matters, as it can affect how assets are divided.
  3. Economic Circumstances: Each spouse’s financial situation, including income and needs, is considered.
  4. Non-Marital Property: Things owned before marriage or received as gifts or inheritance during marriage may not be split.
  5. Custodial Arrangements: If there are kids, the court looks at custody and how it impacts finances.
  6. Spousal Support (Alimony): Whether one spouse needs support payments is factored in.
  7. Tax Consequences: Taxes resulting from asset division are also considered to make things fair.
  8. Wasteful Dissipation: If one spouse recklessly spends or wastes money, it can affect the division.
  9. Future Needs: The court considers what each person will need, especially if one is in a tougher spot after the divorce.
  10. Agreements: Any agreements made before or during the marriage, like prenups, are considered if they meet legal standards.

Remember, “equitable distribution” doesn’t always mean a perfect 50/50 split. It’s about creating a fair and just arrangement based on each family’s unique situation. This process can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to work with a skilled family law attorney to help ensure your rights are protected during asset division in Illinois.

Consider Divorce Mediation

Mediation offers an alternative dispute resolution method where a neutral mediator facilitates settlement discussions between you and your spouse, aiming to reach a final agreement. Unlike judges, mediators lack the authority to decide on behalf of either party. Instead, they focus on needs and interests rather than faults and rights.

In divorce mediation, couples either choose a mediator or one is appointed by the court, with costs typically split between both parties. Both spouses present supporting documentation for disputed issues, and the mediator works with both sides to find a resolution. The ultimate goal is reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.

Even with disagreements, divorce doesn’t have to escalate into a conflict. Mediation can provide a constructive path for addressing issues like allocating parental responsibilities and alimony, serving as an alternative to formal litigation in divorce court.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While many questions and valid concerns come with divorce, the divorce process does not have to be difficult, and you don’t have to go alone. If you’re a woman considering filing for divorce, our experienced DuPage Divorce attorneys are available to address any inquiries you may have along the way.

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

For more information on the divorce process in the Chicagoland area, including DuPage and its surrounding counties, contact us here today.

 


Learn more about the experienced and talented females at our Family Law Firm

Partner / Family Law Mediator: ERIN E. MASTERS

Erin E. Masters is the principal of Masters Law Group, located in Chicago, Illinois. The firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and Hague Convention/ international child abduction matters.

women's divorce lawyer

Associate Attorney: HAILEY MCGILLIVRAY

Hailey McGillivray is a dedicated and meticulous attorney, currently admitted to the Illinois State Bar. She holds an American and Canadian Juris Doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the University of Windsor Faculty of Law.

Read their full bios here.

DuPage Divorce Lawyer

DuPage County boasts a supportive environment for businesses, a haven for families, and a hub for innovation. However, behind the suburban facade, troubled marriages and divorces persist. 

Despite the idyllic setting, many families face divorce’s emotional and legal challenges. If you’re navigating the complexities of divorce in DuPage County, Masters Law Group is here to help and support you through this difficult process.

Understanding Divorce

Divorce is a legal process that dissolves a marriage, ending the legal relationship between spouses. It involves various emotional, financial, and practical considerations. Understanding divorce requires acknowledging its complexities and potential impacts on individuals and families. 

What leads to divorce? The reasons can be numerous. A range of factors, such as lack of communication, infidelity, constant conflict, and other situations, can heighten the risk of divorce. Financially, divorce often involves dividing assets and liabilities accumulated during the marriage, determining spousal support, and addressing child support and custody issues. 

Divorce can have long-term effects on children, family dynamics, and social relationships. Therefore, seeking support from friends, family, and family law attorneys can be crucial in navigating the complexities of divorce and moving forward with clarity and resilience.

Navigating Divorce in DuPage

While Illinois divorce rates are depleting, in DuPage County, the divorce rate trend is less consistent:

  • 2012: 2,308
  • 2013: 2,233
  • 2014: 2,301
  • 2015: 2355
  • 2016: 2210
  • 2017: 2285

(*Note: DuPage County is currently only documented up to 2017)

In DuPage and throughout  Illinois, divorce operates under a no-fault system, necessitating only the presence of irreconcilable differences for legal separation. This means divorcing couples don’t need to assign blame to dissolve their marriage. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the highest divorce rates in Illinois are in the following five counties:

  • Cook County
  • DuPage County 
  • Lake County 
  • Will County
  • Kane County

Navigating a divorce in DuPage County demands careful selection of legal representation. When seeking a divorce lawyer, reliability is paramount. Effective communication and a strong rapport are essential, given the protracted nature of divorce proceedings. While experience in family law, particularly divorce law, is crucial, finding an attorney you trust and respect is equally important.

