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. 

The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  You should consult with an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, emails, and communications.  Contacting our offices does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Please do not send any confidential information to us unless and until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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What Does Divorce Look Like if You’re Over 50?

divorce over 50We all thought our lives would be set by the time we hit our 50s – that we would have it all figured out. But life doesn’t work that way. No matter what our age, there are always things that can surprise us, and that can include divorce.

Is Divorce the Same at Any Age?

Yes and no. The laws don’t change, but where you’re at in life has a significant effect on divorce proceedings. For example, one or both of you might have established careers and have compiled significant financial assets, all of which will have to be taken into account when dividing marital property.

If you have kids and one of you stayed home to raise them instead of working outside the home, that will have a significant effect on the spousal support the court will award. The parent that stayed home will find it hard to get a job because of both their age and how long they’ve been out of the workforce, so it’s possible that spousal support will be their only form of income.

Retirement

If you’re in your 50s, you’re probably starting to think about retirement – or you might even be one of the lucky few who managed to retire early. The reduced income you have in retirement could affect the amount of spousal support you have to pay, assuming you didn’t retire early (before age 65).

Social Security

If one spouse stayed home to raise the kids and take care of the house, they won’t have much Social Security of their own because they weren’t paying Social Security for all those years they weren’t in the workforce. In some cases, the court might award them a portion of their ex-spouse’s Social Security income, but only if they’re over the age of 62, have not remarried, the marriage lasted for at least ten years, and at least two years have passed since the divorce was finalized.

In general, retirement funds, such as 401k plans, IRA plans, and pension plans are considered marital assets if the parties contributed to the funds during the marriage, though there may be exceptions to this rule for things such as inherited IRAs or other inheritance or gifts.

Pension Plans

Pension Plans are also considered marital property (if earned partially or entirely during the marriage) and the Court typically awards each spouse a percentage of the pension plan.  A pension is divided though a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), in which case the pension plan administrator will send the payments directly to each spouse when the plan participant qualifies to receive same. This ensure payments to each party in the proper form and amount and allows each party to be taxed only on his/her portion of the benefits.

Survivor’s Benefits

You also might want to consider trying to negotiate for survivor benefits. Most pension plans give their workers the option of reducing their retirement benefits for themselves during their lifetime so that more can be paid to their spouse after the employee’s death. This is especially common in cases where the wife stayed home while her husband made the money  or the wife earned far less than the husband during the marriage.  Women tend to live, on average, seven years longer than men. That makes for a substantial amount of survivor’s benefits, so it’s worth it to at least try to get it included as part of your retirement division agreement.

No matter what stage you’re at in life when you and your spouse decide to split, you need a qualified family law attorney on your side – someone who will listen to your story and come up with the best solution for your needs.

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 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. 

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. 

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. 

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’s the Difference Between Separation and Divorce?

Difference Between Separation and DivorceThe main difference between separation and divorce is that, when you’re separated, you are still legally married to your spouse. While separations often lead to divorce, divorce is not inevitable once a couple decides to separate. Some couples take some time off from each other to reassess the state of their marriage. Some people decide to take a new, more successful approach to their marriage after that, while others decide to make the separation permanent by filing for divorce.

First, there’s the distinction between a trial separation and a legal separation. A trial separation is when you and your spouse decide, on your own, to live apart for a time to take a break from your marriage. The separation can last as long as you want, since it has no official end date, and you and your spouse are free to divide up the bills and assets during the separation as you see fit. This works pretty well for most people, to the point where some states don’t even provide legal separation as an option.

Obtaining a legal separation requires a court order and often involves much of the same legal processes as a divorce.

Separation is a kind of middle ground between marriage and divorce. You and your spouse remain legally married and cannot remarry until you obtain a divorce. In a legal separation, the judge cannot divide marital property unless the parties agree to the division, but they can determine custody issues, child support, and alimony for the duration of the separation.

Like divorce, in order to obtain a legal separation, you have to file a petition for legal separation in the county in which you live, then serve your spouse with papers informing them of your intention to separate.

