What Is A Postnuptial Agreement?

postnuptial agreementYou’ve probably heard of a prenuptial agreement, in which the two parties entering into marriage sign a contract detailing what belongs to whom, and what is owed to each party in the event of a separation or divorce. Most people prefer to sign such a contract before the wedding to give them peace of mind before they legally merge their lives together.

But just because you didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement, doesn’t mean your financial situation is set in stone. Much like a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement can help provide peace of mind to one or both parties – the main difference being that it’s drawn up and signed after, rather than before, the wedding.

How Do You Know if You Need A Postnuptial Agreement?

There are a few reasons you and/or your spouse might want a postnuptial agreement. Most of the time they are used to protect one spouse’s marital property interests in the event the other spouse is embarking on a business venture that will entail a significant amount of risk. On the other hand, if one spouse suddenly came into a large inheritance, they may want to protect that asset in the event of a divorce, in which case a postnuptial agreement can provide that assurance.

Other times the couple may have wanted a prenup, but never got around to signing one before the wedding. In a time where more and more couples are comprised of spouses who both work outside the home, fewer people feel like the concept of communal property makes sense for their circumstances.

Alternatively, if two people get married and only then realize that they have very different ideas about how to handle money, a postnuptial agreement can help to save their marriage by defining which assets and properties belongs to which spouse. If you’re having marital problems, and you feel like your finances might be at risk because of it, a postnuptial agreement can allow you to focus on working on your marriage instead of worrying about your financial assets. Many people feel more comfortable working on relationship issues they may not otherwise have given a chance without a postnuptial agreement.

On the other hand, if you’re seriously considering divorce, a postnuptial agreement can save time and money in the divorce process by dividing property and assets ahead of time.

The birth of a child is another common reason people sometimes seek out a postnuptial agreement, especially if one or both of the spouses was previously married to someone else. A postnuptial agreement can clarify the child’s inheritance rights of property and finances from the current marriage and/or one or more previous marriages, if necessary.  However, you cannot pre-negotiate child support.

Previous marriages can also make inheritance tricky if one spouse dies, which is another common reason for seeking out a postnuptial agreement. In that situation, a postnuptial agreement can clarify who owns an asset in the event of a divorce or the death of a spouse.

There are many reasons for wanting a postnuptial agreement. Whether your circumstances have changed, or you just wanted the additional peace of mind a contract can bring, the family law attorneys at Sherer Law Offices are here to help.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What Does an Executor Actually Do?

executorWhen someone has a will drawn up and notarized, detailing what will happen to all their property after their death, they will usually specify in the document who will act as the executor of the will. If the document does not specify an executor, the court will appoint one.

But what does it even mean to be the executor of someone’s will? What, exactly, does that job entail?

Essentially, the executor’s job is to make sure the will is carried out as it is written. The assumption is that the will represents the intentions of the deceased at the time of their death – or at least the last time they were sufficiently mentally fit to decide what should happen to their possessions at the time of their death. The executor is tasked with fulfilling those wishes.

File the Will

The first thing the executor needs to do is file the will in the probate court of the county where the deceased lived. If they did not live in Illinois, then the will must be filed in the probate court of the county in which the deceased’s real property (such as land, a house, condo, etc.) is located. If they did not have any real property, then it needs to be filed in the county where most of the deceased’s personal property is located.  Once the will has been filed, the probate court grants the executor the powers of executor of the will, which allows them to fulfill the rest of their responsibilities.

Notifications

The executor is also in charge of notifying the heirs and legatees of the will that the document has been filed with the probate court – the legatees (also known as beneficiaries) are those listed in the will to receive something, while the heirs are those who would inherit the estate in the absence of a will.

Conduct Inventory

Under the Illinois Probate Code, an executor has 60 days from the time they become executor to conduct an inventory of the estate. The inventory must list all the real estate, personal property, and money owned by the estate.

Defend the Will

Once the heirs and beneficiaries have been notified that a will has been filed, they have 6 months from the time the will has been filed to challenge the validity of that will.  If the court finds the will invalid, the executor would be the one to file an appeal on that decision, if they decide to do so.

