| Read Time: 4 minutes | Divorce

What is Collaborative Divorce in Illinois and Do I Need a Lawyer?

Divorce can be one of the most emotional and financially taxing events in a person’s life. Not only must you make sense of a failed intimate relationship, but you may also be doing so under diminished capacity. You’re simply not yourself during a divorce. Before, you were confident, reasonable, fair-minded, and thoughtful. Now it may take everything you have just to get out of bed. In addition, you may be experiencing shame, confusion, uncertainty about the future, and anger. Unfortunately, the legal system and expectations of others frequently spur us to act in ways that are not in our long-term best interests. From the moment you place your first call to a divorce attorney, you are conditioned to think of divorce as a zero-sum game in which only one party can emerge victorious. As a result, divorcing parties frequently make shortsighted decisions based on emotions rather than reason. Consequently, contested divorces often serve no one, including your children.  In sum, divorces are expensive. They cause emotional scarring. And they frequently fail to provide for the future. As a solution, Illinois divorce law recognizes collaborative divorce as a viable alternative to going to war. What Is a Collaborative Divorce in Illinois? The Illinois Collaborative Process Act (ICPA) defines “collaborative process” as a “procedure intended to resolve a collaborative process matter without intervention by a court.” While the parties may have a serious conflict with each other, a collaborative divorce removes the matter from the traditional adversary system. There is no invasive discovery. There are no antagonistic depositions. More importantly, there is no unpredictable trial. In general, collaborative divorces have two distinguishing characteristics: Both parties agree to resolve all issues in a manner that is both respectful and amicable outside of the courtroom. The parties are each represented by a collaborative divorce attorney. Do I Need an Attorney to Get a Collaborative Divorce? No law prohibits you from representing yourself in a collaborative divorce. However, it is not advised. Unlike you, a collaborative attorney does not have a personal stake in your divorce. This means that their judgment will not be influenced by emotions. Furthermore, collaborative attorneys go through special training to become collaborative divorce lawyers. This is in addition to the general training required to become a lawyer. Collaborative divorce attorneys are well-versed in turning win-lose divorces into win-win settlements. Should you be uncomfortable with a certain term of your divorce, collaborative divorce lawyers will zealously advocate to change it for your benefit.  How Does the Collaborative Process Work? In general, the collaborative process consists of a series of meetings during which the parties’ attorneys cooperate to provide a structured, non-adversarial environment. This can help the parties see eye-to-eye on issues such as property division and parenting time.  Once the parties agree to attempt a collaborative divorce, they, along with their lawyers, sign a participation agreement. This agreement commits the parties to try to resolve all marital issues in accordance with collaborative principles. Rather than focus on each party’s respective rights and entitlements, the collaborative process focuses on each party’s specific needs and interests as well as the needs and interests of any children of the marriage. Once you reach an agreement, the collaborative lawyers draft the necessary paperwork and submit the written agreement to the court for approval and entry of judgment.  In addition to lawyers, parties going through a collaborative divorce frequently employ a team of professionals who are experts in a specific aspect of the divorce. These specialists often include divorce coaches, family specialists, and financial planners.   Divorce Coaches Divorce coaches help collaborating parties deal with the emotional aspects of divorce. They advise clients on how to set and achieve goals for the divorce. While neither a therapist nor social worker, a divorce coach instructs the parties on effective communication skills during negotiations as well as coping strategies. In addition, divorce coaches serve as go-betweens if communication breaks down during settlement negotiations.  Family Specialist Family specialists are common in collaborative divorces where the parties have minor children. They help the parties reach a fair agreement concerning issues like parenting time and the allocation of decision-making authority. In addition, family specialists work with the parties to develop the communication skills necessary for effective co-parenting. Financial Specialist Parties to a collaborative divorce commonly use financial specialists to assist with the identification, valuation, and division of marital property. The financial specialist takes into consideration the parties’ specific needs and interests to determine alternative ways to divide the assets. In addition, financial specialists assist in completing relevant court-mandated documentation, such as financial disclosure forms.  What Happens If the Parties Still Disagree on One or More Issues? In a collaborative divorce, the parties’ lawyers have an incentive to facilitate a compromise. In the event the parties and their attorneys fail to reach a settlement, the collaborative divorce process terminates, and the parties will have to go to court. In this event, the Illinois Collaborative Process Act requires both attorneys, and their respective law firms, to cease representation. Collaborative divorce attorneys are prohibited from representing the parties if the case goes to litigation. Is a Collaborative Divorce Right for Me? Collaborative divorce is not for everyone. Collaborative divorce may not be possible where the parties refuse to work together. In addition, the upfront costs are generally more than for a traditional divorce. This is because the parties must pay for the time of the various collaborative divorce experts. This typically includes retaining a divorce coach, financial specialist, and family specialist. In collaborative divorces involving significant assets, parties commonly pay even more to hire business valuation experts and estate planning attorneys. However, the cost of a collaborative divorce pales in comparison to the costs of litigation.   Contact an Experienced Collaborative Divorce Attorney Who Can Help You Understand Your Options Collaborative divorce helps you make good decisions during a bad time. If you can work together with your spouse, then a collaborative divorce can save you a lot of stress and heartache. Finding an effective attorney...

