Divorce: How to Break it to the Kids

break it to the kidsOne of the worst parts of getting divorced is when you have to break it to the kids. Depending on how old the kids are and how much the marriage has deteriorated, they may have already guessed what’s happening, but you should still broach the subject carefully. We’ve come up with some tips to help.

Do It Together

It’s always hard to do things with your soon-to-be ex, but it’s important to remember that you will both continue to be parents, so this is a good time to start practicing how to raise the kids as a divorced couple.

Plan Ahead

There’s no way to map out exactly how a conversation will go, and you can’t expect it to happen just the way you plan it, but you can foresee some questions (maybe even objections) and decide how you’ll address them. Because you and your partner should have the conversation with your kids together, you should also complete the planning stage together. It’s important that you both agree on how and when to broach the subject, as well as the kind of language you’ll use. The words you choose to use can make a big difference, so it’s important that you decide carefully, agree on it beforehand, and stick to the plan.

Talk to Everyone at Once

If you have more than one child, be sure to talk to all the children at the same time. This is not a situation to deploy the “divide and conquer” strategy. While it might be tempting to try to talk to just one child at a time, in reality that will just lead to confusion for them and emotional exhaustion for you, since you’ll have to have the same tough conversation multiple times. It will also give them a chance to talk about it amongst themselves before you have a chance to talk to each of them, which will lead to rumors and fear.

Answer Any Questions

They’re bound to have questions: where will they live? Who will they live with? Will they still see both parents? Will they still be a family? It’s important to address all these questions and any others they might have in order to reassure them that your decision to end the marriage has nothing to do will your love for them.

Be Prepared for Multiple Conversations

It will take a while before they’ll be able to fully digest what you tell them and what it might mean for them. Be prepared for them to come back later with more questions and be open to answering all those questions. Just keep in mind the first rule of talking about divorce with the kids: do it together. You might not both be in the same room when one of your kids asks you about the divorce, (they’ll likely feel more comfortable talking to one parent than the other), just remember the words and language you and your partner decided on and continue to abide by that plan. You should also keep your partner in the loop about any questions or concerns your children are having, just as they should keep you abreast of anything that one of the children might approach them with after the initial conversation.

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. 

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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. 

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. 

What Not to Do on Social Media During Divorce

Social Media During DivorceMost family law attorneys recommend avoiding social media during divorce altogether because anything you say online can and will be used against you in divorce court – even if it seems harmless at the time you posted it.

That said, if you do decide against a social media hiatus until the divorce is over, here are some things you should absolutely avoid posting on social media:

Announcing Your Divorce

While changing your relationship status on social media is exciting when starting a new relationship, the opposite can just make the break up process worse. Talk to your spouse before announcing the change in your relationship status on social media because no one likes to be blindsided. You may, however, discuss potential ways to announce it together.

In fact, that’s a good rule of thumb to maintain for the entire divorce process. Don’t announce your decision to get divorced. Don’t announce when the divorce has been finalized. And don’t announce your hearing/court dates for your divorce. You may continue talking to and about your friends on social media while you’re getting divorced, but don’t talk about your spouse or your divorce. Which brings us to our next piece of advice:

Badmouthing Your Spouse

The divorce process can be frustrating, and for many of us, our first instinct is to get online to complain about things that annoy us – including our significant other, but that’s a really bad idea when you’re getting divorced.

First of all, no one wants to see that. Many of your friends are probably also friends of your spouse, and seeing you complain about their friend creates some very awkward situations. Keep everyone else out of your divorce by refraining from talking about it on social media.

Second of all, as stated above, anything you say online can and will be used against you in divorce court. Badmouthing the other party looks really bad and can influence the judge against you, not to mention aggravate your spouse and make it less likely they’ll cooperate with you in the divorce process.

Incriminating Yourself

If you’re using your joint bank account to go on a shopping spree, don’t post your haul on social media. Even if you don’t specify where the funds came from, any signs of excessive spending can affect the court’s decision when it comes to any alimony and/or child support to which you’re entitled. Division of marital property and financial assets can also be affected by anything you post online about significant purchases.

