Tag Archive for: divorce assets

Navigating The Nuances of LGBTQ+ Divorce in Illinois

The end of a marriage is always challenging for the couple involved, and the impact on family members can be significant. This holds true for those in LGBTQ+ marriages as well. If you’re going through a divorce, striving for an amicable resolution is crucial.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois on June 1, 2014, thanks to the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act signed by Governor Pat Quinn on November 20, 2013. This law also allowed civil unions in Illinois to be converted to marriages within a year. 

However, despite these strides, LGBTQ+ couples encounter unique complexities in divorce, including legal nuances and emotional hurdles. Support and guidance from a skilled divorce attorney are crucial to help navigate divorce effectively. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding LGBTQ+ Divorce in Illinois

Navigating a gay divorce involves grappling with legal frameworks that may still be evolving in some jurisdictions. While marriage equality is recognized in many places, the intricacies of divorce laws can vary widely. Moreover, dealing with societal attitudes and biases can add stress to an already challenging situation.

In Illinois, same-sex couples seeking a divorce must adhere to specific criteria. Firstly, they must be legally married. Additionally, they must fulfill the 90-day residency requirement and file for divorce in their county. Irreconcilable differences serve as the primary grounds for divorce, as is the case for all couples in the state. The divorce proceedings typically encompass a blend of out-of-court negotiations, courtroom litigation, and mediation sessions.

Given the intricate nature of divorce proceedings, same-sex couples should seek the guidance of a divorce attorney well-versed in the nuances of same-sex divorce. Getting the help you need will not only help ensure adherence to legal procedures and provide valuable resources for emotional support throughout the process.

Understanding Illinois Asset Division

Asset division can be contentious in any divorce, including for LGBTQ+ couples. Illinois Asset division divides marital property and debts between spouses fairly and equitably. It’s essential to understand that the goal is not necessarily to divide everything equally but rather fairly, considering the unique circumstances of the marriage. 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 the allocation of parental responsibilities 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 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.

A skilled divorce attorney can help prioritize your best interest regarding asset division. It’s important to note that 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.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

In Illinois, same-sex couples enjoy equal rights to opposite-sex couples concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities and divorce. However, there are distinct legal considerations that LGBTQ+ couples may encounter during divorce. This includes the following: 

  1. The child is born while the spouses are married to each other.
  2. The child is born after the marriage is terminated. It must be within 300 days after that termination.
  3. In the first two situations, the couple attempted to enter into a marriage or civil union “in apparent compliance with the law.” However, that marriage or union is later terminated or declared invalid for some reason.
  4. A person marries the birth mother after the child is born and consents to being added to the birth certificate.

Additionally, the court may evaluate if one parent is unwilling or unable to engage in co-parenting, potentially leading to a sole parental determination. The law encourages parents to collaborate on crucial child welfare decisions, including education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. Courts prefer shared responsibility between parents and may allocate it to one if necessary. If parents fail to reach an agreement on a parenting plan, a judge may employ the same criteria utilized in opposite-sex couples’ divorces to decide parental responsibilities.

A skilled divorce attorney can effectively advocate for the children’s best interests while nurturing a positive co-parenting dynamic.

Emotional Support and Healing

Beyond the legal intricacies, the emotional toll of divorce can be profound. For LGBTQ+ individuals, facing the end of a relationship can evoke a wide array of emotions, including feelings of isolation, rejection, and uncertainty about the future. It’s essential to prioritize self-care during this challenging time. Here are some tips for navigating the emotional journey of divorce:

  • Seek Support: Contact friends, family, or mental health professionals for emotional support and guidance.
  • Participate in LGBTQ+-Friendly Support Groups: Joining support groups or therapy sessions tailored to the LGBTQ+ community can provide a safe and understanding space to process emotions.
  • Practice Self-Care: Take time to engage in activities promoting relaxation, mindfulness, and self-reflection.
  • Be Gentle with Yourself: Understand that it’s normal to experience a range of emotions during this time, and it’s okay to give yourself permission to feel and heal at your own pace.
  • Focus on Personal Growth: Use this opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. Explore new interests, hobbies, or goals that bring fulfillment and joy.