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Divorce

How To Get a Divorce in Illinois

Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. In addition to losing a cherished relationship, one must navigate a complex and uncertain legal process. For short marriages with no children and minimal assets, the State of Illinois provides guidance documents to assist in getting the process started. Divorce with children or shared significant assets is a different matter. If you wish to learn more about divorce in Illinois, the following should help you establish a basic understanding of what the process looks like, and what you should do next. What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Illinois? Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), fault-based divorce has been eliminated. In a divorce in Illinois, there is only one ground for dissolution: Petitioners must allege that irreconcilable differences have caused the breakdown of the marriage. This applies whether the divorce is contested by the other party or not. What is Uncontested Divorce in Illinois? When the parties can remain amicable and work together, they may be able to get an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties agree to all aspects of the property division and, if they have children, agree to all aspects of the custody order, parenting plan, and child support schedule. An uncontested divorce can save both parties significant time, stress, and financial resources. Moreover, in Illinois, there is no waiting period for an uncontested divorce. If the parties agree on everything, they can move on with their lives once the court signs off on the property and/or childcare matters. Note that Illinois residency requirements still apply. One or both of the parties must have lived in the state for at least 90 days before filing. Looking for guidance on getting a divorce in IL? You’re in the right place. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   What is Contested Divorce in Illinois? Once a spouse receives the divorce papers, they have 30 days to respond. If they choose not to respond, the court will likely adopt the other spouse’s proposed property division and parenting plan. If their response is timely and the parties disagree as to the division of marital property or matters involving the child, they will have to go to court. The court will most likely order the parties to mediation to see if they can negotiate an agreement. If no agreement is reached, the parties will have to have a hearing, and the court will decide. Under Illinois law, a court must enter its judgment of dissolution of marriage within 60 days of the close of the hearing. The Basics of Division of Marital Assets and Debts in Illinois Divorce One of the most important matters addressed in divorce is property division. Sometimes this process is governed by a prenuptial agreement signed by the parties before marriage. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, the spouses can agree as to how to divide up their property in a written settlement agreement. Should the division of property become contested, a court will have to decide through a process called “equitable division.” This means an Illinois court will divide assets and debts based on what is fair, not necessarily what is equal. In a divorce in Illinois, courts do not take fault into consideration when dividing marital property.  What Is Marital Property? Only property classified as “marital property” is subject to equitable division. Marital property includes nearly all assets and debts acquired from the date of marriage. This includes income, retirement accounts, houses, cars, appreciation of assets, and credit card debt. What Is Separate Property?  Under Illinois divorce laws, the following typically constitute separate property: Property acquired after a judgment of legal separation; Property excluded by valid agreement; Property acquired before the marriage; and  Property acquired through inheritance or gift. Separate property is not subject to equitable division. However, a court may take a party’s separate property into account when deciding how to equitably divide the marital property.  Determining Parental Responsibilities in Illinois Divorce Upon filing for divorce, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) requires the court to determine the “parental responsibilities” of the parents. This includes allocating significant decision-making responsibility and parenting time. Significant Decision-Making Responsibility  “Significant decision-making responsibility” refers to the legal authority of parents in Illinois to make major decisions impacting the child’s life. When allocating significant decision-making responsibility, Illinois divorce courts consider a list of factors to help determine whether a particular allocation is in “the best interest of the child.” These factors include: The wishes of the child (assuming the child is of sufficient age and maturity to share a reasoned and independent preference);  The child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community; The mental health and physical health of the child and parents;   The parents’ willingness to cooperate in the day-to-day decision-making for the child; Each parents’ history of making significant decisions that impact the child; Past conduct or agreement of the parents relating to decision-making for the child; The preferences of the parents; The child’s needs; The distance between the parents’ homes, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, and everyone’s day-to-day schedule;  Whether a parent has engaged in behavior that seriously endangered the child; The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and other parent; Whether either parent has made threats of violence to the child;  The presence of abuse to the child or another member of the child’s family.  Whether a parent is a sex offender; and Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant. Courts typically award significant decision-making responsibility to both parents unless such an award is not in the child’s best interest. An example would be if one parent has endangered the child in any way. Courts award significant decision-making responsibility in four general categories: extracurricular activities, health, religion, and education.  Parenting Time Parenting time refers to the amount of day-to-day and overnight time each parent has...

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| Read Time: 9 minutes | Divorce

