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Wheaton Family Law Blog

Gray divorce may come with financial considerations

More and more people over 50 are deciding to end their marriages. Even as divorce numbers shrink for other age groups, people nearing retirement age are divorcing in rising numbers. When a person reaches retirement age, he or she will likely need a plan to provide for financial needs. A person in Illinois who is not familiar with the family finances may need to learn about retirement investments during and after the divorce process. 

In many households, women tend to defer to men when it comes to financial planning and financial decisions. This practice is common in both Baby Boomer and Millennial marriages. In one study, 59 percent of divorced women reported regret at not taking a more active role in investment planning for retirement. 

Child custody laws up for debate in Illinois

Changing trends regarding parenting after divorce may soon be affecting laws in the state. Recently, a bill was introduced on the floor at the Illinois statehouse that asks for changes in how child custody is handled during divorce cases. The requested move will favor a co-parenting model instead of the more common one-parent guardianship that often happens in these types of cases. 

The bill was introduced by a state representative. A hearing will be held on his proposal when lawmakers return to work next week. The co-parenting program that he is proposing has started to catch on in other jurisdictions. Recently, Kentucky enacted a similar law that gave both parents an equal stake during most custody proceedings. 

Marital issues can be untangled during divorce

Some couples choose to rely on the help of outside professionals when the time comes to end the marriage. An objective outside observer can guide an individual going through an emotional breakup and also provide useful coping strategies. Some Illinois couples use a couples therapist as part of a complete divorce support team. 

The role of the couples therapist is typically not to encourage or discourage the two parties to divorce, but instead the therapist creates a space and allows the individuals to reach their own conclusions. Some couples in therapy are certain that they will need to end the marriage, some are less so. Individuals who are parents will likely understand that co-parenting will require some type of relationship with the soon-to-be ex-spouse and will also try to work on making this relationship civil.

After divorce, who gets the family pet?

A recent trend shows that many individuals see pets differently these days. In the past, if a couple was headed toward divorce, pets were treated as property and divided as such. These days, more divorces are being battled out over who will get custody of the family pet, who is often treated more like a family member and less like an object. Legal trends are evolving to reflect these behaviors. In Illinois, a person facing a pet custody dispute may wonder what the options are. 

While the family dog has the top spot in pet custody battles, cats, horses and even snakes are also beloved by their families and sometimes will be contested during a marital dissolution. Lawyers across the country report that pet custody is a growing issue. Many state laws still treat the animal as property, like silverware or a painting. Courts typically do not look at the best interests of the pet, or who is more prepared to provide care to the creature. 

Do you need a property division checklist?

Going through a divorce is hard for anyone. Especially in cases where you and your spouse can't seem to see eye-to-eye, the stress can feel unbearable. This said, even in cases where everything is going amicably, you will no doubt still have questions and concerns about just how assets are going to be divided among two people. 

One thing that can help reduce the overall stress -- and simply get a handle on what is even out there to divide -- is to create a checklist. 

Father of pop star's children seeks additional child support

As far as pop stars go, it's hard to name one more popular than Britney Spears. The songstress recently completed a long-running show that netted her over $137 million dollars in addition to a highly successful world tour. Spears' ex, Kevin Federline, who has full custody of the couple's two children, is reportedly seeking additional child support in light of his former wife's increased income. The couple could be headed to court soon, just like any Illinois couple would do that is seeking an order of support modification. 

Federline divorced the singer in 2007, not long after the birth of their youngest child. Likely due to her touring and performance schedule, the father was awarded custody. It is reported that the two have a cordial relationship, and he purportedly offers frequent visitation to Spears so that the children have a relationship with both parents. 

Property division for 401(k) and retirement assets

Married couples sometimes build assets together as they attempt to reach a common goal of a comfortable retirement. When these couples divorce, they will face the property division process. This process includes splitting accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s. Illinois residents may not be aware of the correct process for dividing these accounts, but without the proper attention, some individuals could face penalties. 

For many couples, retirement funds make up the most significant portion of marital assets. These accounts have various rules and taxes associated with them. During a divorce, if certain procedures are followed, individuals may be able to avoid the tax penalties and fees of early withdrawal. 

Tax changes affect family law rules

The only constant in life is change. The recent overhaul of the federal tax guidelines are demonstrating the truth of this aphorism by turning old policies around and changing the way people pay taxes. In the realm of family law, the new tax rules affect how alimony payments are taxed. The new rules will apply to divorces in Illinois and other U.S. states starting in 2019. 

Previously, an alimony payment was tax deductible for the person paying it. The person receiving it claimed the income and paid taxes on it. The new policy, applying to divorces finalized in 2019 and beyond, flips this rule on its head and does the opposite. The person paying will now lose the tax break and must include alimony with their taxable income. The person receiving is not obligated to dwindle the allotment further by paying taxes. 

Child custody is for mothers and fathers

A parent, no matter whether a father or a mother, has a great influence on a child's life. Research reveals that strong relationships with both parents matter, and that if a couple with children separates, most often the best solution is shared parenting. In the case where a mother does not have the ability to care for children because of substance issues or criminal convictions, a father may be awarded child custody. In the past, it has been difficult for fathers to get sole custody because of outmoded ideas about rearing children. In Illinois, and across the United States, more fathers are fighting for a fair chance at custody of children. 

As a society, Americans used to have the idea that only a mother was suited to nurture and care for young children. These days more fathers are challenging that notion and are requesting time in their children's lives. One recent statistic indicates that 17 percent of single parents with custodial rights are men. 

Should I include discipline and religion in my parenting plan?

Your parenting plan is a flexible document for you and your child's other parent to put in place agreements for how you'll raise your child -- or children -- together. Having a solid parenting plan helps to ensure you are both on the same page and will hopefully reduce the chances of having serious disagreements over parenting choices later on down the road.

Aside from the usual things, like how you will organize your child's living arrangements, how to organize pickups and drop-offs and visitation schedules, there are two other topics you will also want to include. 

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