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Posted on in Pet Custody

Lombard divorce and pets attorneyTo animal lovers across the country, pets are an important part of their family. Many go so far as seeing their pet as another child to take care of. This is especially common in marriages without children. Strong feelings toward pets can make some divorce cases even more difficult than they already are, and changing attitudes toward animals and updates to divorce laws have added new factors for couples and courts to consider during divorce.

A Shift in Priorities

Over time, pets have become a staple in American homes, with many homes having two or three dogs or cats running around. The family pet has now become more than just another mouth to feed, but a full-fledged member of the family. This is evident in the sharp rise of money spent on animals each year. The pet industry has seen exponential growth over the last 30 years, increasing from a total of $17 billion in 1994 to an estimated $72 billion in 2018 alone. This increase in spending is more than just a result of higher prices. It is a reflection of the shift in attitude regarding household priorities in America.

More Than Property

In past divorce cases, pets used to be considered marital property. However, it is much more difficult to divide up a living animal in than it is to divide something like a living room set, especially for those who consider themselves “pet parents.” As part of a reflection of changing attitudes, the laws in Illinois have recently changed, and certain factors must be considered when divorcing spouses cannot come to an agreement over the pet’s permanent residence. 

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Illinois divorce lawyerPrenuptial agreements, also called premarital agreement, are becoming more and more common in this day and age. However, many remain unaware that they are not cure-alls; there are certain things that are not permitted to be disposed of or decided within an agreement of this nature. If you are getting married in Illinois and you and your future spouse decide to execute a prenuptial agreement, you must be aware of what can and cannot be included, or you run the risk of the agreement being held to be invalid.

The ILUPAA

Illinois has adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA or ILUPAA), which establishes specific guidelines and requirements for prenups that must be upheld. A prenup is essentially a contract, and like any other contract, certain things may not be included, and certain things can only be included if done so properly. The contract does not become effective until the marriage actually takes place, but once it is effective, it will be upheld unless it was unconscionable.

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Lombard high net worth divorce attorneyWhen a married couple decides to end their relationship, the process of divorce can often be complicated and difficult. Whether the divorce is contentious or amicable, separating two lives that have been closely linked for years may raise some never before considered questions. When a couple has a high net worth, things become much more complex. As couples work to reach an agreement on how to divide their marital property, they should be aware of the following issues: 

  1. Stock options - Even if they do not fully vest until after a divorce is finalized, stock options may be considered marital property and be subject to property division in divorce if they were awarded during the marriage. However, in some cases, other considerations may apply, such as if options were awarded to promote future employment or performance. 
  1. Investments and retirement accounts - The marital portion of 401(k) or IRA accounts or pensions may be divided equally between spouses, without incurring income taxes or penalties. In the case of certain pensions and 401(k) accounts, funds are transferred between spouses using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). The QDRO is a separate order, usually entered by the Court following the divorce decree, which directs the plan administrator to transfer marital funds to the IRS-qualified retirement account of the former spouse. On the other hand, Individual Retirement Accounts may be transferred without the entry of a QDRO and in accordance with the terms of the divorce decree.
  1. Business valuation - Businesses owned by one or both spouses may be considered marital property if they were established or acquired during the marriage. If one spouse owns a business he/she acquired prior to the marriage, but the other spouse contributed to the business, then the business may be considered marital property and be subject to division. Often times, it is impractical to close the business or sell its assets to divide the proceeds between spouses. Rather, one spouse may desire to own the business and continue to operate it, free and clear of the other spouse. In these cases, a valuation of the business must be performed to determine the fair market value of the business so that some other marital asset of equal or similar value may be awarded to the other spouse.  
  1. Real estate - Any real property owned jointly by both spouses is subject to equitable division. If one spouse owned a residence prior to the marriage, but the other spouse contributed to improvements to the home during the marriage, then it may retain its non-marital status. But, the other spouse may be entitled to a reimbursement for his/her contribution to the other spouse’s non-marital estate. 
  1. Tax consequences - Spouses should be aware of whether property transferred into their name pursuant to the divorce judgment will be tax-free or subject to regular income taxes or capital gains - and take this into consideration when deciding how to divide property. 

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

During a high net worth divorce, it is always a good idea to review your finances with a skilled attorney to be sure you fully understand the implications of the decisions you make as you divide your marital property, assets, and debts. The experienced divorce attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. will work with you to protect your rights and promote your best interests throughout the divorce process. Contact our Oak Brook property division attorneys at 630-472-9700 to schedule a free consultation. 

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