At Watson Law, our Illinois divorce attorney is a dedicated and caring advocate on behalf of clients considering divorce or already involved in the process. Attorney Linda Watson counsels and represents families from all income levels, but she is a particularly beneficial choice for couples entangled in high-asset divorces or those who have complex concerns regarding the division of commingled property.
Here are answers to a few common questions we are asked:
1.) Do I have to wait to file for divorce?
Maybe. Both parties must be willing to sign a waiver, and at the time the divorce becomes finalized, the parties must have been separated for at least six months. Since most divorces take at least several months from start to finish, it is possible to file when a couple separates.
2.) Is it possible for both spouses to have the same lawyer?
Watson Law will not represent both parties in a divorce action since it is impossible to advise what is in each person’s best interest without disadvantaging the opposing spouse. To put it another way, it is only possible to fully protect one party’s interests. Domestic cases are extremely uncertain and the position of parties can change rapidly.
3.) How much will a divorce cost?
This is nearly impossible to answer. Many things affect the cost of a divorce.
The more contested the case, the more expensive the litigation. As in purchasing a new car, there is a wide variety of selection of cars ranging from very inexpensive, one which merely gets you from place to place, to luxurious and extremely costly. Divorce attorneys, however, do not offer five-year financing. Watson Law does have convenient methods of payment and will keep you informed of each step throughout the process.
In addition, Watson Law believes in making every effort to mitigate unnecessary expenses throughout the divorce process. We will do everything we can to keep your costs as low as possible.
Involving the law in any personal problem puts more stress into an already stressful situation. At Watson Law in Illinois, our Peoria high-asset divorce attorney understands the fragile dynamic frequently involved in family conflicts.
Drawing on her decade of experience and extensive trial skills, Ms. Watson helps divorcing couples deal with legal issues efficiently and effectively so that they can move on with their lives. In particular, she guides high net worth individuals through the complexities of divorce in a way that maximizes their financial security and preserves their fair share of commingled property and other assets.
These assets may include:
Pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement accounts
Closely held businesses
Stocks, mutual funds or investment accounts
Houses, cars, vacation property or other real estate
Valuable antiques or collections
Your Choices Today Will Determine Your Financial Future
When it comes to dividing marital property in divorce, it is critical that you make the right choices and take the assets that will truly benefit you in the long run. For instance, if you must decide between a house worth $500,000 and the same amount of money in cash from a joint pension fund, it may be tempting to take the cash.
However, if you choose to take the money from the pension, you will pay a 30 percent penalty tax. Will the money you lose in taxes be balanced out by the interest you will gain? Probably not.
The bottom line is that you must take extreme care when deciding which assets to fight for and which to walk away from, because some carry significant hidden penalties. Our lawyer will advise you about your full rights and options, so that you can make the choices that will place you and your children in a secure position.
When a marriage breaks down irrevocably, divorce is the solution most people turn to. But divorce is not for everyone. Some prefer to live apart but keep their marriage legally alive, usually for religious or financial reasons. To do so successfully, it is important that you have the guidance of an experienced family law attorney.
Central Illinois Legal Separation Attorney
Attorney Linda Watson of Watson Law will help you set up a legal separation that preserves your financial and parental rights for the long term. With 20 years of experience in Illinois family law, she and the rest of our legal team will listen carefully as you describe your personal needs and develop a customized plan for negotiating a sustainable separation agreement.
The Facts About Marital Separation
Many people mistakenly believe that a legal separation is less expensive than getting divorced. The fact is, legal separation and divorce cost about the same in Illinois. The only difference is that you remain legally married throughout the time of your separation, which can last the rest of your life if you choose. In addition, the courts cannot allocate property and debts if there is no agreement, only financial flow during the duration of the separation.
Why Separation Instead Of Divorce?
