Ekker Law, P.C. / Steven B. Ekker, Esq.

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Sugar Grove, IL 60554

Ekker Law, P.C. / Steven B. Ekker, Esq.

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Sugar Grove family law attorneyIt may be hard to believe, but Christmas is just a few months away. If you are a parent who plans to divorce or has already started the divorce process, it is important to consider how you will account for holidays in your parenting plan. Where a child will spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, and other holidays is often a major point of contention. Many parents have strong feelings about who their child should spend these special days with. Holidays can also present co-parenting challenges because of the disruption in school and childcare routines.

Parenting Time Schedules in Your Illinois Parenting Plan

Although we still use the words “custody” and “visitation” informally to refer to parenting matters in a divorce, Illinois laws no longer use these words to refer to child custody matters. Instead, parents decide on an allocation of parental responsibilities, or decision-making authority, and parenting time, or time spent caring for the child.

Illinois law requires divorcing parents to submit a parenting plan to the court for approval within 120 days of seeking a custody order. The parents may agree on the plan’s terms and submit the plan jointly, or if they cannot agree, parents may submit separate plans. When parents cannot agree, the court typically requires the parents to attend mediation. If an out-of-court agreement still cannot be made, the court may decide on the parenting plan terms for the parents.

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sugar grove divorce lawyerEquitable distribution states, such as Illinois, courts equitably divide assets and debts during divorce. The assets and debts are considered the couple’s marital property, and the division of such property can be complex. Businesses may also fall under the umbrella of marital property. The two parties will have to appropriately divide the interest they share in the business, often requiring the assistance of expert witnesses to value the business’s assets effectively. 

Businesses Can Be Considered Marital Assets

Businesses will automatically be considered marital property if the spouses are co-owners. However, there are several additional ways in which a business may be deemed marital property. For instance, if the business was formed after the two parties married, it will likely be considered marital property. Alternatively, when businesses are formed prior to marriage, they likely will not be included in marital property. An exception to this would be if the other spouse made direct or indirect contributions to the business throughout the marriage. 

Prenuptial agreements can help to prevent businesses from being considered marital property in the event of a divorce. Alternatively, if the business is formed during the marriage, a postnuptial agreement can be utilized to clarify ownership of the business.

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sugar grove injury lawyerSuffering injuries from an accident can have a devastating impact on your livelihood. Whether the accident involves a car crash, a slip and fall, or another incident, unexpected injuries can have profound financial and non-financial consequences. Pursuing a personal injury claim greatly focuses on negligence and holding the at-fault party accountable. However, when both involved parties share the responsibility, the case can become complex. Illinois follows a legal doctrine called comparative negligence in shared-fault accidents. The laws regarding comparative negligence should be thoroughly considered when pursuing a personal injury claim in Illinois.

Understanding Comparative Negligence

One of the most conflicting tasks after a traffic accident is determining who was responsible for the crash. In some cases, the fault is very obvious, however, when it is not as apparent, it can complicate the accident further. The concept of comparative fault, or comparative negligence, comes into play when both parties involved share the responsibility for the accident, specifically when people or property is damaged as a result.

Some states apply pure comparative negligence, however, Illinois has adopted a new standard for recovering damages after an accident, referred to as modified comparative negligence. Modified comparative negligence is the most popular approach to establishing fault after an accident and determining recoverable damages. This legal doctrine states that a party will not receive compensation if they are found to be equally negligent or more negligent for the resulting injuries or property damage than the other liable parties. If the injured party is less than 50 percent responsible for the injuries, the recoverable amount is reduced by the degree of the receiving party’s negligence. 

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Kane County family law attorneyAlimony, technically called “spousal maintenance” in Illinois law, refers to financial support that one spouse pays the other spouse after a divorce. Temporary spousal maintenance orders called “temporary relief orders” may also be issued if a spouse requires financial support while the divorce is ongoing. Spousal maintenance or spousal support is an important source of financial assistance, especially for stay-at-home parents and spouses who have been out of the workforce for several years. There are three main legal avenues through which spousal maintenance is awarded in Illinois.

Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that spouses agree to before getting married. Prenuptial agreements, or “prenups,” address important financial concerns if a married couple divorces or a spouse passes away. Through a prenup, a couple can agree to a spousal maintenance arrangement in advance. This can save a great deal of time and stress during a future divorce. A postnuptial agreement is very similar to a prenup, but the couple drafts the agreement after they are already married.

Spousal Maintenance Agreements in the Divorce Settlement

Movies and television often make it seem as if most divorce cases go to trial. In reality, about 95 percent of divorces are settled before trial. Often, the spouses, or the spouses’ respective attorneys, negotiate the terms of the divorce and reach an out-of-court settlement. Whether you are the paying spouse or the recipient spouse, a skilled divorce lawyer can protect your rights and advocate on your behalf during spousal maintenance negotiations. Once you and your spouse reach an agreement on the amount, duration, and conditions of maintenance, this agreement can be written into the final divorce decree.

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Sugar Grove divorce attorneyThe financial impact of divorce can be profound. Divorced spouses may be left carrying a heavy financial burden months or years after the split. In some cases, spouses are not even aware of their financial circumstances until they reach the end of their marriage. They may start readying financial documents in preparation for divorce only to find that their spouse has squandered funds, sold property, or otherwise wasted assets unbeknownst to them. In other cases, a spouse’s financial recklessness is the main catalyst for the divorce.

Regardless of the exact circumstances, if your spouse has wasted money or property and you are getting divorced, you may be able to recover some or all of this property through a dissipation claim.

What is the Purpose of a Dissipation of Assets Claim?

A dissipation of assets claim is a legal claim used to pursue reimbursement for property that was wasted before the divorce. If your claim is successful, your spouse will be required to reimburse the marital estate for the funds that were lost to dissipation. You would then be entitled to an equitable share of that property per Illinois’s equitable distribution laws.

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Sugar Grove IL car accident lawyerDistracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight people are killed every day in the U.S. in collisions with distracted drivers. If you were injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer about your legal options.

Why Distracted Driving is Dangerous

Distracted driving occurs when drivers engage in any activity that diverts their focus from the road. Common distractions that drivers are faced with include talking on the phone, reading text messages, changing the radio station, and reaching for items in the vehicle.

When drivers take their attention off the road for any reason, they cannot see other vehicles and hazards on the road. For example, if the vehicle in front brakes suddenly, the distracted driver may not notice in time to avoid crashing into that vehicle.

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Kane County IL divorce attorneyGetting a divorce can be a major emotional undertaking. While that does not come as a surprise to most people, many people do not realize that divorce also has a large financial impact. Most married couples have finances that are intertwined to some degree. Even though this makes things easier and usually makes sense during a marriage, it can make things more difficult and stressful during a divorce. The key to success in your finances and your divorce, in general, is thorough preparation. If you are thinking about divorce or you are in the beginning stages of the process, here are a few things you can do to help prepare your finances and set yourself up for success after your divorce is finalized.

Open Up a Bank Account in Your Name Only

One of the first things you should do when you know that the divorce is definitely happening is to begin to separate your finances. The easiest way to start doing this is to open up a new bank account with only your name on it. You can begin to deposit your own income, like your paycheck from work, for example, into your bank account, rather than into a joint account held with your spouse. You will also likely be entitled to a significant portion of the funds in any joint bank accounts, and these can be transferred into your new account once your divorce resolution is finalized.

Pull Your Credit Report

You should also be cognizant of what your current financial situation looks like. You can do this by pulling a copy of your credit report online. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus. Your credit report will list any and all debts that you may owe both solely and jointly. These could include auto loans, mortgages, credit cards, and other loan accounts. Your credit report can help you understand what you will owe each month and can help you figure out what you need to separate.

