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Rockford IL Family Law Blog

Prenuptial agreements should address basic issues

Illinois couples who are excited about their upcoming marriage might not want to discuss a future divorce, but good reasons for establishing protections with a prenuptial agreement exist. Common motivations for creating contract terms if the relationship dissolves include different levels of wealth and debt between the partners, property ownership and citizenship. When people decide to negotiate a prenuptial agreement, they should make decisions about assets, spousal support and estate distributions in the event of death.

In general, people often choose to designate what they bring into a union as their own. Assets gained during the marriage might then be considered jointly held. When one partner has substantially more assets or income than the other person, spousal support could be legally mandated upon divorce unless the agreement prevents it. Two people could negotiate what that payment would be or if support would be paid at all.

Ways to protect college savings during a divorce

When Illinois couples are married and have children, they are often joint account holders. This also applies to their children's college savings. While this is practical during the marriage, this can cause issues when the relationship comes to an end.

When people decide to get a divorce, they often want to create distance between themselves and their estranged spouse. They start to cancel joint checking accounts and credit cards so that they will not be on the hook for their spouse's debt. These tasks are completed in order to create a divide between the two parties. However, this is difficult to achieve when the spouses have an ongoing link: their children. When their children have assets, such as a college savings account, they often remain tied together. This can cause issues since many college savings plans allow the account holder to make important changes to the account at any point in time. This can allow a bitter spouse who does not get much time with his or her children to change the beneficiary on the account to a new child born in a subsequent marriage. Many accounts allow for non-educational withdrawals and then penalize the account holder.

How can unmarried couples protect their assets in the event of separation? P.2

Last time, we began speaking about cohabitation agreements in Illinois, and how these documents can help unmarried couples protect their assets in the event of separation and death. As we noted, crafting an enforceable cohabitation agreement in Illinois can be tricky and it is important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure it is valid and enforceable.

Two particularly important issues unmarried couples can address either within or apart from a cohabitation agreement are the titling of real property and the disposition of property at death. The way an unmarried couple holds title to real property can certainly have an impact on how the property may be dealt with in the event of separation and death.

How can unmarried couples protect their assets in the event of separation?

Previously, we wrote about a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision which highlighted the need for unmarried couples in Illinois to take steps to protect their assets in the event of separation. This is an especially important issue to address when an unmarried couple plans on commingling their assets, since doing so makes it difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to determine which assets  belongs to which party.

One solution to this issue, particularly for couples who have yet to move in together, is to negotiate a cohabitation agreement. Such an agreement can specify how assets and debts are to be handled for the duration of cohabitation, in the event of separation, and upon death. This gives an unmarried couple control over how their assets and debts are handled with respect to the relationship. 

IL Supreme Court case highlights lack of financial protections for unmarried couples

Protecting oneself financially is important whenever a long-standing relationship fails. This is as important for unmarried couples as it is for married couples. In some ways, it is more important for unmarried couples given that state law does not provide any special entitlements.

A case decided last week by the Illinois Supreme Court highlights this point well. The court ruled in the case that unmarried domestic partners do not have any rights in each other’s property when their domestic partnership ends. 

How do judges figure amount and duration of spousal maintenance?

We previously began looking at the issue of spousal maintenance or support, specifically how Illinois courts determine whether a spouse is entitled to maintenance.  Picking up where we left off last time, if a judge determines it is just to award maintenance to a spouse, the amount and duration of the award needs to be determined.

Illinois state law provides specific guidelines regarding the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. The calculations are based on the gross income of the parties separately and together, and the length of the marriage. 

When is a spouse entitled to maintenance in Illinois?

In divorce, it is critical to work with an experienced attorney who can help ensure a fair settlement is reached with respect to assets and debts. Property division in Illinois, is governed by the principle of equitable distribution, and state law requires courts to come to ensure that property and debts are divided in a manner that is “just and equitable.”

Just and equitable division of assets and debts is not the only financial area where a spouse may need advocacy, though. In some cases, a spouse may need advocacy with respect to spousal maintenance. In fact, spousal maintenance is very much related to property division since spousal support may be paid not only from the income of the other spouse, but also from the other spouse’s property. 

Handling back-to-school time as a divorced parent

Autumn is almost here, and with that comes cooler weather, changing leaves, and a new school year. As you and your child get ready, you likely have a long list of school supplies to purchase, new clothes to buy, textbooks to get and adjustments to make in your home to accommodate school start/end times and extracurricular activities.

If you are divorced, you may have additional worries, including determining whether your child's school schedule will impact your current custody and parenting time arrangement, as well as what - if any - information you need to share with the school regarding your unique family situation.

What recourse is available when a parent abuses/violates parenting time order? P.2

In our last post, we began looking at what types remedies a court can order when a parent is found to have violated a parenting time order. As we noted, there are a variety of possible remedies, including holding the offending parent in contempt of court. This, again, can result in additional sanctions.

State law mentions several possibilities available to the court when a party is held in contempt for violating a parenting time order. One is that a parent may have his or her driving privileges suspended until he or she comes into compliance. If this occurs, limited driving privileges may be ordered for a time. 

What recourse is available when a parent abuses/violates parenting time order?

When a couple with children breaks up and has to sort out custody issues, it isn’t uncommon for there to issues that arise even after a court establishes a parenting plan. Whether the plan was mutually agreed upon by both parents before the court’s approval, or directly ordered by the court, issues can arise when couples fail to cooperate with the terms of the plan.

Enforcement action can be initiated by filing a petition listing, among other things, the terms of the parenting plan or allocation judgment and the nature of the violation of the plan or judgment. Parties who initiate an enforcement action are expected to provide specific dates and relevant information regarding the violation. They must also have made a reasonable attempt to resolve the dispute. 

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