Usually, married people who choose to separate do so for personal reasons, such as:
Their religious beliefs
One of the spouses has chronic or serious health issues and would not be able to afford health insurance on their own
One or both of the spouses needs time to decide if they are ready to end the marriage
Whatever your reasons, we can help if you are considering separation. A successful separation agreement will set healthy boundaries between you and your spouse. We will help you divide up the marital property and set up allocation of parental responsibility, child support and spousal support.
Unless the spouses getting divorced are still on decent terms, it is not unusual for the higher earning spouse to try to hide his or her true income. While they falsely claim to be unable to pay child support or spousal maintenance, you, your children and/or your financial future could be the ones to suffer.
At Watson Law, we work every day to make sure our clients get the money to which they are entitled under Illinois law. Lead attorney Linda Watson will make sure your ex does not cheat you out of the support you, your children or your financial future need to remain stable following divorce. Our firm has offices in Peoria, Bloomington and Washington, and represents clients across Central Illinois.
Gross And Net Income Explained
Gross income is the income a person earns before anything is taken out in taxes or other taxable deductions. In Illinois divorce law, we use the gross income of the spouse who will potentially pay spousal maintenance (alimony) to calculate how much he or she is able to pay.
On the other hand, the law looks at net income when determining child support. Net income is an individual’s earnings after taxes and deductions. If you are a parent, it is vital that you know what your ex’s exact net income is to ensure that your children never have to do without just because their parents are divorced.
Uncovering Your Ex’s True Income
As your lawyer, Linda Watson will examine financial statements, tax returns, bank accounts, financial transfers, pay stubs and sometimes even a lifestyle analysis to determine your ex’s true gross and net incomes. In her 20 years working in family law, she has helped hundreds of clients obtain fair levels of child support and alimony. At the end of our relationship, you will be in the best financial position possible.
Commingled property is a common occurrence in second marriages or marriages later in life. In such cases, the Illinois family law courts will first have to determine if the property in question is actually marital or nonmarital. Then, it will decide if the other spouse has a right of contribution that would entitle him or her to a share of the property value.
At Watson Law, our Peoria commingled property division attorney offers caring and skilled legal counsel and representation for those with property division concerns. As a family law lawyer with 10 years of legal experience, Ms. Watson has helped numerous clients safeguard their rights and assets during divorce.
You Could Lose Tens Of Thousands If Your Property Is Not Designated Correctly
Even though it may appear that you have an exclusive claim to a piece of property, looks can be deceiving. If your marriage has contributed to a substantial increase in equity, your spouse may be able to claim a share.
For instance, let’s say you inherited the house that you grew up in. Your parents gave it to you and you alone, so it’s nonmarital property, right? Not necessarily. If you and your spouse spent money renovating it and increasing its value, it may or may not be deemed nonmarital by the courts. This means you could lose a very substantial amount of money if your assets are not properly designated during your high-asset divorce.
In one recent case that our firm handled, a man had a $350,000 asset, and due to the way the court designated it, his wife (our client) was entitled to half! That is why any property division settlement must be carefully scrutinized by a highly knowledgeable family law attorney. Without competent legal advice, you could end up needlessly giving away tens of thousands of dollars.
Putting Your Children’s Needs First In Central Illinois
Most divorces focus heavily on two issues: children and division of assets. Your children may be your most critical issue in a divorce, and your parental rights need protection in the best interests of your children. Parents rarely agree completely on the several issues that involve their children, so it is very important to retain an experienced attorney who will advocate from a position that advocates your child’s best interests, which takes into consideration the parent’s practical interests for a long-lasting parenting plan that truly works for you and your family.
Attorney Linda Watson takes the time to discuss the facts of your unique situation. She will present you with options and creative solutions that can lead to a strong case development to meet your needs and goals. Ms. Watson approaches each case and each client with compassion and care. She understands that each parent and each child has particular needs that must be addressed thoroughly and individually.
Parents cannot make decisions on allocation of parental responsibility (the term for child custody in Illinois) outside of the legal process. Since the court must make decisions that are in the best interests of your child, it is crucial to work with a Peoria parental responsibility lawyer who can present a convincing case in court.
