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Kane County family law attorneyDomestic violence does not discriminate. It can happen to men, women, and even children of socioeconomic status. Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence each year. In many cases, an abusive relationship can lead to a divorce. However, in some cases, violent behavior by one spouse can continue throughout the divorce process and long after. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA) provides safety provisions for survivors of domestic violence and their children by holding their abusers accountable in the criminal and civil courts. This can be done by court orders, but it is important to know how to obtain such protections and how long they are in effect. 

What Can Protective Orders Do?

In Illinois, there are certain actions a victim can take against his or her alleged abuser. A protective order can restrict or limit certain actions a person can and cannot do. Often referred to as a “restraining order,” it can prohibit an individual from harassing or harming the victim as well as forbid any contact or coming within a certain distance of the alleged victim. 

To obtain such an order, a person must file a petition for an order of protection. In the petition, the accuser must explain to the court why he or she wants an order of protection. If the court believes the person has been abused or is imminent danger of abuse, a judge will issue an order of protection. Below are the three types of Illinois protective orders and the amount of time for which they are in effect: 

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Kane County family law attorneyA divorce can trigger many different emotions, from anger to sadness to resentment. Although there are couples who part ways amicably, many divorces can be contentious. Such cases can involve disputes over parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, and property division. One of the biggest questions is who will be allowed to stay in the marital home? In many cases, both spouses feel like they are entitled to the house they bought together. However, usually only one spouse will remain in the home and the other spouse will move out. Determining this can be complicated and a major point of contention. 

How Are Marital Assets Divided? 

In Illinois, marital assets or property include anything that was acquired during the marriage. This can also be debts that one or both partners accrued. Non-marital property are things that each spouse owned before the wedding or acquired once they legally separated. Gifts and inheritances received by just one spouse during the marriage are still generally considered non-marital property. On the other hand, the home the couple lived in is often considered marital property, even if it was bought before the couple was married.

When it comes to splitting the marital estate, it is divided according to “equitable distribution.” This means items are divided fairly and may not be split exactly in half. The courts will consider several factors when deciding how to divide the assets equitably. Some of these factors include:

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St. Charles divorce mediation lawyersGoing through a divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences of someone’s life. Determining who gets what after the marriage ends is often a complicated undertaking. Decisions made through litigation involve the court system and can be time-consuming and costly. However, there is an alternative dispute resolution method available for divorce that is known as mediation. Mediation is generally less expensive, less stressful, and less time-consuming than going to court and having a long, drawn-out trial.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which divorcing couples can meet with a trained, neutral third party to discuss and resolve typical divorce-related issues. The main goal of mediation is to use collaborative methods when determining who gets what after a divorce. If a couple can reach a mutual agreement, it is submitted to the court for approval. 

Some of the main issues that a mediator can assist you with include:

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Kane County family law attorneyMany married couples grow apart and decide they can no longer live happily ever after. However, divorce is a big step, and some spouses may not be ready for such a drastic action. In Illinois, another option couples can consider is filing for a legal separation. This is a legal process that formalizes a separation, which is granted in the form of a court order, while the spouses remain legally married. 

Choosing between a legal separation and a divorce is sometimes a matter of personal preference. Some individuals have religious or personal beliefs that do not allow them to get divorced, but a legal separation permits them to stay married while living separate lives. Couples may think that a legal separation is not as involved as a divorce, but it still requires the couple seeking it to address certain issues, as well as follow the proper legal steps. 

Benefits to Separating Versus Divorcing

A divorce can be the right option for many spouses who are in dysfunctional relationships. However, there are scenarios where a legal separation is a more appropriate alternative. This option leaves the door open in case a couple decides to reconcile. It is important to note that a legal separation does not mean the spouses can remarry other people; that is only possible after obtaining a final divorce decree. A few instances where obtaining a legal separation might make more sense include the following:

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St. Charles complex divorce lawyerEven under the best circumstances, divorce can be a challenging process. Many marital issues are sensitive in nature and difficult to resolve. These matters may include allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, parenting time (visitation), as well as spousal support or maintenance (alimony). They can also involve valuables or high net-worth assets that need to be divided. Complex divorce proceedings can seem intimidating at first, but they can be managed with professional legal guidance.    

