What is an Illinois Parenting Plan?

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An Illinois parenting plan may be the most important document that results from a divorce proceeding.  It focuses exclusively on the children.  It pushes emotional and economic issues to the side and places the spotlight on what is best for the children.

A parenting plan attempts to set certain standards and procedures for the relationship between the divorced parents and their children.  The best parenting plan is one that is developed by the parents.  There are occasions where the court decides what will be in the plan or in those portions of the plan where the parents cannot agree.

The parenting plan becomes an official order of the court and the parents are required to comply with all of its terms.  Each parent is subject to being held in contempt of court if he or she does not follow the directive of the court.  In determining what should be included in the parenting plan, the parents and the court always should be guided by what is in the best interests of the children.

What Does a Illinois Parenting Plan Include?

The parenting plan can be as extensive as the parents or the court deems necessary.  The more details that are included in the parenting plan, the less likely disputes are to arise in the future.  The plan will certainly include all of the main aspects of the relationship between the divorced parents and their children.  Some of the basic day-to-day parenting duties will typically be left to the parents with the hope that they can agree. Typical parenting plan provisions include:

Decision Making Responsibility. The parenting plan will state which parent will make the final decision on such items as education, religion, extracurricular activities and non-emergency health issues in the event that the parties do not agree.  This may be the most important, and often the most contentious, element of the parenting plan.  Control and ego are often at play when making this determination.  There are occasions when one parent may have the final say on some decisions and the other parent may have the final say on other matters.

Access to Children’s Records. The plan should include a provision permitting each parent full access to the children’s health and educational records.

Parenting Time in General. The parenting plan will define the parenting time for each parent.  It will state what days of the month each parent will be with the children as well as the times.  For example, if one parent has a weekend visitation time, the parenting plan may state that his or her visitation will be from “6 pm Friday until 6 pm Sunday.”  There may be a provision that if one parent has not arrived within 30 minutes of the specified time, he or she will forfeit that specific parenting time.

Vacations, Birthdays, and Holidays. The plan will state who has parenting time on the birthdays of the parents and the children.  Holiday parenting time is often divided by alternating from one year to the next.  For example, mother may have the children on Christmas in even numbered years and father may have them on Christmas in odd numbered years. With whom the children are to spend school and summer vacations is also spelled out.  Often the summer vacation is given to the parent with less parenting time during the school year.  The plan can even be so specific as to state the arrangements for Halloween when the children are younger.

Exchange of Children. The parenting plan will include provisions about how the children will be exchanged.  It will state who will be transporting the children and where the exchange is to take place.  If the parents do not have a harmonious relationship after the divorce, the plan will often provide that the exchange take place at a public location away from each parent’s house to reduce the chance of tension or arguments in front of the children.

Notice of Inability to Exercise Parenting Time. A parent should be required to give notice if he or she cannot exercise parenting time.  In such a situation, the other parent is often given the option of having that parenting time as opposed to placing the children with a babysitter or other family member.

Parents’ Conduct during Parenting Time. A frequent provision in a parenting plan is that neither parent shall consume alcohol or illegal drugs during their parenting time.  Some parents agree not to have overnight guests with whom they are romantically involved when the children are present.

Children’s Communication with Absent Parent. The plan should contain a clear statement as to how the children can communicate with one parent when they are with the other parent.  Sometimes specific times are stated and sometimes there are no restrictions.  Given the technology available, communication can be by telephone, text, Skype and FaceTime.

Travel with Children. Each parent is often required to give the other all travel information and itineraries when they take the children on out-of-town trips.

Parent’s Change of Address. A parent will be required to give notice to the other if he or she will be moving to a new address.

Protecting Children from Parental Conflict. Some provisions may seem obvious but should be included nevertheless.  Parents should be directed to not disparage each other in front of their children.  The children should not be placed in the middle of disagreements that the parents are having.  The children should not be used to relay messages between their parents.

What a Parenting Plan Does Not Do

The parenting plan does not attempt to micromanage how each parent raises his or her children.  A court will not get involved, for example, with setting a child’s bedtime or with what a parent decides to feed a child.

Other than a prohibition on overnight visits by romantic partners, the parenting plan will usually not restrict those with whom the parents may associate while with the children.  This is often a matter of contention and the hope is always that each parent will expose the children only to people of good character.  In many cases, one parent objects to the children being around a family member of the other parent that he or she does not like.  A court will be loath to intervene absent hard evidence that the children are in danger.

