How to Prepare for a Postnuptial Agreement


By Lyn C. Conniff

Getting married is more than just an emotional commitment. In the eyes of the law, it is a financial commitment as well. A postnuptial agreement can provide peace of mind for those who want to retain control over their assets no matter what the future may bring. While you have probably heard of prenuptial agreements, you may be unfamiliar with what a postnuptial agreement is or what it does. This important legal document can prove highly useful, but you should understand how it works in order to prepare one that has the best chance of being legally enforceable.

What is a postnuptial agreement?

A postnuptial agreement is very similar to a prenuptial agreement and both are considered legally binding contracts in Illinois. Like a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement details how various issues are to be dealt with should a couple divorce, including such key issues as property division, spousal maintenance, and so on. The one key difference, however, is that a postnuptial agreement is prepared and signed after the couple marries.

Why get one?

There are many practical reasons for getting a postnuptial agreement. For example, if you have children from a previous relationship you may want to sign a postnuptial agreement to ensure that your children receive a share of your assets should your current marriage come to an end. In some cases, a postnuptial agreement is used to try to save a marriage. One spouse, for example, may be more willing to work on his or her marriage if his or her assets are protected in a postnuptial agreement. For many people, however, a postnuptial agreement simply gives them greater control over their lives and greater peace of mind for the future.

Preparing for a postnuptial agreement

While a postnuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that does not mean that all postnuptial agreements are therefore legally enforceable. As with other types of contracts, a postnuptial agreement can be challenged in court, especially if the terms of the contract are not in the public interest. Additionally, postnuptial agreements must meet various legal and technical requirements, which is why both spouses should have a family law attorney advise them on any postnuptial agreement they are preparing to sign. An attorney can advise you on a postnuptial agreement in many ways, including making sure that such an agreement is in your best interests and by ensuring that it is more likely to hold up in court.

We have extensive experience advising clients on postnuptial agreements. If you are looking to prepare a postnuptial agreement or if you just want us to give you advice on an agreement that has already been drafted, we can help. Contact us today to learn how a postnuptial agreement may be in your family’s best interests.

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Child Support and Income Sharing


By Lyn C. Conniff and Elizabeth A. Teague

Illinois follows the Percentage of Income Model for calculating child support. The current law (750 ILCS 5/505) sets child support by a percentage of the net income of the party paying support (generally the non-custodial parent) based on the number of children:

Number of Children Percent of Supporting Party’s Net Income
1 20%
2 28%
3 32%
4 40%
5 45%
6 or more 50%


While the above formula is simple to apply, it often has inequitable financial results. For example, the parent receiving support may have a higher income than the parent paying support. Or, consider two parents with substantially equal parenting time and substantially equal incomes – the current statute provides no specific mechanism to take these factors into account.

However, a change is coming….Income Sharing is on its way!

The Income Shares Model for child support uses the incomes of both parents to determine an appropriate level of child support.  The Income Shares Model is presently used in thirty-eight (38) states. Legislation, HB3982, which would establish the Income Shares Model in Illinois, is currently before the House Rules Committee.

At the core of the Income Shares Model is a table of parents’ income levels and the costs to meet the needs of their child (ren). The Department of Healthcare and Family Services of Illinois will create a table which “reflects the percentage of combined net income that parents living in the same household in [Illinois] ordinarily spend on their children.” HB3982. The premise is that by using such a table, child support is then based on the actual expenditures for children by families at the same level of combined-income.

Further, the Income Shares Model provides specific guidance to calculate child support when the parents have substantially equal parenting time, something which is missing entirely from the current Percentage of Income Model.  This calculation comes into effect “[i]f each parent exercises 146 or more overnights per year with the child” which is the equivalent of each parent having at least 40% of the parenting time. Child support in a shared parenting situation is based on each parent’s percentage of time with the child, and then the child support owed by each parent is off-set to determine which parent has an obligation to pay child support to the other.

