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Warrenville divorce lawyer college expenses modificationAfter a divorce is finalized, and the divorce decree is entered into court records, former spouses must abide by all terms concerning child support, spousal support, the allocation of parental responsibility, and the division of the marriage’s assets and liabilities. The decree may only be modified if a valid reason exists. These reasons may include changes in employment and/or income, parent and child relocation, a change in marital status for either party, a change in health status, and the educational needs of children.

With regard to a child’s educational needs, when a child is at or near the age of 18, one parent may petition the court for a modification to compel the other parent to help bear the cost of college expenses. The purpose of this article is to explain the basics of a divorce decree modification petition regarding a child’s college expenses.

Illinois Extends Child Support Obligations to Include College Expenses

Illinois is one of several states in which parents’ child support obligations may include post-secondary (college) educational expenses for adult children. Either parent can petition the other for financial contribution to the child’s college expenses. Ideally, the parents address the issue of post-secondary expenses during the original divorce settlement, so that each party is clear as to terms and conditions and can plan years before tuition and board fees are ever due. However, as college may seem far away at the time of divorce, it is not uncommon for the issue to go unaddressed. Later, when the issue must be confronted through a divorce modification petition, lawful “educational expenses” for which contributions may be sought by either parent include:

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Wheaton divorce mediation lawyerWhile divorce is often portrayed as inherently acrimonious in television, film, and literature, the truth is that it need not be so. Not every divorce is the result of infidelity or abuse. Sometimes, spouses realize that they are unhappy and not getting along despite repeated efforts over a long period of time, or it becomes apparent that they rushed into the marriage without a shared vision of the future. In such completely common and understandable circumstances, it is possible to end the marriage amicably and cooperatively through the process of mediation. Unlike litigation, which is inherently adversarial, mediation is a more harmonious means of resolving the family and financial issues that must be addressed during the dissolution of a marriage.

Mediation Is a Form of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Mediation occurs out of court. This change of venue is symbolic of the non-adversarial nature of the process, in which parties sit across the table rather than on opposing sides of the courtroom. The issues addressed are the same as those in a contentious or contested divorce, and they include: 

  • The fair and equitable division of marital assets and liabilities.
  • Whether and in what amount spousal maintenance (alimony) will be paid by one spouse to the other.
  • Whether and in what amount each parent will pay child support.
  • How parental responsibility (child custody) and parenting time (visitation) will be allocated between each parent.

So, then, the difference between adversarial divorce and mediated, non-adversarial divorce is one of disposition, or attitude. Moreover, obviously, the family law-related issues of child support and the allocation of parental responsibility are only applicable to spouses who have children. For divorcing spouses who are not parents, the process of a mediated divorce is often even more straightforward. 

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West Chicago divorce lawyer for stay-at-home parentsDivorce can bring unique stress and uncertainty for people who have chosen to assume the valuable role of stay-at-home parent. If you are such a person, you know all too well the worrisome thoughts that hover. How am I going to earn money and be there for my children? Can I even start a career now? How is it fair that my ex-spouse is leaving the marriage with their career intact, while I am entering the job market for the first time? 

Each of these concerns is both legitimate and commonplace. Fortunately, Illinois state law (which governs divorce, child support, and spousal support) acknowledges and respects the trade-offs and sacrifices in marriages in which one spouse assumes the role of income earner and the other the role of stay-at-home parent.

Equitable Property Division for the Stay-At-Home Parent

Just because one spouse earned the majority of the income during a marriage, that does not mean that he or she is entitled to all or most of the marital property. Illinois recognizes that stay-at-home parenting is in itself a valuable contribution, representing both a benefit to the well-being of children and a sacrifice of career opportunities. 

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Winfield divorce attorneyDivorce is a state law issue. This is a simple but important distinction to keep in mind when going through divorce in the state of Illinois, as the legal guidelines concerning spousal maintenance and property division may prove different than what you have may have heard about how divorce works under legal frameworks utilized by other states (e.g., California’s “community property” model). 

Illinois Uses a Unique and Evolving Set of Terminology in Matters of Divorce

In Illinois, “spousal maintenance” is the official terminology for what is elsewhere referred to as “alimony” or “spousal support.” This somewhat abstracted language pairs with that used by the state with regard to child custody (“allocation of parental responsibility”), asset division (“equitable distribution”), and even the terms concerning the state’s position regarding the issue of fault in the dissolution of a marriage (“irreconcilable differences”). 

Maddeningly, the closer you investigate the state’s divorce lexicon, the more circular or abstracted it becomes. “Equitable distribution” does not necessarily translate to “equal,” but rather to “fair and equitable.” “Permanent maintenance” has been reframed as “maintenance for an indefinite term,” though the duration, once determined, may for all practical purposes prove permanent. Divorce is hard enough on former spouses and any children they have, so the state’s arguably confusing language concerning the end of a marriage may seem downright inhumane. 

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West Chicago divorce tax consequences lawyerJust as the legal formalization of a marriage has tax-related consequences, so does its dissolution. If you have recently divorced or are in the process of divorce, it is important that you understand and prepare for the tax-related consequences of the decisions made regarding spousal support, the allocation of parental responsibility, and the division of the marriage’s assets. In the interest of avoiding serious financial hardships, it is imperative that these issues are dealt with as early as possible. 

Child Support and Spousal Support Are Primary Tax-Related Issues Following Divorce 

Currently, child support payments and spousal support payments are taxed differently. Spousal support (sometimes termed “maintenance” or “alimony”) is tax-deductible for the payor and is classified as taxable income for the recipient, while child support is not tax-deductible for the paying parent or taxable for the receiving parent. In some cases, it possible for divorced spouses to reach what is termed an “unallocated support arrangement” in which child support and spousal support are not differentiated into separated payments. Rather, they are combined into one fully tax-deductible/taxable payment – a beneficial simplification in instances, for example, in which one spouse earns the bulk of the income and the other spouse has been and will continue to be a stay-at-home parent. 

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the way child support and spousal support payments are taxed will be changing significantly. Beginning January 1, 2019, spousal support will no longer be tax-deductible for the payor or taxable for the recipient. Divorcing spouses should be aware of how their tax obligations will affect the support they pay or receive, and they may wish to finalize their divorce prior to this change in order to take advantage of the current law’s tax benefits. 

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