Child-Related Issues 

Many of the disputes in a complex divorce involve a couple’s children. These arguments can include how much time each parent will spend with the child or how much support will be paid by one of the parents, among other issues. A parenting plan is a legal document that establishes the legal rights and obligations of both parents as relating to their child. This plan outlines a schedule for when each parent will see their child. Creating this timeline can be difficult since most parents do not want to give up time with their kids or relinquish control to the other parent, especially if there are bitter feelings.  

Some of the child-related issues that may need to be addressed in a divorce settlement include:

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Kane County divorce attorneysDepending on the couple and their circumstances, a divorce can take weeks or months to finalize. Once the legal proceedings are complete, a final divorce decree will be issued, which officially documents the terms of the divorce. However, sometimes a significant change in circumstances can warrant a modification of part or all of the original order. When a divorce settlement is no longer relevant for a couple or does not fit the needs of their children, it is possible to alter the terms of it through a post-decree modification. If you or your ex-spouse requests a post-divorce order modification for any reason, it is helpful to know the process and how it affects your rights regarding matters such as child-related issues or spousal maintenance.  

Reasons for Changing a Judgment Order

We all know life can change in an instant, whether it be from a sudden medical event such as a heart attack or stroke to unexpectedly losing a job. For instance, child support payments are calculated based on parent’s income. If the paying parent loses his or her job and cannot afford the payments, he or she may request a modification of the child support order. Some other examples of major life events that would justify a modification can include: 

  • Being laid off or fired from a long-time occupation, which impacts child or spousal support (alimony)
  • Being transferred out of the state or country for work, ultimately affecting the allocation of parental responsibilities and/or parenting time
  • Contracting a serious illness that requires extensive medical care 
  • Suffering a catastrophic injury that results in a disability or lost wages
  • One or both ex-spouses remarrying, which typically requires a reduction in spousal or child support payments

Steps for Amending a Judgment Order

To request a change to an order, one of the former spouses must file a “motion to modify” the divorce judgment. This motion is typically filed with the same court that issued the original divorce decree. The main steps to take when modifying an order are:

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Geneva family law attorneyParenting time (visitation) can be a sensitive topic in a divorce, since both parents typically want to spend the most time that they can with their child. However, the court determines what is in the best interest of the child when making decisions during the divorce proceedings. In some cases, one parent may have a history of drug or alcohol addiction or domestic abuse. This could impact his or her allocation of parental responsibilities, as well as parenting time. Illinois law gives the court permission to restrict parenting time as much as necessary in order to protect a minor child, including requiring all visits to be supervised. If supervised visitation is considered necessary, the court will order it and it will be part of the parenting plan. 

What Does Supervision Look Like?

Supervision is defined as “the presence of a third party during a parent’s exercise of parenting time.” Supervision may be ordered by the court if there is enough evidence that proves a parent engaged in conduct that endangered the child’s mental or physical health, or that impaired the child’s emotional development. These orders are meant to protect the child and may include any of the following requirements:

  • A modification or elimination of the parent’s decision-making responsibilities and/or parenting time
  • Supervision by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) 
  • Having an intermediary present during the exchange between parent and child, or taking place in a protected setting
  • Restricting a parent’s communication with or proximity to the other parent or the child
  • Ordering a parent to refrain from possessing or consuming alcohol or drugs during (or right before) parenting time with the child
  • Restricting the presence of certain persons when a parent is spending time with the child
  • Posting a bond to secure the return of the child following the parent’s visit 
  • Completing a treatment program for abuse or for any other behavior that is detrimental to the child

The “supervisor” can be a trained therapist, social worker, or even a relative or friend. Even if the parents agree on a supervisor, the court must approve the nominee. When considering who should be a supervisor, it is important to note that professionals typically cost money, and friends and family members do not.

