EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW ALIMONY/MAINTENANCE LAW IN ILLINOIS

 

Legally dissolving a marriage is about to get much more difficult. Enacted by the Illinois legislature on August 17, 2018, the new law goes into effect January 1, 2019.

Huge changes are pending for the Illinois spousal maintenance law, which is the formal term to describe alimony and spousal support. Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act (IMDMA) deals with the legal issue of spousal support after a judge grants a divorce. This is a dramatic turn of legal events for any couple currently involved in negotiating dissolution to their marriage. If maintenance has emerged as a significant factor in resolving your divorce case, then you should seek out the legal expertise of a licensed and experienced divorce attorney before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2018.

Overview of the IMDMA

Introduced by Democrat State Senator Michael Hastings of Tinley Park and Democrat State Representative Kelly Burke of Oak Lawn, the maintenance amendment written into the IMDMA will change the percentage that state law uses to calculate how much alimony must be paid annually. The amendment also includes a second big change: Family law judges will use each marriage party’s net annual income after taxes to calculate maintenance costs. The current calculation factors in each marriage party’s gross income.

Current Statute Concerning Alimony and Taxes

Any divorce entered into the legal system before January 1, 2019 allows the payer to deduct divorce maintenance costs when completing a state income tax form. The spouse receiving alimony includes maintenance as income for state tax purposes. This means payers have received a healthy tax break that will suddenly disappear at the dawning of the New Year. There have been exceptions to the tax rule, since some couples in line for a divorce currently have the legal right to declare part or none of an alimony settlement to be tax deductible for the spouse paying maintenance costs.

The Changes You Need to Know by January 1, 2019

If you thought divorce was a sensitive issue before January 1, 2019, wait until the new amendment written into the IMDMA takes effect. On January 1, 2019, the spouse who pays alimony can no longer deduct maintenance costs on federal and Illinois tax forms. The recipient of spousal support does not have to declare alimony as taxable income. The loss of the tax break seems to negatively impact the spouse paying support costs, but both spouses will be hurt financially, especially if one spouse sits in a particularly high tax bracket. There will be less money to split in many divorces that receive court approval after December 31, 2018.

Although the legal guidelines for maintenance after January 1, 2019 have been modified by the Illinois legislature, any court handling a divorce case must consider the following factors to remain consistent with Section 504 on the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act, which we list verbatim according to what is written in the IMDMA.

(1) the income and property of each party, including marital property apportioned and non-marital property assigned to the party seeking maintenance as well as all financial obligations imposed on the parties as a result of the dissolution of marriage;

(2) the needs of each party;

(3) the realistic present and future earning capacity of each party;

(4) any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance due to that party devoting time to domestic duties or having forgone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage;

(5) any impairment of the realistic present or future earning capacity of the party against whom maintenance is sought;

(6) the time necessary to enable the party seeking maintenance to acquire appropriate education, training, and employment, and whether that party is able to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or any parental responsibility arrangements and its effect on the party seeking employment;

(7) the standard of living established during the marriage;

(8) the duration of the marriage;

(9) the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and the needs of each of the parties;

(10) all sources of public and private income including, without limitation, disability and retirement income;

(11) the tax consequences of the property division upon the respective economic circumstances of the parties;

(12) contributions and services by the party seeking maintenance to the education, training, career or career potential, or license of the other spouse;

(13) any valid agreement of the parties; and

(14) any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable.

What Do the 2019 Alimony Changes Mean for Married Couples?

The IRS code has also changed the way maintenance costs should be handled by both parties seeking dissolution of a marriage. Spouses paying alimony will no longer be able to deduct maintenance payments from gross income on federal tax forms, as well as on Illinois tax forms. The million dollar question for married couples trying to agree on an amiable split is whether the new state and federal tax changes will alter the way they look at divorce proceedings.

Since there is less money to split in a divorce, the changes written into Federal and Illinois tax laws will encourage both sides of a spousal dispute to fight harder to retain the same amount of money that was divided before January 1, 2019. Without a tax deduction, the spouse paying for financial support for the other spouse will want to give less money away in the form of maintenance. On the other hand, the spouse receiving alimony will want to wait until 2019 arrives to avoid claiming maintenance as part of his or her income. The new tax changes also place more pressure on judges to decide when to resolve divorce cases.

The dramatic and somewhat complicated changes made in handling alimony payments and compensation for tax purposes requires the legal expertise of an accomplished divorce lawyer. If it appears you are the spouse that will make maintenance payments, you definitely want to resolve your divorce case before January 1, 2019. On the other side of the legal coin, recipients of maintenance after December 31, 2018 will want to wait until the clock strikes midnight before trying to settle a divorce case.

