How to Have a Smooth Divorce

Divorce doesn’t have to be distressing or expensive; there are ways to have a quick and affordable divorce. Collaborative divorce and divorce mediation allow couples to openly discuss issues that are commonly addressed during divorce proceedings, such as what’s best for the children involved and how assets are divided. Whether this is possible for your case depends on you and your spouse, as well your divorce lawyer. Learn more about how to have a divorce that’s easier on your wellbeing and finances below. 

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce is essentially the opposite of divorce litigation. Divorce litigation can be a long, painful, and expensive process that’s draining physically, mentally, and financially for the divorcing couple, as well as any children involved. Collaborative divorce doesn’t take place in a courtroom; instead, the couple resolves their issues and makes decisions in a calm atmosphere with help from trained professionals. 

Typically, divorcing couples who choose to have a collaborative divorce will first hire a divorce lawyer in Chicago that specializes in collaborative law. Other professionals, such as a divorce coach, child specialist, and financial specialist, can also be included to provide guidance and advice wherever necessary. The agreements reached by the spouses are included in the judgement for dissolution of marriage, which is made final when the judge signs off on it as an order of the court. 

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is similar to collaborative divorce. Rather than litigating issues like child support, child custody, parenting time, division of assets, and more, divorce mediation allows a divorcing couple to create solutions to their disputes. These discussions are overseen by an impartial mediator. After the couple reaches a mediated divorce settlement, a family lawyer is hired to help carry out the settlement by drafting the agreement and finalizing the divorce with the court system. 

Divorce mediation can be advantageous in the following situations: 

  • A couple that owns a small business together chooses to divorce and wants to divide their assets. 
  • Parents who are divorcing need to find solutions regarding their children without going through painful litigation. 
  • A divorcing couple simply wants to have an amicable divorce that’s quick and cost-effective. 

Which Factors Affect the Type of Divorce You’ll Have?

Generally, whether you’ll have a smooth divorce depends on two factors: the settlement between you and your spouse and your legal representation. 

  • Your Divorce Settlement Agreement: Do you and your spouse already have an idea of how you’d like to divide child custody, parenting time, assets, etc.? If so, you’re at a good starting point for divorce mediation. If you haven’t discussed those issues yet, but aren’t hostile toward one another, finding a divorce lawyer in Oak Park that specializes in collaborative divorce may be beneficial for you. 
  • Your Divorce/Family Lawyer: Some lawyers are more aggressive and confrontational than others. During heated divorce litigation, that personality trait may be an advantage for you, but during a collaborative divorce, it’s a hindrance. The point of diviorce mediation is for all parties to maintain a level head. Choose a lawyer with a personality and approach that makes sense for your situation. 

Trust Our Family Lawyers in Chicago & Oak Park

At Conniff Law Offices, we understand the impact divorce litigation can have on families. That’s why we’re committed to delivering compassionate divorce mediation and collaborative divorce services whenever possible. Contact us to schedule a consultation in Chicago or Oak Park and learn more about how we can assist.

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How to Prepare for Divorce

Preparing for divorce can be a confusing and difficult time, and many people find themselves unprepared for, and even sometimes uninterested in, a long legal process. But with the right research and the right early steps, you can learn how to prepare for divorce and move through each step swiftly — so you can move into the next chapter of your life with peace and calm and a sense of confidence. Take a look at our best divorce preparation advice to start planning for the future, below.

Before the Divorce

Before you go through the process of divorce, there are several steps we recommend:

  • Get a Counselor: Consider speaking with a marriage counselor to learn new coping methods and strategies to guide you through this emotional time.
  • Get an Attorney: Find an attorney who specializes in divorce to advocate and advise you. Conniff Law Offices are located in both Chicago and Oak Park, serving the greater Chicagoland area with family law expertise.
  • Get Your Documents in Order: Collect important legal documents like your marriage certificate, prenuptial agreements, licenses, trust documents, wills, financial documents, and more. Set up a P.O. Box for private mail if you feel it necessary.

