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DuPage County asset dissipation attorney for infidelityMost people know of at least one relationship that has ended due to infidelity. Statistics about the prevalence of cheating vary, but various studies suggest that about 25 percent of marriages involve extramarital sexual infidelity. If your marriage is coming to an end because of an affair, it is important to know how this may impact your divorce. Although Illinois no longer recognizes adultery as a grounds for divorce, there are still several ways in which cheating or infidelity can influence a divorce case.

Grounds for Divorce in Illinois

Although we rarely think about it in these terms, when you get divorced, you are essentially asking the state to terminate your marriage. In the past, many states required an allegation of fault in order to grant a divorce. Fault-based grounds included issues like adultery, impotence, or abuse. However, every U.S. state now has the option for no-fault divorce. In Illinois, fault-based grounds for divorce have been eliminated entirely. The only grounds for divorce is “irreconcilable differences.” While you will not list infidelity as the reason for your marriage ending, an extramarital affair can still greatly affect your divorce.

Financial Issues and Affairs

Asset dissipation occurs when a spouse uses funds or property for something not related to the marriage while the marriage is experiencing a “breakdown.” If a spouse buys an affair partner expensive gifts or sells property to finance a vacation with him or her, the spouse may be guilty of dissipating assets. The dissipating spouse may be required to reimburse the marital estate for the funds which were wasted. This is typically accomplished by awarding a proportionally greater share of marital property to the wronged spouse. Originally, dissipation only referred to misused marital assets. Case law has since established that dissipation may involve the misuse of marital or nonmarital property.

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Wheaton, IL divorce attorney for orders of protectionOne of the biggest questions many couples face during divorce is which spouse will stay in the marital home, and which spouse will move out. Reaching an agreement about where each spouse will live during and after the divorce can be difficult, and sometimes it may seem nearly impossible. In some cases, a spouse may simply refuse to leave, and situations like these can become even more problematic if a spouse has a history of domestic violence. If you are planning to divorce, you may wonder if there is a way to force your spouse to move out. An order of protection and a motion for exclusive possession of the marital home are two legal avenues that may allow you to have your spouse removed from your shared home during your divorce.

Order of Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence

No one should have to live in fear in their own home. An order of protection (commonly known as a restraining order) is a legal court order that may require a spouse or other abusive individual to move out of a shared home. Protective orders in Illinois may also include provisions requiring the subject of the order, called the respondent, to stay a certain distance away from their spouse and/or their children, surrender firearms, cease communication with their spouse, and more. In order to get an order of protection in Illinois, you will typically be required to show that the respondent has abused you or another household member or caused you to fear for the safety of yourself, your children, or other family members. Abuse is defined in Illinois law as:

  • Physical abuse, such as hitting or threatening someone with a weapon

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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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