Manage the Estate

Before the will can be executed (and/or while it is being contested) there may still be bills that need to be paid on behalf of the estate. For example, if any real estate is included in the will, property taxes and/or mortgage payments may need to be made before the property is transferred to the ownership of the heir or legatee. The executor will be responsible for using funds and assets from the estate to make such payments, which is why it is of the utmost importance to assign an executor who can be trusted with this responsibility.  The executor has a fiduciary duty to the estate and the heirs and legatees to maintain the estate assets until such time as they can be distributed in accordance with the decedent’s wishes.

If you haven’t yet had a will drawn up for your estate – or you want to revise an existing will – you need a law firm you can trust. We can help you draft an air-tight will to ensure all your property and assets will go where you want them to go.  If you have been named the executor of an estate, we can also help you fulfill your duties in a timely, cost-efficient manner.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?How long the does the divorce process take? That depends on a lot of factors, including how complicated the division of assets is (how many assets, children, pets, etc.) and how well you two cooperate in the divorce process. If one spouse decides they want to drag it out, they can make it last years.

The Requirements

First, there are some requirements you need to meet before you can even file for divorce. These include the fact that, under Illinois law, you or your spouse need to have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before you can file for divorce in Illinois. If children are involved, that limit goes up to 180 days. If for some reason you don’t meet the time limit and you can’t wait, you’ll have to file in another state.

In Illinois, the only remaining grounds for divorce is irreconcilable differences.  Under Illinois law, if you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for 6 months, irreconcilable differences are presumed. If you have not been living separate and apart for 6 months, you can still file for divorce, but you must allege that irreconcilable differences have arisen and prove same.

Uncontested Divorce

The best-case scenario is when you and your spouse can both agree that divorce is in everyone’s best interests, and you can agree on things like the division of assets, spousal support, and parenting time. These divorces can be completed in as little as two weeks, but more commonly take a month or two.  If there are children involved, both parties must complete a parenting class prior to the entry of the final judgment.

Contested Divorce

When you and your spouse can’t agree on one or more of the important factors in the divorce, that’s known as a contested divorce and it can take much longer – anywhere from 18 to 30 months and on. Each issue that you and your spouse can’t agree on needs to be determined by a judge, and each time you need to go before a judge to argue your case extends the time it will take before the divorce can be finalized.

Divorce by Publication (Default)

Maybe things have deteriorated in your marriage to the point where you don’t even know where your spouse is currently living. If this is the case and you want to seek a divorce from this person, you’ll need a divorce by publication, which requires a few steps.

First you need to attempt to notify the spouse of your intention to divorce them. If you don’t know where they are, you can publish a notice of your intention in local newspapers in the area where they were last known to reside.

You also need to do everything you can to try to locate your spouse. This might include things like calling their friends and family, their last known residence/landlord, employer, etc. There’s no definition for the things you need to do in order to prove you made an effort to reach your spouse, but you do need to provide sufficient evidence that you did everything in your power to reach them. This process could take months.

The missing spouse needs to be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the notice of your intention to divorce them, but if they fail to respond, then the court will grant your divorce. At that point, you will need to publish notice of the divorce in all the local papers in the area where your spouse was last known to reside.  After publishing the notice once a week for three weeks without a response, the court will deem the divorce to have been finalized.

The Attorneys

Unfortunately, some attorneys will take advantage of the friction in divorces and drag out the process, so they can bill more hours on the case. We never do this. Our job is to serve you and make the process as easy and painless as possible. If you’re considering getting divorced and you need a family law firm you can trust, reach out to us today to schedule a consultation.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

How Are the “Best Interests of the Children” Determined?

Best Interests of the ChildrenWhen a couple with children decides to get divorced, the first question is usually: how will it affect the children? In most cases, everyone wants what’s best for the children, including the court, but what, exactly, does that mean? And how does a court determine what’s in the best interests of the children?

Ideally, the couple can agree on what’s best for their children and work together to come up with a Parenting Plan that decides how much parenting time each parent gets, where the children will live, who pays child support and how much, etc. The Parenting Plan needs to be approved by a judge, but judges do often assume the parents know what’s best for their children. So long as the Parenting Plan does not run afoul of the law, go against public policy interests, and/or seem unconscionable (meaning no reasonable person would agree to it), the Parenting Plan will be approved by the Court.

