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What Circumstances Justify Modifying Divorce Orders?

It’s not unusual for ex-spouses to want to change a prior decree respecting issues of custody and support. When a divorce settlement is no longer relevant for a couple or does not fit the needs of their children, it is possible to alter the terms of it through a post-decree modification.

Generally speaking, a divorce can take weeks, or even months to finalize. Once the legal proceedings are complete, a final divorce decree will be issued, which officially documents the terms of the divorce. But, life goes on and things change eventually no matter what the Divorce Agreement or Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time say.

A party seeking to modify their decree must show a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.

Modifying an Order

Broadly speaking, there are two ways that former spouses can seek to modify the terms of their divorce in Illinois. These are:

  • By agreement, and
  • By court order.

The first option for modifying the terms of your divorce is by agreeing to a modification with your former spouse. In other words, you and your spouse already agree to the modifications proposed, in which case you can file a joint petition – which could present the opportunity to not have to go to court.

The second option is if you and your ex-spouse don’t agree on the modification. If this is the case, you’ll need to file a complaint for modification and have your ex served. The process then goes through the court system until you reach an agreement or have a trial.

Change of Circumstances and Modification

General dissatisfaction with the outcome of the divorce is not a sufficient cause to modify the terms of the divorce decree. Therefore, if later down the line you feel you got a bad deal or the judge ruled unfairly, you might not have cause to petition a change.  However, if you can demonstrate a substantial change of circumstances, a judge may consider your motion to modify.

There are numerous reasons parties may seek modification of a divorce decree. Some of the most common reasons for requesting the court modify the terms of a divorce include:

  • Change in financial situation for the support-paying party, including job loss, reduced pay, or disability;
  • Change in child custody or parenting time due to relocation of child or parent, alleged abuse or unfitness of custodial parent, or refusal of one parent to comply with terms of parenting plan; or
  • Change in the financial status of the non-paying party, such as a significant salary increase, remarriage, or large inheritance.

[Property division orders, however, are almost never modifiable in Illinois.]

A judge is looking for evidence showing that the change is not temporary, minimal, or self-inflicted. For example, if you quit your job because you simply did not like your boss, a judge is not likely to grant a modification of child support. Deciding what constitutes a “substantial” change of circumstances can be difficult. Seeking the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer before filing a motion to modify a divorce decree can save you time and money.

Divorce Modification with Masters Law Group

Regardless of why you are seeking a post-judgment modification, and regardless of whether your former spouse are in agreement, you need to comply with your existing divorce judgment unless and until your requested modification receives court approval. Deviating from the terms of your existing judgment can get you into trouble with the court, and it can potentially make it more difficult to obtain a post-judgment modification as well.

If you’re trying to modify an Illinois family law order or your ex-spouse is attempting to allege a substantial change in circumstances, contact the divorce attorneys at Masters Law Group. We have extensive experience in handling the complete range of post-decree modification cases, including parenting time, allocation of parental responsibilities and child support modifications.

Contact us here today to set up a complimentary consultation.

Grandparent’s Custody Rights in Illinois

The issue of grandparent’s visitation rights has been something of a moving target over the last few decades, and laws differ between states. Here’s what you need to know if you are a grandparent needing help to get visitation with your grandchild.

Overview of Grandparent Visitation Laws

Visitation is when a person who is not the parent of a child spends time with that child. Visitation used to include time spent by a parent with a child, but that is now legally called parenting time. In Illinois, there are no federal laws governing visitation rights for grandparents. However, depending on family dynamics, Illinois grandparents do have a limited legal right to visit their grandchildren, especially if the parents are divorced.

In general, it is up to the parents of a child to decide who can spend time with that child. But sometimes a non-parent can get a court order to force the parents to let them spend time with a child if the child is at least one year old.

Only the following people can get a court order for visitation with a child:

  • Grandparent
  • Great-grandparent
  • Brother or Sister
  • Step-parent

Granting Visitation

To obtain parenting time rights in Illinois, grandparents must meet the following requirements:

  • Show that they have been unreasonably denied parenting time by a parent of the grandchild
  • Show that one of the following statements is true:
    • A parent is incompetent.
    • A parent has been dead or missing for at least three months.
    • A parent has been incarcerated for at least three months.
    • The child’s parents are divorced or legally separated, or there is a pending dissolution or custody proceeding, and at least one parent has no objection.
    • The child is born out of wedlock and the parents are not living together.

