Tag Archive for: Family law Chicago

Navigating The Nuances of LGBTQ+ Divorce in Illinois

The end of a marriage is always challenging for the couple involved, and the impact on family members can be significant. This holds true for those in LGBTQ+ marriages as well. If you’re going through a divorce, striving for an amicable resolution is crucial.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois on June 1, 2014, thanks to the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act signed by Governor Pat Quinn on November 20, 2013. This law also allowed civil unions in Illinois to be converted to marriages within a year. 

However, despite these strides, LGBTQ+ couples encounter unique complexities in divorce, including legal nuances and emotional hurdles. Support and guidance from a skilled divorce attorney are crucial to help navigate divorce effectively. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding LGBTQ+ Divorce in Illinois

Navigating a gay divorce involves grappling with legal frameworks that may still be evolving in some jurisdictions. While marriage equality is recognized in many places, the intricacies of divorce laws can vary widely. Moreover, dealing with societal attitudes and biases can add stress to an already challenging situation.

In Illinois, same-sex couples seeking a divorce must adhere to specific criteria. Firstly, they must be legally married. Additionally, they must fulfill the 90-day residency requirement and file for divorce in their county. Irreconcilable differences serve as the primary grounds for divorce, as is the case for all couples in the state. The divorce proceedings typically encompass a blend of out-of-court negotiations, courtroom litigation, and mediation sessions.

Given the intricate nature of divorce proceedings, same-sex couples should seek the guidance of a divorce attorney well-versed in the nuances of same-sex divorce. Getting the help you need will not only help ensure adherence to legal procedures and provide valuable resources for emotional support throughout the process.

Understanding Illinois Asset Division

Asset division can be contentious in any divorce, including for LGBTQ+ couples. Illinois Asset division divides marital property and debts between spouses fairly and equitably. It’s essential to understand that the goal is not necessarily to divide everything equally but rather fairly, considering the unique circumstances of the marriage. 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 the allocation of parental responsibilities 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 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.

A skilled divorce attorney can help prioritize your best interest regarding asset division. It’s important to note that 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.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

In Illinois, same-sex couples enjoy equal rights to opposite-sex couples concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities and divorce. However, there are distinct legal considerations that LGBTQ+ couples may encounter during divorce. This includes the following: 

  1. The child is born while the spouses are married to each other.
  2. The child is born after the marriage is terminated. It must be within 300 days after that termination.
  3. In the first two situations, the couple attempted to enter into a marriage or civil union “in apparent compliance with the law.” However, that marriage or union is later terminated or declared invalid for some reason.
  4. A person marries the birth mother after the child is born and consents to being added to the birth certificate.

Additionally, the court may evaluate if one parent is unwilling or unable to engage in co-parenting, potentially leading to a sole parental determination. The law encourages parents to collaborate on crucial child welfare decisions, including education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. Courts prefer shared responsibility between parents and may allocate it to one if necessary. If parents fail to reach an agreement on a parenting plan, a judge may employ the same criteria utilized in opposite-sex couples’ divorces to decide parental responsibilities.

A skilled divorce attorney can effectively advocate for the children’s best interests while nurturing a positive co-parenting dynamic.

Emotional Support and Healing

Beyond the legal intricacies, the emotional toll of divorce can be profound. For LGBTQ+ individuals, facing the end of a relationship can evoke a wide array of emotions, including feelings of isolation, rejection, and uncertainty about the future. It’s essential to prioritize self-care during this challenging time. Here are some tips for navigating the emotional journey of divorce:

  • Seek Support: Contact friends, family, or mental health professionals for emotional support and guidance.
  • Participate in LGBTQ+-Friendly Support Groups: Joining support groups or therapy sessions tailored to the LGBTQ+ community can provide a safe and understanding space to process emotions.
  • Practice Self-Care: Take time to engage in activities promoting relaxation, mindfulness, and self-reflection.
  • Be Gentle with Yourself: Understand that it’s normal to experience a range of emotions during this time, and it’s okay to give yourself permission to feel and heal at your own pace.
  • Focus on Personal Growth: Use this opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. Explore new interests, hobbies, or goals that bring fulfillment and joy.

Taking proactive steps to address emotional well-being is crucial for navigating the challenges of divorce and emerging stronger on the other side.

Getting The Help You Need

One of the first steps in navigating the nuances of an LGBTQ+ divorce is seeking the guidance of a knowledgeable divorce attorney. Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation and that our clients want to move on with their lives. We empower you to make informed decisions and strive for an outcome that supports your best interests and your family’s.

As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation, or litigation with our client’s assurance and well-being in mind. Whether you are facing an LGBTQ+ contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s divorce attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

Final Thoughts

As we close out Pride Month, Masters Law Group reaffirms its commitment to supporting all members of the LGBTQ+ community, including those navigating divorce. By fostering empathy and understanding, we can help LGBTQ+ individuals emerge from divorce stronger and ready to embrace new beginnings. You don’t have to navigate this journey alone. With the guidance of our compassionate divorce attorneys and a supportive community, healing and closure are within reach. 

Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Understanding International Parental Child Abduction on Missing Children’s Day

May 25th, 2024, is National Missing Children’s Day, a reminder of the importance of child safety and the prevention of child abductions. For parents, guardians, and all those invested in the safety of children, vigilance is vital. 

Despite concerted efforts, parental child abductions persist, with international cases posing particularly daunting challenges. Shockingly, family abductions alone make up 49 percent of all child abduction cases, underscoring the gravity of the issue. The heartache endured by both the abducted child and the left-behind parent is truly unimaginable.

In this blog, we will explore the complexities of international parental child abduction, providing you with essential knowledge and resources should you ever confront this distressing scenario. Here’s what you need to know.

National Missing Children’s Day

National Missing Children’s Day is a solemn occasion emphasizing ongoing efforts to protect and defend children nationwide. This day, established by President Ronald Reagan on May 25, 1983, pays tribute to the brave endeavors of various agencies, organizations, and individuals dedicated to protecting children’s safety.

The origin of National Missing Children’s Day lies in the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz from New York City on May 25, 1979. Etan’s case not only shocked the nation but also catalyzed efforts to address the issue of missing children on a national scale. On this day, we remember him and acknowledge the unwavering dedication of those who tirelessly work to reunite families and protect children.

Let’s turn our attention to a crucial aspect of child safety: understanding the signs of parental child abduction. By identifying these indicators, we can help better protect our children and take proactive steps to prevent such heartbreaking situations.

Knowing The Signs Of Parental Child Abduction

Being able to identify the red flags that signal parental child abduction is crucial when it comes to preventing these tragic scenarios. Family members can often be the perpetrators, as they may believe they know what is best for the child. Young children are particularly vulnerable targets as they may not know how to seek help or alert others if their parent takes them.

It is essential to be mindful of warning signs and factors that may increase the likelihood of parental child abduction, including:

  1. Threats and Previous Incidents: Any previous threats of seriously hiding your child are critical, as these behaviors can escalate to abduction.
  2. Weak Ties to Current Location: Parents with limited connections to their current community, unstable employment, or distant family may feel more inclined to relocate with the child.
  3. Strong Affiliation with Another Country: Keep an eye on parents with strong emotional or familial ties to another country, especially if they have lived there previously or frequently express a desire to return.
  4. Recent Unexplained Changes in Behavior: Sudden and unexplained actions like quitting a job, selling property, closing bank accounts, or applying for passports or visas should raise concerns, as they could indicate plans for abduction.
  5. History of Relationship Struggles or Domestic Violence: In some cases, parents who perceive themselves as wronged in the relationship may resort to abduction as a means of retaliation.

By recognizing these red flags, we can take proactive steps to help protect our children and prevent the devastating consequences of parental child abduction.

How To Keep Children Safe

Helping secure the safety of our children involves proactive steps and swift action when needed. Establishing clear parental responsibilities and visitation plans is crucial. Reporting a parenting dispute to appropriate authorities, such as local law enforcement or a state judicial officer, is vital for accountability and expedited resolution.

There are also great aids available besides the local authorities. Reaching out to resources like the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) can provide support. NCMEC collaborates closely with government agencies and administers programs like the Victim Reunification Travel Program.

To further help mitigate the risk of parental child abduction or enhance the chances of recovering a missing child, consider the following gathering the following:

  • Up-to-date pictures of your child.
  • Fingerprints of your child.
  • A written detailed description of your child, including height, weight, hair color, eye color, birthmarks, and noticeable physical characteristics.
  • Copies of your child’s Social Security card and passport.

By collaboratively taking these measures, we can collectively contribute to helping safeguard the safety and well-being of all children. Additionally, seeking guidance from a seasoned child abduction attorney with Hague Convention case experience can help navigate such challenging situations.

How The Hague Convention Can Help

The Hague Convention is an international agreement that provides a legal framework for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained outside their home country. The Convention guarantees that parents must return children involved in international custody cases to their habitual residence. This deters parents from attempting to relocate children across borders without the other parent’s consent or a court order.

The original Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 were massive, multi-part international treaties that established certain guidelines of international law, including rules of engagement that countries agreed to follow during times of war. In the decades since, many additional Hague conventions have taken place, and the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) was established as a permanent organization with the goal of establishing and supporting a set of unified international laws.

Each section and installment of the Hague Conventions has been signed, ratified, and entered into force by a different selection of countries. As such, any list of “Hague countries” based upon a single convention would be suspect and inadequate. However, as of March 2022, the HCCH itself includes 91 permanent members: 90 countries (nearly all of which are also members of the United Nations) and the European Union itself, which is classified as a “Regional Economic Integration Organisation (REIO). HCCH also includes 65 “connected parties” which are not full members, but are either in the process of becoming a member or have signed, ratified or agreed to observe one or more HCCH Conventions (full list can be found here).

