| Read Time: 2 minutes | Divorce

How Long Does Divorce Take in Illinois?

For many, the divorce process is the most stressful event they will ever go through. Divorcing parties normally just want to move on with their lives. The last thing either spouse wants is for the process to drag on. Thankfully, unlike other states, Illinois does not impose a “cooling off” period on those seeking a divorce. However, Illinois imposes strict residency requirements that you must fulfill before filing. Generally, at least one of the parties must have lived in the state for at least 90 days. In the event the parties have minor children, the residency requirement becomes 180 days. In addition to residency requirements, the type of divorce being sought determines the timeline for a divorce in Illinois.  Facing divorce in Illinois? You’re in the right place. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   What Is the Fastest Way to Get Divorced in Illinois? If you and your spouse are not dependent on one other, have no children, own few assets, make a modest income, have been married for less than eight years, and agree on every aspect of the property division, you may qualify for an expedited divorce. Joint simplified divorces are the fastest and cheapest way to obtain a divorce in Illinois. Because the parties complete and file the paperwork together, there is no waiting on service of process.  Moreover, joint simplified divorces typically require only a single hearing before a judge. The main holdup for these types of divorces is the court date. Court dockets are full. Expect the hearing to be no earlier than a month or two after filing. What About Uncontested Divorces? Uncontested divorces are for parties who agree on matters of property division, child custody, and child support but for whatever reason don’t qualify for a joint simplified divorce. In this scenario, the timeline is longer because the petitioner must effectuate service of process, which could take weeks. After receiving the petition, the other party has up to 30 days to file a response. How Long Do Contested Divorces Take? Contested divorces are the most time-consuming of divorces. The timeline for contested divorces includes service of process and 30 days for the spouse to file a response. Once in court, the judge will likely order mediation between the parties to settle disputes. Expect to wait at least a month for mediation. If mediation fails, the court will schedule a trial. Expect to wait around six months for this. Finally, after trial, expect to wait 60–90 days for the court’s final divorce decree.  Work with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer The extent to which each party is willing to work with the other generally determines the timeline for a divorce in Illinois. The greater the conflict, the longer the divorce process. If you are filing for divorce and are unsure of the best way to proceed, contact Vantage Group Legal Services for a free consultation. Our mission is to bring together the very best legal professionals to serve our clients at a truly affordable price. We can evaluate your legal options and help you determine your best course of action.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Divorce

How Much Is Child Support in Illinois?