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Posted on in Divorce

Kane County divorce attorneys“We are getting a divorce,” are the five words that every child dreads to hear from his or her parents while growing up. When two parents choose to dissolve their marriage, the separation of the family follows, making life difficult for the child. Living arrangements, education, religion, and life at home can all change upon the parents’ split. Allocation of parental responsibilities (previously known as child custody) and parenting plans are established to ultimately secure the best possible scenario for a child after a divorce, although situations can change rather quickly. Adjustments can be difficult for a child, especially the addition of a new adult into the child’s life when one parent decides to get remarried. .

Unintended Consequences of Remarriage

An individual who is trying to move on from a divorce and find happiness with a new partner can sometimes overlook the side effects that his or her romantic pursuit could cause. For a child whois coping with divorced parents and trying to get accustomed to a new way of life, the introduction of a stepmom or stepdad could produce a great deal of confusion:

  • When a new parent is introduced, the divorce may, for the first time, become permanent for the child, as he or she realizes that his or her parents are not getting back together.   
  • After a divorce, tight bonds often form between the child and his or her mother and father. Increased attachments can develop, leading to the child developing jealous feelings and behaviors directed toward a new romantic interest. 
  • A stepparent could also bring along his or her own children, resulting in drastic changes at home. If and when the new couple decides to move in together, living arrangements will once again change, which could lead to a new school and community, or uncomfortable living conditions.
  • Anxiety caused by the thought of hurting a parent's feelings could arise and result in the child remaining distant from the new stepparent. 

When constant changes are occurring in one or both of the parents’ lives, the child involved could be left with the feeling of unimportance. For a younger child especially, stability is crucial in his or her development and ability to form healthy relationships.   

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Posted on in Divorce

Kane County divorce attorneysThere are many reasons for a divorce. In some cases, it is because a couple grows apart and comes to the mutual decision to part ways. An amicable divorce typically means both partners agree on all or most of the marital issues. This makes the divorce process simple, fast, and less expensive than a contested divorce. An uncontested divorce is not always possible, especially if one spouse does not want the divorce in the first place. If a divorce is contested, it could also mean that the spouses do not agree on issues such as child support, spousal support, and the division of property. This animosity can carry over into the divorce proceedings, so if you are contesting any issues in your divorce, it is imperative to have legal counsel to protect your rights. 

Illinois Divorce Laws

In the state of Illinois, the only legal grounds for divorce is irreconcilable differences, which, defined by the law, “have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Also, it must be determined by the court that attempts to reconcile failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would not in the best interests of the family. Any divorce, whether contested or uncontested, begins with one spouse filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and “serving” the other spouse with the papers. 

Reasons for Contesting the Divorce

The spouse who did not file can still try to contest the divorce by stating that there are no irreconcilable differences. However, under Illinois law, if the parties have lived apart in separate residences for at least six months right before one spouse files the petition, there is an “irrebuttable presumption” of irreconcilable differences between the pair. 

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Kane County family law attorneysWhen a couple decides to end their marriage through divorce, they have the option of deciding how to divide their assets and wealth on their own. However, when a couple cannot come to an agreement about property division, the courts must intervene. Illinois courts use a system called “equitable distribution” to divide a divorcing couple’s marital estate. If you are considering getting a divorce in Illinois, it is important to understand how asset division decisions are made.

Marital Property and Separate Property

According to Illinois law, only marital, or shared, property is divided in a divorce. Marital property typically includes any property or funds that either spouse accumulated during the marriage. Non-marital property, or separate property, includes assets that a spouse already owned before he or she got married. However, differentiating between separate and marital property is not always this straightforward. Certain gifts and inheritances may also be considered separate property – even if the spouse received the gift or inheritance while he or she was married. Furthermore, separate property can be transformed into marital property when it is commingled with marital property.