How Does The Hague Convention Work?

The left-behind parent can initiate legal proceedings for the child’s return when someone wrongfully removes or retains them in a Hague Convention country. The central authority in the country where the child is located, such as the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, plays a crucial role in coordinating efforts to find the child and facilitate their return.

Under the Hague Convention, the child’s return is the primary objective, and the legal proceedings focus on determining the child’s habitual residence and whether their removal or retention violated the custody rights of the left-behind parent. The Hague Convention does not address custody or visitation rights issues but instead focuses on the prompt return of the child to their country of habitual residence. 

Click here to see the participating countries of the treaty. 

Working With A Child Abduction Attorney

International custody disputes are almost always extremely complex and delicate situations, and you should not attempt to navigate them without the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced child abduction attorney. A family law attorney well-versed in child abductions can provide crucial assistance in filing Hague Convention applications and help defend against lawsuits under the Convention.

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. We have extensive knowledge and experience with The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) that was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (“ICARA”), which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence.

See our Featured Hague Decisions here:

Last Thoughts

National Missing Children’s Day reminds us of our ongoing efforts to reunite missing children with their families. One significant step towards this goal is for the U.S. and other countries to participate in the Hague Convention, which helps enable the negotiation of treaties to streamline international justice.

When dealing with international child custody/abduction cases, it’s essential to have the support of a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands the intricacies of the international legal system. With our guidance, you can navigate the complex legal processes involved in The Hague Convention and work toward a fast resolution, prioritizing the child’s well-being.

Contact us here today to learn more.

Masters Law Group Welcomes New Associate, Catherine Brukalo

Masters Law Group proudly welcomes Catherine R. Brukalo as its newest family law associate. With a deep knowledge of the legal field, Mrs. Brukalo brings a wealth of experience to the firm.


About Catherine Brukalo

Catherine Brukalo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and her Master of Arts from University College London in England. Mrs. Brukalo interned at the United States Consulate General in Krakow, Poland, during her time in London. There, she represented the Consulate to various private and governmental organizations. She earned recognition from the United States Ambassador to Poland, Christopher R. Hill.

Legal Experience and Contributions

Associate Attorney Catherine Brukalo

Catherine Brukalo

Mrs. Brukalo earned her Juris Doctorate from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois. She would later begin her legal career as a Law Clerk under Supreme Court Rule 711 with the Cook County State’s Attorney. This helped her gain experience in a felony drug courtroom. Since then, she has represented clients in a variety of legal matters. These legal matters include:

  • Personal injury.
  • Wrongful death.
  • Professional Malpractice.
  • Probate.
  • Breach of contract claims.
  • Real estate transactions.
  • Domestic relations.

Mrs. Brukalo is actively involved in the legal community, having served in various capacities, such as a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, Advocates Society, McHenry County Bar Association, and Chicago Bar Association. She has received recognition for her contributions, including a Presidential Commendation from the ISBA President for her work on civics education and being named an Illinois Rising Star and Super Lawyer by Illinois Super Lawyers.

In addition to her legal prowess, Mrs. Brukalo is fluent in Polish and regularly publishes legal articles in a Chicago-based Polish-language newspaper. She is also trained in Mediation and Arbitration and holds certification as a Life Coach. She serves as a Director on the Board of the Niles Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Niles, Illinois.

Mrs. Brukalo’s primary focus at Masters Law Group is domestic relations, handling cases involving divorce, parentage, allocation of parental responsibilities, and child support. Her dedication to her clients and commitment to excellence make her a valuable asset to the firm.

About Masters Law Group

Recognized as one of the Best Law Firms in 2023 by Best Lawyers® and U.S. News & World Report, Masters Law Group is located in Chicago, Illinois, and handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding areas. It concentrates on areas such as divorceallocation of parental responsibilities, and other family law matters. Our lawyers, Erin E. Masters and Anthony Joseph have been recognized by prestigious publications numerous times. This not only speaks volumes about their work but also their character.

Working with Masters Law Group

At Masters Law Group, we’re committed to helping you achieve the best outcome in your case. Our attorneys possess unique knowledge, experience, and talent in family law and divorce. With over ten years of experience handling family law cases, we know how important it is for our clients to feel comfortable. That’s why we offer free consultations, where you can meet before deciding whether to hire us.

Contact us to schedule a consultation 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.

Navigating Divorce and Infidelity

Infidelity is a complex and sensitive issue that can deeply affect individuals and relationships. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), infidelity in the United States accounts for 20-40% of divorces. 