During the Separation

While preparing for divorce, it’s important to stay organized. Here are a few things to keep in mind while gathering your paperwork:

  • Banks: Make a list of your shared bank accounts and credit cards, along with login information and past statements if possible. Talk with your attorney about whether it is in your best interests to open a new bank account in your name alone.
  • Bills: Make a list of your monthly bills and confirm access information.
  • Home: Make a list of your mortgage information and assets. Speak with your attorney about the moving process to find out what is and isn’t reasonable and in your best interests during the divorce process.
  • Debts: Make a list of your debts. Talk with your attorney about perhaps calling your creditors to inform them of your changing circumstances. Also, ask your attorney what steps you need to take to protect your financial interests.

After the Divorce

You’ve worked hard to learn how to prepare for divorce, and now you’re ready to move on. But before you put this chapter of your life behind you, take some time to talk with an attorney to consider these final steps:

  • Re-Visit Your Will: When do you want to amend your will to reflect your new life and waive your ex-spouse’s right to inheritance?
  • Update Investments: When should you change beneficiaries to investment accounts, including retirement accounts?

Get Expert Divorce Preparation Advice From Conniff Law Offices

Preparing for divorce is complicated, and if you want the process to go quickly and smoothly, you need legal representation that you can trust. Contact us at Conniff Law Offices of Chicago and Oak Park to start a conversation with a family law attorney and get the divorce preparation advice that you need.

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How Does Parental Relocation Work in Illinois?

Whether you’re a parent who wishes to relocate with your child, or you’re paying child support to the custodial parent and have shared child custody, it’s important to know the laws surrounding parental relocation in Illinois. It’s not always necessary for the court to approve a parent’s relocation with their child, however, when it is, the courts consider the following factors before making a decision: 

  • What are the reasons for the move? 
  • How will the move impact the child? 
  • What are the wishes of the child? 
  • Does the other parent object to the move and why? 
  • What kind of relationship does the child have with both parents? 
  • What are the educational opportunities in the current vs. the new location? 
  • Does the child have family close to the new location? 
  • Can the court reasonably allocate parental responsibilities between both parents? 
  • Will the child’s relationship with the other parent be affected and to what degree? 

When is Court Approval Needed to Move with a Child? 

Section 609.2 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) governs parental relocation. According to the IMDMA, court approval isn’t needed in some situations, but in others, it’s a requirement:

  • Whether or not state lines are crossed, court approval isn’t needed if the child lives primarily in Cook County, DuPage County, Lake County, Kane County, or McHenry County and the move is 25 miles or less. 
  • If the child resides in a county not listed above and the move is 50 miles or less, court approval isn’t needed. Court approval is needed, however, if state lines are crossed and the move is 25 miles from the child’s home. 
  • A parent with the majority of parenting time or a shared amount (at least 146 overnights a year) may pursue relocation with the child. 

Does a Parent Have to Give Notice Before Relocating? 

If a parent wishes to relocate with a child and court approval is needed, they must provide a written notice to the other parent at least 60 days prior. This notice of relocation should contain information about the upcoming move, including the date, the new address, and whether the move is temporary or permanent. Once the other parent signs the notice, it must be submitted to the court. 

Failure to give proper notice can result in the court denying the parent permission to move with the child, as well as deeming them liable for the other parent’s associated court costs and attorney fees. 

How Does Moving Out of State Affect Child Support? 

All 50 states have adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which creates guidelines for the development, enforcement, and modification of child support orders across state borders. 

Prior to the UIFSA, more than one state court could modify an existing child support order for one family, which led to multiple versions of the same court order in different states. With the UIFSA in place, only one child support order can exist at a time. Employers are also required to acknowledge any wage-withholding orders, even if those orders were issued by another state. 

Turn to Conniff Law Offices for Assistance

Are you a divorced parent moving to another part of Illinois or across state lines? Or, did your ex-spouse relocate with your child without giving proper notice? Contact our team of family law experts at Conniff Law Offices, located in Chicago and Oak Park. We can answer any questions you have and provide the knowledgeable guidance you need. 