The court will then review:

  • The grandchild’s preference
  • The grandparents’ intentions in seeking parenting time
  • Whether the denial of parenting time has been in good faith
  • The closeness of the relationship between the child and the grandparents
  • Whether the time requested might have a damaging effect on the child’s regular activities
  • Whether the child lived with the grandparent or the grandparent was the primary caretaker of the child for at least six consecutive months
  • The frequency of contact for at least one year
  • The mental and physical health of the child
  • The physical and mental well-being of the grandparents

Gaining Custody for Grandparents

It is possible for a grandparent to obtain custody of a grandchild. The first way is through petitioning the court for custody of the grandchildren. Both parents of the child must voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to the child unless there is another issue like abuse. Parents may give up the rights to their children for many deeply personal reasons such as addiction or mental health issues. Other times, very young parents relinquish their parental rights so that a grandparent or grandparents can adopt the child.

The second way grandparents can be awarded custody of their grandchildren if the biological parents have been found to be abusive or neglectful to the child. The Department of Children and Family Services oversees children who are taken from abusive homes. There is also an option for grandparents to become the legal guardian of a child called “Private Subsidized Guardianship.” This permanent measure is usually reserved for situations in which there is no hope of reuniting the child with his or her biological parents.

Adoption and Grandparents’ Rights

In most situations, adoption severs ties between a child and biological family members, including grandparents. Any visitation orders entered before a child’s adoption will automatically terminate when an adoption is finalized.

Even in the case of a stepparent adoption, grandparent visitation isn’t a given; Grandparents can bring a visitation petition in the case of a stepparent adoption, but the grandparent must still demonstrate that the lack of visitation would harm the child. In many cases, it’s difficult for a grandparent to meet that burden.

Getting Help

Grandparents have a unique place in a child’s life, and being refused visitation can bring anguish on both the grandparents and more importantly, the child. If you have been denied the right to see your grandchild, you should speak with the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group. Based in downtown Chicago, we represent grandparents who are facing the stressful and highly emotional facing matters of child visitation and related issues.

Contact us here today and we will protect your rights as a grandparent and provide you with the representation you need to achieve the best results.

 

Helpful Actions for Children While Going Through a Divorce

Each year, thousands of US children face the extreme stress associated with divorce. Parents should provide their children with understanding and support with patience, reassurance, and a listening ear as your children learn to cope with unfamiliar circumstances.

Going through the process of divorce is a challenging life transition for both parents and children. Many times the initial reaction is one of shock, sadness, frustration, anger, or worry. But kids also can come out of it better able to cope with stress, and many become more flexible, tolerant young adults. While you can’t make your child’s hurt go away, you can help them cope with the various disappointments divorce brings. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind.

Breaking the News

When it comes to telling your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up. Of course how you tell your children is a very personal choice, but try to make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing what you’re going to say before you sit down to talk.

Because children often assume that they are somehow to blame, begin by letting them know what happened is definitely not their fault and they are loved by both parents – and that will never change. If possible, try to break the news together with your ex partner. By demonstrating solidarity and maturity, you will help paint a picture of a drama-free future as their minds race to “what now?”.

The discussion should fit the child’s age, maturity, and temperament; with younger children try to keep things simple, older teens will be more in tune with what you, as parents, have been going through, so more details will be beneficial.

Avoid the Blame Game

It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. Confining negativity and blame to private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside the home will help children feel less “torn” between parents, therefore creating less stress on them.

If you and your ex can’t agree on matters like parenting time or allocation of parental responsibilities, save this information for your family law attorney as you navigate these new waters. Your message to the kids should be united, reassuring, and free of bickering and blame.

Expect the Unexpected

While many children will be confused, hurt, saddened and shocked, many also don’t react right away when faced with the news their parents are splitting. Sometimes it’s simply because they are overwhelmed and don’t know how to process the information, while others don’t want to upset their parents by acting as if everything is fine, or try to avoid any difficult feelings by denying that they feel any anger or sadness at the news. Let them know that that is OK, too and that they can talk when they are ready.

Whether your kids express fear, worry, or relief about your separation and divorce, they’ll want to know how their own day-to-day lives might change.

Be prepared to answer these possible questions:

  • Who will I live with?
  • Will I go to the same school?
  • Where will each parent live?
  • Where will we spend holidays?
  • Will I still get to see my friends?
  • Can I still do my favorite activities?

Being honest is not always easy when you don’t have all the answers or when children are feeling scared. But telling them what they need to know at that moment is always the right thing to do.