If you have any questions. Please Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Tips for finding the right Divorce Attorney to handle your case

Finding an experienced and knowledgeable divorce attorney can be a difficult task, and that’s as true for Illinois divorce as it is anywhere else. The issue is often compounded by a lack of knowledge regarding how to locate lawyers and what kinds of factors you should keep in mind while doing so. Let’s take a look at some tips to remember when you’re searching for a quality divorce lawyer to help with your case.

Finding Potential Attorneys

There are a few different ways to go about this process. You could always use the “yellow pages” of your phone book(if you still have one), for example, and just look up “Illinois divorce attorneys.” But while this will likely get you someone with a license to practice, it is unlikely to land you the best option for your specific needs. Instead, you might consider asking for referrals instead. These can be from friends or family if you feel comfortable asking them. If you go this route, ask the person offering the referral why they’d recommend the firm and how their case went. You’re looking for someone who went through an experience similar to yours and found the lawyer in question knowledgeable and helpful.
Another good option to consider might be to speak with an attorney you trust. This doesn’t have to be a divorce attorney, of course – it can be any type of attorney. Ask them if they have time for a consultation and talk to them about what you’re experiencing and the kind of representation you’re seeking. They might be able to refer you to a divorce lawyer that can fulfill your requirements.
If you aren’t comfortable with either of the above options, that’s okay! You can also take a look at online attorney directories. These directories are designed to provide potential clients with as much information about qualified attorneys as possible. Some of them, like Super Lawyers, are comprised from peer-ranked lists that can help you find reliable options.

Refine for List

After following the steps above and finding potential divorce attorneys for your case, it’s a good idea to whittle that down to a few attorneys which whom you’d like to meet. You can do this by raising your expectations a bit and looking for specific information. You’ll want to ensure that the individuals on your list are registered with the Illinois Bar Association and are in good standing. You might also look at who endorses the lawyers in question. You can often find this information by visiting their websites, which is something you should do anyway to take a look at their education, professional credentials, and accolades.

Meeting in Person

Finally, it’s time to schedule appointments and start meeting attorneys. Note how quickly they respond to your request for a consultation as well as how easy (or difficult) it was to contact them. You’ll want an attorney who is there for you and able to devote time to your case. Talk to them frankly about your specific situation, your goals, and your concerns. Gauge their reaction and experience as well as their personality. Do you like working with them? Remember that you’ll be spending a decent amount of time communicating with them and choose accordingly.

Are you looking for an experienced divorce attorney who can help you with your case? The experts at Abear Law Offices can help! Contact us today for more information.

Unmarried Couples and “Palimony” in Illinois

In some states, it is possible for individuals in unmarried couples to be awarded alimony. Known more commonly as “palimony”, this functions like traditional alimony where one party pays support payments to another after the end of a relationship. In Illinois, palimony is not recognized. This was established in 1979 by the Illinois Supreme Court. It is worth noting, however, that this decision has recently come under question.

A recent appellate case involving two domestic partners (known as Eileen and Jane) dealt directly with the question of “palimony”. When one partner, Eileen, argued to retain the sole title of the home the couple shared prior to the dissolution of their relationship due to her years spent as a single mother during the relationship, the other, Jane, argued that this was tantamount to awarding Eileen palimony. Since palimony is not recognized in Illinois, Jane argued that this request should be denied.

The trial court initially handling the case agreed with Jane, but Eileen appealed. She argued that legislative and judicial changes in the state of Illinois have actually supported palimony claims and that her case should be more carefully considered. The appellate court ultimately agreed with Eileen, and held that the changes in public policy over the nearly four decades since the law was initially established have made it possible to uphold the idea of palimony. It then directed lower courts to consider Eileen and Jane’s claims.

Note that while this is a significant decision on the part of the appellate court, it doesn’t mean that palimony is now recognized in Illinois. The only way that happens is if the Illinois Supreme Court makes the decision to reverse their precedent or if every single appellate court in the state chooses to recognize these claims. In the meantime, it might be helpful for unmarried couples to remember that they can always enter cohabitation agreements instead of relying on palimony after a relationship ends.

A cohabitation agreement is a contract between partners that establishes the financial obligations and rights of each party should the relationship come to an end (via joint separation or death). These agreements generally include provisions guiding the division of separate and joint property, property ownership rights, household expenditures, and parental roles, if applicable. This can provide a good option for unmarried couples should their relationships end, although it should be noted that cohabitation agreements do not dictate custody arrangements. Regardless of what is stated within them, either party is able to petition the courts for custody.

