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Got Half? Property Division in Illinois

Marital property is any property or money that either spouse got during the marriage. If you cannot come to an agreement, a judge will have to make decisions about dividing your property and debt, and also about spousal support. 

Illinois may boast some of the lowest divorce rates in the nation, but think twice before you dub the state a lover’s paradise. In 2019, there were 1.3 divorces per thousand inhabitants in the state. However, this figure is a decrease from 1990, when the divorce rate was 3.8 divorces per thousand inhabitants.

One of the most controversial parts of the divorce process is often the division of marital property. Divorcing couples have the option of dividing property on their own with the help from a mediator, but couples who can’t reach an agreement will require court intervention. Illinois courts divide marital assets and debts according to “equitable distribution.”

Unlike other states that divide the marital estate exactly in half, Illinois instead considers a variety of factors to determine an asset division arrangement that is fair and reasonable on both ends. Here’s a couple of factors to consider when determining property division in Illinois.

Dividing and Distributing Assets

The first step in dividing property during a divorce is deciding whether property is marital or separate. Marital property includes most assets and debts a couple acquired during marriage. Separate property is if a spouse owned it before getting married or acquired it during marriage as a gift or inheritance. 

There are many factors at hand when you try to split up assets such as, how much each side has contributed (income, debt, as a homemaker etc.), the value of property, property hidden or destroyed in the course of the marriage, the length of a marriage and more:

  • Economic circumstances of each spouse
  • Child upbringing costs
  • Existing court maintenance orders
  • Financial contributions from previous marriages
  • Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
  • The status of each spouse (i.e. age, health, occupation, employability)
  • Consequences of tax reallocation from a property division

Similar to property, debt is divided in a divorce. “Marital debt” means debts that a couple gets while they are married. Spouses are responsible for each other’s expenses for the family during their marriage. Marital debt can be divided in a divorce case.

One thing to keep in mind is that the court is obligated to ignore marital misconduct when dividing property unless it had an immediate impact on the property or assets of the marriage. The main goal of the property division is to be fair. It won’t always be an even split, it could turn into a 60/40 split or 70/30 as long as the court deems it to be fair.

Once the court has determined what is and isn’t marital and separate property, they will assign a monetary value to each item. Determining an item’s value can help both the couples and the judge determine whether a specific property distribution is fair and equitable. A spouse with more assets and a high earning career can potentially take on most of the debts in a divorce, while the lower-earning spouse could receive a greater share of the assets. An example of this would be if one of the spouses has a high net worth or owns complex assets, the property division process can become especially complicated since they are liquid assets. 

Couples can divide their assets and debts on their own by reaching a divorce settlement agreement. A settlement agreement should resolve all issues in your divorce. A judge will review any proposed settlement agreement and must approve it before your divorce can become final.

Divorce Mediation

As previously mentioned, working together with a mediator to come to an agreement over the dividing of the property will help the divorce move more quickly. This where instead of going to court and leaving the division of your hard-earned property and assets to court, you can opt to settle matters amicably. You can discuss the property division in the presence of a third party – or mediator – who will host the negotiations and help you and your spouse in reaching a fair settlement.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, trying to determine the division of marital and separate assets can be a lengthy process. One way to speed this process up is to do an audit of all of your household items. Make a detailed list and then go through it line by line with your spouse. If and when couples have trouble communicating, going through a family law attorney may be your best option.

If you are considering filing for divorce, the first step you should take is to contact our Chicago-based law office. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, we can help. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support, guiding our clients through the entire divorce process.

If you are going through a divorce and want an experienced property division attorney to handle your case, do not hesitate to call. Contact us here today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Do I Need to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?

Couples who have a functional relationship and are able to work together may be able to get an uncontested divorce. If you live in the state of Illinois, here’s what you need to know about whether or not you will need to attend court during this process. 

Going through a divorce is not easy; it can be a very emotional and stressful time for all involved. The prospect of having to attend court for hearings throughout the process can make it even more stressful and nerve-wracking. For most court appearances, both parties appear by the representation of their lawyers – meaning they do not have to be personally present.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

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

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

While two divorces are the same, specific instances may require both spouses to appear at hearings throughout the divorce process. Here’s a look at some examples where both spouses do not have to attend court appearances and instances where both must be present. A lot of times this is determined by whether a divorce is uncontested or contested.

Spousal Attendance in an Uncontested Divorce

As mentioned, an uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on terms of the divorce by a marital settlement agreement. This includes matters such as property being divided up, whether any financial support will be granted to either spouse, and any child custody issues.

For an uncontested divorce to be finalized, the spouse who petitioned for divorce by filing with the county court must appear at the final hearing. The other spouse is not required to attend, as long as he or she has signed all the necessary documents regarding the marital settlement agreement.

