Tag Archive for: divorce law

How is Cryptocurrency Divided in Divorce?

Cryptocurrency is an asset like any other kind of asset, and as a result, it may be considered separate property or marital property. What many people do not understand is exactly how complicated this can become. 

Cryptocurrency is a type of code or software that dictates how a unit of currency is produced and regulated.  Essentially, the creator of the cryptocurrency makes the units using an algorithm that relies on cryptography to secure the currency. The most common cryptocurrency, and the first of its kind, is Bitcoin, but there are thousands of other types that can be purchased or earned.

Despite Bitcoin and Crypto prices being extremely volatile, (the recent Crypto crash being a prime example), cryptocurrency is gaining in popularity and becoming a more and more common asset seen in divorce cases.

Crypto and Divorce Trend

Cryptocurrency has gone from an obscure hobby to a significant investment for many people across the country. As crypto assets like bitcoin rose dramatically in price, many investors became wealthy, especially those who entered the crypto market in the early days. However, cryptocurrency can also add new complications to a divorce, particularly when it comes to dividing assets between divorcing spouses.

Here’s a look at some commonly asked questions about cryptocurrency assets in a divorce.

Q: What is Cryptocurrency and is it Considered Marital Property?

A: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that allows secure transactions on the internet without having to go through a bank. Bitcoins can be exchanged or traded for other currency, products, or services and have increased in use since their creation in 2008. With this increase comes new challenges in a divorce when it comes to dividing up assets.

Cryptocurrency is considered an asset and as a result, it may be considered separate property or marital property. In some cases, growth in the value of cryptocurrency during the marriage may be considered a marital asset, even if the original purchase took place before the marriage. 

This is especially true when both spouses were involved in using cryptocurrency, investing in crypto assets, or planning to rely on crypto to fund future financial ventures. If you’re a crypto investor considering divorce, you should always consult with your lawyer about how you can expect your investments to be affected by the separation.

Q: Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?

A: Bitcoins are treated the same as any other asset in a divorce. If the bitcoin transaction was before the marriage, was given as a gift or through an inheritance, it is not marital property and cannot be divided. Therefore, if the transaction was during the marriage, it is marital property and can be divided.

When bitcoins are considered marital property, the easiest way to divide them is to split the determined value 50/50. Since most bitcoins can be cashed out in full, splitting the value 50/50 means each spouse would simply get half.

Another way to divide bitcoins is by negotiating other marital property in exchange. This means, if the spouse with the bitcoins wants to keep them, they can give up other marital property with the same determined value to the other spouse.

Q: Can Cryptocurrency Be Used to Hide Assets During Divorce?

A: A misinformation gap can easily arise especially when only one partner is involved in the crypto market and the other spouse has little knowledge on the aspects of crypto investments. This gap can lead to one partner not knowing what to look for when it comes to uncovering crypto holdings in the asset division process. 

The growing awareness of cryptocurrency technology has led to more divorce attorneys thinking about how to deal with crypto as a way of hiding assets. In some cases, a spouse may suspect the other party has undisclosed crypto holdings, while in other cases, they may notice that the other spouse suddenly seems to have a source of funds that is not tied to their existing employment or investments.

There are several ways that cryptocurrency assets may be discovered. The best-known and easiest to uncover are bitcoin and ethereum. Other cryptocurrencies may offer higher levels of anonymity. Those assets are much less valuable and more volatile than the better-known digital currencies. A forensic expert typically brought in by the parties, may search for cryptocurrency tickers, login credentials for exchanges, or keys for certain types of digital wallets.

Bank statements, credit card statements, and other financial documents may indicate transactions for crypto purchases from various exchanges.

Final Thoughts

During a marriage, it’s important for both partners to have an understanding of their marital income, and investments. With greater knowledge about finances shared between spouses, it can be far more difficult for one person to hide assets during a divorce. 

If you are concerned about how your or your spouse’s cryptocurrency assets could affect your divorce or the asset division process, Masters Law Group can help. Our team of highly trained and experienced family law attorneys are here to answer your questions about divorce and digital asset division.

Contact us today for more information, or to schedule a consultation.

 

This National Spouse’s Day: Exploring Legal Separation

Although divorce doesn’t come to mind when celebrating National Spouse’s Day today, many Americans are now looking for ways to help fix their relationship without ending their marriage legally; including legal separation.