Helping Children Cope

Like any big life change, many children experience grief when parents are divorcing. Mourning for the family unit they once had is normal, but over time, you and your children need to work through the grieving process and accept and adapt to the new situation.

Here are some ways to help kids cope with the upset of a divorce, according to KidsHealth.org:

  • Encourage honesty. Kids need to know that their feelings are important to their parents and that they’ll be taken seriously.
  • Help them put their feelings into words. Kids’ behavior can often clue you in to their feelings of sadness or anger. You might say: “It seems as if you’re feeling sad right now. Do you know what’s making you feel so sad?” Be a good listener, even if it’s difficult for you to hear what they have to say.
  • Legitimize their feelings. Saying “I know you feel sad now” or “I know it feels lonely without dad here” lets kids know that their feelings are valid. It’s important to encourage kids to get it all out before you start offering ways to make it better. Let kids know it’s also OK to feel happy or relieved or excited about the future.
  • Offer support. Ask, “What do you think will help you feel better?” They might not be able to name something, but you can suggest a few ideas — maybe just to sit together, take a walk, or hold a favorite stuffed animal. Younger kids might especially appreciate an offer to call daddy on the phone or to make a picture to give to mommy when she comes at the end of the day.
  • Keep yourself healthy. For adults, separation and divorce is highly stressful. That pressure may be amplified by custody, property, and financial issues, which can bring out the worst in people. Finding ways to manage your own stress is essential for you and your entire family. Keeping yourself as physically and emotionally healthy as possible can help combat the effects of stress, and by making sure you’re taking care of your own needs, you can ensure that you’ll be in the best possible shape to take care of your kids.
  • Keep the details in check. Take care to ensure privacy when discussing the details of the divorce with friends, family, or your lawyer. Try to keep your interactions with your ex as civil as possible, especially when you’re interacting in front of the kids. Take the high road — don’t resort to blaming or name-calling within earshot of your kids, no matter what the circumstances of the separation. This is especially important in an “at fault” divorce where there have been especially hurtful events, like infidelity. Take care to keep letters, e-mails, and text messages in a secure location as kids will be naturally curious if there is a high-conflict situation going on at home.
  • Get help. This is not the time to go it alone. Find a support group, talk to others who have gone through this, use online resources, or ask your doctor or religious leaders to refer you to other resources. Getting help yourself sets a good example for your kids on how to make a healthy adjustment to this major change.

The process of explaining the issue and giving suggestions to your children will help them see divorce in a better perspective.

Adjusting to a New Life

While it’s good for kids to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new circumstances at once can be very difficult. Help your kids adjust to change by providing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives.

It’s crucial that you and your ex create a schedule that lessens the likelihood that your child will experience divided loyalties because they may feel like they have to choose sides. When both parents work together to determine schools, activities, social calendars and all the other aspects of the child’s life, it fosters a cohesive daily experience for the child, no matter whose house they are at on a given day.

At the end of the day, children are the most important assets a married couple can own. When children are confident of the love of both of their parents, they have an easier time adjusting to co-parenting after divorce.

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Masters Law Group – Experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

Divorce certainly has the potential to change the lives of parents and children, and while it is a difficult process, help and support is available.

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation for everyone involved. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients assurance and well being in mind. 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.

Divorce cases involving children require specialized knowledge.  The attorneys at Masters Law Group are highly experienced in the following legal areas associated with separating parents:

Don’t go it alone. Schedule a Consultation with us here today to speak about your family law case.

5 Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

While Illinois has no law requiring you hire a family law attorney in a family law case, there are good reasons why working with an experienced professional is in your best interest. 

Divorce, divorce mediation, child custody, parental responsibilities, domestic abuse. These (and more) are all daunting cases for any individual having to face them, especially because these sensitive subjects of law involves loved ones. To manage emotions and avoid a complicated legal process, hiring an experienced family law attorney could be extremely advantageous.

Here are five reasons to work with a legal professional in your Illinois family law case.

Objectivity

As an “outsider”, a family law attorney can be much more objective about your case than yourself, and/or family and friends. Especially when experiencing a highly complex issue and emotions are running high. Having a family law attorney in your corner means that you have a professional who can offer objective, fact- and experience-based advice regarding your divorce. A family law attorney can help you avoid going for a quick resolution that leaves you at a long-term financial or parenting disadvantage.