Protecting Your Parental Rights
The court will consider and assess the parents’ history and level of involvement with the child, their standard of living, economic standing and the abilities of parents to perform parental responsibilities. Most custody agreements involve joint custody between parents, but if it can be shown that one parent is unfit to perform parental responsibilities, full custody or supervised visitation may be warranted.
Attorney Watson is experienced in helping clients to assess parental fitness of themselves or their spouse. She will examine issues of your child’s medical, education and religious needs along with parental economic and mental fitness to determine the best interests of your child.
Ms. Watson also assists parents in child relocation issues, and she addresses concerns or accusations of domestic violence in custody cases from a perspective of extensive experience.
At Watson Law in Illinois, our parenting time attorney, Linda Watson, offers strong and supportive counsel and representation to clients throughout the state. She regularly handles numerous parental responsibility and parenting time — Illinois’ new term for visitation — matters, including those that involve:
Parenting time schedules
Mental health assessment and care
Alcohol and drug abuse/rehabilitation
Verbal and emotional abuse
After listening to you and developing a detailed understanding of your visitation-related concerns, she will work with you to develop a sound legal strategy for achieving your goals.
What If The Parent Requesting Visitation Has A Criminal History?
Our law firm sees many mothers and even fathers dealing with a parent who has a criminal history, mental health illness or prior orders of protection. These parents are now requesting parenting time rights and access to the minor children. Sometimes this is what is in the best interests of the minor child, sometimes not.
Linda Watson’s background in criminal law allows her to facilitate vital conversations with probation officers, therapists and other experts to glean the facts and to put those facts before the judge.
For instance, a client’s ex may tell the judge that their drug addiction is a thing of the past and now the parent deserves parenting time. After Ms. Watson researches the truth, she can skillfully present the other side — that the parent is still on probation, is currently violating the terms of probation, has not completed rehabilitation, or even falsified disclosures for drug and alcohol evaluations, is not current in their mental health treatment, and that they are still not fit to be left alone with the children.
What If One Parent Is Accused Of Domestic Abuse?
Both mothers and fathers often accuse the other parent of abuse — or coach the child into “reporting” abuse — in order to strengthen their claims to custody and visitation.
To either defend against false allegations of domestic violence or to protect yourself from real abuse, you need a family law attorney with extensive criminal law experience. Period. Ms. Watson is that lawyer. She can often look at an injury, statements of the child, and hard evidence and determine whether it was caused by innocent play or by an adult’s abuse. She is familiar with most experts in Central Illinois who work with diagnosis of abuse and is familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of these cases. She is highly skilled in presenting an aggressive case on her client’s behalf.
Your relationship with your family law attorney does not end once your divorce settlement has been finalized. Attorney Linda Watson of Watson Law in Central Illinois assists her clients with post-decree modifications and enforcements to ensure that everybody meets their obligations — and that those obligations reflect your current needs and abilities.
Post-Divorce Decree Modifications Attorney Serving Central Illinois
In Illinois, things like allocation of parental responsibility (commonly known as child custody) and child support can be changed, if you can demonstrate to the court that the current terms cannot be met or are no longer appropriate. Common reasons why our clients seek a modification include:
Job loss or retirement
Significant increase in income
One co-parent moving out of state
Remarriage by one of the ex-spouses
Commingling of a new family
Aging of the minor children
A spouse receiving maintenance (alimony) has begun earning income
Whether you wish to modify the plan or oppose it, Linda Watson will provide you experienced, insightful representation. She and the rest of our experienced and highly trained team will assert your rights and work toward a positive solution.
Enforcing Family Law Plans In Peoria
Our firm can also help you if your former spouse is not fulfilling his or her duties under the divorce agreement. Contact us if you and your ex are in a conflict over:
Unpaid child support
Parental responsibility and parenting time
Unpaid medical responsibilities
Unpaid extracurricular expenses
Parents with full or primary custody of the children often rely on child support to provide the kids with the basic necessities. Linda Watson is prepared to help you enforce your rights or defend against unfair inequalities accusations. There is a lot at stake, so make sure you have our lawyer on your side.
