Tag Archive for: DuPage County Divorce Mediation

Navigating Civil Unions During Pride Month

June is known worldwide as Pride Month, a time when the LGBTQ+ community and its allies come together to advocate for a more inclusive future. As we celebrate Pride Month, we must recognize civil unions’ role in providing legal protection for same-sex couples.

Illinois became the first state to legalize civil unions on June 1, 2011. For many same-sex couples, civil unions represent the legal acknowledgment of their relationship, offering rights and responsibilities similar to those of marriage. However, navigating the legal complexities of civil unions can be challenging, especially in jurisdictions where LGBTQ+ rights are still evolving. In this blog, we will explore civil unions, dissolutions, and how a family law attorney can help. Here’s what you should know.

What Is A Civil Union?

Civil unions allow two adults of the same or opposite sex to enter a legally recognized relationship. Contrary to a common misconception, civil unions are not exclusive to same-sex couples. Same-sex and opposite-sex couples can enter into a civil union in Illinois. Partners entering a civil union are entitled to the same legal obligations, protections, and benefits that state law provides to married spouses, including:

  • Property rights.
  • Healthcare decisions.
  • Inheritance rights.
  • Access to family-related legal protections.

Civil unions help ensure that couples receive equal treatment and recognition under state law. Understanding the distinction between state and federal recognition is vital for couples considering a civil union. However, if you have entered a civil union with your partner but have decided to move on, you will need a civil union dissolution.

Understanding Civil Union Dissolution

In Illinois, the process of dissolving a civil union follows similar procedures to that of a traditional divorce. A party to a civil union may petition the Court to dissolve the civil union just as with the Dissolution of Marriage. You must draft a Petition to Dissolve a Civil Union alleging similar facts as in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and follow similar procedures below. Here is a closer look at the dissolution process and what a family law attorney can guide you through:

  1. File a Petition to Dissolve a Civil Union with the county circuit court clerk where it was granted.
  2. Provide the respondent with a copy of the petition and a summons, notifying them of the dissolution proceedings.
  3. Attempt to reach a settlement agreement through negotiation or mediation outside of Court.
  4. The case may proceed to trial if no settlement is reached or there are contested issues.
  5. The Court will issue a final judgment of dissolution.
  6. After dissolution, obtain a certified copy of the Dissolution of Civil Union records from the county circuit court clerk for legal documentation.

Consulting with a divorce attorney experienced in civil union law can help ensure that the process proceeds smoothly and that your rights are protected.

The Role of a Family Law Attorney

Establishing or dissolving a civil union can create unique challenges and legal complexities. At Masters Law Group, our attorneys provide professional legal representation for civil unions. Our attorneys have dedicated years and resources to understanding and fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. To showcase our experience, here are a few ways we can help:

  • Experienced Mediators: Erin E. Masters is approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. The firm’s mediation counselors have extensive experience in family law and are skilled in facilitating productive discussions between divorcing spouses.
  • Experienced Litigators: Our attorneys meticulously prepare legal arguments, gather evidence, and strategically plan to help secure your most favorable outcome.
  • Conflict Resolution: Our divorce attorneys are well-rounded in conflict resolution. We focus on finding peaceful solutions for all parties involved, including their children.
  • Protecting Your Interests: Masters Law Group attorneys work to protect your legal rights and the best interests of you and your children.

LGBTQ+ individuals can benefit from accessing diverse community resources tailored to their needs, complementing the assistance a family law attorney provides. These resources offer emotional support, legal guidance, and connections within the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ Community Resources

Chicago, Illinois, boasts a vibrant LGBTQ+ community with numerous resources dedicated to supporting individuals in civil unions. The Center on Halsted is a comprehensive LGBTQ+ community center offering various services, including legal clinics, counseling, and support groups.

The Howard Brown Health Center also provides LGBTQ+-affirming healthcare services, including primary care, mental health services, and special programs for transgender and non-binary individuals. 

The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance focuses on creating safe and inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ youth in schools through advocacy and education. These organizations are vital in providing support, resources, and community connections for individuals in civil unions.

Celebrating Pride Month With Masters Law Group

As we celebrate Pride Month, it’s essential to recognize the ongoing struggles of same-sex couples. Seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney can help individuals navigate civil unions successfully.

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

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Divorce In The Forces: PTSD

As we observe Military Appreciation Month this May, it’s essential to acknowledge the challenges faced by military families, particularly when it comes to issues like mental health problems and navigating divorce.

While at its core, military divorce shares common legal aspects with civilian divorces, complexities arise with military pensions, child custody arrangements, and other family law matters, often causing tensions between the separating spouses. Moreover, when mental health challenges such as depression and PTSD, prevalent among military personnel, are factored in, navigating this emotionally fraught journey becomes even more delicate and intricate.

Mental Health in The Military

The lifestyle of military families and the multiple stressors that military partners face can lead to anxiety as well as major depressive disorder. It is important to be aware of such where there’s anxiety; you may also find major depressive disorder.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 7 out of every 100 Veterans (or 7%) will have PTSD. In the general population, 6 out of every 100 adults (or 6%) will have PTSD in their lifetime. PTSD is also more common among female Veterans (13 out of 100, or 13%) versus male Veterans (6 out of 100, or 6%). We are learning more about transgender Veterans and those who do not identify as male or female (non-binary). PTSD can affect how couples get along with each other. It can also directly affect the mental health of partners.

A subsequent study by Combat Stress asked veterans’ partners about their experiences of living with someone with PTSD. The results showed that partners face challenges, including inequality in their relationship, loss of their own identity, living in a volatile environment, and emotional distress and isolation.

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Divorce

PTSD is a mental health condition that can arise following exposure to or witnessing a traumatic event. The impact of PTSD can reverberate throughout every facet of a relationship, manifesting in communication breakdowns and even violent outbursts. Common symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about an event. 

According to the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS), Veterans with PTSD exhibit a higher likelihood of experiencing marital difficulties. The study revealed that Veterans with PTSD:

  • Are twice as likely to undergo divorce.
  • Are three times more prone to multiple divorces.
  • Tend to have shorter-lasting relationships.

It’s crucial to understand that these symptoms stem not from choice or weakness but from profound psychological trauma. If you are a spouse navigating a partner’s PTSD, patience, compassion, and education are paramount. Let’s explore some tips for navigating PTSD and divorce.

If you need support, you can:

Navigating PTSD & Divorce

Navigating divorce with a military spouse requires a delicate balance of empathy, understanding, and practical support. Understanding what your spouse is going through can help you respond with compassion. While being supportive is important, setting boundaries to protect your well-being is also essential. Make it clear what behavior is acceptable and what is not, and be prepared to enforce those boundaries if necessary.

While these strategies can help manage the challenges of divorce with a spouse with PTSD and other mental health issues, there may come a point where professional help is necessary. Here are some signs that it may be time to seek professional help:

  • Escalating Conflict: If conflicts with your spouse are becoming more frequent or intense, and attempts to resolve them have been unsuccessful, it may be time to involve a professional mediator or divorce attorney.
  • Safety Concerns: If you or your children feel unsafe or threatened by your spouse’s behavior, it’s essential to take steps to protect yourselves, which may include seeking a protective order or filing for divorce.
  • Lack of Progress: If your spouse is unwilling or unable to seek treatment for their PTSD, or if their symptoms are not improving despite treatment, it may be time to involve a mediator or divorce attorney.

Recognizing the right time to seek assistance from a divorce attorney is essential. It’s crucial to work with a divorce attorney who has experience in handling cases involving military families and comprehends the intricacies of PTSD.

What You’ll Need To File A Divorce

If you’re a military family, there are some limitations on what you can do regarding filing for divorce. When couples find themselves struggling to resolve conflict, and divorce seems like more and more of a reality, many parents question whether or not they should stay or pursue separation. Often, the best way to approach possible psychological issues in a military divorce is the same way they should be approached in every divorce, albeit with some unique additions.

The Federal Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2003 requires a person seeking a divorce to state their spouse is not a member of the U.S. armed forces. This rule prevents spouses from divorcing military members who could not attend divorce proceedings.

If your spouse is a member of the military, you can pursue a divorce as long as they consent. However, they have to sign a defendant’s affidavit of consent. Even though there are a few added rules regarding the military divorce process, the remaining process is similar to civilian divorce. You will still need to agree on the following:

In many cases, you can file for a no-fault divorce (Illinois is a No-Fault Divorce State) if you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce. If not, however, an experienced divorce lawyer can help mediate your dispute and draft a settlement agreement. 

How a Divorce Attorney Can Help

We understand that military life can be difficult for families, especially when divorce is involved. At Masters Law Group, we consider all aspects of military life when working with our clients during their divorces. Here are some areas where we can help guide you:

  • Parenting Plans: If you have children, it’s essential to work closely with your attorney to determine the most suitable arrangements for allocating parental responsibilities and visitation. We aim to help create arrangements that prioritize your children’s well-being and best interests.
  • Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution: We encourage exploring options like mediation and collaborative divorce, which can facilitate mutually beneficial agreements outside the courtroom. Our family law attorneys will skillfully guide you through these processes, representing your interests and helping you secure a smoother negotiation experience.
  • Post-Divorce Modifications: Life can bring unexpected changes even after the divorce is finalized. Circumstances may arise that require modifications to parental responsibilities, visitation, or support arrangements. Our attorneys are here to assist you in addressing these changes promptly and effectively, helping protect your rights and the interests of your children.

Working with a divorce attorney can help you confidently navigate the complexities of divorce and help reduce stress. Your rights and the well-being of your family are our top priorities.

Final Thoughts

PTSD, depression, and divorce can be a match made in hell. If you are seeking divorce in the military, you don’t have to go it alone. At Masters Law Group, 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 in the forces this Military Appreciation Month, 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 set up your complimentary consultation.

Divorce and Sexual Assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, shedding light on a sensitive topic often surrounded by silence and stigma. Within the broader context of family law, divorce can intersect with issues of family violence and sexual assault, requiring delicate legal handling. 

Nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and assault in their lifetime. The effects of sexual assault and harassment can cause physical harm and emotional wounds that are endured for years.

In such instances, seeking assistance from a family law attorney can prove crucial for navigating the complexities of divorce and obtaining necessary protection orders. In today’s blog, we will explore the significance of legal support in these situations and how it can empower individuals to protect themselves and their families. Here’s what you need to know.

THE ROLE OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH

Sexual Assault Awareness Month serves the critical purposes of shedding light on the severity of domestic violence, debunking myths, and dispelling stereotypes. Through education about the signs and impacts of abuse, individuals gain the tools to recognize and address it effectively. This month reinforces the message that survivors have support and resources.

Moreover, Sexual Assault Awareness Month underscores the importance of prevention through community engagement and educational initiatives. It encourages discussions about healthy relationships, consent, and bystander intervention. Let’s learn more about domestic violence and how it can be prevented.

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

Domestic violence/domestic abuse is typically manifested as a pattern of abusive behavior toward an intimate partner in a dating or family relationship, where the abuser exerts power and control over the victim. Domestic abuse can be mental, physical, economic or sexual in nature.

Regrettably, domestic violence transcends boundaries and can affect individuals of any gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Its wide-ranging repercussions impact not only the immediate victims but also the children who witness such abuse.

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA) identifies several forms of abuse, including:

  1. Physical abuse (including sexual abuse)
  2. Harassment
  3. Intimidation of a dependent
  4. Interference with personal liberty
  5. Willful deprivation
  6. Exploitation
  7. Stalking

The warning signs of abuse may not manifest immediately and can evolve as the relationship progresses. However, it’s important to recognize that each relationship is unique, and domestic violence can manifest in various forms. One common trait among abusive relationships is the abuser’s attempt to establish power and control through various methods at different stages. Fortunately, there are strategies available to help protect you from this abuse.

ORDERS OF PROTECTION: A VITAL LIFELINE

Divorce proceedings can intensify tensions within a relationship, potentially worsening existing instances of family violence or leading to new forms of abuse. Additionally, survivors may disclose incidents of sexual assault during this tumultuous period. It’s crucial to recognize that survivors of sexual assault may face heightened vulnerability during divorce proceedings, often encountering threats, coercion, or manipulation from their abuser.

Fortunately, Orders of Protection (restraining orders) serve as a legal mechanism to shield survivors of family violence and sexual assault from further harm. These court orders can establish boundaries, prohibit contact, and provide security for individuals and their children. Survivors need to know that they do not have to face this process alone. Getting an order of protection requires a comprehensive understanding of legal procedures, evidence requirements, and advocacy skills.

A family law attorney can help provide legal resources and support services to assist in navigating an order of protection. By seeking the assistance of a compassionate and dedicated legal team, survivors can take crucial steps towards reclaiming their autonomy and finding security and peace of mind.

IF CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED

Unlike allegations of domestic violence, accusations of sexual abuse, particularly child molestation, are typically not made lightly. Such accusations are infrequent and receive intense scrutiny. The courts typically respond by appointing a Guardian ad Litem to investigate, with an expectation that the accusing parent has made every effort to investigate, document, and halt the sexual misconduct as soon as suspicion arose.

If accusations of sexual abuse, especially concerning children, arise within your marriage, immediate arrangements for a medical examination of the victim or alleged victim, even if that victim is yourself, are imperative. Subsequently, contacting an attorney should be a priority. Taking swift action can be pivotal in establishing the truth in court.

