Tag Archive for: divorce mediator

Chicago Divorce Attorneys: Working with Masters Law Group in 2023

If you are contemplating divorce or your spouse recently dropped the “D Bomb,” you may be on the fence debating whether you should hire a divorce attorney or if you should represent yourself. If you’re about to go through a divorce, here’s why you should invest in a divorce attorney.

If you are currently in a bad situation with your partner and you want to settle for divorce, you might consider getting a lawyer. When choosing a divorce attorney, there are a few factors you should consider. Experience, costs and reputation are just a few of the most important considerations.

Having a reputable attorney by your side will help ensure your interests are well-represented. Having a lawyer will also ensure that the settlement you receive is fair and your rights are protected. You will also want to know whether any loopholes in the law may result in an unfair settlement.

How to Choose the Right Divorce Attorney

You may be reluctant to hire an attorney for many reasons such as trust and associated costs, but without one, you may find yourself facing costly repercussions. Divorce is no simple feat, so having a good relationship with your divorce attorney can make the process so much easier. Maintaining good communication with your attorney will only help you in the long run.

If you live in the state of Illinois and are in need of legal representation for a family law matter, look no further. Here’s what you need to know about working with Masters Law Group in 2023.

Working With Reliable Lawyers

Reliability is key when it comes to working with a divorce lawyer. When looking at your options for lawyers, pay attention to how they communicate with you. It’s important to develop a positive rapport with your lawyer, as most divorces take several months to settle. 

Throughout the divorce process, you’ll have an array of questions, concerns, or disputes you’ll want to take care of. As such, you’ll want someone on your side who will alleviate your stress, address your concerns, and answer your questions to the best of their ability.

When we first meet with our clients, we ask them what they hope to achieve from their divorce and how they would like to feel after it is complete. We then carefully discuss their goals so that we can provide the best legal representation possible. We offer complimentary consultations so that you can get a feel for our firm before deciding whether or not we are right for you!

Google Reviews and Client Testimonials

Word of mouth advertising has always had a leg up in certain markets. For the law industry, hear-say isn’t always credible. But looking at client testimonials and reviews of previous clients that have worked for a law firm can be extremely beneficial.

Lawyers that provide high quality services will have more clients who are willing to share their experiences with other potential clients. The law industry is no different from any other when it comes to word of mouth advertising.

If you want to get a better idea about a certain law firm, then it is important that you take some time to look at client testimonials and reviews of previous clients that have worked with your lawyer. A great tool and resource is google reviews. When you type in a business name, the reviews automatically pop-up. Another way to look for testimonials is by checking out their website.

At Masters Law Group, we are fortunate to have a great relationship with many of our clients. Our reviews and testimonials truly bear witness to our commitment to our clients.

We believe that each client deserves a legal team that will be willing to go the extra mile for them. We will always provide you with honest advice and guidance on all matters related to your case.

Client Reviews:

“Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph are an amazing duo. They helped me get through my divorce. In the words of my newly ex husband “your lawyer looks like a shark.” You’re damn right they are. They will go as far as you need them to go with any battle you are going through and I love that about them. I would recommend them to anyone in need of incredible lawyers who are not only knowledgeable but keep every aspect of the process very real. Anthony and Erin thank you very much for handling my case. You are very much appreciated!”

-Bianca 

Divorce Client

 

“Masters Law Group was incredibly helpful with my divorce. Erin and Anthony were a pleasure, very responsive, efficient, and very knowledgeable. I always felt that my case was in good hands and it was a relief to trust them with the process. I highly recommend Masters Law Group to anyone needing help with a family law matter.”

-Luz

Divorce Client

A Little Bit About Masters Law Group

Recognized Best Law Firms 2023 by Best Lawyers® and U.S. News & World Report, Masters law group is located in Chicago, Illinois and handles family law matters in Cook county and other surrounding areas. They concentrate in areas such as divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, and other family law matters. 

Masters Law Group is highly esteemed and well respected by peer review publications such as Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and Leading Lawyers. Our Lawyers Erin E. Masters and Anthony Joseph have been recognized by such prestigious publications numerous times. This not only speaks volume about their work–but also their character.

Having an attorney who is respected by their peers is a testament to both their work ethic and their character. When you’re facing a legal issue, having someone you can trust on your side makes all the difference.

Working with Masters Law Group in 2023

Here at Masters Law Group LLC, we’re committed to helping you achieve the best outcome in your case. With a long history of awarded recognitions in Family Law, we have a unique depth of knowledge, experience, and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field.

Our highly experienced divorce attorneys are dedicated to providing you with the best possible service. No matter what kind of case you may have—divorce, child custody or relocation—we will work tirelessly to help you get the results you deserve. We have over 10 years of experience handling family law cases and we know how important it is for our clients to feel comfortable with their lawyer. That’s why we offer free consultations so that you can meet with us before deciding whether or not to hire us.

Contact us to schedule a consultation today!

Social Media and Divorce – 5 Things You Should Know

We get it. Anger, resentment and what seems a waste of your time can lead to social media rants. But even private DMs can land you in hot water. 

