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DuPage County child custody attorney for social media useNow that so many adults are working from home, we are relying on technology even more often than we did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are using cellphones, laptops, and home computers for everything from answering work emails to paying their bills. Because technology is such an integral part of our lives, addressing technology concerns during divorce is crucial. It is important to guard your privacy, watch what you say, and ensure that your online activity does not lead to negative consequences during your case.

Social Media Is Less Private Than You Think

Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, many people have replaced in-person meetups with social media communication. While websites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn can be great places to network and keep in touch with loved ones, using social media during divorce can be risky. Most family law attorneys have seen a marked increase in the role of social media during divorce. It is very possible that pictures, videos, and messages you post online could be used against you. Do not make the mistake of assuming that your social media activity is private just because you have set your profile status to “private.” There are many different ways to access online information that was only intended to be viewed by a small number of close friends.  

Do Not Share Evidence of Your Financial Activity

You may be so used to sharing information about your daily life through social media, text messages, or email that you do not actually realize how much financial information you are revealing. Evidence of new purchases, vacations, or shopping sprees may be used against you during property division, spousal maintenance, or child custody determinations. Many assume that text messages are private, but it is possible for a party to request text messages to be turned over during the discovery process – especially if there is suspicion of hidden assets.

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Wheaton divorce attorneysIf you and your spouse are considering divorce, you may have questions about how your living situation will influence the divorce timeline. COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of our lives. In fact, for many spouses contemplating divorce, moving to a new home is simply not a possibility right now. You may have wondered, “Can I get divorced if my spouse and I are still living together?” Illinois divorce requirements have changed significantly over the past several years, so it is important to understand these requirements if you plan on ending your marriage.

Mandatory Separation Period for Illinois Divorces

Considerable changes were made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act in 2016. Included in these changes was an overhaul of the “grounds” or reasons for divorce. Prior to the 2016 update, couples could assert “fault-based” grounds such as adultery or mental cruelty or the no-fault grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” To use irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce, the couple was required to live separately for up to two years, but not less than six months. If the couple alleged fault-based grounds, the mandatory separation period was six months.

Illinois is now a pure “no-fault” state when it comes to divorce. Divorces are granted when irreconcilable differences lead to the irreparable breakdown of the marriage. The mandatory separation period before divorce has been eliminated. However, if the spouses do not agree on the divorce, living apart for at least six months may be used as “irrebuttable proof” that the marriage has broken down.

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Wheaton asset division attorney for vehiclesIf you are like many people, your car, truck, or other vehicle is an essential component of your everyday life. You may have also spent a great deal of time, effort, and money making payments on your vehicle and keeping it maintained. It is therefore understandable to have concerns about who will retain ownership of your vehicle after divorce. You may question whether your spouse has the right to keep a car that is only titled in your name or worry that you will be forced to sell the vehicle and split the proceeds. Understanding the laws that govern asset distribution during divorce is key to reaching a fair divorce settlement.

Illinois Laws Regarding Ownership of Vehicles and Divorce

You and your spouse may be able to resolve property division concerns such as vehicle ownership through negotiations, mediation, or collaborative law. However, not every divorcing couple is able to reach a property distribution arrangement without court intervention. If your divorce case is litigated, a legal doctrine called “equitable distribution” will be used to determine which spouse gets what assets. Separate property, meaning property acquired by a party before getting married, is typically assigned to the original owner of the property. Property received in an inheritance is also usually classified as separate property. Assets that are acquired by either spouse during the marriage are considered marital property. If you purchased your vehicle after you got married, it is part of the marital estate and subject to division. This means that even if your vehicle is titled in your name alone, your spouse will have the same rights to the vehicle as you do.

Factors Considered by the Court During Division of Motor Vehicles

There are a few different ways that vehicles may be handed during the property division process. The vehicle may be sold and the profits split between the spouses, or one spouse may keep the car, while the other spouse keeps assets of similar value. When determining who will own a vehicle after divorce, Illinois courts may consider a number of different factors. The amount of money that each spouse contributed to the acquisition of the vehicle is one consideration. Each spouse’s income and employment circumstances as well as the spouses’ transportation needs are also considered. Parental responsibilities and parenting time arrangements may also influence who gets a vehicle, since a parent may need a larger vehicle to transport children to school or activities.

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Wheaton property divison attorney for pet custodyWhether you have a dog, cat, horse, bird, or other type of animal, you probably love and cherish your pet as if he or she was part of the family. One concern many divorcing spouses have is who will keep the family pet after their marriage ends. Arguments about “pet custody” can often become heated. One spouse may even try to maintain ownership of the pet simply to spite the other spouse. If you are planning to end your marriage, make sure to educate yourself about how Illinois’ property division laws address pet ownership after divorce.

Pet Custody Laws in Illinois

Although you most likely do not think of your pet as simply another piece of property, pets are treated similarly to other assets during divorce. There are not proceedings for “pet custody” the way there are for child custody. The pet is considered a marital asset if it was acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage. If the pet was acquired by a spouse before the marriage, that spouse will typically remain the owner after divorce. However, there are some exceptions to this.

Providing for the Pet’s Well-Being

Fortunately, a new law went into effect in 2018 that differentiates pets from property like vehicles and jewelry. If the pet is a marital asset, the court now considers the well-being of the pet when deciding how to allocate ownership. If one spouse has traditionally been responsible for feeding, exercising, grooming, and caring for the pet’s health needs, the court will be much more likely to award ownership to that spouse. If you wish to maintain ownership of your pet after the divorce, start collecting evidence that proves your involvement in the pet’s life, such as photos, videos, receipts, and veterinary bills. 

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Wheaton, IL divorce attorney for appealsMost divorcing spouses hope to avoid going to trial. They may attempt to reach an agreement about unresolved divorce issues through their attorneys, with help from a third-party mediator, or through the collaborative law process. Unfortunately, not every couple is able to reach a settlement outside of court. During divorce litigation, a judge hears arguments and evidence from both sides and then issues a judgment. If your divorce judgment did not turn out the way you had hoped, you may wonder what your options are for appealing the court’s decision.

When Should I Seek an Appeal?

Many people assume that they can file an appeal if they disagree with the terms of their divorce judgment. However, successfully appealing a divorce judgment is a complex legal pursuit that is only possible under certain conditions. A person cannot appeal a divorce simply because he or she is unhappy with the outcome of the case. Circuit court decisions, including divorce judgments, may only be appealed if there is a possibility that the decision resulted from errors of law. Examples of situations in which an appeal may be justified include:

  • The judge made his or her decision based on incomplete or false information
  • There was a procedural mistake that influenced the outcome of the case
  • The decision was based on the judge’s incorrect interpretation or application of the law
  • Evidence was used which was inadmissible or insufficient

What Does the Appeals Process Involve?

If there are reasons to warrant an appeal of your divorce judgment, it is important to act quickly. Appeals must be filed with the Illinois appellate court within 30 days of the final judgment. The appealing party must explain the grounds for the appeal and what the alleged mistakes are. The appellate court’s function is to examine what happened during the trial court proceedings and determine whether legal errors occurred. Illinois appeals are heard by three judges. They will evaluate the evidence, hear arguments, and then make their decisions. The judges may uphold the circuit court’s original decision, amend the divorce judgment to correct the mistake, or vacate the judgment and send the case back to the circuit court.

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