Low-Cost Lawyer for Uncontested Divorce in Chicago

Yes, There Are Good Options for Hiring a Low-Cost Divorce Lawyer in Chicago Let’s face it—divorce can be a complicated topic.  Nobody goes into a marriage thinking it will result in divorce later on. Nevertheless, couples choose to end their marriages for a variety of different reasons.  Regardless of their reasons, parties often want to keep divorce proceedings as quick and cost-effective as possible. Hiring an attorney for your divorce can actually be one of the best ways to achieve these goals. Are you considering an uncontested divorce in Chicago or looking for affordable divorce lawyers in Chicago? If so, contact Vantage Group Legal today. Our team of professionals can help connect you with divorce attorneys in the area for one low monthly fee. Give us a call today to learn more about our unique services. We’ll provide you with a free divorce consultation to discuss how we can help you save both time and money. Low-Cost Options for Divorce in Chicago, Illinois As with any other legal process, a divorce has the potential to be expensive and time-consuming. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. In fact, there are a few options in which a low-cost divorce might not be outside the realm of possibility.  File for Divorce Without the Assistance of an Attorney Of course, one way to achieve a cheap divorce in Chicago is to attempt to navigate the process on your own without the assistance of a divorce lawyer. However, this is generally not recommended.  The fact remains that a divorce is a legal process with specific requirements and deadlines. If you are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the process, you can miss key steps.  This could lead to the other party obtaining a more favorable outcome. And if the other party to divorce has an attorney, while you do not, this can make matters even more difficult.  Ultimately, proceeding without an attorney could result in a more costly divorce in the long run. Hire a Cheap Divorce Lawyer in Chicago Another low-cost divorce option is to hire a cheap divorce attorney to assist with your case.  This might be a better option than proceeding with a divorce without the assistance of an attorney whatsoever. However, be wary as you make your selection.  Don’t just select the first option that comes up after a quick internet search for “cheap divorce lawyers in Illinois.” By doing so, you may risk sacrificing valuable experience and quality, both of which are crucial in a divorce proceeding. So don’t limit yourself to only the cheapest divorce lawyers in the area—make sure to carefully vet your potential candidates first and select the best divorce attorney for you – someone that has the skills and resources necessary to take on your case.  Use an Affordable Divorce Lawyer in Chicago to Help you File for an Uncontested Divorce Another great option to keep your divorce affordable is to file for an uncontested divorce in Chicago. In situations where there is little to no animosity between the parties, an uncontested divorce might be a way to keep your divorce costs relatively low. If the parties agree on how to handle all aspects of the divorce, this can make the filing process much simpler and can reduce the amount of time and money required to finalize the divorce.  Of course, uncontested divorce in Chicago may not be a viable option in all cases. Speak with a divorce attorney today to discuss your options and see if an uncontested divorce might be right for you and your situation.  Uncontested Divorce in Chicago Sometimes, couples simply grow apart for one reason or another. And while the parties may agree that staying married is not the best decision moving forward, they may not have any animosity toward each other.  In these situations, an uncontested divorce in Chicago can be a great low-cost option. What Is Uncontested Divorce?  So what exactly is an “uncontested” divorce in Chicago?  The ultimate goal of an uncontested divorce is to finalize the entire divorce through a settlement that both parties agree to. However, it is important to note that in an uncontested divorce, the parties must agree on all aspects of the divorce. This means that the parties must agree on:  – Child custody,– Where the child(ren) will live,– Child support,– Division of assets and debts, and – Alimony, or “spousal maintenance.” If both parties can’t agree on how to resolve all aspects of the divorce, an uncontested divorce might not be attainable. If they can, however, this can be a great way to keep costs, and tensions, low.  How Uncontested Divorce in Chicago Might Also Mean a Cheap Divorce in Chicago The ultimate outcome in an uncontested divorce in Chicago is that the parties finalize their divorce without the need for a trial or all the various filings and litigiousness that can be required in a traditional contested divorce.  By avoiding these extra steps, the parties are able to terminate the marriage without the need for the additional time and expense that litigation frequently requires. Thus, parties to an uncontested divorce are more easily able to afford an attorney.  If no trial or trial preparation is necessary, the attorney need only focus on advising their client throughout the process and filing the requisite paperwork to effectuate the divorce. This makes having an attorney for your divorce a much more viable option. Do Chicago Family Law Lawyers Give Free Consultations? If you’re searching for a Chicago attorney to represent you in divorce and/or child custody matters, you’re probably wondering whether you’ll get a free consultation. The answer is, it depends on the lawyer. The most common scenario is for family law attorneys to charge you for the initial consultation, and then simply apply that cost towards your retainer, if you indeed hire them. For example, if a Chicago divorce attorney provides you with a 1-hour consultation, and their hourly rate is $250, you could expect to be billed $250. However, that amount would then be deducted from the attorney’s...