When you’re going through a divorce, it can be tempting to use social media as an outlet to redefine who you are without your spouse in the picture. But while social media can be a valuable tool during this difficult time, it can also cause major problems if you’re not careful.

Recent studies show that social media is one of the leading causes of marriage breakdowns. It’s been shown that social media causes many marriages to break down because it causes trust issues between spouses and can be used against you during a divorce.

Here are five things you should know when using social media during a divorce.

Social Media Posts Can Be Used Against You

Divorce is a stressful and emotional time. Many people turn to social media to vent their frustrations, but this can have serious consequences. Posts on social media during a divorce can become evidence against you in your case.

There are two big rules to follow when it comes to social media. Don’t post about a new relationship on social media during a divorce. Posting about a new relationship can negatively affect your case because it could be deemed as adultery—a fault ground for divorce in many states. It’s always in best practice to wait until the divorce is final to begin new relationships. 

Secondly, don’t post your location. Many social media platforms track your location when you post. To avoid this, you can easily evoke location-tracking permissions from these sites. This will stop these sites from recording your location when you make a post.

Check Your Privacy Settings

You should make all of your social media accounts private during a divorce. This is to prevent unwanted attention from other people. Locking accounts prevents people who don’t follow your account from viewing your posts. Changing your passwords for all of your accounts is also a good idea. 

Have you ever shared a computer with your spouse? If so, you should change your password for all accounts, including email addresses that both of you use. It’s a good practice to use new passwords for every site you visit so that other people won’t be able to access them if they get their hands on them.

Be Mindful of Deleting Posts

It’s a common instinct to want to clean up your social media accounts when you’re going through a divorce. It’s common to not want painful reminders of happier days, or you don’t want your spouse to find any private messages or DMs between you and someone else.

But deleting posts from your Facebook or Twitter may not be as effective as you might think.

If your spouse requests the entire social media history from you during the discovery process, you must provide it. Deleting posts doesn’t necessarily delete them from Facebook or Twitter’s servers—they can still be retrieved by experts, who will charge fees for their time and efforts.

Deleting evidence may affect your reputation with your judge. Deleting or destroying evidence can be used against you in court.

Go Through Your Friends List

You and your spouse probably had mutual friends, and if you accepted friend requests from them, those friends may be reporting back to your spouse.

Spend some time going through your lists of friends and followers to unfriend or block accounts of people you believe might be sending information back to your spouse. Divorce litigation isn’t a time to worry about what your spouses’ friends will think of you—it’s about self-preservation and putting yourself first!

Just be sure not to direct them to interact with your spouse or harass them in any way—that will end poorly for everybody.

Think Before You Post

If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to think twice before you post anything on social media. It’s especially important to be careful not to post anything that would look like bad-mouthing the other parent. Your spouse can then take that post and use it in court against you. 

Judges might not like it when parties call their decisions unfair – even if you think they are. If you choose to trash a judge in your case on social media, you may find yourself in contempt of court. If you can’t use social media to highlight the positives in your life, like being a good parent, maybe take a break from posting. Creating new posts won’t be subject to misinterpretation and can really help your case in the long run.

Final Thoughts

At Masters Law Group, our skilled attorneys understand that divorce is a stressful situation. Many of our clients are ready to move on with their lives, and as such, we move through mediation and litigation with our clients’ well being in mind. Are you facing a family law issue? Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Should I Wait Until After the Holidays to Get a Divorce?

One of the most common questions that we get around Christmas time from potential clients is whether they should wait until after Christmas to file for divorce. Here’s what you need to consider. 

The holidays are a time for family and friends, and the last thing on your mind should be whether or not you should get divorced.

But if you’re in this position, it’s important to know that you don’t have to keep your divorce plans under wraps forever. There are many situations where it could be good to hold off, and in some cases it’s better to rip the bandaid off. Here are several considerations to keep in mind when deciding whteher to wait until after the holidays to get a divorce.

Avoiding Extra Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, but they can also be a time of joy and togetherness. If you’re considering divorce, it’s important to remember that divorces often take a long time to finalize, and it may be best to wait until after the holidays are over before starting proceedings.

If you’re in a marriage that is teetering on the brink of divorce, the holidays can be especially hard. It’s important to focus on what makes you happy. Whether it’s spending time with family or taking some alone time—and not allowing yourself to fall into the trap of focusing on how unhappy your marriage is making you. Try not to let stress get the best of you during this holiday season.

Be Aware of False Hope

Holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they can also be a source of false hope. Thanksgiving and Christmas are often times when couples will try to rekindle their passion and romance, often “for the sake of the kids”. When couples have been in a long-term relationship, it’s not uncommon for them to experience periods of disconnection or lack of intimacy. But when the season rolls around, these high spirits can sometimes cloud the deeper issues.

However, despite the aura of togetherness over the season, always remember why you wanted to get a divorce in the first place. Are these reasons going to pop up again in the new year? Will everything be magically solved in your marriage? Weigh up the pros and cons carefully before making your decision. 

Supportive vs. Interfering Relatives

If you have decided that it is time to divorce, but are worried about how your family will react, you may want to consider filing for divorce during the holidays anyway.