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kane county child custody lawyerThe marijuana landscape in the United States has been rapidly changing for the past couple of years. In 2020, the state of Illinois legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, making it legal for adults to purchase, use, and possess cannabis under certain circumstances. However, even though it is legal in Illinois, cannabis remains federally illegal. It is still classified as a Schedule I substance, which is thought to be the most dangerous class of drugs. Many parents going through a divorce typically have concerns about their children and how their parenting time and decision-making responsibilities will be allocated. Parents who are legal marijuana users often worry if their drug use will affect their ability to gain custody over their child. However, the answer to that question can be complicated. 

What Does the Law Say?

According to the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, there are certain situations in which cannabis use cannot be used to discriminate against certain individuals -- including parents. The Act states that a parent, legal guardian, grandparent, or another person who is responsible for caring for a child is protected from discrimination for their marijuana use when it comes to determining things like child custody, parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. This means that you cannot be denied your parental rights by the court for the sole fact that you are a cannabis user.

How Do Judges Decide?

However, that does not bar the court from making decisions pertaining to child custody if your cannabis use endangers the welfare of your child. Typically a court will conduct a hearing if your child’s other parent expresses concern about their child’s wellbeing because of your marijuana use. If this is the case, the court will examine the facts surrounding the situation similarly to how they examine alcohol use. If the court finds that your usage interferes with your child’s wellbeing, they may place restrictions on parenting time or decision-making responsibilities. Examples of marijuana usage that may affect custody include:

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Sugar grove divorce lawyerIf you are looking to get a divorce, you have likely encountered a long list of things that must be done before the divorce can be completed. One of the many steps that must be taken during a divorce is dividing marital property. This is one of the areas of divorce that is notorious for producing arguments and disagreements, even if you and your spouse are otherwise on the same page. The decisions made during this process are decisions about nearly every single piece of property that you own. If you make decisions that are not in your best interest, it can affect you for the rest of your life.

Marital Versus Nonmarital Property

The first step in the asset division process is determining what is and is not subject to division. Illinois law states that all marital property is subject to division, except for a few circumstances. Marital property is considered to be any asset or debt that you or your spouse acquired during the marriage. Certain assets that were acquired during the marriage, however, are exempt from division. These items include property acquired from a gift or through inheritance, property acquired in exchange for such property, property excluded from division as per a valid prenuptial agreement, and any property acquired after a judgment of legal separation.

Understanding Equitable Division

Once you have determined the property that is actually subject to division, you will then have to determine who gets which assets and debts. The court encourages couples to come to their own property division agreement, but unfortunately, that is not always feasible. 

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Sugar Grove premises liability attorneySlip and fall accidents are much more common than you would think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 8 million recorded hospital visits for fall injuries in 2019, making falls the leading cause of emergency room visits. Though it may seem extreme, falls can actually result in serious injuries, like broken bones, traumatic brain injuries or other soft tissue damage. To claim compensation for these injuries, you must be able to prove that the property owner was negligent. This can be a challenging feat, but an Illinois premises liability attorney will be able to help you make that determination. 

Defining Negligence

There are various definitions to the word “negligence,” but it has a specific definition in the legal world. Illinois law states that negligence occurs when a person fails to do something that a “reasonably careful” person would do. Negligence can also occur in the opposite situation, when a person does something that a “reasonably careful” person would not do under the same circumstances. The law does not, however, provide a definition of a “reasonably careful” person and leaves that to the discretion of the judge and/or jury. 

How to Prove Property Owner Negligence

A successful slip and fall injury case will be able to prove that the property owner was negligent and liable for your injuries. In these types of cases, you hold the burden of proof and are responsible for proving the negligence of the property owner. To do this, there are certain criteria that must be met before you can make the claim of negligence. Your attorney will build a case to prove each of following:

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Sugar Grove divorce attorneyAlmost any issue that is discussed during divorce negotiations has the potential to become a contested issue. Even if you go into your negotiations with the goal of being cooperative, there is still a possibility that you and your spouse will not agree on certain things. When it comes to child-related issues such as parenting time and even child support, emotions and feelings can be at the forefront of these discussions. Both parents have the duty to provide financial support for a child, which is reflected in the child support formula that now takes into account multiple factors to calculate the parent’s payment. Before you discuss child support with your spouse, it can be beneficial to understand how the child support calculations are made. 

