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The way in which a couple marries says a lot about their hopes and dreams. Is it a large wedding at a megachurch in suburban Chicago, a ceremony and reception in the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier or a small civil ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center? In a similar fashion, the way a couple divorces can determine the quality of their ongoing relationship with their children, as well as their individual financial and emotional well-being.
Would you like to dance at the wedding of your children? Do you want to move on with your life? Divorce can be an emotional experience, but it doesn’t have to be a devastating one.
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Child custody in Illinois is either legal or physical custody, either one of which can be joint custody or sole custody. The court has a preference for joint custody and will make custody decisions based on:
- The parent’s wishes
- The child’s wishes
- Current relationship of the child with siblings
- The child’s current adjustment to home, school community
- Mental and physical health of each parent and child or children
- The presence of any domestic violence or sex offenses
- The willingness of each parent to foster a good relationship with the other parent
- Any military deployment or similar commitments
When one parent is given sole physical custody, the other parent has visitation privileges. When parents have joint physical custody, they share parenting time in roughly equal measures. In both instances, a parenting plan will need to be determined at the time of the divorce.
Potential time-sharing plans for joint custody include:
- Every other week with each parent and alternating holidays and vacations
- Children stay in one home and each parent stays with the children every other week
- Six months with one parent exclusively and then six months with the other parent
Potential visitation plans for the noncustodial parent include:
- Every other weekend for overnight visits and one weeknight for after school and dinner on the opposite week
- One weekend per month and the entire summer vacation for an out-of-state parent
- Daily visits for short periods of time (take the child to day care every morning) plus one weekend per month
Parents are considered responsible for the well-being of their children, including financial payments to that effect. A child support payment is typically required as payment from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. There is a state-sanctioned formula based on the noncustodial parent’s net income and the number of children from the marriage.
For each child, an additional percentage of net income is required to be paid. Using round numbers, if the noncustodial parent’s net income is $100,000 annually, the amount owed would be 20 percent or $20,000 annually for one child, which is $1,666 per month. If the same parents had two children, the child support would be 28 percent or $2,333 per month.
Child Custody Modifications
Occasionally there are situations in the lives of the ex-spouses, or the children from the marriage, which can make a post-divorce modification necessary. For example, if one parent is at risk for losing a job unless he or she accepts a relocation, that could change the child custody arrangement. Common reasons for child custody modifications are medical reasons (of the parents or the child) and employment reasons.
If a parent wishes to move, court permission may be required if the move involves certain types of changes such as a change of schools, taking the children away from other siblings or relatives, or taking the child or children to another state. A parent with sole physical custody does not have permission to relocate with the children without permission as it could be disruptive to the children and could be denying the other parent visitation privileges, neither of which would be in the child’s best interest.
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In Illinois, everything that is acquired during the marriage is considered community property and will be divided equitably, with a few exceptions. Property that is not subject to division includes:
- Gifts and inheritances
- Property that was exchanged for gifts or inheritance
- Property acquired after legal separation
- Property owned by the individual prior to marriage, as long as the property has not been comingled
- Property excluded according to a premarital agreement
- Property obtained by a judgment
- Increase in the value of premarital property
- Income from any premarital property
When dividing the remaining property, the court will act in a manner that it sees as fair and just. This means that the property may not be divided in a strictly 50/50 fashion. The court would consider such factors as length of the marriage, the ability of each spouse to earn an income and the contributions of each spouse to the marriage, child care and other factors.
Property Division For High Net Worth Spouses
When a Chicago couple has significant assets, the financial aspects of their divorce can be complicated even in amiable divorces. In those instances, expert financial resources may need to be obtained such as a professional business valuation expert, forensic accountant or intellectual property attorney.
A divorce attorney who has experience with high-asset couples would be recommended for the following types of scenarios:
- Family-owned businesses
- Foreign assets
- Illiquid assets
- Income-generating property such as rental buildings
- Inheritance and tax planning
- Limited Liability Partnerships and other business entities
- Multiple real estate holdings
- Patents and other intellectual property
- Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)
- Rare artwork or other hard to value property
It is important to understand that the court takes a dim view of either hiding assets or spending down assets prior to divorce proceedings.
Alimony Or Spousal Support
Alimony or spousal support in Chicago is called spousal maintenance. A court may or may not order spousal maintenance depending upon a variety of factors. The judge will look at the lifestyle during the marriage, the ability of a lesser income-earning spouse to be self-supporting, the length of the marriage, the health of the spouses and many other factors.
Grounds for divorce, such as adultery, are not a consideration when the court is determining a spousal maintenance amount.
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There are a host of advantages to obtaining an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer. The primary reasons are to protect your interests and those of your children. Divorce can be an emotional experience, which an attorney can help to place into perspective. An attorney who has helped a number of individuals through their divorces should be able to help you to navigate yours as well.
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When looking for a Chicago divorce attorney, it is wise to find one who has handled situations similar to yours. Whether the issue is a military divorce, high net worth divorce or divorce with domestic violence, find a Cook County divorce lawyer who has handled similar issues.
To begin the divorce process, or respond to a request for divorce, contact a Chicago divorce attorney to arrange for an initial consultation. Look for an attorney with experience and one you can talk to. During the divorce process you and your attorney will work closely so it is important that you are able to communicate.