4 Financial Mistakes in Divorce

When a couple chooses to dissolve their marriage, there is often more focus put on what to do during a divorce than what not to do during a divorce. The dissolution of marriage puts both spouses through a great deal of stress, much of which is caused by the financial decisions that must be made. Financial decisions in divorce proceedings are complex and can lead to numerous divorce mistakes that can have a serious impact on each spouse’s financial security. Here, the family law experts at Conniff Law Offices of Chicago and Oak Park cover 4 financial mistakes to avoid during divorce.

Attempting to Speed Through Proceedings

It’s understandable that some individuals want to get their divorce over and done with as quickly as possible so they can begin the process of healing and moving forward with their life. However, this can end up being one of your biggest divorce mistakes made. You may be tempted to agree to an unsatisfactory divorce settlement in an attempt to rush the process – a decision you’ll likely regret in the near future. Once the divorce is final, it’s very difficult to make changes to the agreement, so it is crucial to take the necessary amount of time to come to a beneficial settlement.

Failure to Take Marital Debts Into Consideration

When considering what to do during a divorce, you’ll surely cover marital assets. But what about marital debts? Marital debts should be regarded with equal importance; if they’re not divided properly, one spouse could be left shouldering most of the marital liabilities leftover from shared credit you had during your marriage.

Failure to Secure Alimony (Spousal Support or Maintenace) and Child Support With Insurance

The spouse who will receive alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, and child support payments should consider an insurance policy designed to secure them.  If your ex-spouse passes away or becomes disabled, the income you rely on could suddenly stop. This being the case, the payee would do well to request that the payor invests in life insurance and disability policies to protect your right to the payments if an unexpected loss or injury were to occur.

Attempting to Conceal Assets

Divorce is not always amicable. In some cases, one spouse might even go so far as to attempt to conceal their assets. Among the financial mistakes in divorce that could be made, this one can have some of the most serious and lasting consequences. Plain and simple, hiding assets in a divorce is illegal, and eventually, the assets hidden by the spouse will be uncovered. Attempting to conceal assets damages credibility, attracts major penalties, and will give the other spouse a significant advantage in the divorce proceedings.

Avoid Divorce Mistakes: Consult With Conniff Law Offices

Divorce is a stressful, time-consuming, and often emotionally draining experience that can leave an individual susceptible to financial mistakes they might otherwise not have made. Seeking the expert legal advice and representation of a divorce attorney will ensure the decisions made are in your best interest. To begin your divorce preparation, consult with the family law attorneys at Conniff Law Offices of Chicago and Oak Park, contact us online today. We are here to provide guidance and compassion at every step of the divorce process.

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Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation

The decision to end your marriage is never an easy one. If you’ve resolved to proceed with a divorce, there are other important decisions which are yet to be made, including how you will go about getting the divorce. If after weighing options like a divorce or annulment you’ve decided to pursue a divorce, you may now be considering either a collaborative divorce or divorce mediation. There are important differences between these two methods to be aware of before moving forward. Conniff Law Offices compares collaborative divorce vs. mediation in greater depth below to help you determine which course of action is better suited to your situation.

Divorce Mediation Overview

Divorce mediation takes a cooperative approach. A hired mediator acts as a neutral third party for the divorcing couple, helping to resolve any issues throughout the process. The mediator does not make decisions for the couple, but rather helps them come to an agreeable solution. Divorce mediators do not have to be lawyers, though one or both spouses may hire a lawyer if they wish. We recommend having an attorney before the mediation process begins in order to understand your legal rights and your best options.

During a divorce mediation, the mediator will:

  • Assist the couple in establishing the issues that require attention in the divorce so each person may make their necessary decisions
  • Act as a neutral negotiator when sorting out issues the couple is in disagreement over
  • Propose options to guide the couple toward an agreement that is mutually favored and tailored to their unique circumstances, touching on important points like a parenting plan, alimony or spousal support, child support, division of marital property and debts, etc.
  • Drawing up some of the required paperwork, such as the Memorandum of Understanding (the document that summarizes the articles of the couple’s agreement)

In a successful divorce mediation, the couple has the advantage of a guaranteed outcome since both spouses were able to give their direct input on matters of disagreement. Divorce mediation is also known to be an affordable and less time-consuming process.

Collaborative Divorce Overview

Collaborative divorce combines aspects of divorce mediation with a “conventional” divorce. Unlike divorce mediation, it is a process that does require attorneys, as well as other third party professionals, including a child specialist, finance professional, and divorce coach.

Here is an overview of how a collaborative divorce works:

  • Each spouse hires their own divorce lawyer who is trained in the collaborative law process. As would happen in a conventional divorce, each spouse’s attorney is working to secure the best outcome for their respective client.
  • Both individuals and their attorneys sign a contract stating that they are committed to cooperate with each other rather than quarreling during divorce negotiations. This is known as a participation agreement.
  • Several meetings will take place during a collaborative divorce, during which the spouses and their attorneys will meet with third party professionals as they are needed. These outside professionals could include a divorce coach, child specialist, finance professional, therapist, mediator, and more.

If a mutual agreement cannot be reached between the couple, their divorce lawyers will be barred from representing them in the litigation process. The couple will need to proceed instead with divorce litigation in a family law court, with each individual starting over with a new attorney. Divorce litigation poses the risk of uncertainty, as the parties involved do not know how the judge will rule on their various divorce issues.

Key Differences Between Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation

In addition to the differences in the proceedings of divorce mediation and collaborative divorce, there are a couple other key areas of contrast to know about before moving forward.

How long will the entire process take?

  • The divorce mediation process may require one to four sessions spanning two to three months. The couple determines the pace at which they would like to proceed. Once an agreement is made, the time it takes to finalize everything depends upon how long it takes to file the divorce, draft the necessary documents, and finalize the proceedings in court.
  • Collaborative divorce typically takes 4 to 14 months to complete. Any issues that arise can usually be settled in four to six group sessions. The time it takes to complete the sessions depends not only upon the availability of each spouse and their lawyers, but also on that of the necessary outside professionals. Like with mediation, the time needed to finalize everything depends on the time it takes to file the divorce and go through court proceedings.

Which Method Is Right for You?

When it comes time to decide between collaborative divorce vs. mediation, only you can say which method is right for your situation. Couples who want what’s best for their children or who would like to maintain a peaceful process may prefer divorce mediation. If mediation isn’t right for you but you would still prefer to avoid litigation if possible, or if you would feel better having an attorney who will only represent you, a collaborative divorce may be the favorable choice.

Consult the Family Law Professionals at Conniff Law Offices

If you are seeking an experienced divorce lawyer to represent you in a collaborative divorce or would like to hire an attorney for your divorce mediation, consult with the family law professionals at Conniff Law Offices. Our legal team is dedicated to helping you reach the best outcome possible, and will be there for you during this often difficult time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our Chicago or Oak Park office.

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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 to avoid financial mistakes. 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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