Determine Your Basic Support Obligation

Before you can determine who will pay support to who, you must first determine how much the state of Illinois thinks is an appropriate amount that both you and your spouse should spend on your child each month. This is called the basic support obligation. The basic support obligation is determined by adding together both parents’ net monthly incomes and then finding the matching basic support amount as shown in the schedule of basic child support obligations. This amount takes into account both parents’ incomes and the number of children between the parents. Then you will need to determine each parent’s percentage share of the basic support obligation. This is typically done by using the percentage of each parents’ share of the total household income.

For example, if Parent A has a net monthly income of $2,500 and Parent B has a net monthly income of $4,500, the net monthly household income is $7,000. If this couple has three children, this means that the basic support obligation between both parents is $2,035.

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Kane County divorce attorney QDRO

Nearly all financial aspects of divorce are complex, but few are quite as confusing and consequential as the 401(k) retirement plans. Unlike other assets, these accounts often lead to costly penalties when dividing them, and those who dip into them to fund the actual divorce often find themselves in even more financial trouble. Learn how to effectively divide your retirement plan in divorce, and how the assistance of an attorney can mitigate the risks.

The Complexities of QDROs

Qualified domestic relations orders, or QDROs, are used to divide retirement and pension plans in divorce. They are also exasperating and frustrating for those who do not know how to handle them. This is especially true when the QDRO is handled by a third party. Additional fees can be added when things do not go smoothly (such as failing to follow a third party’s outlined instructions)—sometimes two to three times more than what the divorcing parties might have otherwise paid. 

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Sugar Grove family law attorney divorce

Approaching divorce with the right perspective is often much easier said than done, but when you are able to look at the end of your marriage through a positive lens, the outcome is always healthier and less stressful for everyone involved. Grief and healing are processes that inevitably take time, but when you channel your energy into staying focused on new beginnings that will result from the separation, the road to peace and acceptance is generally less bumpy.

Here are three ways to help yourself develop a positive perspective on divorce:

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Kane County personal injury attorney car accident

More than 5 million auto accidents occur in the United States each year. In those crashes, over 1.5 million people are injured. Some injuries are minor, but others can have a significant impact on the life of the victim. Sadly, not all of these severe injury victims will receive compensation. This is because far too many of them do not seek treatment until it is too late. If you are involved in a vehicle collision, it is extremely important to know how to avoid the same troubling fate.  

Adrenaline and Injury Symptoms

When a crash happens, the body of a person who was involved usually becomes flooded with adrenaline. The release of adrenaline tends to create the “fight or flight” response. It also redirects the body’s attention away from registering pain to a large extent. This natural response to trauma can mask the symptoms of an injury, leading the victim to believe they are fine. Even more troubling is that, even when symptoms do start to manifest, victims may not directly attribute them to the accident. If they continue to overlook the connection and never seek treatment, their risk for long-term complications and even death can increase dramatically. 

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Kane County family law attorney parenting time

If the health, safety, or well-being of a child is in question, the court may opt to either suspend or restrict the parenting time of a parent. Alternatively, the court may order supervised visitations. In either case, it is the concerned parent who carries the burden of proof. Sadly, far too many parents are not prepared and their children continue to face danger for longer than necessary. Learn more about how to protect your child with help from the following information and an experienced attorney.

Burden of Proof

Parenting time in Illinois is protected, not for the sake of the parent, but for the sake of the child. In short, it indicates that a child has the right to emotional and financial support from each parent. So, under the eyes of the law, the restriction, suspension, or order of supervised parenting time is a limitation of the child’s rights. It is from this angle that parents can understand why a preponderance of evidence is needed to limit or restrict parenting time.