Depending on your relatives and relationship with them, filing for divorce amidst the holidays can be a great way to get away from the stress of everyday life and spend time with those who mean the most to you. Many people find that they are able to spend more quality time with their families during this time of year, which is why it can be an ideal time to file for divorce and reap the family support you need during this time.

However, we all have that one relative (or multiple relatives) who wish to give their penny’s worth on the topic of your marriage. This negative interference can be detrimental to your mental health and personal strength when it comes to filing the papers. Depending on where you are spending the holidays, consider keeping it quiet. These relatives don’t need to know what’s happening with your marriage now. Wait until the papers are complete and you have the confidence to discuss it further down the line.

Toxic Family Environments

Regardless of your marriage situation, arguments are sometimes impossible to not have during the holidays. The stress gets to everyone, however, If you are in a toxic or abusive situation it’s important to know that you don’t have to stay in your marriage if you’re unhappy. While divorce proceedings can be difficult and stressful for everyone involved, it is better if it is started sooner rather than later. Divorce attorneys can help guide you through the process.

Remember, if you or your children are in danger, it’s important to get out of the situation as soon as possible. Even consider filing for an Order of Protection.

Protecting Children

Announcing divorce at any time can be difficult for children, but it’s even more painful when it’s during the holidays. The festive season is one of generosity and cheer, and children are eager to experience the wonderment of this special time. 

Setting irreconcilable differences aside, even for just an additional month, allows the children and both parents to spend one last holiday together as a family. The gift of family togetherness is one that children will cherish and remember long after the divorce is over.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your relationship situation it’s important to consider all of the factors before you make the decision to get a divorce. Whether you anticipate divorcing before, during or after the holiday festivities, you can always rely on the attorneys at Masters Law Group to guide you through the process.

We’ll be by your side every step of the way as we work towards a resolution that is fair, equitable and compassionate. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During a Divorce

Divorce is an emotionally taxing experience, but the stress can be minimized greatly through proper preparation and avoiding pitfalls. If you’re facing the unsettling situation of divorce, here are our top pitfalls to steer clear of. 

Divorce is difficult on many layers. It not only affects you and your spouse, but your family and friends. With this in mind, minimizing the difficulties of divorce should be a top priority alongside the goals of your separation. But how do we go about minimizing these challenges?

Beyond choosing a quality divorce firm and emotionally preparing yourself, there are many pitfalls – that if avoided – will make divorce much easier.

Read on to learn common mistakes we’ve observed at Masters Law Group after years of counseling those seeking divorce.

Not Talking to a Divorce Attorney

Some, when looking to divorce will attempt to settle on their own. This may come from an idea of an “amicable approach”, but can put you and your loved ones in a compromising position in the long term.

First and foremost, attempting divorce on your own removes experienced legal counsel from the equation, opening you up to variables that can negatively affect you. Things like asset division and custody of children have legal nuances that simply aren’t easily navigated.

Avoid this pitfall if you can. Seek out quality legal counsel, so that your life post-divorce is the one you want it to be.

Setting Unrealistic Goals & Timelines

The emotion of divorce can often affect our approach to it. Whether you are seeking the divorce, or your former partner, you may feel that certain aspects are “unfair” or the process needs to move quicker than it is.

One such problem that can arise with an unrealistic timeline, for example, is a spouse becoming disgruntled and seeking to drag out the process to inflict financial or emotional damage on the other. 

This issue is another reason to have legal counsel that can be emotionally separated from the divorce itself. This is going to help you set proper timelines and realistic goals, while also giving you an advocate working at the highest level to achieve the best course of action for you.

Other Mistakes to Avoid

  • Dating: While everyone involved in the divorce wants to move on, dating can complicate an already difficult situation. It can create animosity with your former partner, and may push them to make the divorce more difficult than need be.
  • Divorce Tunnel Vision: While it’s easy to get wrapped up in your divorce, it’s paramount to consider life after. Are you financially set and aware? Have you considered how to navigate the logistics of shared custody of children if it pertains to your situation?  Consult with your financial advisor and legal counsel on these concerns.
  • Avoiding Negotiation: If you can communicate with your former partner, negotiation is always an ideal way to mediate. If you can do this, you can often avoid going to court. This will shorten the divorce process, limit costs and ultimately reduce stress on all involved.
  • Misleading Your Legal Counsel: Do your best to be truthful at the highest level. Any omission of facts, assets, or animosity between you and your former partner can affect the divorce process. If your legal counsel isn’t aware, these unforeseen challenges can potentially derail a plan they’ve laid out. This can ultimately cost you more money and reduce the positive outcome of the goals you’ve set.

Final Thoughts

Avoiding pitfalls and side stepping potential challenges is your best course of action to achieve a speedy and positive outcome in your divorce. Consequently, being unprepared or even attempting divorce yourself can walk you right into these issues, causing emotional harm and potential financial and legal ramifications.

At Masters Law Group, it’s our firm’s mission to solve your problems and achieve the best possible results for you and your loved ones. If you’re currently navigating a divorce, or considering one, schedule a consultation with us today to learn how we can help.