Most couples can agree on how to raise the children after the divorce, but sometimes a divorce happens in which the couples can’t agree, and no amount of mediation can help them reach common ground. In that case, the court will have to step in and make up its own mind as to what’s best for the children of the divorcing couple.

In addition to determining how to split parenting time, most judges will also decide which parent gets to make the major parenting decisions (where the children will go to school, who their doctor will be, when they can get their driver’s license, etc.) In Illinois, the law requires that the Court allocate decision-making responsibilities to the parents, either by having them jointly decide one category or by having one parent be solely responsible.  With the 2016 amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the Court now specifically has to award decision-making responsibility for the 4 following categories:  Health/Medical, Education, Religion, and Extracurricular Activities.  For each category, the Court must indicate whether both or one parent can decide that issue, so it is possible for one parent to have sole decision making on something like medical decisions, but the other parent to be solely responsible for educational decisions.

When allocation of decision-making is contested, Judges must look at 15 factors and weigh them against the existing facts of that case. Those 15 factors are:

  • The children’s wishes;
  • How well the children have adjusted to their current home, school, and community in general;
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved in the divorce;
  • The level of conflict between the parents and their ability to work together to make decisions;
  • The level of each parent’s past participation in making significant parenting decisions;
  • Any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents regarding the making of parenting decisions;
  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The children’s needs;
  • The distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the children, each parent’s daily schedules, that of the children, and the likelihood the parents will be able to cooperate in an arrangement;
  • Whether a restriction on decision-making is appropriate;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to foster a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the children;
  • Any history of physical violence or threatened physical violence directed at the children by either parent;
  • Any history of abuse against the children or any member of the child(ren’s) household;
  • Whether one of the parents is a sex offender, the nature of their offense, whether they’ve sought treatment, and the nature of that treatment;
  • Any other factor the court might find relevant.

It should be noted that this is not a tally in which parents should aim to win the most points. Each judge will give more weight to some factors than others and it all depends on the situation. If you have any questions about what this might mean for your case, contact us today.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Who Gets to Keep the House?

Who Gets to Keep the HouseWho gets to keep the house is often one of the most highly contested aspects of a divorce. Not only is it the largest piece of marital property, but it’s also where the couple made a home together. Many people might want to keep the house, not for its value, but for sentimental reasons, or because it’s the only home they’ve known for the past several years, or even decades. On the other hand, others might want nothing to do with a house that is now tainted with negative associations of an unhappy marriage, but they may need the house as a financial asset to help them get back on their feet after the divorce.

Try to Reach an Agreement

The ideal situation is always to talk with your spouse about what you want and why. Have an honest conversation about what each of you wants and needs from the divorce and how the house plays into that. Maintaining honest communication with your spouse is especially important if you decide to divorce through mediation or work together to come up with a divorce settlement that works for both of you.

Marital Property

The first thing to determine is whether the house can be considered marital property. In most cases the answer is yes, since newlyweds tend to buy a house together shortly after getting married and/or people move into new homes together after they’ve been married for several years. If one spouse owned it prior to the marriage, but the other made mortgage payments and/or other significant contributions to the maintenance of the house, or additions or projects that significantly increased its value, then it could give that spouse certain rights to seek a monetary award from the home.

But not all marital property is split 50/50 under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Instead, it gets divided based on several factors, including, but not limited to, the level of contribution by each spouse to acquiring and maintaining the property, the duration of the marriage, other property the parties will be receiving in the divorce, as well as their needs following the divorce.

Factors that Tend to Be Considered When Deciding Who Gets the House

That said, there are also other factors that play into the decision regarding which partner gets to keep the house. For example, if children are involved, the partner given the most parenting time in the divorce usually gets the house so they can keep living there with the kids. Divorce can be especially hard on children, and most judges are sensitive to the fact that letting the kids stay in the same house with one of their parents can help them adjust to the big change. Allowing the kids to stay in the house also means they don’t have to switch to a different school district or leave their friends behind, which is good for them, not only because it means minimizing the changes they have to go through, but also because they have a support system in place to help them deal with the stress of the divorce.

Sometimes the decision is less one of “who gets the house?” and more one of “who gets to stay in the house for now?” For example, if there are children involved, and the partner with the most parenting time gets to stay in the house with the kids, judges have been known to allow them the first opportunity to stay in the home. However, this is dependent on other factors, such as that spouse’s ability to refinance the mortgage, if the loan is in both names, and for that spouse to be able to afford to pay the mortgage following the divorce.

