Should You Get a Prenup?

Many couples who are engaged to be married entertain the idea of getting a prenuptial agreement. There is certainly a societal stigma attached to premarital agreements. There’s the feeling that you’re already prepping for the inevitable dissolution of the marriage. But there are many advantages to formalizing a prenuptial agreement that can make it a valuable tool that doesn’t necessarily have to spell misgivings or doubt. Continue reading

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Save Time and Money on Divorce with Mediation

Deciding that it’s time to dissolve a marriage is never easy for either party, even if it’s the best option for you and your family. The stigma surrounding divorce is often one of heated arguments and each party doing his or her best to make the other party suffer for marital mistakes.

While that is the case in some divorces, it certainly doesn’t have to be the case in yours. Many couples can still interact with one another on an amicable, rational, and co-operative basis, which enables them to pursue non-litigated divorce methods such as mediation.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

 Although divorce mediation is sometimes done with just one attorney participating, it’s most common for both parties to retain the services of their own attorney. Then both parties agree on a divorce mediator who is specially trained to help couples negotiate their divorce. The mediator should be impartial, and will have an end goal of developing a final settlement where both sides feel as if they were treated fairly.

One of the reasons divorce mediation is such a valuable process for both parties is the non-aggressive and co-operative communication it fosters. Being able to sit down with one another to compromise and work through the divorce issues may act as a foundation for future communications.

The assistance of a mediator is especially valuable for couples with children. Custody, parenting, support and time sharing issues are often the most contentious issues in divorce proceedings. A divorce mediator can help you and your spouse find realistic solutions that are equitable and stability enhancing.

Divorce is especially difficult on children, as is adjusting to living in a two-family household. A divorce mediator can help you and your ex compromise on these issues and foster a sense of calm and collaboration.

The importance of maintaining the mindset that you and your former husband or wife are still partners in terms of raising your children is essential not only to reach an effective settlement, but also to ensure that settlement and co-operation last well into the future.

Mediation is also significantly healthier for your children. The more you two can get along and make a shared parenting plan work, the less vitriol the children will experience in their home lives.

How Does the Divorce Mediation Process Work?

 The divorce mediation process generally takes place over a few meetings. The times of these meetings are dictated by the availability of all parties involved, including the mediator, both attorneys and both spouses. So, scheduling can be a challenge.

During the first meeting, the divorce mediator will spend most of the time firmly establishing the issues and goals of each party. The mediator will work with you to rank these issues by importance in order to understand your priorities. After that’s been established, the divorce mediator will detail all the relevant information that needs to be acquired and shared to ensure the parties have what they need to make informed decisions.

After the first meeting, you and your spouse will be tasked with gathering the necessary information or any required resources, whether they be financial documents, appraisals, insurance information or other items of importance.

The subsequent meetings between you, your mediator and your attorney will be dedicated to meeting you and your spouse’s divorce settlement goals through compromise and discussion. This is where the mediator’s pragmatism and impartiality are especially important.

Once both parties agree to a negotiated settlement, the mediator will finalize a draft for review by each party’s attorneys.  The final settlement agreement is drafted by one of the parties’ attorneys based upon the mediator’s statement of the settlement terms.

Will Mediation Work for Your Case?

If you and your spouse are amicable enough to agree on most issues and are willing to sit in the same room together, you may be good candidates for divorce mediation.  If you prefer, you can choose to do “shuttle mediation’’ where, instead of you and your spouse being in the same room, the mediator “shuttles” between you and your spouse who are in separate rooms, and works out an agreement between you.  If you would like to learn more about the mediation process or how to begin divorce mediation, please contact the helpful, compassionate family law professionals at the Conniff Law Offices.

They can represent you throughout the process as well as provide several reputable divorce mediator options for your consideration.

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Income Shares: The New Illinois Child Support Law

Effective July 1, 2017, Illinois will join thirty-nine other states, in addition to Washington D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands, that use an “Income Shares” model for determining child support.  Currently, Illinois applies a “Percentage of Income” formula that applies a set percentage to the supporting parent’s net income.  However, on August 12, 2016, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law House Bill 3982, which will become effective on July 1, 2017, as Illinois’ new child support statute incorporating the “income shares” model.

The assumption behind the “Income Shares” model is that when a family is intact then each parent contributes to the expenses and the care of the children.  For purposes of determining child support, the new Illinois statute elaborates on the current child support statute, 750 ILCS 5/505, and provides additional guidance for the court to consider, including, the residential parent’s income, the parents’ additional expenses, working potential or working history if unemployed or underemployed, and parenting time.