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Posted on in Divorce

Kane County family law attorney parenting plan

During divorce proceedings between parents in Illinois, a parenting plan is created to determine each parent’s rights and responsibilities, including the time each parent spends with a child, also known as parenting time. The plan creates a structure that helps ease the transition of two parents who now live separately. It covers things like who is financially responsible for different aspects of the child’s life, how holidays or vacations should be approached, and daily life aspects like school and extracurricular activities. No matter how diligently you and your attorneys work to craft a suitable plan, it will not last forever as it was originally written. As time goes by, your situations will almost certainly change, and the parenting plan will probably require modifications.

Modifying Your Parenting Plan

As with creating the parenting plan in the first place, changing a parenting plan should be treated as a business transaction or contract negotiations. Amendments to an Illinois parenting plan require approval from the court. If there are any discrepancies, Illinois law falls back on the original parenting plan, but if the change has been active for six months, it may be added to the court-approved plan. Changes made without the court and official documentation are not enforceable. Illinois law states parenting plan changes should be in the best interests of the child. The state requires a significant change in circumstances in order to grant a modification. Acceptable reasons may include:

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Kane County family law attorny child custody

Family court judges are required to make decisions based upon the best interests of a child in any allocation of parental responsibilities case—previously known as “child custody” in Illinois. The judge will have to decide which home is the best place for the child to live most of the time. As a divorced parent, you may be wondering if the school district you live in will influence that decision.

Education Is One Factor

There are many different factors that go into making a decision that is in the best interest of the child in a divorce. The type of education a child will receive is an important consideration, but it is only one factor among many. Other factors Illinois judges look at when deciding what is in a child’s best interest include:

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Kane County personal injury attorney wrongful death

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that approximately 29 people lose their lives in drunk driving accidents every day in the United States. This means that intoxicated drivers cause the death of a person every 50 minutes on average. If you have lost a parent, child, spouse, or other loved one in an accident involving an alcohol-impaired driver, you may be able to recover damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a family loses a loved one, they often suffer significant financial injury. For example, a father who is struck and killed by a drunk driver will not be around to help provide for his children. In such a case, a wrongful death lawsuit allows the surviving parent to receive funds that help him or her pay the costs associated with raising the children. In Illinois, a special representative of the decedent (the person who died) may bring a personal injury lawsuit against the person or organization responsible for the death on behalf of the decedent’s immediate surviving family. This special representative is most often a spouse, adult child, or parent of the deceased individual.

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Kane County family law attorney allocation of parental responsibilities

The allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as child custody) can greatly impact the life of a child. Further, it can determine just how involved you are in the decision-making process of your child’s life. Whether you are an unmarried father who has recently established paternity or half of a couple going through a divorce, it is important for you to understand the allocation of parental responsibilities, including who may be eligible to pursue it and when.

What Is the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?

The allocation of parental responsibilities can be broken down into two primary areas of concern: parenting time and significant decision-making authority for the child. Parenting time is the time that each parent spends with his or her child, while the decision-making authority pertains to the level of responsibility each parent has regarding important choices regarding the child’s life. For example, a parent with more decision-making authority may have the final say in where the child goes to school, or whether he or she attends church or not.

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Kane County family law attorney parenting time

One of the most difficult things for children—and parents—to handle during divorce are the transition periods between time with each parent, especially for young children. Your children are used to having both Mom and Dad in the same home together, sleeping in the same room every night, surrounded by the same toys and belongings. Suddenly, instead of the consistency of a daily routine, their little world is turned upside down and they spend their time being shuffled between two homes, two routines, and two different sets of rules. However, there are steps that parents can take to make that transition easier for everyone.

Prepare Kids for the Transition Between Two Homes

It is vital for children’s adjustment to feel secure and to know exactly what to expect now that they are going to be leaving their house to go spend time at what will also be their home, with the other parent. Discuss the things they may want to bring with them and assure them that you will help them pack those belongings. Explain what days they will be going from one home to another. A suggestion that provides a good visual for young children to follow is to make a color-coded calendar for each home so the kids can see when the transitions will take place and what days they will be at each home.

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