Tag Archive for: divorce mediator

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Welcome to Our NEW Home!

Masters Law Group opens its doors at a new downtown office space. 

Masters Law Group welcomes you to their new Chicago office located in the heart of downtown Chicago: 30 North Lasalle Street, Suite 2250, Chicago IL 60602.

Senior partners Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph have taken another step in their commitment to their clients.

“Moving into a brand-new office space is an exciting occasion for all the team at Masters Law Group, and our growth will allow us to help more clients facing family law and divorce issues. The expansion represents our various successes, especially the development of thriving practice areas such as high-stake Hague Convention, International Child Abduction cases and divorce mediation cases,” says Ms. Masters, “We’re also expanding our team of first-class attorneys and support staff, and created an environment to represent our firm.”

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system. Furthermore, Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. Mr. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

“We are quickly moving to meet the shifted expectations for office environments and we’re incredibly proud to welcome clients to the new and improved space.” says Mr. Joseph. He continues, “We’re excited to stay on a course that our clients can trust, while remaining focused on delivering solutions for families navigating a consistently challenging legal environment.”

Masters Law Group handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. The firm concentrates in areas of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and related family matters.

Ms. Masters concludes, “We invite you to schedule a consultation to speak with us about your case and look forward to inviting you to our new office location.”

Contact Masters Law Group here today. 

How to Request a Modification of Child Support in Illinois

Divorces and separations can be emotionally overwhelming. Especially when a child is involved. In Illinois, it is always possible to ask the court to change a custody order, but getting a judge to agree to make a change isn’t always a straightforward process.

There are several ways that a child custody arrangement (also known as Parenting Time) can come about in Illinois. The parents of a child can develop their own agreement and then have it approved by a court. Or, the court can order custody based on the state’s laws.

Either way, there could come a time when one or both parents wish to change the arrangement in place. Here’s a look at what constitutes a “substantial change in circumstances” that would allow an agreement to be modified.

Modifications to Child Support Orders

In Illinois, a temporary child support order that has been entered while a child support proceeding is pending may be modified any time before the entry of a final judgment. Child support that has been established by a final judgment may be modified at any time from the entry of the order until the termination of the obligor parent’s obligation to pay child support under the order.  

Although child support may be modified at any time, a “substantial change in circumstances” must be demonstrated in order for the child support obligation to be modified. If you file a petition to modify a child support order based on “substantial change in circumstances” the child support obligation in question can be modified retroactively to the filing date of the petition, but can not have an earlier effective date.

Illinois child support obligations can only be modified by filing a petition for increase or decrease in child support with the court that has jurisdiction over your case.  The petition should state the basis for the request for modification explaining the change in child support obligation that you are requesting from the court.

Because you are seeking modification of an existing order, you do not need to serve the petition by the sheriff.  You can serve notice of the petition by mail at the responding party’s last known address. Note: if the petition seeks other action by the court other than the modification of child support, such as a change in the allocation of parental time and responsibility, the petition must be served by certified mail 30 days prior to the date of the hearing.

If you are seeking child support modification after a final judgment has been entered in your case, the notice must be delivered to the responding party, as opposed to his or her attorney, because the attorney’s representation is deemed to have ended at the entry of the final order.  

You should note that you cannot use self help to modify child support in Illinois.  If the other party fails to comply with visitation rights, you are not entitled to suspend your child support payments without obtaining an order from the court. 

Child Support Payments & Appeals

If you are appealing the final order in your child support case, you are still required to pay child support according to the terms of that order while the appeal is pending. However, you can request the court that entered the order to modify your child support obligations during the appeal process based on a showing of “substantial change in circumstances.

Reasons for Modification of Child Support in Illinois

The court has discretion to modify child support obligations based on either a substantial change of circumstances, upon a showing that the modification is necessary to provide for the healthcare needs of the child, or upon a showing of a substantial deviation between the child support obligation and the guidelines set forth by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“the IMDMA”). 

Child support modifications can be modified without a showing of a substantial change in circumstances if the petitioner can show that the obligor’s child support obligations differ from the guidelines set forth in the IMDMA by more than 20%, but no less than $10.00 per month, unless the court that entered the existing order intentionally deviated from the amounts shown in the guidelines.  

However, this option is only available to individuals who are receiving child support enforcement services from the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services and whose child support order was entered more than 36 months prior to seeking modification.

Those who may request a review include: 

  • Non-Custodial Parent: the parent who does not live with the child(ren),
  • Custodial Parent/Caretaker: the parent/caretaker who lives with the child(ren),
  • Healthcare and Family Services, or
  • Another state’s child support agency.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that all existing orders will remain in effect until a court or an administrative agency modifies the order. Your support order may be modified (increased or decreased) based on the income of the non-custodial parent and state law. Hiring an attorney highly experienced in family law will help you understand your legal options and create a plan for what comes next. 

Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. We help clients put aside their grief and educate them about their options in Child Support modifications and  Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. If you need to request modification of parenting time in Illinois, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

 

How to Find the Right Divorce Mediator in Illinois

Choosing a divorce mediator will be one of the most important decisions you reach during your divorce. When looking for a divorce mediation service, be sure to know what qualities to look for, key questions to ask, and how to begin your search.

Going through a divorce can be a stressful experience in someone’s life. Determining who gets what after the marriage ends is often a complicated undertaking. Decisions made through litigation involve the court system and can be time-consuming and costly.

However, there is an alternative resolution method available for divorce that is known as mediation. Mediation is generally less expensive, less stressful, and less time-consuming than going to court and having a long, drawn-out trial. Want to minimize the stress involved by choosing a good divorce mediator? Here’s a couple tips in finding the right divorce mediator.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) available to people who are in the middle of the divorce process. Mediation is essentially a negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party. Unlike arbitration, mediation doesn’t involve decision making by the neutral third party. ADR procedures can be initiated by the parties or may be compelled by legislation, the courts, or contractual terms.

The main goal of mediation is to use collaborative methods when determining who gets what after a divorce. If a couple can reach a mutual agreement, it is submitted to the court for approval. Some of the main issues that a mediator can assist you with include:

  • Child custody
  • Parenting time and visitation
  • Property/asset division
  • Alimony
  • Child support

Finding the Right Mediator

Once you and your spouse come to the consensus that mediation is your best option, you then choose a mediator you trust to guide you through the proceedings. This is the most important step in the process, since mediation is an unregulated profession in the United States, and not all divorce mediators are the same.

Below are a few steps you can take when choosing a mediator to help you navigate your divorce:

  • Compile a list of names of potential mediators. 
  • Evaluate materials/information on possible mediators. 
  • Interview the mediation candidates. 
  • Evaluate their credentials and make a decision.

Word-of-mouth referrals from friends or relatives who have used a mediator before can assist you in selecting the right one for you. In addition, there are national mediator membership organizations that maintain lists of practitioners and offer referral services. In the end, it is important to use a mediator with whom you feel comfortable in order to achieve a positive outcome. Overall, mediation allows you to create solutions that work best for you and your children. 

Final Thoughts

A divorce does not mean a couple has to go to court to reach a settlement. Mediation is an alternate option that allows spouses to come to an agreement through compromising with the help of a neutral third party and subject matter experts. If you’re looking for a mediator, Masters Law Group is here to help.

Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. If you are looking to settle your family law matter without court intervention, contact Masters Law Group to schedule a mediation appointment.

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