Not to mention that social media is often widely accessible, even if you use your privacy settings to prevent anyone other than friends and family from seeing your posts. There are ways a court, an attorney, or a prospective employer can access your social media profile. Any signs of irresponsible spending have the potential to affect, not just your current personal life, but any job prospects or potential romantic relationships you might have in the future.

Speaking of romantic relationships, if you’ve been having any extramarital affairs, don’t ever post anything about them on social media. Even if your spouse already knows about the relationship, posting about it on social media looks really bad in court and has the potential to influence the court against you, especially when it comes to things like alimony, child support, and custody.

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. 

What is a Divorce Mediator?

divorce mediatorWhile we’ve all heard horror stories of couples fighting over every single little item in their house when going through a divorce, and while that does happen, it’s not always the case. Many couples mutually agree to end their marriage, in which case they’re both more likely to cooperate in the divorce process (dividing marital property, determining custody and parenting time, etc.) For couples with an amicable divorce who don’t want to pay the fees associated with going to divorce court, there is a more affordable option: divorce mediation.

A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who helps facilitate the divorce and create an agreement that is amenable to both parties. Both spouses meet with the divorce mediator to determine the terms of the divorce agreement and make sure everyone can abide by those terms.

Representation

You don’t need an attorney if you’re using a divorce mediator, but you might still want a qualified family law attorney to help represent your interests in the divorce process. In that case, your attorney would be able to prepare you ahead of time, before you go into your first session with the mediator. This preparation would include explaining the legality of what some or all of your options are, and what those implications would be, if you decided to agree upon that term in the mediation. This is important to be informed on your legal options before entering mediation, as a mediator cannot give you specific legal advice. Rather, the mediator, in addressing you and your spouse together, can only explain in general terms what the law provides.

A common misconception is that a divorce mediator is a judge. This is not the case, as unlike a judge, a divorce mediator won’t make decisions for you and your spouse about who gets what in the divorce. Nor will a mediator examine “evidence” for you and tell you or your spouse who is “right” under the law. Instead, they’ll act as a facilitator to help you both agree on the terms of the divorce. For example, if there’s a piece of marital property or financial asset that you and your spouse both want, a divorce mediator can point out the fact that there might be something else of a similar value that you both want and each partner can get one of those things. Compromise is the name of the game in divorce, as well as in marriage, and a neutral third party can be invaluable in helping both you and your spouse recognize where you can find the potential for compromise.

You Decide Together

Because you and your spouse work together with the mediator to reach a mutually agreeable solution to the dissolution of your marriage, you’re both more likely to abide by the terms of the divorce and avoid conflicts in the future. While going to divorce court might provide an option that settles the matter relatively quickly and efficiently, all decisions are ultimately made for you by the judge. You both have a chance to say your piece, but the final decision is up to the judge, which usually leaves both of you feeling unsatisfied with the result .When that happens, you’re both less likely to abide by the terms of the divorce settlement, and this could end both of you back in divorce court if one spouse sues the other for failing to comply with the terms of the agreement.

Privacy

The other bonus of mediation is that it is completely confidential. Anything that happens in court goes on the record, which is then made publicly available. That can lead to some awkward conversations if a future spouse or potential employer gets their hands on a record of you and your spouse sniping at each other in court. But what happens in mediation stays in mediation. You’re not prohibited from telling your attorney about what happens in mediation, but the attorneys cannot give the Judge any details about what was negotiated, agreed to, or not agreed to with the mediator. Further, the mediator cannot be called to testify in your case about what was discussed in mediation, so this helps to ensure that discussions in mediation are honest, forthright, and productive.

If you’re going through a divorce, and you have children, more likely than not, you will have to attend sessions with a mediator during the process if you and your spouse are not otherwise able to agreed to a Parenting Plan on your own. In Illinois, parents are required to attend mediation for up to four (4) hours in any divorce or contested litigation involving children.   If used properly, mediation can save the parties thousands of dollars in litigation fees, so it is a smart thing to discuss with your spouse if you know divorce is coming.

At Sherer Law Offices, all of our attorneys in the firm are certified mediators in Illinois. So, we have several options for qualified mediators if you’re looking to pursue a more amicable and cost-friendly way to resolve your divorce. Contact us today to set up a time to discuss it.