If you’re in a long-term, unmarried relationship and would like to ensure that your responsibilities and rights are upheld, making the decision to enter into a cohabitation agreement is a good option. The attorneys at Abear Law Office can help! Reach out to us today for more information.

New Illinois Law Makes Room for Pet Custody

Pet custody has long been a hot topic among individuals from a split household. Pets become more than just the property they have long been considered, after all, and become integral parts of our family. As of January 1st, 2018, a new law is working to change the way that pets are viewed and divided during the divorce process in Illinois.

Not Just Martial Property

While animals were considered to be marital property and were expected to be divided like all of the other assets during a divorce, animals are now being considered on a more individual basis. They are no longer passive property, in other words, but can now actually be considered as living beings with basic needs and emotional connections. Judges can now take those factors into account and actually award pet custody, or even joint ownership, during a divorce. If the couple in question are unable to determine who should take ownership of the pet in question, judges can now ask questions about the care of the animal and the relationship the animal has with each party before making a final determination.

With that said, the law has not changed that animals are, on a fundamental level, considered property. That means that, like other property, they can be marital or non-marital property and be divided amongst divorce parties accordingly. Questions like where the pet came from, whether it was a gift to one spouse or the other, and whether the pet belonged to one party before the relationship with their spouse even began can all still be used when determining with which party the pet should reside. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, in other words, then its best interests can be taken into account and the judge can decide where it should live. If it is non-marital property, then it goes with the person who is legally recognized as its owner, regardless of who actually cared for the animal on a daily basis.

If you are hoping to maintain custody of your pet, it is a good idea to reach out to an experienced attorney. At Abear Law Offices, we understand how emotional these situations can be. We can help. Contact us today for more information!

Back-to-School and Co-Parenting

Back-to-School and Co-Parenting

It might seem as though the time has flown by, but the summer holidays have ended, and autumn is right around the corner. And from the shelves overflowing with notebooks and pens to the demand for new clothes and backpacks, it is abundantly clear that it’s time for many children to head back to school. This is either fantastic or sad depending upon your perspective, however one thing is certain: it’s time to re-evaluate your boundaries, rules, and parenting arrangements with your co-parent.

Get Ready for the School Year

The new school year is a time of adjustment for many reasons. This can include your co-parenting approach, which might change according to your child’s new schedule and the new responsibilities they hold. It is important to make sure you have a good handle upon their school hours and what to expect regarding extracurricular activities. If you already have this information, make sure to share it with your co-parent so that everyone is on the same page and can work together to ensure your child’s success. You’ll also want to work out transportation details for school, extracurriculars, and parenting time in advance.

Revisit House Rules

Something else to keep in mind as the new school year dawns is that your child’s rules might change accordingly. Perhaps you have a new house rule regarding a bedtime, for example, that wasn’t in effect over the summer. It is a good idea to communicate with your co-parent to keep the rules consistent between both houses. Children benefit from structure and keeping the guidelines surrounding their personal and school lives clear from parent to parent can help them thrive.

Communicate with the School

Finally, it might be a good idea to reach out to your child’s school. Being able to speak clearly and honestly with your child’s instructor is always a good idea, and it can help them better understand your child’s needs. Keep in mind that teachers who understand the potential struggles your child might face can serve as your child’s allies by keeping an eye on them and reacting to their actions and needs proactively. This might mean calling you to discuss problem behavior or simply re-directing your child during the school day. Either way, building a positive relationship with your child’s instructors is a good idea to pursue, and one that you could embark upon with your co-parent.

For more information regarding co-parenting and the new school year, as well as how to obtain an official parenting plan, contact the professionals at Abear Law Office today!

How to Create a Parenting Plan that WORKS!

Divorce is never easy, but it can get even more difficult when there are children involved. Even if you and your ex-spouse are as amicable as can be, it is essential you both agree on a parenting plan in case of any emergencies, changes in either one of your lives, or altered schedules. At the Abear Law Office, we understand you want the best for your child—and the best includes creating a parenting plan that covers all the important issues which may arise in the future. The best prevention is preparation, and our experienced divorce lawyers are experts in drafting parenting plans that include all the necessary precautions you should take.