Regardless of whether children are involved, one spouse might be allowed to keep the house on the condition that they buy out the other spouse’s interest in the property. In a spousal support arrangement, the higher-earning spouse may be required to continue making mortgage, taxes, and/or insurance payments on the house, even if they no longer live there.

As you can see, divorce is a complicated situation and the more property is involved, the more complicated it gets. If you are getting, or considering getting divorced, contact our offices right away to discuss your options.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

You’re Getting Married and Your Future Spouse Has an Adopted Child, What Does This Mean for You?

future spouse has an adopted childWhile getting married and having kids is great, and relatively straightforward from a legal perspective, life doesn’t always go that smoothly. Sometimes the kids come before marriage, whether from a prior relationship or through adoption. So what does that mean for you if you’re about to become the newest addition to an existing family?

Marrying someone who has already adopted a child can be especially tricky. How tricky depends on a variety of factors:

  • The child’s age now
  • The child’s age when they were adopted
  • Their history before they were adopted
  • Whether they had a closed adoption

The Child’s Age Now

As with any other adoption, if the child is of a certain age, they have a say in whether they want to be adopted by their new step-parent. If the child does not want to be adopted by you, for any reason, then the adoption can’t move forward. That can be painful, but it’s important to respect their wishes and try to work through any existing issues that may have contributed to that decision.

The Child’s History

The child’s age and their history at the time they were adopted can also be important factors in whether they want to add a legal parent. While some children are adopted very young, and thus have never known any other family, others have lost their biological parents and/or been through the foster system. That can make it hard for the child to learn to put down roots and to trust that people are going to stick around for the long haul. For that reason, offering to adopt them can be a beautiful way to show your commitment, not just to your future spouse, but to their children. At the same time, it could also mean the child is not comfortable being adopted by anyone else, in which case it’s important not to force anything on them, even if they’re not yet of age to have a say.

Whether They Had a Closed Adoption

A closed adoption is when the identities of the birth parents and the adopted parents are not known to each other, in which case adopting your step-child could be fairly straightforward, assuming all parties are on board with the idea. But when the birth parents are still in the picture, it can make things tricky.

There are a variety of reasons this might happen. Your future spouse may personally know and/or be related to their child’s birth parents, but decided to adopt for the good of the child. It could be the biological parents were not ready to have a child and your future spouse was; or the biological parents may have been neglectful or even abusive, and your future spouse stepped up by adopting the child for his or her own good.

In any case, although they do not have legal rights to the child, if the biological parents are still in the picture, they may place some emotional pressure on the situation by expressing their disapproval. They won’t have the ability to formally object in Court, since they are no longer their child’s legal parent, but you may want to take their opinion into consideration to help things go smoothly, especially if the child has any sort of relationship with their biological parents.

Your Future Spouse’s View

Ultimately, it is your future spouse has the final say in all this, and he/she may or may not want you to adopt their child. No matter how well things are going between you two, their first obligation is to look after the best interests of their child.  The tougher the child’s history, the more protective the adopted parent is likely to be of them. If your future spouse doesn’t want you to adopt, don’t take it personally. Just do your best to be an active member of the family, as a child can never have too much love.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What to Do When You Have a Problem Tenant

problem tenantIt’s the situation every landlord dreads: you have a signed lease with a tenant for your property, they’re all moved in, and now they’re causing problems. Depending on the severity of the issues, a simple conversation is all that’s needed. Other issues prove more challenging, so we’ve come up with some tips on the best ways to handle a problem tenant.

Know the Law

The first thing you need to do is research the laws governing rental properties in your area. They vary by state and city, so be sure to get very specific in looking up all the laws that apply to your area. There are statutes designed to prevent landlords from taking advantage of their tenants, but there are also laws that protect landlords. Know your rights and know the rights of your tenants.

Update Your Lease

Ideally, you want to do this try to avoid any problems before they begin by including terms in your lease that define problem areas and what the consequences will be to tenants who don’t act in accordance with the lease agreement. The lease is a contract that defines the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, so it is of the utmost importance that you make your expectations clear in the lease.