In this blog, we will discuss its various types, underlying causes, effects on a marriage leading to divorce, and the crucial role that a divorce lawyer can play in such situations. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Types of Infidelity

Infidelity occurs when one partner deepens a connection with someone outside their marriage, violating the agreement of sexual or emotional exclusivity they made with their spouse. It may involve sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with someone other than their spouse. Unfaithfulness can manifest in various forms, and it’s crucial to comprehend these distinctions. Here’s a look at some of the different types of infidelity:

  • Physical Infidelity: Physical infidelity involves engaging in sexual activities with someone other than one’s spouse. This type of cheating comes to mind first when discussing the topic.
  • Emotional infidelity: This involves emotional attachment or intimacy with another person. Emotional affairs can do as much damage, if not more, to a relationship as a physical affair.
  • Cyber Infidelity: With the advancement of technology, cyber infidelity has become more prevalent. It involves engaging in online relationships or sexual activities with individuals on the internet.
  • Micro-Cheating: This form of infidelity may seem subtle or seemingly harmless actions that may indicate an emotional or physical connection with someone outside the marriage. Examples include secret texting or keeping a dating app profile.

Whether or not someone has been unfaithful depends on whether they’ve respected the agreed-upon boundaries of exclusivity, regardless of whether the relationship is monogamous or non-monogamous. Let’s dive into the causes where it can occur.

Identifying Causes of Infidelity

Infidelity, often referred to as cheating, duplicity, adultery, or unfaithfulness, can have its roots in various factors. It’s seldom straightforward, as relationships can become more fragile during transition periods, such as when young children begin school or when adult children leave home. Some common causes for infidelity in relationships include:

  • Lack of Communication: Poor communication within a marriage can lead to feelings of neglect or dissatisfaction, pushing individuals to seek emotional connection elsewhere.
  • Emotional Disconnect: When couples grow apart emotionally, one or both partners may seek emotional intimacy outside the marriage.
  • Unfulfilled Needs: Sometimes, unmet emotional or physical needs within a marriage can drive individuals to seek fulfillment elsewhere.
  • Opportunity: Easy access to potential partners, either in the workplace or online, can increase the likelihood of infidelity.
  • Personal Issues: Personal problems, such as low self-esteem, unresolved past traumas, or addiction issues, can contribute to infidelity.

Irrespective of the specifics of an affair, its consequences can profoundly affect the couple involved and those around them.

Effects of Infidelity on Marriages 

Infidelity can have profound effects on a marriage, often resulting in divorce. The individual involved in the betrayal may also wrestle with intense emotional reactions, such as overwhelming guilt or shame. Some feel trapped or helpless within the relationship, while others despair that change is impossible. The most common effects of infidelity are:

  • Broken Trust: Trust is the bedrock of any healthy relationship, and infidelity shatters this foundation, making it arduous to rebuild the marriage.
  • Emotional Trauma: Both the betrayed spouse and the one who strayed may endure emotional trauma, grappling with feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and depression.
  • Legal Consequences: Adultery can influence divorce proceedings, particularly in states with fault-based divorce laws. It may affect alimony, property division, and child custody decisions.

Giving up the extramarital relationship can be a struggle, even when they acknowledge its necessity, and some may even experience a sense of grief. If your relationship has been affected by infidelity, consider seeking the help of a divorce attorney who is experienced in family law affairs.

How A Divorce Attorney Can Help

In cases where infidelity leads to divorce, hiring a divorce lawyer becomes crucial. If you’re currently residing in Illinois and seeking a divorce attorney to assist you in finalizing your divorce, Masters Law Group is here to provide the support you need. Our team of experienced divorce attorneys and mediators is fully prepared to advocate for you and your family. Here are some crucial areas where we can help guide you:

  • Parenting Time: If you have children, it’s essential to work closely with your attorney to determine the most suitable arrangements for child custody and visitation. We aim to help create arrangements prioritizing 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, safeguarding your rights and the interests of your children.

Final Thoughts

Infidelity is a complex issue that can have devastating consequences on a marriage. When divorce becomes inevitable, hiring a divorce lawyer can provide the legal experience and support needed to navigate the process and protect one’s rights and interests.

At Masters Law Group, you can rest assured knowing you are consulting with trusted and experienced legal professionals. Our family law attorneys can help protect your rights and interests during this challenging time. With a focus on helping clients residing in the Cook, Will, Lake, and Dupage counties, our practice is committed to providing a comprehensive suite of services to support parents, children, and families during challenging periods like divorce.

If you’re ready to begin your journey toward a peaceful divorce, contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Divorce Mediation vs. Litigation

Divorce mediation or litigation? When couples decide to end their marriage, they often choose between the two. While both approaches have their merits, it’s crucial to understand the differences and consider your options carefully. 

Divorce is a challenging and emotional process, no matter where you are at in life. Masters Law Group, located in Oak Brook, Illinois, with offices in downtown Chicago, is a law firm committed to helping couples navigate these difficult decisions and offers a comprehensive approach to divorce resolution. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Divorce Mediation

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where an impartial or neutral mediator helps guide you and your spouse in settlement efforts. Unlike judges, a mediator cannot decide for you or your spouse. Their job is to keep you and your spouse focused on your needs and interests instead of faults and rights.

