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Today, many couples end up marrying later in life. What that means is each partner already has a life of their own, and more to lose if something goes wrong in the marriage. If you haven’t already, we recommend considering a prenuptial agreement to give yourself an extra layer of legal protection. Here are the facts about prenups.

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Equitable distribution. Dual classification. What do these words have to do with your home, your valuables, your taxes, and your retirement? Plenty, if you’re getting a divorce. In our latest infographic, Nottage and Ward, LLP, explains how Illinois divides assets after the breakdown of a marriage.

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For most of mankind’s history, marriage has been something of a business decision. A man and a woman were legally bound, often in arrangement by the parents of each party. A dowry of wealth in goods or money was brought by the bride and presented to the husband. Children were expected in the very near future, again, often a part of an agreed-upon business decision; and indeed, when it comes to many household chores or farm work, children were a necessary part of a functioning home. In some cases, having so many children required some of those older kids to take care of the younger ones.

In most modern civilizations, these arranged marriages are no longer in practice, and it’s now common for young people to wait until their 30s to get married. For many of the folks born after 1980, they saw their parents and grandparents divorce at ever-growing rates. Many kids grew up in these “broken homes” and saw firsthand the vitriol and anger that can fester over the years between a married couple, resulting in lots of pain and bitterness for all involved.

So why not simply wait to get married? Or, why even get married at all?

There are some steps younger people are taking that have led to a large shift in the cultural dynamics of the home. Many millennials are focusing more on their own stability before marriage, both financially and emotionally, and most of them are open to psychological therapy, both for individuals and couples. Some kids live at home well into their 20s or even 30s, seeing no urgency to leave the nest, especially when Mom and Dad have this big, comfortable, empty house–a luxury item that many young people see as out of reach.

They’ve seen how debt can cripple the marriage and home. This means that people starting out often avoid dragging someone into their student loan debt, for example, and spend their early working years trying to establish a career that enables them to begin management of that debt.

Also, young folks today have so many options for dating, quite literally, in the palm of their hand, so they can take longer to find the ideal mate. And once they find that perfect person, they usually want to spend several years together before making a huge life commitment such as marriage, or having children–some opting out of parenthood altogether.

Marriage is an enormous undertaking and young people today are going into it with their eyes wide open, gathering as much information as possible on such a massive commitment. If you’re considering taking that big step, talk to the experienced team at Nottage and Ward, LLP. We can help guide you through any legal questions you may have regarding marriage, so that you and your mate make the best decisions for your future. Call us at (312) 332-2915 to set up a consultation.

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Throughout the last decade, we’ve marked the milestone 50th anniversary of many significant events of the 1960s that altered our lives: the March on Washington; the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy; the beginning of the Vietnam War; Medicare signed into law; and the Voting Rights Act established—the list is staggering.

And as we close out this decade, February 13th of 2019 represents the 50th anniversary of a meeting involving three people you likely have never heard of, but whose importance puts them on this list. Their names are Bill Jones, Mary Davidson, and a 2-year-old boy named Aaron.

Bill Jones, a gay man living in San Francisco in the 1960s, had always wanted to be a dad. He grew up in a broken home taking care of his younger brother, instilling in him a sense of nurturing, caring, and connection that he desperately wanted to share with a child. In short, he was the ideal parent.

He became an elementary schoolteacher, allowing him to play an influential role in the lives of many children, but he still ached to have a child of his own. After the Cuban Revolution, he heard of unwanted children and visited Havana to inquire about adopting a child. But social intolerance was in full force in Castro’s Cuba, and Jones was forced to the leave the country. He later tried to adopt a woman’s unwanted child, but faced insurmountable legal battles at the time.

Resolute, he contacted a local adoption agency, where he came in contact with Mary Davidson, a social worker who firmly believed that homosexuals had just as much love to give a child as any heterosexual parent. A strong advocate on the inside who believed in Bill and knew how to navigate the system, Mary was able to put Bill in contact with a little boy named Aaron, who was struggling to find a permanent home.

