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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 child support modification lawyerAccording to Illinois law, both of a child’s parents must financially contribute to their child’s upbringing – even if the parents are unmarried or divorced. Illinois child support payment amounts are calculated using the “income shares” method. This method uses each parent’s net income and the amount of parenting time assigned to each parent to determine an appropriate child support order. If a parent wants to change the terms of the child support order, he or she will need to petition the court for a child support modification.   

Modification Reviews Through DCSS

Child support orders are eligible for a “modification review” every three years. The Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) will notify parents of their right to request a review of their current child support order. When a parent requests a review through DCSS, each parent will be asked to submit financial documentation which will be used to determine whether a modification is necessary.  

Substantial Changes in Circumstances

If it has not yet been three years since the end of a couple’s divorce or the last time a child support modification review was conducted, parents will typically only be able to request a modification if there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.” The following situations may qualify for a modification:

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DuPage County legal separation attorneyThere are many different factors that influence the sustainability of a marriage. For many married couples, knowing whether it is time to formally end a marriage through divorce is not easy. One option that many married couples utilize when they are not ready to divorce is legal separation. However, it is important to understand that living apart or separating from your spouse is not the same as obtaining a legal separation. Couples that are legally separated are still technically married, but they gain much greater protection under the law than couples that are simply living apart. Some reasons you may consider legal separation include:

There Is Still a Chance for Reconciliation But You Want to Separate Finances

Divorce is a very definitive action. There is no undoing a divorce. If you and your spouse have had major marital trouble, but you believe that there is still a chance for you to reconcile in the future, a legal separation may be right for you. If you obtain a legal separation, you will be able to gain many of the benefits of divorce without actually ending your marriage.

When spouses are simply living apart, the spouses’ finances are still legally intertwined. This means that a spouse may be responsible for the consequences of the other spouse’s financial decisions during the physical separation period. Spouses who are legally separated are subject to a court order called a separation agreement that formally separates the spouses’ finances. Furthermore, a spouse is not responsible for debts accumulated by the other spouse after the legal separation has gone into effect. 

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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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DuPage County collaborative divorce attorneyWhen many people think of divorce, they imagine a tense courtroom scene involving two bitter spouses intent on “winning” the divorce. Fortunately, there are many ways to end a marriage without the need for aggressive court battles. If you are planning to get divorced, you and your spouse may understandably struggle to see eye-to-eye about certain things. You may have different opinions about who should retain ownership of the family home, how bank account balances should be divided, who should have the majority of parenting time, or other issues. Collaborative divorce offers a way for divorcing couples to work on finding a resolution to divorce issues without the hostility, expense, and stress associated with divorce litigation.

The Collaborative Divorce Process in Illinois

During a collaborative divorce, each spouse retains an attorney who has been trained in collaborative law. The spouses and their respective attorneys hold a series of meetings to identify unresolved divorce issues and work on finding solutions to these issues that both spouses agree to. Before negotiations begin, spouses and their lawyers sign a commitment called a “Participation Agreement.” In the agreement, each member of the collaborative team commits to work together cooperatively and honestly. The spouses also agree to voluntarily provide any relevant information needed during the collaborative process, such as financial documents. The collaborative team may also include experts such as child specialists, divorce coaches, and financial planners.

Working as a Team Toward a Common Goal

Unlike public courtroom proceedings, the discussions that take place in collaborative divorce meetings are confidential. The meetings take place in an informal setting that is much less intimidating than a courtroom. Parents who have disputes regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time often find collaborative divorce to be especially beneficial. Instead of parents working against each other, they work in a cooperative, productive fashion to create a parenting plan that works for both of them and provides for their children’s best interests. Once the spouses reach an agreement about the unresolved divorce issues, their lawyers write the terms of the agreement into legally binding documents. They file these documents with the court, and the spouses can then finalize their divorce during a final hearing.

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