Enforcement and Amendment of a Parenting Plan

The remedy for a violation of the parenting plan is to bring an action for contempt of court.  The judge may decide to order the parent who is violating the plan to undergo counseling or parenting education; have less time with the children; and/or pay the other parent’s attorney fees.  A contempt proceeding can be costly and time consuming and should be considered only for the most serious violations, as it can make the conflict between the parents worse.

The parenting plan is not written in stone.  As the children grow and schedules change, the parenting plan may need to be amended.  Parents may agree to alter the plan without going back to court.  The amendment may be in writing, oral, or simply a tacit agreement based on what the parents are actually doing.  However, the alteration is not official if it does not work as anticipated.

The purpose of the parenting plan is to place as much structure into the relationship of the divorced parents as possible as it relates to the raising of their children.  It is intended to prevent disputes that will have an impact on the children.  It is not foolproof, but is one component in the key role of each parent— acting in the best interest of the children.

For assistance in developing your parenting plan, or any other divorce-related issue, call the Stetler Law Group at (815) 529-4554.


The Contested Child Custody Case

One of the most tension-filled and agonizing aspects of a divorce is the contested child custody case.  It is a part of the parenting responsibility that few people foresee when they bring children into the world.  You never thought that the welfare of your children would be determined inside the walls of a courtroom.  If you are in this situation, there are many things to consider.


Your children are in the middle of your divorce by their mere presence.   There are certain things that you should avoid that will hurt your children and hurt your case.  Don’t communicate to your spouse through your children.  Do not share the details of your case with the children, especially if they are very young.  Never turn one child against the other, or against the other parent, in order to gain his or her affection.  Children are conflicted enough as it is without one parent taking actions that exacerbate the situation.  If your case goes to trial, it may become apparent if one of the parents, or both, has attempted to manipulate the children in any manner. The parent who is guilty of manipulation will have a black mark against him or her in the judge’s mind.


A contested child custody case can be very complex, but it often boils down to just one standard:  What is in the best interest of the children?  While one or both parents may think they are the focal part of the case, the judge cares about the children, first and foremost.  The evidence should all be directed toward that standard.

Many factors may reflect a party’s parenting skills or lack of skills and thus be relevant to determining the children’s best interests.  One party may be more nurturing than the other but may have an alcohol problem that reduces his or her ability to be a good parent.


Once you know the standard, how do you prove your case and show what is in the best interest of your children?  The best method is to gather testimony from disinterested people who have observed you and the other parent with the children.  Family and friends are fine, but they will often testify in favor of the parent they know, or like the best.  Mutual friends and third parties with no bias (teachers, coaches, extracurricular activity leaders, etc.) are often favored by the court.

Be prepared to show that you are involved in the lives of your children.  Do you know their teachers, friends, food preferences, favorite classes and activities? Your case will be hurt if the other parent is always the one attending the school conferences while you are at work or spending time with your friends.

Once the divorce is filed, one parent may attempt to do more with and for the children than before to impress the court.  This rarely works.  The case will turn on each parent’s history as a parent and not what they do in the months leading up to trial.

The court will want to know how you propose to handle any situation that your children might have—physical, emotional, educational, etc.  Your employment may also have an impact on the case.  A court will want to know who will care for the children after school, during school holidays or on other occasions when your employment may present a conflict.  These are but a few things that you will have to prove to the court to bolster your custody claim.


In Illinois, children 14 and older may choose which parent they prefer to live with.  However, the judge has the final word and can overrule the child’s choice if the judge believes it is against the child’s best interests. Judges will be especially sensitive to the possibility that the child’s choice was coerced by one of the parents.

Parents sometimes want a child to testify in the judge’s chambers.  Parents should think long and hard about this tactic.  Whatever may be gained in the short term may bring about emotional scars to the child in the long run.


A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an individual agreed upon by the parents or appointed by the court whose sole purpose is to look after the best interest of the child.  Typically a specially trained family law attorney, the GAL is the children’s representative.  He or she will get to know the children in their home or homes.  The GAL will confer with friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors and anyone else who can provide a perspective on what will be best for the children.  The GAL will provide a full report to the court to assist the court in its final determination.  While the report is not binding on the court, it is often given great weight.  The parties are expected to cooperate fully and should be aware that there is likely a fee for the GAL to do his or her work.


Mediation is a procedure that is always encouraged and often required.  A mediator is not looking to give credit or assess blame, or to decide the issues in the case.  He or she is only trying to bring the parents together for a compromise that will resolve the case without the time, expense, and emotional stress of a trial.  You should enter mediation with an open mind, receptive to new ideas.  Mediators are often trained in problem solving and bringing new and creative solutions to the table.  Take this part of the process very seriously.

