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Wheaton, IL parenting plan lawyerDisagreements about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time are often some of the most contentious issues in a divorce case. When parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, they have several options: they can try to find a resolution through mediation, collaborative law, or negotiations facilitated by their attorneys, or they may take the case to trial. If you are a parent who is involved in a child custody disagreement, you may be unsure of how to handle the situation. Although there is no perfect way to manage a child-related legal dispute, there are certain mistakes that parents should always try to avoid, including:

Putting Children in the Middle of the Conflict

Multiple studies have shown that parental discord can be harmful to children’s emotional and psychological well-being. Parents should make every attempt to keep their children out of legal and personal conflicts. While it can be tempting to criticize your child’s other parent, doing so in front of your child can make him or her feel like he or she has to choose sides. Experts encourage parents to keep adult conversations out of earshot of children and to never ask children to act as a messenger between parents.

Oversharing on Social Media

The majority of U.S. adults use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or some other type of social media. It is important that parents involved in a custody dispute use extreme caution when sharing information or pictures on social media. Even if your account is set to “private,” anything you post on social media could potentially be used against you during court proceedings. For example, if a parent posts a picture of himself or herself drinking alcohol at a party, it could be argued that the photograph is evidence of the parent’s inability to be a responsible caretaker for the couple’s children.

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DuPage County divorce lawyer petition discovery trialThere are two types of divorce cases: contested and uncontested. An uncontested divorce is one in which the spouses are able to come to an agreement about property division, parental responsibilities, parenting time, spousal support, and any other issues that must be resolved before their marriage can be dissolved. If the spouses cannot reach an agreement about one or more of these issues, they enter into a contested divorce. Read on to learn about the typical steps involved in an Illinois contested divorce and how you can get the legal support you need during this process.

Filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

The first step in the Illinois divorce process is filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with your county circuit court. The person who files the divorce Petition is called the petitioner, and the other spouse is referred to as the respondent. When you file for divorce, you have a legal obligation to notify the respondent. You may do this in person, via certified mail, or through a deputy sheriff. The respondent must respond to the petition within 30 days, and he or she may file a response to the petition or a counter-petition.

Discovery

The term “discovery” is used to refer to the divorce phase in which spouses and their lawyers gather information about income, assets, child-related issues, and other matters relevant to the divorce case. This process may include financial disclosures, requests for production, interrogatories, admissions of facts, and depositions. The exchange of such information will ensure that both parties have the facts necessary to support their claims and arguments during a contested divorce.

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Wheaton divorce lawyer spousal supportAlthough the overall divorce rate in the United States has been declining, there is one demographic that is getting divorced more now than ever before. People over age 50 are divorcing at a rate which is double what it was 30 years ago. Some of these divorces involve couples who were married for 10, 20, or even 30+ years. Deciding to get a divorce after a long marriage can be one of the hardest choices a person ever makes. Leaving the comfort of a familiar relationship to find a happier life as a single person can be understandably intimidating. In addition, spouses who divorce after a long marriage must consider issues that other couples may not need to worry about.

Adjusting to the Change May Be Emotionally Strenuous

While any divorce is going to involve a degree of emotional and psychological stress, ending a long marriage can be especially difficult. If you and your spouse have been together for many years, adjusting to life without that person can be painful – even if you are the one who initiated the separation. Experts encourage individuals going through divorce after a long marriage to consider finding additional sources of support. This may include speaking with a counselor, joining a support group, or simply reaching out to friends and family that you trust.   

You or Your Spouse May Be Entitled to Spousal Maintenance

In Illinois, alimony or spousal support is referred to as spousal maintenance. While this type of support is not awarded in every divorce, the chances of spousal maintenance being a concern in your divorce increases if the marriage lasted a long time. Maintenance is most often awarded when a spouse sacrificed their educational or career opportunities for the benefit of the marriage or family. For example, if a mother stayed home to raise the couple’s children for the last 15 years, reentering the workforce is going to be extremely difficult. The court may award the mother rehabilitative maintenance until she can gain the skills or education needed to obtain employment. In some divorce cases, especially those involving a marriage of 20 years or more, permanent spousal maintenance may be awarded.