How to Find the Best Divorce Lawyer

Divorce is incredibly difficult for all those involved, especially when finances and children become wrapped up in the process. That being said, by choosing the right lawyer, you can potentially expedite the process, minimize costs and reduce the stress on you and your family. 

Many believe that by choosing to partner with a lawyer during their divorce, they’re deferring responsibility and decision making. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. When choosing a divorce lawyer, you’re partnering with someone that can help you navigate the often murky divorce process while also being a trusted advocate. 

How do you find the right lawyer or firm for you? This comes down to due diligence and research. By looking at reputation, asking the right questions and having a basic understanding of the divorce process, you can feel confident in your decision.

Read on to learn what our team at Masters Law Group LLC feels are the most important aspects to understand when searching for the best divorce lawyer.

Consider the Quality of the Practice

The divorce rate in America is 44.6%, meaning that you probably know someone personally who has been divorced. While not always an easy conversation to have, start by speaking with someone who has already worked with a divorce lawyer. While their experience is anecdotal, and will not represent all lawyers, their advice can be incredibly helpful.

For example, if they partnered with someone who wasn’t empathetic towards their situation or didn’t return phone calls in a timely manner, this is probably someone you don’t want to work with. On the other hand, if the lawyer laid out a comprehensive legal strategy for the divorce proceedings and offered sound advice from beginning to end, this may be someone to consider.

Don’t forget to use the power of the internet. Most law firms will have posted testimonials on their website but look at Google reviews and also search for the firm on the internet to see if they’ve been mentioned in news articles or other publications.

At Masters Law Group LLC, we’ve been voted Chicago’s #1 Divorce Law Firm. If you find yourself in the difficult position of ending a marriage, consider speaking with us today.

Interview the Firm

This advice should be employed in nearly all walks of life. Whether you’re choosing a school for your child, a mechanic, or a home builder, it’s always imperative to ask probing questions so that the expert on the other end of the conversation can prove their ability.

Here are a few questions to ask during that conversation:

  1. How often will we speak during the divorce process?
  2. Will my case be attended by one lawyer, or multiple legal professionals?
  3. What’s the estimated cost of working with your practice?
  4. If my spouse chooses to be more aggressive with their case, what steps can we take to mitigate those actions?
  5. Based on my situation, how does the court tend to rule?

Questions like the above can help you quickly get a feel for whether the lawyer you’re speaking to truly understands the divorce process and whether you can be confident in their skillset.

Masters Law Group LLC specializes in the Family Law and Divorce field. Schedule a consultation with us to speak about your family law case.

Understand the Process

In general, divorces start with a divorce petition, served by one spouse upon the other. That petition is then filed in the state/county where one party has their residency. Once this process is in place – depending on the state – a waiting period begins, certain financial restrictions are put in place and traveling with shared children may be prohibited. 

Beyond this, divorces can go many ways. If the process is delayed, or if submitted information is deemed incorrect by one party, there may be a back and forth between said parties that can last for some time. 

In the final stages of divorce, after assets and other financial information has been disclosed, terms may be agreed to. If the terms put forth by one party is contested, there may be continued hearings or ultimately a trial. If the terms are mutually agreed upon, final paperwork is fired and the court enters judgment. Beyond this, a waiting period is put in place, after which spouses can remarry.

It’s important to understand the above at the most basic level, as your lawyer should have a firm grasp of this process and know all of the challenges that can arise during it. Keep this in mind once you’ve chosen who to work with, and observe that they’re representing you at the highest standard throughout these stages.

Make Your Decision

Once you’ve done your due diligence researching a firm, asked all of the important questions and researched the divorce process to understand what you can expect, it’s time to make your decision. 

There are going to be many reputable firms out there, but ultimately what can give a practice the edge is experience. If they’ve been representing the community for years, then they have relationships with other lawyers and judges, an edge that shouldn’t be ignored . On top of this, their experience in the community will also mean that they are intimately familiar with all the relevant laws. Consider this as you make your final decision.

Masters Law Group LLC

At Masters Law Group LLC we’ve been representing the Chicago community for many years. Our principal, Erin E. Masters was named “Super Lawyer” in 2020 by Illinois Super Lawyers and the other members of our team hold similar honors. 

Our practices knowledge is thorough and our mission to ensure that your family law matter is resolved in the best way possible is our core value.

If you’re currently dealing with the difficult process of divorce, schedule a consultation with us today.

I Need a Divorce. Help!

If your marriage is in question, you may be the one who is deciding “Should I stay or should I go”? While the process can seem overwhelming, there are things you can do to get through this difficult adjustment. If you’ve decided divorce or separation is the only way forward, here’s what you should know.

If you have decided to get divorced, you may have concerns about the cost, time commitment, and stress associated with the process. Which is why Masters Law Group works tirelessly in order to make the divorce process easier on you, for you and your children.

If possible, an amicable relationship with your ex can lead to a more straightforward divorce, because it won’t (usually) involve going to trial. An amicable or somewhat amicable divorce will often result in a quick(er) divorce.