Once the court has allocated significant decision-making responsibility and determined a permanent parenting plan—both in the best interest of the child, it will determine the child support obligations for either or both parents. Note that the primary residential parent is not necessarily always the recipient of child support. Sometimes the parent with less parenting time receives support from the parent with more parenting time. This might be the case when one parent makes substantially more money than the other.  The method to determine child support in Illinois is known as the income shares method. The following is a simplified summary of the process Illinois courts use to determine one’s child support obligation. Facing a child support issue in Illinois? You’re in the right place. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747 Standard Child Support Calculation The following formula applies when one of the parties exercises less than 146 days of parenting time per year. Step One: Determine Your Adjusted Net Income Adjusted net income is generally gross income minus taxes and other permissible deductions. If Father earns $8,000 per month and pays $2,000 per month in taxes, his adjusted net income would be $6,000.  Step Two: Determine Your Combined Adjusted Net Income Combined adjusted net income is determined by adding each parent’s adjusted net income together. For example, if Father nets $6,000 per month, and Mother nets $5,000 per month, then the parties’ combined adjusted net income would be $11,000 per month.   Step Three: Determine the Total Child Support Obligation The Illinois Income Shares Schedule is used to determine how much financial support a child is entitled to. The schedule is meant to approximate how much support the child would have received if the parents were married and living together. To determine one’s total support obligation, look for the parent’s combined net income on the left-hand side of the schedule, and match it to the number of minor children listed at the top. For example, Mother and Father have three children and a combined adjusted net income of $11,000 per month. Pursuant to the Illinois Income Shares Schedule, the total child support obligation for three children is $2,755 per month.  Step Four: Determine Each Parent’s Share of the Total Child Support Obligation For this step, divide a parent’s respective monthly net income (From Step 1) by the parents’ combined net income (From Step 2), then multiply the answer by the total child support obligation amount (From Step 3).  For example, if Father nets $6,000 per month, and Mother nets $5,000 per month, the parents combined net income is $11,000 per month. $6,000 divided by $11,000 is 55%. 55% multiplied by $2,755 comes to $1,503 per month for Father.  Use the same calculation for Mother. $5,000 per month divided by $11,000 is 45%. 45% multiplied by $2,755 comes to $1,252 per month for Mother.  Step Five: The Non-Custodial Parent Pays Their Entire Share to the Custodial Parent If the children reside primarily with Father, Mother must pay him all her share ($1,252 per month). Because Father is the custodial or primary residential parent, Illinois courts will presume that he is properly contributing his own share ($1,503 per month) toward necessities for the children. Shared Parenting Child Support Calculation Illinois courts calculate child support differently when each parent exercises at least 146 days (overnights) or 40% of parenting time with the child. Generally, child support calculated pursuant to a shared parenting time schedule will yield a much lower child support obligation for the noncustodial parent.  Step One: Determine Your Adjusted Net Income Adjusted net income is generally gross income minus taxes and other permissible deductions. If Father earns $8,000 per month and pays $2,000 per month in taxes, his adjusted net income would be $6,000.  Step Two: Determine Your Combined Adjusted Net Income Combined adjusted net income is determined by adding each parent’s adjusted net income together. For example, if Father nets $6,000 per month, and Mother nets $5,000 per month, then the parties’ combined adjusted net income would be $11,000 per month.  Step Three: Determine the Total Child Support Obligation Illinois courts increase the total child support obligation for shared parenting arrangements. To determine the total support obligation, look for the parents’ combined net income on the left-hand side of the income shares schedule, and match it to the number of minor children listed at the top. Next, multiply that amount by 150%. For example, Mother and Father have three children and a combined adjusted net income of $11,000 per month. Pursuant to the Illinois Income Shares Schedule, the child support obligation for three children is $2,755 per month. $2,755 multiplied by 150% is $4,132.50. $4,132.50 is the total child support obligation. Step Four: Determine Each Parent’s Share of the Total Child Support Obligation For this step, divide a parent’s respective monthly net income (from Step 1) by both parents’ combined net income (from Step 2), then multiply the answer by the total child support obligation amount (from Step 3). Now, multiply that answer by the other parent’s percentage of parenting time out of the year. In this scenario, we will assume that the parents share parenting time 50/50. If Father nets $6,000 per month, and Mother nets $5,000 per month, the parents’ combined net income is $11,000 per month. $6,000 divided by $11,000 is 55%. 55% multiplied by $4,132.50 comes to $2,272.88. $2,272.88 multiplied by 50% parenting time comes to $1,136.44. For Mother, $5,000 per month divided by $11,000 is 45%. 45% multiplied by $4,132.50 comes to $1,859.63. $1,859.63 multiplied by 50% parenting time comes to $929.82. Step Five: Offset the Difference  Even though Father exercises 50/50 parenting time, he makes more money, and thus contributes more. In the example above, Father would pay Mother the difference between $1,136.44 and $929.82. His total child support obligation comes to a mere $206.62 per month. An Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Help Maximize Your Parenting Time Depending on the number of overnights you have with your child, you may be able...

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Divorce

How Much Does Divorce Cost in Illinois?

