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

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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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Prenuptial FAQ: What is a Prenup?

To put it simply, a prenuptial agreement is a contract between two people who plan to marry. The couple doesn’t need to be legally married to enter into a prenuptial agreement. The contract can resolve common issues in divorce cases, such as spousal maintenance and property division, in advance. This may help to remove the need for divorce litigation. Read on to learn more about prenuptial agreements, how they work, and when you may want one.

How Does a Prenup Work?

Prenuptial agreements in Illinois must adhere to the requirements described in the Illinois Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. Although prenuptial agreements don’t require a witness or court involvement, they must also be in writing and signed by the couple. Prenuptial agreements don’t become effective until the couple is married.

Since unmarried couples (excluding those who’ve entered into a civil union or common law marriage ) have no legal right to one another’s property after they separate, there’s no risk involved for either party if the marriage never occurs. Additionally, a prenuptial agreement isn’t set in stone; it can be amended or voided after the marriage, although both spouses will need to provide written consent.

Should I Get a Prenup?

There are a number of situations in which a prenuptial agreement can be beneficial:

  • If you’ve experienced a stressful divorce in the past, you know how emotionally and mentally trying it can be. Although a prenup can’t address issues like child custody, it’s a smart way to possibly avoid painful divorce litigation. Not to mention, it can reduce the costs of divorce significantly, since pressing issues like asset division and alimony won’t need to be litigated.
  • Do you have more assets than your intended spouse, such as a small business you’ve put many years of time and money into? If so, you would likely want to hold onto those assets if your marriage ends in divorce. A prenuptial agreement can prevent your assets from being regarded as marital property.
  • Prenuptial agreements can ensure your children from a prior marriage have access to the assets you’ve set aside for them.
  • Prenuptial agreements can be used to ensure that, upon divorce, property that was acquired before your marriage is regarded as a non-marital asset and remain your property after a divorce, or after your death.

Does a Prenup Protect Future Assets?

Yes, a well-written prenup can protect future assets. However, it’s not as simple as listing “all future income” or “all future property acquisitions” to ensure your future assets are protected. The prenup needs to list those future assets in detail, or the court will be unable to discount them as marital property, especially if there’s no clear owner. Because verbiage is critical when drafting a prenuptial agreement, it’s important to rely on the expertise of a lawyer with prenup experience.

Rely on a Skilled Lawyer to Create a Prenuptial Agreement

Do you have additional questions about prenuptial agreements or how they differ from postnuptial agreements? Does a prenuptial agreement seem advantageous for you and your intended spouse? If so, contact Conniff Law Offices. We’ll gladly schedule a consultation with you at our Chicago or Oak Park office.

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5 Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

Divorce isn’t easy, and neither are the painful readjustments that accompany it. Transitions and visitation are difficult — emotionally, mentally, and logistically. Co-parenting can get especially tricky when young children are involved, as you and your ex will need to work together closely to ensure your child’s needs are met. We’ve highlighted a few pieces of crucial co-parenting advice below, so you and your ex can make the best possible decisions concerning your child’s happiness, visitation, transitions, self-care, and more.

1. Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings

Your child won’t always want to pack a bag and spend the weekend at his mother or father’s house. When this happens, acknowledge how difficult the process is for your child and lend an ear. Then, help nudge them into more positive territory by saying something like, “Your Mom loves and misses you so much, and I’m sure she has a lot of fun stuff planned for you two.”

Ask if there’s anything you can do to put their mind at ease. Sometimes, it’s as easy as packing a few things they’re missing at the other parent’s house.

2. Make Co-Parenting a Joint Effort

Whether you’re on good terms with your ex or not, you’ll need to make parenting decisions — and those decisions don’t end until the child is living on their own. If you can do this without bickering, you’ll both get much better results.

Agree on rules and discipline. Be as consistent as possible and respect the disciplinary measures carried out by the other parent. For example, if the other parent grounds the child, don’t allow them to go out when they visit you. Also, agree on a schedule, so your child can stick to a routine regardless of which roof they’re under. If managing a co-parenting schedule starts to get complicated, there are multiple apps to help with divorce that can make everything more seamless.