The petitioner, or plaintiff, is required to testify as to the identity of both parties, as well as the terms of the settlement. The spouse’s lawyer may ask the spouse questions to acknowledge they fully understand the terms of the settlement. 

Spousal Attendance in a Contested Divorce

Unfortunately, marital settlement agreements aren’t always reached easily. When this matter arises, both spouses would need to be present at pre-trials along with their lawyers. These are usually informal in nature, and require both attorneys to present their client’s side of the argument.

A judge then provides both attorneys with a non-binding opinion on how to proceed, which is then reported back to the spouses. It’s important for both spouses to be present for this because a resolution on an issue could be made. 

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a final divorce hearing will be held, where both spouses must be present. A judge will hear all evidence and arguments, and will make a decision on all issues. Both parties must abide by the judge’s final decision.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Illinois?

There is no divorce waiting period for uncontested divorces in Illinois. However, you still must meet Illinois’ residency requirements before you can file for divorce in the state. You or your spouse has to live in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing for divorce.

If you want a fast divorce in Illinois, you’ll need to meet the residency requirements and find a way to settle things with your spouse. Contested divorces can take several months depending on the number of issues in your case and whether your case requires a lengthy trial. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/401(a).)

Conclusion

To answer the initial question: you may not have to attend court to get a divorce in Illinois. If you’re the one who petitioned for the divorce, you would have to appear at the final hearing. If the goal is a quick and efficient divorce in which you don’t have to attend court, the best approach is to agree on terms of a marital settlement agreement promptly and before the final hearing. 

At Masters Law Group our attorneys are here to guide you through your divorce every step of the way. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, call Masters Law Group. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support throughout the divorce process. 

Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Preparation for a Family Court Trial

Your divorce and/or custody has been set for trial. With so much at stake, being well-prepared can help you feel more confident and calm. Here are some useful steps that can help you to prepare your case effectively in family court.

When parents divorce in the state of Illinois, their divorce settlement must outline a plan for different issues regarding their children. This plan should include child support, custody and visitation. Some parents are able to utilize mediation or work together to determine where their children will live and how much time will be spent with each parent.

There are some cases in which parents are unable to resolve custody disputes without legal intervention. In that situation, it is best to get a family lawyer to advise parents to prepare themselves for a potential child custody evaluation. Here’s some ways to prepare for a family court trial.

Preparing For Trial

Attorneys will guide you through the preparation process and help you gather evidence. Your job is to provide everything your attorney asks for and be 100% honest so they can prepare for arguments the other party may be compiling. 

If you plan on representing yourself, most legal experts would recommend consulting with an attorney to ensure you’re ready for court. This is different from hiring a lawyer to represent you since they will provide you with advice during meetings.

You’ll need to present evidence to support your case, which includes exhibits and witnesses. It’s always important to review the Illinois Rules of Evidence, and remember that witnesses cannot testify to hearsay.

Examples of Evidence You Can Provide

  • Bills and medical reports 
  • Photos/Videos of you and your child
  • Phone logs and visits with your child
  • A calendar showing when you care for your child
  • Anything that proves you to be fit as a parent and meets evidence requirements

It’s important to be prepared and have the judge know your stance on what is best for your child. You can do this by providing a parenting plan and parenting time schedule to trial. Along with all documents, bring a copy for the court, one for the other parent and one for yourself.

Witnesses can be anyone with knowledge relevant to the case. Parents almost always testify as witnesses. A child is more likely to do an interview with the judge outside of the courtroom, since the probability of them testifying is low. Expert witnesses provide professional opinions and are appointed by the court or hired by a party. Examples of expert witnesses are child custody evaluators or psychologists. Lay witnesses do not offer expert opinions, but they testify about their personal knowledge of a situation. These witnesses include family members, friends, and teachers.

Trial Scheduling

Trials usually take place several months after the initial filing. If the case is not progressing 18 months after filing, the judge may decide to issue a ruling at that time. Trials typically tend to be a few hours and will often be done in one sitting. 

Longer trials may be broken up into sessions spread out over days, weeks or, in some complicated cases, months. Be aware that the court may delay your trial date due to requests for more time from the other parent.

Trial Procedures

The parent who requested parental responsibilities, also known as the petitioner, may give an opening statement to explain how they see the case. The other parent, also known as the respondent, can then follow. 

If you are represented by an attorney, they will speak on your behalf. The petitioner calls witnesses and presents exhibits first. Any number of witnesses can be called to testify, as long as they were on the list that was filed with the court and provided to the other parent. 

Following Procedures:

  • Next, the respondent calls their witnesses and presents their exhibits.
  • Later, each side can submit additional evidence (called rebuttal evidence) to disprove the other side’s claims.

Finally, both parties give closing arguments to summarize their points. Judges announce rulings immediately following closing arguments, but they can take several days or weeks to decide. The final judgment replaces temporary orders previously put in place. Your options for changing a final judgment include appealing to a higher court or applying for a modification.

