BLOG

Life Insurance and Divorce

Divorces can be tumultuous and confusing, especially when it comes to navigating the realm of dividing assets and defining how assets – like a life insurance policy – will affect your final divorce outcome. In the past, life insurance could be used to secure both maintenance paid to a former spouse and support paid on behalf of a minor child(ren). Now, however, Illinois law has changed how life insurance comes into play in your divorce case.

What is the Difference Between Whole Life Insurance and Term Life Insurance?

First, it is crucial to understand the difference between a whole life insurance policy and a term life insurance policy. Don’t worry, it’s ok to be confused – that’s what we’re here for! There are a few distinct differences between whole life insurance and term life insurance. For instance, the aptly-named term life insurance policy provides coverage over a fixed term – typically 10, 20, or 30 years. Thus, if you do not pass away during the fixed term, your coverage will end, and no one will receive the monetary benefit of your policy. In contrast, whole life insurance, or, rather, “permanent” life insurance, provides coverage until you die. Whole life insurance policies also have a cash-value that you are able to utilize during your lifetime. While both whole and term life insurance policies can be used to secure maintenance – more on that later – only a whole life insurance policy is considered a marital asset that can be divided at the time of divorce.

What Role Does Life Insurance Play in Divorce?

Life insurance comes into play in a divorce case in 3 ways:

  1. as a marital asset subject to division at the time of divorce (as stated above);
  2. as a mechanism to secure maintenance; and
  3. as a mechanism to secure child support.

The Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the -Illinois Divorce Law) no longer requires life insurance to secure child support. Nonetheless, the court may still order one or both parents to obtain or maintain a life insurance policy if the court finds it to be in the best interests of the child(ren) – say, for instance you and/or your spouse are in poor health but have a young child.

Now, you may be asking yourself what “secure” means in terms of Illinois Divorce Law and maintenance. “Secure” essentially means “guarantee” – meaning, the court can use life insurance as a mechanism to “guarantee” that a spouse will receive maintenance throughout the duration of the maintenance term, even if the paying spouse dies before such term ends. The court can utilize a spouse’s life insurance policy to “guarantee” maintenance in a couple of different ways. Firstly, in cases where maintenance is reserved, the court may use the paying spouse’s life insurance policy to secure a future award of maintenance on terms that are agreed to between the spouses. If the spouses are unable to agree on such terms, then the court may allocate death benefits, the right to assign death benefits, or the obligation for future premium payments between the parties Secondly, the court, in very limited circumstances, may order a new life insurance policy on the paying spouse’s life – provided, however, that the payee spouse (the spouse receiving the maintenance award) pays the life insurance premiums.

Finally, remember that while both term life insurance policies and whole life insurance policies can be used to secure maintenance, only the cash value of whole life insurance policies are subject to division at the time of divorce.

Get Help with Determining How Your Life Insurance Policy May Impact Your Divorce.

Keeping up with the constantly evolving ins-and-outs of Illinois Divorce Law can be daunting and seemingly impossible. However, the well-versed and experienced team at Conniff Law is here to help you. Our office can help you navigate even the most challenging aspects of your divorce. Contact Conniff Law Offices to learn more.

Posted in Divorce Litigation | Comments Off on Life Insurance and Divorce

Can a Custodial Parent Change a Child’s Last Name?

Can I change my child’s last name in Illinois? It depends on the circumstances. While a custodial parent can change a child’s last name, the process must take place in the courts and will only be approved if the judge believes the name change is in the child’s best interest. Learn more about what to expect from the name-changing experience and what you’ll need to do.

Can I Change My Child’s Last Name in Illinois?

There are many reasons why a custodial parent may wish to change their child’s last name, especially if the custodial parent is:

  • Single and about to remarry
  • Trying to establish paternity
  • Unable to contact the other parent
  • Dealing with an abusive relationship

With any of these situations, the Illinois courts will prioritize whether or not changing the child’s last name will improve their quality of life. Changing names may be more convenient for the parent, but if it doesn’t positively affect the child, a judge is unlikely to grant the request. The custodial parent bears the burden of proof, and factors such as bullying or wanting a fresh start may not be enough.

One way to sway the courts closer to your side is to get your child’s noncustodial parent to agree to the change. Without this parent’s consent, it will be exceedingly difficult to change your child’s last name. That being said, if your former partner is no longer in the picture and cannot be reached, this permission may not hold as much weight. Again, though, you’ll need to prove the severing of that relationship.

At What Age Can a Child Change Their Last Name?

