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What You Need to Know About Spousal Maintenance

Divorce can be a messy affair, even when both parties work together amicably and with a Chicago divorce lawyer they trust. There are a number of services, accounts and assets that need to be split as fairly as possible. If one spouse makes significantly more than the other, he or she might even be required to pay maintenance (or alimony) to the ex-spouse. Continue reading

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What Are the Dangers of Parental Alienation?

What most children of divorce want most is the love, support, and presence of both of their parents. Divorce is often as difficult, if not more so, for children involved as it is for their parents.If the process is filled with conflict, it can have lasting effects on a child’s development and relationships. Parental alienation is common among separating and divorcing couples, and creates an even wider family rift in the wake of divorce. Learn more about what parental alienation is and the damage it causes.

What is Parental Alienation?

Child psychiatrist, Dr. Richard A. Gardner, coined the term “parental alienation syndrome” in the 1980s. Parental alienation involves one parent turning their child against the other parent. This behavior is the result of the alienating parent’s failure to separate the conflict in their relationship from the child’s needs. The child becomes a means to an end in the alienating parent’s objective, which is to hurt or drive the other parent away by interfering in their relationship with the child. In extreme instances, the child’s view of the alienated parent becomes almost entirely negative.

When one parent seeks to alienate the other from their child’s life, they often use a series of strategies, such as:

  • Talking badly about the other parent in front of the child
  • Restricting the child’s time with the other parent
  • Erasing the other parent from the child’s life (i.e. taking away photos)
  • Leading the child to believe the other parent is dangerous
  • Forcing the child to choose between them and the other parent

What Are the Effects of Parental Alienation?

No child is completely impervious to the potential dangers of parental alienation, and the effects can last into adulthood. Dr. Amy J.L. Baker’s qualitative retrospective study (2005) delved into the long-term effects of parental alienation on 38 adults. During her semi-structured interviews, she identified the following:

  • High rates of low self-esteem and self-hatred
  • Depression in 70% of the participants
  • Problems trusting themselves and others
  • Alienation from their own children in 50% of the participants

Low self-esteem, self-hatred, trust issues, depression, and substance abuse are common outcomes of parental alienation, and can manifest in children early on. Self-hatred and depression are often rooted in the child’s belief that the alienated parent didn’t love or want them. The child may also develop a distant and complicated relationship with the parent who alienated them from the other, and may become alienated from their own children once they reach adulthood and start a family.

Parental alienation can sound like active, malicious behavior, but it can also be perpetrated by parents meaning no harm and simply going through a messy divorce. When parents fight their way through a divorce, it can create a catalyst for parental alienation and other harmful behaviors that can cause lasting damage. Children are inevitably thrown in the middle when parents let their emotions take over.

Collaborative divorce and divorce mediation allow divorcing parents to talk through issues such as child support and parental responsibilities and come to an agreement without litigation. When a divorce is over-litigated and fraught with conflict, the fight isn’t restricted to the courtroom; it spills over into everyday life and into family relationships.

Rely on Our Collaborative Divorce Attorneys in Chicago & Oak Park

Whether you’re considering divorce or are being alienated by your ex-spouse, the team at Conniff Law Offices can help you understand your rights. Contact us to schedule a consultation at our Chicago or Oak Park office.

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Post-Decree FAQ

Post-decree proceedings can occur after a divorce, dissolution of marriage, judgement of paternity, or legal separation have taken place. Typically, these proceedings modify aspects of a divorce decree, such as property allocation, child support, allocation of parental responsibilities, spousal maintenance, etc. Read on to learn more about post-decree proceedings and when it’s necessary.

Family Court Post-Decree Modifications

To have post-decree modifications approved by the courts, the petitioner must show evidence of significant and long-term changes to family structure or financial situation. Common situations where a post-decree modification may be granted include:

  • One ex-spouse becomes disabled and can’t work
  • One ex-spouse has received a substantial salary increase
  • One ex-spouse has lost his or her job or earns a substantially lower income
  • One ex-spouse gets remarried or has another child
  • The needs of the child involved change, including medical or educational needs
  • The child wants to live with his or her other parent
  • One parent wants to move out of state

Which Areas of Divorce Can Post-Decree Modification Affect?