Starting the Divorce Process

In DuPage County, Illinois, initiating the divorce process typically begins with filing a petition for dissolution of marriage at the Circuit Court Clerk’s office. This petition outlines the grounds for divorce. The petition can include irreconcilable differences or fault-based reasons such as infidelity.

Along with the petition, the filer must also serve the other party, the respondent, with a copy of the documents. Once served, the respondent has the opportunity to respond to the petition. If both parties agree on property division, child custody, and support, they may proceed with an uncontested divorce, often resulting in a faster and less costly process. 

However, if there are disputes, the case may proceed to court, where a judge will decide on contested matters. It’s advisable for individuals navigating divorce in DuPage County to seek legal counsel to help protect their rights throughout the process.

Alternative Divorce Methods

Alternative divorce methods offer couples varying pathways to dissolve their marriage with differing levels of complexity and contention. In cases where the dissolution is relatively straightforward, joint and simplified divorce procedures provide expedited routes, requiring mutual agreement on key issues and minimal conflicts. 

Uncontested divorces follow a standard procedure but involve spouses who are largely in accord regarding the terms, reducing the time and resources needed compared to contested divorces. Beyond these options, couples may explore alternatives such as legal separation. 

  • Legal separation offers an alternative to divorce, addressing concerns of couples who wish to live separately without permanently ending their marriage.
  • Civil unions, recognized in DuPage and across Illinois, undergo a dissolution process similar to that of marriage, necessitating legal guidance to navigate.

These alternative methods offer flexibility and choice to couples seeking to end their union in a manner that best suits their circumstances and preferences.

Working With Masters Law Group

Divorce is a complex and emotionally charged journey that often requires the guidance of seasoned family law professionals. At Masters Law Group, our family law attorneys are here to provide valuable assistance, helping to ensure that your rights and the best interests of your children remain at the forefront of every decision. Here are some areas where we can help guide you:

  • Parenting Time: If you have children, it’s essential to work closely with your attorney to determine the most suitable arrangements for child custody and visitation. We aim to help create arrangements prioritizing your children’s well-being and best interests.
  • Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution: We encourage exploring options like mediation and collaborative divorce, which can facilitate mutually beneficial agreements outside the courtroom. Our family law attorneys will skillfully guide you through these processes, representing your interests and helping you secure a smoother negotiation experience.
  • Post-Divorce Modifications: Life can bring unexpected changes even after the divorce is finalized. Circumstances may arise that require modifications to parental responsibilities, visitation, or support arrangements. Our attorneys are here to assist you in addressing these changes promptly and effectively, helping protect your rights and the interests of your children.

By working with a DuPage divorce attorney, you can confidently navigate the complexities of divorce and reduce stress. Your rights and the well-being of your family are our top priorities.

Last Thoughts

The complexities of divorce, especially concerning children and/or substantial assets, necessitate legal assistance. Masters Law Group is ready to advocate for you throughout your divorce process.

If you have questions about divorce in DuPage County, an experienced DuPage divorce lawyer can assist you. Our firm has years of experience providing counsel to the community of DuPage County, and we are here to answer any of your questions about divorce or other family law matters. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Navigating Divorce and Infidelity

Infidelity is a complex and sensitive issue that can deeply affect individuals and relationships. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), infidelity in the United States accounts for 20-40% of divorces. 

In this blog, we will discuss its various types, underlying causes, effects on a marriage leading to divorce, and the crucial role that a divorce lawyer can play in such situations. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Types of Infidelity

Infidelity occurs when one partner deepens a connection with someone outside their marriage, violating the agreement of sexual or emotional exclusivity they made with their spouse. It may involve sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with someone other than their spouse. Unfaithfulness can manifest in various forms, and it’s crucial to comprehend these distinctions. Here’s a look at some of the different types of infidelity:

  • Physical Infidelity: Physical infidelity involves engaging in sexual activities with someone other than one’s spouse. This type of cheating comes to mind first when discussing the topic.
  • Emotional infidelity: This involves emotional attachment or intimacy with another person. Emotional affairs can do as much damage, if not more, to a relationship as a physical affair.
  • Cyber Infidelity: With the advancement of technology, cyber infidelity has become more prevalent. It involves engaging in online relationships or sexual activities with individuals on the internet.
  • Micro-Cheating: This form of infidelity may seem subtle or seemingly harmless actions that may indicate an emotional or physical connection with someone outside the marriage. Examples include secret texting or keeping a dating app profile.