In a story on NPR from 2015, Jones said, “He was darling, but he had been turned down by about five couples. His mother was a heroin addict. When she gave birth to him, he went through withdrawal himself. And by about two years old, he knew no words at all.”

Even though Jones turned down Aaron at first, he changed his mind. “You know, children know when they’ve been rejected. So, I found myself down at FAO Schwarz. I had bought a teddy bear. I went back to the adoption agency and I said, ‘I want to give a present to that kid.’ Aaron heard my voice and came running across the room and threw his arms around my legs. And I just cried.”

Quietly, 50 years ago this February, a loving man in California gave a lost, lonely child a warm, caring home. We at Nottage and Ward, LLP, celebrate this moment in LGBT history, and invite you to call our Chicago LGBT family law attorneys if you have any legal questions. Our number is (312) 332-2915.

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Effective January 1, 2019, the taxability of maintenance payments (spousal support) from one spouse to the other has changed. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was signed into law in December 2017, reversed the 77-year-old tax law that had allowed the higher-earning spouse to deduct his/her maintenance payments and required the lower-income spouse receiving the payments to pay the tax.

This long-standing law had acted as a subsidy of sorts for a divorcing couple, due to its shifting of income from a higher income bracket to a lower income bracket, which resulted in there being more money to go around for the family. Under the new law, maintenance is no longer deductible to the payor spouse or taxable to the payee spouse. The new law applies to divorces that are finalized after December 31, 2018, meaning that maintenance paid pursuant to divorces that were finalized before 2019 will continue to be deductible to the payor spouse and taxable to the payee spouse.

In order to contend with the new tax law, Illinois has passed and implemented new provisions to the maintenance statute. As of January 1, 2019, guideline maintenance will be calculated by taking 33 1/3% of the payor’s NET annual income minus 25% of the payee’s NET annual income. Previously, guideline maintenance was calculated by taking 30% of the payor’s GROSS annual income minus 20% of the payee’s GROSS annual income.

The real-life impact of the tax change will be that in many cases there will be less financial resources available to a divorced family than there would have been under the old tax law. In the past, the deductibility of maintenance also served as an incentive to agree to pay support, in that there was a financial benefit derived from it. Now, the issue of maintenance may become much more contentious during the divorce process.

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1. Change the password on your email account; better yet, set up a new email account that your spouse doesn’t know about. Do not give your spouse the opportunity to access your account and see potentially confidential information (for example, an email from your attorney).

2. Change the PIN number on your debit cards, credit cards, bank accounts, etc. It is not unusual fora spouse headed for divorce to remove funds from the accounts in order to control the money – don’t let this happen to you.

3. Change the beneficiaries in your estate plan and on your life insurance policies. Chances are that you have named your spouse as the beneficiary on everything that you can possibly name him or her on – change these.

4. Remove your jewelry and other small, but valuable property from the marital residence. Although the hope is that divorces can be amicably resolved, they do sometimes turn ugly and you do not want anything to happen to your great-grandmother’s wedding ring or the baseball that you caught at the Cubs game.

5. Stash some cash. To make sure your spouse does not have the ability to leave you without any financial resources, it is a good idea to have some cash that you can rely on in an emergency.

For more advice on what to do after a separation, please contact the Chicago family law attorneys at Nottage and Ward, LLP.

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For James and Erin Clark, after five years of marriage, the honeymoon was over. It was over clearly, literally, figuratively, definitively, mutually—the list of “ly” adverbs could go on indefinitely, except they were missing the only one that really counts: legally. They each wanted a divorce to be done yesterday, and they were willing to do whatever it took to get the process completed as quickly as possible.

While each spouse may be ready and willing to sign the papers and make it official, here in Illinois there are a few legal requirements couples like the Clarks will need to undergo before a divorce is final.