National Spouse’s Day is a chance to celebrate your spouse and show your better half that they are appreciated. Let’s admit it, sometimes married couples need reminders to leave the hamster wheel that is everyday life. January 26, however, can either be the remedy to all couples’ woes, or a sign to explore legal separation.

Here’s a look at legal separation and what it could mean for you depending on your personal situation.

What Is Legal Separation?

A divorce means the marriage is legally over. A legal separation is a court-ordered arrangement where a married couple lives apart, leading separate lives. A legal separation is a popular alternative to a divorce when the parties are unsure of the state of their marriage but want to establish boundaries on finances and responsibilities. Oftentimes this includes separation of assets, custody of dependents, and child support.

Although the reasons for seeking a legal separation vary, there are some common ones worth noting. Some religions prohibit married couples from divorcing and a legal separation grants most of the benefits of a divorce without compromising religious tenets. Also, those unsure of their marital future may opt for a legal separation, hoping for a reconciliation. 

When crafting a legal separation, both spouses should thoroughly address any issues about responsibilities, shared assets, or any other situation specific to the marriage that needs to be addressed. If the terms of the agreement are not clearly defined in the petition, the judge won’t be able to help you. Every petition for legal separation must include the following information:

  • The legal names of both spouses
  • The date and location of the marriage
  • The names of any children or dependents of the marriage
  • The proposed custody arrangement of the children
  • The dates and addresses where the couple began living apart
  • Any child support arrangement, as well as any other financial responsibilities to which both parties have agreed

Separation vs. Divorce vs. Annulment

Though a divorce marks the official end of a valid marriage, an annulment treats the marriage as if it had never happened. In other words, a judge grants an annulment indicating that the court does not recognize the arrangement as having been a legally valid marriage. There are a number of scenarios in which a person can request an annulment:

  • The marriage was a result of force, fraud, or physical or mental incapacity.
  • The marriage took place when one or both spouses were under the influence.
  • The marriage took place when one or both spouses were already married.

In most cases, the legal termination of a marriage will result in a divorce. Unlike a separation, a divorce is permanent. This means both spouses are free to remarry. However, depending on the state where the couple lived and how long the marriage lasted a divorce also means the termination of economic benefits such as shared insurance and assets. Ultimately, electing for a divorce over a legal separation is a personal choice.

Pros and Cons of a Legal Separation


Couples may choose to be legally separated rather than getting a divorce for various reasons. But before they make a decision, one must consider the pros and cons associated with separating legally and if it would be a better option than a trial separation or divorce.

Pros:

  • Divorce is a very final process. Even though a couple has determined that they can no longer live together as a couple, they may not be ready to go through a full divorce. They may wish to legally separate and get the distance they need to make the ultimate decision about divorcing with a clear head.
  • People elect to legally separate when they have religious or social objections to divorce. In such a scenario, separating legally allows the couple to not violate the religious beliefs and live separately.
  • Another reason people elect to legally separate is when they have religious or social objections to divorce. A legal separation allows the couple to live independently of each other without officially divorcing.
  • A few people might have the option to remain on their partner’s medical coverage plan in the event that they are legally separated rather than being divorced. There likewise might be other monetary advantages to separating legally over divorce.

Cons:

  • One of the biggest disadvantages to a legal separation is that you and your spouse remain married. If you want to remarry, you will not be able to do so unless you obtain a full divorce. However, if you decide to divorce, having a legal separation already in place can make the divorce process more efficient as you have already agreed on terms.
  • With similar legal requirements as a divorce, paperwork, litigation, and trial proceedings, separating legally can be as much taxing as a divorce.
  • If you ultimately do decide to divorce, getting a legal separation first can end up costing you more money. Because you must get a court order recognizing your legal separation, you will be subject to court fees. Before going through a legal separation, you should consider the likelihood of divorcing down the road and whether or not a legal separation is more beneficial to you than a full divorce.

Final Thoughts

Like Illinois, most states allow legal separations—the exceptions are Florida, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The length of the separation process can vary depending on the state and the complexity of the agreement, but the process typically takes around six months to a year. You can begin a legal separation by contacting your family law attorneys at Masters Law Group, or by filing a petition with the Circuit Court Clerk of the appropriate county. For a list of circuit courts, view the Illinois Courts website.

