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Belleville Family Law Blog

Advocates ask for 50-50 child custody in Illinois

Calls are being made for modifications to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Across the country, 35 other states are seeking similar changes. The changes sought would begin proceedings with a legal presumption of 50-50 child custody. Most parents put the needs of their children first, and they will pursue an outcome that is in the best interest of their children. The same applies to family courts, which will continue to consider various factors to ensure such an arrangement will be in the child's best interest.

Advocates for this change include parents, mental health professionals, family law lawyers and others. They say a 50-50 start will do away with the preconceived idea that mothers are better equipped for parenting. It will allow both parents to be equally involved in parenting, and to maintain loving relationships with their children.

Divorce: Financial stumbling blocks during separation

Ending a marriage will always be a costly process -- not only emotionally but also financially. Advisers suggest Illinois residents who are considering divorce prepare themselves for the financial consequences of such steps. Both parties will be affected, regardless of whether they have a prenuptial agreement.

While a couple is married, they share one residence along with one set of bills for utilities, groceries, transport, mortgage and living expenses. However, from the moment they separate, the same income must cover two homes or apartments, each with all the costs that come along with it. Furthermore, if there are children, both parents will have to cater for the needs of the children at their homes.

A strong support team may ease the navigation of a divorce

Ending a marriage in Illinois is typically a challenging time -- even if the breakup is amicable. For that reason, it might be wise for anyone in the throes of a divorce to build a team of supporters to assist with different aspects of the process. It is not uncommon for friends and family to provide advice that might be well-meant but is often misdirected. Although having them for moral support can be invaluable, information about divorce is best provided by a family law attorney.

Being surrounded by those who can offer kindness, love and encouragement is essential. However, the ways in which they or their friends and acquaintances navigated their divorces likely suited their unique circumstances. It is often said that a person going through a divorce must leave emotions at the door, but that is easier said than done. For that reason, the assistance of a divorce coach or counselor who could help with emotional matters may be helpful.

Shared visitation and residency -- pros and cons researched

Illinois parents who are considering divorce may be interested in the findings of a reputable international research company. After studying approximately 7,700 children, they confirmed what many family law professionals believed. Children who get to share the residences, love and attention of both parents after a divorce manage to go through life with fewer mental problems than the children of people with other residency and visitation arrangements.

The researchers further found that children who live primarily with one single parent, or those who live with a stepfamily, reported more mental issues than children with shared residency arrangements. Furthermore, it was determined that the frequency and number of psychological problems in children who share the residences of both divorced parents were no higher than those reported for children of parents who were not divorced. These studies did not include the abilities of different groups to adjust to changed circumstances.

Digital spyware -- the cheap PIs in modern divorce

With the easy access of spyware of various kinds, ending marriages in Illinois and other states are forever changed. A scorned spouse can gather evidence of a soon-to-be ex's every movement, conversation and online activity. Electronic devices costing next-to-nothing are freely available for installation on phones, computers and in vehicles, and they are reportedly utilized by many people in the throes of divorce.

Reportedly, apps can be obtained at insignificant monthly subscription fees and installed onto devices within minutes. This allows one spouse to monitor all the messages received or sent from an ex's phone, as well as searches done on the Web and typed keystrokes -- such as those used to log into bank accounts. Tracking devices that operate on battery power can be attached to vehicles to track any traveling done by the other spouse.

How are gifts between spouses handled in property division?

When a person in Illinois files for a divorce, he or she will likely do a considerable amount of planning to ensure financial stability. Many of the considerations might involve property division, and real estate, investments, stock and bonds, along with other assets, may be the primary concerns. However, the question of gifts may arise -- who will get to keep the gifts that spouses gave each other?

These are questions best answered by an experienced divorce attorney, but the time that gifts were exchanged may play a role. For example, gifts exchanged before the wedding -- including an engagement ring -- may be determined to be the property of the recipient. However, if such gifts were funded from an already existing joint bank account or credit card, it will likely be regarded as property to be divided.

Gather the necessary weapons for a child custody battle

Although more and more divorcing couples in Illinois avoid litigation, there will likely always be some breakups that are contentious and not resolvable in negotiation or mediation. Sadly, in such cases, it is often one parent who uses the children to punish the other parent and to do whatever is possible to prevent that parent from sharing child custody. In preparation for litigation, the other parent may have to go to great lengths to prove he or she is a loving and nurturing parent.

To show the court that he or she can provide in the daily needs of the children, the parent can document every aspect of the time spent with the children. Quality time spent in family-centered events with memorabilia and photos could demonstrate the commitment to being a good parent. Frequent interaction with the teachers along with regular medical and dental appointments and relatives, friends, doctors and teachers as character witnesses may also be helpful in the court.

Pets will soon not be part of property division in Illinois

Family courts in Illinois will consider the best interests of pets in divorce proceedings beginning in 2018. Currently, ownership of pets in divorce are handled through the property division process. Recognizing that many people consider their pets as family members, courts will now use the "best interests" test.

Reportedly, there are 124 million families in the United States who own pets, representing more than 60 percent of the nation's households. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says approximately $41 billion is spent on pets each year. That seems to be proof that pets of various types are part of the lives of many people, with particular importance to children and seniors.

Family law and the challenges of blended families in Illinois

Blended families have become a regular part of society in Illinois. Almost everybody knows a blended family if they are not part of one themselves. Family law requires careful consideration of various aspects of remarriages, particularly when children from previous marriages are involved.

The challenges of blending two families will include decisions about living arrangements and how finances will be handled. Many such couples choose a new home as a sign of the new union rather than moving into the existing house of one spouse. The same may work for dealing with finances, except that one or both spouses may have financial responsibilities toward spousal or child support. However, some families report keeping funds for those obligations separate but combining the balance for joint expenses.

Why do so many couples divorce after decades of marriage?

It is no longer unusual for couples in Illinois and elsewhere who are older than 50 years to split up -- often after decades of marriage. It has become known as a "gray divorce," and many people wonder what would be the reason for this phenomenon. An author of a book on the subject has identified some common causes, one of which is the spouses growing apart over time rather than one triggering event. He also says when a couple decides to file for divorce, family and friends are often caught entirely unaware.

Age can play a role when there is an age difference that might have seemed insignificant decades ago but becomes an issue in later life. Another reason was identified as boredom, which could also include complacency. This often becomes apparent when years of career responsibilities and chasing goals make home life boring and without challenges. Spouses often forget how to be attentive and share feelings with each other after years of focusing on external matters.

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Courtney, Clark & Mejias, P.C.
104 South Charles Street
Belleville, IL 62220

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