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. 

What Can Be Included in A Prenuptial Agreement?

prenuptial agreementNot only is the divorce rate going up these days, but the rate at which couples are signing a prenuptial agreement has also been on the rise.

Although it has long been perceived as a measure to protect the wealthy from gold diggers, spouses of a wider range of incomes are now signing prenuptial agreements as a way to determine how their property will be divided in the event of a divorce. It essentially provides a blueprint for how debts, assets, and other financial matters will be handled within the marital estate if the marriage ends.

Rather than a sign that trust is lacking in the relationship, one could think of a prenuptial agreement as a way to speed up the divorce process and even improve marital happiness by helping spouses avoid disputes over money and property.

Reasons for Getting A Prenuptial Agreement

Spouses generally want to consider signing a prenuptial agreement if they have any personal or otherwise pre-marital property they want to protect from the possibility of getting touched during divorce. This includes any property the person owns, including real estate, a retirement account, and/or their business(es) if they’re a business owner. These agreements can, and often do, involve property the spouses expect they will receive after the date of the marriage, but that both parties agree will remain, for all intents and purposes, that spouse’s sole property.

Children from a prior relationship are also a big motivator for many people to get a prenuptial agreement, as many parents will want to protect any assets or funds the children might inherit. A prenuptial agreement can define what property will belong solely to that spouse and his or her specified beneficiaries.

What Cannot Be Included In A Prenuptial Agreement

While a prenuptial agreement can avoid many of the “classic” disputes people think of during a divorce, a prenuptial agreement cannot determine a party’s obligation for child support. Child support belongs to the child, and the child alone, and as such, public policy in Illinois indicates that it cannot be contracted in advance or given away by a parent. Because children’s financial needs change depending on their age and circumstances, it is impossible to determine ahead of time how much (if any) child support they may need by the time the couple gets divorced, which could be any number of years in the future, if it happens at all. This is the same rationale behind the policy prohibiting spouses in a divorce from entering into an Agreement that no child support will ever be owed to the other parent and/or that a child support amount cannot be modified in the future.

The same goes for custody of children. If a couple does get divorced, a judge will determine what is best for the child at that point in time.

Dividing Marital Property

Any property a person owns prior to getting married is generally considered their personal property, and it will most often be returned to them by a divorce judge even without a prenuptial agreement. To the contrary, property and assets acquired during marriage are presumed to be marital property regardless of how they are titled, and that’s where divorces can get contentious. In order to avoid such a mess, a prenuptial agreement can decide ahead of time how marital property will be divided in the event of a divorce.

Things That Are Commonly Included In Prenuptial Agreements

In addition to protecting personal property, assets, and debts, prenuptial agreements can determine the following:

  • A spouse’s right to use, manage, transfer, sell, or dispose of property during marriage
  • Alimony that will be paid by a spouse after divorce, including the amount and duration of payments
  • A spouse’s right to ownership of death benefits from their partner’s life insurance policy
  • A spouse’s requirement to create a will that will carry out the terms of the agreement; and
  • Which state laws can be applied to the contract in the event of divorce.

Enforceability

A prenuptial agreement is there to give both parties peace of mind, but there are certain requirements the contracts must meet in order to be enforceable in each state. Whichever state’s marriage law you decide will apply to your prenuptial agreement, make sure the contract abides by all of that state’s requirements for prenuptial agreements. The timing and execution of a premarital agreement is also an important consideration, as an agreement made under coercion or duress will be held unenforceable by the Court.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases, as well as 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. 

Common Mistakes People Make During Divorce

Common Mistakes People Make During DivorceWe all make mistakes, especially when we’re stressed and feeling emotional. Few things are more stressful or more emotional than divorce, but that’s also when it’s most important to refrain from making any mistakes.

When litigating and/or settling divorce, it’s nothing less than our lives at stake. In addition to financial assets and alimony, any marriage with children will also have to deal with dividing decision-making duties and parenting time schedules. These are all things no one can afford to lose, so if you’re getting divorced, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes:

Not listening to the experts.