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DuPage County property division lawyer for pet ownershipFor many people, their dog, cat, or other pet is a beloved member of the family. However, the law treats pets as property. During divorce, spouses may vehemently disagree about who will take ownership of the pet. In years past, pets were treated just like any other asset during a contentious divorce. However, modifications to Illinois laws regarding property division took effect in 2018, and they changed the way pets are dealt with during divorce. If you are considering divorce, and you are worried that you and your spouse will disagree about ownership of your pet, read on to learn about your options.

Factors Considered During “Pet Custody” Decisions

Only marital assets are divided during Illinois divorces. If a spouse acquired a pet before the marriage, it may be considered non-marital property, and it would therefore be assigned to the animal’s original owner. If a pet was acquired by either spouse during the marriage, it is most likely considered a marital asset. Because of the changes to Illinois law, courts now consider the animal’s well-being when deciding whether to award sole or joint ownership of the pet during divorce. The spouse who typically fed, walked, and cared for the pet and took the pet to veterinary appointments is often assigned ownership. If a divorcing couple has children, the spouse with the majority of parental responsibilities may argue that he or she should keep the pet so that the children can spend more time with it.

Mediation May Help You Resolve Property Disputes

Many divorcing couples struggle to reach an agreement about property division, child custody, and other divorce issues. Even though it may be difficult to resolve these disputes, couples will often want to negotiate a settlement rather than fighting costly and time-consuming battles in the courtroom. Mediation is a process during which divorcing spouses work with a qualified mediator to negotiate an agreement on their outstanding divorce issues. The mediator is a neutral third party who helps facilitate cooperative, productive discussions about the unresolved divorce issues so the couple can reach a resolution. With help from your family law attorney and a qualified mediator, you and your spouse may be able to agree on an arrangement for your pet. If an agreement cannot be reached, a judge may make a decision about how ownership of the pet should be handled.  

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Wheaton, IL divorce lawyer for order of protection defenseDomestic violence is taken very seriously in Illinois, and victims of abuse can protect their safety and that of their children or other family members by obtaining an order of protection. An emergency order of protection (EOP) can be granted to a person based on his or her testimony alone, and it goes into effect immediately. The respondent (the subject of the order of protection) does not need to be present in order for the petitioner to be granted an EOP. An EOP lasts up to 21 days and typically prohibits the respondent from contacting or coming within a certain distance of the petitioner. A restraining order may also prohibit the respondent from seeing or contacting his or her children, and it may require him or her to surrender any firearms. If you are the subject of a protection order during divorce, there are several crucial steps you should take.

Follow the Directions Contained in the Order of Protection

Restraining orders offer important protections to actual victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, an order of protection may be obtained by a petitioner who does not actually need protection. A bitter spouse may get an order of protection during a contentious divorce in an attempt to gain an advantage during divorce proceedings – especially those involving child custody. Even if the order of protection your spouse obtained against you was based on false allegations, it is essential to follow the directions contained in the order. Do not confront your spouse or violate other terms of the order. Instead, contact an attorney immediately to determine your best options for defending against the accusations and protecting your rights.

Attend the Plenary Hearing to Tell Your Side of the Story

If your spouse wants to extend the protection period after the EOP expires, he or she will need to attend a court hearing and request a more permanent type of order called a plenary order of protection. The plenary hearing is your opportunity to defend yourself against your spouse’s accusations. When preparing for this hearing, you will want to gather evidence such as text messages, call logs, and documents that support your testimony. Find witnesses who can confirm your side of the story and are willing to testify in court. Your attorney will use witness testimony and other evidence to argue on your behalf during the hearing.

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