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Posted on in Pet Custody

St. Charles divorce pet custody attorneyWhen determining parenting arrangements for children during divorce, there are rules that help determine a child’s future based on his or her well-being. Divorcing couples will also need to determine how to divide their property and assets. However, what happens when the property shared between a couple is a living thing? For many years, Illinois law treated pets as property, similar to a television or furniture, but the law was recently changed, and additional considerations now apply to pets during a divorce. 

What Has Changed?

In 2018, an amendment to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5) regarding the treatment of pets during a divorce was put into effect. Deciding on the “custody” of pets is now handled in a manner that is closer to that of children than it once was. While pets are still considered property, the new law states that when making decisions about ownership of pets—referred to as companion animals in the law—a judge should consider the animal’s well-being. This law, however, does not apply to service animals. A service animal is defined as an animal that is specially trained to benefit a person with a disability, such as a guide dog for a blind person or a seizure response dog that specializes in aiding a person with a seizure disorder. These animals are likely to stay with the person whom they are trained to serve.

When parental responsibilities, or child custody, are determined by the court, the health and safety of the child are put first. While a similar consideration now applies to family pets, the animal’s well-being is just part of the overall equation rather than the top priority. If one party takes better care of the animal, or the other is in an unstable living environment, the pet can be placed with the spouse who will better provide for the animal’s well-being. The party who purchased the pet or regularly took care of the pet may also be taken into consideration.

Kane County divorce attorneyDepending on the position you hold, you might have a pension plan. A pension is a fund that a working individual contributes to during his career, which is then invested by the manager of the pension in an effort to have the fund earn money. The intent is to put the worker in a position to retire comfortably. When the worker retires, he or she receives a monthly payment from his or her pension. Many Americans rely on multiple retirement accounts, which can include IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and health savings accounts as well as pensions to save money for retirement. In a divorce, retirement accounts are treated the same way as all other assets – subject to division according to the doctrine of equitable distribution. This is true even if you opened your retirement accounts before you were married because you continued to contribute to them during the marriage.

Your accounts may be divided into “marital property” and “singly-held property” portions by determining how much money they contained before you were married to determine how much money may be considered to be part of your marital estate. Before you enter the property division process, talk to your lawyer about how your pension will be valued so it can be distributed in an equitable manner.

Valuing Your Pension

Posted on in Annulments

annulmentjpgWhen one or both spouses want to end their marriage, they can seek a divorce. Legally, a divorce is a legal declaration that a valid marriage is over. A common misconception is that an annulment is a quicker or easier way to get divorced. In reality, an annulment is a legal order stating a marriage is not valid. In other words, it is a legal order that a legal marriage never actually existed. State law sets out very specific requirements for annulments, which can make it difficult to pursue. However, an annulment may be appropriate in some cases, and could benefit you if applicable.

Requirements for Annulment

Formally known as a declaration of invalidity, a legal order of annulment is rarely granted because of the strict legal limitations. Illinois law states that an annulment can be granted for one of the following reasons:

marital propertyIn a divorce, one of the most important aspects is the division of the couple's marital property. This is done to ensure that each partner exits the marriage with an appropriate share of the body of assets that he or she worked to build while the couple was married. In Illinois, this is done according to the principle of equitable distribution, meaning that a couple's property is not divided 50/50, but according to a set of factors, such as each partner's income and the length of the couple's marriage. In nearly all marriages, the couple's home is the most valuable piece of property they own. However, a home's value is more than just its market price. The amount of money the couple still owes on their mortgage and the house's projected appreciation factor into its value in the property division process. To determine a fair appraisal of a couple's home, a third party appraiser might be brought in to examine all relevant factors to find its value. If a real estate appraisal is a necessary part of your divorce, your attorney can help make sure you receive a fair appraisal quote.

Work with a Reputable Appraiser

Talk to your attorney or use the internet to find a real estate appraiser who has a record of giving accurate, fair appraisals. If you can find an appraiser who has experience working with divorcing couples for this purposes, working with him or her is in your best interest. Be sure to work with an appraiser who is certified by the state of Illinois and part of a nationally-recognized appraisal organization.

alimony, divorced homemaker, homemaker contributions, Illinois property division, Kane County divorce attorney, marital property, marital property division, property division, stay-at-home dad, stay-at-home mom, stay-at-home parentBeing a stay-at-home mom or dad can be just as much a full-time job as being a corporate attorney, high school teacher, physician’s assistant, or any other profession. And yet, those who work as full-time parents and/or homemakers might be sensitive to the fact that they are not breadwinners and, actually, bring in no income at all. Consequently, the stay-at-home spouse might feel like a dependent.

Illinois law, however, considers marriage a “joint enterprise," which means it recognizes the contributions that a stay-at-home parent and/or homemaker made to the marriage. If the marriage ends in divorce, the law does not penalize the parent who traded a professional career for caretaker responsibilities in the home. While this does not mean that a divorced homemaker would not have to get a job, it does mean that the court considers the party’s future employment opportunities and homemaker contributions when dividing the marital property and determining whether he or she is entitled to alimony (or maintenance) payments.

It is easier to demonstrate evidence of homemaker contributions if the marriage produced children. However, if a spouse stayed home and took care of the children, he or she is not automatically entitled to a large payout. The breadwinning spouse may prove that the stay-at-home parent was a terrible homemaker or that the parties divided house and child-rearing responsibilities equally. Such evidence would seriously undermine a party’s homemaker argument when determining the value of marital contributions.

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