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ElmhurstEveryone who is a pet owner knows that their pet is part of the family, and to some people, their pets are even like children. For the longest time, pets were considered property in an Illinois divorce, and the spouse who got to keep a pet was mostly determined by who purchased the animal. A recent change to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act now includes a clause about pets which sets out guidelines to determine who gets the pets when spouses get a divorce.

Pets are Treated More Like Children Under New Law

A new law that took effect at the beginning of 2018 now allows pets to be treated more like dependents and less like property. This means that Illinois now recognizes that animals are living beings, and their best interests need to be taken into consideration when a separation is in order. However, it will still need to be determined whether or not pets are considered marital property before any allocation occurs. If a pet is found to be marital property, a judge can now consider certain factors when determining who gets custody of a pet in the divorce.

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By Maxine Weiss Kunz

divorceMany changes are coming to family law as of January 1, 2016. These changes include changes to custody (a term of art that is going out the window) as well as changes to financial aspects of the act. Below are a list of some of the major changes that will be in effect as of January 1, 2016:

  • No more use of the word “custody” is the big claim to fame with the new Act. Instead, the court will decide on Allocation of Parental Responsibility. These allocations include who will make decisions related to a child’s health, education, religion and extracurricular activities. One or both parents can be assigned each of the 4 categories of decision making.
  • No more use of the word “visitation” either. Now we will call this category “parenting time.” The term of art is considered more user friendly.
  • No more double trials (we hope). What this means is that temporary support hearings will be heard on a non-evidentiary basis with few exceptions. You will no longer have to call a witness in temporary support hearings. The court will make temporary decisions based on financial affidavits and argument of counsel. There are exceptions to this rule, which will likely apply if a litigant’s financial affidavit is called into question.
  • No more fault grounds. (See our prior blog on this topic). Only the grounds of irreconcilable differences may be plead and the requirement of 2 years of separation is also to become moot. If the parties cannot agree on the date of breakdown of their marriage, then a separation of 6 months will now be required instead of the prior requirement of 2 years.
  • No more heavy dependence on caselaw. Many of the prior cases relied on by the courts have been codified, including the rule that you cannot strike a motion with a motion. (This is legalese that lawyers will understand and many litigants will not.)
  • No more use of the word “removal” if you want to move out of State with a child. Courts will now call this term “relocation” and it is based on mileage (i.e., 25 miles for Chicago-area, 50 miles for less urban areas) instead of crossing State lines. That also means that you can no longer move from Chicago to Peoria without Court permission – a distinct change to in-State litigants. If you want to move to the “Boonies” you may want to do it now.
  • No more reliance on terms such as “mother” and “father” in the Parentage Act, which is an acknowledgement of the rights of same-sex couples and their children.
  • No more pleading of injunction merits in a request for exclusive possession of a marital home, however, the requirement of a spouse or child being jeopardized by continued occupancy of the litigant you are seeking to remove remains.

All of the within laws become effective as of January 1, 2016 irrespective of when your pleading was filed if your matter remains pending at that time. Any matter resolved prior to January 1, 2016 shall follow the current laws and are valid agreements. A discussion point to have with your attorney is whether to get your matter resolved now, under the current laws, or to seek to finalize your matter in year 2016.

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adultery,The website Ashley Madison, which openly facilitates adulterous relationships, was recently hacked, exposing thousands of its customers' identities. It is important to understand how adultery affects a potential maintenance award in a divorce proceeding. Under Illinois law, courts will look at the following factors to determine whether a maintenance award is appropriate:

  • The income and property of each party, including marital property apportioned to and non-marital property retained by the party seeking maintenance;
  • The needs of each party;
  • The present and future earning capacity of each party;
  • 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;
  • 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 is the custodian of a child making it appropriate that the custodian not seek employment;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties;
  • The tax consequences of the property division upon the respective economic circumstances of the parties;
  • The contributions and services by the party seeking maintenance to the education, training, career or career potential, or license of the other spouse; and
  • Any valid agreements of the parties

Under Illinois law, adultery is not a factor used by the courts when determining a maintenance award. However, adultery can come in to play in other aspects of the divorce process. The term “dissipation” refers to the use of marital funds by one spouse for his or her own personal benefit, unrelated to the marriage. For example, if a spouse spends marital funds on a website such as Ashley Madison, the court can order those funds to be returned to the marital estate, thus possibly affecting how the court divides marital property between the parties.

If you are a contemplating filing for divorce, your best chance at success will be to hire an experienced attorney to help you with your case. If you are in need of legal representation in a dissolution action, contact Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC,  at 312-605-4041 to schedule an initial consultation.

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