Custody litigation involves the most important part of your life—-your children.  It is more than just a win or a loss in court.  It will determine the welfare of your children for their entire lives.

For help with a contested custody case, or any other divorce-related issue call the Stetler Law Group at (815) 529-4554.

How to Conduct Yourself during Court Appearances

No one wants to go to court.  No one wants to be on the witness stand.  As unappealing as going to court may be, there are things that you and your attorney can do before you even enter the courtroom to make the experience easier.   The easier it is for you, the more chance you have at having a successful result to your case.  Here Woodstock divorce lawyers offer a few tips to remember in the event you need to appear in court to resolve your case.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Review everything as if you were studying for a final exam.  If you have supplied documents to the other side, make sure you know exactly what they contain.  You should review your deposition continuously as it is the script of your testimony.  The other side will likely attempt to show that you are not in command of your facts or will see if they can get you to contradict your previous testimony during the trial.  Your attorney should be able to give you a list of questions that he or she will be asking you.  He or she should also be able to give you questions or topics that the other side will be asking.  A dress rehearsal is a must for both trial preparation and your comfort level.

Your Demeanor Speaks Volumes

A court appearance is full of tension and pressure.  There are a thousand thoughts in your head and a thousand more on the way.  You have to do your best to keep calm and composed.  When your spouse or one of his or her witnesses says something that you know is not true at all, you can’t roll your eyes or mutter something loud enough for the judge or jury to hear.  Actions such as that may hurt your case more than what caused you to react that way.

Keep Your Cool When Things Get Hot

When it is your turn to testify, the other attorney may badger you, attempt to confuse you and try to get you to contradict yourself.  Take your time as you answer.  You can often answer “Yes”or”No” and then give a detailed explanation.  The hotter the other attorney gets, the cooler you should remain.  While you are not expected to be a robot, a display of temper, no matter how frustrating things get, can send an entirely incorrect impression.

Dress for Success

There are no specific rules as to how you should dress for court.  Your attorney will give you guidance in this regard.  Usually, casual dress is sufficient, but sometimes a suit and tie for a man and the equivalent for a woman would be best.  How you dress for court is a reflection of who you are.  If your appearance is sloppy, you may give the impression that your recall of important facts is equally sloppy.

Communicate With Your Attorney Subtly At Trial

There are times when you need to communicate with your attorney during the course of the hearing or trial.  You may think of a question that you want asked or point out something that a witness said that is incorrect.  If you say something verbally, you may disrupt the concentration of your attorney or his or her ability to listen to the testimony.  Make sure you have paper and pen with you and make notes to pass to your attorney.   Your thoughts as the trial progresses are extremely valuable.  You should have an efficient way to communicate these thoughts without distracting either of you from what is being said from the witness stand.

Don’t Let the Courtroom Intimidate You

Certain people will be present in the courtroom when your case is taking place—the judge, the jury (if necessary), a court clerk, perhaps a court reporter and a deputy to keep order in the court.  There may also be people in the audience.  Some of these may be people whose cases are going to be heard after your case.  They will be looking in your direction as you testify but most likely will be concentrating on their own case and paying little, if any attention to your case.  There will also be people, at times, who just like to come to the courthouse to watch interesting cases.  No matter who else is in the courtroom, once your case starts, you will be totally focused on your own situation with no regard as to who else is present in the same room.

Be Yourself

It may sound trite but it is very true.  Once your case starts, you will get into the flow of the situation.  There is no need to act in the way you think you should act.  A judge or jury can spot a phony in a second.  While you will not be relaxed by any stretch of the imagination, you should go into court totally prepared.  Take a deep breath when you need one before answering a question.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say that you don’t know.  If you can’t remember a precise date or fact, there is no shame in that.  You have gone through your entire life, being yourself.  Now is not the time to change.

The process of getting to court may be long and cumbersome.  Don’t let all of your hard work be ruined by not realizing how to handle things once you get there.

The Woodstock divorce lawyers at the Stetler Law Group assist clients with divorce and estate planning matters.  To schedule an appointment call us at (815) 529-4554.

What to Expect at Your Illinois Divorce Deposition

If you or your spouse filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the state of Illinois, it is likely that your attorney has requested discovery, or information, from your soon-to-be former spouse, and your spouse’s attorney has requested discovery from you.  That discovery may include Interrogatories which is a list of questions that your spouse must answer under oath or a Notice to Produce which directs your spouse to provide copies of requested documents including tax returns, credit card statements and other documents that apply to your case.