When a couple begins divorce mediation, they choose the mediator in advance, or the court may appoint one. Both spouses provide documentation to support their viewpoints regarding disputed issues while the mediator works with both sides to find a resolution. The mediator’s goal is to reach an agreement between the two parties. 

Benefits of Divorce Mediation include:

  1. Faster Resolution: Mediation often leads to a quicker resolution than a court-based divorce. Mediation sessions can be scheduled at the convenience of the parties involved, and they can work at their own pace, leading to a faster outcome.
  2. Greater Control: In mediation, the divorcing couple retains control over the outcome and decisions made. They actively participate in crafting agreements that best suit their unique needs and circumstances, rather than having a judge impose decisions on them.
  3. Less Emotional Stress: Mediation tends to be less adversarial and confrontational compared to litigation. It provides a more supportive and less combative environment, which can reduce the emotional stress and conflict associated with divorce.
  4. Confidentiality: Mediation is a private process, and discussions that occur during mediation are generally confidential. This allows both parties to speak openly and honestly without fear of their statements being used against them in court.
  5. Preservation of Relationships: For divorcing couples who will continue to co-parent or have ongoing relationships, mediation can help maintain a more amicable and cooperative atmosphere, which can be beneficial for both parties and any children involved.
  6. Customized Solutions: Mediation allows for creative and customized solutions that take into account the specific needs and concerns of the divorcing couple and their children. This flexibility can result in more tailored agreements than what a court might provide.
  7. Reduced Court Involvement: Since many issues are resolved through mediation, there may be fewer court appearances and less time spent navigating the legal system, reducing the overall burden on both parties.
  8. Improved Communication Skills: Mediation often helps couples improve their communication skills and learn effective ways to resolve conflicts, which can be valuable skills for future interactions and co-parenting.
  9. Reduced Post-Divorce Disputes: Because mediated agreements are typically reached through mutual understanding and cooperation, there may be fewer post-divorce disputes and a higher likelihood of compliance with the agreed-upon terms.

Divorce Mediation Drawbacks

While mediation offers numerous benefits, it’s important to acknowledge the potential drawbacks. These drawbacks come into play when the parties involved are unwilling to engage in constructive negotiation. Successful mediation hinges on the commitment of all parties to resolve. Issues that remain unresolved can lead to additional expenses and extended negotiation timelines.

In addition to understanding the advantages and disadvantages of mediation, it’s valuable to discern when mediation is the most appropriate choice for your unique situation. Some cases that are particularly well-suited for mediation include:

  1. Partnership disagreements
  2. Contract issues
  3. Will contests
  4. Employment issues
  5. Divorce
  6. Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

By recognizing the strengths and limitations of mediation, individuals can make informed decisions regarding their conflict resolution needs.

Understanding Litigation

Divorce litigation is a legal process used to resolve the issues surrounding the dissolution of a marriage when couples cannot reach an agreement on their own. This approach involves taking the divorce case to court, where a judge will make decisions on key matters, including property division, child custody, and spousal support if the spouses cannot agree to negotiation or mediation.

Here’s a breakdown of how divorce litigation typically works:

  • Filing a Petition: The process begins with one spouse filing a divorce petition, formally initiating the divorce proceedings.
  • Legal Representation: Both spouses hire their attorneys to represent their respective interests. These attorneys will provide guidance, negotiate on behalf of their clients, and advocate for their rights during court proceedings.
  • Court Proceedings: Divorce litigation involves court hearings, legal motions, and formal discovery processes where each side gathers evidence and information.
  • Decision by the Judge: Ultimately, a judge will make decisions on the disputed issues, often after a trial. The judge has the final say, and the outcome is out of the hands of the divorcing couple.

Here are some potential benefits of litigation over mediation:

  1. Adjudication by a Judge: In litigation, the divorce case is presented to a judge who makes legally binding decisions on the issues in dispute, such as property division, child custody, and alimony. If you believe that your interests are not being adequately protected in mediation, or if there are serious disagreements that cannot be resolved through negotiation, going to court allows for a neutral third party to make the final decisions.
  2. Legal Protections: Litigation offers a more formalized legal process with established rules and procedures. This can provide legal protections to ensure fairness and adherence to the law. In some cases, individuals may be concerned that mediation could lead to agreements that are not legally sound or enforceable.
  3. Discovery Process: Litigation allows for the use of legal tools such as depositions, subpoenas, and interrogatories to gather evidence and information from the opposing party. This can be crucial in complex cases where there are concerns about hidden assets or uncooperative spouses.
  4. Enforcement of Court Orders: Court-ordered judgments are enforceable by law. If one party fails to comply with the court’s orders, the other party can seek legal remedies through the court system to enforce the judgment.
  5. Binding Decisions: In litigation, the judge’s decisions are binding and final, providing a clear resolution to the divorce case. This can reduce the potential for ongoing disputes or disagreements after the divorce is finalized.
  6. Protection in High-Conflict Situations: In cases of high conflict, where emotions run extremely high or there are concerns about safety and abuse, litigation may provide a more structured and protective environment. Court orders can include provisions for restraining orders, protective orders, and supervised visitation to ensure the safety of all parties involved.
  7. Clear Legal Precedent: Litigation can establish legal precedent in certain cases, which can be important for clarifying legal issues and setting standards for future cases. This can be particularly relevant in cases involving complex legal questions.