In the event that doing so doesn’t successfully avoid problems, it can help you deal with problems when they do arise by laying down the groundwork and a procedure for how you should act if a tenant becomes a problem. If a tenant does become problematic, be sure to stick to your own policies and procedures when dealing with the problem.

Document Everything

This starts with the lease and should go all the way up to eviction (if it comes to that). You should also have your own incident reports people can fill out any time there’s a complaint, and keep in mind this should go both ways. While you’re documenting every time your tenant causes problems, you should also give them a chance to document complaints against you. Provide them with a report they can fill out and make sure you both keep a copy of that report. The report should also include if and how you handled the situation so you can avoid any surprises coming back to bite you.

Any time you get an email or text message from neighbors complaining about your tenant, keep all those emails so you have a record of complaints. Also keep emails and text messages exchanged between you and your tenant and keep notes of conversations and phone calls, even the positive ones.

Late rent payments, warnings, notices served, complaints, and maintenance requests should also all be carefully documented.

If the cops are ever called to come to your rental unit and there’s a police report, get a copy of that report.

Keep It Professional

Plenty of problem tenants have their share of sob stories, and while you should always be respectful and understanding, you are not there to dole out favors. You are there to run a business, and if they’re not holding up their end of the agreement, for any reason, you need to act in accordance with your policies and procedures.

If you have any other questions about how to handle a tenant who’s causing problems for you, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced attorney today.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Defining Domestic Violence: Are You Living In An Abusive Home?

abusive homeThe idea that we may be living in an abusive home can be a tough reality to face. When we love the people who don’t treat us as well as they should, it can be easy to make excuses for them, or even blame ourselves for their behavior.

In fact, that’s one of the biggest red flags that you may be living in an abusive home – when your partner downplays the importance of the abuse, denies it, or blames you for it.

The problem is this: you are never responsible for someone else’s actions. Their choices are their own and no one else’s. No amount of willfulness or thoughtlessness on your part justifies anyone else hitting you, threatening you or your loved ones, or trying to control you.

If you’ve been thinking you might be living in an abusive home, here are some things to consider:

Physical Violence

Physical violence is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most of us when we think of domestic abuse. It can be anything from hitting you to attacking you with a weapon – and keep in mind that almost anything can be considered a weapon. Just because a hardcover book isn’t on a standard list of weapons doesn’t mean someone couldn’t do serious damage with one if they wanted to, which brings us to our next clue to look out for:

They Scare You

You should never be afraid of anyone you live with. If they look at you or behave in any way that scares you, don’t try to brush it off as paranoia. Trust your instincts and get out of there, if you can. If you can’t get out, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

They Threaten You and/or Your Loved Ones

Abusers don’t always have to physically hurt you or anyone else to be considered abusive. Threats can be just as powerful, if not more so, especially if they’re threatening your loved ones – and remember that’s not limited to humans. It can be just as terrifying to have someone threaten to hurt, or even kill, a beloved pet, and if that’s the case, you may be living in an abusive home.

They Control You

Again, abuse isn’t always physical. Oftentimes, it’s more about control than anything else. Sometimes they exercise that control with physical violence and/or threats, other times it’s by controlling the money for the house and/or controlling what you do, where you go, and whom you see.

Anyone who takes your money, makes you ask for money, and/or refuses to give you money for things you need while they’re going on spending sprees, is abusive. By the same token, cutting you off from friends and family is a classic abuse tactic. If they forbid you, or try to stop you, from seeing your friends and family members, they’re abusing you. They want you to be completely dependent on them for everything and that’s never a good situation for you to be in.

No matter your relation to your abuser, you have rights. If you think you may be living in an abusive home, contact a qualified family law attorney today to talk about your options.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

How Do I Provide for a Special Needs Child in My Will?

special needs child in my willFor anyone who has a child or dependent with special needs, leaving that child unprotected and unprovided for is a nightmare that can result in many sleepless nights for parents. As parents, the ideal scenario is that we teach our children to be self-sufficient so they can take care of themselves – and maybe even their own children – after we’re gone. But that’s not always possible when your child has special needs and may or may not be able to hold down a job or take care of their day-to-day needs, much less make responsible financial decisions. So you may be thinking, how do I provide for a special needs child in my will?