THE ROLE OF A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY

In the face of such challenges, the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney can be valuable. Family law attorneys have experience in navigating the complexities of divorce cases involving family violence and sexual assault. At Masters Law Group, we aim to protect you and your children’s best interests. Here are some of the areas that we can help you navigate: 

  • Parenting Time: If you have children, work closely with your attorney to determine the best parenting time plan. This helps to ensure that the agreed-upon arrangements prioritize your children’s well-being and best interests.
  • Mediation: Explore options such as mediation or collaborative divorce to help you and your ex-spouse reach mutually beneficial agreements outside of court. Your family law attorney can help guide you through these processes and represent your best interests during negotiations.
  • Post-divorce disputes: After the divorce is finalized, circumstances may require modifications to allocating parental responsibilities, visitation, or support arrangements. Stay in touch with your attorney to address any changes or issues that may arise in the future.
  • Orders of Protection: In cases where an order of protection is granted, attorneys monitor compliance and take swift action against any violations. This proactive approach reinforces the efficacy of legal measures and prioritizes the safety of survivors and their families.

In addition to representing clients, Senior Partner Erin E. Masters is also a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters.  Furthermore, Senior Partner Anthony G. 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.

Remember, during this challenging period, Masters Law Group is here to support you and your legal rights. Working with our trusted attorneys can help alleviate the stress associated with domestic disputes, helping ensure a smoother transition for both you and your children.

COMMUNITY RESOURCES

In Chicago, there is a wide range of community resources available to support survivors of sexual assault. The Domestic Violence Legal Clinic provides legal assistance and advocacy services, helping ensure survivors can access legal remedies. The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network serves as a comprehensive resource hub, connecting survivors to various shelters, counseling, and legal aid services throughout the city.

Hospitals like the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago also provide comprehensive medical care and forensic exams for survivors seeking immediate assistance. These community resources play a vital role in supporting survivors to help them heal and seek justice in the aftermath of sexual assault.

LAST THOUGHTS

As we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s crucial to recognize the intersection of divorce, family violence, and sexual abuse. Shedding light on these issues can empower survivors to take proactive steps toward safety and justice. 

At Masters Law Group, our skilled family law attorneys are here to help navigate the complexities of divorce while prioritizing the well-being of survivors and their families. Let us strive to create a society where survivors are heard, supported, and empowered,

Contact us here today.

Divorce Advice Every Woman Needs on International Women’s Day

At Masters Law Group, we proudly honor the trailblazing women within our family law firm and across all fields in every industry. As family law attorneys, we have firsthand experience with the complexities of divorce and helping women through this challenging time.

Every year on March 8th, we celebrate International Women’s Day, recognizing the achievements and resilience of women everywhere. Being a female going through a divorce can be an isolating and overwhelming experience. If you’re a woman feeling unhappy in your marriage, you’ve likely considered initiating divorce. However, determining whether it’s the right choice for you, your children, and your spouse can be daunting. That’s why seeking personalized divorce advice is crucial for making well-informed choices.

Leaving a marriage is a woman’s toughest decision, often presenting unique challenges. There are important factors to consider upfront and inevitable hurdles along the way. Here are some practical tips to help protect yourself during the divorce or separation process.

Why Women Initiate Divorce

In the United States, women often initiate divorce more frequently than men. This trend has grown as women now have more job opportunities and higher independent incomes, which reduces the financial risks associated with divorce compared to the past. Here are some notable statistics:

The divorce process has also become more accessible, especially with the legalization of no-fault divorces in certain states. Illinois is one of the states that follows a no-fault divorce model. This means couples can dissolve their marriage without having to prove fault or wrongdoing by either party. This can simplify the process, offering a straightforward route from an unsustainable marriage.

Preparing Yourself Emotionally 

When you initiate the discussion of divorce with your spouse, and especially when you take the definitive step to file, you’re entering a realm with no clear path back.

At the core of any amicable divorce lies open and sincere communication. If possible, both partners must come together to express their feelings, concerns, and expectations. This fosters trust and clarity, reducing misunderstandings and unnecessary conflicts.

If conversations become difficult or communication proves challenging, consider involving a mediator, therapist, and divorce attorney. These professionals offer guidance and a neutral space for productive discussions, aiding both parties in reaching fair and mutually agreeable resolutions.

Remember, if you are initiating divorce due to dangerous behavior, such as physical and emotional abuse, drug addiction or other factors, you can seek an Order of Protection. Let’s explore this more.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is described as abusive behavior when a family or household member uses physical or mental maltreatment toward another family or household member. The IDVA uses the following terms as abuse:

1. Physical abuse
2. Harassment
3. Intimidation of a dependent
4. Interference with personal liberty
5. Willful deprivation
6. Exploitation
7. Stalking

What is an Order of Protection?