How Is Maintenance/Spousal Support/Alimony Calculated?
There are a number of factors that guide the court in determining spousal support during divorce proceedings. Also referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance in Illinois, there are two general types of support that may be ordered by the court. Temporary spousal support may be ordered during the divorce proceedings, and further support may be ordered following the proceedings if it is necessary to the circumstances. Short-term, long-term or permanent spousal support is based on several factors, including:
Length of the marriage
Income of both spouses
Education of both spouses
Earning potential of both spouses
Ability to pay support
Contributions to the marriage, including educational investments
Other factors such as value of marital property
Peoria spousal support lawyer Linda Watson can help you seek the support agreement that best suits your particular needs. Each case is different and must be addressed according to the best interests of each client. These determinations also tie closely with the needs of children, including child custody and child support issues.
Once the needs of children have been determined and ruled upon by the court, the needs of the spouses will be addressed. There are several complex factors that impact how support is calculated, and it is critical to consult with an experienced attorney before signing any agreement.
When a parent plans to move far away and take his or her children along, the other parent may object to living apart from the kids. At Watson Law, our experienced family law attorney Linda Watson can help you reach a solution to your child relocation conflict and make sure your kids’ best interests are respected at all times.
Relocation Law In Illinois Has Changed
Recent changes to parental responsibility laws in Illinois may impact your ability to relocate with your children or contest such a move. Under the law, a parent with primary custody must get permission from the court to move more than 50 miles within the state or more than 25 miles across state lines, if the noncustodial parent does not agree to the move.
Four Keys To Relocation Disputes
As with any parental responsibility matter, the court’s first concern is the best interests of the children. Judges must consider 11 factors when deciding whether to approve a relocation, including:
How involved is the noncustodial parent in the child’s life? For example, does he or she show up to the child’s sporting events and concerts, parent-teacher meetings, scheduled parenting time and so forth?
Is the custodial parent moving because of a promising job opportunity? What are his or her long-term economic goals?
Where do the child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives live?
How would the new living environment impact the child? For example, if the parent is proposing to move from a large city to a rural location, is the child more likely to thrive or struggle there?
The answers to these and other questions will determine whether the judge will allow the parent to move away with the child. As your lawyer, Linda Watson will work closely with you to build a persuasive case based on the facts. Your kids’ well-being will be her top priority until you case is resolved.
An adoption is a wonderful way for a family to grow, but it can also be complicated process that requires experienced legal guidance. Attorney Linda Watson of Watson Law in Central Illinois has 20 years of experience working with family law. Contact our firm to get the help you need to ensure your adoption goes smoothly.
Stepparent Adoption And More In Central Illinois
There are many different types of adoption. You may be the child’s stepmother or -father and want to consecrate an already long-standing relationship. You may be a foster parent looking to adopt a foster child. Or you may be adopting a child from overseas. Whatever your situation, Linda Watson can help you through the process as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
In some cases, one of the birth parents objects to the adoption, requiring the would-be adoptive parent to go to court to have the birth parent’s legal rights removed. Ms. Watson is passionate about family law and will take your case to trial if needed. She will demonstrate to the judge why having you declared the child’s legal parent is in his or her best interests.
Even if your adoption is uncontested, there will still be a lot of paperwork and strict deadlines to meet. To avoid confusion and costly delays, turn to our adoption lawyer. We will take care of everything so you can prepare for a lifetime of joy with your new child.
Illinois has statutory guidelines for child support. This means that child support must be ordered or approved by the court even if spouses come to an agreement on the terms of the support in a divorce proceeding or through mediation. An income percentage model is used to calculate the necessary child support based on the number of children in need of support during and after the divorce is finalized.
