We offer a wide range of services that pertain to domestic relations issues including: divorce, legal separation, allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly “custody” and “visitation”), child support, maintenance, parentage, adoption, cohabitation, same-sex matters, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, post-decree matters and orders of protection.
The divorce process can be emotionally and financially overwhelming for the parties involved. Many issues can arise during a divorce including: property division, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (formerly known as “custody” and “visitation”), child support, maintenance, domestic violence, bankruptcy, foreclosure and asset valuation. We understand that the divorce process can be emotionally and financially overwhelming for our clients. Knowing that this can be one of the most difficult and stressful periods in our client’s lives, we always remain sensitive to their unique needs throughout the representation.
Legal separation dissolves the marriage without the stigma of the word “divorce.” For religious reasons, this option can be preferable to certain clients. The legal process is slightly different than a divorce and we can advise our clients on the differences so they can decide whether it is a better option than divorce.
There are four main areas of parental decision-making responsibilities that must be allocated in any divorce or parentage matter involving children: education, health, religion and extracurricular activities. If the parties cannot agree who should make these decisions, then the court will decide. It is possible for parties to jointly share some or all of the decision-making and/or to allocate one or all areas of decision-making to just one of the parties.
In a divorce or parentage matter involving children each party will be allocated parenting time with the child(ren) (unless a restriction is warranted due to conduct of a parent that constitutes a serious endangerment). If the parties cannot agree on a parenting time schedule, then the court will fashion one for them. There is no formula in the statute identifying what amount of parenting time is appropriate for families, so this is an area ripe for dispute.
Child support in Illinois recently changed to an “income shares” model which takes into account both parties’ income and actual child-rearing costs (as published by the Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services). Under the old law, the child support calculation was simpler in that it only required the parties to identify a percentage of the obligor’s net income. Consequently, the way that child support is now calculated in Illinois is vastly different than it was before. Child support can also include additional support awarded for the child(ren)’s healthcare coverage, out of pocket healthcare costs, extracurricular activity and school costs, and child care costs. Child support determination can be complex as it involves tax computations and income analysis. We recognize these complications and know how to navigate the formulas and identify reasons for deviation to obtain the best amounts for our clients, whether they are the obligor (payor) or obligee (recipient).
Maintenance (formerly known as “alimony”) is the payment made from one spouse to another for that spouse’s support. The time period and amount for payments is based upon a variety of factors, including the income of the parties and the length of the marriage. In Illinois, the court has discretion to determine whether or not to grant maintenance. In general, maintenance can be a complex issue, as it involves tax computations and income analysis. We recognize these complications and know how to address them in finding the best amount for clients, whether they are the payor or payee.
Parentage cases involve paternity testing, allocation of significant decision-making (formerly “custody”), allocation of parenting time (formerly “visitation”) and child support for children born to parties who were never married. Establishing parentage can be done through the court or by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage (VAP) at the time of the child’s birth. Establishing parentage, decision-making and parenting time through the court is essential to secure parental rights since there are no similar legal presumptions regarding parental rights as there is with married parents. We are well-versed in the law as it relates to parentage matters and are aware of the nuances in this area which may affect non-married parents differently than married parents.
Adoption is the process of becoming the legal parent for a non-biological child. These cases can involve intra-family adoptions or non-family adoptions.
When parties decide to accumulate assets together but not get married, legal issues can arise, such as how assets will be divided in the event of a breakup and what contribution the parties will make to household expenses and joint liabilities. In order to prevent further discourse and acrimony between the parties if a breakup occurs, we typically recommend that our client sign an agreement prior to acquiring assets with a non-spouse to identify a clear path for resolution. Without these agreements, the parties are left without the benefit of the law as to how to resolve their financial matters, which can be disastrous.
We provide all of our family law services to same-sex couples. We are also fully committed to staying informed with any changes to the laws that could impact the LGBT community.
Pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements allow parties to a marriage to work out their financial issues before a divorce is ever filed. These agreements are a good idea if one or both parties have significant premarital assets, ownership in a family business or just want to avoid unnecessary acrimony and litigation incident to a divorce. In order to ensure validity of these agreements, it is important that both parties be represented by independent counsel, both parties fully disclose their assets, income and liabilities, and there is sufficient time for review of the agreement before it is signed. Our experience with these agreements is extensive and we have negotiated and enforced many of them.
A post-decree matter is any issue that arises post-judgment in a parentage or divorce case. Some examples of post-decree matters involve modification of maintenance, child support, decision-making or parenting time, removal of a child from their current residence and college contribution. We routinely handle post-decree matters to address changed circumstances relative to the parties and the child(ren).
An order of protection is a court order that protects victims of domestic violence from their abuser. Abuse takes many forms and it is important for victims to know their rights with regard to any and all potential legal remedies provided by the law. We have handled both the prosecution and defense of these matters.