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Divorce

Illinois Child Custody Laws

If you have children, you know that what happens to your kids is the main concern when there are significant changes to your family. Whether you have a child with someone to whom you are not married, or you’re going through a divorce with children, understanding Illinois child custody laws can help you make the best plans for raising your child. Are you looking for information on Illinois custody laws for unmarried parents? Click here. Facing a child custody dispute in Illinois? You’re in the right place. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747 How Is Child Custody Determined Under Illinois Law? New custody laws in Illinois have changed the terminology we use when discussing child custody. We currently say “decision-making responsibility” instead of “legal custody” and we say “parenting time” instead of “visitation.” Together, these parental rights are called parental responsibilities, and custody determinations are called an allocation of parental responsibilities.  Whether determining parenting time or decision-making responsibilities, Illinois judges make their custody determinations based on what is in the best interests of your child.  Determining Parenting Time Under Illinois law, parenting time means the time during which a parent is responsible for taking care of the child, and for making non-significant decisions for the child. When the court determines parenting time based on the best interests of the child it considers many factors including: The wishes of each parent; The wishes of the child; The amount of parenting time each parent had in the 24 months before a custody petition was filed; Prior arrangements between the parents; Prior courses of conduct from both parents; The child’s interactions with each parent, sibling, and other significant people; The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; The mental and physical health of everyone involved; The child’s needs; The distance between the parents’ residences; The child’s schedule; The parents’ ability to cooperate; The sex offender status of the parent and anyone in their home, including the status of related treatments; The terms of military family-care plans a parent must complete before deployment; and Any other relevant factor. The court does not normally restrict parenting time unless you can prove that it is more likely than not that parenting time would seriously endanger your child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.  Not every parent who receives parenting time has the right to make significant decisions for their child, but each parent has the sole responsibility to make routine and emergency healthcare decisions for the child during their parenting time. Determining Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities Whichever parent has significant decision-making responsibilities makes decisions for the child regarding matters such as:  Education (including choice of teachers and schools); Healthcare (including mental healthcare); Religion; and  Extracurricular activities. The courts prefer that co-parents work together to reach child-rearing decisions. But if you cannot or will not work together to come to an express or implied agreement regarding your child’s upbringing, the judge will be forced to make many decisions for you. However, if you do not have evidence for the judge regarding an agreement as to your child’s religious upbringing, a judge cannot allocate decision-making responsibilities to either parent regarding religion.  When a judge allocates decision-making to one or both parents, they base their decision on the best interests of the child, considering the following factors: The wishes of the child; The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; The mental and physical health of everyone involved; The ability of each parent to cooperate; The level of each parent’s decision-making participation; Prior agreements between the parents; Prior courses of conduct by the parents; The wishes of the parents; The needs of the child; The distance between the parents’ residences; The child’s schedule; The appropriateness of restricting decision-making responsibilities; The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage and foster the child’s relationship with the other parent;  Threats of violence or actual violence against the child;  Abuse against the child or a member of the child’s household; The sex offender status of a parent and any related treatments; and Any other relevant factor. When determining parenting time and significant decision-making responsibilities, the court cannot consider the conduct of a parent unless that conduct affects the child. There are many factors that come into play in custody determinations, and an experienced family lawyer can help make child custody proceedings as smooth and just as possible.   When Illinois Law Determines the Custody of a Child Illinois law allows married and unmarried parents to petition the court for the allocation of parental responsibilities. You can initiate proceedings to make this determination by filing for dissolution of a marriage (married parents) or by filing a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities (unmarried parents).  Proceedings Under Illinois Child Custody Laws for Divorcing Parents If you are a parent going through a divorce, you initiate proceedings to allocate parental responsibilities when you or your spouse files a petition to dissolve the marriage. You and your spouse have 120 days from the date of filing the petition to file a proposed parenting plan. You can file this plan jointly or separately, and it must include decisions regarding: Allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities; Living arrangements; Parenting time; A mediation provision for any proposed reallocations of parenting time; A mediation provision regarding the terms of allocation of parental responsibilities; Rights to access healthcare records; school records, extracurricular records, reports, and schedules; Designation of the parent with majority parenting time; The child’s residential address for school enrollment purposes; The residential address, phone number, and employment information for each parent; A requirement for 60 days’ notice for changes of address; Provisions for notifying the other parent about emergencies, healthcare, travel plans, and other significant child-related matters; Provisions for communicating with the child during the other parent’s time; Provisions to address future relocations; Provisions for future modifications of the parenting plan when specific events happen; Provisions for a parent’s right of first refusal; and Any other provisions regarding the best interests of the child or fostering cooperation between the parents....

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Foreclosure

Foreclosure Help in Chicago (and Throughout the State of Illinois)

Facing foreclosure? This article lists free resources for you to explore. Still have questions? Vantage Group Legal offers affordable foreclosure help in Chicago, Illinois. Home foreclosure is the process by which you lose legal ownership of your property. Receiving a foreclosure notice can be overwhelming. This process occurs several months after months of missed mortgage payments.  Many Chicago area homeowners are devastated when they receive a foreclosure summons and do not know how to cope with the situation. If no action is taken, the bank can take your home and negatively impact your finances. Though this sounds like a difficult situation to overcome, you may have options to save your home and get foreclosure help in Illinois.  Dealing with a foreclosure in Chicago? We offer affordable legal help. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747 Foreclosure Resources for Homeowners in Chicago, IL There is foreclosure help in Chicago and the surrounding areas that you can take advantage of to guide you through the process of dealing with your potential foreclosure. Here is a list of some of the available resources to help you keep your home in Illinois. Illinois Housing Development Authority Foreclosure counselors from the Illinois Housing Development Authority are available to provide advice and services to help homeowners. These services include reviewing your mortgage and finances and discussing options to find a solution.  Hope Hotline 1-888-995-HOPE Develop a plan tailored to your unique foreclosure situation. Hope Hotline provides free one-on-one confidential and comprehensive financial and foreclosure prevention education.  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau‘s list of housing counselors. A housing counselor can offer independent advice on your mortgage and other financial housing issues.  Illinois Legal Aid Resources that explain the foreclosure process are available from Illinois Legal Aid, along with the necessary paperwork and filing timelines to guide you through the process. There are also helpful videos explaining how foreclosures work and what you can do.  Illinois Hardest Hit Fund Financial assistance is available through the Illinois Hardest Hit Fund for thousands of homeowners who meet eligibility criteria and have experienced at least a 15% income reduction due to qualifying hardships.  Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Inc. A certified homeowner counselor from Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Inc., can help identify foreclosure prevention options and solutions to make your home more affordable. They also offer additional homeowner advice and resources.  Illinois Attorney General At the Illinois Attorney General‘s website, you can learn about the steps you should take when facing a foreclosure, your legal rights and options, and what to beware of. This site also provides access to the attorney general homeowner helpline.  Chicago Urban League The housing and financial empowerment center of the Chicago Urban League is a counseling agency that provides professional assistance for low-to-moderate-income residents. Some of their services include mortgage delinquency and default resolution, pre-purchase counseling, homebuyer education, financial counseling, foreclosure prevention, and more.  Northwest Side Housing Center Certified counselors from the Northwest Side Housing Center work toward improving your housing situation through counseling, education, and advocacy. If you are unable to make your mortgage payment and trying to save your home from foreclosure, they can work with you and your bank to make keeping your home affordable. This organization focuses on residents in Belmont Cragin and the surrounding communities. Partners in Community Building (PICB) PICB’s foreclosure prevention department assists clients who are in imminent default, facing foreclosure, or in post-foreclosure. Help is offered through the various federal government, bank, and investor programs.  How Can an Attorney Provide Foreclosure Help in Chicago? If you would like to keep your home and believe you have a defense to the foreclosure, your best option is to seek help from an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about Illinois foreclosure laws. Most defenses are going to require navigating the legal system. Some valid defenses for foreclosure may include: Proper foreclosure procedures were not followed; The party foreclosing on your property cannot prove that it owns your mortgage loan; and The servicer made a serious error with your account.  If you choose to contest the foreclosure, there are several steps that you will need to take within the appropriate time frame.  Complete a Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer to Complaint This form lets the court know that you have been informed of the foreclosure summons and allows you to contest the information within the summons. You also have the opportunity to state any defenses you may have to the foreclosure and facts to support those defenses. An experienced attorney will ensure that this form is thoroughly completed and that your facts do support your defense.  Submit Documents to the Court Clerk The Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer Form should be submitted electronically to the court clerk in the county where you are filing the case against your foreclosure. This is usually the county where the property is located. Your attorney will do this on your behalf.  All Parties Are Informed of Your Answer The other parties involved must be made aware of the lawsuit. It is best to send these documents to the party’s attorney if they have one. Having your attorney ensure proper delivery will take this procedural aspect off your shoulders. Documents can be hand-delivered, mailed, sent by a third-party postal carrier, or filed electronically. Prepare for and Attend Court An experienced attorney is necessary to help you prepare for court. It is important to ensure you have all relevant documents and proof to defend against your property foreclosure. This may include all financial and payment history surrounding your home. You and your attorney should also review any potential questions that you may be asked by the judge and bring copies of all relevant documents. The judge and your attorney will direct you on how to proceed once you are in court.  Why Hire a Foreclosure Attorney? A Chicago foreclosure lawyer can help you formulate your arguments against foreclosure, navigate the rules of...