Another form of discovery is known as a deposition.  A deposition is a list of questions given by an attorney that are answered by the spouse in a divorce case under oath and in the presence of a court reporter.  There are rules under Illinois law regarding the scheduling and taking of a deposition[1] including one that restricts the time limit for a deposition unless extended by court order.


My Spouse’s Attorney Is Requesting My Deposition – What Happens Next?

If you have received a Notice of Deposition from the other side, the first thing you must do is schedule an appointment with your Crystal Lake divorce attorney.  Your lawyer cannot tell you how to answer the questions at your deposition, but he can review an outline of the types of questions that you will be asked so that you feel more comfortable about the process.  Although your attorney can provide a detailed listing of the types of questions you can expect, there are some questions that are asked at many depositions including:


  • Identification: At the outset of your deposition, you will likely be asked questions concerning your name, address, date of birth and other identifying information.
  • Education/Employment: Depending upon your educational and/or employment background, you will be asked questions regarding the highest level of school that you completed, any specialized training that you received, and your employment history as well as questions regarding your current employment, salary, and employee benefits.  If either you or your spouse is requesting maintenance, there may be additional questions concerning your Financial Disclosure Statement and monthly expenses as well as any other detail that applies to your situation.
  • Property: If you own any property individually or jointly with any other person including your spouse, you will be asked about the title of the property, how and when it was acquired, the existence of any mortgages or liens, as well as the current value of each property.
  • Assets: Depending upon the nature of your marital estate, you may be asked questions regarding bank accounts, retirement accounts, personal property, automobiles, and other assets owned by yourself or your spouse.
  • Non-marital Property: Under Illinois law, there is a type of property known as non-marital property[2] which includes property acquired by gift, legacy or descent and property excluded by a valid premarital or postnuptial agreement.  If either you or your spouse owns non-martial property, you may be asked questions regarding each item.
  • Debts: You will likely be asked a series of questions regarding any debts that were incurred jointly with your spouse or individually.  In many divorce depositions, many questions are asked regarding individual charge card accounts or purchases and cash advances on credit cards.  Before the date of your deposition, you may want to review any such transactions on your credit card statements with your attorney.
  • Parenting: If you have not reached an agreement regarding parenting responsibilities prior to the date of your deposition, it is likely that many of the questions will concern this topic.  You may be asked questions regarding the current parenting schedule for the children and the proposed schedule going forward.  You may also be asked regarding decision making responsibilities to be allocated to each parent as well as other child related issues including extracurricular activities, religion, and education.

What Happens the Day of My Deposition According to a Crystal Lake Divorce Attorney

Depositions in divorce cases are usually conducted in the office of your attorney or the attorney representing your spouse.  Typically, both spouses and their respective attorneys are present as well as a court reporter.  At the beginning of the process, the court reporter will swear you in and confirm that all of your answers are given under oath.  Your spouse’s attorney will then ask you questions concerning your case.  If the question is not allowed or there is an objection, your attorney will state that on the record before you begin to answer.


Be sure to listen to each question carefully.  If you do not understand what is being asked, politely request that the question be repeated or rephrased.  One of the most important things that you can do during your deposition is to provide honest and succinct answers the questions being asked.  Sometimes people become nervous and begin to speak about all different topics rather than simply answering the question that was asked.


Contact a Crystal Lake Divorce Attorney

The topics and questions that will be discussed at your deposition are specific to the facts of your case. Only an experienced divorce attorney can review your case and assist you to prepare for your deposition. To speak with a Crystal Lake divorce attorney from the Stetler Law Group call (815) 529-4554.




[1] http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=073500050K2-1003


[2] http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/075000050k503.htm

Woodstock Family Attorney Offers Tips for Successful Discovery

“Discovery” is the part of the legal process where each party gathers information and documentation from the other party.  It ideally occurs well before the trial of the case.  Discovery gives each litigant a look at the evidence that can be used by the other side.  The process prevents the trial from being delayed by the inspection and review of evidence for the first time.  It aids each party in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case.  It may make the difference between whether the case is settled or goes to trial.  Here are the three basic types of discovery and then the principles to guide you through the process.