An Order of Protection is a court order made in writing which prohibits, by law, further abusive behavior.

Who are persons considered to be family or household members?
The IDVA defines members to include:

1. A spouse
2. Ex-spouse
3. Girlfriend/boyfriend who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship
4. Parents
5. Children
6. Stepchildren
7. Significant other/partner
8. Persons who share or allege to have a blood relationship through a child
9. Persons who live together or formerly lived together
10. Persons with disabilities and their personal assistants

Need an Order of Protection in Illinois? Contact us to help you file in Illinois Civil court.

Prioritizing The Well-Being Of Your Children

If you don’t have the safety of yourself and/or family to worry about, if you have children, their well-being should be your top priority. If possible, maintain a united front when it comes to co-parenting decisions. Create a comprehensive parenting plan that outlines responsibilities, schedules, and guidelines. Keep children out of adult conflicts and reassure them of your love and support.

Whether it’s parenting time, asset division, or spousal support, your DuPage divorce attorney will help that your voice is heard and that the court’s decision is fair and aligned with your best interests. Furthermore, during court proceedings, your DuPage or Chicagoland divorce attorney can address unexpected challenges and legal objections and help ensure that all legal procedures are followed diligently.

Their presence in court assures you that you have a dedicated legal professional fighting on your behalf, helping you navigate the complexities of the judicial process during an emotionally challenging time.

Consider Options for Equitable Distribution

As couples navigate the challenging path of divorce, alimony, and asset division are critical aspects that demand attention. Unfortunately, Illinois is not a 50/50 state for divorce. This means that the court weighs several factors to determine how to fairly divide property rather than dividing property 50/50. Illinois follows a more intricate approach called “equitable distribution.” Here’s how it works:

  1. Contribution to the Marriage: The court looks at what each spouse brought to the marriage regarding money and non-money contributions like caring for the home or children.
  2. Duration of the Marriage: How long the marriage lasted matters, as it can affect how assets are divided.
  3. Economic Circumstances: Each spouse’s financial situation, including income and needs, is considered.
  4. Non-Marital Property: Things owned before marriage or received as gifts or inheritance during marriage may not be split.
  5. Custodial Arrangements: If there are kids, the court looks at custody and how it impacts finances.
  6. Spousal Support (Alimony): Whether one spouse needs support payments is factored in.
  7. Tax Consequences: Taxes resulting from asset division are also considered to make things fair.
  8. Wasteful Dissipation: If one spouse recklessly spends or wastes money, it can affect the division.
  9. Future Needs: The court considers what each person will need, especially if one is in a tougher spot after the divorce.
  10. Agreements: Any agreements made before or during the marriage, like prenups, are considered if they meet legal standards.

Remember, “equitable distribution” doesn’t always mean a perfect 50/50 split. It’s about creating a fair and just arrangement based on each family’s unique situation. This process can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to work with a skilled family law attorney to help ensure your rights are protected during asset division in Illinois.

Consider Divorce Mediation

Mediation offers an alternative dispute resolution method where a neutral mediator facilitates settlement discussions between you and your spouse, aiming to reach a final agreement. Unlike judges, mediators lack the authority to decide on behalf of either party. Instead, they focus on needs and interests rather than faults and rights.

In divorce mediation, couples either choose a mediator or one is appointed by the court, with costs typically split between both parties. Both spouses present supporting documentation for disputed issues, and the mediator works with both sides to find a resolution. The ultimate goal is reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.

Even with disagreements, divorce doesn’t have to escalate into a conflict. Mediation can provide a constructive path for addressing issues like allocating parental responsibilities and alimony, serving as an alternative to formal litigation in divorce court.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While many questions and valid concerns come with divorce, the divorce process does not have to be difficult, and you don’t have to go alone. If you’re a woman considering filing for divorce, our experienced DuPage Divorce attorneys are available to address any inquiries you may have along the way.

Whether you are facing a contested, uncontested, or civil union dissolution, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when needed.

For more information on the divorce process in the Chicagoland area, including DuPage and its surrounding counties, contact us here today.

 


Learn more about the experienced and talented females at our Family Law Firm

Partner / Family Law Mediator: ERIN E. MASTERS

Erin E. Masters is the principal of Masters Law Group, located in Chicago, Illinois. The firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and Hague Convention/ international child abduction matters.

women's divorce lawyer

Associate Attorney: HAILEY MCGILLIVRAY

Hailey McGillivray is a dedicated and meticulous attorney, currently admitted to the Illinois State Bar. She holds an American and Canadian Juris Doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the University of Windsor Faculty of Law.

Read their full bios here.