In the state of Illinois, anyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor and must have parental/guardian consent to change their last name. This means that only adults have the ability to work through this process and must go through the proper court procedures.
Taking the above into consideration, the following are some points a judge will consider in regards to whether a custodial parent can change a child’s last name. Is the name change:

  • Consistent with the child’s wishes? What are the motivations for the child feeling this way?
  • Going to have a positive effect on the child’s familial relationships?
  • Going to make a positive impact on the child’s life outside of the home, such as at school or in their community?

Get Help with Changing Your Child’s Last Name

If you are a custodial parent looking to change your child’s last name and need some guidance, we can help. Our Oak Park and Chicago attorneys can offer advice on your specific circumstances; contact Conniff Law Offices to learn more.

Posted in Child Custody | Comments Off on Can a Custodial Parent Change a Child’s Last Name?

How Many Marriages End in Divorce?

You may have heard the statistic that more than half of all marriages end in divorce, however, that is not currently the case in the United States. What percentage of marriages end in divorce? In the U.S., that number is approximately 39 percent. For those wanting to know more about the divorce rate in the U.S., you will notice that the numbers are actually trending downward. Forty years ago, if you were looking to see what percentage of marriages end in divorce, those figures would be closer to that 50 percent mark. 

While the divorce rate may be declining, the numbers still show that a large percentage of marriages do not last. How many marriages end in divorce? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics last reviewed Census data in 2018, and in the 45 states (plus Washington D.C.) that reported data, it was revealed that there were 782,038 divorces in the United States in 2018. We explore some of the most common reasons couples divorce below. 

Frequently Cited Reasons for Divorce

There have been numerous studies looking at frequently cited reasons for divorce. In many cases, there was more than one contributing factor. 

  • Lack of Commitment
  • Arguing
  • Infidelity
  • Married Too Young
  • Unrealistic Expectations
  • Unequal Partnership
  • Not Prepared for Marriage
  • Domestic Violence or Abuse
  • Addictions

Divorce percentages are higher or lower among certain groups as well. Couples married before the age of 25 are more likely to divorce than couples married after the age of 25. Strong religious affiliation also statistically leads to a lower divorce rate. 

Consult the Experts at Conniff Law Offices

Most couples get married with the intention of the marriage standing the test of time. However, even with the best possible intentions, life is unpredictable. If you have decided that divorce is the best course of action for you, contact the experienced attorneys at Conniff Law Offices. We understand that this can be a very difficult decision, and our team is dedicated to offering compassionate support alongside expert advice. Reach out to us about setting up a consultation at your earliest convenience. 

Posted in Divorce Litigation, Marriage | Comments Off on How Many Marriages End in Divorce?

Maybe It’s Time to Consider a Divorce

Marriage is seen by many as an institution that will stand the test of time. Nobody gets married with the intention to separate at some point, but years of misery and anger can make even the most optimistic newly-wed couple consider divorce down the road. Regardless of what friends and family members might say, everyone has a right to their own sense of happiness and safety.

Have you been asking yourself, “Should I get a divorce?” Although everyone’s relationship is different and unique to their situation, there are a few signs that indicate it might be time to separate.

Your Needs are Unmet

Marriage is a partnership; both spouses must work together to support one another and meet whatever needs each person has. These needs will vary between persons and couples. Some people require daily physical contact to feel that they are loved while others just need a few words of encouragement every once in a while to get them through the day.

Whether they’re physical, emotional or spiritual, you and your spouse both have certain expectations. Problems can arise when these expectations don’t align and needs aren’t met. There are a variety of stressors in life that can drastically affect a relationship in the short-term: finances, family issues, employment, etc. If you and your spouse work together, it’s possible to come back from these situations. However, in some cases, things just don’t go back to the way they were. This may have you asking the question, “Do I get a divorce or not?”

If over a period of months, or even years, you find yourself or your spouse contributing less to the partnership or ignoring the needs of the other person, it may be best to move on and find a more fulfilling relationship.

Intimacy and Infidelity

Most people require a certain level of intimacy in their marriage. Whether it’s emotional or physical, this closeness sets the relationship apart from normal friendships. As with any other need, problems can arise if this requirement isn’t met. The easiest fix would be to talk to your spouse about your feelings and express the lack of intimacy between the two of you. Of course, things aren’t always that simple.

If someone feels a lack of intimacy in their relationship, they sometimes look for it elsewhere. An extramarital affair is stereotypically portrayed as a physical, sexual relationship, but emotional cheating is equally as common. If you or your spouse are being unfaithful, it is a symptom of problems in the marriage. At the very least, you and your spouse should seek counseling, or contact a divorce attorney to explore options in the event the marital relationship ultimately breaks down. This can give you some clarity if you are wondering, “How do I know if I should get a divorce?”

Abuse

No matter the state of your marriage, no one should ever live with abuse. If you believe you are a victim of physical or emotional abuse, consider contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). In such a situation your safety and the safety of any children you might have is of the utmost importance. Focus on separating yourself from your abuser and then immediately begin divorce proceedings when you are safe.

