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divorce rate, divorce trend, divorce and economy, divorce finances, cost of divorce, DuPage County family law attorneyIn 2012, the number of individuals in the United States who filed for divorce rose for the third year in a row. All three of those years were following a major recession, perhaps indicating a link between economic improvement and the number of people seeking a divorce.

Though bad news for those who do not want a divorce, the upswing in the number of people filing for divorce could be an indicator that peoples' personal financial situations are improving—meaning, those who file for divorce now have the ability to pursue a divorce where perhaps previously poor finances would have prevented them from filing.

When the economy is in a recession, and especially when unemployment numbers are up, people tend to avoid potentially costly big life changes if they can. And it's not just the legal fees people are trying to avoid; for example, couples who want to divorce often have property that should be listed for sale. In the midst of a bad housing market, these couples might decide it simply doesn't make sense to divorce and split finances when they could wind up losing value on their property.

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A recently publicized news story involving the interplay of immigration laws and divorce has the legal community anxiously awaiting a verdict. At issue in the case, out of southern Texas, is whether a former husband can be legally responsible for paying maintenance (alimony) to his former wife based not on divorce law but on a rarely-enforced immigration provision.

KerryThe parties in the case were married in 2003; the wife was a citizen of Mexico. In order for her to obtain a green card to stay in America, her then-fiancé signed a document in which he agreed to financially support his soon-to-be wife at 125% above the poverty level (currently, the poverty level for a single person is approximately $11,500.00 annually). The document, known as an I-864 Affidavit of Support, is theoretically a contract between the person who signs it, the spouse, and the United States Government. The purpose of the Affidavit is to ensure that the person receiving the green card will not become a public charge—someone who relies on government assistance for support.

The parties were married for six years, had a daughter, and then the wife filed for divorce. The husband was granted custody of the daughter. The wife remarried, which marriage also ended in divorce. Under Illinois law, if the wife had been awarded maintenance after the first divorce, her first husband's obligation to pay maintenance would terminate upon the wife's remarriage.

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From both a financial and an emotional standpoint, divorces are inherently complex. When a divorce is paired with a substantial financial portfolio, however, the plot thickens. Headlines regarding high net worth divorces—and the financial consequences for the spouses—are frequent. For example, a recent article on CNN Money reported that the CEO of Best Buy sold stock to help pay for his divorce settlement; CNBC also lists some of the most costly breakups. Unfortunately, however, such costly divorces are not limited to celebrities and multi-millionaires. Whether you are a famous celebrity, a successful business owner, or someone with significant assets for another reason, it is important to understand how to protect yourself in the event of a divorce.

What to do Before Marriage

Robyn Preparing a prenuptial agreement is a great way to protect assets before a couple even gets married. Also known as a premarital agreement, this written contract becomes effective once a couple is married and may address topics such as:

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RigsPeople use the terms ‘divorce' and ‘annulment' interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two that can have serious consequences. Illinois law defines divorce as a legal procedure that results in the termination of the marriage; basically, this means there was a valid, legal marriage under the laws of the state of Illinois that has now been terminated. Moreover, as part of the divorce, both parties will get an equitable portion of the assets that belonged to the marital estate, which a divorce judge will divide between the parties.

Annulments, on the other hand, target the validity of the marriage in the first place. The process of annulment under Illinois law is known as a declaration of the invalidity of a marriage. This process is designed to determine whether the marriage ever legally existed or whether it was invalid right from the start. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act has specific conditions for determining whether a marriage may be annulled for being invalid. Contrary to divorce, a successful annulment may mean that each party gets to keep his or her own assets even though those assets were acquired during the marriage; in other words, the assets never legally become part of the marital estate.

Before a judge will issue a declaration of invalidity of a marriage, one of four very limited circumstances must exist:

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Proactive divorce attorneys in Illinois are poised to handle potential imminent changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA, for short). Recommendations for changes to the IMDMA from the Family Law Study Committee, a group of individuals who have been studying existing Illinois divorce laws since 2008, are very close to being enacted. The Illinois State Bar Association's Director of Legislative Affairs recently reviewed and compiled a listof all of the potential changes to the IMDMA. If these changes pass this Fall's legislative veto session, the changes will be put into effect as early as Summer 2014. These changes could result in significant changes to how divorces in Illinois occur.

A Snapshot of Divorce Law Changes in IllinoisRobyn

If signed into law, the proposed changes will impact the following areas:

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