For example, if a husband purchases a house before he got married but then he and his wife both contributed to the mortgage, the home will likely be considered marital property during divorce. Similarly, if one spouse receives an inheritance during the marriage but then deposits those funds into a shared account, the inheritance funds transform from separate into marital property. The inheritance would then be subject to division according to equitable distribution.

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Elgin divorce attorneyIf you are going through a divorce, the first thing on your mind may not be taxes or financial issues; however, it is important to know that a divorce does have tax implications. Your filing status, tax consequences of maintenance payments, property transfers, and more are typically decided by your divorce judgment/order and affected by any new tax law changes.

A division of assets agreement should take into account any tax issues so there are no surprises later. If you are ending your marriage, a knowledgeable divorce attorney can help you prepare for any financial consequences.

Asset Division 

When a couple negotiates how to divide marital assets or property during a divorce, it is imperative to consider the areas that may have potential tax implications. Most marital property does not incur a tax liability if transferred, but you should consider the potential tax consequences of considerations such as:

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Geneva estate planning attorneyAccidents and major life changes can happen at any moment; nobody is able to predict when something serious will occur. If an emergency arises, you may need another individual to speak on your behalf to carry out your wishes. By arranging things ahead of time, you could have a trusted delegate in place making decisions regarding your health and financials. Establishing a power of attorney (POA) is an imperative step to ensure your affairs are being handled in the manner that you wish.

Selecting a Power Of Attorney

The state of Illinois recognizes two different types of POAs: a medical POA and a financial POA, also called a POA for property. Choosing your agent depends on which type of POA you are considering.

The responsibilities differ for each POA, so here are some general guidelines for making an appropriate selection:

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Kane County family law attorneysThe National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) received its five millionth call in May of this year. This statistic shows how prevalent domestic violence can be in relationships. In many cases, the victimized person may fear for his or her safety on a daily basis. However, he or she may also be afraid to leave an abusive spouse or partner. Domestic violence can take many different forms. These can include physical harm, verbal threats or harassment, and more. Sometimes making that first call for help is the most difficult step in the process to escape an abusive situation. It is important to understand what behavior constitutes abuse so you can recognize it and seek legal orders of protection. 

Illinois Domestic Violence Law

Domestic violence is considered a crime in Illinois. Any individual who hits, kicks, chokes, harasses, threatens, or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member violates the Illinois Domestic Violence law. Illinois law defines family or household members as:

  • Family members who are related by blood;
  • A married or divorced couple;
  • People who share or previously resided in the same home;
  • People who have a child in common;
  • People who are current or former dating or engaged partners; and
  • People with disabilities and their caretakers.
  • Forms of Domestic Abuse

Although physical abuse is the most recognizable form of domestic violence, it is just one of many forms of it. Domestic violence encompasses:

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Kane County family law attorneysAdoption is a wonderful way to expand a family and give a child a loving home. The road to achieving this dream can be a long process, but well worth it. In certain situations, a couple may wish to adopt a relative if the child’s biological parents die or are unable to care for the child. In other cases, a person may want to adopt a stepchild after getting remarried. The procedures for related adoptions are different than traditional domestic or international adoptions, so it is important to learn the requirements before embarking on this journey.   

How Are Related Adoptions Different From Other Adoptions?

Unlike domestic or international adoptions, related (also called “kinship”) and stepparent adoptions are typically handled in a more streamlined process in the courts. In the majority of cases, background checks, family investigations, and home visits by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are not required. To initiate a relative or stepparent adoption, all of the following must be true:

  • The stepparent relationship must be legally established (the stepparent’s marriage to the child’s birth parent is valid);
  • The child consents to the adoption, if he or she is at least 14 years old; and
  • The child’s other parent consents to the adoption and termination of his or her parental rights, or such rights are terminated by a judge.