Here’s a look at the most common areas affected by post-decree modifications:

  • Alimony/Maintenance: If, for example, one party is having trouble making payments to his or her ex-spouse in the amount that was stipulated in the original divorce decree, that parent may initiate post-decree proceeding to request an adjustment. Modification would also be appropriate if the payee has remarried and no longer needs spousal support.
  • Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: Child custody and parenting time modifications are often the reason for post-decree proceedings, because it can be difficult to balance the needs of a child/children with the needs of their parents. One parent may seek a modification if that parent wants to move out of state or if he or she recently started a more demanding job.
  • Child Support: If a non-custodial parent loses his or her job or suffers a substantial decrease in income, that parent may seek a modification to reduce child support payments. In this case, it’s best to initiate a post-decree action, rather than allow the child support payments to become delinquent.

Turn to the Family Law Experts at Conniff Law Offices

If you’re seeking a post-decree modification, the family law experts at Conniff Law Offices are here to guide you. It’s not uncommon for post-decree proceedings to become contentious, so it’s crucial to have knowledgeable support in your corner. Whether you need a modification to your child support payments or your maintenance (alimony) payments, our legal team can provide expert representation. Contact us to schedule a consultation at our Oak Park or Chicago office.

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Parental Custody and School Decisions

Although many people still talk about custody in the wake of divorce, Illinois no longer uses the term. The Court usually decides who gets parental responsibilities when married parents divorce; if the parents were never married, this is decided when the Court needs to decide on parentage and parenting issues or when one parent seeks child support or parenting time with the child.

There are two types of parental responsibilities:

  • Significant Decision-Making Responsibility
  • Parenting Time

Continue reading

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Common Law Marriage in Illinois

Marriage isn’t for everyone. It may appeal to one couple, while another couple is content living together without a formal ceremony or marriage license. The latter is what is called a “common law marriage.”

What is Common Law Marriage?

Marriage is the legal union of two individuals and is available in all 50 states, affording couples legal protections they otherwise wouldn’t have and intertwining their rights and responsibilities. Common law marriage is a way of affording legal protections to unmarried individuals who share responsibilities as a married couple might.

Common law marriages typically require that the couple:

  • Lives together for a specific amount of time.
  • Has the legal right to marry.
  • Both intend to marry.
  • Acknowledge each other as husband and wife.

The specifics of common law marriage will vary from state to state.

Does Illinois Have Common Law Marriage?

Illinois does not have common law marriages, but common law marriages from other states are afforded the legal protections of marriage in Illinois. Currently, common law marriage is recognized by Washington D.C. and the following states:

  • Colorado
  • Montana
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Iowa
  • Kansas

Although Illinois does recognize common law marriages from these states, the couple is required to show the following:

  • The state from which they moved recognizes common law marriage.
  • They met that state’s common law marriage legal requirements.
  • They didn’t divorce in another state.

What Rights Do Unmarried Couples Have in Illinois?

Couples who entered into a common law marriage in another state, and move to Illinois, can receive the same protections as married couples. This means disputes over child custody and property division are handled in almost the same way they would for a legally married couple. It’s different for unmarried couples, however.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in August 2016 that unmarried couples have no legal rights to one another’s property. However, if an unmarried couple has children, the custodial parent has a right to receive child support from the non-custodial parent.

For added protection, some couples choose to enter into a cohabitation agreement, which is similar to a prenuptial agreement in principle. Cohabitation agreements are created between a couple that lives together. These agreements outline how their finances and assets will be distributed if they eventually go their separate ways. Cohabitation agreements can’t set terms for child support or parenting time but can help both parties feel more secure about living together.

Receive Knowledgeable Legal Representation from Conniff Law Offices

Whether you have questions about how to establish your common law marriage from another state in Illinois or the difference between a civil union and a common law marriage, Conniff Law Offices can help. Contact us to schedule a consultation at one of our firm’s locations in Chicago or Oak Park.

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