Posts

Managing Your Money After a Pandemic Divorce

As the world slowly begins its back-to-normal phase, the aftermath of the pandemic has left a lot of devastation in its wake. If your marriage didn’t survive quarantine, here’s how to get your finances back on solid ground after a divorce. Read more

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.

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.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

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.

 

 

 

Divorce Disputes: Know Your Rights

Divorce can be an extremely emotional time. On top of this, couples need to decide how to split their assets, including money, the marital home and the custody of the children.

The divorce process is stressful and can easily bring out the worst in people. Although divorce can get you out of an unhappy marriage, it can also leave you high and dry if you don’t know your rights.

Emotional vs Financial Decisions

Divorce professionals will tell you that it’s best to approach your settlement discussions as a business discussion; but how do you take your emotions out of your divorce negotiations?

Fear, anger, sadness, loss. While you should let yourself feel all of these emotions and seek out the support you need to get through the hurt, when it comes to the divorce process itself, controlling your emotions is key to getting the outcome that you are looking for.

Reasons why these discussions need to be more about business than emotions include:

  • The legal system is not set up to resolve disagreements based on moral arguments, but bound by statutes and case law and these likely will not provide resolution for the wrongs you’ve experienced.
  • Decisions based on emotions are not the best long term or even short term decisions. For example a fight over a home you can’t afford to upkeep will only harm your financial future.
  • You could easily end up regretting your emotional decisions further down the line. For example you realize something you are fighting for is harming the welfare of the children.

Letting go of those feelings during the divorce process not only helps keep the focus on protecting your legal rights, but it also gets rid of those old hopes and dreams so you can start building new ones for the future.

If your marriage has any complicated issues to settle (see below), a family law attorney can be an invaluable resource.

Spousal Support/Alimony

While divorce may end a marriage, it doesn’t necessarily end the obligations of one spouse to another. Oftentimes, one spouse is able to receive spousal support, or alimony, to help them establish a new, post-divorce life.

The court will award financial assistance based on factors such as the duration of the marriage, each person’s earning capacity, contributions to the household and physical health of the recipient.

There are five different types of alimony that may be awarded:

  • Rehabilitative Alimony: Granted for a specified time period. It provides the recipient with the funds to obtain the job skills and education needed for him or her to become self-sufficient.
  • Lump-Sum Alimony: A one-time, fixed payment and is often granted in lieu of a property settlement. The amount awarded is equal to the total of future monthly payments.
  • Permanent Alimony: Which continues until the recipient remarries or either payor or payee dies. The payments may be adjusted due to changes in financial circumstances.
  • Reimbursement Alimony: The dutiful spouse who works full time to put her partner through school and is divorced shortly after is a candidate for reimbursement alimony. As the name implies, this support reimburses one spouse for expenses incurred in helping the other complete an education or training program.
  • Temporary Alimony: Temporary alimony is sometimes paid when a couple separates but the divorce is not final. The parties execute a written marital separation agreement stipulating how much and when payment will be made.

Property Disputes

When the court grants a divorce, property will be divided equitably (not always equally) between the two spouses. This is decided under the Equitable Distribution Law. During the divorce both spouses have to tell the court about their income and any debts they owe. There are two different types of property for the purposes of a divorce. Property that the couple bought during the marriage is called “marital property”. Property that belonged to you before the marriage or was a gift to just you from someone other than your spouse is called “separate property”. Marital property can be divided between the two spouses. Rather than using an automatic 50/50 split, an Illinois judge will consider all relevant factors in deciding what kind of property division is fair.

There’s no hard and fast rule for who gets the house in an Illinois divorce. In cases where a couple can’t afford to keep the marital home, a judge will order the house to be listed and sold as soon as possible so that the couple could divide the proceeds.

Child Custody

Probably the most contentious and emotionally difficult aspect of a divorce is deciding on custody of the children.

In an Illinois divorce or custody case, either parent may request custody, or both parents may agree to joint custody.

You may also ask the court to determine custody in other situations, including:

  • If you are not married to the other parent but need to determine custody of a child.
  • If you want to be the legal guardian of a child.
  • If you need to determine who the parent of your child is.

Parents may share legal custody, or legal custody may be vested in one parent (i.e. sole legal custody). While it is possible to share residential custody, such arrangements are oftentimes impractical or would impose too much stress on their children.

Child custody cases are intensely fact specific, and it is important to speak to an experienced family law attorney before letting emotions or fear dictate your decisions should you be faced with a custody battle.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Divorce

Despite what you hear and see on television, most legal disputes never make it to court and are usually resolved by a settlement outside of court proceedings.

Resolving divorce issues listed above can happen without lengthy and expensive litigation. More couples are now going with alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to end their marriages. The popularity of mediation has shifted the role of divorce attorneys from representing their clients in a legal battle to acting as divorce mediation lawyers to help clients achieve mediation success. In this new role attorneys can serve as a lawyer coaches, legal consultants, and legal advisers in the divorce mediation process.

ADR may prove to be a beneficial tool in resolving your divorce and related issues, depending on factors such as the degree to which you and your spouse are in dispute on key issues, and your willingness to work together to resolve those issues.

Get the help you need

Unfortunately, while it is always possible to represent yourself in a divorce case, it may not always be advisable.

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 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 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.

Schedule a Consultation today to learn more about how we can assist as your Divorce Mediators and Attorneys.