Interrogatories are written questions that must be answered in writing under oath.  They cover a wide range of topics.  You can be asked for general information about yourself such as your background, education and family history.  You may be required to answer questions about your work history and finances. Many times the interrogatories ask you for the legal principles upon which your case is based.  It is common to be asked for a list of your potential witnesses with a summary of their testimony.  You may be asked particular questions such as if you have hired a detective or whether you have any audio or video evidence.  There are also interrogatories that are tied to the particular facts of your case.  If you are asking, for example, for primary custody of the children, your spouse may ask for you to state why you believe primary custody for you is in the best interest of the children.  The possible interrogatories are many and varied.

Notice to Produce Documents

Each side can require the other to produce documents that are related to the case.  Financial documents are the most frequently requested documents.  They include tax returns, wage and salary information, banking statements and charge account records.  In many cases, telephone and test message information is relevant to the issues at hand.  Audio and video evidence is included in this category.  It is not unusual to ask for the hard drive from a computer or perhaps the computer itself.  As you might expect, social media can provide a wealth of information to request.  A listing of Facebook friends and posts as well as Twitter follows/followers and tweets can be critical in your case.


 A deposition is oral testimony given by a party or a witness.  The attorney’s questions and the answers to the questions are taken down by a court reporter.  It is official testimony as if it were given in front of a judge or jury.  A deposition is a crucial part of the case.  Answers to deposition questions that are not the same as the answers given at trial can hurt the credibility of the party or witness giving the answers.  The answers establish the facts and you don’t want to be presenting two sets of facts in court.  A deposition will also give an indication of a person’s demeanor.  A person may become rattled or lose his or her temper during questioning at the deposition.  It may become clear during the deposition that someone may not be a good witness and the other side may try to exploit any weaknesses in what that person says and how he or she says it.  This can be very important to the ultimate result of the case.

Tips for Successful Discovery

  1. When you are asked to produce documents, get them to your attorney in an organized

manner.  This will save your attorney time and save you legal fees.  Finding the requested document can be a process that consumes a lot of time, but it is required.  Do not cut corners when it comes to supplying the documents.  You are not the only source for many documents that are being requested.  If it appears that you are not supplying documents that are obtained elsewhere, you may seem to be hiding something.

  1. Don’t just provide documents—review them first.  Let your attorney know if there is

anything in the documents that might strengthen or weaken your case.  Your attorney does not need any surprises.  In one case, a husband gave a pile of charge card statement to his counsel without reviewing them.  Neither he nor his attorney noticed his expenditures to Godiva Chocolates and Victoria’s Secret.  At  trial, his wife’s attorney questioned the husband about the purchases.  He stated that none of them were for his wife.  The wife’s attorney asked him nothing further leaving the jury with the distinct impression that he was having an affair even though there was no direct proof.

  1. Give your attorney complete answers to the interrogatories.  He will place them in the

proper format for your response.  It is never a problem to supply your counsel with too much information.  While you may end up giving him more than was requested, what you do provide may contain a simple fact or incident that might change the entire case.

  1. Prepare for your deposition as if it were a final exam.  Your attorney should be able to

provide you with the questions that he will ask you.  He should also be able to give you questions that he anticipates the other side will be asking.  You should have a full rehearsal for as long as it takes to become comfortable with all of the questions and all of the answers.


The discovery process can make or break your case.  It is cumbersome to go through this phase, but cases are often won or lost at this stage of the proceedings.  Devote the time and effort to whatever it takes to put yourself in a position to use this information to your advantage.


To speak with experienced Woodstock family attorneys, contact Michael R. Stetler at (815) 529-4554.

Common Mistakes Made By Divorcing Couples (And How To Avoid Them)

mchenry divorce attorneys Relaxed couple sitting on sofa after a fightWe all make mistakes.  Many occur during stressful times.  As a Crystal Lake divorce lawyer, I know that there are few more stressful times in a person’s life than during a divorce.  Here are some common divorce errors I have seen divorcing parents make that I want to help you avoid.


Not Staying Focused

                Divorce can be one of the most emotional moments of your life.  It is natural to be filled with horrible thoughts about your spouse and concerns about the future.  It is best to try to minimize those thoughts at those times when you need to fully concentrate on your case.  There are legal concepts to understand, finances to be evaluated and the welfare of your children to be considered.  It will do no good at those times to think about what your spouse has said or done to upset you.  A clear head and total concentration on the matters at hand will ensure the success of your case.  Being upset is natural; being able to stay focused is critical.