Legal Protection

From bullying-tactics, “I’m taking everything from you.” to unlawful threats “You’ll never see the kids again.” – It’s hard for anyone to know the legalities behind battling a family law case when they’re experiencing it for the first time. An experienced attorney however, is well aware of the law and experienced in outcomes of similar cases.

In addition, for cases involving domestic abuse, you can have an attorney help you observe the precautions you need to follow to keep you and your children safe, such as orders of protection.

Family Law and Legal Proceedings Knowledge

There’s a lot of red tape and substantial paperwork when it comes to family law proceedings. And that’s before it goes to trial. This alone can be especially overwhelming if you’re trying to go it alone. If you haven’t prepared the correct paperwork, the judge could exclude any – or all – of the paper work presented to him/her. By hiring a family law attorney, you can rest assured the correct paperwork is submitted at the correct time. Consequently, you will not have to sweat about your case being thrown out as early as possible.

Court Experience

If a trial becomes necessary, a family law attorney can avidly represent you in court and work toward achieving the best possible jury verdict in your favor. Experienced attorneys can make sure that their client is prepared for everything that is going to happen when they enter the room, and will know exactly how to handle any particular situation that arises during the pendency of a family law case. This will keep the judge happy and the proceedings running smoothly and efficiently.

Peace of Mind

Ultimately, one of the best benefits of hiring a family law attorney to represent your interests in a case is the fact that you will be able to trust your legal issues are being duly dealt with. Whenever you have an issue or a family matter that requires legal representation, it’s essential to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced professional.

Legal issues around family law are incredibly emotional and time consuming, and your attorney will take a great deal of stress off your plate. Your attorney will also provide peace of mind by reassuring you that your case is in experienced, capable hands.

Family Law with Masters Law Group

If you are facing a family law issue, contact the family law attorneys at 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 related family matters.

We offer a wide range of services tailored to our clients’ unique legal needs. Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to view our practice areas. And click here to set up a consultation today.

First 5 Steps to Getting Divorced in Illinois.

After a lot of reflecting, you’re considering the major decision to get a divorce. Because each state’s laws vary, you need to know how to best protect yourself as you begin this extremely daunting journey.

In Illinois, a divorce is called a dissolution of marriage, which will always accomplish two things:

1: Severing the marital relationship.

2: Dividing assets and debts.

If one person is unable to be self-supporting post- divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are children involved, child custody, support and parenting time will need to be resolved.

Knowing how to get divorced isn’t something most of us know how to do until we absolutely have to do it. If you’re considering a split, knowledge is power. To that end, we’ve laid out the process of getting divorced in Illinois, one step at a time.

Step 1: Do you NEED to get a divorce?

The first step is to try everything else possible. Including couples counseling, therapy groups, mediation, even a getaway together to truly decide if the separation is what you both want. While everything in the heat of the moment seems unfixable, you should explore every other possible option before deciding on ending a marriage.

You may think that things have deteriorated too far in your marriage to be able to save it, and that a divorce is your only option. Asides for cases involving physical or emotional abuse, there could be hope.

Step 2: Educate Yourself

So, you’ve decided separation is the only option. Not only should you emotionally prepare for what is to come, a smart move is to get the right legal advice right away.

Choosing a knowledgeable end experienced family law attorney will help you determine the full scope of your marital estate, search for hidden assets, and develop your settlement strategy before you pull the trigger. Your attorney can also walk you through different settlement approaches.

Step 3: Choose a Separation Process

Many individuals considering divorce are not aware of the fact that there are different approaches or processes to obtaining a divorce.  In Illinois the main types of separation include:

  • Contested Divorce: The “contested divorce” is the type in which the spouses cannot arrive at an agreement on one or more key issues in order to conclusively terminate their marriage.
  • Uncontested Divorce: this is where both spouses agree on all issues concerning the divorce, including but not limited to the division of marital property and debts, (parental allocation) child custody, child support, and spousal support (“maintenance”).
  • Divorce Mediation: this is where you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party, the mediator, and with their help, you work through the issues you need to resolve so the two of you can end your marriage as amicably and cost effective as possible.
  • Legal separation: For individuals with religious concerns or insurance issues who may be discourage from seeking a formal divorce a legal separation could be the preferred course of action.

Step 4: Start Obtaining Paperwork

Divorce = paperwork. And a lot of it. At the same time, collecting, sorting, and organizing financial documents is nothing short of hell for most people. The sooner you can start collecting and organizing your financial paperwork, the more smoothly your divorce process is likely to go.