If you are considering a legal separation, you should consult with your lawyer to make sure it is the best decision for you. Every case is different, and your attorney can use their experience to help guide you in making this important decision. At Masters Law Group, our team of attorneys are experienced in handling Legal Separation, and Divorce Cases.

Overall, if you’re exploring legal separation it’s always best to consult an established family law attorney for a clear understanding of what your options are. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Illinois Divorce Q&A

Are you considering a divorce? Throughout this tough time in your life you might have a hard time figuring out where to start or have many questions that need answers. For anyone seeking a divorce it’s important to have a lawyer who has your best interests in mind. Here are a couple of the most important and frequently asked questions when it comes to considering a divorce.

Divorce law is complicated so, if you are considering getting a divorce from your spouse you may have questions about what it involves and how to proceed etc. In this article, our experienced Illinois-based Divorce and Family Law attorneys cover the top most common divorce questions and answers.  Let’s dive right in…

Q: Is Illinois a 50/50 State for Divorce?

A: 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. Unfortunately, Illinois is not a 50/50 state for divorce. This means that the court weighs a number of factors to determine how to fairly divide property rather than dividing property 50/50. These factors include each spouse’s contribution to acquiring the property, the value of the property, the duration of the marriage, and which party has more responsibility for any children of the marriage. 

Q: Do Both Parties Have to Agree To Get A Divorce?

A: Both parties do not have to agree to get a divorce. A divorce can be filed by either party by filing a divorce petition along with a summons with the clerk of court and having it personally served upon the other party. Although both parties do not have to agree to get a divorce, both parties do have to agree to waive the 6-month waiting period of living separate and apart prior to a divorce as discussed above.

Q: Can You Be Denied A Divorce In Illinois?

A: In Illinois, you cannot be denied a divorce. Some states have many grounds for divorce and may deny a divorce if you fail to prove the grounds that you allege in your divorce petition, such as adultery or habitual drunkenness. Prior to 2016, Illinois operated this way as well. However, since 2016, the only ground for divorce in Illinois is irreconcilable differences. 

This means that the only reason that your divorce would be denied would be because you failed to follow the court’s procedural requirements or because you did not meet certain prerequisites, such as the six-month waiting period. Even if your case was dismissed or delayed based on these grounds, with the help of an attorney, you would eventually be able to receive a divorce order.   

Q: How Can You Get a Divorce if Your Spouse Won’t Sign?

A: 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 the 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.

Uncontested divorce is a great way to speed up the divorce process and make it less expensive. If both parties do not agree to the issues involved in the divorce, or even to the idea of getting divorced, this will not prevent you from receiving your divorce order.  

Q: How Can I Get a Quick Divorce in Illinois?

A: Divorces usually tend to be drawn out, especially when the parties cannot agree on how to handle issues such as child support, allocation of parenting time and responsibility, spousal maintenance, and division of assets and debts.  

However, if the parties can agree on the issues mentioned above, this is called an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties and their attorneys draft written agreements at the outset. These are known as Marital Settlement Agreements and Joint Parenting Agreements. Uncontested divorces can be resolved with one court appearance and can be finished as quickly as a month.  

Q: How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Illinois?


Those living in Illinois and thinking about divorce might be like many Americans in the current uncertain financial climate. In Illinois, there are no set costs for the divorce. There are, however, set costs for filing the paperwork with the court where you live.  If you are a couple who have been married a short period and have separated for at least 6 months, a divorce should be relatively easy – therefore more inexpensive – even if you hire an attorney. If you are married with children, have joint assets like retirement accounts, investments or own a home/business together, you may think it is easier to hire attorneys and let them work out the details.

Final Thoughts

While there are many questions and valid concerns that come with divorce, the divorce process itself does not have to be difficult, and you don’t have to go it alone. However, divorce is an investment with substantial risks.

Divorce cases involving considerable 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.

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.

If you are contemplating filing for divorce or learn that a spouse recently filed, Masters Law Group’s team of experienced attorneys can answer any questions you may have throughout this process.

For more information on the divorce process in Illinois, contact us here today.

 

Divorce Planning: Finding Freedom in 2022

Celebrating the holidays with family and friends is one of the most anticipated times of the year. But for parents considering divorce, the holidays are not always a happy time. Now is a good time to figure out how to manage your expectations of divorce in 2022.

