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Belleville Family Law Blog

No one needs to deal with a divorce without legal guidance

Ending a marriage is a traumatic experience for anyone, and with all the do's and don'ts along with advice from friends and family, online sources and others who mean well, the process can be overwhelming. For that reason, many people in Illinois who are in the throes of divorce secure the services of an experienced family law attorney. Although many family law matters can be handled without a lawyer, having legal counsel's support has several advantages.

Even if a litigated divorce is not planned, an attorney can prepare a client for the legal proceedings while also providing support and guidance throughout settlement negotiations. A lawyer could arrange the services of a divorce mediator if necessary. An attorney can also assist during property division negotiations and fight to  make sure the client receives his or her fair share.

Reasons for seeking child support modification

Parents in Illinois who separate or divorce remain responsible for the care and support of their children. Although the court will order child support at a level that will take care of the best interests of the child, life goes on, and circumstances change. The family court recognizes that changes can be for the better or worse, and adequately motivated petitions for modifications might be approved.

A motion can be filed for a temporary modification for significant one-time expenses like when a child needs a new school uniform or braces. Permanent modifications can be sought for various reasons, one of which is employment loss. This might cause the noncustodial parent's inability to meet the support obligation, or the primary caretaker might need more support after the loss of income. Furthermore, the child's needs will increase as he or she grows up and becomes involved in extracurricular activities or other expenses associated with growing children.

Parenting time negotiations can be challenging

When Illinois couples decide to separate or file for divorce, they will have to make challenging decisions, especially if they have children. While each spouse will want to make sure he or she gets a fair share of the property, most parents want to ensure that they each get to spend as much as possible time with the children. The way to work that out is by negotiating a workable parenting plan that will reflect the best interests of the child rather than those of the parents.

The work schedules of both parents must be considered along with the proximity of both to the school, and the child's extracurricular activities. If the child needs day care, parents must specify how such a care provider will be chosen, and who will pay for it. Summer holidays, vacations and special occasions must be allocated, and permission obtained from the other parent if trips are planned across state lines.

What to do about child custody when the parents can't get along

Celebrities make co-parenting look so easy. The media likes to tell stories of how celebrities manage to take vacations together with their kids and spend the holidays together after a divorce.

While that may work for some couples, others may want to do the same but simply can't. When there are just too many bad feelings between Illinois couples, co-parenting may not be a good option. But what other alternatives are there, especially if the judge didn't grant you primary custody?

Equitable distribution doesn't necessarily mean equal

When you began contemplating divorce, you may have thought that you would receive half of everything you and your spouse own. However, you then heard that Illinois is an equitable distribution state, which means that you would receive a "fair share" of the marital estate.

Doesn't that mean half? Unfortunately, no, it doesn't. The courts have a significant amount of discretion when it comes to what "fair" means while dividing marital property in a divorce. You should know that it's possible that not all of the property you and your spouse own falls under marital property. Some of it may be separate property, which will also affect how the courts would divide property in your divorce.

It's important to handle retirement accounts properly in divorce

Other than the family home, the largest asset that most Illinois couples share is a retirement plan. You may have spent your career amassing enough in that plan in anticipation of the years in which you won't have to work. You and your spouse may have even discussed how to spend those years together.

Then, at some point, your marriage took a turn for the worse. You and your spouse decided that a divorce is the best course of action. In addition to dividing all of your other assets and possibly deciding custody issues, you need to divide your retirement plan.

Anticipating potential changes after divorce is essential

Regardless of the circumstances, anyone's financial situation can change at any time. This applies particularly to those who are in the aftermath of a divorce. For that reason, divorcing spouses in Illinois are advised to seek legal counsel to assist with the drafting of a settlement agreement to ensure all eventualities are covered. The inability to anticipate changes has caught many a divorced spouse unprepared.

While settlement agreements aim to be fair, it is unwise to base it purely on an equitable division of marital assets and current incomes of spouses without considering potential future changes. Shields from the risks of unexpected changes must be considered. Possible changes that are often not considered include post-divorce job loss or retrenchment, disability, significant asset depreciation, and drastic changes in the health of the children.

On the fence about a prenup? More info may help

With all of the decisions you are making right now as you plan your wedding, one that you may still struggle with involves the choice of whether you would benefit from a prenuptial agreement.

Whether you have already brought up the subject with your soon-to-be spouse or decided to wait until you have more clarity, obtaining more information regarding its usefulness in your particular situation certainly couldn't hurt.

Is an IRA a fair offer to replace an alimony payment in divorce?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will change the way in which alimony is treated on income tax returns. Currently, the spouse who pays alimony after a divorce benefits because he or she can show it as a deductible expense on his or her tax return, while the receiving spouse must show it as a taxable income. This rule will change as of Jan. 1, 2019, and Illinois individuals who are considering a divorce next year might benefit from getting qualified advice about the best way to deal with alimony.

The receiving spouse is typically the lower earning party who must be careful in negotiations about alimony under the new laws because his or her post-divorce financial stability may depend on agreements made in advance. IRAs have become a bargaining chip by which one spouse can give the other a lump-sum payment as alimony in the form of an IRA. However, it might only be to the benefit of the payer who would have had to pay tax upon withdrawal of any cash from the IRA because transferring funds to another retirement account is tax free.

Social media is not your friend during a divorce

Social media has opened up a new world for many people. Reconnecting with old friends and connecting with new ones can provide you with online friendships that may last a lifetime. It provides you a place to seek support, complain about your day and share the good times in your life.

However, for as much joy as being part of your group may give you, social media could turn against you if you are going through a divorce. Where it's true that everyone needs support and a place to vent their frustrations, doing so online could create problems that you don't need during this time. If you say too much with your closest confidants in the privacy of your own home, that's one thing, but if you say too much online for everyone to see, it could come back to haunt you.

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Courtney ∙ Clark Law, P.C.
104 South Charles Street
Belleville, IL 62220

Toll Free: 866-921-8767
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