Relying On Bad Advice From Others

During this process, you may confide in your family and your close friends.  Others may learn about your situation and want to give you help and support.  All are well meaning.  The most damaging are those who want to tell you about someone they heard about who is in a “similar” situation. Most often, their stories do not have a happy ending making you unsur
e and upset.  These stories are most often based on situations that are different than your situation.  They are often in different states where the laws or procedures may be different.  More often than not, they are not worth the time or the worry.  Ask your attorney if one of these stories bothers you and let him or her put your mind at ease.


Using The Children As Bargaining Chips

                It goes without saying that the children of divorcing parents need to be protected.  Even the youngest can see, hear or sense that something very unpleasant is happening with their mother and father.  The children should be kept above the fray at all costs, though it doesn’t always happen that way.  Children hear discussions or arguments between the parties about divorce issues.  Children are  often used, either subtly or on purpose, to convey messages from one parent to the other.  There are times when a parent who has not been attentive to the children suddenly becomes much more concerned and involved in an attempt to look better to the judge or jury.    Placing the children in the middle of your situation can be harmful to your case and, more importantly, harmful to your children.


Trying to Win Every Point

Many issues arise in divorce proceedings.  Couples argue and disagree over monumental items as well as matters that some would see as unimportant or petty.  Attorneys often see that one party or the other needs to “win” any and all of these conflicts.  It is a natural reaction but one that may not be good for your case.  The need to always be the victor may
be used in court to portray you in a bad light.  Successful negotiations toward a resolution of your case may be more difficult if you are unwilling to budge, even a little.  Courts often require a good faith effort at compromise.  Your attorney will help you determine what is important and what areas are good for compromise without hurting your case.  Although sometimes difficult, attempt to place all aspects of your case in their proper perspective.



Failure to Play It Smart

Little things can turn into big things.  An innocent lunch with a friend of the opposite sex may give your spouse the impression that there is a romantic interest in your life.  This is often used as evidence to give the judge or jury the impression that you are having an extra-marital affair.  The time when the divorce is pending is not the time to buy that new camera or piece of jewelry that you have been craving. Out of the ordinary expenditures may give the wrong appearance at this critical stage.  When talking to your spouse, watch what you say and how you say it.  Notes can be taken that will bring your words and your tone back to haunt you in court.


Forgetting About Social Media

                Your emails, Facebook posts and tweets are all a reflection of your personality.  Don’t forget that your spouse and his or her attorney may be looking for any evidence against you that they can find.  Any Twitter dispute that you are having may be used to indicate that you have a nasty streak.  An Instagram photo that shows you dancing at a party while your spouse is at your child’s PTA meeting may have a negative impact on your case.  The cellphone can be used to capture so much of your life that you cannot be too careful about where you go and what you do.


If you can avoid these mistakes, you have a much better chance of reducing the tension that is built into your case.  You and your spouse are more likely to reach a fair settlement and your children will be spared lasting harm.


If you would like to speak with a knowledgeable Crystal Lake divorce lawyer, contact the Stetler Law Group at (815) 529-4554.

Uncontested Divorce In Illinois

Basis for Illinois Divorce

Effective January 1, 2016, the law in the state of Illinois regarding the dissolution of marriage (known as divorce) was changed in numerous ways including the topic of “grounds” or the legal basis that a couple uses to request a divorce.  While the prior version of the law required a couple to live separate and apart for two years based on irreconcilable differences[1] or that one spouse committed a wrong such as adultery, intoxication or abandonment, the new Illinois divorce law eliminates all such grounds and allows a couple to request a divorce if “the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months… .”


What is an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?

There is no single definition of an uncontested divorce, but to most people it means that the couple has agreed to file for divorce and that they have reached an agreement as to issues regarding a division of property, parenting time, child support or any other matter that applies to their situation.  But what may seem uncontested to a couple, can often lead to unexpected disagreements and even litigation, as the parties and their attorneys navigate the complex terms of a Marital Settlement Agreement.  While a married couple may believe they have an agreement as to property division or even parenting time, often they have not considered all of the issues involved in a division of their family unit including:


                        Parenting Issues

  • Will you have parenting time on the child’s birthday? Your own birthday?
  • Who pays for college education expenses (an issue not considered by parents of young children or infants)?
  • Are you allowed to claim the child or children as dependents for tax purposes? Will your spouse be allowed to claim that tax deduction?
  • Who will pay for extracurricular activities? What if you and your former spouse do not agree on the activities for your child or children?  If your spouse enrolls each child in 4 activities a month, are you still required to pay?