As an ordeal that can be draining mentally and financially, it’s important to be prepared. Whether you are in search of Divorce Mediation, a Contested Divorce, Uncontested Divorce or Legal Separation, here’s what you need to know.

Is a Quick Divorce Possible?

Divorce is a stressful experience, and it’s important to get through it as quickly as possible in order to mitigate stress on everyone involved. Especially the children. The divorce process does not have to take years or even months. If you’re able to come to an agreement with your spouse about custody, visitation, spousal support, and division of property, your divorce can proceed through divorce court rather quickly.

The easiest type of divorce, which takes the least amount of time, is called an uncontested divorce. In Illinois, this is also referred to as “dissolution of marriage”. This relatively fast divorce happens because all of the major issues have been agreed upon by you and your spouse. Both parties agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including: Dividing marital property, Child custody and Parenting Time schedule.

Do Uncontested Divorces Take Less Time Than Contested Divorces?

A contested divorce is one where the parties cannot agree on some or all issues. It may involve a trial, and it may involve lengthy settlement meetings. It may also involve digging into your spouse’s finances, which takes a lot of time and energy.

There are many reasons why divorce can be contested. Typically, one party feels that they have not been treated fairly in some way during the divorce process and wants to fight for what they feel is their right. If you are going through a contested divorce, it is important to know what your options are so that you can make an informed decision about how to proceed with your case.

An uncontested divorce, however, takes a lot less time because you agree with your spouse on various issues. Here are a few examples:

  • Custody
  • Visitation
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Division of assets
  • Life and health insurance policies

In the long run, an uncontested divorce will save you time and money in legal fees, will reduce stress, and will get you through the court system much faster than a contested divorce.

Divorce Mediation

Anger. Resentment. Bitterness. These are some of the feelings that many people associate with family law issues. It is often true that litigation – the traditional mode of dispute resolution – breeds these kinds of feelings. Fortunately, there are other ways to deal with family disputes that lead to much happier, healthier results: Mediation.

Mediation is considered an alternative dispute resolution process where an impartial or neutral mediator helps guide you and your spouse in settlement efforts – hopefully helping you reach a final agreement.  Unlike judges, a mediator has no authority to make decisions for you or your spouse. Their job is to keep you and your spouse’s focus on your needs and interests instead of fault and rights.

When a couple begins divorce mediation, they either choose the mediator in advance or one may be appointed by the court, with the court deciding how to split the costs.  Both spouses provide documentation to support their viewpoint regarding disputed issues, while the mediator works with both sides to find a resolution. The goal of the mediator is to reach an agreement between the two parties, therefore it is critically important to work with your divorce mediator attorney to ensure that the proposed solution is truly fair and equitable to you.

Legal Separation

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

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

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

Getting Started

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.

Do You Need an Attorney for Divorce?

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

Illinois Legal Aid Online provides a  guided interview that will ask you a series of questions related to this topic and then the program will complete the forms for you. It is free to use.

To see the overall process of getting a divorce in Illinois when you have children, please  click here.

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation and that our clients want to move on with their lives. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients’ assurance and well being in mind. Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Divorce and Taxes: Filing After a Separation

For those in the process of ending their marriage, there is more to consider than a simple separation of assets. Whether legally separating or divorcing, you could be facing big changes in your individual tax situations— here, Masters Law Group shares information that could help. 

While most Americans are taking a sigh of relief after tax season, if you are separating from your partner, your taxes could need more attention. Much more.

Assets, Taxes and Divorce, OH MY

In the midst of a divorce, tax implications may not be the most pressing issue on your mind. However, filing taxes after you divorce and how you draw up your divorce agreement can make a big difference when it comes to getting a tax return.

The IRS lists four basic filing statuses available for individuals who are divorced or separating:

  • Married filing jointly. On a joint return, married people report their combined income and deduct their combined allowable expenses. For many couples, filing jointly results in a lower tax than filing separately.
  • Married filing separately. If spouses file separate tax returns, they each report only their own income, deductions, and credits on their individual return. Each spouse is responsible only for the tax due on their own return. People should consider whether filing separately or jointly is better for them.
  • Head of household. Some separated people may be eligible to file as head of household if all of these apply:
    • Their spouse didn’t live in their home for the last six months of the year.
    • They paid more than half the cost of keeping up their home for the year.
    • Their home was the main home of their dependent child for more than half the year.
  • Single. Once the final decree of divorce or separate maintenance is issued, a taxpayer will file as single starting for the year it was issued, unless they are eligible to file as head of household or they remarry by the end of the year.

When couples get divorced, they must divide all property and debts. Couples can hire an attorney (separately or jointly) to help prepare for a financial future after divorce. Here are some important things to think about so you can stay on top of your taxes.

Determine Your Filing Status

If you complete your divorce on or before December 31, you cannot file a joint tax return. If the new year starts before your divorce becomes official, the IRS will still recognize you as married and therefore allow you to file a joint return for the previous year. You are also eligible to file a joint return, but if you do not want to, you can choose the married filing separately.

If you are still legally married when filing your tax return, filing jointly may be your best option because you can claim more of a standard deduction by combining incomes with your spouse. The standard deduction is the amount of income that you can use to lower your tax bill. The standard deduction for tax year 2022 is $25,900 for married couples filing jointly, $12,950 for single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately and $19,400 for heads of households.