It’s important to note that litigation can also be more time-consuming, emotionally draining, and potentially more expensive than mediation.

Litigation Drawbacks

While divorce litigation can resolve challenging cases, it also comes with certain drawbacks that individuals should be aware of when considering this route. It’s important to know that this option can become a long endeavor, characterized by multiple court appearances, filing legal motions, and extensive documentation. 

In litigation, the ultimate determinations rest with the judge, reducing the divorcing couple’s control over the outcome. Furthermore, court proceedings are generally open to the public, potentially exposing sensitive personal information to scrutiny. While it is a necessary option in some cases, it’s worth exploring alternative methods of conflict resolution to determine what best suits your specific circumstances and priorities. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate this complex terrain.

Masters Law Group: Your Oak Brook Divorce Law and Mediation Professionals

If you’re currently residing in Illinois and seeking a family law attorney to assist you in finalizing your divorce, Masters Law Group is here to provide the support you need. Our team of experienced divorce and mediation attorneys is fully prepared to advocate for you and your family. Here’s how our attorneys can help you:

  • Experienced Mediators: The firm’s mediators have extensive experience in family law and are skilled in facilitating productive discussions between divorcing spouses.
  • Experienced Litigators: A skilled litigator has the experience to present your case effectively before the judge. They meticulously prepare legal arguments, gather evidence, and strategically plan to secure your most favorable outcome.
  • Conflict Resolution: They are professionals in conflict resolution, focusing on finding peaceful solutions for both parties and their children.
  • Protecting Your Interests: Masters Law Group attorneys work to protect your legal rights and best interest for you and your children.

Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph have consistently earned recognition from esteemed publications year after year (including Best Lawyers, Best Law Firm, Top 100 Lawyers, and Leading Lawyers), a testament to their unwavering work ethic, strong character, and experience in family law. Our track record of success reassures you have a trustworthy ally throughout your divorce proceedings.

Final Thoughts

Divorce is a difficult journey, but in Oak Brook, and across Illinois, couples have access to professional help to make the process smoother and more manageable for everyone involved.

When choosing between divorce mediation and litigation, the decision should be based on your unique circumstances. Masters Law Group offers guidance and a compassionate approach to divorce and mediation, helping you find the best path forward for you and your family. Whether mediation or litigation, the goal is to achieve a resolution allowing everyone to move forward.

Contact us today to set up your complimentary consultation.

What is The Hague Convention? (INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION)

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. The powerful international treaty can yield beneficial results when implemented correctly and appropriately.

The Hague Convention has been in the headlines recently regarding the war with Russia and Ukraine. This has left many across the globe asking, “What is the Hague Convention?”.

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (“ICARA”), which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague has issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin. It accuses him of being responsible for war crimes in Ukraine, including the unlawful deportation of children. Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Ms Maria Lvova-Belova, is also subject to an arrest warrant.

According to Ukraine, tens of thousands of possible war crimes have been carried out by Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine in February last year. The Hague Convention doesn’t just apply to war crimes; it also affects everyday civilians across the globe when their child has been wrongfully removed from their habitual residence.

Divorce and The Hague Convention

When parents divorce, deciding how to handle issues regarding their children can be intense. When parents originate from separate countries, these disputes can quickly become complicated, especially when one parent attempts to move children across international borders.

When this happens, you need a Hauge lawyer who is highly experienced in international law. They understand how to settle matters of jurisdiction involving courts in the United States and other countries across the globe (if these nations are a part of the convention).

The Hague Convention’s applicability can be determined by two factors:

(1) whether both parents have consented to their child’s removal from one country to another; or

(2) if a child has been wrongfully removed from one country and brought into another country without either parent’s consent.

Hauge Law is created in order to protect you and your family both nationally and internationally.

INITIATING THE PROCESS

Deciding whether to file a Hague application is an important decision and must be considered based on each case’s specific circumstances. Perhaps after separating from their partner, a parent wants to take their child and move to another country. Maybe a parent moved internationally in violation of a custody agreement.