It’s also worth noting your ex-partner could begin hiding assets at this stage through bitterness and resentment. Therefore, obtaining all the information as quickly as possible is highly recommended.

Step 5: File the Paperwork

In order to file for dissolution of marriage in Illinois, either you or your spouse must be a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days. You and your spouse also need to have been separated for at least two years. You may file in the Circuit Court in the county where either of you live.

Work closely with your family law attorney during this stage. As well as the divorce filing, you may have to issue temporary orders such as temporary spousal and child support and custody orders. This will all depend on the facts of your case, as each case presents a unique set of facts for the court to consider.

Next Steps

After stages 1-5 are complete, your petition will either go to trial, or reach a settlement out of a court, depending on your individual case details and whether you and your ex were able to reach such an agreement.

Final Thoughts

Divorce is frightening and can be overwhelming. But when you break it down into small, manageable steps, like those outlined above, it becomes somewhat “do-able”.

Sometimes the length of the Illinois divorce process simply comes down to how well you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse communicate, but by knowing how divorce works – and what you’ll need to do first – can help you move forward with confidence.

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Divorce Services from Masters Law Group

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation and that our clients want to move on with their lives. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients assurance and wellbeing in mind.

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.

Divorce cases involving substantial 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.

Contact us here today to set up a consultation.

 

 

 

Illinois Super Lawyers Recognize Masters Law Group Attorneys

Masters Law Group is proud to announce the firm’s Attorneys named by Super Lawyers in  both ‘Rising Stars’ and ‘Super Lawyer’ categories. 

Masters Law Group attorneys Erin Masters was named Super Lawyer list by Illinois Super Lawyers Magazine in 2020 and now 2021. Additionally, the firm’s Illinois-based attorney, Anthony Joseph was also granted the 2020 Illinois Rising Stars list as well.

The Super Lawyers designation, conferred upon the most respected legal practitioners in the state, is based upon peer recognition and professional achievement. No more than five percent of the lawyers in each state are selected by the research team to receive this honor. Rising Stars are those up-and-coming attorneys who are 40 years of age or younger and have practiced law for 10 years or less. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team to receive this honor.

About Erin 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.

Ms. Masters earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, where she attended on a merit based scholarship, was a member of the Athlete Honor Roll, a participant of the NCAA Division II Track and Field Team and graduated in three (3) years with Provost’s Honors.

Ms. Masters received her Juris Doctorate and Certificate in Child and Family Law from Loyola University of Chicago, School of Law, in May of 2004. She was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2004 and to the General Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2005 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020. Ms. Masters was admitted to the United States Supreme Court in March 2009.

In addition to representing clients, Ms. Masters is also a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Further, she has also been appointed by the Circuit Court of Cook County to mediate complex family law cases. Since 2016, Ms. Masters has been named “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers and has been named as an “Emerging Lawyer” by Leading Lawyers.

About Anthony Joseph

Anthony G. Joseph is an attorney at the firm of Masters Law Group, LLC. Mr. Joseph received his B.A. degree in Global Economic Relations from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

He obtained both his J.D. degree and Certificate in Trial Advocacy from The John Marshall Law School. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2010, the Federal General Bar and Trial Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2012 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020.

Mr. Joseph is an active trial lawyer. Mr. Joseph publishes in the area of civil litigation. Mr. Joseph has also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University. Mr. Joseph is “AV” Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review, which is the highest peer review rating available and has been named a “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers in both 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Mr. Joseph concentrates his practice in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities and child support. Mr. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time as well as prosecuted and defended Orders of Protection. Ms. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support,. Mr. Joseph has also litigated cases in both state court and multiple United States Federal Courts involving The Hague Convention and international child abduction issues.

About Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

According to Super Lawyers, the “Rising Stars” and “Super Lawyers” selection process is a comprehensive, good-faith, and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers who have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards, and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their field.

Selection Process

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.

For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Contact Masters Law Group

Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Schedule a consultation here to speak with an attorney regarding your family law matter today.

Protecting Your Business During a Divorce.

Under Illinois law, all marital property is subject to an equitable division between spouses. That includes all assets and debts acquired during the marriages, including income earned by efforts of either spouse. Meaning if you started a business during the marriage, it’s likely marital property.

The last thing you want to happen during a divorce is lose half of the business you’ve worked so hard to build. It’s important to put a protection plan in place that may help prevent a contentious situation between you and your spouse.