 In order to file taxes as head of household after a divorce, you must meet all three of the following requirements:

  • The last day of the year is considered the date on which you became unmarried (so you were either single, divorced or legally separated).
  • You paid more than half of the costs associated with keeping up your home for the year.
  • You lived with a qualifying dependent or child for more than half the year.

Updating Your W-4

If you and your spouse have jobs and earn wages, you’ll each need to fill out a W-4. This form tells your employer how much federal income tax to withhold from your paychecks. You’ll also need to split your allowances between both spouses on the W-4, so if you divorce, you may need to recalculate or adjust your withholding allocations. 

Joint filers need to split their W-4 withholding between both spouses, so if you divorce, you may need to recalculate or adjust your allowances.

Alimony payments from divorce or separation agreements that were finalized before Jan. 1, 2019, are still considered an above-the-line deduction when filing taxes. However, as of January 1, 2019, alimony arrangements can no longer be modified. Therefore, if you are the paying spouse in a divorce or separation agreement that was finalized after that date, you cannot deduct alimony payments when calculating your adjusted gross income. Unlike alimony payments, child support payments are not deductible. If you receive child support payments, you do not have to report them as income on your tax return.

Claiming Children as Dependents

If you have children, understanding who can claim them as dependents is important. This will also affect tax credits you can claim when you file your taxes. Parents who claim their children as dependents are known as custodial parents. Custodial parents have the children live with them for more days out of the tax year. Divorce agreements will usually have custodial parents underlined.

If you are not the custodial parents, you cannot claim child and dependent care credits. You also cannot file your taxes as the head of the household. Form 8332 is an IRS-approved document that allows custodial parents to release their claim to the exemption for a dependent child. If you sign Form 8332, you cannot claim the child as your dependent, and you cannot revoke it until the following tax year. In addition, the Trump tax plan eliminated exemptions for dependents in favor of a higher standard deduction.

Final Thoughts

Individuals who change their marital status through a legal separation or divorce must also change their tax filing status. For filing purposes, the IRS generally considers a couple married until they receive their final decree of divorce or separation.

If you’re going through a divorce, it’s necessary to take the proper steps to understand how it will impact your taxes. If you have specific questions about divorce it’s always best to work with an established and experienced family law attorney. 

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

Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Why Some Couples Choose Civil Unions Over Marriage

If you want to make your partnership official you may be looking at all your options. Civil unions are recognized in a handful of states and often offer the same protections as marriage. Learn more about civil unions and how they compare to getting married here.

Civil unions are marriage-like agreements but there are some differences they share. Civil unions were created to allow same-sex couples to publicly commit to eachother without granting them perimission to marry.

Nowadays, civil unions are less relevant since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional in 2015 (Obergefell v. Hodges). It’s important to note that there are many people who remain in civil unions or domestic partnerships despite the availability of same-sex marriage.

For these reasons, the distinctions between marriage and civil unions may still produce legal issues. Here’s a look at why some couples choose civil unions over marriage.

What is a Civil Union?

In Illinois, a civil union is a legal relationship between two people that gives them legal rights to marriage. Civil unions first became recognized in 2011, when the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act was passed. Civil unions can be entered by same-sex or opposite sex couples.

Partners who enter civil unions are granted the same protections, responsibilities and benefits that one would normally receive in a marriage. Eligibility for those wanting a civil union include the following:

  1. Must be 18 years of age or older.
  2. Cannot be related – by the half or the whole blood or by adoption; an aunt or uncle and a niece or nephew, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood, or by adoption; or between first cousins.
  3. Cannot enter civil unions prior to dissolution of marriage or similar legal relationships.
  4. Individuals who live out of state, as that civil union would not be legal in their home state.

It is important to note that while civil unions are legally recognized in Illinois, they are not federally recognized.

Benefits of a Civil Union

One of the biggest benefits that a civil union provides couples with is the same state rights as a married couple in Illinois. It is for this reason that many decide to join a civil union. If a couple decides that they don’t want to be married for personal reasons or other reasons, they would still receive the same legal protections as a married couple. 

The second biggest benefit of a civil union is the access to employment and healthcare benefits. In a civil union, you have access to your partner’s employer provided health insurance. Marriage oftentimes comes with social and religious obligations that some may want to demonstrate to their partner differently. A civil union is a great way to do those things. 

Here is a list of some of the benefits that a civil union and a marriage share:

  • Inheritance rights, or the right to automatically inherit from your spouse after he or she dies.
  • Bereavement leave to mourn for your spouse.
  • Right to your spouse’s employment benefits, including health insurance.
  • Automatic designation as next-of-kin by medical professionals.
  • Joint ownership of property, and community property rights if you’re in a community property state.
  • Joint state tax filings.
  • Joint parental rights over children born to or adopted by the couple.
  • Right not to testify against your civil union partner, and
  • Right to seek financial support or alimony after a dissolution from the civil union.