HB3982 also describes a more specific model for each parent to contribute to child care expenses. HB3982 states “the court, in its discretion, in addition to the basic child support obligation, may order either or both parents…to contribute to the reasonable child care expenses of the child.” HB3982 then further defines child care expenses as “actual annualized monthly child care expenses reasonable necessary to enable a parent…to be employed, attend education and training activities, or job search, and includes after-school care and all work-related child care expenses incurred while receiving education or training to improve employment opportunities” and “may include camps when school is not in session.” Unlike current law, HB3982 specifically addresses how to share child care expenses. “Child care expenses shall be prorated in proportion to each parent’s percentage share of combined parental net income, and added to the basic child support obligation.”

Further, HB3982 specifically states that “the court, in its discretion, may order either or both parents…to contribute to the reasonable school and extracurricular activity expenses” of a child and the court “may also order either or both parents to contribute to the reasonable health care needs of the child not covered by insurance, including, but not limited to, unreimbursed medical, dental, orthodontic, or vision expenses and any prescription medication for the child not covered under the child’s health or medical insurance.”

Although the Income Shares Model is not yet law in Illinois, it is on the way. The attorneys at Conniff Law Offices are monitoring the status of the new child support guidelines and will be working with our clients to prepare for the coming shift to the Income Shares Model. Contact the experienced family law attorneys at Conniff Law Offices to discuss how the Income Shares Model might impact you.




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Making Sure You Get the Child Support You Need


By Lyn C. Conniff

Numerous reasons exist why you may not be receiving appropriate child support payments. First and foremost, have you asked for child support? Did you work with a proven divorce attorney to set up a legally binding child support order? In some cases, you may be dealing with a parent unwilling to pay child support or a noncustodial spouse claiming they can’t afford to pay. No matter what your particular situation, a lawyer tends to be the easiest and most effective way to get child support in the fallout of a divorce.

According to the United States Census Bureau, around 14.4 million custodial parents are caring for 23.4 million children under the age of 21 living in a single-parent home. Of these, less than 45% of custodial parents received full child support payments in 2011.

Legal Guidance for Getting Child Support

In child support cases, often the first step is establishing fatherhood. If the parents were not married when the child or children were born, paternity testing may be necessary. In divorce cases, the relationship between parents is often strained, making custody, child support, and other conflicts more intense and less productive than they should be. A seasoned divorce attorney can help to bridge the gap.  It is important to note, that while an attorney can help with communication issues throughout the process, the children will be better off in the long run if the parents learn to communicate with each other for the benefit of the minor child or children.

In addition to helping with a smoother, more effective transition, the divorce lawyers at Conniff Law Offices are extremely familiar with the ins and outs of child support requirements in Cook County, DuPage County, and Lake County, Illinois.  Your attorney will guide you in determining an appropriate amount of child support to ask for based on the noncustodial parent’s income, the number of children you have together, the custodial parent’s income, and the amount of time each parent spends with a child, or the children.  Soon in Illinois, child support will be determined based on the concept of income sharing which will take into account each of these factors.

Enforcing by Court Order

It is possible to reach a suitable child support settlement agreement outside of court. However, in the State of Illinois, the Court must still review and approve the terms of your agreement to ensure the terms meet Illinois’ child support guidelines as described in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Once approved by the Judge and entered as an order of the Court, the agreement becomes the binding court order for child support.

Hiring an experienced divorce attorney is the key to getting the child support you need to properly care for your family. The attorneys at Conniff Law Offices can help you move through the process in a timely manner while also ensuring each step of your child support case goes smoothly. Contact us today for more information!

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Preparing for Mediation in Divorce


By Lyn C. Conniff and Elizabeth A. Teague

Mediation is a good option for individuals contemplating divorce because it gives parties more control over their divorce outcome than either litigation or traditional negotiation through divorce attorneys.

In mediation, the parties meet with a mediator who is a neutral third-party. The mediator guides the conversation between the parties as they discuss options for settlement. Although a mediator can provide basic information and offer suggestions, he or she cannot provide legal advice. A mediator, however, can help to reframe concerns, provide guidance on issues to be discussed, and assist with de-escalating conflict during conversations.

A key ingredient for a successful mediation outcome is preparation: both parties should properly prepare before the mediation process begins.

Documentation of Assets and Liabilities

During mediation, the mediator will guide you and your spouse through a conversation on how to divide your assets (bank accounts, retirement, stocks, house, cars, etc.), and how to divide your liabilities (debts). However, the conversation will only be productive if both spouses know the values of assets and liabilities, how title is held to each asset, and which of them is liable for each debt. Therefore, in preparation for mediation, you must gather the most recent statements for all assets and liabilities, as well as title documents for any real property and vehicles.