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Foreclosure

When Is it Too Late to Stop Foreclosure?

Homeowners have many possible options before foreclosure happens. The only time it is finally too late is when the house has been sold at auction after a court approves the sale.  General Timeline of Foreclosure Proceedings Lenders must make a decent amount of effort to attempt to help the borrower avoid foreclosure. Here is a brief timeline of what a borrower can expect after they default on their mortgage payments: After the first month, the lender must attempt to contact the borrower by phone to discuss any loss mitigation options. Once the borrower has been delinquent for 45 days, the lender must inform them in writing about loss mitigation options and may appoint someone to help them avoid foreclosure. After 60 days, the lender will advise the borrower that they have a 30-day grace period to contact a housing counselor. If the borrower chooses to do so, they will receive another 30 days before legal action can happen. Once 90 days pass without payment, the lender will issue a notice of acceleration announcing their intent to foreclose.  If 120 days pass, the lender will begin foreclosure proceedings by filing a lawsuit in court. Foreclosure proceedings cannot start before 120 days of non-payment. After that, the lender can file a lawsuit asking for the court to issue an order allowing the lender to sell the house. What Happens Once the Lender Files a Lawsuit? After the lender files the lawsuit, they serve the borrower with the summons and complaint. The borrower must answer the complaint within 30 days to defend themselves against the foreclosure. If the borrower does not respond, the lender will receive a default judgment in favor of foreclosure. If the court issues the order to allow the sale, the lender must publish a notice of sale in a newspaper once a week for three weeks. The lender must also send the notice to the borrowers by email, or by other means if they do not have email. Consent Foreclosure The borrower and lender can also agree to a consent foreclosure. The court enters the judgment of foreclosure against the borrower and the borrower agrees to walk away from the property. The benefit to the borrower is that the lender usually waives their right to any deficiency judgment (discussed below). However, the borrower may end up having to pay taxes to the IRS on any forgiven debt. What Happens at the Sale? At the sale, the lender may bid up to the total amount owed on the property. If the lender wins the auction for less than the amount owed, the lender can get a deficiency judgment against the borrower for the difference. If a third-party bidder wins the auction for more than the amount owed, the borrower gets the surplus amount. The lender will then have the court confirm the sale. The court will also enter an eviction order for the former homeowner to leave the property within 30 days. If they do not leave the property, the new owner may have the sheriff evict them. Can a Foreclosure Be Stopped? There are multiple ways a borrower can prevent foreclosure. Bankruptcy Bankruptcy can stop a foreclosure even up to the day of sale. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is most common, but Chapter 7 is also possible. Loss Mitigation Loss mitigation usually refers to loan modification. The borrower must submit a completed loss mitigation application within the initial 120 days before the lawsuit. Then the lender cannot begin foreclosure proceedings unless the borrower is ineligible for loss mitigation, rejects the options offered, or fails to follow their mitigation agreement. Reinstatement Reinstatement means that the borrower brings the loan completely current, including all costs and fees. It is only available to a borrower once every five years. A borrower may legally reinstate their loan up to 90 days after the lender serves the complaint. Most lenders allow reinstatement at any time.  Redemption Borrowers can redeem their loans by paying the entire balance due, including costs and fees. For property tax foreclosures, this means paying any outstanding taxes. The redemption period is within seven months after the complaint is filed or three months after judgment. If the owners abandoned the property, the redemption period is 30 days after judgment. If the lender wins the auction for less than the total debt (including any expenses or fees), the borrower has 30 days after the court confirms the sale. What Do I Do If I Am Facing Foreclosure? Foreclosure defense is a highly specialized field, and you need quality representation. Vantage Group Legal is a highly accomplished legal services organization that specializes in foreclosure defense. We will review your case for free, and if hired, you will be carefully assigned the right attorney to handle your case from start to finish. Please contact us today for your free consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Foreclosure