Limitations of Civil Unions

The biggest difference between a civil union and a marriage is that the former is not recognized by the federal government. Therefore, you will only get protection at a state level (and that is assuming you live in a state that recognizes civil unions.) It is because of this that couples in a civil union can’t receive the same federally based benefits that married couples receive. For example, the Social Security Administration gives benefits to partners in a marriage, but not necessarily those in a civil union. The surviving spouse of a veteran may be eligible for health coverage in a marriage, but not always in a civil union. Consequently, many couples are now opting to get married instead of entering a civil union. 

The other difference is that while marriages are recognized by every state (if you get married in Illinois it will be recognized in New York) civil unions are not. That means if you get a civil union certificate in one state and then move to another state you might not get the same benefits.

As a result of these differences, it is important to consider which option is best for your new family. Though a prenuptial agreement isn’t the most romantic item on the agenda, it’s a great way to protect you and your assets before entering a marriage or civil union. An experienced attorney can answer any questions that you might have about the process.

Final Thoughts

Now that same-sex marriages are recognized federally civil unions may be a lot less popular and common. In fact, only five states allow them: Illinois, Colorado, Hawaii,  Vermont, and New Jersey. However, civil unions can be beneficial in two circumstances:

  • If you or your partner don’t believe in marriage or don’t like the idea of getting married, but still want many of the same legal protections.
  • If you or your partner don’t want to be recognized as legally married by the federal government because of tax purposes.

Several unique issues can arise during the process of establishing or dissolving a civil union, so it is vital to have a knowledgeable lawyer to guide you through every step.

At Masters Law Group, we provide professional and individualized legal representation for a wide range of family law concerns, including civil unions. Our firm has dedicated considerable time in order to become knowledgeable and up to date in this new area of family law. Whether you want to form a civil union or are in need of a civil union dissolution, we will take the time to fully understand your situation and provide honest advice regarding your options.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Divorce Advice Every Woman Needs on National Women’s History Month

As a woman unhappy in your marriage, divorce may have crossed your mind from time-to-time. But you could be left wondering whether it’s the right choice for you, your children, and even your spouse. That’s why you need specific divorce advice to make the most informed decision possible. 

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. This holiday has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since 1987.

Divorce is one of the biggest and the toughest decisions that a woman can make and if often twice as problematic. There are factors you have to think of beforehand, and then there are others that you can not avoid later down the line. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, here are a couple tips you can follow to protect yourself during a divorce.

First Step: Get Mentally Prepared

When you tell your spouse you want a divorce, and especially when you actually file for divorce, you’re crossing a line that you can’t usually go back over. To decide if you are ready for this life changing step, be sure to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I really ready for divorce?
  2. Should I speak with a therapist?
  3. Do my kids need a therapist?
  4. Do I have all relevant information and financial documents gathered?
  5. What are my set goals?
  6. Do I have a support network?
  7. How do I put my children first?
  8. What should my negotiations be?
  9. How do I foster a good relationship between my kids and their other parent?
  10. Am I prepared for other relationships to change?
  11. Am I being kind to myself?

Once you have answered these questions and mentally prepared yourself, it’s time to go through the following pieces of advice with your family law attorney.

Anticipate Unexpected Costs

In life and divorce, always be ready for unpleasant surprises. You may be well-prepared for all the monetary issues that you think you might face, but even then, there are chances of unexpected expenses popping up at just the wrong time.

For example, if you find yourself in a situation where your spouse is able to boot you from their health insurance, it will leave you with an additional cost of as much as $1,000 per month. A majority of spouses avoid their financial responsibilities, so the divorce advice for women is to be careful in this matter and make your choices with eyes wide open.

From hiring the wrong divorce attorney to unnecessarily taking your divorce to trial, discuss potential hidden costs with your family law attorney to be most prepared for what’s to come.

Dig Deeply Into Your Joint Finances

It is a matter of common knowledge, more or less a fact, that 40% of divorce proceedings are about money. So the best divorce advice for women is that you need to get as much information as you can about your joint accounts. This includes:

  • All of your online passwords to joint accounts.
  • All of the minor details of your joint investments.

As a precautionary tactic, it’s important to discuss the details with your attorney and seek their advice on matters dealing with financial assets. Your top priority should always be your financial well-being. This is because the emotions and the mental stress will eventually lessen and will go away one day but the fulfillment of your expenses is a reality, and you will have to face it today, tomorrow and in the days to come. You should estimate how much you will be needing after the divorce and make sure you ask for it – and get it.

Decide if it’s a 50/50 Divorce

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. 

Decide if Divorce Mediation is for You

Does your divorce case need to go to trial? Not always.

Mediation is considered an alternative dispute resolution process where an impartial or neutral mediator helps guide you and your spouse in settlement efforts – hopefully helping you reach a final agreement.  Unlike judges, a mediator has no authority to make decisions for you or your spouse. Their job is to keep you and your spouse’s focus on your needs and interests instead of fault and rights.

When a couple begins divorce mediation, they either choose the mediator in advance or one may be appointed by the court, with the court deciding how to split the costs.  Both spouses provide documentation to support their viewpoint regarding disputed issues, while the mediator works with both sides to find a resolution. The goal of the mediator is to reach an agreement between the two parties, therefore it is critically important to work with your divorce mediator attorney to ensure that the proposed solution is truly fair and equitable to you.