How to Calculate Child Support Under the New Statute

Under the new statute, the child support obligation is determined by first calculating the net income of each parent. The net incomes of each parent are then combined to determine the total income of the family (“Total Family Income”).

The Total Family Income is then compared to economic estimates of an average intact family with similar income and number of children.  A chart clarifying these details has not yet been pusblished.  The estimated expense is the basic child support obligation, which can be adjusted for additional expenses.  Additional expenses include:  child care expenses, extracurricular activity expenses, health insurance, and educational expenses.  The statute provides guidance as to which expenses are considered under each category and how the court should consider each expense in relation to each parent and his or her child support obligation.  If the court decides that either or both parent should contribute to certain child expenses, then the basic child support obligation will be prorated for each additional expense in proportion to a  parent’s percentage share of the Total Family Income, and the additional expenses will then be added to the child support obligation.

The new statute also provides for an adjustment or “offset” to child support for shared parenting.  If a parent is in the physical care of a child for at least 146 overnights a year, the court may first multiply the basic child support obligation by 1.5 to calculate the “shared care child support obligation.”  Then, each parent’s child support obligation is calculated by multiplying each parent’s portion of the “shared care child support obligation” by the percentage of time the parent is allocated parenting time with the minor child or children.  The parent who owes more child support pays the difference between the two amounts to the other parent.  As more information is released, we can clarify this change in the law further.

New Statute’s Effect on Existing Child Support Obligations

In anticipation of the practical effect the new guidelines will have on existing child support obligations, the new statute provides that the enactment of the new child support law does not in and of itself constitute a substantial change in circumstances for purposes of modifying past-ordered support.  See 750 ILCS 5/510(a).  Upon petitioning the court, the court may modify an existing child support obligation if it finds that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred for reasons other than the change in statute, and then the court would apply the new statute’s guidelines.  Id.  Nevertheless, the court may experience an influx of petitions for modification of child support in July 2017 simply due to the enactment of the new statute.

If you would like to learn more about the new statue and how it may affect you in the future, please contact the helpful, compassionate family law professionals at the Conniff Law Offices.


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There Are Many Divorce Options That May Save You Money, Time, and Excessive Heartache

Divorce is an all too common occurrence for many couples today. It’s also one of the most stressful life events a person can endure. Many couples face a hard choice of dissolving a marriage and being happier, or trying to stick it out for a variety of reasons ranging from children to the financial costs.

Many are under the misconception that divorce always has to be an expensive, long, and vitriolic process. That’s simply not the case. In fact, if you and your significant other are still on amicable enough terms there are a number of options that can save you time, money, and future headaches.

There’s no doubt that people who collaborate together, compromise, and act pragmatically end up having better, longer-lasting divorce resolutions. The more contentious a divorce, the more likely you’ll be going back to court eventually to renegotiate or, worse yet, argue again.

Before you go straight to a divorce lawyer to embark upon a contentious divorce process, consider these faster, simpler, and more affordable options.

Collaborative Divorce

One of the defining characteristics of the collaborative divorce process is the written agreement wherein both parties agree to keep the divorce out of the courts. Both parties should have their own attorneys trained in the collaborative divorce process and have the choice of using other collaboratively trained professionals. The collaborative process focuses on the family’s goals, needs, and interests. Both parties and their attorneys will negotiate toward an agreement with the pre-established goal of completing the process quickly, affordably, and in a manner that promotes cooperation and undistorted communication.

Because there are only minimal court appearances and no lengthy divorce fights, collaborative divorce tends to be a much more affordable option than divorce litigation. The terms agreed to in the collaborative process are generally easier for both parties to accept, as they were negotiated and agreed to with everyone’s cooperation, and the process stays focused on each parties’ needs and interests.

Negotiated Divorce Settlements

Negotiated divorce settlements are similar to collaborative divorce agreements except no trained collaborative professionals are required for the negotiated divorce process, and there is no agreement to stay out of court. In a negotiated settlement, both parties work together with their family law attorneys to negotiate an agreement.

If both parties are amicable and are in agreement on the general division of assets, debts, parenting time, and other important factors, then a negotiated divorce may be the ideal solution for them. Negotiated divorces are generally finalized more quickly than prolonged divorce litigation, and cost significantly less because there’s a diminished need for involvement of attorneys or courts.