                       Property Issues

  • If the residence is to be placed on the market for sale, who will select a realtor? The list price?  Make the monthly mortgage payment?  Who will pay for repairs necessary to list the house for sale?
  • If damage occurs to the residence before it is sold or the divorce is final, are you required to pay the bill?
  • Is there a pet or pets in your family? Who will keep the pets?  Who will pay for vet care?


The list of possible issues where a couple might disagree is endless making it necessary to speak to an experienced divorce lawyer to determine if you have an uncontested divorce or if there are areas of disagreement that cannot be resolved without the court’s assistance.


My Spouse and I Agree on All Issues – What is the Next Step?

If you and your spouse have reached an agreement concerning all of the issues affecting your family, the next step is to have a confidential meeting with a skilled divorce attorney to review all aspects of your case.  Under Illinois law, an attorney is prohibited from representing both spouses in a divorce case so you will meet with the attorney privately without your spouse present.  The attorney will obtain information from you regarding a variety of topics specific to your case including:

  • Identification: Names and addresses of both parties.
  • Employment: Name, address, and contact information for employers of both parties including salary information.
  • Property: Address of each property owned by one or both of the parties as well as the name, address, and account number for each mortgage or lien holder.
  • Financial Accounts: The name, address and account number for each financial account owned by either party or by the couple jointly.  If one or both of the parties is a business owner, it will also be necessary to obtain information regarding business accounts.
  • Children: In cases where children are involved, it will be necessary for your lawyer to obtain information regarding the agreed upon parenting schedule, the payment of child support, medical expenses, educational expenses and a variety of other issues that will apply to your individual case.

Once your attorney has gathered all of the necessary information, he will draft a settlement letter or draft Marital Settlement Agreement on your behalf.  Such an agreement will set forth the specific terms of your agreement with regard to all of the issues that apply to your family.  It will also be necessary for your attorney to draft additional documents such as a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in order to formally file your case with the Clerk of the Circuit Court.  In many cases, these documents can be forwarded to your spouse or their attorney once you approve the specific terms.


Contact us

As each divorce case is unique, only a divorce attorney can detail the legal steps that apply to your situation.  If you believe that you have an uncontested divorce in Illinois, it is important to speak to an experienced divorce attorney to decide your next steps. Contact the Stetler Law Group at (815) 529-4554 to arrange for your initial consultation.




[1] http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=3700000&SeqEnd=5200000

Making the Most of Your First Conference with Your Woodstock Family Lawyer

Counselling Session McHenry Divorce LawyerThe initial conference with your Woodstock family lawyer is an important first step in the ongoing working relationship.


The Basic Facts

Be prepared to tell your attorney the basic factual information about the existing situation (date of marriage, names and birth dates of children, etc.).  He or she will want to know the cause of the divorce and what evidence you can provide to support your position in the event that a trial is necessary.  The evidence may be in the form of specific examples of events that led to your position or the testimony of witnesses with knowledge of the facts.


Facts That Might Hurt Your Case

Relate anything that may reflect negatively on your case.  Some of this information may be embarrassing or information that you may be reluctant to share.  Your attorney needs to be prepared for and not surprised by anything.  He or she will need to know any facts that your spouse may attempt to use against you.  Knowing this information in advance will often limit or eliminate any damage that it may cause.


Providing Information to Your Attorney

While you may not need the documentation or a witness list at the initial conference, you should be able acquire this information as soon as it is requested.  Your situation may require prompt action by your attorney who may schedule a court hearing which will allow the judge to determine certain issues on a temporary basis pending the final resolution of the case.   Providing that information in a neat and organized manner will make your attorney’s work easier and reduce the billable time that is needed on your case.


Bringing Moral Support to the Conference

At the initial conference, you may want to bring a family member or friend with you to act as another set of eyes and ears or for support.  This conference is often the time when the prospect of divorce turns into a reality.  It can often be an emotional moment and there is nothing wrong with having someone there to support you.


Just as you should be prepared for the initial conference with your attorney, your attorney should be ready to address your questions and concerns.


Child Custody and Visitation          

If there are children involved, ask your attorney how custody and visitation is determined.  If you have any special circumstances that might affect this, it’s best to share these as soon as possible.  He or she needs to talk with you about “the right of first refusal.”  The purpose of this provision is to clarify the fact that when one spouse cannot exercise his or her parenting time for an extended period, the other spouse may keep the children in order to prevent a third party (friend, neighbor, babysitter, etc.) from being the appointed caregiver.