In Illinois, you are required to have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before you can ask for a separation in Illinois. You can still request a legal separation in Illinois if your spouse lives in another state, as long as you have lived in Illinois for the minimum required time period.

If children are involved, then the children must have lived in Illinois for at least six months before an Illinois court can determine custody. If your children live with your spouse in another state, you will likely need to file for separation in the state in which they live. Be sure to look up that state’s requirements before you file or speak with a licensed attorney there.

Once you file for a legal separation, the court will begin the legal process, and that process will ultimately end with the Judge setting a hearing date, much like a divorce hearing. There you will have your opportunity to present your side of the case and the judge will make their decisions regarding custody (or parenting time, as it’s referred to in Illinois), child support, and alimony.

Don’t forget that mediation is always an option and can help the separation process. It can make the entire process go much more smoothly than if you and your spouse are forced to abide by terms laid out by a judge. Couples who mediate their separations and divorces are more likely to abide by the terms of the agreement and are less likely to end up back in court.

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 if Your Ex Refuses to Help Pay for College?

ex refuses to help pay for collegeIdeally, if your ex refuses to help pay for college you two can work out a solution without resorting to court. If that fails, here’s what you need to know about taking your ex to court if they insist on refusing to help:

Don’t Wait

Everything has a time limit, including demands that your ex-spouse pay their share of child support and/or college. If you wait too long to take your ex to court over failure to contribute to your children’s education, the court may interpret the time you waited as having waived your right to your ex’s financial contributions. If your ex has violated the divorce agreement in any way, it is imperative that you file a complaint against them immediately so you always have a paper trail to show the court.

Doing so also helps prevent your ex from claiming ignorance. Without having those complaints as evidence, your ex may be able to claim they didn’t know about the expenses. In some cases, they may even claim they had no knowledge of your child’s intention of going to college, where they were going, or what they were studying. Some people will then claim they were denied a say in their child’s future, and then you have another problem on your hands.

This is also why it’s important to maintain a record of all correspondence between your ex. Keep track of emails, letters, and statements between you and your spouse so you can prove you made them aware of the expenses and show the court your ex’s responses.

It’s also important not to wait to pursue an Order for college expenses once you know where your child wants to attend school. Many divorce judgments don’t address college because the children are too young at the time of divorce. So, we typically recommend you start the discussions about college with your ex when your high schooler starts visiting campuses. This way, if he or she indicates a refusal to help with tuition, you have time to consult with an attorney and get a motion on file with the Court.

Get an Attorney

If you can’t afford to hire an attorney to go to family court, you can take your spouse to court without an attorney – although we highly recommend you hire a competent legal professional to help represent your interests in court. If you make a mistake or forget to bring up an important point, it can be much more expensive to hire an attorney to try undo your mistake, if that’s even possible.

An attorney can also advise you on the how’s, what’s and when’s in filing for post-minor support, such as what is needed when filing, how to get information about the school’s cost, when the Court will deny a request for contribution to college, etc.

It Won’t Take as Long as You Think

If you’re afraid you don’t have time to take your ex to court and get them to pay up before the bills are due, you don’t have to worry. First of all, that’s why it’s so important for you to file a complaint against your ex as soon as possible – don’t wait until the bills are overdue, and certainly don’t wait until you’ve already paid them before filing, because a judge might perceive that to mean you’ve waived your right to your ex’s help in paying those bills. Also, many times the Court will back-date any Order for post-minor support to the date that you originally filed your motion.

Second, concluding a post-judgment motion (meaning a motion filed after the initial divorce judgment) does not have to take as long as the divorce itself. Unlike many court motions, which can often take months, if not years, to be decided, a post-judgment motion can usually be decided in much less time depending on the case. If it’s a simple matter of your spouse refusing to help pay your child’s education expenses, and you can prove they were made aware of the bills and have refused to contribute, it shouldn’t take a court long to decide the matter. If you don’t have an Order yet for contribution, the process is usually just a matter of exchanging the financial information about each parent’s income and the costs of the school so that the Court can decide whether it is appropriate to make the parents pay for college.

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. 

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