In Illinois, there are three main ways to protect your business during a divorce.

Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement

A formal agreement can help facilitate a resolution and ease anxiety for both parties at a time when emotions are likely running high. It’s best to consult an attorney to ensure appropriate disclosures are made because in Illinois, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements are not enforceable if either party did not provide a reasonable disclosure of their debts and assets.

If it’s found that you significantly undervalued the business, you could be accused of fraud and the agreement will be invalidated. For that reason, it’s also a good idea to get the business valued by a qualified business appraiser.

Providing Documentation

Even without a pre or postnuptial agreement, there are several steps to protect your business during a divorce.

  • First, you can establish yourself as the sole owner of your business by making sure the organizing documents for the firm clearly specify that the business cannot be transferred in the event of a divorce. In this case a cash award may be made to the non titled spouse.
  • Second, keep your business and personal expenses clearly separated. Untangling commingled funds adds unnecessary complexity for advisors and could be detrimental to the settlement.
    It’s important to keep clear records of both capital sources for the business, as well all cash transactions.
  • Lastly, if your spouse works at your business, even in a minor capacity, it’s essential they were paid market rates for their services. Otherwise, they may seek a higher percentage of the company’s value.

Seek Advice from an Experienced Divorce Attorney

One of the best things you can do is contact a divorce attorney early in the predicament who is experienced in handling divorces for business owners.

At Masters Law Group, we understand how stressful a divorce can be. That’s why we move through settlement negotiations, meditations or litigations with our clients assurance and well being at top of mind. We’re skilled at identifying and valuing assets and wealth, including real estate, securities, business interests, retirement funds, pension plans, tax shelters, overseas accounts, stock options, trust and other actual or potential sources of wealth.

If you are looking to explore your options on divorce or legal separation with professional and experienced advisors, contact Masters Law Group to schedule an appointment here.

Divorce or Legal Separation: What’s best for you?

During the inevitably stressful time of going through a break up, it’s important to go through your options. To best determine what type of separation is best for you and your family, let’s first understand the difference between divorce and legal separation.

Divorce vs. Legal Separation

Your first thought may immediately go to divorce, and that is understandable due to it being the most common approach to seemingly irreconcilable differences. However, you have another option that is less permanent that is worth considering. There is a large difference between deciding to be physically separated from your spouse and legally separated from them.

A divorce means your marriage is 100% legally over, the court can assist in determining the allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time, and child support. The court can also determine spousal support and divide property. Couples that have decided they can’t reconcile may be ready for an immediate divorce. However, even if you believe you will ultimately file for a divorce, a legal separation is worth to consider.

A legal separation is a less permanent option, meaning you’re living apart but still legally married. If you don’t think you can live with your spouse, you can file for legal separation. Obtaining a legal separation does not prevent you or your spouse from obtaining a divorce later. Legal separation is less emotionally taxing than divorce because the permanence of a divorce isn’t there which still allows for the legal relationship to exist between the married couple. The court can order a separation between you and your spouse, and it would include similar aspects to a divorce such as allocation of child support and custody arrangements.

When is a legal separation the better option?

Divorce may be the best option for you, it often is for many couples. However, there are some situations where a legal separation rather than divorcing straight away would make the most sense.

  • You’re not sure if your partnership is ready for a divorce, you just need some separation
  • Your religion doesn’t permit divorce
  • Certain benefits are at risk such as health insurance, social security, and others

As much as you may feel differently now, most couples are capable of making a compromise or would agree to a specified time to attempt to reconcile their differences. For troubled marriages, a legal separation is a solution that is often overlooked, but proven very effective for many couples that give it a go. The separation may ultimately lead to a divorce, but at least you can rest assured that you did everything that you could to try to repair your marriage.

Additional common questions about legal separation in Illinois

– Can I still get a Legal separation if my spouse does not live in Illinois?

Yes, you can still get a legal separation granted by the court when your spouse doesn’t live in Illinois, or never has lived there. Something the court may potentially not be able to decide upon in this scenario is custody of children.

– Can custody be decided in a legal separation?

Yes, custody can be decided between the partners if the child has lived in Illinois for over 6 months.

– How long do you have to live in Illinois to file for a legal separation?

You have to be living in Illinois for at least 90 days.

– Where should you begin with this overwhelming decision?

Hiring an experienced legal advocate that is well-versed in family law will be the best option for you moving forward. They can help explain this process to you and is the greatest way to ensure the best possible outcome that is custom and unique to your family’s situation.