When Should I Get a Divorce? 

You may also be wondering if it is the right time to get a divorce. There really is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. A variety of factors can come into play, such as finances, insurance, and parenting. This is why it is best to seek a consultation with a divorce attorney or therapist to help you weigh your options. 

When it comes to finances, you need to determine whether an immediate separation of finances is necessary, what support obligations must be met, and what debts or expenses need to be taken care of before proceeding with a divorce. 

The needs of any children should also be taken into account. Before making a decision, it is best to take some time to determine what is in the best interest of the child or children. This could mean separating right away or waiting months, or even years. 

Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in Chicago

If you’ve decided that divorce is the best option for you or your family, contact the attorneys at Conniff Law Offices. Our Chicago family law firm strives to protect our clients and their families in uncertain times. Whether your case is uncontested, mediated, collaborative or litigated, our attorneys can provide invaluable guidance and empathetic support throughout the process.

Posted in Divorce Litigation, Marriage, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Maybe It’s Time to Consider a Divorce

Annulment vs. Divorce

When comparing annulment vs. divorce, many individuals assume that an annulment is the easiest route to take and that a divorce will come with unwanted complications. Frequently, the exact opposite is true. When you work with an experienced family law attorney, a divorce can be a simpler solution with fewer situational requirements and time limits, posing fewer stresses during a difficult period in your life. To learn more, explore the differences between annulment vs. divorce with Conniff Law Offices of Chicago and Oak Park, below.

What is an Annulment? 

In Illinois, an annulment is “a declaration of invalidity of marriage.” A court order would say that the marriage is not valid and should not be recognized by the state as such. There are strict requirements that must be met when asking a court for a judgment of invalidity, which is what makes an annulment often more complicated than a divorce. Those requirements include:

  • If there is an issue of mental incapacity, intoxication, force, duress, or fraud that made the marriage invalid, the petition for a judgment of invalidity must be filed within 90 days of the petitioner becoming aware of the problem.
  • If there is an issue of physical incapacity with one of the spouses, the petition for a judgment of invalidity must be filed within one year of the petitioner learning about the incapacity.
  • If there is an issue of one spouse being under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage without a consenting parent or guardian, then the parent or guardian of the underage spouse must be the one to file for a judgment of invalidity, and it must be done before the individual reaches the age of 18.

What is a Divorce?

While an annulment is a court order that determines a marriage to be invalid, a divorce is a legal proceeding that ends a valid marriage – meaning that while you will no longer be legally bound to your ex-spouse and can remarry at any time, the marriage is still legally considered to have existed before your divorce. There are several benefits to choosing divorce over an annulment, including:

  • Fewer Requirements – As we highlighted above, annulments come with strict requirements and time limits that must be met in order to file for a judgment of invalidity. In a divorce, an individual can simply file for either a no-fault or fault-based divorce to start the process, so long as you and your spouse have lived in Illinois for 90 days.
  • Proof of Fault – Annulments require proof of fault for the marriage to be judged as invalid, while an individual could file for a no-fault divorce and not have to provide any proof of fault. 
  • Spousal Support Payments – Spousal support payments (or alimony payments), as well as the division of assets, must be determined by a court in a divorce. Additionally, any valid and enforceable pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreements must be upheld in a divorce. In an annulment, however, financial issues are essentially returned to the way they were prior to the marriage, which can be a significant setback for some individuals.

Discuss Your Options With a Divorce Attorney

When comparing annulment vs. divorce, some individuals find that divorce is a favorable method to pursue, offering fewer complexities and less stress throughout the process. If you are seeking the representation of an experienced divorce lawyer in Chicago or Oak Park, reach out to Conniff Law Offices today. Our team of attorneys consists of compassionate individuals who are dedicated to helping you through this difficult time in your life. Contact us today to learn more about the family law services we offer and schedule a consultation.

Posted in Divorce Litigation, Marriage | Tagged , | Comments Off on Annulment vs. Divorce

– Jim O., Western Springs (from Yelp)

– Chris W., Chicago (from Yelp)

– Rebecca M., Chicago (from Yelp)

– Eric S., Albuquerque (from Yelp)


More Testimonials >

I am a happy client and recommend Lyn without hesitation. She is knowledgeable, pragmatic and is adept at working with other attorneys in a positive manner.

The efforts of this team were incredible and in touch with my sensitivity. After the first phone call I felt assured that I would be given the utmost attention and it was delivered!

The attorneys kept me up to date on the status of the issue and were always available to take my call. They were kind, professional and responsive.

I'm no fan of the lawyer class, but the Conniff folks definitely know their stuff. I can't imagine it getting any better than this. Two thumbs up!