The National COVID Foreclosure Moratorium Has Ended

On June 25, 2021, the Biden administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that the national foreclosure moratorium ends on July 31, 2021. However, many borrowers are still experiencing hardships related to COVID and remain seriously delinquent. The mortgage industry is anticipating a high volume of foreclosures and an overwhelming amount of assistance requests. The Biden administration announced that HUD, VA, and USDA loans would take certain steps to prevent mass foreclosures until their borrowers are reviewed for affordable loss mitigation options. These servicers each implemented their programs for loss mitigation, payment reduction, or other programs to assist borrowers. Likewise, the FHFA implemented plans for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae borrowers to get evaluated for home retention solutions. Below you will find descriptions of the programs available to borrowers of each type of loan. Remaining Foreclosure Relief Options HUD Loans Homeowners with HUD loans may be eligible for one or more of the following options: Loan modifications—borrowers can move missed payments to the end of the mortgage;   Payment reductions—up to 25% reduction in monthly principal and interest (P&I) payments; COVID-19 Recovery Standalone Partial Claim (if the homeowner can resume payments)—loan for the unpaid payments with 0% interest, repaid when mortgage terminates after sale or refinance; or COVID-19  Recovery Modification (if homeowner incapable of resuming payments)—extends loan term to 360 months and reduces P&I payments by 25%. Homeowners have until September 30, 2021 to apply for forbearance. Borrowers can find more information about HUD loans and COVID relief here.  USDA Loans Homeowners with USDA loans may be eligible for the COVID-19 Special Relief Measure, which provides up to 20% reduction in monthly P&I payments and interest rate reduction. If that is not enough, the homeowner can also obtain a loan term extension. Finally, the homeowner may be able to obtain a 0% mortgage recovery advance loan that becomes due when the mortgage terminates. USDA borrowers have until September 30, 2021 to apply for forbearance programs with their servicer. The USDA website has more information about USDA loans and COVID relief programs. VA Loans Homeowners with VA loans may be eligible for one or more of the following options for relief:  COVID-19 Refund Modification—20% reduction in P&I payments; COVID-19 Refund—VA provides loan for borrower’s COVID-related debts and up to 30% of the unpaid principal loan at 0% interest; or Loan modification—up to 120 months of loan extension. As with HUD and VA loans, borrowers have until September 30, 2021 to apply for forbearance programs. Borrowers should check out the VA home loan website for more information. Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Loans Payment deferral—borrowers can defer up to 18 months of payments, which are due when the mortgage terminates;  Loan modification—borrowers can receive up to 20% reduction in monthly P&I payments; or Flex modification—eligible borrowers could capitalize all past-due amounts, extend their loan terms, obtain a lower interest rate, or receive a forbearance of the principle amount.  Homeowners with Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae loans must already be on a COVID-related forbearance plan to be eligible for relief. Borrowers with these loans should consult with their servicers for more information about forbearance plans.  Additional Protections The Bureau of Consumer Protection also announced temporary safeguards to ensure borrowers have enough opportunities to be reviewed for loss mitigation before the servicer initiates foreclosure proceedings. Perhaps most importantly, lenders must make a sufficient effort to make borrowers aware of forbearance programs and expiration dates, as well as loss mitigation options. Finally, eligible borrowers may avail themselves of federal financial assistance through their state housing authorities. The Illinois Housing Development Authority will receive federal funds from the Homeowner Assistance Fund created in the American Rescue Plan Act for homeowners still experiencing COVID-related hardships. Eligible homeowners could receive up to $25,000 in assistance.  Vantage Group Legal Services Is Ready to Help  If you are struggling with your mortgage payments the options can seem overwhelming. Vantage Group Legal Services can help you figure out the best solution for your situation. We specialize in foreclosure defense and offer affordable debt relief solutions for struggling Chicago homeowners. We can help keep you in your home and preserve your credit with expedited, affordable legal assistance. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Immigration

What Documents Do I Need for a Marriage Green Card?