At Masters Law Group, we provide divorce and legal separation services and also represent clients involved in these matters. If you are looking to explore your options on divorce or legal separation with professional and experienced advisors, contact Masters Law Group to schedule an appointment here.

 

 

Can a Divorce be Amicable?

An amicable – or uncontested – divorce may seem impossible with the emotions involved in dissolving one of the most important relationships you’ve committed to. However it is not unreachable. 

Divorce is probably one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. An amicable divorce almost always means an uncontested divorce, where both spouses agree to property division, spousal and child support, visitation and custody.  This does not mean to say both parties need to remain good friends after the fact, it simply means the spouses don’t fight and enter an agreement reasonably, without litigation.

Uncontested Divorces in Illinois

An uncontested divorce (referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” in Illinois) means that both spouses agree on all the key terms of the divorce.

Individuals can reach an agreement on their own or with a mediator’s help. The dissolution agreement should resolve all issues in the divorce and be signed by both spouses. If there are any areas where you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement, you’ll have to litigate those issues before a judge at trial. However, you can still settle your case at any time prior to the trial date.

Factors to consider with an uncontested divorce include:

  • Divisions of Property: In Illinois, property is divided equitably (fairly) in accordance with the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. In a contested divorce, the judge decides what is fair. In an uncontested divorce, the parties decide was is fair. For the most part, marital property is divided. Non-marital property is not divided.
  • Debt and other Assets: Pretty much the same as property. If debt is classified as marital and non-marital, then only the marital debt is divided.
  • Child Custody: In an uncontested divorce, the parties can agree on any custody arrangement they want, within reason. Technically, according the the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, there is no preference for joint legal custody. Visitation can be complicated, and there are sub-parts to any visitation schedule.
  • Child Support: Child support is paid according to statutory guidelines. However, particularly in an uncontested divorce, parents can agree to deviations on the statutory guidelines. In an uncontested divorce, parents can agree to handle support as the see fit, within reasonable limits.
  • Alimony: The term “alimony” is no longer technically correct. Court’s refer to it as spousal maintenance or spousal support. When it comes to spousal maintenance, any amount can be agreed upon, within reason.

Steps to a Peaceful Divorce

The thing you need to do when getting a divorce is pause and take a deep breath. No divorce is sweet and rarely is it as amicable as hoped for. However, there are some strategies that divorcing couples can learn in order to make their departure from the relationship as peaceful and stress-free as possible. Steps to take to achieve an amicable, respectful divorce from your spouse include:

  1. Eliminate blame: This can be extremely difficult depending on how the divorce came about. But blaming the other party will not help the uncontested divorce resolve sooner.
  2. Look ahead to the future: In order to move forward, you must only look forward to your future and your children’s future.  Wallowing in the past creates negative emotions and keeps you stuck in a victim state, which isn’t healthy for anyone.
  3. Negotiate in good faith: Don’t make agreements but in secret know you’ll withdraw them when the time comes to sign the agreement. Negotiating the terms of your divorce agreement in good faith will only help both parties move on fairly. 
  4. Put the children first: When you keep your kids’ best interest at heart, you often help find a way to do the right thing. Create a good parenting plan and be good co-parents once your divorce case is finalized.
  5. Listen to your attorney: Don’t try and be brave and go it alone. Instead, be sensible and invest in you and your future, and hire an attorney experienced in family law and divorce mediation. 

Divorce Mediation

Mediation can be enormously helpful when couples want to resolve issues amicably and thus avoid a court battle. When you mediate, both parties come to a neutral, often licensed mediator to help the couple ink out the final agreement for the court filings. The goal of this practice is to get couples to agree on as much, if not all, the terms of the divorce making it an amicable divorce. Among peaceful divorce solutions, mediation is at the top because it’s the only divorce method that enables both parties  to:

    • Negotiate the terms of your no-fault divorce or separation in good faith.
    • Focus on the big picture.
    • Put the needs of your children first and create a good foundation for co-parenting and life post-divorce.

At Masters Law Group, we provide divorce mediation services and also represent clients involved in mediation. If you are looking to settle your family law matter without court intervention, contact Masters Law Group to schedule a mediation appointment here.

Filing for a Divorce in Illinois

If a breakup is in your future, you’re probably wondering where to start when it comes to divorce proceedings. You may also be worried about legalities, how much time it will take, and whether you’re making the right move. 