In a relative or stepparent adoption, the other biological parent’s rights must be terminated before the stepparent can legally adopt his/her spouse’s child. If the other parent contests the adoption, grounds for terminating the other’s parental rights must be proven. Possible grounds can include the following:

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St. Charles divorce lawyersWhen two people get divorced, the court typically issues a final judgment that documents the terms and conditions of the divorce. However, it is not uncommon for there to be changes to the original divorce settlement or agreement. Sometimes these changes are necessary due to lifestyle changes or if they are in the best interest of a couple’s child. Post-judgment order modifications can include a change in the child support payment amount or allocation of parental responsibilities if one parent loses his or her job or moves to another state. 

Steps to Take for Enforcing an Order

Post-divorce decree issues can often become hostile and expensive. It is ideal if everyone involved can resolve these issues without taking actions such as contempt of court. If possible, negotiating an amicable resolution saves all parties time and money. However, this is not always the case if one party does not follow an order. If one party is not willing to cooperate, someone can pursue enforcement through the courts by filing a contempt of court motion. In the majority of divorce cases, contempt of court actions are typically filed for reasons such as:

  • Non-payment of child support;
  • Non-payment of spousal maintenance;
  • Failure to adhere to parental responsibility and parenting time agreements; and
  • Sale of property that violates property settlement agreements.

The Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) has the authority to implement certain enforcement procedures. For example, if one parent is behind on child support payments, they can garnish wages from his or her paycheck. Sometimes, the DCSS gets overloaded with a lot of cases, and a lawyer can file a contempt of court motion on a parent’s behalf to help recover any money that is owed.

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St. Charles hidden assets attorneysUnder Illinois divorce laws, marital property is subject to equitable distribution, meaning each party receives a fair share of any assets that were acquired during the marriage. However, sometimes a spouse can be dishonest, depriving the other spouse to what he or she is entitled. This can be done a number of ways, and although common in high net worth or complex divorces, it can happen in any type of divorce. Forensic accounting is defined as the use of accounting practices to investigate fraud and to analyze financial information for use in legal proceedings, such as disputes or litigation during a divorce.  

How Are Assets Hidden?

People can be creative when they want to conceal money or valuable possessions. In a lot of cases, one spouse earns the majority of the income or owns a business, so that spouse often has easier access to financial matters.

Some of the ways assets can be hidden include:

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St. Charles family law attorneyWhen a couple decides to end their marriage, they may be able to get an annulment. It is important to know an annulment is different from a divorce. A divorce is the legal dissolution of a valid marriage by a court or other governing body. An annulment is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void within secular and religious systems. Unlike divorce, it is typically considered retroactive, meaning an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the start like it had never even happened. In Illinois, annulment is called a Declaration of Invalidity, and marriages can only be annulled if they were considered illegal from the start.

Grounds for an Annulment in Illinois

An annulment is only used to end an “invalid” marriage, or one that should never have happened in the first place. Annulments are rare in Illinois because it is somewhat difficult to prove grounds for annulment. There are certain legal guidelines for annulments, as well as possible time restrictions depending on the circumstances of the case. One of the following legal grounds must be met for an annulment to be granted:

  • Fraud or misrepresentation: One spouse did not tell the truth, such as already being married;
  • Impotency or incest: One spouse is impotent (and did not disclose this information to his or her partner prior to the marriage), or the spouses are too close in relation to marry legally; or
  • Lack of consent: One spouse did not have mental capacity for consent or was forced to get married.

Grounds for a Divorce in Illinois

Under Illinois law, a spouse can file for divorce based on “no-fault” grounds, commonly referred to as “irreconcilable differences,” which requires proof that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the couple must be separated for an amount of time. For many years, it was also possible to seek a divorce on “fault-based” grounds such as adultery, abandonment, or repeated abuse. Today, however, all Illinois divorce petitions must indicate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down due to irreconcilable differences.

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Kane County adoption lawyerMany couples choose adoption as a way to expand their family if they cannot have biological children of their own. On the other side of the subject, some parents choose to give up their child for adoption if they cannot adequately provide for the child’s needs.

Regardless of the reasons for an adoption, it is one of the biggest decisions that anyone will make in their lifetime. In some situations, an adoption can be contested. In the majority of cases, this happens when the biological father does not know about the child until the adoption process already started, or in which a biological father changes his mind about the adoption while it is in progress. 

Consent and Best Interest Hearings 

In cases where an adoption is contested, all involved parties must attend a consent hearing in court at which time a judge will listen to evidence presented by both sides. For instances when the biological father contests an adoption, he does not give consent to the adoption and he declares that he is willing and able to assume legal responsibility of the child. During the hearing, the father can show examples of his actions throughout the pregnancy, as well as after the child’s birth. For example, pictures or documentation of him going to doctor appointments or at the hospital after the birth, etc. However, if the biological father does not provide child support or contact the child for more than a year, he may lose his right to contest the adoption on the grounds of abandonment.

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Algonquin Family Law AttorneysDivorce can be really difficult for everyone involved, but especially for a young child whose parents are splitting up. Parents often fight over the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly called “child custody”) or parenting time (formerly called “visitation”). Their child might feel torn between trying to be loyal to both parents. In Illinois (and every state), a person under 18 years old is considered a minor and in most cases, unable to make legal decisions. Illinois courts consider the age of the children and the children’s wishes as well as family circumstances in deciding child-related issues.     

Best Interest of the Child 

Some people think there is a certain age at which a child can choose which parent with whom he or she wants to live, but that is a misconception. In Illinois, 14 years old is generally age at which a child’s opinion starts to be considered more by the court regarding under whose roof he or she will live. However, this is also based on the level of maturity of the child in question. For example, a mature 11-year-old boy may prefer to live with one parent because he attends a private school in the town where that parent lives. A 15-year-old girl may state she wants to live in the house where the parent does not enforce many rules or where there are no step-siblings if a spouse remarries. Ultimately, the court’s decision is based on which living situation or environment is in the best interest of the child.

In general, Illinois courts recognize “legal custody” and “physical custody.” Legal custody gives a parent or guardian the right to make important decisions, such as where a child will attend school or go to church. The term physical custody refers to which parent with whom the child will live. Like in other states, sometimes one parent (sole custody) or both (joint custody) parents can have legal and/or physical custody in Illinois.
A judge will take into consideration many factors regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities (custody), including but not limited to:

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Kane County divorce lawyersIf a couple has been married for many years, the decision to divorce is not an easy one. Since a lot of time and effort was put into the marriage, it can be devastating both emotionally and financially for one or both of the spouses. The division of marital assets is an issue that needs to be determined during the divorce proceedings, which can cause a lot of conflict if the spouses do not agree on how to divide everything, especially financial assets. One or both partners might have retirement accounts such as 401K, IRA, or pension. Even in an uncontested divorce, splitting the retirement assets can be confusing, so it is helpful to seek legal counsel to make sure both spouses receive what they deserve.  

What is Considered Marital Property?

According to Illinois divorce law, any marital property will be divided fairly and equitably, but not necessarily equally. This is referred to as “equitable distribution.” Marital property is generally considered all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This can include real estate, furniture, and vehicles, in addition to financial and retirement accounts.

A spouse may be entitled to a portion of the other spouse’s retirement plans, such as a 401(k), IRA, stock options, or pension benefits, and vice versa. If a spouse pays into a retirement account or a pension during the marriage, at least part of that account or pension is considered marital property, regardless if only one spouse’s income was paid into the account. All pension benefits, including those under the Illinois Pension Code, as well as stock options, acquired by either spouse during the marriage are marital property, regardless of which spouse participates in the pension plan.

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