They say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” But is it, when considering a divorce? No matter how long you and your spouse have been together, a divorce can be draining—both emotionally and financially. It can be difficult if you’re unprepared or disorganized. With the new year around the corner, now may be the best time to prepare yourself for your next steps to finding freedom in 2022.

To make the transition as smooth as possible, the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group have put together divorce planning tips for 2022 to help you navigate through the process. Here’s what you should know.

Discuss the Divorce 

If you haven’t talked with your spouse about a divorce yet, decide when, where, and how to approach the subject. Try to pick a date that doesn’t coincide with a major event, which is why many individuals put off the process until the new year. Then, choose a time that will give both of you a chance to talk, think, reflect, and rest before work or other obligations arise. If possible, plan to have the conversation in a neutral place—out of the home and away from domestic triggers and distractions. Keep it simple, try to remain calm, and avoid saying more than you need to. 

Any divorce can get messy and complicated. It’s important to have a support system in place when you’re going through a hard time. A group of trusted friends and family members who will be there to listen and lend a hand will be especially important throughout this tough time. It’s also a good idea to meet with a therapist, especially if you’re coping with any trauma, such as domestic or substance abuse. 

Navigate Separation Details

Some couples live together until the divorce is final, but usually, one spouse or the other moves out before that time. Decide where you, your partner, and your children will live. Keep in mind that maintaining two separate homes will be expensive. Both you and your soon-to-be-ex should aim to spend no more than 25% of your respective take-home pay on rent or mortgage costs. Be sure to create a realistic budget that reflects the new living arrangements and ensures both households are safe. 

Compile Your Legal Documents

Part of divorcing is figuring out who gets what. A good place to start is to make a list and keep proper documentation of personal items that belong only to you, such as jewelry, family heirlooms, or photos and papers that have special meaning to you. If necessary, give these items to a trusted family member or friend for safekeeping. 

It’s essential to have your financial paperwork organized and in one place, such as a file or binder. Start by collecting and making copies of your legal documents, including:

  • Marriage documents: Agreements and marriage license
  • Tax returns: Federal and state tax returns for the past five years
  • Real estate: Deeds, appraisals, cost basis of home, mortgages, rental property records
  • Business documents: Receipts, tax returns, payroll information, and any registrations, patents, or trademarks
  • End-of-life plans: Will, power of attorney, advance healthcare directive

If you have trouble finding any documents (or your spouse is making it difficult), your attorney can help. 

Hire a Divorce Attorney

How well you are able to navigate through your divorce may rest in large part on your ability to produce documents and evidence that can support your claims for alimony, child support, a division of assets and other important issues. Even if your divorce is amicable, it’s best to hire an experienced attorney who will help you understand your rights and responsibilities—and ensure you follow the appropriate steps. That way, you can make educated decisions about you and your loved ones’ future. 

Making sure you are treated fairly is vital to give you the best chance of moving forward in the best possible way after your divorce is finalized. To find a reputable lawyer, seek out recommendations from family and friends or research several family law attorneys in your area. Either way, be sure to interview a few candidates to find the one with whom you will be most comfortable.

Final Thoughts

January is often dubbed “divorce month” because many people say, “Let’s make this the last good holiday for the kids and our families” or “Let’s wait until after the New Year when the kids go back to school.” No matter what the reason though, divorce is never easy. There is no “good” time for a divorce – period. Coming to terms with your divorce and divorce planning does not have to be hard.

At Masters Law Group, our award-winning attorneys are here to guide you through your divorce every step of the way and help you untangle the process. When you need the assistance of an experienced divorce 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.

Planning for a Gray Divorce in Illinois

Gray divorce refers to the increasing divorce rate for older couples in long-term marriages. If you’re facing a divorce later in life, here’s what you should know. 

Divorce can be difficult and emotionally draining, especially after long-term marriage. Gray Divorce is often referred to as “diamond divorce,” a phrase which has been coined for the increasing number of late-in-life divorces.

The overall U.S. divorce rate is dropping but the number of divorces after age 50 is surging. The reason is a generational divide: Americans in their 20s, 30s and 40s are delaying and, in some cases, skipping marriage. Those who do get hitched are likelier to stay together. Meanwhile, baby boomers — who caused the divorce rate to surge starting in the 1970s — are continuing to divorce at higher rates as they age.

If you’re thinking about, or going through a divorce later in life, here’s what you need to know.

What is Gray Divorce? 