Child Support

One obvious topic for this conversation is child support.  The three key factors are the income of the parents, payment for child care and payment for the children’s health insurance.  Have your attorney discuss these factors as well as other factors that may have an impact on the support amount.  Some of these other factors may be appropriate for your situation and may cause an adjustment to the calculation of child support.  Once each side provides the other with his or her financial information, the support calculation and any adjustments can to be made.


Trial by Judge or Jury

              Most cases never reach the stage where an actual trial is necessary; they are settled before that time.  If a trial is necessary, the outcome will be determined by either a judge acting alone or by a jury and your attorney should discuss his or her thoughts on this matter.   The choice of trial by the judge or a jury will most often affect the cost to you.  The choice often affects the timetable, as well.  This part of the initial conversation should not be lengthy, but will help your overall understanding of what is ahead of you.


Legal Fees

During this time, it is appropriate to fully discuss the fees and how they will be determined.  The attorney cannot tell you exactly how much your case will cost as there are many factors such as the attitude and cooperation of your spouse or your spouse’s attorney.  There may be expenses associated with the case in addition to attorney’s fees for which you will be responsible such as an initial filing fee, the possibility of deposition transcripts, a mediator and the electronic filing of documents.  These are all matters that your attorney should be able to discuss.


As you can tell, this first conference is important for both you and your attorney.  A wide ranging discussion will get your working relationship with your lawyer off to an excellent start. To schedule your initial conference with a Woodstock family lawyer, call the Stetler Law Group at (815) 529-4554.

What to Do with the Family Home when a Marriage Ends

Woodstock family lawyerAfter child custody matters, the division of property is often a major concern of divorcing couples. Their largest asset is usually the family home, but it could be difficult to decide what to do with the residence. Numerous emotional issues and other factors affect how to divide a home on a case-by-case basis. Our Crystal Lake family law attorney will discuss options with you, so you have the relevant facts.

Emotions and the Value of a Home

Assessing the value of a home is challenging, and different appraisals will likely reach different conclusions. The exact worth of a home is set when it is sold, but our Crystal Lake family law firm understands the reluctance of clients to part with their property. A home represents many emotional connections, including a safe haven, a status symbol and significance. The owners might have put a considerable amount of time and money into upgrading the home to reflect their personality. People are closely attached their residences and have many memories attached to the home. Placing a monetary value on those experiences and memories is very difficult. Our Crystal Lake family law firm works with individuals who are attempting to resolve the division of a home.

Finances and the Value of a Home

When a couple purchases a home, they usually do not view it as an investment. Investors look at how they can increase the value of the home, make the necessary improvements and sell the property. Instead, the couple usually spends money on the home. They insure it, pay interest, maintain it, pay taxes and spend other money just to keep the home running. If the couple bought the home together, one spouse will need to buy out the other party. In addition, the person will now need to spend money to continue the upkeep of the property. Our Crystal Lake family law attorney can help you decide if you can afford the home by yourself.

If you are wondering about what to do with the family residence during a divorce, call Michael Stetler at (815) 529-4554. Our Crystal Lake family law firm will provide you with valuable counsel, so you can make an informed decision.

Crystal Lake Divorce Attorney Discuss How Custody Is Decided

Divorce can be complicated, especially if there are children involved. If you are going through a divorce with custody issues, contact your local Crystal Lake divorce attorney to help you through this difficult process. In divorce cases, the parents and their Crystal Lake divorce attorney can try to come to an agreement of custody. Often times, going through a divorce is an emotionally-charged process that leaves the parents not able to reach an agreement. If that happens, then it is up to the presiding judge to decide how to split custody of minor children between the separating parents. While laws can vary from state-to-state, there is one common factor that the judges are looking for: what is the best interest for the child in question. Some of the best interest factors that judges will be most likely to consider are:

  • The emotional bond that the child shares with each parent. The judge will look at the love, attention, affection, and emotional ties that each parent shares with the minor child.
  • The stability of the child’s home life. The judge will want to see which parent will be able to provide a more stable environment for the child.
  • The preference of the child. If the minor child is old enough to decide which parent they prefer, the judge will take their preference into consideration. There is no set age for a child that can testify during a divorce proceeding.
  • Past cases of domestic violence. The judge will want to see if there has been a documented history of domestic violence between the parents. The court will take these instances into consideration.

No two divorce cases are the same, so the judge may allow the parents to present evidence for custody. Your divorce attorney can direct you on what evidence will be allowed to be presented in court.

Contact a Crystal Lake Divorce Attorney

For help from an experienced professional, contact your Crystal Lake divorce attorney today from Stetler Law Group at (815) 529-4554.


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