Even when parting spouses disagree, a divorce doesn’t always have to be a big fight. Divorce mediation is a way of finding solutions to issues such as child custody and spousal support. It acts as an alternative to the formal process of litigation in divorce court.

Uncontested Divorce

People might want to stop you from getting a divorce and sometimes they might even be right, but one thing that you should always try and remember is that getting a divorce is better than staying in a toxic relationship. It will hurt, but what matters in the long run is your happiness. 

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.  

Final Thoughts

Divorce is rough – nobody can argue that. But remember: You don’t need to do everything perfectly. Give yourself some space and let your mind heal from the divorce process you have just undergone, or are currently undergoing. Be in control of your life as it comes to you and don’t push yourself too hard. When you’re going through a divroce you should allow yourself some grace for taking the steps to change things for the better.

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. 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 a woman contemplating filing for divorce, 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.

Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?

While some cryptocurrencies are easily found during the discovery phase of divorce proceedings, others, such as bitcoin, can be more challenging to find, particularly when they are private. If you have an impending divorce on your hands, you need to know how to find, value and divide them. Here’s what you should know. 

In the first of our Cryptocurrencies and Divorce series, we discussed how the rise and popularity of cryptocurrency has led to some spouses hiding digital assets during divorce settlements, and tracking down the funds isn’t an easy process.

If you or your spouse own cryptocurrency, you are going to want to make sure it is discussed with your divorce attorney. It may be a marital asset that needs to be valued and divided; but due to cryptocurrency wildly fluctuating, it can sometimes be problematic to value, and therefore split fairly.

Here’s what you need to know about handling bitcoin and other cryptos in divorce.

A Quick Recap of Cryptocurrency 

The use of cryptocurrency varies user to user. Some people prefer to use cryptocurrency for online purchases to ensure secure financial transactions. Others might use it simply to capitalize on discounts or rewards offered for the use of digital currencies.

The most popular form of cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. Some examples of other digital currencies are Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Zcash, Bitcoin Cash, and Cardano. Digital currency is bought, sold, and traded on various platforms. Coinbase is a popular platform used for Bitcoin. Some other digital currency exchange platforms are Kraken, BitStamp, ShapeShift, Gemini, and Bisq.

Cryptocurrencies are validated by a blockchain. This refers to a list of records called blocks that are linked together like a chain. Blockchains are designed to be secure. The foundation of a blockchain is a “decentralized database.” Blockchains can include a piece of information called a hash.

It is very important to know if any parties in a family law matter have cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency can be a marital asset eligible for division in a divorce. If you know cryptocurrency exists, it will need to be valued. Cryptocurrency has an exchange rate just like standard currency and it can be converted into U.S. dollars. There are programs on the internet that can assist with the conversion of cryptocurrency to dollars. It may be helpful to know which conversion rate program that cryptocurrency owner utilizes.

Looking for Cryptocurrency

Figuring out whether or not cryptocurrency exists is important. Have you discussed cryptocurrency with your spouse? Have you overheard them boating to their friends about their crypto wallet? Will bank account statements or credit card statements show deposits or withdrawals from a digital currency platform? Are there emails or other correspondence that contain information about cryptocurrency?

If any of these are true in your marriage or divorce, you should notify your attorney immediately. Your attorney will need to start collecting information about the cryptocurrency. Obtaining documentation about cryptocurrency can be tricky because often the point of cryptocurrency is for transactions to remain private or secure.

First, it needs to be determined if the cryptocurrency owner has a wallet and whether that wallet is online or is a physical device. The wallet will have an ID and a password for logging which can be requested in discovery. Wallets can be similar to a portable hard drive and be an actual physical item. In other instances, the wallet may just be online and through one of the cryptocurrency exchange platforms. Different steps need to be taken to preserve information from both kinds of wallets.

An owner can usually download a transaction history from his/her wallet or exchange platform. The transaction history is often downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet or other electronic document. The download contains information like a bank statement such as date, time, amount of cryptocurrency, conversion rate, balance, transaction ID, and hash information.

Most transactions will show some sort of confirmation of purchase. Often the confirmation occurs via email and serves as a receipt. The confirmation may include the conversion rate, dollar amount, and a date and timestamp. In some instances, the confirmation may identify where the cryptocurrency user deposited the funds after sale or where they withdrew the funds from to make a purchase. This can help you in the long run to identify other assets.

Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?

Bitcoin is 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 usually cannot be divided. Therefore, if the transaction was during the marriage, it is marital property and can be divided.

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

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

Final Thoughts

These days, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all the rage. As such, the issue of bitcoin is bound to pop up in divorce cases.

It is important to make sure that bitcoin is properly discovered and valued in family law matters. If you know or suspect that cryptocurrency will be a part of your divorce, talk to your family law attorney immediately and put together a game plan for dealing with it. This may include a plan for how to explain how cryptocurrency works with other parties or professionals in your case.

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 attorneys are here to answer your questions about divorce and digital asset division.

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