Final Thoughts

Masters Law Group understands that preparation for a family court trial can be a stressful situation. Our firm makes sure they are with you every step of the way. We currently handle family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties and concentrate in the 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 and have a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to set up a consultation today.

Failing to Respond to the Divorce Petition

Whatever “side” took the initiative to begin divorce proceedings, resisting spouses can make the divorce process very difficult by refusing to sign the necessary divorce papers. Or even completely failing to respond altogether. Read on to learn how the process works on both sides and what happens if a spouse does not respond to divorce papers. 

Making the decision to end a divorce can be difficult and can be hard to navigate since there are many steps taken in order to finalize a divorce. A divorce process begins with one spouse filing a petition with the court. In Illinois, you are required to complete a number of documents, such as the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Summons, and a few others, that are served to the defendant.

In some cases, an Injunction order or an Application for Temporary Matters are also served. These documents can either be served by a spouse in person to their partner, or through a process server, who is generally the county Sheriff. Here are some steps to help you navigate responding to a divorce petition.

Divorce Summons

After receiving divorce papers, you must file for appearance at the local courthouse. You can do so by visiting the clerk’s office of your county, where your spouse has filed for the Petition of Dissolution of Marriage. You will have to pay a certain fee for Appearance, showing that you acknowledge the papers and will participate in the divorce proceedings.

When a divorce petition is filed with the court, the court will issue a summons to be served with the divorce petition on the opposing party. The summons is a legal document that informs the opposing party that a divorce action has been filed. 

The service of the summons and divorce petition on the opposing party is a key step in the divorce process because it also informs the responding party of the deadline for filing an answer to the divorce petition. This deadline is very important because if the opposing party fails to answer or otherwise respond to the divorce petition, he or she may be barred from participating in the divorce process.

Failing To Respond To The Divorce Petition

The opposing party has 30 days in which to file a response to the divorce petition. The party is not required by law to file an answer or otherwise respond to the allegations contained in the divorce petition unless he or she chooses to do so. However, if the opposing party does not file an answer or other response, the court may assume that the party does not want to participate in the divorce process.

When an opposing party does not file an answer, the petitioning party files a motion for default judgment asking the court to grant him or her the relief sought in the divorce petition. If the court finds the opposing party is in default, the divorce process may continue without any further notice being provided to the defaulted party. In most cases, the court will grant the relief requested by the petitioning spouse in the divorce petition provided the relief sought is not “unconscionable.”

Do Not Ignore A Divorce Summons And Petition

The court may continue the divorce process without further notice to a defaulted party. Never ignore a summons and divorce petition. Even if you consent to the divorce and the relief sought in the petition, you still should have competent, experienced legal counsel to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the court proceedings. Things can change in a divorce proceeding very quickly and you do not want to be caught unaware or without legal representation.

It’s important to take the deadline seriously and make sure you take appropriate actions well before it so that you do not face any problems in the later stages of your divorce. You should make a decision about your legal representation, whether you are going to hire an attorney or go for a do-it-yourself divorce, within the first week. This will give you enough time to prepare and submit the required paperwork at the clerk’s office.

Final Thoughts

Ask your Family Law attorney to provide guidance for revising your financial records and assets. You may have to close joint accounts, and transfer your finances to a personal account, as well as cancel any credit cards that are in your name and your spouse has access to. If you have children, make sure you do not include them in the discord with your spouse. Resist exhibiting any behaviors that can impact the allocation of parental responsibilities, as well as parenting time in the parenting plan.

If you are considering filing for divorce, the first step you should take is to contact our office to schedule a consultation. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, call Masters Law Group. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support throughout the divorce process. 

Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

 

What Does a Family Law Attorney Cover?

Most people will use the terms “Family Law” and “Divorce Lawyer” interchangeably with each other.  The truth, however, is that Divorce Law is only one aspect of Family Law. 

What is family law and what do family lawyers do? Family law is a legal practice area that focuses on issues involving family relationships, such as adoption, divorce, and child custody, among others. Therefore, family law attorneys are legal professionals that specialize in these specific matters. Family lawyers can also act as mediators when family disagreements develop and represent litigants in family conflicts that end up in courts.

Below are some of the things that an experienced and reputable family law attorney can do for you.

Child Custody/Child Support agreements

In the hardest of times when a couple separates, one of the most challenging problems to solve is children.

Court orders and settlement agreements involving both custody and support usually are included in the larger divorce case, but may be revisited as conditions change. For instance, child support may be altered after the non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes.

A child support order is determined by what is reasonable and necessary for the support of the child or children. It is presumed that the guideline support amounts represent the amount of support that is reasonable and necessary, unless it can be demonstrated to the court that circumstances exist that would make the guideline amount inappropriate.