Whether or not someone has been unfaithful depends on whether they’ve respected the agreed-upon boundaries of exclusivity, regardless of whether the relationship is monogamous or non-monogamous. Let’s dive into the causes where it can occur.

Identifying Causes of Infidelity

Infidelity, often referred to as cheating, duplicity, adultery, or unfaithfulness, can have its roots in various factors. It’s seldom straightforward, as relationships can become more fragile during transition periods, such as when young children begin school or when adult children leave home. Some common causes for infidelity in relationships include:

  • Lack of Communication: Poor communication within a marriage can lead to feelings of neglect or dissatisfaction, pushing individuals to seek emotional connection elsewhere.
  • Emotional Disconnect: When couples grow apart emotionally, one or both partners may seek emotional intimacy outside the marriage.
  • Unfulfilled Needs: Sometimes, unmet emotional or physical needs within a marriage can drive individuals to seek fulfillment elsewhere.
  • Opportunity: Easy access to potential partners, either in the workplace or online, can increase the likelihood of infidelity.
  • Personal Issues: Personal problems, such as low self-esteem, unresolved past traumas, or addiction issues, can contribute to infidelity.

Irrespective of the specifics of an affair, its consequences can profoundly affect the couple involved and those around them.

Effects of Infidelity on Marriages 

Infidelity can have profound effects on a marriage, often resulting in divorce. The individual involved in the betrayal may also wrestle with intense emotional reactions, such as overwhelming guilt or shame. Some feel trapped or helpless within the relationship, while others despair that change is impossible. The most common effects of infidelity are:

  • Broken Trust: Trust is the bedrock of any healthy relationship, and infidelity shatters this foundation, making it arduous to rebuild the marriage.
  • Emotional Trauma: Both the betrayed spouse and the one who strayed may endure emotional trauma, grappling with feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and depression.
  • Legal Consequences: Adultery can influence divorce proceedings, particularly in states with fault-based divorce laws. It may affect alimony, property division, and child custody decisions.

Giving up the extramarital relationship can be a struggle, even when they acknowledge its necessity, and some may even experience a sense of grief. If your relationship has been affected by infidelity, consider seeking the help of a divorce attorney who is experienced in family law affairs.

How A Divorce Attorney Can Help

In cases where infidelity leads to divorce, hiring a divorce lawyer becomes crucial. If you’re currently residing in Illinois and seeking a divorce attorney to assist you in finalizing your divorce, Masters Law Group is here to provide the support you need. Our team of experienced divorce attorneys and mediators is fully prepared to advocate for you and your family. Here are some crucial areas where we can help guide you:

  • Parenting Time: If you have children, it’s essential to work closely with your attorney to determine the most suitable arrangements for child custody and visitation. We aim to help create arrangements prioritizing your children’s well-being and best interests.
  • Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution: We encourage exploring options like mediation and collaborative divorce, which can facilitate mutually beneficial agreements outside the courtroom. Our family law attorneys will skillfully guide you through these processes, representing your interests and helping you secure a smoother negotiation experience.
  • Post-Divorce Modifications: Life can bring unexpected changes even after the divorce is finalized. Circumstances may arise that require modifications to parental responsibilities, visitation, or support arrangements. Our attorneys are here to assist you in addressing these changes promptly and effectively, safeguarding your rights and the interests of your children.

Final Thoughts

Infidelity is a complex issue that can have devastating consequences on a marriage. When divorce becomes inevitable, hiring a divorce lawyer can provide the legal experience and support needed to navigate the process and protect one’s rights and interests.

At Masters Law Group, you can rest assured knowing you are consulting with trusted and experienced legal professionals. Our family law attorneys can help protect your rights and interests during this challenging time. With a focus on helping clients residing in the Cook, Will, Lake, and Dupage counties, our practice is committed to providing a comprehensive suite of services to support parents, children, and families during challenging periods like divorce.

If you’re ready to begin your journey toward a peaceful divorce, contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Navigating the Holiday Season During Divorce: A Co-Parenting Guide

When we think of the holidays, we think of happiness and being surrounded by our loved ones. However, it can present a unique set of challenges for divorced – or divorcing – parents.

Whether this is your first holiday season post-divorce, amid a divorce, or you’re a seasoned co-parent, effective preparation and clear communication are crucial for a fulfilling holiday experience for your children.