If you are married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you can apply for a green card. A green card application requires many documents—documents about your life that you must locate and present to the government, and documents the government provides for you to fill out. The United States government wants an in-depth illustration of who you are personally and professionally before it grants a green card. This article will give you an idea of what the government expects from you and how to prepare for your green card application.  The Documents Your Spouse (the Citizen/Legal Resident) Must Provide Generally, your official green card application process begins with your spouse’s Form I-130 petition to the government. This petition establishes your marriage relationship with your spouse and lets the United States government know you are eligible for legal permanent resident status.  Your spouse must prove their legal permanent resident or citizen status In their petition, your spouse must prove that they are a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident with the following documents: A copy of their birth certificate from a civil authority; A copy of their naturalization certificate from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); A copy of form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad from a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate; A copy of their unexpired U.S. passport; An original U.S. consular officer statement that verifies your spouse is a U.S. citizen with a valid passport;  A front and back copy of their Permanent Resident Card;  Copies of their passport biographic page that shows admission as a lawful permanent resident; or Other documents issued by USCIS or INS that prove permanent resident status. If your spouse is a U.S. citizen who cannot locate their official citizenship documents, USCIS offers alternatives for proving their status.  Going through the green card process? We can help. Call us 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   Your spouse must prove they legally married you Your spouse’s petition must include proof of your legal marriage. Proof of your legal marriage to your spouse includes: A copy of your marriage certificate; Copies of the legal terminations of any prior marriages for you and your spouse (if applicable); Two identical passport-style photos in color of you and your spouse (separately);  Any documents that show joint property ownership; Lease documents showing you and your spouse live at the same residence; Documents evidencing joint financial resources; Birth certificates for any children you had together; Affidavits from others who can affirm the validity of your marriage; and Any other documents that prove you have an ongoing marital union. The USCIS has many specific rules regarding your passport-style photos, so you and your spouse should read the Form I-130 instructions carefully before submitting documents.  The list of documents to prove your legal marital status is long. The marriage certificate, proof of legal terminations of prior marriages (if any), and passport photos are required for every spouse petition, but the USCIS encourages you to include one or more of the other documents listed above to prove you have a bona fide marriage. The United States government is very wary of potential marriage fraud for immigration status, so the more documents you have to prove the validity of your marriage, the better.  Your spouse must prove that your travel in and out the United States has been legal Your spouse’s petition must include your I-94 documentation. Your I-94 is a document from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol that proves your lawful admissions into the U.S. after trips abroad. You can get copies of your I-94 travel history from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website.  The Documents You (the Non-Citizen Applicant) Must Provide The green card application process can be lengthy and involves many steps. To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, you should gather as many necessary documents as possible before you start filing forms. The Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is your main green card application. With your application, you must submit many documents including: A copy of your birth certificate; A copy of your government-issued ID with a photograph; Inspection and admission or inspection and parole documentation; Documentation of your immigrant category, including Form I-797 to prove receipt of your spouse’s Form I-130;  Certified police and court records regarding all your criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (regardless of the final disposition); Proof that you have continuously maintained lawful status since you arrived in the U.S.; and Proof your spouse has continuously maintained lawful status since they arrived in the U.S. If you were previously deported or deemed inadmissible for entry, you will likely have to file additional forms with your application. There are also certain immigration statuses that require additional forms. You should check the list of initial evidence needed for green card applications to determine what additional forms you need (if any). An experienced immigration attorney can determine what you need to complete your green card application and reduce complications in your application process.  What Applications Do I Need to File to Receive a Green Card? In your list of documents for a green card through marriage are many petitions and applications. Generally, the applications and petitions you or your spouse need to file include: Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (filled out and submitted by your citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse); Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (submitted by you); Form I-797 to prove receipt of your spouse’s petition; Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application (for applicants outside of the U.S.); Form DS-261 Online Choice of Address and Agent (for applicants outside of the U.S.); Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record; Form I-508 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable); and Form I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal (if applicable). A Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record...

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Immigration

How Much Does a Green Card Cost?

To receive a green card through your marriage to a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident you must prepare personal documents and government applications. You also must prepare yourself financially. Your green card application comes with multiple forms and fees, and you may also have to pay for copies of personal documents to submit with your application.  How much does a green card cost? A green card can cost thousands. The total cost depends on the specific facts of your case, but there are some broadly applicable costs you should consider as you prepare to change your immigration status. Need a Green Card? You’re in the right place. Call us 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   How Much Are the Application Fees for a Green Card? Your green card application is not reduced to just one form. To receive your green card, you must submit multiple forms to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other government agencies. The USCIS receives the vast majority of its funding from application and petition fees, so submission of many of your green card forms costs money. Many petitions and applications for immigration benefits can be time-sensitive, so you should make sure you have access to a substantial amount of money before you start the filing process. Your green card application fees could total up to $1,845 or more, depending on your circumstances, including fees for: Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative; Biometric services for U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse; Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (for applicants already in the U.S.); Biometric services for spouse seeking green card; Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application (for applicants outside of the U.S.); Form I-864 Affidavit of Support;  Immigrant fee (for applicants outside of the U.S.); Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (if applicable); Form I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal (if applicable); and Form I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable). If you must submit to a medical examination for your green card, you have to pay for an exam with a USCIS-approved civil surgeon. While prices vary, a civil surgeon examination could cost between $200 and $400 dollars. If not already included in your exam, you need to pay additional money for any required vaccinations you have not received. An experienced immigration attorney can determine what application fees apply to you and help you locate any necessary supplemental services.  Are There Necessary Costs Outside of My Application Fees? Your application fees are not the only costs associated with your green card application. Your green card application requires you to submit multiple supplemental documents about your life including: Copies of official documents proving your spouse’s citizenship or their lawful permanent resident status; A copy of your government-issued ID with photo; A copy of your marriage certificate; Copies of the legal terminations of any prior marriages for you and your spouse (if applicable); Financial statements; Two identical passport-style photos in color of you and your spouse (separately);  Birth certificates for any children you had with your spouse; Any other documents that prove you have an ongoing marital union; Certified police and court records regarding all your criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (regardless of the final disposition); Inspection and admission or inspection and parole documentation; Proof that you have continuously maintained lawful status since you arrived in the U.S.; and Proof your spouse has continuously maintained lawful status since they arrived in the U.S. If you do not already have these documents, you might have to request them from government agencies and other institutions. Your requests for copies of these documents may come with fees. Also, your application for a green card may require you or your spouse to travel, and you should prepare for those costs early.  What About Immigration Attorney Fees? In addition to the fees you need to pay the government, you may incur attorney fees. Although you can attempt to file your application on your own, it is easy to make mistakes that may jeopardize your status.  An immigration attorney is an invaluable resource when applying for a green card. They can help you gather all the documents you need, fill out your forms, and file your application. They can also help you prepare for your green card interview. Attorneys may charge by the hour, or they may prepare your immigration application for a flat fee. Or you can take advantage of Vantage Group Legal’s subscription legal services for a low monthly rate. Contact Vantage Group Legal to Discuss Our Green Card Solutions The financial burden of applying for your green card is less overwhelming if you plan early and efficiently. There are many moving parts to a green card application, and most of those parts cost money individually. It is important to know which parts you do and do not need. An immigration attorney can help you streamline your immigration application process so you do not pay unnecessary fees or suffer the financial blow of an unexpected expense.  Vantage Group Legal Services boasts a network of highly experienced and reputable immigration attorneys. Our network attorneys stick by you through the duration of your case and respond to your needs quickly. You will likely have many legal questions and needs as you and your spouse seek to build a life in the United States. We are here to help you. Contact us online or call us at 773-938-4747 for a free consultation. 