Divorce and Divorce Mediation

Undergoing a divorce is probably one of the most draining experiences that a family can face, and divorce cases involving substantial assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge. A good divorce attorney is skilled at dividing marital property, calculating spousal support, and proposing a plan for child custody, visitation, and support (if applicable).

Attorneys can also cover divorce mediation. Divorce Mediators work with a couples involved in family break-ups to make arrangements, either to plan for a separation or divorce, or after the split has taken place, without the need for court intervention.

Domestic Violence Protection

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

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

International Child Abduction (Hague Convention)

Although not a common practice for most family lawyers, some specific attorneys have the knowledge, experience and skills in Hague Convention cases to take on international parental child abduction cases. 

The Hague Convention is a treaty that many countries, including the United States, have joined. Its purpose is to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction by a parent. Proving claims in international child abduction cases under the Hague Abduction Convention requires analysis and careful development of all evidence and testimony that may support or defeat defenses to claims of wrongful abduction or retention. Therefore, choosing an attorney who has extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes is vital.

Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

Now that you know what a family law attorney is, you’re probably wondering how hiring legal representation in your family law case would benefit you. Here are the major benefits that come with hiring a family lawyer.

Legal Protection

How realistic are the claims coming from the other party? Can the other party actually receive what they’re stating they’ll receive? A family law attorney knows the law, as well as the outcomes of past verdicts, and can use that knowledge to help you receive the best possible outcome.

Legal 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. By hiring a family law attorney, you can rest assured the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. Consequently, you will not have to sweat about your case being thrown out as early as possible.

Court Experience

If a case goes to court, experienced attorneys can make sure that their client is prepared for everything that is going to happen when they enter the courtroom 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.

Last Words

There are areas of Family Law that involve people who are involved in Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships, and same-sex relationships.  As a Chicago-based Family Law practice, we can ensure that the appropriate contracts and agreements are in place to help to avoid any issues in the future.

If you are facing a family law issue, contact the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our 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.

5 Signs It’s Time to Consider Divorce

Divorce can be a draining, time consuming process when it comes to legally dissolving one’s marriage with their former spouse. It’s important to recognize warning signs that it may be time to consider the divorce process. In doing so, it will lessen the blow of preparing for this emotional journey.

Signs it’s time to get a divorce can be a confusing, especially when there are children involved. Therefore deciding whether you’re in a failing marriage that’s beyond repair is obviously not a choice that comes easily.

It’s not always as black and white as infidelity or financial problems, and while divorce is no one’s plan in life, these red flags could mean the end of your marriage.

1. Lack of Communication

Communication is a key ingredient to a healthy relationship.  Even when it leads to a disagreement — it is important for spouses to understand how the other is feeling. Some might think that avoidance of conversation to prevent arguments is preferable to fighting with a spouse.

When conversation breaks down completely – and neither of you are willing to put forth the effort to learn about what each other is feeling – is a clear indication that the relationship may no longer be worth the ongoing upset. 

2. Avoiding your Partner

You start to find ways to avoid any interactions with them, and would rather have no contact than negative confrontation. You find yourself wanting to spend more time with friends and family. This can be a sign that things have changed on your end in a big way.

3. Change in Values and Priorities

In good relationships couples value the same things. People can change over periods of time which is completely normal and healthy in a relationship, but what they once used to value no longer matters to them any more.

It could be as small or as big as a partner changing a couple things in their lifestyle which forces a new way of life upon their partner. For example, one partner wants to move somewhere for a job opportunity while the other would rather not. Unless both people can adapt to significant changes like this, it can be a tough one to surpass.

4. Indifference inside and outside the relationship 

If negative thoughts have begun to override the way you see your partner, things may be headed for divorce. Prolonged feelings of indifference toward your spouse is a major sign that something is off within your marriage. When you stop caring about what the other person thinks and feels, you’ve lost the ability to listen and connect—which is not as easy to fix.

5. Lack of Intimacy 

Feeling close to your partner goes far beyond the physicality of the relationship.  The deficiency of emotional intimacy is equally as big of a sign as the more apparent lack of physical intimacy. If you feel like you can’t connect with your spouse on a deeper level—or don’t want to—you’ve lost an important part of the marriage.

It’s always possible to seek out counseling to find out what’s not working. But if you’re past the point of feeling attracted to your partner, divorce may be the next step. 

Final Thoughts

Breaking up a marriage can be one of the hardest things to do — but thinking long term is the best way to go about these types of situations. Divorce can be frightening and overwhelming. But when you break it down into small, manageable steps, like those outlined above, it becomes somewhat “do-able” to leave a relationship that no longer benefits you and your family. 

It could mean setting time aside to sit down and openly talk to your partner about your feelings, going to counseling or maybe even starting the separation process. Living unhappily is not necessary and there is usually a light at the end of every tunnel —if you look hard enough. 

Read more

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.

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.

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.