Divorce in Illinois is expensive. At Vantage Group Legal, we can help you do get it done for less. Worrying about how much a divorce costs in Illinois adds to that emotion and stress. While no one may know what your divorce will ultimately cost, carefully considering the following factors may provide guidance. Understanding where to place your priorities and what fees may be unavoidable in the process minimizes the risk of surprises and assists in managing your expectations.  What are the Costs Involved With Divorce in Illinois? Initial Fees for an Illinois Divorce Even if you and your ex-spouse mutually agree to end your marriage based on irreconcilable differences, unavoidable fees make up part of the average divorce cost in Illinois.  You must file your petition for divorce in the county where you reside. The average cost to file for divorce in Illinois varies from county to county. For example, in Cook County, parties are responsible for paying the following costs for processing a divorce: $337 to open a case and file for divorce, $206 to respond if your ex-spouse files for divorce first,  $60 to have the sheriff serve your spouse with a copy of filings, and  $50 to attend FOCUS on children, court-ordered parenting classes.  These fees may seem minimal, but they typically make up only a portion of the divorce cost in Illinois.  Looking to keep your Illinois divorce costs down? You’re in the right place. Call us 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   Divorce Attorney Retainer Costs Many attorneys require clients to pay a retainer payment. A retainer payment is an advance deposit paid initially to hire the attorney. While the average retainer payment varies from attorney to attorney, retainer payments increase how much it costs to file for divorce in Illinois. Most attorneys require retainer payments to pay for court fees, attorney fees, and other expenses arising in your case. Retainer payments rarely constitute the total divorce costs in Illinois.  Divorce Attorney Hourly Rate  The hourly rate of any potential attorney you hire affects how much a divorce costs in Illinois. For example, even simple issues increase the average cost of your divorce in Illinois if your attorney charges a high hourly rate. Suppose the complexity of your dissolution requires multiple court hearings, trials, and conferences with the attorney representing your ex-spouse. This can increase your divorce costs in Illinois exponentially.  When your potential divorce cost in Illinois represents a significant concern, it’s essential to utilize your attorney’s assistance strategically. You do not want to call your attorney for every little thing, but only legal matters for which you require help and advice.  Other Factors That Affect the Cost of Divorce in Illinois Multiple factors significantly increase the divorce cost in Illinois. Determining whether these factors may come into play in your dissolution process may prepare you for potential costs to consider. Trial When unable to resolve issues, your attorney must represent your interest at trial. A trial requires significant preparation by your attorney and can be expensive. Children When the parties have minor children, the cost of divorce in Illinois often skyrockets. Disputes often arise due to disagreements over child support, child custody, and visitation. Parties may save on the average cost of divorce in Illinois if they agree on issues about the children.  Property When parties own property or multiple pieces of property, divorce costs in Illinois increase. Parties unable to reach an agreement regarding property division must rely on the court to determine who gets what—reaching an agreement as to property division out of court assists in reducing the cost of divorce in Illinois.  Mediation may be an option for parties unable to reach an agreement on multiple issues about their divorce. To save on the divorce cost in Illinois, a skilled mediator may provide solutions to disagreements between parties.  What are the Grounds for Divorce in Illinois?  The type of divorce you pursue can affect the divorce cost in Illinois. The degree to which you are able to cooperate with your spouse will help determine how much a divorce costs in Illinois.  No-Fault Dissolution Formerly, Illinois permitted a spouse to file for dissolution of marriage on fault-based grounds. The grounds for fault-based dissolution included infidelity, cruelty, abandonment, and many others. However, as of January 1, 2016, Illinois legislation eliminated fault-based dissolution and now permits parties to file for divorce under irreconcilable differences. Therefore, a party may file for dissolution of the marriage simply by representing that the marriage is an irretrievably broken union with no hope for reconciliation between the parties. The court then must find that the reconciliation efforts by the parties failed and future attempts to reconcile are impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.  Proving irreconcilable differences requires a showing that the parties have lived apart for at least six months. Once parties establish the six-month separation, the court presumes satisfaction of the irreconcilability requirement. Additionally, you may receive a divorce decree with no waiting period if both parties agree to irreconcilable differences. When both parties agree to irreconcilable differences, this may substantially reduce the cost of your divorce in Illinois. However, even if your spouse disagrees, you may still receive a divorce decree after the six months have passed.  Collaborative Divorce  Collaborative divorce provides another option for cost-sensitive parties and operates similarly to mediation. Attorneys work to resolve differences between parties. Upon resolution, the attorneys draft an agreement reflecting the resolution reached by the parties. Collaborative divorce significantly decreases the average cost of divorce in Illinois by reducing court involvement. How Can Vantage Group Legal Help You Lower Your Divorce Costs?  Vantage Group Legal understands the stress and emotions associated with divorce. We help clients find the best divorce attorney for them! Call our office to discuss your case either in person or virtually with one of our in-house attorneys. In this initial consultation, you advise us of your goals and any concerns you may have regarding divorce costs in Illinois. We...

