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Belleville Family Law Blog

Changing a divorce settlement agreement is tough but possible

Very few people in Illinois will likely consider the possibility that they might have to come back to the court to ask for changes to their settlement agreement. Once the final divorce decree is issued, the relief can be indescribable, but circumstances change, and modifications might be necessary. While such changes are never easy to achieve, it is possible if the appropriate steps are taken. The procedures depend on whether amendments are sought for spousal support, child custody or child support.

When a former spouse seeks an altered spousal support order, the court will consider such changes upon proof of the provider contracting a serious disease or becoming unemployed. The order might also be changed if the recipient moves in with a new love or remarries. The death of an ex-spouse will also allow termination of alimony.

Family law: Will Illinois pass proposed new divorce laws?

State Representative Ford recently sponsored a bill designed to bring about changes to the existing parenting time system. If this debate goes his way, Illinois might be following a route similar to other states that have modified family law to put both parents on an equal footing when it comes to child custody and parenting. However, it will not be easygoing because some resistance exists.

Ford maintains that the current laws do not consider the best interests of the child but rather a system that defaults to giving one parent preference while the other gets the child every second weekend and on Wednesdays. Supporters of the proposed bill say the benefits to children who continue to be part of the lives of both parents -- even if in separate homes -- are substantial. The Illinois Fathers for Equality say an environment of 50/50 co-parenting has unlimited advantages for children.

Getting child custody is not a right to exclude the other parent

When a divorce involves children, it can be even more traumatic than without children. As Illinois parents navigate this challenging process, it is essential to keep in mind that they will become ex-spouses, but never ex-parents, regardless of who gets child custody. Children -- especially younger ones -- may find it difficult to understand why their lives are being turned upside down, and making them the priority may help to maintain loving parent-child relationships with both parents.

Advisers suggest that parents make a point of discussing divorce issues away from the children. They also advise against bad-mouthing each other in front of the children when the other parent is not around. Some parents find their children to be ideal for the jobs of spies or messengers, and swearing a child to secrecy about things a parent does can only make the process even more traumatic for a child.

The importance of the language on divorce settlement agreements

Sometimes, when marriages end in Illinois, both spouses want to get the process over and done with as soon as possible. Even if they give their full attention to the property division process, their aim is to get that final divorce decree and move on. However, many divorcing spouses do not realize how important the details and clear terms on the settlement are.

If divorcing parties do not want to add additional stress at the time when they have to start a new, single life, the language regarding debt distribution, property division, alimony and real estate distribution must be specific. If a recently divorced person applies for a loan, this document will be scrutinized to determine the applicant's financial obligations. For that reason, the manner in which information appears on the agreement may determine approval or rejection of the loan application.

Family law representation available for all in Illinois

Although many Illinois people might have been married more than once, some have to face the challenges of a divorce for the first time. While there might be no lack of advice from family, friends and even those who are no more than acquaintances, the dynamics of each divorce are different, and it might help to know what to expect. Fortunately, with the support and guidance of the family law attorneys at the southern Illinois law firm of Courtney ∙ Clark, P.C., the entire process could become manageable.

Our attorneys will listen to your unique story and explain how the laws of Illinois will apply to your case. We will help you leave emotions at the door when it is time to deal with financial matters. Together, we can draft a separation agreement and deal with property division matters that will help you achieve your goals. We will explore the available options by which to reach practical solutions when it comes to child custody, parenting plans, and spousal and child support.

Family law: Legal counsel a benefit even in uncontested divorce

Anyone in the throes of divorce in Illinois will likely get loads of well-intended, but often misguided, advice from friends and family. The dynamics of each separation are unique, and it might be better to encourage loved ones to provide moral support while seeking legal guidance from an experienced family law attorney. Even if a divorce is uncontested, it can be an advantage to have access to the assistance and advice of legal counsel.

One of the advantages of negotiating a settlement agreement rather than litigating the issues is avoiding mounting legal costs. However, the costs of out-of-court legal support are typically substantially less than hiring an attorney to remedy divorce mistakes made due to a lack of legal knowledge. Legal counsel can also review any child and spousal support amounts to be received or paid to ensure fairness.

Dealing with a family business in property division

Divorce in Illinois, under any circumstances, can be a challenging process to navigate. While the best advice might be to handle property division negotiations as a business transaction, it could be tough to keep emotions at bay. This applies especially if there is a family enterprise involved.

When determining each spouse's fair share of a family business, some questions will need answers. Did one spouse already own the company before the marriage, and if so, what was it worth at the time of the nuptials? How much did the value increase during the marriage, and how much did each party invest in it before and during the marriage? The extent of each spouse's involvement in the business will also be an essential aspect to consider.

Is unfamiliar divorce terminology overwhelming you?

Ending a marriage is never easy, and for anybody in Illinois going through this challenging process for the first time, the proceedings can be daunting. Gaining knowledge of the different terms and the legal language used during a divorce might limit the confusion somewhat. First in the terminology list is the Petition for Dissolution, which is the court filing. The chosen type of divorce will determine whether this filing occurs at the beginning or closer to the end of the process.

The petitioner is the party who files for divorce, and the other spouse is the respondent. The discovery process takes place when the respective legal counsels must determine all information related to assets and debts that will form part of the property division process. Marital property includes assets that were commingled and accumulated during the marriage while non-marital property includes assets the spouses owned individually before the wedding and anything specified to be separate in a marriage or settlement agreement.

Property division for a second or third time?

A decision to remarry late in life needs careful consideration and planning. Those in Illinois who have gone through divorce and property division proceedings and then plan a second or third marriage will know how important it is to discuss finance-related matters before the wedding. One of the primary concerns in such circumstances is for both parties to protect their retirement funds, which are not easily replaceable for those at or nearing retirement age.

Honesty and complete disclosure about finances are essential, not only about assets held by each party but also debts that will be brought into the marriage. Another important issue is home ownership and whether one or both parties own residential property. If so, will they sell existing homes and buy a new one, or will they live in a residence owned by one spouse? Whether to keep finances apart or commingled will also be an issue to discuss.

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.

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

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