Rockford, Illinois Family Law Attorney
When a family is in transition, there are a number of emotionally charged issues that must be resolved. While no family is immune from conflict, any decisions should be for the benefit of parents and children alike. By engaging the services of a knowledgeable and compassionate family law attorney, it is possible to make a fresh start, and plan a brighter future.
Located in Rockford, Michael J. Smith, Attorney at Law serves clients in Winnebago, Boone, Stephenson and Ogle Counties and throughout Northern Illinois. His family law practice is focused on resolving issues related to divorce, including the division of marital property, spousal support, child custody – currently referred to as allocation of parental responsibility, parenting time, and decision making, child support, paternity and domestic violence.
Since 1981, Attorney Michael J. Smith has dedicated his practice to family law. He is well versed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) and leverages his knowledge and skill to help his clients restore order to their families.
A divorce is initiated when one of the parties files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court in the county in which the couple resides. Although each case is different, the process may include the following steps:
- Legal Separation
- Dissolution of Marriage
- Division of Property
- Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
- Child Custody (Parental Responsibility and Parenting Time)
- Child Support
- Post-Divorce Modifications
- Enforcement of Support Orders
One of the key issues that must be resolved in a divorce is dividing the property that was acquired during the marriage. This includes personal property, real estate, savings, and investments, business interests and retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, as well as debt. It is important to note that marital property must be divided according to the equitable distribution rules of the State of Illinois. This does not mean the property must be divided equally, however. Some of the factors the court will consider are property valuations and net equities.
While the court will decide whether to award maintenance to either spouse, revisions to the IMDMA in 2016 included guidelines for determining the amount and duration of any maintenance award. In particular, the court may rely on a specific formula for couples with a combined income of less than $250,000 (this amount will increase to $500,000 as of July 1, 2018). In any event, the court considers factors such as each spouse’s income, the duration of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the present and future earning capacity of each party, and a spouse’s need for further education or job training.
In 2016, the rules regarding child custody under the IMDMA were also revised, and terms such as sole custody, joint custody and legal custody were eliminated. The parties are required to enter into a Parenting Agreement allocating parental responsibilities for the children. In sum, each parent may have specific authority for major decisions such as education, healthcare and religion, and extracurricular activities based on the family’s circumstances.
Additionally, visitation is now referred to as parenting time. Each parent has a presumed right to spend time with the children, as long as the parent does not present a danger to them. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the court will allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time. Ultimately, resolving questions of child custody requires the guidance of a skilled family law attorney who can help the parties reach a decisions that is in the best interests of the children.
Recent changes to the state’s child support payment model require child support orders to calculated based on an income-shares model. In short, this model considers the costs associated with raising a child for a family at a similar income level to those of the parents involved in the divorce, with a particular focus on the net income of each parent. Additionally, the court considers other factors, including whether one spouse is paying maintenance to the other, each parent’s standard of living, and any health, medical, or educational expenses of the child.
Both spouses have an obligation to provide for their their children, who should receive the same amount of support that they would have if both parties lived in the same household. Attorney Michael J. Smith helps clients assess the financial impact of child support calculations and to determine whether there are alternatives to the requirements of Illinois law.
At times, clients may benefit from alternatives to the traditional divorce process such as mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can be a more civil and less expensive way to legally end a marriage rather than going to court.
In this process, a neutral mediator is selected to help the spouses and their attorneys reach a fair agreement regarding the key issues of the divorce. In order for mediation to be successful, however, both parties must negotiate in good faith. Finally, any agreement must be approved by the court. Attorney Michael Smith is always open to negotiating a settlement, but he is fully prepared to litigate the matter in court if an agreement cannot be reached.
When the identity of the biological father is in question, it is necessary to establish paternity. Under Illinois law, if the parents were married at the time of a child’s birth, the husband is legally presumed to be the father of the child. If the parents were not married when the child was born, paternity must be established. In some cases, paternity is critical for the mother in obtaining child support payments. Similarly, establishing paternity is crucial for a father to obtain parenting time and decision making authority. Although the process is relatively straightforward in Illinois, it helps to have the guidance of an experienced family law attorney.
Incidents of domestic violence can occur in any relationship, whether in the form of harassment, assault, sexual abuse or neglect. While it is possible to protect your safety by having your attorney obtain an Order of Protection, it may also be necessary to initiate a divorce or modify a child custody order. On the other hand, those who are falsely accused of domestic violence, which is not uncommon in a contentious divorce, also need to protect their rights.
Family Law Solutions Throughout Winnebago & Boone Counties
Regardless of the issue facing your family, it helps to have an experienced family law attorney by your side. For over thirty-five years, Michael J. Smith, Attorney at Law has been dedicated to helping families navigate difficult transitions and achieve their goals. If you need to protect your interests, preserve your relationships with your children, and secure your financial future, give us a call or fill out the convenient contact form on our website.