Given that a divorce occurs approximately every 36 seconds somewhere in the United States, the importance of finding peaceful ways to co-parent cannot be more important. In this blog, we aim to provide practical tips and insights to help provide a peaceful holiday for you and your children. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Parental Responsibilities

It’s important to know that “custody” is no longer used. It is now called “parental responsibilities.” This includes two main things: parenting time (formerly “visitation”) and the power to make decisions for children. Parenting time is a schedule that shows when each parent spends time with the children. This schedule is created and approved by a judge in family court. If the parents can’t agree on the schedule, the judge will decide what’s best for the child and assign a schedule for the parents.

Parental responsibilities refer to the decision-making responsibilities that each parent will have on behalf of the child. Parents can agree to make these decisions together or divide them into categories, which should cover the following:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Religion
  • Extracurricular Activities

If the parents can’t agree on who gets what responsibility, the Illinois family court judge will allocate those responsibilities among them. Let’s dive into some tips that will help you make co-parenting easier this holiday season.

1. Review and Update Your Co-Parenting Plan

During the emotional and often stressful period of divorce, having a clear co-parenting plan can provide stability and predictability for both you and your children. This plan should outline how you and your ex-spouse will share responsibilities and make decisions regarding your children. If you’re unsure about how to create or modify your co-parenting plan, seeking the assistance of a family law attorney can be incredibly valuable.

A family law attorney can offer guidance and legal advice to help you develop a plan that provides clarity and structure throughout the holiday season. With a clear plan, you can aim for holiday celebrations filled with warmth, understanding, and the season’s magic.

2. Prioritize Communication and Planning

Children flourish when they have stability. To create a harmonious holiday season, it’s vital to present a united front and communicate holiday plans clearly and calmly. Share your holiday plans, including travel details, accommodations, and emergency contacts. Stay updated on any changes or delays affecting the agreed schedule. Keeping the lines of communication open promotes transparency. By communicating effectively, co-parents can build trust between one another. This partnership can help reassure children that the holidays can still be joyful and celebratory despite changes in the family dynamic.

3. Be Flexible and Willing to Compromise

The holiday season is often unpredictable, and flexibility can be your greatest asset. While it’s important to stick to your parenting plan as much as possible, be prepared to make minor adjustments as needed. This could mean being flexible with pick-up and drop-off times or accommodating last-minute changes. The goal is to prioritize your children’s happiness and well-being, even if it means making concessions.

4. Establish and Maintain Traditions

Maintaining holiday traditions can provide a sense of continuity and comfort for children post-divorce. Work with your ex-spouse to determine which traditions to maintain and explore opportunities to establish new ones. Involving your children in this decision-making process can enhance their sense of inclusion and security. Here are some creative approaches to traditional celebrations:

  • Go out to eat instead of cooking.
  • Have a holiday picnic in a new part of the house.
  • Eat dinner while watching holiday movies.
  • Buy new holiday decorations.
  • Spend time with extended family.
  • Change your gift-giving routine.

5. Prioritize Your Children’s Needs

Parents, caregivers, and educators play a crucial role in helping children cope emotionally during and after a divorce. Studies show that children often encounter significant difficulties in these times, especially in the first year or two after the divorce. It’s essential to understand that each child is different, and what’s a big deal for one child might not be as important to another.

Pay attention to their feelings and needs, and be supportive if they struggle with the changes. Involve your child in the decision-making process where appropriate, giving them a sense of ownership and excitement about the holidays. Remember, the goal is to create lasting memories and positive experiences for your child. Lastly, try to keep negative feelings about your ex-spouse to yourself and maintain a positive attitude when discussing holiday plans.

How Masters Law Group Can Help

The holidays can be emotionally taxing, especially after a recent divorce or separation, which can intensify these emotions. It’s important to prioritize self-care to be the best parent you can be. Your family’s well-being is paramount, so don’t let the emotional strain of a custody case weigh you down.

At Masters Law Group, our family law attorneys focus on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. Attorney Erin E. Masters is a court-appointed Child Representative with experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Attorney Anthony G. Joseph is an approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives list for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

With a strong focus on assisting clients in Chicago and Chicago’s Western Suburbs (Elmhurst, Hinsdale, DuPage, Oakbrook), we offer various services to help parents, children, and families through difficult times like Divorce, Parenting Time, and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.

If you require legal assistance, contact a member of our legal team today. Our attorneys will work with you to develop an appropriate action plan for your unique needs and goals. We will work diligently on your behalf and provide regular updates.

Contact us today to set up a complimentary consultation.