The following are things to consider when creating a parenting plan, including but not limited to:

  • Schedules, including weekends
  • Summer, winter, and spring break schedules
  • Holidays
  • Vacations
  • Your children’s birthdays
  • Overnight stays
  • Transportation
  • Child care
  • Rules for meeting new dating partners
  • Car seat requirements
  • Neutral drop-off locations
  • Discipline methods
  • Vaccinations
  • Curfews
  • Sleeping arrangements
  • Parent-child communication
  • Internet use
  • Cell phone access
  • Expectations regarding school activities, sports, religion, etc.
  • Sleeping arrangements
  • Third-party visitation
  • Legal and physical custody decisions
  • Post-judgment modifications

Contact the Divorce Lawyers Who Have Seen It All

Through years of experience and knowledge, our skilled divorce lawyers are equipped to handle the most complex of situations. We handle all aspects of divorce and family law with a strong desire to succeed and our client’s needs always come first.

To speak to a representative today, contact our office by calling 630-904-3033

 

Business Valuation and Divorce

Divorce is an overwhelming time even when the process is as simple and straightforward as possible. When one of the spouses in question owns a business, divorce can become an incredibly complicated affair. Remember that marital property is split during divorce proceedings, and your business might be considered an asset that belongs to the marriage – and, as a result, divided along with everything else. Business valuation, then, is often an important part of the separation process.

The real question, of course, is how exactly a business’s worth is determined. There a few different things to keep in mind when it comes to this particular process.

Structure Matters
What structure is your business? There are a variety of different options, and each operates in a slightly different way:
• LLC: Also known as a Limited Liability Company, this kind of business is owned by members that can include corporations, individuals, foreign entities, and even other LLCs.
• Sole Proprietorship: This kind of business is owned by a single individual and is not incorporated.
• Partnership: A partnership refers to a business owned by multiple individuals who all dedicate their labor, skill, property, or money to the business and expect a portion of its losses and profits as a result.
• Corporation: This kind of business is owned by shareholders and its profit is distributed to these shareholders.

Determining the type of business you own is the first step in estimating its value. An experienced attorney can be incredibly helpful when it comes to this process, and might be able to help you ensure a fair and painless valuation.

Selling the Business
Once you understand the type of business in question, you can begin to figure out its value. One of the easiest ways to do this is by selling the business and then dividing the profits. This is a good option for individuals who are hoping to completely sever financial ties with their ex. It is most likely not a good option for individuals who want the divorce process to be a quick one, however, as selling a business can take quite a bit of time.

If you are hoping to avoid selling the business, as an aside, you can also opt to dissolve the business or buy out your spouse. The first option is another way to cut financial ties like credit or debt that is attached to the business. The second is, of course, the option to go for if you are hoping to keep the business.

Track Down Assets
Another important step in valuing your business is ensuring that you have located all of the relevant assets. This is a particularly difficult step, especially if you believe that some of those assets might be hidden. It is important that you reach out to an experienced attorney who has the skills necessary to carefully analyze your business holdings and determine likely “hiding” spots.

If you are contemplating a divorce and need help valuing your business, reach out to the professional team at Abear Law Offices! Our passionate team is ready to assess your case and start building a winning legal strategy today.

Child Custody: International Disputes

Family law is a routinely fraught with strong emotions. Familial conflicts are especially stressful, after all, and it makes sense that they would inspire particular concern and worry. This is perhaps especially true when children are involved. Most of us want what is best for our children and to know they are safe. Child custody disputes, particularly those that stretch across international boundaries, are exceptionally complex processes that require the prompt and dedicated attention of an experienced family law attorney.

International Disputes and the Hague Convention
Implemented in 1980, the Hague Convention was designed to help reunite children and parents when children were unlawfully removed from their country of origin. If one spouse decided to take their children and move to another country just to spite the other parent, for example, and therefore prevented said parent from building a relationship with their child, then the Hague Convention contains rules that participating countries should abide by in these situations. There are currently 96 nations participating in the Hague Convention.

Note that the Hague Convention is not an excuse for a family court hearing regarding child custody, but instead an avenue by which parents are given the chance to have their case heard even if their child has been unlawfully relocated. In the event that one of the countries involved is not part of the Hague Convention, it is possible that the United States State Department and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act could be of use in located and returning your children.

When is it illegal to relocate a child internationally?
When removing the child would violate the custody rights granted to the parent in their country of residence (and the child’s former country of residence), the relocation is unlawful. In general, both parents must consent to the relocation of the child before that move takes place. If the country to which the child is moved participates in the Hague Convention, then it is expected the child will be expeditiously returned as long as the courts deem it appropriate.

There are a few exceptions to the above information. If the child in question is old enough to make such decisions, then they, themselves, might be able to object to returning to their former country of residence. If a year or longer has passed since the child was moved, then it is possible the courts might decide the child is now settled and it would harmful to uproot them. Finally, if returning the child would place them in grave risk of psychological or physical harm or the country from which they were removed is known to violate human rights, then the courts in the child’s new country might very well refuse to return them.