Consider Potential Parenting Time

In mediation, the mediator can also help you and your spouse create a parenting plan. One element of the parenting plan is the parenting schedule which includes the regular parenting schedule (the schedule used on an every-day basis), the holiday parenting schedule, and the vacation parenting schedule. Therefore, in order to have a productive mediation session, you should begin thinking about what your schedule might look like. Consider the distance between each parent’s new residence, the age(s) of your child(ren), your ability to communicate, etc.

Legal Advice

After you have gathered all of your financial information, and have thought about a parenting schedule, we strongly recommend that you consult with a divorce attorney and obtain legal advice before starting the mediation process. Also, as you go through the mediation process, it is helpful to have an attorney available to answer any questions. If a proposal has been made by your spouse, it will be helpful to discuss that proposal and other alternatives with your attorney.   A divorce attorney can advise you about your rights under the law, what a judge might decide on the issue in court, and what should and should not be included in your final agreement. For example, if child support is an issue, an attorney can advise you on the statutory amount (what the law says should be paid), why deviations might occur, and what expenses for the children should be paid in addition to child support. If neither party gets legal advice, it is possible that the final agreement will be unconscionable and not be approved by a judge.

After the parties reach a mediated agreement, they should take it to a divorce lawyer to have it drafted into a settlement agreement that can be incorporated into a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, the document that is entered by a judge at the time of the parties’ divorce.

Mediation can be an effective process for reaching an amicable agreement while providing flexibility to mold the agreement to the uniqueness of each family. However, mediation is most successful at creating realistic, workable agreements when both parties are well-prepared with the help of qualified divorce attorneys.

The divorce attorneys at Conniff Law Offices are mediation-friendly and offer advice to our clients throughout the mediation process. We are also trained mediators and look forward to the opportunity to help you work towards an agreement. Contact the experienced family law attorneys and mediators at Conniff Law Offices to discuss the best options for your situation.

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New Maintenance Guidelines as of January 1, 2015 – A Game Changer


By Lyn C. Conniff and Elizabeth A. Teague

Much to the frustration of those going through a divorce in Illinois, the issue of maintenance (alimony or spousal support) has been a gray-area. Unlike child support, where the statute set guidelines based on the number of children, the amount and duration of maintenance payments, and whether they should be paid at all, was previously not clearly set by statute. However, that has all just changed with the passing of a new law, Public Act 98-0961.

On August 15, 2014, Governor Quinn signed Public Act 98-0961 into law. This new law will become effective on January 1, 2015, and will affect section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the section of the IMDMA which covers maintenance.

Under the new law, if the court determines that maintenance is appropriate, then the amount and duration of the maintenance would be as follows:

504(b-1) Amount and duration of maintenance. If the court determines that a maintenance award is appropriate, the court shall order maintenance in accordance with either paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection (b-1):

  1. Maintenance award in accordance with guidelines. In situations when the combined gross income of the parties is less than $250,000 and no multiple family situation exists, maintenance payable after the date the parties’ marriage is dissolved shall be in accordance with subparagraphs (A) and (B) of this paragraph (1), unless the court makes a finding that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate.
    • A. The amount of maintenance under this paragraph (1) shall be calculated by taking 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of 40% of the combined gross income of the parties.
    • B. The duration of an award under this paragraph (1) shall be calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by whichever of the following factors applies: 0-5 years (.20); 5-10 years (.40); 10-15 years (.60); or 15-20 years (.80). For a marriage of 20 or more years, the court, in its discretion, shall order either permanent maintenance or maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage.
  2. Maintenance award not in accordance with guidelines. Any non-guidelines award of maintenance shall be made after the court’s consideration of all relevant factors set forth in subsection (a) of this Section.