Filing a case under the Convention does not guarantee that your child will be returned. To obtain the return of your child through a Hague proceeding, you must first be able to demonstrate the following:

  • That your child was habitually resident in one Convention country and was wrongfully removed to or retained in another Convention country;
  • The removal or retention of your child is considered wrongful if it was in violation of your custodial rights, and you were exercising those rights at the time of the removal or retention, or you would have been exercising them but for the removal or retention.
  • The Convention must have been in force between the two countries when the wrongful removal or retention occurred (the dates are different for every country); (Note: In many instances, when a country accedes to the Convention, it is not automatically partners with all of the other countries who have ratified or acceded to the Convention.  Countries must accept another country’s accession to the Convention under the terms described in the Convention before a treaty partnership is created.
  • The child is under the age of 16.

WHY CHOOSE MASTERS LAW GROUP?

International custody issues can be incredibly difficult to deal with as a parent because of the concern you have for the safety and security of your child, and should be handled properly by a knowledgeable attorney.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes and kidnapping in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Read the details of our most recent successful Hague Convention cases below. Furthermore, see what our clients have to say on representing their Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction case:

 

I had a very difficult case in the United States Federal Court. My ex husband filed a Petition against me under the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child abduction asking to return our two sons to Lithuania. Seeking for the legal representation, I was advised by the U.S. Department of State to contact lawyer Erin E. Masters. I was so lucky to have the team of the best lawyers Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph representing me in this difficult trial.

They represented with the highest standards of law, but also provided support and empathy through the process. The communication was fantastic, always answered every question, explained every situation and possible outcome. As it was a very fast track case, Erin and Anthony worked hard including weekends to prepare everything for the hearing. There was only one hearing and the Decision was totally in my favor. All my family, especially the kids, are very grateful! It is also fair to mention that the legal expenses for the amount of services provided was very very reasonable.

I will gladly recommend Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph to represent any of my friends and family in need of an excellent and highly professional family attorney.

— Aistė Šulcaitė

FINAL THOUGHTS

Instead of trying to figure out international law issues alone, contact the Family Law Attorneys at Masters Law Group. Serving clients in Cook County and DuPage County Illinois, our experienced team will help you navigate the legal complexities of your case and are committed to vigorously representing you in these frightening, high-stakes proceedings.

Contact us to schedule your consultation here today. 

Featured Hague Decisions:

Illinois Property Division in Divorce

If you are approaching divorce in Illinois, you may wonder how the law treats the division of marital property. Here’s what you need to know. 

Divorce is a difficult and emotional process that can be made even more complicated by the division of property between spouses. Marital property includes more than your family home. The legal definition of an asset in a divorce is anything that has a real value. Assets can include tangible items that can be bought and sold such as cars, properties, furniture, jewelry and even cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin

Illinois is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, between the spouses. This is in contrast to community property states, where marital property is divided equally between the spouses.

The Strain of Property Division on Divorcing Couples

The division of property that you and your spouse have shared for years can seem especially tricky, often introducing fresh grievances or re-igniting old ones in the process. Here are some of the reasons why property division can be difficult in divorce:

  1. Emotional attachments to property: Couples may have emotional attachments to certain properties, such as a family home or heirloom, which can make it difficult to negotiate a fair division.
  2. Disagreements about what is fair: Spouses may have different ideas about what is a fair division of property. For example, one spouse may argue that they should receive a larger share of the marital property because they earned more money, while the other spouse may argue that they should receive a larger share because they contributed more to the household.
  3. Complexity of assets: Couples may have complex assets, such as businesses, investments, or retirement accounts, that are difficult to value and divide.
  4. Difficulty agreeing on values: Even when the assets are not complex, it can be difficult to agree on the value of the assets, especially if they have appreciated or depreciated in value since they were acquired.
  5. Legal complexities: Property division in divorce can be a legally complex process, and couples may struggle to understand the relevant laws and regulations.
  6. Fear of financial instability: Divorce can have a significant impact on a person’s financial stability, and couples may be afraid of the financial consequences of a property division that they perceive as unfair.

Equitable Distribution in Illinois

As mentioned, Illinois is an Equitable distribution state, meaning that a court will divide the marital property in a way that is fair and just, taking into account various factors such as:

  • The contributions each spouse made to the acquisition, preservation, or increase in value of the marital property;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • Primary caregiver status for the child/children;
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the property division;
  • Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements between the spouses;
  • The age, health, and occupation of each spouse;
  • The needs of each spouse; and
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant.

Marital property in Illinois includes all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, regardless of how it is titled, except for property acquired by gift, inheritance, or a property acquired in exchange for property acquired before the marriage.

Non-marital property, on the other hand, includes property acquired by a spouse before the marriage, property acquired by gift or inheritance, and property acquired in exchange for non-marital property.

Tax Consequences

You will want to be sure to understand how the decisions you make about the division of your property will affect the taxes owed by both you and your spouse.

For instance, if you sell your home or other assets during your divorce, you may be required to pay capital gains taxes. Understanding and addressing tax-related issues will help you avoid financial problems that may arise after you complete your divorce.

Community Property Laws in Illinois

Illinois is not a community property state. Community property states, such as California and Texas, divide marital property equally between the spouses regardless of the contributions each spouse made to acquiring or maintaining the property.