First of all, at least one party must be an Illinois resident for at least 90 days. Why, you may ask? This jurisdictional requirement establishes legal contacts between the party and the State. Moreover, this keeps couples from performing a “tourism divorce,” where they go to a state with minimal residential requirements, if any at all, just to end their marriage. The busy family courts of Illinois don’t want to be bogged down with divorce proceedings.

Next up is the biggest factor that will determine how quickly the divorce will go: the couple must determine if the divorce is contested or uncontested. If it’s uncontested, the couple is in luck. As of 2016, there is no longer any waiting period in Illinois, and the whole thing can be done in a short period of time. But, if the divorce is contested, the spouses may be looking at a procedure lasting from six to 18 months (or more!). The exact length of time depends on many factors and varies by case. The process of divorce can be slowed down if either of the spouses disagree about any of the following:

  • Does one spouse not want the divorce?
  • Are there kids involved? Where will they live? If there are kids, what does the child support arrangement look like? As you might imagine, allocation of parental responsibilities gets complicated.
  • Does the couple share a pet, or pets? Where will the pet live?
  • What about any property or business the couple shares?
  • How will outstanding debts, such as a home mortgage or car loan, be divvied up?

There are many things to consider, and these are just a few of examples that can greatly impact the duration of the divorce process. If you are considering getting a divorce in Chicago, it’s important to have an experienced, legal hand to hold onto through this difficult time. At Nottage and Ward, LLP, we have been helping Illinois residents settle family law conflicts for over 25 years. Give us a call at (312) 332-2915 to set up a consultation.

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“You’re nobody ‘til somebody loves you,” Dean Martin famously crooned, “so find yourself somebody to love…but be sure to sign a prenup, Frank!” You can almost hear ol’ Deano adding that last line for his buddy, Frank Sinatra, while performing this hit song in their hugely popular act at the Sands Hotel back in the 1960s. Perhaps you should heed his advice…?

“But I’m in love!” you say. “It’s the real thing. Nothing could tear us apart!”

Well, you’re not the first to feel this way about your betrothed, and, sorry to say it, but people change, circumstances change, and life changes. Divorce might rear its ugly head, and you and your spouse would be wise to have a prenuptial agreement in place.

“But what if my fiancée thinks my request for a prenup is a sign that we’re doomed before we even start?”

A prenup may take away a little of the romance of the moment, but in the long run, you’ll be much better off. And if your love is the real thing, it should withstand a wise back-up plan. There are so many issues that can come up—children, student loan debts, houses, cars, businesses, the list goes on—that you can’t possibly see all of the potential pitfalls that could end your marriage. It’s especially hard to conceive of those possibilities when surrounded by the glow of true love.

Just for a moment, think of your upcoming marriage as a business. In many ways, that’s what it is. You wouldn’t go into business with someone without of some kind of legal agreement in advance, would you? Of course not. And a prenup doesn’t mean that you and your intended can’t share in the assets you each bring to the marriage; it simply means that if things take a turn for the worse, those assets go back to the person who brought them into the marriage in the first place. Sounds fair, right?

Discussing the particulars about money can be an uncomfortable but necessary experience. There are many details to be worked through, openly and honestly. Once you and your fiancé have made the decision to agree on a prenup, it’s important to follow up by consulting with a Chicago prenuptial agreement attorney. Nottage and Ward, LLP, is experienced at negotiating all the elements of a marital agreement. Give us a call at (312) 332-2915 to set up a consultation.

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The following fictional story illustrates a common situation after a divorce in Chicago. If you need help filing a name change, please don’t hesitate to contact Nottage and Ward, LLP.

Sarah and Tom Mickelson had one daughter, 2-year-old Amy, when they both decided it was in everyone’s best interest that they no longer live together.

After a brief separation and a long, emotional process, Sarah made the decision to divorce Tom. They both agreed that Amy should live with her mother. The family court’s decision made that legally binding, awarding sole allocation of parental responsibilities to Sarah and allowing Tom two weekends each month for parenting time.