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Divorce Around the Holidays

The holiday season is a time to be thankful for all we have, celebrate with friends and family, exchange gifts, and ring in the New Year with a renewed hope. If you’re recently divorced or separated, you probably want to hop on a plane and wait out the holidays alone in a faraway paradise. Every cloud has a silver lining, though, and there are ways to find joy and comfort in the small things this holiday season. Below, you’ll find a few ideas to help you get through the aftermath of a divorce around the holidays. 

Give Yourself Some Space 

Be honest with yourself and others about your emotional state. Take time to process your feelings; journal every day, go for long walks, and if you need to, seek professional help. There’s no shame in taking time to focus on you. If you’re not feeling up to certain festivities, such as office holiday parties or big family meals, don’t force yourself to attend. Instead, do something fun that makes you happy, be it baking cookies or binging your favorite shows. 

Lean on Those You Trust

Supportive people don’t invalidate your feelings — and after a divorce, these are exactly the types of people you should surround yourself with. If being around friends and family puts you at ease, use the holidays as an opportunity to reconnect and get closer to them. Chances are, there’s someone in your circle who can relate to what you’re going through, and may have a few words of advice or wisdom to share.

Create a New Holiday Tradition

After getting divorced, it may be too painful to continue the Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions you had as a family. If you have kids, or even if you’re on your own for the holidays, consider this a fresh start. Create new holiday traditions you’ll enjoy year after year, whether that’s making hot chocolate and decorating the tree, browsing the local winter market, or going for a drive and admiring the light displays. 

Give Back to Your Community 

One of the easiest ways to feel better about yourself is to do something nice for someone else. The holiday season is the season of giving, after all. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate gifts to children in need, donate food to a holiday food drive, or volunteer your time at a homeless shelter. There’s no shortage of ways you can help make a difference in the lives of others this year. 

Turn to Conniff Law Offices for Family Legal Support 

As a family law firm in Chicago and Oak Park, the team at Conniff Law Offices knows how difficult a divorce around the holidays can be. We’re here to provide expert legal guidance and compassionate support, whether the divorce is litigated or quick and free from unnecessary strife. If you’re considering taking the first steps toward divorce, contact us to schedule a consultation at one of our offices in Chicago or Oak Park.

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Imputation of Income in Divorce, Part 1

Part 1 of 2

Spousal maintenance and child support calculations are often a source of conflict and tension in divorce proceedings, but they don’t have to cause such complications. There are many instances where both spouses understand the need for maintenance or child support and will work together to reach a fair and mutually agreeable solution. Unfortunately, there are other cases where one party attempts to evade their support obligation by hiding their income or earning potential. When traditional discovery tools fail to prove the individual’s true income, an argument may be made for the imputation of income.

What is Imputation of Income?

Imputation of income is when a Court attributes a calculated amount of income to a parent, even if the parent does not actually earn that amount. The Court determines the amount of income the parent could make based on their background, education, and specialized competencies. Even if the parent is earning less than the amount determined by the imputation of income, the Court can still use the imputed income as the basis for calculating the amount of maintenance or child support to be paid.

This is the first of two articles discussing the imputation of income. In this article, we will discuss the preliminary discovery steps that must be taken prior to imputing income, as well as the three scenarios whereby a Court will impute income on a child support or maintenance obligor.

When May Income Be Imputed?

Under Illinois law, income may be imputed when there is doubt that the obligor’s reported income is accurate and there is evidence to suggest that the obligor is or can be earning more than they claim. Every court in Illinois has upheld a court’s power to impute income.

For example, in [citation], the Appellate Court summarized the three instances when income may be imputed:

  • “It is well established in Illinois, ‘[i]n order to impute income, a Court must find that one of the following factors applies: (1) the payor is voluntarily unemployed * * *; (2) the payor is attempting to evade a support obligation * * *; or (3) the payor has unreasonably failed to take advantage of an employment opportunity.’”

To Impute, We Must Infer

It sounds simple enough: an imputation of income is based on an inference of earnings or would-be earnings. A Court will not impute income if it does not believe a party is earning, or could be earning, more money than they claim. Producing evidence to support such an inference is the first, and perhaps most important, step in successfully arguing for the imputation of income.

There are several methods through which a child support or maintenance obligor may seek to decrease their obligation, but the two most common practices are:

  1. Hiding income
  2. Failing to seek full employment

Both scenarios are unique and require differing discovery methods. We’ll take a closer look at discovery methods in the next section.

Income Discovery Methods: Hiding Income

There are several ways an individual could attempt to conceal their income, with the two most common methods being money laundering and failure to report cash earnings.

What is Laundering?

  • Laundering is the transfer of illegally obtained money or investments through an outside party to conceal the true source. Often, the outside party will be a friend or family member. The obligor may request that their earnings be directed through the third party source, who in turn will either “loan” money to the obligor or pay for the obligor’s expenses as a “favor.” Either way, the obligor is spending their own money under false pretenses. Typically, money laundering is accomplished when the obligor is a small business owner or works for a family member or friend.

How is Laundered Income Uncovered?

  • Notices to produce and subpoenaed documents will fail to uncover income hidden through laundering; the obligor’s bank records will show very little earned income, and deposits of personal checks can easily be dismissed as a “loan” from a friend or relative. The key is that an obligor’s laundering can only be as effective as their coconspirators are dedicated. The obligee’s attorney should pursue aggressive discovery on all parties who are supposedly “lending” the obligor money, as well as on the obligor themself. All parties involved should be deposed and, to the extent possible, their earnings from employment should be verified. The money should be traced as far back as possible to determine its origins and all alibis should be thoroughly investigated.

What is Failure to Report Cash Earnings?

  • The failure to report cash earnings is less dependent on the cooperation of coconspirators. Many contractors and service employees receive substantial cash income, which they may fail to report.

How are Unreported Cash Earnings Uncovered?

  • The discovery of unreported cash earnings should be focused on the bank records and paystubs of the obligor. They may deposit some of their cash earnings, and their employer may keep records of cash payments made to them. Even if the obligor’s bank records are consistent with their reported earnings and their employer has no records of cash payments, the obligor still must demonstrate a standard of living consistent with their reported earnings. Unlike the money launderer, the cash-hider has no alibi for large monthly expenses or lavish expenditures. Proof of a lifestyle inconsistent with the obligor’s reported earnings will likely cast doubt on their reported income.

Income Discovery Methods: Failure to Seek Full Employment

Unemployment and underemployment are unfortunate and occasionally traumatic parts of life. However, there are many instances in which an obligor may fail to take a higher paying job or seek employment in an attempt to avoid a support obligation.

Child support is based on the net income of the obligor and maintenance is based on a list of factors, including the present and future earnings of both parties. An obligor may seek to reduce or avoid their support obligation by taking a lower-paying job or failing to seek full-time employment during the pendency of their case.

How is the Failure to Seek Full Employment Uncovered?

  • Unlike hiding income, this tactic is much easier to address. The obligee should first request that the obligor maintain a job diary to document their job search. Job diaries are typically accompanied by a requirement that the job seeker applies to a predetermined number of jobs each week and provides detailed information on each application. Where an obligor is underemployed, the obligee should request that the court takes into consideration the obligor’s prior earnings in determining any support obligation.

Seek the Representation of a Divorce Attorney

Arguing for the imputation of income is best accomplished with the representation of an experienced divorce attorney. If you are an obligee who suspects the obligor in your case is not being forthcoming with their income, contact Conniff Law Offices of Chicago and Oak Park to schedule a consultation without delay. Our team will work tirelessly on your behalf to secure the maintenance or child support to which you may be entitled.

Learn More in Part Two

We’ve covered the basic answer to “what is imputation of income?” and discussed the common methods taken by obligors to hide their income or cash earnings. In part two of this series, we will look at some real-life examples of these scenarios and explain how the discovery methods we discussed in part one were vital to successfully arguing for the imputation of income.


Read Part 2

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