As mentioned above, gray divorce refers to a demographic trend that has witnessed an increase in the split or separation of older couples who have been married for a long time. The term began to be used in the United States in 2004, but the practice had already been prevalent for about 20 years. You need to know that the consequences of getting divorced after 50 can be incredibly impactful, both financially and emotionally, to older people and their families.

Splitting up after age 50 may be particularly hazardous to your emotional and financial health, far worse than doing so at younger ages. A wave of new research is quantifying the damage.

“It’s a grim picture,” said Susan Brown, a Bowling Green State University sociology professor and co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, which has generated many of the new findings. According to one study, people who’ve gone through a gray divorce report higher levels of depression than those whose spouses died.

The need for retirement benefits becomes more critical when you divorce later in life because people have less time to “make up” any losses they may face pursuant to a divorce. Understanding what benefits are available, and how they can be distributed, is paramount as you plan for a separate future. 

Reasons For Gray Divorce

Divorce is one of the most challenging parts of anyone’s life, but sometimes it is inevitable. Asides from generational differences, there have been a couple recurring themes linked to it.

Financial Issues: One of the most popular reasons is financial problems. Financial problems are problematic during any part of a marriage. When one partner has trouble keeping to a budget, especially if the other is a primary breadwinner, the outcome isn’t always favorable. One example of this is when one spouse makes an investment decision that goes sideways or loses money from a couple’s nest egg. On the other hand, if one of the partners earns all of the money in the household and; therefore, makes all of the decisions involving money, problems may arise. 

Empty Nest Syndrome: Empty Nest Syndrome is also another popular reason why people look to get divorced later in life. When you’re in the prime of your life, you may have two or three kids that consume your time. Pets, family activities, charitable efforts and layers upon layers also keep you happy and active. In many cases, as children grow up and leave home, you spend more and more time at home. This leaves you with time to reflect on you and your partner not being who you were before. 

Infidelity: Cheating on a spouse is another major reason for gray divorce. Infidelity does not carry the same stigma it did in earlier times, and this has led many married couples to stray. Combined with online dating sites encouraging infidelity, many are tempted by the lure of temporary, often younger sexual partners.

Growing Apart: Couples in gray divorce may have realized later in their lives that they lost the spark they had when they first married. Considering that the stigma around divorce is diminishing, they decide that divorce would be the best course of action.

Legal Considerations of a Gray Divorce

While the process of divorce is no different to those of younger divorcees, there are some special considerations unique to divorcing later in life.

Step one is identifying which assets are part of your marital estate and which assets are pre-marital possessions. This would be somewhat simple if you had only married your spouse two or three years ago, but after several decades of being together, memories of who owned what tend to blur together. Also, pre-marital assets can get mixed into marital assets, such as if your husband/wife used money in his/her pre-marriage savings account to buy your house after you were married.

The division of property can be complex. Assets to discuss with your family law attorney include:

  • Health/Life Insurance Policies
  • Property/Marital Home
  • Social Security Benefits
  • Investments
  • Retirement Benefits

Among the most important considerations is how best to ensure a good income stream and access to funds when needed. If older couples have been married for a significant period of time, spousal support may be more likely to be ordered. Additionally, this more often takes the form of permanent alimony. Lastly, postnuptial agreements (post divorce disputes) are signed after the date of marriage instead of before, and can address these issues such as debt, inheritances, and any other property the couple owns — such as a house — in the event of a separation.

Final Thoughts

Once you begin the stages of coming to terms and finalizing a gray divorce, it’s important to surround yourself with loved ones. Reconnect with old friends and family members that you have grown apart from over the years. Life gets in the way between being married and raising a family, focusing on your career and being involved in your community. It is time to reshuffle your priorities and place your needs first.

Divorce cases involving older individuals and 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.

If you’re looking for attorneys who are highly experienced Gray Divorce in Illinois, Masters Law group has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Gray Divorce field.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

 

5 Tips to Survive the Holidays Co-Parenting

Co-parenting over the holidays. These four words can bring either a sense of joy or dread this season, or even both. But with the right planning in place, you can experience a harmonious Hanukkah, cohesive Christmas and no-drama New Year. 

The holidays can be a magical time for everyone. Children have breaks from schools; families and friends gather for meals and multi-day celebrations; and emotions run hot. While the season brings joy and laughter for some, they can also be hard to manage – especially when co-parenting.  Yes co-parenting has its challenges on a good day, but throw in the holidays and it takes on a whole new level.