Taking proactive steps to address emotional well-being is crucial for navigating the challenges of divorce and emerging stronger on the other side.

Getting The Help You Need

One of the first steps in navigating the nuances of an LGBTQ+ divorce is seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable divorce attorney. Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation and that our clients want to move on with their lives. We empower you to make informed decisions and strive for an outcome that supports your best interests and your family’s.

As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation, or litigation with our client’s assurance and well-being in mind. Whether you are facing an LGBTQ+ contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s divorce attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

Final Thoughts

As we close out Pride Month, Masters Law Group reaffirms its commitment to supporting all members of the LGBTQ+ community, including those navigating divorce. By fostering empathy and understanding, we can help LGBTQ+ individuals emerge from divorce stronger and ready to embrace new beginnings. You don’t have to navigate this journey alone. With the guidance of our compassionate divorce attorneys and a supportive community, healing and closure are within reach. 

Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Who Gets the Pets in an Illinois Divorce?

Divorce is a complex and emotional time.  While much attention goes to child custody determinations in Illinois divorce cases, one contentious subject that many initially overlook is who gets the pets. 

Man’s best friend, furry children, four-legged friends. Our pets play a significant role in our family dynamics. And when the “pack” is disrupted through divorce or separation, many pet parents are left heartbroken and confused as to what happens next.

At Masters Law Group, we understand the significant role that pets play in our lives and the emotional attachment that comes with them. If you are going through a divorce, you may be wondering who gets to keep your cherished pet and whether “pet custody” is a possibility.

Here’s what you need to know.

How Divorce Laws on Pets Are Changing

Previously, family law cases rarely mentioned pets except in domestic violence situations. Over half of the states permit domestic violence restraining orders to include provisions safeguarding pets, mainly due to the fact that abusers often threaten or harm animals as a means of intimidating family members.

Recently, states have recognized that pets possess a special value to families that can’t be measured solely in monetary terms—despite being considered property. It’s because of this that courts have elevated pets to a status someplace between an inanimate object and a person. Illinois is among the states that have taken this concept a step further by mandating judges to consider the well-being of the pet in divorce cases. This is a significant leap, as it comes with the same standard used by judges when deciding child custody.

When is a Pet a Marital Asset in Illinois?

It’s common in divorce to have disputes over pets, such as dogs, and cats, that are considered part of the family.  The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides custody-like provisions regarding the family pet, also known as a ‘companion animal’ upon a divorce. Marital assets are defined as properties acquired during the marriage. Except for the following instances:

  • Who originally purchased or adopted the pet?
  • Who takes care of the pet on a day-to-day basis? 
  • The ability of each spouse to care for the pet. 
  • The emotional attachment of each spouse to the pet.
  • Any agreements made before or during the marriage regarding pet ownership. 

If the court determines that the companion animal is not a marital asset, the owner will receive their non-marital property. If the court determines that the companion animal is a marital asset, then the court will allocate sole or joint ownership and responsibility for the animal. In doing so, the court must consider the well-being of the companion animal.

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 child custody (now known as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities), pet custody in Illinois is not based on the pet’s “best interests”. If one spouse can demonstrate that they have been mainly responsible for the daily care and well-being of the pet, including feeding, grooming, exercising, and providing medical care, 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 oftentimes share a strong bond with family pets, and a spouse can argue that the majority of parenting time could be affected. If spouses can’t agree on pet ownership, they may need to go to court to have a judge make a decision.

Couples can settle disputes about pets through mediation 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.

Final Thoughts

Pets are important in divorce cases because they represent not only a shared asset but also an emotional connection between the spouses. Determining their custody and care can be a complex and emotionally charged aspect of the divorce process. As such, you should ensure you have excellent legal representation to negotiate or prove your right to the ownership of your pet in an Illinois divorce.

If you’re contemplating divorce or separation and have concerns regarding your pet, property division, parental responsibilities, or other family law matters, reach out to the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group here today.