In a community property state, property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered community property, and each spouse has an equal interest in it. This includes income earned during the marriage and any property acquired with that income.

Illinois and other equitable distribution states, on the other hand, divide marital property in a way that is fair and just based on the factors discussed above.

Hidden Assets

It is not uncommon for parties to hide their assets from their ex’s and the courts to help swing the distribution of property in their direction.

When it comes to property division, it’s important to make a list of all assets and debts that you and your spouse share. This includes assets that are solely in your name or your spouse’s name. This involves everything from retirement accounts and investments to real estate and personal property. Having a detailed inventory of your assets will help your lawyer build a stronger case and ensure that you receive a fair settlement.

It’s also crucial to be honest with your lawyer about any challenges you may face during the divorce process. This includes concerns about child custody or your spouse hiding assets or income.

Getting the Legal Help You Need

If you are facing divorce in Illinois, you might decide you want an attorney to help you with your case. It is important to get an experienced lawyer when discussing property division after divorce for several reasons:

  1. Knowledge of the law: A divorce attorney will have a deep understanding of the laws and regulations that govern property division in your state, including the factors that a court will consider when dividing marital property. This knowledge will be invaluable in helping you negotiate a fair and equitable division of property.
  2. Objectivity: Divorce can be an emotionally charged process, and it can be difficult to negotiate property division when you are feeling hurt, angry, or resentful. A divorce attorney can provide an objective perspective and help you make decisions that are in your best interests.
  3. Protection of your rights: A divorce attorney will work to protect your rights and ensure that you receive a fair division of property. They will help you identify assets that may be subject to division and make sure that those assets are valued correctly. They will also help you understand your options for negotiating a division of property, including mediation and litigation if necessary.
  4. Avoiding mistakes: Property division can be a complex process, and it is easy to make mistakes that could have long-lasting financial consequences. A divorce attorney will help you avoid these mistakes and ensure that you are making informed decisions about your property division.
  5. Negotiation skills: A divorce attorney will have strong negotiation skills that can be invaluable in reaching a fair and equitable division of property. They will work to find creative solutions to complex property division issues and help you achieve your goals.

An experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate the complex process of property division and ensure that you receive a fair and equitable division of property.

Conclusion

Divorcing couples may struggle with property division because of emotional attachments, disagreements about what is fair, complex assets, difficulty agreeing on values, legal complexities, and fear of financial instability. It is important for couples to work with experienced divorce attorneys who can guide them through the process and help them reach a fair and equitable property division agreement.

If you are going through a divorce in Illinois and have questions about property division, contact the award-winning attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our highly experienced divorce lawyers are ready to guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected.

Set up your consultation here today. 

Masters Law Group Awarded 2023 “Best Law Firms” Tier 1 Ranking in America by U.S. News – Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers and U.S. News & World Report publicly announce the Thirteenth Edition of the “Best Law Firms” rankings. And Masters Law Group have again been regognized – and now ranked Tier 1.

Chicago, Il, November 3, 2022 – Masters Law Group LLC is pleased to announce that the firm was recognized by Best Lawyers® and U.S. News & World Report in their “Best Law Firms” rankings for 2023.

“We are honored, to once again, be recognized nationally as a top firm among our peers,” said Erin Masters of Masters Law Group. “Receiving this recognition in Tier 1 – based on the input from our clients and peers – is gratifying as many exceptional firms practice in the areas in which we are recognized.”

All the rankings, in all tiers, were published online at bestlawfirms.usnews.com. The National and Metro Tier 1 rankings were also published in print in their Twelfth Edition of “Best Law Firms”. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise. Firms that received a tier designation reflect the highest level of respect a firm can earn among other leading lawyers and clients from the same communities and practice areas.

ABOUT 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 International Law via The Hague Convention, divorceallocation of parental responsibilitieschild support and related family matters.

ABOUT “BEST LAW FIRMS”

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process
that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in the
field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission
process. To be eligible for a 2023 ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer recognized in the
28th edition of The Best Lawyers in America® for that location and specialty.

Their annual “Best Law Firms” publication showcases all Tier 1 firms ranked nationally and by region and includes a wealth of discussion on industry-shaping issues penned by firms honored in their rankings.

ABOUT U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

U.S. News & World Report is the global leader in quality rankings that empower people to make better,
more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. A digital news and information
company focused on Education, Health, Money, Travel, Cars and News, USNews.com provides
consumer advice, rankings and analysis to serve people making complex decisions throughout all
stages of life. More than 40 million people visit USNews.com each month for research and guidance.
Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

ABOUT BEST LAWYERS

For more than four decades, Best Lawyers has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the
lawyers best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Lawyers are not
required or allowed to pay a fee to be recognized; therefore, recognition by Best Lawyers is
considered a singular honor.

Contact the award-winning firm and attorneys at Masters Law Group here. 

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.