3. Simplify Transitions & Visitation

Whether your child transitions from one household to the other every week or every few months, it’s likely not easy for them. They’re reunited with one parent but leaving the other, and for many children, it’s a bittersweet feeling. There are a few steps you and your ex can take to make the process easier for your child:

  • Set Reminders: A couple of days before they leave, remind your child that they’re heading to the other parent’s house soon.
  • Pack Ahead of Time: Help your younger child pack, so they’re ready to go when it’s time for them to leave. Encourage them to pack that stuffed animal they love or the photo of you two that they keep on their bedside table — but don’t push it.
  • Set a Pick-Up/Drop-Off Schedule: Drop your child off at the other parent’s house, but don’t pick them up. Allow your ex to bring them home. This way, you won’t interrupt any bonding time.

4. Turn Loneliness into Productivity

Although it’s important for your child to spend quality time with both you and your ex, it’s natural to feel lonely in the interim. When your child is away, spend your time doing the things you love, such as reading, writing, biking, and catching up with friends. Consider the extra time to yourself a silver lining after the dissolution of marriage or civil union.

If your child is away for longer than a couple of days, find ways to keep in touch that won’t make the other parent feel like you’re infringing (and can actually be helpful), such as picking the child up after school and dropping them off.

5. Control Your Emotions

If your ex does something that upsets you, don’t involve your child. No one wants to hear negative comments about their parent, especially if those comments are being made by the other parent. Let your kid be a kid and don’t bog them down with past conflicts that took place between you and your ex.

Instead of immediately reacting with an angry phone call or text, keep a list of grievances with your ex. Update the list when you have a new grievance and check back in a few days. If it still upsets you, address it with them privately. If it’s no longer an issue, move on.

Get More Co-Parenting Advice from Conniff Law Offices

Conniff Law Offices is a reputable family law firm in Illinois, with offices in Chicago and Oak Park. If you’re seeking a divorce, or have questions about family law or getting child support, we welcome you to contact us to schedule a consultation. Searching for fun things to do in Oak Park that will make visits with your children more memorable? Even in this area of expertise, our team is here to help. Take a look at our guide to start planning for your kids’ next visit today.

Posted in Child Custody, Civil Union Divorce, Collaborative Divorce, Divorce Litigation, Parentage, Uncontested Divorce | Comments Off on 5 Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

First Steps Toward Divorce

You’ve moved past the point of considering a divorce and think it may be time to take action, but what should you do now? While television has sensationalized divorce and made contested, messy divorces a part of popular culture, the divorce lawyers at Conniff Law Offices believe in collaborative divorce and mediation, with litigation as a last resort. You have now already taken your first steps toward starting a new life: researching divorce attorneys and how to file for divorce. Read on to learn what to do next when preparing for divorce.

In a collaborative divorce or a mediated divorce, your first step in the divorce process is to reach out to an attorney trained in the Collaborative Law Process or an attorney with mediation training.

How to File for Divorce

Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that, while you certainly have your reasons for wanting to dissolve a marriage or civil union, they are not required and have no impact on factors like spousal maintenance or child support or property division. In order to file for divorce in Illinois, either the person seeking the divorce or his or her spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days, then:

  • The petitioner has the right to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage;
  • The petition must be filed in a county where at least one of the spouses lives;
  • The petition must be served on the other spouse by an individual appointed by a judge to deliver the Petition by hand.

The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage will include basic information about the relationship: the date and location of the marriage, current living arrangements, and any children of the marriage.

While filing for divorce can take a certain level of courage and determination, it is probably the simplest part of the process. The divorce proceedings themselves are when difficulties may arise, depending on. It is wise to consult a divorce attorney in even the most amicable divorces so you can discuss your options on how to approach divorce proceedings.

How to Approach Divorce Proceedings

Divorce proceedings in Chicago typically use one of four conflict resolution processes:

Even in an amicable or uncontested divorce, one or more of these processes will be used to determine the specifics of the divorce, from dissolution of assets to parental responsibilities for children. Every divorce follows the same path: petition for dissolution, conflict resolution, and enacted judgment for dissolution of marriage.

As you walk the first steps toward divorce, know that you do not need to decide on a collaborative divorce or divorce litigation right now. A divorce lawyer can help you decide the ideal method(s) of conflict resolution for your divorce and offer guidance along the way.

Consult a Divorce Lawyer at Conniff Law Offices

Even if you are still weighing the possibility of divorce, it will be very helpful to consult with a divorce attorney in Chicago who can advise you of your options and help you avoid financial mistakes during proceedings. Contact Conniff Law to learn more about our divorce services and the steps to take when dissolving a marriage.

Posted in Articles, Civil Union Divorce, Collaborative Divorce, Divorce Litigation, Uncontested Divorce | Leave a comment

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