Once you have reached the decision to end your marriage, the real work must begin. You and your spouse will need to decide how to divide your property, how to make arrangement for your children, and how to adjust to your new post-divorce lives. Before you can get there, however, one of you will need to start the legal process of divorce by filing a petition for the dissolution of marriage at the county courthouse. Many clients approach us with questions about this, often wondering how important it is to be the one who file for divorce and whether it makes any difference at all.
Most of us know at least a few people who identify as “pet parents.” In fact, many of us are actually pet parents ourselves. The phrase “pet parents,” in this context, is more than a person or a couple who owns companion animals. Pet parents, in general, do not see the relationship as a master-pet dynamic, opting instead for more of a surrogate child situation—even for those pet parents who actually have children of their own as well. For the most part, being a pet parent is a more serious approach to pet ownership than many are willing undertake but there is nothing inherently wrong with it. But, what happens when pet parents get divorced? Could either party ask the court for visitation rights with their beloved four-legged companion?
Depending on the family dynamics, grandparents may find themselves at the mercy of the parents of the grandchildren in question when it comes to the issue of visitation. Under Illinois law, grandparents have a limited right to request court-ordered visitation privileges with their grandchildren. State law also recognizes a parent’s fundamental right to the final decisions regarding how and where their children are raised and who may have access to them while they are minors. From a legal standpoint, however, the rights of both parents and grandparents are always viewed in tandem with what is in the best interest of the child. Situations do arise in which the best interest of the child may need to be decided by a family court.
When a couple who has children together decides to get divorced, they will need to develop a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document which outlines each parent’s rights and responsibilities regarding the child and serves as the cornerstone on which the couple’s ongoing co-parenting relationships will be built. According to Illinois law there are more than a dozen considerations that must be addressed in a parenting plan including things like the child’s permanent address for the purposes of school enrollment and a parenting time schedule for each parent. There are other, optional elements that can be included in a parenting plan as well, including the right of first refusal. If your parenting plan provides you with the right of first refusal, it is important to understand what that means.
There are many reasons that a couple may decide to end their marriage. In some cases, the spouses may disagree on financial issues or parenting strategies. In others, one partner may be guilty of negative or destructive behavior such as mental or physical cruelty or infidelity. No matter what drives a married couple apart, however, the state of Illinois will only grant a divorce on the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences.
If you are receiving payments of alimony—also known as maintenance or spousal support—you have probably come to rely on those payments to improve your quality of life. Assuming the maintenance was ordered by the court and not the result of an agreement between you and your spouse, the existing order also means that the court determined that the support was appropriate to help offset the financial impact of your divorce. In most cases, maintenance orders are intended to last for a predetermined amount of time, but there are some events that could cause your order to be terminated ahead of schedule.
Many Illinois couples are faced with crippling personal debts and make the difficult decision to file for bankruptcy. Unfortunately, bankruptcy does not eliminate all debts. For example, federal law does not allow a bankruptcy court to discharge any debt incurred as the result of a “domestic support obligation,” such as child support or spousal maintenance. This means that if you and your current spouse seek bankruptcy protection, you may still need to deal with the consequences of a prior divorce.
When a married couple is having serious problems, it is not uncommon for the spouses to separate for a while before making any decisions. One partner may move out of the marital home and stay with family members while gathering his or her thoughts about what to do next. The practice is common enough, in fact, that most couples would not think about filing for a divorce while living under the same roof.
For most parents who pay child support, their obligations end when the child graduates from high school or turns 19 years old. By that time, the child should be capable of obtaining employment and supporting him- or herself. Many young adults, however, choose to continue their education at a college, university, or trade school before entering the workforce. If you have been paying child support for a child who recently graduated from high school, the law in Illinois says you may be on the hook to help your child pay for college depending on the circumstances.
Family courts in Illinois—like those in the rest of the country—often have the unenviable task of making very difficult decisions regarding how a child will be cared for following the divorce or breakup of his or her parents. In more tragic situations, including those in which the child’s parents are deceased or incarcerated, the courts may need to decide on a guardian or other caretaker for the affected child. Throughout all of these types of cases, Illinois law provides that the child’s best interest should always be the top priority. To make sure the best interests of the child are fully protected, the court may appoint a specially-trained attorney to serve as a guardian ad litem for the duration of the proceedings.