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What Happens to the House During an Illinois Divorce?Looking back on your life with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it can be emotional to imagine the big steps that you have taken together — buying your first home, moving in together, and making memories under its roof. For many, homes can be a symbol of love, family, and security. For those considering divorce, their home can still represent all of these things, which makes it difficult to determine what you should do with it. Is one of you adamant about keeping the home or are you both looking for a fresh start? Depending on you and your spouse’s circumstances, there are a number of options available to you during the asset division process.

Equitable Division

Illinois is an equitable division state when it comes to marital property division. In other words, you and your spouse’s belongings will be divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. A number of factors, such as each spouse’s income and savings, will be considered when determining who gets what. For most couples, their home is their largest asset, making it a prized possession during asset division. Couples involved in a collaborative divorce can determine how they would like things to be handled, while those involved in litigation will have a judge make this decision for them. Regardless, there are a few common options available if your intention is to keep the house and not sell it.

Divide the Large Assets

For couples that have a number of large assets, such as a vacation home, expensive cars, or a large stock portfolio, they may decide to allot certain assets to each other. One spouse gets the marital home, while the other gets the vacation home. Since one spouse is typically more inclined to keep the marital home than the other, this can often be an easy decision to make. If you and your spouse have kids, the custodial parent will usually stay in the home with their kids, while the other parent finds a new place to live.

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What Unique Issues Do LGBTQ Couples Face in Divorce?In June 2015, history was made as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples in every state had the legal right to marry. Illinois had already legalized same-sex marriage the year before. Despite only gaining the legal right less than a decade ago, many LGBTQ couples considered themselves married, or life partners, long before Illinois passed its legislation. A lack of legal recognition may not have kept same-sex couples from being together, but it did prevent them from having the legal rights given to married couples. The legalization of same-sex marriage, unfortunately, did not remove all discrepancies that exist between heterosexual spouses and same-sex spouses. If you are a member of the LGBTQ community and wish to file for divorce, there are a few unique circumstances that you may experience. 

The Length of the Marriage

Many LGBTQ couples have been together for much longer than their marriage certificate says. Couples who have been together for decades, but only legally married for the past five years, may have difficulties during the asset division process and alimony determination. Illinois is an equitable division state, meaning that property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. External factors will be taken into consideration when determining who gets what. For couples who have been together for decades but have legal recognition of the marriage for only the past few years, property that they purchased together before getting legally married may not be considered marital property. Similar discrepancies exist when determining who will pay spousal maintenance. The number of years that you are legally married plays a significant role in how much is paid and how long the payments will last. Without proof of your decades-long relationship, you may have difficulties obtaining proper maintenance amounts.

Parenting Determinations

Divorcing parents will have to spend time formulating a parenting plan, determining who the primary caregiver will be, and deciding how much child support will be paid. If you and your spouse are involved in a collaborative divorce, then you may be able to make these decisions between each other. However, if you are seeking divorce litigation, the judge will make decisions about your allocation of parental responsibilities. Depending on who the biological parent is, they may be granted primary parenting time with the child simply based on their biological connection, not their parenting skills. If you are not the biological parent and never formally adopted your child, the judge can make the decision to grant your co-parent full parental responsibility and give you very few legal rights as a parent.

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Will COVID-19 Force Me to Leave the U.S. If I Am an International Student?The insurgence of COVID-19 throughout the world has left many universities unsure of how to proceed for the upcoming fall semester. This past spring semester, many colleges went fully online after it became clear that COVID-19 was highly contagious and no vaccine was on the horizon. Things have not cleared up as much as expected since then. As higher education institutions begin to roll out their plans for the upcoming school year, the eligibility of international students may be on the line. Recent guidelines set in place by the Trump administration will leave many international student visas invalid, forcing them to return home.

Do I Have to Return Home?

In early July, the Trump administration announced its new policy for international students in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many universities are turning to an all-online platform for the upcoming fall semester, there were questions about whether international students who rely on visas could live in the U.S. while taking these online classes. Every college’s fall plan differs as they decide what is best for their institution, professors, and students. Some universities will have a hybrid course system where select courses are offered in-person while others are offered online. Other universities are not offering any in-person courses to avoid possible exposure and contagion on campuses across the country. 

Originally, the Trump administration had banned all international students from remaining in the U.S. if they were taking only online courses. These regulations placed universities in a difficult spot, having to choose between offering in-person courses and placing their professors and students at risk of contracting COVID-19 or losing thousands of dollars in student tuition as many international students return home. Displacing these international students also could have increased the risk of contagious students returning to their home countries and further spreading COVID-19.

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Am I Responsible for My Spouse’s Credit Card Debt in Divorce?When going through a divorce, there are often two areas that bring about the most contention: children and finances. These two subjects can sometimes bring out a side of your spouse that you have never seen before. Financially speaking, a divorce forces you to look into the nitty-gritty details of both you and your spouse’s spending habits. Couples may think they know their partner until hidden debts get revealed. Whether or not you were the hand behind the spending, you may be responsible for paying these dues during the marital asset division process.

Equitable Distribution

Like most states throughout the U.S., Illinois follows the equitable distribution model when dividing marital property in a divorce. This means that all assets and debts are divided equitably, not necessarily in half. In other words, the judge considers various factors before dividing anything up between spouses. This includes each spouse’s income, financial needs, and personal assets. The asset division process not only includes positive property owned by the couple, but also any debt incurred throughout their marriage. This must also be divvied up between the two individuals, especially any credit card debt that has accumulated over the years.

What About Credit Card Debt?

Unfortunately, some spouses may uncover large amounts of credit card debt that they were unaware of and not responsible for during the divorce process. Though your spouse may have been the one spending the money, if your name is tied to the account in any way, you are still on the hook for the amount owed. A divorce agreement cannot alter your contractual obligation to the creditor who lent your spouse the money that they spent using the card.

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How to Help Your Child Through Divorce Depending on Their AgeMarried couples who have children often take the longest to recognize that their relationship is no longer working and to end their marriage. Children can act as good distractions, allowing you to focus on parenting rather than being a husband or wife. Parents may also see how good their spouse is as a parent and use this as an excuse to stay married even when their romantic and emotional relationship is non-existent. Coming to the decision to divorce is never easy and the thought of telling your kids about the split can be enough to keep some parents in their marriage “for the children’s sake.” 

If you have decided that divorce is right for you, you may be wondering how to help your children through this time, especially if they are all different ages. Since children have different development levels depending on their age, it is important to have age-appropriate conversations with your kids when telling them about the divorce and during the months following the finalization of your divorce.

Ages 0-5

Children this young can have an easier transition period since they do not yet have a sense of “normalcy” in their lives. As they get older, they will likely not remember a time when you and your spouse were together and their “normal” will be two loving parents who are no longer married. For kids this age, it can be difficult for them to understand where their other parent is at the beginning stages of the split. They will likely ask you where their other parent is for weeks, if not months, on end. When telling them about the divorce, you should provide them with simple, concrete explanations about which parent is moving out, where the child will live, and when they will see their other parent. It may be confusing to them at first, but providing them with a consistent schedule and stable, nurturing care will help ease the transition.

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