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Divorce

Getting a Divorce in Cook County, IL

Divorces are unfortunate and raise lots of questions and concerns. If you are thinking of filing for divorce in Cook County, you are probably asking, What happens next?  When you file for a divorce, you, your spouse, and the court must make decisions about what happens to your assets, finances, and children after you part ways. Illinois law has very specific ways of determining where the assets go and who has what responsibilities for the children. These determinations take into account the many unique details of your life. An experienced Cook County divorce attorney can help you highlight the important details to achieve the best outcome for you and your family in a Cook County divorce.  How to File for Divorce in Cook County Before filing for divorce in Cook County, you must determine if Illinois has jurisdiction to make a decision about your divorce. Illinois has jurisdiction to enter judgment on your divorce if you have been a resident of the state or stationed in the state by the military for at least 90 days. You can then file for divorce in Cook County if you or your spouse are residents of the county.  Initiating Divorce Proceedings in Cook County Once you establish proper jurisdiction and the proper county for filing, you commence divorce proceedings by filing a demand for summons regarding the divorce and paying filing fees. You can file your petition for dissolution of marriage with your demand, but if you do not, you have to file your petition within six months of filing your demand for summons.  Within two days of filing your petition, you have to have your spouse served with a copy of the petition. Normally, the sheriff in your county serves your spouse with your petition and summons, but you can have your spouse served by publication in special circumstances. Service is how you give the spouse notice of your filing.  Dissolution Without Trial If you and your spouse can agree on all matters regarding the disposition of your property, spousal support, child support, parental responsibilities, and responsibilities for any pets, you can submit your written agreement to the court. Your agreement binds the court on all divorce matters (except for parental responsibilities) unless the court finds that the agreement is unconscionable because of the parties’ circumstances and evidence. If the judge signs off on your agreement, it is enforceable just like a contract. Hereafter, you or your spouse can be held in contempt of court for not following the agreement. If the court finds your agreement unconscionable, it may allow you and your spouse to revise the agreement, or the court may enter its own decisions after holding a hearing. If you and your spouse choose to enter an agreement, remember that while agreement terms on child support are modifiable, property dispositions are not.   Dissolution with Trial If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to resolve all divorce matters, your case goes to trial and the judge makes the determinations. After an evidentiary hearing, the court normally enters a judgment on the dissolution of the marriage within 60 to 90 days.  How the Court Divides Assets When dividing assets in a divorce, the court allows each party to keep their non-marital property and divides marital property according to what it thinks is just.  Division of Marital Property in Cook County Marital property is all property and other obligations that either spouse acquires during the marriage. Marital property includes debt. When determining who gets what marital property, the court considers the following: Each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, increase in value, or decrease in value of the property; Each spouse’s dissipation of the property; The value of the property assigned to each spouse; The duration of the marriage; The economic circumstances of each spouse; Which spouse has the primary residence of the child (significant when awarding the family home);  Any obligations and rights from prior marriages; Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements; The status of each spouse, including age, health, station, occupation, income, resources, skills, employability, liabilities, and needs; Child custody; Spousal maintenance received; Future financial opportunities; and Tax consequences. The court values the marital property using its fair market value as of the date of trial, a date you agree on with your spouse, or a date the court determines at its discretion. Non-Marital Property Non-marital property is generally property you acquired before your marriage or property you received during your marriage by gift, legacy, or descent. If you commingle your non-marital property with marital property, your non-marital property might become marital and subject to division. There are many more nuances to determining whether your property is marital or non-marital in a divorce. A divorce lawyer can help you apply those nuances so you can put your best foot forward in court.   How the Court Determines Child Custody and Child Support in Cook County Child custody has two components under Illinois law: parenting time, and significant decision-making responsibilities. Together, these two components are called “parental responsibilities.” If you are divorcing and have children with your spouse, the court allocates parental responsibilities between you and your spouse. The court determines parental responsibilities based on what is in the best interests of your child.  There are many factors that determine what is in the best interests of your child. The court may consider your child’s wishes, your child’s needs, your needs and characteristics, your spouse’s needs and characteristics, and the relationships you and your spouse have with your child when determining which parent receives what responsibilities. You and your spouse can enter a written, signed agreement regarding child custody. The court approves your agreement if it is in the best interests of your child.  The court determines child support based on an “income shares” model. This model determines support by looking at the typical cost of raising a child in a family with the same combined income and amount of children. Who Has a Right to Spousal Maintenance? Spousal maintenance (or “alimony”) is...