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Immigration

Getting a Green Card Through Marriage

You can apply for a green card if you married a United States citizen or legal permanent resident and immigrated to the United States to be with your spouse. A green card gives you the right to live and work permanently in the United States. With a green card, you also have more legal protections than a visa holder. How Do I Get a Green Card After I Marry? Of all the factors that can make you eligible for a green card, marriage can place your application high on the priority list. To receive a green card, you must provide the U.S. government with information about your history, financial resources/needs, marriage, and health. How to Prepare for the Green Card Application Process When you begin the process to obtain a green card, you should have the following documents ready for submission with your application forms: A copy of your birth certificate; A copy of your marriage certificate; Proof that you continuously maintained lawful status since you arrived in the U.S.; A copy of your government-issued ID (containing a photograph); Two passport-style photographs; Certified police and court records of your entire criminal charge, arrest, and conviction history (regardless of the final disposition); and  Documents of inspection and admission, or inspection and parole. If you can no longer locate or access your birth certificate, you can provide other proof of your birth or proof that your certificate is unavailable or nonexistent. Acceptable alternative evidence of your birth includes church records, school records, and medical records. Depending on your current immigration status, you may need to gather additional documentation to submit with your green card application.  Need a Green Card but don’t want to pay hourly lawyer fees? You’re in the right place. Call us 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   How Do I Apply for a Green Card?  Your request for a green card not only requires identification information and many documents about your history, it also requires many government application forms. One of the first applications the government wants when you seek a green card through marriage is Form I-130. An I-130 form is also called a Petition for Alien Relative, and it is for your spouse to fill out. The petition gives information about you and your spouse, and it establishes your relationship with your spouse.  During the application process, you may need a medical examination to prove you are admissible to the United States. The U.S. government requires examinations for public health purposes. A designated “civil surgeon” must perform your examination and fill out government-issued paperwork regarding the exam. Your exam form must be dated within 60 days of your green card application. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends that you undergo this exam as close as possible to the time you file your application, so your results remain valid during adjudication.  Generally, your main application to become a green card holder (also called a lawful permanent resident) is Form I-485. Form I-485 is also called an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This application has many in-depth questions about your background, personal history, employment history, criminal history, immigration history, and financial needs. You must submit multiple personal documents and additional government forms with this application, and you must pay filing fees.  What If I Am Not in the United States? If you and your United States citizen spouse are not in the U.S., your spouse must send their Form I-130 petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are. Your spouse’s petition goes through consular processing. You must also file forms from the U.S. Department of State for an Immigrant Visa. If the USCIS approves your spouse’s petition, they send it to the Department of State’s National Visa Center. The National Visa Center lets you know when you need to submit supporting documents and when you need to pay immigrant visa processing fees.  Once a visa is available for your priority date, the consular office schedules you for an interview and decides your eligibility for a visa. If the consular office grants you a visa, you receive a visa packet and you must pay an immigrant fee. You cannot open your visa packet. Upon arrival in the United States, Customs and Border Protection takes your packet. Customs and Border Protection also inspects you to determine if they can admit you as a lawful permanent resident. If Customs and Border Protection admits you as a lawful permanent resident, you should receive your green card within 45 days. While you wait for your green card to arrive, you have the right to live and work in the United States.   How Long Do I Have to Wait for a Decision About My Green Card? The vast majority of immigration applications take up to eight months to process. Your application may take longer, depending on the nature of your marriage.  Your ability to obtain a green card depends partly on whether a green card is immediately available during application processing. If you married a United States citizen, an unlimited number of green cards are immediately available. If your spouse is a legal permanent resident, you may have to wait longer in line for an available green card. Spouses of legal permanent residents are subject to preference categories for green cards. According to the preference categories, spouses of legal permanent residents take second preference after adult, unmarried children of citizens.  What Do I Do While I Wait? While you wait for a decision on your green card application, follow all directions you receive from the government. You must also make sure you maintain a continuous and lawful presence in the United States. If you need to travel temporarily while you wait, you need to apply for a travel document first. You can also check the status of your application online while you wait.  What If I Have Not Received My Green Card Approval and I Need to Work? The application process for a green card is...

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