To make sure your holidays remain special for you and your children, it’s important to have a plan. Here are 5 tips to help you survive the holidays and set your loved ones up for a season of success.

  • Create a Parenting Plan

Since you and your spouse went through the formal divorce process, you likely have a parenting plan in place that also includes how the holidays are meant to be shared. If you feel that you need to make new arrangements this year and it is not your first time co-parenting during the holidays, do not save this for the last minute. A parenting plan is a legally-binding agreement and should be respectfully treated as such.

If you don’t have a parenting plan you may want to consider getting one. You can develop one informally if you are communicating well or you can have your attorney or mediator help create one for you. It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan. 

The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children. Once you have it in place and on autopilot, you won’t have to stress over everything. Try one if you don’t already have one. It can make your life a lot easier.

  • Allow Flexibility

You’ve gone through a lot this year; trying to process divorce, finalize child support and navigate the co-parenting world – just to name a few. Add coronavirus to the mix, and you have yourself the perfect ending to a horrible year. COVID-19 has arisen many grey areas for families across the world, including parenting time schedules. Use your parenting plan as a tool to keep things focused, but while compromising might not be easy, it is an effective way to make things easier for your children, assuming they are only minor adjustments. For example, help yourself by giving your ex some wiggle room on logistics. A great rule of thumb is to plan at least 15 minutes of flex time around any child exchange. Depending on your location and the weather gets worse, you will need more flex time.

Consider having a civil conversation about what you both have in mind for the holidays and how time with the children can be shared with each of you and extended family members. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin the conversation. “The sooner the better” is in order to iron out any initial disagreements that could occur. 

Try to cooperate with each other during this emotionally-charged season and do what is needed for both you and your ex so that you can both spend happy, quality time with your children.

  • Stability is Key

Once you have made some logistical decisions, present a united front in telling the children together (if possible) what the plans are going to be. Make them feel that everything is worked out and it’s going to be a good holiday season because mom and dad have figured it out.

This will provide stability and comfort to your children. It will ease their anxiety and their concerns about mom and dad getting along during the holidays. Children think about holidays and how mom and dad are going to feel if they are alone. Give them peace of mind that everything will be okay even though you are no longer together.

  • Tolerate Difficult Circumstances (New Partners)

Divorce can be a painful and draining process. Be kind to yourself while going through your divorce. Many medical and mental health professionals recommend treating divorce like grief. There is happiness on the other side of all the legal and emotional issues, and the chances of your children feeling that pain are highly likely. If you or your ex are in the process of separating, try to not make small matters an issue. 

While the holidays can be a delicate time to test your tolerance, by doing so, you’ll look back without regret at handling these emotional issues maturely. Try to have an open discussion with each other about the role of a new significant other and how that will play in the lives of your children. Introducing a new partner is a big and important decision. Incorporating new partners into the family structure is delicate, especially during the holidays. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can receive sound advice on how to speak with your children so everyone involved is comfortable.

It’s important to remember to stay calm, the chances of your child remembering you losing your temper are high in the event that someone interferes with your plan. When something goes wrong, you can absolutely feel angry. The suggestion here is to try to have some patience, and focus on your child’s priorities.

  • Show Yourself Some Love

The holidays can be hard even for those who are not recently divorced, so do not begrudge yourself some self-care. There is a chance that you will spend some time alone this holiday season, and with Covid-19 variants looming, you could end up alone more than you expected.

Try to make some plans for yourself that do not involve the kids, even if it is just to sit at home on your own, binge-watching TV shows with your favorite takeaway meal. A little time to yourself can do wonders for your mood and help you get through the holidays with a little less stress. As much as you might want to make the holidays perfect for your kids, you cannot forget yourself. The happier you are, the smoother the holiday season will be them, too.

Last Thoughts

The holidays are meant to be a special time for everyone involved. And remember, having patience while trying to execute the holiday co-parenting plan is crucial to maintaining everyone’s enjoyment of the holidays. 

We hope with the help of these tips mentioned above, it can make way for you to navigate through your holidays in a seamless, appropriate and enjoyable manner. 

For more information on Divorce, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. With their in-depth knowledge and experience in Family Law, we’re sure to help you get through the holiday season together.

 

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.