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Rockford IL Family Law Blog

What issues are the most important in divorce?

Anybody who has been through the divorce process knows it is a big decision, and one that needs to be carefully thought through. Different couples, of course, have different circumstances and have to think and work through the process according to their own situation, but there are certain issues that have are critical to consider before filing for divorce, as well as certain issues that are very important to the decision.

According to the Institute of Family Studies, there are four main areas people take into consideration when thinking of and planning for divorce. These are: the impact of divorce on children, the financial costs and consequences of divorce, happiness and love. Obviously, the latter two factors are more subjective, but nevertheless important. As for the first two, these are areas where it is critical to have the guidance and advocacy of an attorney. 

Carefully defining terms in prenuptial agreement important to ensure effectiveness

Last time, we began looking at the divorce case of Richard Stephenson and the dispute him and his wife are currently having with regard to their prenuptial agreement. As we noted, the agreement specifies that property owned individually prior to the couple’s marriage, and property acquired individually during the marriage, was to remain separate in the event of divorce.

The issue now is determining how to classify certain items under the terms of the couple’s agreement: as marital or separate. As we explained last time, prenuptial agreements may specify not only a distribution scheme to replace the default rules established by state statute, but they may also assign different definitions to the terms marital and separate. 

Prenuptial agreement at issue in high-profile, high-asset Chicago divorce case

A high-asset divorce case involving the founder and Chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Richard Stephenson, and his wife of 25 years was recently called “one of the longest, most contentious local divorces in recent memory.” Papers for the divorce were filed six years ago, but the couple was still successful in resolving their differences as of a couple weeks ago.

One of the issues in the divorce is a prenuptial agreement stating that all property each of them had prior to the marriage, as well as property obtained individually during the marriage, would remain separate property for purposes of property division in the event of divorce. It has to be determined whether, under the terms of the prenuptial agreement, Alicia Stephenson may be awarded a share of her former husband’s wealth.

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.

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