In this article...
In this article, we answer many common family questions while explaining the purposes of each.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which the parties negotiate and come to an agreement on all of the issues surrounding the divorce prior to filing for divorce. An uncontested divorce can be completed with a single court appearance and is inexpensive.
For more, check out: Illinois Uncontested Divorce Explained.
What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?
Like a divorce, a legal separation is a formal court proceeding that can resolve issues such as spousal maintenance, child support and allocation of parenting time and responsibility while the parties live separate and apart. However, unlike a divorce a legal separation does not permanently end the marriage and allows for the possibility of reconciliation. If reconciliation does not occur, the ultimate divorce may be less contentious and costly after legal separation because many of the issues surrounding the divorce have already been resolved in the previous court proceeding.
For more, check out: Illinois Legal Separation Explained.
What is a Joint Parenting Agreement?
A joint parenting agreement is a settlement agreement between parties to a divorce or unmarried parents that sets forth how the parents will work together to parent their children, including how parenting time and responsibility will be divided. If the parents cannot agree to a parenting plan, the judge will order mediation during which a neutral third party will attempt to help the parents resolve any disputes. If mediation is unsuccessful, the judge will enter a parenting order after investigation and a hearing.
For more, check out: Illinois Parenting Plans Explained.
What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?
A Marital Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) is an agreement between parties to a divorce that resolves non-parenting issues surrounding the divorce such as division of assets and liabilities, spousal maintenance, and child support. If the parties are able to resolve all of these issues through an MSA as well as parenting issues through a Joint Parenting Agreement, a trial will not be necessary.
For more, check out: Illinois Marital Settlement Agreements Explained.
How do Courts Determine Parenting Time in Illinois?
If parents are unable to resolve parenting time through a parenting agreement, the court will set forth a parenting schedule in a parenting order. After investigation and a hearing the court will weigh several factors to determine what will be in the best interest of the child, including the wishes of the parents, the wishes of the child, the relationships between each parent and the child, the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community, and the mental and physical health of the parents and the child.
For more, check out: Illinois Parenting Laws 2019.
How is Child Support Calculated in Illinois?
In Illinois, child support is calculated by determining the total amount that the parents will be jointly responsible for contributing toward the care of the child using economic tables propounded by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Then, each parent’s personal responsibility for contributing to this amount is determined by comparing the parents’ incomes relative to one another. The more you make relative the other parent the more you are likely to pay (or the less you are likely to receive) in child support.
For more, check out: Illinois Child Support 2019.
How Does Child Support Work in Shared Parenting Situations?
A “shared parenting situation” is when each parent is responsible for the child for at least 146 overnights per year. In a shared parenting situation, the total amount that the couple must contribute toward child care is increased by a factor of 50% and the amount of time each party spends with the child is factored into the calculation. The more time a child support obligor spends with the child, the less he or she will pay in child support.
For more, check out: Illinois Child Support in Shared Parenting Situations.
When Do Courts Award Spousal Maintenance in Illinois?
Courts weigh several factors to determine whether to award spousal maintenance (also known as “alimony”) in a divorce. These include, but are not limited to:
- Each party’s income and earning capacity;
- Each party’s needs;
- The standard of living that the couple had during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage; and
- Contributions of one party to the other party’s education or career, including contributions as a homemaker.
For a more extensive list of factors, check out: Illinois Spousal Maintenance Explained.
How do Illinois Courts Determine the Amount and Duration of Spousal Maintenance?
If the court determines that spousal maintenance is appropriate after weighing the factors discussed above, the next determination the court must make is whether to apply statutory guidelines for the amount and duration of the spousal maintenance award or whether to deviate from those guidelines. Courts generally apply statutory guidelines if the combined income of the parties is less than $500,000.00.
When courts apply statutory guidelines, the amount of spousal maintenance is calculated by subtracting 25% of the recipient’s net income from 33.33% of the payor’s net income. The amount of spousal maintenance according to the guidelines is capped at 40% of the combined net income of the parties.
Courts determine how long spousal maintenance payments will continue using a table that multiplies the duration of the marriage by a factor that increases as the duration of the marriage increases. This sounds complicated, but the bottom line is that the longer you have been married, the closer the duration of your maintenance payments will get to equalling the duration of your marriage. If you have been married 20 years or more, the duration of spousal maintenance will either be equal to the duration of the marriage or continue indefinitely.
For more on this, check out: Illinois Spousal Maintenance 2019.
How Can Paternity be Established in Illinois?
Paternity can be established by consent at birth if both parties sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity that is provided by the hospital. In this case, the father’s name will be added to the birth certificate and paternity can be formally established by filing this form along with a verified petition to declare paternity with the court.
If the parents are not in agreement about establishing paternity, or if the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is not signed near the time of birth, then paternity is established by filing a petition to establish paternity. The alleged father will typically undergo DNA testing, and this will be used as evidence for or against paternity at a court hearing.
The establishment of paternity causes the father to be financially responsible for the child by way of child support, however it does not necessarily grant him rights to see the child. These can be established through the same or a separate court proceeding to determine parenting time and responsibility.
For more, check out: Illinois Paternity Law Explained.