We’ve already talked about why it’s important to hire a divorce attorney rather than trying it DIY, but it’s equally important to listen to the attorney you’ve hired. They’re the expert and they’re able to look at the situation without all the emotional baggage you’re bringing to the divorce. You don’t have to take their advice if you don’t feel like it’s really what you want, but if your attorney is strongly advising you to do (or avoid) something, you need to take that under serious consideration.

Taking advice from people other than your attorney.

Just as important as taking advice from your attorney is not taking advice from people other than your attorney. When getting divorced, everyone will be full of advice, and it may be tempting to take advice from everyone from your best friend to your pharmacist. Even though they may have the best of intentions, they won’t necessarily know what’s best for you.  Even if you trust their opinion or believe they have all the facts because they went through a divorce or custody battle in the past, understand that they don’t have all the facts. Every divorce is different and more than likely, the Judge handling your case now did not hear your friends’ case. Outcomes in divorce vary greatly depending on the Judge you have, and it is your attorney’s job to advise you on how the Judge on your case may rule.   Also, as we posted previously, the laws changed significantly in Illinois in 2015, 2016 and 2017 via separate amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. So, all of these changes mean your divorce will be handled much differently than those heard by the Court even just a year ago.

Fighting over the children.

In many divorces, each party just wants to hurt the other, and few things hurt worse than denying someone access to their children. But it’s important to set aside your hurt feelings and pride and consider what’s really best for the children. If the other party wants to spend time with their children and they’re not putting them in any danger by doing so, the Court will insist that you allow them to have time with their children. Denying time or the ability to participate in a co-parenting relationship usually backfires on the parent withholding the children. Finally, your relationship will benefit from it in the long run and your children will benefit from having both parents remain active and present in their lives.

Continuing to litigate a case when settling would make more sense.

There are many reasons people choose to continue to litigate a case rather than settle. Sometimes people think they can get more money out of their spouse if they have their “day in Court.” Other times they just want to get revenge on their spouse, and they decide to do that by dragging out the matter as long as possible.

But in many cases, you can get more money by settling the case as soon as possible and saving yourself the additional legal fees involved in continuing to litigate. And while you may want revenge for the pain your spouse inflicted on you, choosing to drag out the litigation, rather than settling and getting it over with, can do as much damage to you (both emotionally and financially) as to the other party. There’s no point in taking the time and energy to hurt someone else if you hurt yourself in the process. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney can advise you when it is worthwhile to litigate the case than to settle.

These and many other mistakes can be made when you allow yourself to be carried away by the harrowing emotions that can come along with divorce. Instead of focusing on the negative feelings you’re experiencing right now, try to consider the kind of relationship you want with your ex-spouse and your children later on down the road. Let that foresight (and your attorney) be your guide in how you handle your divorce.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases, as well as 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. 

Understanding Why A Do-It-Yourself Divorce Is Dangerous

do-it-yourself divorceThere are some projects where it might be practical to DIY – divorce is not one of those projects.

As wonderful as the internet is, it does not, in fact, contain all the answers. Conducting an internet search of the marriage laws in your state does not give you an idea of how those marriage laws actually play out in the courtroom. And TV courtroom dramas are nothing more than entertainment and are not meant to give the impression that being an attorney is easy and anyone can do it.

As appealing as it might sound to be able to pay a single, small fee for all the legal documents you’ll need for your divorce, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There’s no denying the fact that attorneys cost money and many people getting divorced are afraid they can’t afford it. But the fact is they can’t afford not to hire an attorney to help them with their divorce.

When two people have been married for any length of time, they have formed a life together. They have combined not just living space, but assets and possessions. If they had children together or were jointly raising children from a previous relationship, those children will be heavily affected by the divorce, and they deserve more than a packet of documents off the internet.

More often than not, trying to save money with a DIY divorce backfires, sometimes to the point of one partner having to file for bankruptcy after the divorce. If you weren’t trained to defend your case in a courtroom, you won’t be properly equipped to represent your best interests. Even if there’s no one more motivated to protect your rights than you, that doesn’t mean you know the best way to go about doing so in a courtroom.

