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Peoria Family Law Blog

Marital property, Social Security benefits support retirement

No one wants to just get by during retirement, but establishing a secure financial footing for the future is not always easy. Divorce in particular can complicate plans for one's later years. Making sound, informed decisions regarding the division of marital property is one way to protect that future, but it is not the only approach.

Many people in Illinois use Social Security benefits for at least some of their retirement income. These benefits are essential even to those who have spent decades carefully setting aside enough money to support themselves even without Social Security, which is true even for those who are divorced. Should someone not have any Social Security benefits of his or her own, then claiming benefits based on an ex-spouse's work history is possible.

Stay-at-home parents should secure future access to alimony

Even the best laid plans can be easily derailed by reality. For example, many Illinois couples plan for both partners to continue working after they have children. But once kids are in the picture those plans might change. It is not uncommon for one parent -- quite often the mother -- to leave the workforce and stay home with the kids. In these situations, stay-at-home parents should be vigilant about protecting their rights to alimony and marital assets after a divorce.

No matter how personally fulfilling a parent might find being a full-time caregiver for the kids, leaving the workforce puts him or her at a significant financial disadvantage. While it might not seem like a big deal at the time, addressing that disadvantage in a postnuptial agreement can make sure it does not snowball into a serious problem during divorce. Perhaps one of the most important things to address in a postnup is that the decision to stay home was made jointly.

Your fathers' rights do not disappear during divorce

As a dad, you have a meaningful and irreplaceable relationship with your child. Divorce should not sever any aspect of that relationship. If you feel like losing your connection to your child is the inevitable result of ending your marriage, you might still be under the impression that Illinois family law treats dads more like occasional helpers than active parents. This is simply not reality for most families. If you want to be certain that your child's best interests are being met, then you should be ready to assert your fathers' rights.

If you are eager to stay just as involved and active in your child's life, you should let go of the assumption that you will only see your kids a few weekends a month. However, you must be prepared to demonstrate your parental role. This can feel unnatural at first. Society tends to condition women to assume a lot of parental responsibilities even when fathers are eager to participate as well.

Behaviors that signal divorce and can influence spousal support

Divorce rarely comes as a total surprise. Both partners are likely fully aware of marital conflict by the time they reach the point of divorce. However, even if a person believes that divorce is in his or her future, the exact timing of it might be a mystery. There are several behaviors that might indicate divorce is drawing nearer, including one that could affect spousal support.

Spousal support provides financial stability to one spouse, helping to maintain the lifestyle to which he or she has become accustomed. In Illinois, the recipient is typically the partner who earned less or did not work during the marriage. Should this person suddenly begin making large purchases and spending more money than normal, he or she could be trying to establish a more expensive lifestyle. Conversely, a spouse who unexpectedly slashes household expenses might be hoping to lower his or her spouse's expected lifestyle. Both are possible signs that divorce may be sooner rather than later.

What kind of documents are required in a high-asset divorce?

Perhaps you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage. There are significant assets involved, and your next step is to seek legal counsel.

A high-asset divorce can be very complex. Pulling together the appropriate documents will provide a useful starting point for your meeting with an attorney.

How your spouse could influence the outcome of spousal support

It often feels as if there is a never-ending number of details that one must attend to both prior to and during a divorce. Issues such as child custody, property division and child support are often at the top of the list, but solely thinking about these matters may cause someone to overlook other concerning issues. Consider the following issues that could indicate an upcoming divorce and even an attempt to manipulate the outcome of spousal support.

Most couples in Illinois will go through one or more rough patches during marriage. These periods of time may involve one partner routinely nagging the other and complaining about his or her actions. Should that spouse suddenly stop all nagging and complaints, it could indicate that he or she intends to file for divorce. This is a common tactic used to create space between two spouses. The person distancing him or herself may be doing so to justify filing for divorce, as it makes it easier to assert that the two were no longer close.

Will I lose my pet during divorce?

Although there is an undeniable emotional bond that comes with pet ownership, the law generally does not acknowledge anything of the sort. In Illinois, pets are property and little more. Just as with the marital home, investments and even the furniture, couples must decide what will happen to the family pet during divorce.

A pet may be considered either separate or marital property. However, when trying to show that a pet is separate property, an owner might not be able to rely on the fact that he or she purchased the animal prior to marriage. How the pet was treated and who provided the majority of its care during the marriage could indicate that it is actually marital property. If so, the couple can decide who will maintain ownership. In Illinois, the law allows judges to consider the well-being of companion animals when deciding pet ownership issues.

Protect your 401(k) during divorce

Creating a financially secure retirement takes much more than just tucking away a bit of money for a few years. Adults in Illinois spend decades growing their retirement accounts through both personal and employer contributions. The idea of compromising those savings might feel out of the question, but it is an unavoidable issue during divorce. Here are a few things one might expect when dividing a 401(k) account.

Establishing when the account was opened is crucial. Barring a prenuptial agreement or extenuating circumstances, income earned by either spouse during marriage is considered marital property, which must be divided during divorce. This includes contributions to retirement accounts. If the 401(k) was created prior to marriage, the original balance at that time is generally considered separate property. Furthermore, the marital funds from the 401(k) will likely be split according to each person's financial contributions rather than in an equal split.

Why am I thinking about divorce during the holidays?

The holiday season is the happiest time of year for many people, but for others it represents a struggle more than anything else. Social pressure and expectations place a tremendous amount of pressure on couples who are already struggling to find happiness in their marriages. This is one of the reasons why the number of people filing for divorce drastically increases during the first month of the year.

It is not necessarily the pressure to have a perfect holiday that makes it so difficult for couples in Illinois, but the underlying issues that are then forced to the surface. For some couples this means confronting problems with both time and money. Couples who already struggle to coordinate with one another find it extremely hard to budget time or to agree in what manner to spend it.

Financial support can relieve women's financial burden in divorce

Men and women alike face unique challenges during divorce, but a report indicates that many women in Illinois face more burdens than their exes. This is not the result of just one factor but of many, ranging from finances to child custody. Although financial support such as alimony might help relieve some of this burden, it is not necessarily enough.

Money is the largest concern among women going through divorce, in part because they earn an average of 81% of the median male income. Compared to men, women also suffer much larger drops in income after divorce, around 20%. Men see their incomes go up at least 30%, sometimes more. This means that women must be as prepared as possible for divorce, such as taking steps to save money in personal accounts, improve credit scores and close joint credit card accounts when possible.

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