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Foreclosure

How to Respond to a Foreclosure Summons (Step by Step)

When determining how to respond to a foreclosure summons, your first step should be to avoid panicking. Do not start packing your bags or planning to move in with relatives just yet. The foreclosure process can take several months, and you may have options to avoid foreclosure. That being said, do not ignore the foreclosure summons. We defend the rights of homeowners who are facing foreclosure. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   What Is a Foreclosure Summons? The foreclosure summons document serves the purpose of informing you that a Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint has been filed against you. You must file an answer to the allegations if you wish to contest the foreclosure. The summons will also state how many days you have to file your response. If you don’t respond within the specified time frame, the foreclosure will occur according to the plan outlined in the complaint.  How to Respond to a Foreclosure Summons Though responding to your foreclosure summons may seem overwhelming, it is not an insurmountable task. Here are the steps you should take to respond to a foreclosure summons.  Step 1: Read the Summons You may be tempted to pretend that you never received the foreclosure summons. You might hide it in a desk drawer or shred it and use it as bedding for your child’s pet hamster. But none of those ideas are going to save your home. Your first step is to read the summons in its entirety. This will give you an understanding of the allegations and the deadlines you need to meet to properly respond to the foreclosure summons.  Step 2: Speak to Foreclosure Lawyer  Speaking to a foreclosure lawyer is the best way to clearly understand the options for your unique situation. The process for responding to a foreclosure summons involves forming a legal argument, filing documents with the court, and following rules of evidence. This can get complicated if you are not familiar with the legal system.  An experienced foreclosure lawyer will know how you should proceed to achieve the best result for your situation and provide peace of mind throughout the process.  Step 3: Decide If You Want to Contest In determining how to respond to a foreclosure summons, you should first decide if you want to contest the allegations. The benefits of contesting the foreclosure are that you could get the foreclosure dismissed and keep your home. At the very least you may get the foreclosure delayed and be able to spend more time in your home. If you have reason to believe that any of the information in the complaint is incorrect or that the plaintiff did not follow the law leading up to the foreclosure, contesting is a valid option.  Step 4: Prepare a Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer to the Complaint Filling out the Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer Form tells the court that you were made aware of the pending foreclosure. The form asks a series of questions that provide you with the opportunity to state whether you agree with or disagree with what was stated in the Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint. Note that if you find yourself agreeing with everything in the complaint, you may want to reconsider contesting the foreclosure or seeking legal help. Section C is where you will state any defenses you have to the allegations and supply facts to support those defenses.  Step 5: File the Form with the Court Clerk After you have completed the Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer Form, you must submit these documents electronically (e-file) with the court clerk in the county where the court case is filed. You may be exempt from e-filing if you are incarcerated and do not have an attorney, lack internet access, have a disability, or are not proficient in the English language. In any of those cases, you will need to fill out an exemption form. To file your documents electronically, you will need to set up an online account for filing with the court.   Step 6: Send a Copy of Your Answer to the Other Parties You must send a copy of your filed Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer Form to the other parties in the foreclosure lawsuit. If the party has an attorney, that is the best place to send the documents. The appropriate address should be listed under the attorney’s signature on the original foreclosure summons.  The documents can be delivered in a number of ways, including: Hand delivery,  Regular mail,  Third-party postal carrier (FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc), or  Electronically through an approved e-filing service.  If the summons contains the party’s email address, that can also be used. Delivery confirmation is strongly recommended for whatever method is chosen.  Step 7: Prepare for Your First Court Appearance This is a lawsuit, and by contesting the allegations, you are essentially saying that your home should not be foreclosed on and you are willing to go to court to prove why. It is important to gather all relevant documents and any other forms of proof to defend against the complaint allegations. This may include things like your mortgage payment history, loan modification request, and other related documents. Make a list of any questions you would like to ask the judge. Consider any questions that you may be asked by the court and have those answers prepared.  Step 8: Attend Your Court Date Upon filing your Mortgage Foreclosure Appearance and Answer to the Complaint Form, you should have received a court date and time from the court clerk. This may also arrive as a written notice. If you forget your court date information, contact the court clerk. It is a good idea to arrive at least 30 minutes early for your scheduled time. Sometimes finding the correct room can be a burden, so give yourself extra time.  Bring a copy of the Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint Summons and two copies of your answer form. When your case is called in the courtroom, you will walk up to the judge and...

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| 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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