Not long after the divorce, Sarah went back to her maiden name, Wheeler, but Amy retained Tom’s last name of Mickelson.

In a couple of years, Sarah became Sarah Campbell after she married a wonderful man, Greg Campbell. Greg was smitten with little Amy and evolved into more of a father figure in her life than Tom, whose involvement in his daughter’s life lessened once Greg stepped into the picture. They were now Sarah and Greg Campbell and Amy Mickelson.

To Sarah, it didn’t seem right that Amy would retain the surname of her biological father, a man who was less of a father to Amy than Greg. Sarah knew that one day her inquisitive daughter would want to know why she was still Amy Mickelson, and Sarah was uncertain what she would say.

Should Amy become Amy Mickelson-Wheeler? That would be a mouthful. What about Amy Wheeler-Campbell? Even worse. And what if Greg and Sarah split up in the future? Then the surname situation would be even more complicated. So, while Amy was still young, Sarah and Greg thought it best to legally change Amy’s last name to Wheeler. But how to go about making that change?

The first thing to do was to speak with Tom. Out of respect to Tom and his relationship with Amy, Sarah wanted to get his feelings about the name change. If he felt it was the right thing to do, then the legal process would go smoothly. Sarah was relieved to find that Tom was agreeable, but there were still some legal hoops to jump through.

Sarah went to the courthouse where the divorce decree was issued, and filed a petition for a name change for Amy. The clerk was very helpful and gave Sarah the correct forms that pertained specifically to her situation. The clerk also advised Sarah that there would be no need to serve Tom with a copy of the legal papers if he was in compliance with Amy’s name change. Once she completed the paperwork, Sarah contacted Tom once again for his official signature.

But Tom had a change of heart.

People are subject to changing their minds, particularly when it involves their children. Sarah didn’t foresee this, and the name change became a thorny issue for several years. The one thing that could’ve eased this process from the onset was for Sarah and Greg to contact an experienced Chicago child allocation lawyer.

If you are considering a name change for your child, please call Nottage and Ward, LLP, at (312) 332-2915 to set up a consultation with a compassionate team of family law attorneys. We will guide you in the legal process and support you and your child every step of the way.

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Victims of domestic violence understand that the physical and emotional trauma lasts long after the actual abuse has stopped. One of the greatest challenges is the lack of support from institutions such as law enforcement, society at large, and even friends and family members who don’t understand what it means to be a victim of assault.

October has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month to change this.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month began as a “Day of Unity” put on by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The original idea was to bring together people who work in the field and promote discussions on how to end all violence against women and children. Themes included mourning and remembering victims who died due to domestic violence, celebrating survivors, and working towards solutions.

Domestic violence is defined as “violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner.” It is not limited to physical abuse (or solely women and children). Examples include the following:

  • Physical acts of violence against the victim
  • Throwing objects at the victim
  • Acts of intimidation involving guns, knives, or other weapons
  • Threats to hurt, kill, or take away the victim’s children
  • Threats against the victim’s friends, loved ones, or pets
  • Taking the victim’s money
  • Controlling what the victim wears
  • Stalking the victim or monitoring the victim’s every move (includes electronically or via the Internet)
  • Not allowing the victim to make decisions
  • Rape
  • Excessive pressure to have sex when the victim doesn’t want to
  • Forced sex with others
  • Forced drug or alcohol consumption
  • Preventing the victim from working or attending school
  • Harassing the victim at a place of employment or education
  • Taking or destroying the victim’s belongings or property

Thanks to the increased awareness, our understanding of what constitutes abuse has expanded. If you are experiencing any types of abuse listed above, it is absolutely necessary that you seek help immediately to protect yourself.

Victims have many options when it comes to legally protecting themselves and their children from their abusers, including protection orders, revocation of custody and visitation, and filing for divorce. The experienced attorneys at Nottage and Ward, LLP, will make your family’s security our top priority. Contact one of our friendly representatives today to schedule a free and confidential consultation at (312) 332-2915.

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