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McHenry County Family Law Blog

Child custody does not have to be contentious

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For many Illinoisans, thinking about child custody evokes images of shrill exchanges and frustrated parents. But does child custody have to be adversarial and frustrating? Is there a better way, a way that considers each parent's viewpoint and attempts to incorporate them in a manner that leaves both parents, if not happy, at least accepting of the arrangement? Yes.

How can Illinoisans do that? By trying a new approach. Rather than starting a child custody conversation with guns blazing, and then predictably moving to litigation that leaves such an important question to be answered unpredictably by a judge, Illinoisans can instead take a collaborative approach.

Illinoisans can modify their child support

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For many Illinoisans with kids, one of the biggest issues during a separation is child support. Kids don't come cheap. They eat their weight in food. They outgrow clothes as fast as you can buy them. And they make other expenses like insurance and housing go up too.

Given the high price of children, it makes sense that both parents should pitch in to cover the cost. But how much each parent should pitch in can be a nettlesome question. Often, parents cannot solve that riddle on their own. If so, a court will step in and decide for them. Following that decision, the court will issue an order called a child-support order spelling out the court's decision.

Divorce affects everything, including taxes

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In Illinois and elsewhere, divorce is not an easy time. A lot gets that thrown at a person fast, and often the person is not in the best situation for handling the onslaught. One issue that can get overlooked once the divorce has made it into the books is taxes.

Figuring out the tax consequences of a divorce may seem like a low priority after sorting through issues like alimony, child custody, child support and property division. However, just because Illinoisans may not think it important, does not mean that the IRS will be any more forgiving of mistakes that lead to it getting less than it believes it should receive.

Child custody basics in Illinois

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Illinoisans going through the child custody process should realize that child custody is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing process that ends only after the child has become an adult. What are the stages in that process?

The first step is often the trickiest: getting the parents to sit down and discuss what they believe the child custody arrangement should look like. If the parents can do so, they have a lot of freedom to fashion an agreement. They can decide that one parent should get exclusive custody of the child (the law calls this "sole custody"). Or they can agree to split time 50/50. Or they can come up with some other type of arrangement. For example, if the parents live far apart, one parent may have custody during the school year while the other parent has custody during the summer.

Divorce affects everything, including taxes

Photo of Karen M. Lavin

In Illinois as elsewhere, divorce is not an easy time. A lot gets that thrown at a person fast. And often the person is not in the best situation for handling the onslaught. One issue that can get overlooked once the divorce has made it into the books is taxes.

Figuring out the tax consequences of a divorce may seem like a low priority after sorting through issues like alimony, child custody, child support and property division. But just because Illinoisans may think that, does not mean that the IRS will be any more forgiving of mistakes that lead to it getting less than it believes it should receive.

Celebrity violates divorce order in attempt to get child custody?

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Illinoisans love their kids. They want to be there to watch and help their children as they grow up. But when the mother and father cannot get along, that often means one parent will primarily be the person who gets to watch and help the child grow up. That seldom sits well for the parent who misses out. Take, for example, the former Gossip Girls actress, Kelly Rutherford.

Rutherford married Daniel Giersch. The marriage soured, but not until after the couple had two girls, one eight years old, the other five. Following the divorce, a court awarded child custody to Giersch. He then took the girls to France.

Tax repercussions of alimony

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When Illinoisans get divorced, it causes ripples across each spouse's life. There are the ripples people expect, like resolving child custody and splitting the marital assets. And then there are the ripples that people often overlook, like the tax effects of paying alimony. Below are a few explanations on how alimony affects Illinoisans' federal tax returns.

Federal tax law considers only certain payments from one ex-spouse to another as alimony. Several requirements must be met, for such payments to be alimony for tax purposes. The spouses must not file a joint tax return. One spouse pays the other in cash (including checks and money orders). The payments are received by the other spouse. The payments are not described as something other than alimony by the separation or divorce agreement. The spouses do not live in the same household. The payments can stop if either spouse dies. And the payments are not treated as a property settlement or child support.

Experienced Illinois divorce attorneys know the family law system

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When Illinoisans say "I do," they expect it to last. But no matter how good their intentions, or how great their effort to make it work, not all marriages can last forever. Life happens, people change, circumstances shift, difficulties pile up. When the strain of life becomes too great, relationships sometimes snap.

And, just as the strains of life may slowly pile up one by one, so too can a divorce take a long time. Divorce takes time because the process requires unwinding two lives. That requires resolving a litany of issues, many of the utmost importance. For example, couples may need to figure out property division, child custody, child support, spousal support and more.

How does the military aid child support?

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Many Illinoisans serve in the military. That calling is an important one, but with it comes unique challenges. For instance, many service members serve extended deployments overseas. These deployments can strain families and prompt family law problems, especially for Illinois service members who owe child support.

Fortunately, Illinois service members and their children do not need to handle these issues on their own. One source of support is called the Child Support Program (and is also known as the Title IV-D Program).

What is a judge's role in child-custody cases?

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In an ideal world, when Illinois parents split it up, they can make a responsible, mutually beneficial decision about who should get the kids and to what extent. But that consensus is seldom easy to reach. The couple care about their kids and want to spend time with them. At the same time, the couple is usually splitting because of serious, often emotional problems. Together, each parent's desire to have the kids, and their problems with each other, make it difficult for them to resolve child custody on their own.

Enter the court system. It will make the decision when the couple cannot. In doing so, a judge will oversee the case and ultimately determine how child custody is divvied up. That decision will be made by looking at the best interests of the child. That is, the judge will consider a variety of factors that can be loosely categorized as developmental categorizations, how the divorce may affect development, special considerations and parenting considerations.