Divorce Mediation

Specially trained divorce mediators are available for divorcing couples who wish to cut court and legal costs and accomplish their dissolution quickly and without a lot of fighting. One of the mediator’s jobs will be to establish each party’s goals, needs, and interests, after which they will work on helping you develop a resolution that will provide the best outcome for all parties and the smoothest transition. Good mediators should be impartial, objective, and excel at keeping communication progressing in the right direction.

Mediation can be especially beneficial when the divorcing parties are parents to children. In addition to helping divorcing parties come to negotiated agreements, mediators are also trained to advise and help parents on transitioning their children into a two household family.

Divorce Litigation

 Divorce by its very nature is a contentious process, which is why it’s not overly surprisingly that many couples just can’t communicate, amicably or otherwise, in the manner required for mediation, collaboration, or negotiation. In these situations divorce litigation is often the only option.

There are also situations of impropriety, such as one party attempting to hide assets or accusations of abuse. In these circumstances divorce litigation is generally unavoidable.

In divorce litigation, a judge will be the final arbiter on issues of assets, children, maintenance, and support issues. There are many steps in the litigation process, beginning with a petition of divorce and ending with a trial, and a judgment for dissolution of marriage.

If you would like to learn more about the steps in between or would like to speak with an attorney about your divorce options, please contact the experienced family law attorneys at the Conniff Law Offices today.

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Changes to Illinois Custody Law: Part 2 – Allocation of Parenting Time & Relocation

Allocation of Parenting Time

The 2016 changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the “Act”) appear to be the Illinois legislature’s acknowledgment that, in most households, both parents work, and children are becoming busier with school and extracurricular activities. This changing demographic requires each parent to accept more responsibility when it comes to their children. The Act now presumes that all parents are entitled to parenting time. When determining parenting time, formerly known as visitation, a judge will consider, among other elements, the level of involvement of each parent during the two (2) years immediately before a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities was filed. 750 ILCS 5/602.7(b)(3).

Along with the presumption that every parent is entitled to parenting time comes consequences for this presumption. Now, parenting time is not only a right, it is also a responsibility. A significant change to this section of the Act is the category described as “abuse of parenting time.” If a parent fails to exercise the parenting time allocated to him or her, the court has authority to use its contempt powers. This new addition to the Act will likely cause more litigation about parents who do not show up for their parenting time, or for parents who refuse to make a child available for the other parent’s parenting time.

Also, the Act now includes a section for the parent who has not been allocated any parental responsibilities. There is a presumption that a parent has a right to parenting time, unless it would “seriously endanger the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.” 750 ILCS 5/602.8(a). The Act redefines a “restriction” on parenting time as “any limitation or condition placed on parenting time including supervision.” (Emphasis added) 750 ILCS 5/600(i). The important addition is “or condition.” Now, if there is any argument over parenting time and a parent wants to impose a condition on another parent’s parenting time, that parent must show endangerment. This is yet another change to the Act that will likely lead to more litigation.


The Act was significantly revised to provide more controls and limitations on “relocation.” See 750 ILCS 5/600(g). The term “relocation” or “removal” means one parent’s moving a child’s residence away from his or her current residence and away from the other parent. Before the revisions to the Act, the parent requesting the removal could move the child anywhere in the State of Illinois without a court order; but a parent wanting to move with the child across state lines could not do so without a court order. For example, a parent could move his or her child from Chicago to Champaign, 140 miles downstate, without seeking the court’s permission, but would have to seek court permission to move the child 24 miles away to Indiana.

Fortunately, the Illinois legislature recognized that the old rule was not fair. Now the Act provides that a parent can move up to 25 miles across state lines or 50 miles within the State of Illinois without a court order. However, if a child and the parent seeking the removal live in the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, McHenry or Will, then the parent and child can only move up to 25 miles from the child’s current residence without a court order. 750 ILCS 5/609.2(h). Back to the example previously used, the parent wanting to move twenty-four (24) miles to Indiana with the child would now be able to do so without a court order; but the parent wanting to move to Champaign would not be able to do so without a court order. However, if the child moved with a parent to Indiana, the Illinois would continue to be the child’s home state.

It is important to remember that every case is different with varying circumstances and facts. Because of the potential for complicated and emotional issues for minor children of divorcing parents, it is best to choose an experienced attorney to advocate for yours and your children’s interests. With assistance from an experienced attorney, the parties can sometimes reach an agreement on a proposed parenting plan which in turn can avoid inconsistent and unpredictable allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. At Conniff Law Offices, our attorneys are experienced in family law with years of combined experience in divorce and allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Contact one of our attorneys today to see if we can help you determine what choices will be best for you and your family.

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