Are you facing an international custody dispute? It is important that you take action and reach out to an experienced family law attorney immediately. Any delay could negatively impact your case. At Abear Law Offices, our experienced legal team has the skills you need to give you the best chance possible. Contact us today for more information!

College Costs and Child Support

Despite being a topic of debate and discussion for years now, college tuition has yet to become any more reasonable. In fact, it now costs twice as much to attend college today than it did 20 years ago. This issue is an especially serious one in Illinois, where enrollment is dropping and pensions to staff and faculty are coming due.

What exactly does this information mean for you and your child support decree? Well, it means that you could end up paying at least a part of your child’s college expenses. Many divorce decrees in Illinois make use of something known as a reserve clause that states that each parent in question agrees to pay some money towards the child’s post-secondary education. If the custodial parent makes the decision to file a petition before the child turns 18 to have the noncustodial parent help pay for education expenses, chances are good that a judge will enforce the aforementioned reserve clause.

Section 513

In the state of Illinois, the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states in Section 513 that a judge has the ability to order the noncustodial parent to pay additional support to help cover college expenses. This includes money to help cover college tuition, various college fees, food and housing, transportation, and living expenses incurred while the child is on leave during summer and spring breaks.

 

With the above said, it is important to note that there is a limit to what someone can reasonably be expected to pay. Expecting parents to cover the cost of a private apartment, for example, is unreasonable. Instead, their obligation to pay housing expenses ends at the cost of a dorm room with at least one roommate and a full-time meal plan at the University of Illinois. The same can be said of things like transportation fees, which do not include a requirement to splurge for first class plane tickets or a car when a bus ticket would work just as well depending upon the child’s situation.

Finally, parents can be required to provide their child with living expenses during semester breaks even if the child is living at home. Note that there is little guidance when it comes to whether or not the child must be working and actively contributing to these costs in order to justify ordering the parent to pay.

Post-secondary Support

An Illinois judge will help calculate exactly how much money the child in question is entitled to as well as how much each parent pays. There are different factors to consider when determining the amount each parent can pay, including their respective financial resources, the child’s financial resources, and the child’s academic performance. If the child is continuously on academic probation due to failing to attend classes and there are no extenuating circumstances causing these absences, for example, then it is possible the parents of said child will either be found to have no requirement to pay or will be made to pay less.

The aforementioned factors are not exhaustive, and judges are able to consider any and all factors they believe to be relevant to their decision.

Are you facing the prospect of helping your child pay for their college education? Make sure to reach out to the experienced attorneys at Abear Law Offices at 630-904-3033 for more information!

Divorce and Taxes: What You Should Know

Divorce is not an easy process to undertake. It’s one that impacts nearly every facet of your life, in fact, and that is perhaps most true when it comes to finances. In any divorce case there tend to be significant financial issues that can arise. These might take a variety of forms, including disputes regarding things like spousal support to the division of your marital property. As the dissolution of your marriage continues forward, then, it should come as no surprise that you might encounter significant financial struggles. Some of the most common of these are related to taxes and how you should file them as a result of your divorce.

Thanks to a new tax law set to go into effect on December 31st, 2018, divorcing couples could see some dramatic changes to the way they file taxes as well as spousal maintenance in the coming year. Let’s look at the change and how it stands to impact you.

Income Tax Returns

One of the main tax concerns that arises because of divorce is filing income tax. Married couples who file jointly are often eligible for tax deductions and breaks that are simply not available to single individuals. That means that, just as you must adjust to filing your tax return as an unmarried individual once more, you should also look at what deductions or tax breaks you have been receiving while married that you can no longer count upon now that you are divorced. Some of these might include:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Mortgage Write-Offs

Spousal Maintenance and the New Tax Law

In addition to the issues described above with income tax returns, the new tax law will also impact the way in which spousal payments can be deducted. Before the change, it was possible for the spouse paying support to deduct the amount from their income on their tax return while the individual receiving the support had to include the money they received as income on their own tax return. Under the new tax law set to go into effect on December 31st, 2018, however, this process changes. Spouses paying support will no longer be able to count the payments as deductions and the individuals receiving them will no longer have to count them as income.

 

As you can see, the new tax law stands to significantly impact many individuals currently making and receiving spousal support payments. Some might find this change to be beneficial, however many individuals will find themselves confused and put out by the news.

 

At Abear Law Offices, we understand how you feel. We can work with you to help ensure you not only file your taxes correctly under this new law, but also that you are treated fairly throughout the divorce process itself. For more information, contact us today and speak to one of our experienced staff members!