Let’s now consider how the new guidelines will work.  If a couple has been married for 14 years, and their aggregate gross income is $220,000.00 (spouse A earns $180,000.00, and spouse B earns $40,000.00), the terms of 750 ILCS 5/504(b-1)(1) will apply.  When we apply the guideline maintenance formula under subparagraph 504(b-1)(1)(A) of the new statute, the result will be as follows:

Payor’s annual gross income: $180,000.00
30% of payor’s gross income: $ 54,000.00
Payee’s annual gross income: $40,000.00<
20% of payee’s gross income: $8,000.00
Annual maintenance $54,000.00 – $8,000.00 = $46,000.00
Combined gross income of the parties: $180,000.00 + $40,000.00 = $220,000.00
40% of combined gross income: $88,000.00
Maintenance ($46,000.00) +payee’s gross income ($40,000.00) = $86,000.00

Maintenance and payee’s gross income is less than 40% of the parties’ combined gross incomes, so, therefore, under the new statute, annual maintenance payments of $46,000.00 would apply.

In order to determine how long spouse A must pay maintenance to spouse B, we apply the multipliers described in subparagraph 504(b-1)(1)(B) of the statute.  Marriages of 10-15 years have a multiplier of .6.  So, a marriage of 14 years will result in maintenance for 14 x .6 years, or 8.4 years.

This new law will have a profound impact on maintenance awards for divorcing couples. While a judge will still have the discretion to follow or not to follow the guidelines after considering all relevant factors, we expect that judges will most likely follow the guidelines.  However, 504(b-1) does not provide any further direction for a divorcing couple whose gross annual income is in excess of $250,000.00, or for high net worth couples.  The question then becomes, are the guidelines a step forward? The answer is uncertain.

The guidelines offer some clarity to divorcing couples whose aggregate gross incomes are less than $250,000.00 annually.  Regardless of whether divorcing spouses are content with the framework created by the new guidelines, they can at least process what their financial future might look like. The new maintenance guidelines offer direction and clarity, two things which are presently lacking at the beginning of most discussions surrounding maintenance.

On the other hand, the guidelines do not readily allow for flexibility or take into account the specific facts of any one case, where a shorter or longer payment period or smaller or larger payments might be more equitable. They also do not take into account specific needs and interests of the divorcing parties.  Disability of the payee spouse and whether there were children of the marriage are just two important factors a judge might consider when deciding whether to apply the guidelines or whether to deviate from them. Section 504(b-1)(1) does allow courts to make a finding that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate. However, it remains to be seen what types of situations will fall into this category and how often this will occur. Additionally, parties going through a divorce can agree to deviate from the guidelines.

One unintended result of the new law may be that individuals who are seeking maintenance and are on the cusp of falling under a new multiplier according to 504(b-1)(1)(B) (e.g. married for more than 14 years but less than 15 years and close to moving from a multiplier of .60 to .80) will have an incentive to drag out proceedings to take advantage of the higher multiplier. On the other hand, an individual who will likely be paying maintenance and is on the cusp of a new multiplier will have incentive to push the divorce through as fast as possible. Individuals will likely react this way because of fear of the unknown. One way to alleviate such fear is by having a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement which provides for maintenance payments post-divorce. See Conniff Law Offices Blog Introduction to Prenuptial Agreements for more information.

The new maintenance statute will also affect child support in cases where there are children of the marriage. Section 505(a)(3) of the IMDMA lists the deductions which must be made to determine net income for purposes of calculating child support. A new paragraph, section 505(a)(3)(g-5), has been added which includes as an additional deduction “obligations pursuant to a court order for maintenance in the pending proceeding actually paid or payable under Section 504 to the same party to whom child support is to be payable.” Therefore, under the new statue, child support will be lower than under the previous statute because the maintenance payments are deducted from gross income in order to determine the net income on which the child support will be based. So, it seems that the statute gives and it takes away.

The calculations in the new law, while structured, may not provide the best solution for all cases. At the very least, however, the guidelines will provide a good starting point. By using the calculations, attorneys and their clients will be able to determine the length of time and amount of maintenance pursuant to the guidelines. They will then be able to look at the more specific factors of their situation, and focus on each party’s needs and interests to argue for any deviation from guidelines.

The attorneys at Conniff Law Offices will be working with our clients to maximize their options under the new maintenance guidelines.  Contact the experienced family law attorneys at Conniff Law Offices to discuss how Public Act 98-0961 may impact your particular case.



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