No one enters into a marriage expecting it to fail. Still, more than 20 percent of first marriages end in divorce within five years, and 48 percent of marriages dissolve by the 20-year mark, according to data from the government’s National Survey of Family Growth.

If you’re contemplating divorce in Illinois, you’ll need to follow certain procedures to start your case. You can file for divorce on your own or with the recommended help of a family law attorney. Here, Masters Law Group outlines the process of divorcing and some helpful information to assist you along the way.

*Each state in America has its own laws regarding terminating a marriage. The following steps will help you get a head start on your divorce proceedings in the state of Illinois.

Getting Started

Asides from contacting your Illinois-based family law attorney, as soon as one or both parties decide that divorce is absolutely the only answer, the first step is filing the paperwork with your local court clerk. The forms you complete may vary from county to county, so it is important that you do some research based on where you live. Wherever you live, however, you will need to file what is called a “petition for dissolution of marriage.” The forms are a bit different if you have children. For example, you will need to file a joint parenting agreement, uniform order of support, and visitation forms if you have children. You can also find other required forms on the Illinois court website.

Historically, the state offered two types of divorce: fault-based and no-fault divorces. Today, irreconcilable differences are the only grounds for divorce in Illinois, meaning Illinois is a no-fault divorce only state.

You must meet certain requirements before you can be granted a divorce in Illinois. These are:

  • Your divorce must be due to “irreconcilable differences;” and
  • You or your spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days prior to starting your divorce proceedings.

There is a “separate and apart” waiting period intended to allow the parties to cool down and reconsider the decision to divorce. In Illinois, this is a period of six months. You can waive this waiting period by written agreement.

Although the law specifically prohibits judges from analyzing fault when dividing property in a divorce, judges may evaluate whether or not one spouse dissipated marital assets during the marriage.

Contested Divorces

A contested divorce happens when both spouses want a divorce but can’t agree on some of the terms of the divorce, like custody and spousal support. It can also occur if the spouse does not respond to the divorce petition.

In contested divorces, the judge may order you to go through additional steps like divorce mediation. The mediation can result in an agreed settlement between the parties.

If mediation doesn’t work, your case will go to trial, and the judge will make the final determination on specific issues you and your spouse couldn’t agree on.

Alternative Procedures

If you and your spouse don’t have any children, have little money, and agree on everything, Illinois courts may allow you to have what is called a joint and simplified divorce.

You and your spouse can file a Joint Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage if:

  • no spousal support (alimony) will be paid
  • no-fault grounds are used
  • there are no children and the wife is not pregnant
  • you have not been married more than 8 years
  • neither of you have any real property
  • the total equity in your marital property is less than $10,000
  • the combined annual income of you and your spouse is less than $35,000
  • neither of you earn more than $20,000 annually
  • you both disclosed your assets and tax returns for the years you were married, and
  • you and your spouse have a written agreement dividing all of your property in excess of $100 in value, and allocating who will be responsible for each debt owed.

If you don’t meet the requirements for the Simplified procedure, but you and your spouse are in agreement on all matters, you may still file an uncontested divorce using the standard procedure.

Legal Separation

Illinois is one of the states that recognize legal separation. Legal separation does not permanently end the marriage. However, a judge must approve the separation agreement, which defines the spouses’ legal rights and obligations.

For individuals with religious concerns or insurance issues who may be discourage from seeking a formal divorce a legal separation could be the preferred course of action.  With a legal separation, many of the same issues determined in a divorce can be adjudicated, but without the finality of a legal divorce being granted.

This is a good option if you don’t want a divorce but want to live separately and want legal clarification on matters concerning child custody, child support, child custody, and property division.

Civil Union Divorce

Civil unions allow two adults, of either the same or opposite sex, to enter into a legally recognized relationship. Several unique issues can arise during the process of establishing or dissolving a civil union, so it is vital to have a knowledgeable lawyer to guide you through every step.

Dissolving a civil union is nearly the same as dissolving a marriage. Any couple who wishes to dissolve a civil union will be able to do so in the State of Illinois. To receive a certified copy of a Dissolution of Civil Union records, an interested couple will need to go to the county circuit court clerk where the civil union was granted.

Getting the Help You Need with Masters Law Group

Even a no-fault divorce is a complicated legal process, particularly when children or high assets are involved.

Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or a civil union divorce, the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

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.

If you are seeking answers to questions regarding divorce, separation, child support and other matters, contact Chicago’s premier family law group here today to schedule a consultation.