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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 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 high conflict divorce attorneyMarried couples choose to divorce for countless reasons. Sometimes, spouses simply grow apart or realize that it was a mistake to get married in the first place. In these cases, spouses may not want to be married any longer, but they still have a high level of respect and concern for each other. On the other hand, some divorcing spouses are vengeful and combative. Divorces involving infidelity, deceit, domestic violence, or vindictiveness may require a very different approach than more amicable divorces. If you have reason to believe that your divorce might be hostile, you may wonder if there is anything you can do to start preparing yourself now.  

Consider a Guardian Ad Litem

Continuous divorces between parents may involve strong disagreements about child custody and visitation, which are called “the allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” in Illinois. Illinois courts make decisions in these areas based on what is in the child’s best interests. Unfortunately, some parents may attempt to sway the court’s decision in their favor by misrepresenting themselves or lying about the other parent. In some child custody disputes, a Guardian Ad Litem is assigned to the case to represent the children’s best interests and uncover the true facts of the case. The Guardian Ad Litem may do this by conducting interviews, evaluating parents’ homes and interactions with children, and analyzing financial information. You may want to request a Guardian Ad Litem if you have concerns about your spouse’s parenting abilities or if you want your child to have a specially-trained advocate.

Mediation May Not Be Your Best Option

Some divorcing couples who disagree about property division, child custody, spousal support, or other divorce terms are able to work out a solution to their disagreements through mediation. During divorce mediation, parties agree to work with a qualified mediator, negotiate in good faith, and collaborate with experts in order to reach a resolution. However, if there is a major power imbalance between the spouses, or if a spouse refuses to have reasonable discussions about divorce-related disagreements, mediation may not be a viable choice. It may be better for spouses to consult with their respective attorneys and formulate a divorce strategy personalized to their unique set of challenges.

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Wheaton divorce attorney for sole child custodyIn 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) underwent major revisions. One of the biggest changes was an update to the language used to describe child custody. Instead of “child custody” and “visitation,” the terms “parental responsibility” and “parenting time” are used to describe parenting duties. Parental responsibilities refers to a parent’s authority to make major decisions about a child’s education, medical care, and other issues involved in their upbringing, whereas parenting time is the actual time that a parent spends caring for the child. Many divorced and unmarried parents split parental responsibilities and parenting time in a shared parenting arrangement, but some situations may require one parent to take on all of the parental responsibilities and/or parenting time.

Illinois Courts Typically Encourage Shared Parenting

Illinois courts usually prefer parenting arrangements that allow both of a child’s parents to be involved in his or her life. However, there are some situations in which a parent may be awarded “sole custody” or sole decision-making authority for a child. Non-custodial parents have a right to reasonable amounts of parenting time, unless there is some reason that the parent cannot adequately provide for the child’s safety and well-being. If a parent is found to be “unfit,” it is possible that the court will award the other parent 100 percent of the parental responsibilities and/or parenting time. If you wish to have all of the decision-making authority and parenting time, you will need to provide evidence to the court which proves that it is in your child’s best interests not to spend time with his or her other parent.

A parent may be considered unfit to have decision-making authority and/or parenting time if he or she cannot adequately complete caretaking tasks and keep the child safe. More specifically, a parent may not be awarded parental responsibilities or parenting time if he or she:

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DuPage County divorce lawyer irreconcilable differences

If you are considering divorce, you may have heard about the different “grounds” or reasons that a person can give when seeking to dissolve their marriage. Traditionally, these grounds have included an identification of which spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Of course, marriages end for a wide variety of reasons, and identifying a specific cause for the failure of the relationship is not always easy. Sometimes, a couple simply grows apart or stops being in love with each other. Updates to Illinois law have now taken this reality into consideration with regard to the grounds for divorce.

Previous Illinois Grounds for Divorce

Before major changes were made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), anyone wishing to get divorced in Illinois would need to identify grounds for their divorce. These grounds included several “fault” grounds which included but were not limited to:

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