Tag Archive for: DuPage County Divorce

National Pet Day: Understanding Pet Custody Laws in Illinois

Navigating pet custody during divorce can be intricate, especially when our beloved pets are deeply intertwined with our family dynamics. As we celebrate National Pet Day on April 11th, it serves as a poignant reminder of the unique connection we share with our furry friends. Nevertheless, divorce often stirs intense emotions, further complicating an already delicate circumstance.

As attitudes toward pets evolve, so do the laws governing their custody in divorce cases. In Illinois, courts recognize the profound significance of pets in family life and consider their well-being when determining custody arrangements. Navigating these legal intricacies can be daunting, which is why seeking the guidance of a compassionate divorce attorney can be essential.

Join us as we explore the evolving landscape of pet custody in Illinois and how a divorce attorney can be crucial for protecting the best interests of your beloved furry companions.

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF PET CUSTODY

Traditionally, pets were treated as personal property in divorce proceedings, subject to division, and other assets such as cars and furniture. However, many pet owners found this approach inadequate, as it needed to consider the emotional bond between humans and their animal companions.

71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted pets. In one study of families under investigation for suspected child abuse, researchers found that pet abuse had occurred in 88% of the families under supervision for physical abuse of their children.

Recognizing this, several states, including Illinois, have adopted laws that allow courts to consider the pet’s best interests when determining pet custody arrangements. While pets are still technically considered property under the law, judges now have the discretion to award custody based on factors such as who primarily cares for the pet, who can provide a stable living environment, and the relationship between the pet and each spouse.

UNDERSTANDING PET CUSTODY IN ILLINOIS

Pet custody is a significant consideration in Illinois divorce cases. When spouses cannot agree, the court decides based on various factors. Unlike parental responsibilities, no strict guidelines lead to varied outcomes. Disputes over pets like dogs and cats are common in divorces. 

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act addresses custody-like provisions for family pets, also known as ‘companion animals.’ These pets are treated as marital assets. However, it’s essential to note that not all pets fall under this category. The specific provisions may not cover pets such as reptiles, birds, or small mammals for companion animals. Ownership may be determined based on general property division principles rather than considering the pet’s well-being.

Factors determining pet ownership include:

  • Who adopted the pet.
  • Day-to-day caregiving.
  • Each spouse’s ability to care for the pet.
  • Any emotional attachments to the pet.
  • Any ownership agreements for the pet.

The owner retains sole ownership if the court deems the pet a non-marital asset. If it’s a marital asset, ownership is allocated based on the pet’s well-being. It’s important to note that while courts may consider the pet’s best interests, their primary concern is still the parties’ welfare. Fortunately, Illinois law recognizes that pets hold a special place in families and takes their well-being seriously when determining ownership during divorce proceedings.

HOW DOES THE COURT CONSIDER THE “WELL-BEING” OF THE PET?

It’s worth noting that, unlike the allocation of parental responsibilities, pet custody in Illinois is not based on the pet’s “best interests.” Suppose one spouse can demonstrate that they have been mainly responsible for the daily care and well-being of the pet, including feeding, grooming, and providing medical care. In that case, the court is more likely to award ownership to that spouse.

If you want to retain ownership of your pet after a divorce, it’s important to have evidence that shows your involvement in the pet’s life. This can include photographs and receipts for pet-related expenses such as veterinary bills. These documents show the court your commitment to caring for the pet and the bond you share with them.

It’s important to note that courts may consider parental responsibilities and parenting time when determining pet ownership during a divorce. Children often share a strong bond with family pets, and a spouse can argue that most parenting time could be affected. If spouses can’t agree on pet ownership, they may need to go to court to have a judge decide. Couples can mediate pet disputes when a divorce case doesn’t go to court. Regardless of the approach chosen, finding a solution that suits one’s specific circumstances is critical.

HOW A DIVORCE ATTORNEY CAN HELP

Navigating pet custody issues in divorce cases can be emotionally charged and legally complex. A divorce attorney can provide valuable assistance in protecting your pet’s rights. At Masters Law Group, you can confidently navigate the complexities of divorce and reduce stress. Your rights and the well-being of your family are our top priorities. Here are some ways our divorce attorneys can help:

  1. Negotiation and Mediation: Pet custody disputes can be resolved through negotiation or mediation outside of court. Your attorney can help advocate during these discussions to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that prioritizes your pet’s well-being.
  2. Court Representation: A skilled attorney is essential if negotiations fail and your case proceeds to court. Your attorney will present evidence and arguments to support your position, helping increase your chances of a favorable outcome in the judge’s eyes.
  3. Gathering Evidence: Your divorce attorney can assist you in gathering evidence to support your claim to pet ownership. This may include documentation of your involvement in the pet’s care, such as veterinary records, receipts for pet-related expenses, and witness statements attesting to your relationship with the pet.
  4. Addressing Parenting Time Concerns: If children are involved, a divorce attorney can help address concerns about how pet custody arrangements may impact parenting time. They can work to find solutions that prioritize both the children’s and the pet’s well-being.
  5. Emotional Support: A divorce involving pet custody can be emotionally challenging. Your attorney can provide compassionate support and guidance throughout the process, helping you navigate the difficult decisions and emotions.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Pets are uniquely positioned in divorce proceedings, representing shared property and emotional connections between spouses. Navigating the complexities of determining their custody and care can be challenging and emotionally charged. That’s why it’s crucial to have strong legal representation to assert your rights regarding pet ownership in an Illinois divorce.

If you’re contemplating divorce, mediation, or separation and have concerns regarding your pets, our attorneys are here to help. 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

 

DuPage divorce attorney

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.

DuPage Divorce Lawyer

Associate Family Law Attorney: SARAH BIANCHI

Sarah, a distinguished alumna of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, joins Masters Law Group carrying a commendable academic and professional background. Graduating with a Juris Doctor, Cum Laude, and a notable GPA of 3.69, Sarah has proven her academic prowess through multiple honors, including being a consistent Dean’s List awardee and earning prestigious scholarships for her dedication to public interest law.

Read their full bios here.