By insisting on a DIY divorce, you could unintentionally get a bad deal for yourself when negotiating settlements and end up with a far smaller settlement than an experienced divorce attorney could have gotten for you. If children are involved you could end up with less parenting time and/or less child support than you are owed.

And are you aware of the developing laws regarding pets in divorce? Some state divorce laws are starting to treat pets more like children (since their owners certainly do), but Illinois still treats pets like property – meaning, if you both acquired the pet during the marriage, the pet will be divided along with the furniture, heirlooms, etc. If you and your spouse acquired a pet together, and you want to make sure the pet stays with you, you’re going to need a competent divorce attorney on your side.

Many couples who try a DIY divorce end up back in the courtroom a year or two later to sort out all the things their DIY divorce missed or failed to handle properly. That costs more time and more court fees. Further, they’ll probably end up having to pay the attorneys’ fees they were hoping the DIY divorce would avoid, only now the fees will be much higher because the attorney will require more time, effort, and resources to sort out the mess made by the DIY divorce. Obtaining your rightful property may also be impossible if you’ve already given it away, as property settlements are generally not disturbed 30 days after the Judgment. Bottom line: it is easier and less expensive to do it right the first time.

Finally, don’t ever assume that a Court will just accept the settlement that you and your spouse come up with in your DIY divorce. More and more judges are refusing to enter divorce agreements that are based on online forms, even the ones the parties paid for using an online document servicer/generator. This is not because Judges prefer to have attorneys, but rather because the Judge can usually identify the problems with the documents or potential pitfalls with the parties’ agreement. So, by rejecting the documents and advising the parties to go seek an attorney to review them, the Judge is actually helping the parties by avoiding a situation where one or both of them has to return to Court down the road to fix the problems.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases, as well as 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. 

Does Cohabitation End Spousal Support?

cohabitationYour divorce is final. All the judgements have been entered, the custody battles have ended, and the support payments have started. You are eager to move on with your life and find someone new to spend your time with. If you depend on your support payments, you must be careful if things begin to get serious. If you have a desire to live with your new significant other, it could mean living without your ex’s support payments.

Cohabitation

Illinois is one of the many states where cohabitation will end spousal support payments from an ex. The idea of spousal support is to help the less financially secure spouse in the divorce transition into life as a single person. Generally, spouses make different amounts of money, and the one that earns less will need time to adjust. Support payments are the discretion of the family law judge, and different factors are taken into consideration. These include the previous standard of living, income level in relation to the income of the spouse, education level as compared to the spouse, and other levels. Once the Court determines that a spouse is a candidate for alimony payments, Illinois law uses mathematical formulas to determine how much the spouse receives from his or her ex, and for how long.

The prevailing rationalization on why cohabiting terminates maintenance is that two people living in the same residence are often each contributing to the living arrangement. Therefore, it would be unfair to make an ex continue to pay support if the spouse is already receiving support from a live-in partner. This logic in undeniable, but what constitutes “cohabitation” for the purpose of spousal support?

Illinois Law

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act says that support will be ended “if the party receiving support cohabits with another person on a resident, continuing, conjugal basis.” From the Act’s plain language, this means that if the party receiving support were living with another as a married couple would live together, support would be terminated.

Illinois courts have interpreted the law in this way. The Illinois Supreme Court has said that two people must be in a “husband-and-wife-like relationship”, and that the family law judge must consider the “unique nature of each relationship” when determining if cohabiting exists.  For example, non-married couples will often share joint accounts for purposes of paying bills, take vacations together, stay overnight together the majority of the time, maintain joint cell phone accounts, etc. In one court, cohabitation was even found when a boyfriend would often stay overnight at the home of the party that was getting support, despite the fact he still had his own home. The court’s decision was based on the length of the relationship, vacations that were taken together, and various other factors that showed the parties were acting similar to how a married couple lives. The judge in these cases must take every aspect of these relationships into consideration, and their decision will not be questioned if it was not against the weight of the evidence.

Seek the Advice of a Family Law Attorney

Support payments are an important part of the divorce process. Needs and circumstances change, and the support needs to be able to change as well. Modification is a strong possibility for support payments, either going up or down. At Sherer Law Offices, our experienced family law attorneys can guide you through the process and help you get the results you need.

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