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Rockford IL Family Law Blog

Divorce and SS benefits: a need-to-know for gray divorcees, P.2

In our last post, we began looking at the importance of the 10-year mark for marriage for purposes of Social Security retirement income. As we noted, ex-spouses who have not remarried are able to receive payments based on their former spouse’s record. For older couples who are contemplating divorce, timing may therefore become an issue.

An additional benefit available on a limited basis as a result of changes made last year allows divorced individuals who reached the age of 62 by the beginning of 2016 to file a restricted application for benefits at the age of 66, which would allow them to collect benefits based on their ex-spouse’s record while their own record continues to accrue until the age of 70. During that time, such individuals would be able to switch over to their own retirement benefit it ever became greater their ex-spousal benefit. 

Do you have the power to make decisions for your partner?

Not every couple in Illinois wants to get married. To be sure, marriage is a personal choice, but there can be unexpected consequences if one unmarried partner suddenly becomes ill and incapacitated. In this situation, someone needs to make decisions about the medical care of the ill person. If the unmarried couple has not established a power of attorney for health care, then neither partner will have a legal say about important medical decisions pertaining to the other in the case of an emergency.

Imagine that you and your partner have been together for years. Then, after a car accident, he or she is unable to communicate. If you are not married and you have no power of attorney for health care, you will not be the first person the state will entrust to make important decisions: guardians, spouses and blood relatives take precedence, including:

· Adult children

· Parents

· Siblings

· Adult grandchildren

Divorce and SS benefits: a need-to-know for gray divorcees, P.1

As readers may be aware, there has been an increase in recent years in divorce among older Americans. So-called “gray divorce” is not only occurring among those who have been married more than once, but just as much among those who have only been married once.

Whatever the reasons for the increase in gray divorce, it is somewhat concerning from a financial perspective. Divorce costs money, not only to go through the legal process, but also to maintain separate households and lives afterward. For older people, these extra costs can put more than just their retirement at risk, but also their financial stability. 

New IL law brings changes to language around custody, visitation, P.2

Last time, we began looking several changes made by a child custody law that went into effect this year. As we noted, some of the changes were substantive and other merely involved language, but in either case, an experienced attorney should be able to leverage these changes to help advocate for the interests of a parent.

The substantive changes made to decision-making responsibilities, again, are that parents now have the ability to allocate responsibility between themselves for different areas of a child’s life. This is different from before, when all decision-making authority was the responsibility of either one or both parents.

New IL law brings changes to language around custody, visitation

Careful communication is critical to helping resolve disputes, particularly emotional disputes. In child custody cases, this is especially true given the attachment parents have around issues of custody. This is partly what underlies recent changes made to state law concerning custody issues.

The new law, which went into effect back in January, makes changes to the language around custody and visitation-related issues by replacing them with the terms parental duties and parenting time instead.  Commentators have said that changes in these areas are primarily cosmetic, but that changing the language could help encourage more efficient resolution of disputes.

Looking at the role of fault in Illinois child custody cases

In our last post, we looked briefly at some of the ways fault can come into play in property division. As we’ve pointed out, although fault is no longer recognized as a factor for purposes of dissolution, fault-base factors can come into play in the division of property.  Here, we’ll look briefly at how fault-based factors can impact child custody determinations.

As we’ve previously written, judges are primarily concerned with the best interests of the children in making custody decisions, and look at a wide variety of factors to determine what it really best for children of divorcing couples. Courts will consider every relevant factor, and will inevitable consider each parent’s lifestyle, character, habits, life decisions, and so on. 

What is the role of fault in Illinois divorce cases?

Most readers are aware that, while fault used to be an important in divorce factor decades ago, it typically is not a significant factor nowadays. That being said, many states still do allow parties to divorce on fault-based grounds. Until recently, Illinois was among these states.

Under a law that recently took effect in Illinois, parties to divorce are no longer allowed to cite fault-based grounds to dissolve their marriage. Such grounds included things like adultery, habitual drunkenness, mental anguish, and so on. Going forward, the only available ground for dissolution in Illinois will be irreconcilable differences. The change is part of a package of modifications to state law aimed at streamlining the divorce process.

Work with experienced attorney to manage custody issues in deployment

In our last couple posts, we spoke briefly about military family care plans and some of the issues that can come up with them. Here, we wanted to briefly mention a federal law which may provide protection to military members who face the unfortunate situation of having a spouse initiate child custody proceedings while the military spouse is deployed overseas.

Under the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA), judges may grant stays of custody proceedings when a soldier’s participation is materially affected by military service. The law makes stays mandatory for 90 days after deployment, provided the service member has a defense to the custody action and the defense cannot be presented without his or her presence. Stay of proceedings can also be granted if the service member cannot be reached or it cannot be determined whether the military member has any other meritorious defense against the custody action. 

Military family care plans in child custody determinations, P.1

We have spoken in previous posts about the factors and presumption judges consider and work with when making best interests determinations for purposes of child custody and parenting time arrangements. One of the points we mentioned was judges do consider the terms of a parent’s military family care plan when making best interests determinations.

Parents who have served in the military are familiar with military care plans, but for those who are not, a family care plan is a document which ensures that a military parent’s family is going to receive support and care during times when the parent is engaged in service away from the family. These times include annual trainings, drills, mobilization and deployment. 

The dangers of texting your ex during divorce or custody dispute

By now, most people realize that the things you say and do online can have a big impact on your divorce or child custody dispute. Taking evidence from social media sites like Facebook is now a standard practice for most family law attorneys. The general rule is: Don't put anything online (even in a private message) that you wouldn't want to be seen by a judge in the courtroom.

This rule doesn't just apply to social media sites. It also applies to email and text messages as well. Any informal written, electronic communication with your spouse during the divorce or custody process could potentially become evidence later on.

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