Author Archives: Jonathan Merel
About Jonathan MerelJonathan has provided his legal expertise to prominent national media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and NBC’s Today Show. Jonathan was selected as a Super Lawyers Rising Star for 2012 and 2013. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations
Out With the Old & In With the New: Big Changes to the Illinois Marriage & Dissolution of Marriage Act
On January 1, 2016, many changes took effect with regard to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA” or “Act”). The revised statute looks very different from the law Illinois family law attorneys and their clients have come to know. Detailed below are some noteworthy areas where the law concerning divorce, parenting, and property division has changed.
Changes to Grounds for Divorce:
The revised IMDMA has eliminated all fault-based grounds for divorce. Since 1977, Illinois has had both “no-fault” and “fault-based” grounds for divorce. Now, couples in Illinois are left with a single ground for divorce, “irreconcilable differences”. Additionally, the revised statute eliminates the two (2) year separation period previously required to dissolve a marriage. The aforementioned provision was replaced with a six (6) month separation period which provides, “If the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months immediately preceding the entry of the judgment dissolving the marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met.” 750 ILCS 5/401(a-5). Thus, an individual seeking a divorce in Illinois now only needs to assert that irreconcilable differences have led to an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the parties have lived separate and apart for six (6) consecutive months by the time a judgment of divorce is entered. Litigants should be aware that living separate and apart does not mean an actual physical separation of the divorcing spouses. The parties merely must cease living together as a husband and wife would for at least six (6) months; however, effectuating this requirement can take place while living under the same roof.
Effective January 1, 2015, Section 504 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) was modified, creating sweeping changes in how maintenance (otherwise known as alimony) is determined for divorcing couples in the State of Illinois.
Under the new statute, if the combined gross income (before taxes) of both parties is less than $250,000, no multiple family situation exists, and the court determines that spousal support is appropriate, spousal maintenance will be determined in accordance with the guidelines below:
Types of Post-Decree Litigation
Think you’re done with your ex once your divorce is finalized?
While that is surely the goal, not everyone is so lucky. Many former spouses find themselves back in court years after the entry of their divorce judgments seeking to either a modify or enforce their divorce decrees.
Post-decree includes all litigation that occurs after a decree of divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or judgment of paternity is entered. Post-decree lawyers will often receive inquiries from former or new clients requesting one or more of the following:
Should We Treat Pets as Children? A look into the rise of animal custody cases.
The division of assets and property are perhaps the most hotly contested issues when it comes to settling a divorce, especially when there are no minor children involved. But what about the dog you purchased right after you got married, or the cat you adopted when you moved in together? Who will get the little “baby” after the divorce? Animals custody cases are becoming an increasingly prevalent issue in our nation, and Illinois is no exception. Dog and cat ownership in the United States has quadrupled since the 1960s, and what we spend on our pet is more than double what it was in the 2000s. While there has been a large increase in pet ownership, legislatures have been reluctant to write statutes determining how to award pet custody in family law cases.
New spousal support guidelines are coming to Illinois January 1, 2015. This blog post overviews the potential pros and cons of this new legislation.
To see how the new spousal support formula will work: Click here
The current law essentially awards spousal support, or maintenance as its also referred to, at the judge’s discretion after consideration of numerous factors. This has led maintenance awards to vary widely from case to case and the inconsistency made it difficult for family law attorneys to give clients a concrete answer to the question: “how much spousal support will I pay or receive and for how long?” Therefore, rather than settling their cases, many parties instead would choose to “gamble” and go to trial hoping to receive a better maintenance determination from the judge than they could negotiate out of court.
Dissipation in Illinois.
Dissipation in a legal context refers to one spouse’s use of marital funds for their sole purpose or gain and not to the benefit of the marriage. Dissipation is limited to the timeframe in which the marriage began to experience irretrievable breakdown resulting inevitably in divorce. Dissipation is commonly linked to extramarital affairs but is not inextricably associated with it. Any type of money transfer, purchase or spending spree that devalues the marital property can be constituted as dissipation if found to be done without consent or deliberately hidden from one’s spouse.
As the divorce process nears completion, clients often ask what needs to be done in order to legally revert to their maiden name. Requesting a name change after divorce is not an uncommon endeavor given that the majority of women in the United States choose to accept their husband’s family surname at the time of marriage. For those going through a divorce, it is important to make sure a few simple steps are covered in order to avoid wasted time and money down the road.
1. The Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage must have descriptive language that allows leave to resume the use of your maiden name when desired. It is recommended to include this language whether or not you have any immediate plans to request a name change after divorce. If this language is not included in the Judgment, changing your name in the future can be a major hassle. It requires filing a Petition for Name Change with the courts and going through an exhaustive list of requirements, including public notice, appearing before a judge, and obtaining a court order. With that said, it is always prudent to include a provision granting legal authority for a name change after divorce to avoid returning to court.
One key component to any divorce case is the discovery process. Many people might ask, “What is discovery?” Discovery at its core can be defined as the exchange or acquisition of information. The discovery process can occur in many forms and any good divorce attorney will utilize the numerous methods or resources available to him to obtain the information and/or documentation necessary to adequately represent his client’s interests.
Obtaining information via the discovery process can be accomplished via several different mechanisms, the most common of which include the following:
Most parents envision having an active relationship with their children – full of good times, laughs and fond memories. Rarely do people plan on being single parents or imagine going through the process of splitting time with their children with their former spouse. Many individuals whose marriage ends in a divorce or have a child out of wedlock never expected it. Whether you are in the process of a divorce or a parentage case for child custody in Illinois, a very important task may be establishing a child visitation schedule.
One of the major issues often arising during divorce is determining what to do with the marital home. In many cases, parties to a divorce are faced with the dilemma of deciding how to address the home where they resided during the marriage. In most cases, there are two options:
1. Sell the house – In many instances, the parties want a fresh start upon their divorce and will simply decide to sell the marital home and divide the sale proceeds as they agree or as the court decides. This solution is typically the simplest way to address the martial home as the parties will not be required to value or appraise the property (for purposes of the divorce), as the value (and proceeds resulting therefrom) will be determined by the sale price. The decision to sell the marital home can become complicated if the house is “under water” (i.e. the debt or mortgage on the property exceeds the value of the property). In situations such as this, the parties may want to consider a short sale of the property to free them from the debt associated with the property, but a short sale can become a complicated and long process.