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Who Gets the Pets in a Divorce?

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joliet divorce lawyerIf you are a pet owner who is getting divorced, you probably love your pet just as you would a human family member. Understandably, you may be worried about who will keep the pet after your divorce. As with other property division concerns, you and your spouse have the option of reaching your own agreement about the ownership of pets. However, if you cannot reach a decision, the court may step in and make a decision for you. A skilled divorce lawyer can help you understand your rights regarding pet ownership in a divorce. 

When a Pet Could Be Considered Marital or Nonmarital Property

In Illinois courts, pets are treated differently than homes and other property in a divorce. A law established in 2018 requires pets to be treated similarly to children during divorce. The court can award sole or joint custody based on the best interests of the animal. 

The first step in determining who gets a pet in a divorce is figuring out if the animal is marital or nonmarital property. If you or your spouse owned the pet before you got married, it is probably considered non-marital property. Therefore, the judge would generally award custody to the spouse who owned the animal before the marriage. However, there may be exceptions to this rule. If the pet was acquired during your marriage, it is most likely considered marital property.

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joliet divorce lawyerCredit card debt is quite prevalent in the United States. In fact, Americans owe $807 billion in credit card debt. If a single person incurs credit card debt, he or she is solely responsible for paying for it. However, what happens if that debt is incurred during a marriage? If you are getting a divorce in Illinois, you may be held responsible for this debt even if your spouse was the only one who used the credit card.

How Credit Card Debt Is Split in an Illinois Divorce

If you are planning to divorce your spouse, you may wonder how your credit card debt will be handled. If the debt was incurred during the course of your marriage, the creditor may hold both you and your spouse responsible for it. On the other hand, any debt either spouse incurred before they were married is considered personal debt and is the sole responsibility of the person who made the purchases.

Since Illinois is an equitable distribution state, your debt will not be divided exactly 50/50 if your case ends up going to trial. Instead, it will be split fairly. A judge will look at multiple factors before deciding how to split the debt, such as:

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joliet family law attorneyA criminal record can make it more difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, and legally own firearms. It can also affect your chances of getting custody of your children. Family law judges consider the children’s best interests in custody cases and may be reluctant to award custody to a parent with a criminal history. However, having a criminal record does not automatically mean that you cannot be awarded parenting time with your children. 

How a Criminal Record Can Jeopardize Your Child Custody Case

If you have a criminal record and are in the middle of a child custody dispute, you may worry that your past will negatively influence the outcome of the case. Although it may be more challenging to gain the parental responsibilities and parenting time outcome you are hoping for, it is not impossible. A judge will consider several factors regarding your criminal history before coming to a decision.

Non-violent criminal convictions are less likely to affect the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time than convictions involving assault, battery, or abuse. Family court judges also look at how old your criminal conviction is. If you, for instance, got convicted of an offense over a decade ago and have not gotten in trouble with the law since then, the judge is less likely to use this information when deciding custody. The frequency of your offenses may also affect the outcome of your case. If you are a repeat offender, the judge may question your judgment and question whether you can provide a stable environment for your children.

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IL divorce lawyerMany married couples experience relationship issues at some point, and while many disagreements can be resolved, others may cause one or both spouses to consider ending their marriage. For some couples, divorce is the best solution, while others may be able to repair their relationship and stay married. However, some people fall somewhere in the middle, where they may be considering getting divorced but do not yet know whether ending their marriage is the right choice. In these cases, a couple may pursue a trial separation while they determine whether to get divorced, or they may make plans to live separately on a more permanent basis without legally ending their marriage. When doing so, it can be beneficial to pursue a legal separation.

What Is Legal Separation?

A temporary or permanent separation will often leave spouses uncertain about their rights, and arguments or disputes may arise over how various issues will be handled, especially if the couple has children. By pursuing a legal separation, a couple can put an agreement in place that will address these issues. In essence, a legal separation can cover most of the issues that would be addressed during a divorce, but the couple will continue to be legally married.

The process of getting a legal separation is similar to filing for divorce. One spouse will file a petition for legal separation, and the other will file a response. The couple will then identify all of the issues that they will need to address in their separation agreement, and these may include matters related to the division of marital property, child custody, child support, and/or spousal maintenance. They will work to negotiate a resolution to these issues, and if they cannot reach an agreement, they may ask the judge in their case to make the final decisions. While most of these matters will be addressed the same as they would during a divorce, a settlement regarding marital property cannot be validated by the court during a legal separation unless both parties agree on it.

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IL family lawyerAccording to Illinois law, if a child’s parents are married at the time of birth, the mother’s spouse will be presumed to be the child’s legal parent. However, there are many situations where a child’s parents may be unmarried, and in these cases, paternity will need to be legally established before a man will be recognized as the child’s legal father. This can often be done fairly easily, but some cases may involve complex legal issues, and either or both parents may need to work with a family law attorney to ensure that their rights and their child’s best interests will be protected.

Benefits of Paternity for Children and Parents

If a child’s parents are unmarried, but they agree that a man is the child’s biological father, the parents can fill out and sign a form known as a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP). This form can usually be obtained from the hospital where a child was born, but it may also be available at a county clerk’s office or the Illinois Department of Human Services, and a VAP can be completed and signed at any time during the child’s life.

If either parent is uncertain about the identity of the child’s biological father, other procedures may be used to confirm the genetic relationship between a parent and child and legally establish paternity. Parents may agree to work with the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) to conduct genetic testing, or either parent may file a petition in family court to establish paternity. During court proceedings, DNA testing will usually be ordered, and once the identity of the child’s biological father is confirmed, an order of paternity will be issued.

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