In Illinois, an individual with special needs is entitled to receive monthly payments in Supplemental Security Income (SSI), assuming they meet the criteria for their asset worth and monthly income, if any. If they have any sort of income, but it is less than what they’d receive in benefits, then their SSI is reduced until the combination of their income and SSI adds up to the total eligible benefit amount.

Of course, relying solely on SSI may not be sufficient to live on, so parents and loved ones have the option of setting up a Special Needs Trust (a.k.a. Supplemental Needs Trust). A Special Needs Trust may allow someone with special needs to accumulate assets or income that exceed the SSI thresholds, while still getting the maximum amount they can in SSI benefits.

Generally, a Special Needs Trust is set up by a parent or other loved one, who then acts as trustee. Banks often also have people on staff who can manage these trusts for you. Once the trust is set up, a bank account can be opened in the name of the trust and any income (aside from SSI), assets and/or gifts from loved ones can be deposited into the trust bank account.

The trustee is responsible for managing those funds and ensuring they are used only for the trust’s beneficiary, not including room and board, which are supposed to be covered by the SSI. The idea behind the trust is to ensure a good quality of life for the beneficiary by providing a source of disposable income to go towards things they don’t necessarily need, but could still benefit from.

When a parent of a child with special needs is planning for their estate, it is generally recommended that, rather than leaving a typical inheritance for their child, they put that inheritance into that child’s Special Needs Trust instead. This can help avoid the risk of the child losing their SSI eligibility.

As with all estate planning, parents are better off setting up a Special Needs Trust for their children as soon as possible in order to avoid leaving their children high and dry if something were to happen to them. Don’t leave it to someone else to set up the trust after you’ve passed away because that can make things much more complicated and more difficult. Instead, be sure to stay on top of things by getting everything in order now to make sure your child has everything they need after you’re gone.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Can I Start Dating During a Divorce?

dating during a divorceEven though you and your spouse have decided to call it quits, dating during a divorce can be very tricky and should be approached with caution because it can come with serious legal consequences.

First of all, be especially careful if there are children involved in your divorce. Not only do you want to avoid causing them any more pain and confusion than they’re already feeling, but a vengeful spouse can use evidence of another relationship to show you’re not mindful of the children’s best interest. The last thing you want is your spouse using your new relationship (or relationships) as evidence that your home will not be a good environment for your children. This is especially true if you decide to rub their face in it. Don’t flaunt your relationship by making a big deal about it on social media or talking about it with a lot of people. Instead, you’re better off keeping the relationship quiet until the divorce has been finalized. You can still see your new flame, but keep it off social media and make sure only a few trusted friends and family members are aware of the new relationship. At the same time, however, your soon-to-be ex should be one of the people you do inform about the relationship, particularly if you have children.

Second, if you are planning to seek alimony in the divorce, engaging in a new relationship may have consequences on your arguments for seeking spousal support. Many litigants make the mistake of rushing into a new serious relationship and/or moving in with the new significant other, which can result in the Court determining that the spouse has a new source of financial support and no longer is reliant on his or her current wife/husband to make ends meets. While the factors for determining cohabitation are complex, and should be discussed with an attorney, it is usually best to avoid moving in with a significant other altogether.

Third, while you may want to go out on dates or take vacations with your new significant other, expenditures on such things may be considered by the Court to be “dissipation of assets.” What this means is that if you spend $5,000.00 on a trip to Hawaii with your new beau, your spouse could then be entitled to seek an award of $5,000.00 from your other assets to compensate him/her for money you spent on a “non-marital purpose.” Dissipation claims can be very expensive to litigate, so most attorneys will suggest that you only maintain the status quo during your divorce process when it comes to expenses.

Finally, be very careful to make sure you are spending only your own money on this new relationship. Never, ever spend marital funds or money from marital assets on another relationship because the court may require you to pay that money back to your spouse. In fact, you’re better off not spending much money at all on the new relationship. If it looks like you have money to burn, the court may either lower the amount of alimony you’re eligible to receive or increase the amount you’re required to pay, depending on your circumstances.

Of course, every marriage (and by extension, every divorce) is unique. You and your spouse may have agreed to see other people before the divorce is finalized. Your spouse might even be seeing someone. Know your spouse and know yourself in order to determine what would be the best course of action for your unique situation. In some cases, it might be putting off a new relationship until you’ve both finished signing the divorce papers.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests.