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The Benefits and Risks of Using Witnesses During a Divorce CaseIt is rare that you will need to call on a witness to testify in your divorce case. You and your spouse can settle most divorce issues without involving someone else in the process. Divorce attorneys commonly gather third-party information when preparing for your divorce. They can use a court order to compel a noncompliant party to provide information without needing them to testify in court. You are more likely to need a witness when you are fighting over parental responsibility for your children or accusing your spouse of misconduct.

Using Witnesses

There are two types of witnesses that can be useful in a divorce case:

  • A character witness who can speak personally about you or your spouse; and
  • An expert witness on a topic that is relevant to your divorce.

Character witnesses are people who have observed or interacted with you, your spouse or your children. Family members are not convincing character witnesses because they often have a bias towards one of the parties. Close friends, neighbors, work colleagues, and childcare givers are common character witnesses who can speak to your good character or your spouse’s poor character.

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Divorced Astronaut Accused of Identity Theft While in SpaceAn unusual story has emerged about an astronaut who may have committed identity theft against her former wife while on the International Space Station. The former wife filed charges with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that the astronaut inappropriately accessed her bank account. A computer registered to NASA had accessed the account at a time when the astronaut was preparing for a spacewalk on the station. The FTC is investigating the claim, which the astronaut denies. The former spouses divorced last year and had a bitter custody battle over their son.

Identity theft is a real concern for divorcees because they have shared sensitive personal and financial information with a former spouse who may harbor ill-will towards them. However, protecting your identity is not rocket science. There are common-sense steps you can take to prevent identity theft:

  1. Close Your Joint Accounts: Your spouse has equal access to your joint accounts, such as those with banks and credit card companies. You should conduct all of your financial activity through private, individual accounts that your spouse cannot view without your permission or obtaining a court order.
  2. Check Your Credit Report: Getting a current credit report serves multiple purposes. It may remind you about a credit account that you opened individually or share with your spouse. You also get a complete picture of your credit history, which may warn you if you have already been a victim of identity theft.
  3. Change Your Passwords and PINs: Spouses commonly share their passwords to individual accounts because they trust each other. You should update those passwords to something that your spouse would not be able to guess, which means your passwords should not be based on personal information.
  4. Alert Financial Institutions to Your Divorce: Your bank and creditors should know about your impending divorce. Tell them that you do not give your spouse permission to access your individual accounts or to start new accounts or lines of credit in your name.
  5. Keep an Eye on Your Accounts: If you are unable to prevent identity theft, your best course of action is to catch it early on. Look for unexplained activity in your accounts, and try to determine the source. You have time to reverse the damage done and hold your spouse accountable.

Contact a McHenry County Divorce Lawyer

Your identity and financial security should be priorities during your divorce. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, divorce attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can advise you on what action you should take to protect yourself. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Including Phone Conversations in Your Parenting PlanEach parent’s scheduled time with their children after divorce should not be interrupted by the other parent unless necessary. In some cases, a phone conversation or texting with the children may be appropriate. However, there are situations where these forms of communication may disrupt the existing parenting time schedule. Extensive phone conversations between a parent and child can be included in a parenting schedule to ensure that both parents agree on whether it is appropriate.

When Are Phone Conversations Appropriate?

Some children have trouble adjusting to a two-household living arrangement because it is their first time being away from either parent for an extended period. They may initially benefit from phone calls with the nonresidential parent, though you should ween them off of these calls so that they do not become emotionally dependent on them. There are other situations in which a phone call that is longer than a couple of minutes may be appropriate:

  • When a parent lives a long distance from their children, regular phone calls may be part of their parenting time because it is impractical for them to frequently see each other in person;
  • A phone conversation could also be a substitute for parenting time if the children are on a trip and missing their normal parenting time; and
  • Children should be able to talk to their nonresidential parent in special situations when they have news that they want the other parent to immediately know about.

When Are Phone Conversations Not Appropriate?

Frequent communications or long conversations with a child can aggravate the parent who has the children. You should not interrupt your children’s time with the other parent unless there is an urgent issue that cannot wait until you see them again. Even sending periodic texts to check up on your children is disruptive.

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Divorce Can Hinder Retirement ReadinessPeople who have divorced are more likely to be financially unprepared for their retirements, according to a 2018 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The study uses the National Retirement Risk Index, which estimated what percentage of households will be unable to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. According to the study, households with an adult who has divorced are seven percentage points more likely to be at risk than households that have not experienced divorce. To put the number in context, the Great Recession increased the overall NRRI by nine percentage points. Understanding how divorce affects retirement may help divorcees adjust their retirement plans.

Reasons for Risk

Divorce is often associated with short-term costs, such as legal fees and assets lost in the division of property. However, there are several ways that divorce can hinder your ability to save towards retirement:

  • You must include your retirement plan in the division of property, whether you divide it or give your spouse other assets;
  • You will need more of your income for your daily living expenses, which takes away from the money you save for retirement;
  • Paying child support or spousal maintenance also takes away from your savings;
  • If you earned a majority of your household’s income, you may be in the same tax bracket but without the savings of filing your income taxes as married;
  • Becoming single may limit your credit; and
  • You may not receive full value from selling a property such as your home, depending on market conditions.

These costs of divorce can be a setback in your retirement savings plan. The younger you are when you divorce, the more time you will have to adjust your retirement plan.

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How to Reclaim Your Maiden Name After DivorceMany women going through a divorce must decide whether they will revert to their maiden name if they took their spouse’s last name during the marriage. There may be many factors to consider other than whether they want to continue being identified by their former marriage. Some women in Illinois must weigh whether it is worth their effort or expense to go through the legal process of changing their name. A proposed law awaiting the governor’s signature would simplify the process by getting rid of the newspaper publication requirement.

Changing Your Name

The easiest way to change your last name after a divorce is to request it as part of your divorce agreement. The divorce court will approve the change as long as you are reverting back to your previous name. However, some women are unaware that they can include the request in their agreement or change their mind about keeping their married name after the divorce. The standard petition to change your name in Illinois requires you to publish a notice of your petition in a newspaper within your county. The notice must be published for three consecutive weeks and at least six weeks before your hearing on the petition. The requirement exists in order to prevent identity theft if someone is trying to take another person’s name. Illinois law waives the publication requirement after marriage as long as the petitioner presents their marriage license. The proposed law would create the same exception for divorces if the person is reverting to her maiden name.

Why Would You Keep Your Married Name?

Some divorced women choose not to reclaim their maiden name for personal reasons, such as:

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