Attorney Linda Watson can help you understand the process and what other circumstances may be incorporated in a child support order. With offices in Peoria, Ms. Watson served more than six years as a local prosecutor, and she can readily advocate for your interests and those of your children both in and out of court. She understands that every case and every client is unique. With highly personalized and compassionate service, she takes the time to gain a full understanding of your particular needs and goals in divorce.
Ms. Watson understands that your children are your most precious asset. The divorce process is costly, but it is worth ensuring that your children are protected both during and following the process.
Evaluating Relevant Factors And Pursuing Your Best Possible Result
The guidelines the court uses to determine child support orders after considering your child’s best interests include:
Available financial resources
Financial needs of the child and the custodial parent
Financial needs of the noncustodial parent
Standard of living during marriage
Physical and emotional condition of the child
Educational, medical, insurance needs of the child
All factors that add costs should be included in the determination, including extracurricular activities, summer camps, braces, glasses, contacts, etc.
Each case is different and must be thoroughly examined by experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel. If you agree to a payment structure without legal representation, you could be signing an agreement that holds significant but hidden or unforeseen long-term costs. It is worth retaining a Peoria child support lawyer upfront to prevent much greater expenses down the road. Have it done right the first time. Buyer’s remorse is not grounds for modification of an agreement.
Child Support Modification Lawyer In Peoria
Ms. Watson also represents clients who have had a significant change in circumstances or whose ex-spouse is seeking a post-judgment modification. If income levels have changed, if one party has lost a job or must relocate, the child support agreement may warrant modification. It is important to consult with Ms. Watson to discuss other circumstances that may qualify for modification and to discover your options in defense of modification.
We Understand All Sides Of Domestic Violence Issues
Domestic violence is a serious family and criminal issue. Violent actions or threatening actions within families can impact both victims and those who have committed alleged violence or abuse. Whether you have suffered from domestic violence or you need defense against domestic violence charges, it is critical to consult with an Illinois lawyer who can guide you through both the civil and criminal justice processes.
Attorney Linda Watson understands the severity of domestic violence charges and how to handle them in her clients’ best interests both in and out of court. Charges of domestic assault, battery or abuse are criminal charges. The intense emotions surrounding the situation require adept legal skills with focus on a result that can limit the damages to a family as much as possible.
Domestic abuse can be problematic both emotionally and physically for all members of a family. Contact Watson Law to schedule a free initial consultation in order to discuss your unique situation with Ms. Watson in confidence.
Orders Of Protection And Criminal Ramifications
An order of protection limits the abilities and rights of an allegedly violent or abusive family member. Ms. Watson can assist you in filing an emergency order of protection if necessary, but before seeking relief through what is also known as a restraining order, it is important to understand its impacts and how to properly petition for a court order.
A violent offender can be a spouse, a former spouse, someone you hold a child in common with, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a fiancé(e), a stepparent, a guardian or a caregiver. The person petitioning for an emergency protection order does not have to give notice to the alleged abuser, and he or she has the following options:
Prohibiting an alleged abuser from making threats or committing physical or emotional harm
Prohibiting the alleged abuser from entering the victim’s residential property, place of work or other specified locations
Prohibiting contact by phone, mail, email or text message
Restricting visitation or custody rights with children
Requiring surrendering of firearms and other weapons to police
Other actions may be specified.
The order will stay in effect for 14 to 21 days, after which a hearing will be set for both sides to present their cases. Immediate consultation with an experienced attorney is vital to your future.
Accusations of domestic violence are often used as leverage in divorce cases and can be tied to child abuse and custody concerns. If you are convicted of domestic violence, you could lose your custody and/or visitation rights. You could also lose your employability in child care, elderly care, health care or related fields. Your gun rights will also be stripped, which can greatly impact security guards, prison guards and hunters, for example.
Ms. Watson is a Peoria lawyer for domestic violence issues who represents alleged abusers and victims alike. She spent more than six years serving as a local prosecutor, and she has extensive experience in domestic violence trial situations. Whether you require domestic violence defense or protection, Ms. Watson can work diligently to defend your parental, civil and constitutional rights.
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We fight to protect your legal rights under the law.