Presenting the Parentage Act of 2015 Effective January 1, 2016

On October 1, 2015, Margaret A. Bennett was a speaker at the James R. Thompson Center Auditorium in Chicago, Illinois, regarding the new Parentage Act of 2015 which will be in effect beginning January 1, 2016.

You can see the video of Ms. Bennett’s presentation and read the summary or the full Parentage Act here: Navigating the New IMDMA & Parentage Act

Free Financial, Legal, and Empowerment Seminar!

On Wednesday, February 4, 2015, Margaret A. Bennett will be an event panelist at the Wintrust Financial Center located at 9700 W. Higgins Road, 2nd Floor, Rosemont, Illinois. Ms. Bennett will be one of seven presenters focusing on financial, legal, and empowerment for separated, divorced, or widowed women. The seminar will have two sessions as follows:

  • Day Session: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (includes lunch)
  • Evening Session: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (includes dinner)

The seminar consists of seven presenters from all different fields and includes:

This seminar will help women:

  • Gain strategies on how to become financially independent;
  • Learn insights about family and divorce law;
  • Grasp important aspects of estate planning, wills and trusts;
  • Get educated on pertinent accounting/tax information;
  • Learn how to embrace and accept change;
  • Understand the emotional issues of grief, loss, and recovery;
  • Receive an update on the housing market and mortgage criteria; and
  • Share with a network of women in similar situations.

Please go to or call Wendy Schenker at (847) 939-9654 by January 28, 2015, to reserve your spot today. February 4, 2015, Women in Transition Event Brochure  

Margaret A. Bennett Named to 2015 Illinois Super Lawyers List

Bennett Law Firm, LLC is proud to announce for the fourth year in a row Margaret A. Bennett has been recognized as an Illinois Super Lawyer. Only 5% of attorneys in the State of Illinois are selected to the Super Lawyers list. Ms. Bennett has also been named to the 2015 list of Top 100 Super Lawyers in Illinois and 2015 list of Top 50 Women Super Lawyers in Illinois.

Congratulations to Ms. Bennett on her outstanding dedication and excellent work in the area of Family Law and Divorce!

Dramatic Changes with New Spousal Maintenance Guidelines: House Bill 1452

Beginning January 1, 2015, a new spousal maintenance statute, Public Act 98-961, will become effective for divorcing couples with a combined gross income of $250,000 or less. The new spousal maintenance legislation contains guidelines for the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. These guidelines are based on each party’s gross income and the length of the marriage.

Prior to the court implementing the spousal maintenance guidelines, the court must first consider if a maintenance award is appropriate by considering various factors listed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”), including but not limited to, “the income and property of each party, then needs of each party, the present and future earning capacity of each party…the standard of living established during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties…”. Determining the Amount of Maintenance under the New Guidelines

Once the court has decided that a party is entitled to spousal maintenance, the court will then apply the new spousal maintenance guidelines outlined in Pub. Act 98-961 which set forth a simple formula to determine the appropriate amount of maintenance. The amount of spousal maintenance is determined by “taking 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income”. The total maintenance award shall not exceed 40% of the parties’ combined gross yearly incomes. Determining the Duration of Maintenance under the New Guidelines

When determining the duration of spousal maintenance under the new guidelines, the length of the marriage is paramount, with sizeable increases in the duration of maintenance occurring for marriages lasting more than 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. The new statute determines the duration of spousal maintenance by multiplying the length of the marriage as follows:

Length of Marriage              Multiplier

0 – 5 years                               .20

5 – 10 years                             .40

10 – 15 years                           .60

15 – 20 years                           .80

For marriages lasting 20 years or more, the new guidelines in Pub. Act 98-961 recommend “permanent maintenance, or maintenance equal to the duration of the marriage”.

As stated in the Illinois Bar Journal Vol. 103, No. 1, entitled The New Illinois Spousal Maintenance Law: Retroactive or Prospective, it is important to note that judges are not required to use this formula in determining the amount of a maintenance award; however, if the judge does not use the formula, he or she “must make a finding explaining” his or her refusal.

A major concern for family law attorneys is whether or not Pub. Act 98-961 will be applied retroactively. While Pub. Act 98-961 applies to all maintenance awards entered after January 1, 2015, it is unclear what effect it will have on maintenance that was awarded prior to its enactment, specifically its effect on maintenance modification orders entered with the court after January 1, 2015.

The new maintenance guidelines promise to significantly impact the way spousal maintenance awards are negotiated and litigated. Keep in mind that Illinois laws are constantly changing. For example, House Bill 1452 will be reintroduced to the House of Representatives in January 2015. House Bill 1452 is already considered a major revision to the current IMDMA with its significant changes to the 38-year-old law. Contact Bennett Law Firm, LLC today to set up a consultation and see how House Bill 1452 can have an effect on your divorce.  

Forbes Article: Legal Solutions to Complex Matrimonial Disputes

As Seen in Forbes Magazine, Chicago Women Business Leaders Edition, June 10, 2013 Legal Solutions to Complex Matrimonial Disputes

When an affluent couple was going through a divorce, the wife was in the dark regarding the value of the marital estate. Her husband, a savvy business executive, had always managed their finances. The woman turned to the Oak Brook, Illinois based Bennett Law Firm for help.

“The husband was deceptive about how much money he had,” says Margaret Bennett, founding partner. “Our investigation uncovered $225,000 in hidden assets. The wife had no knowledge of what properties she and her husband owned.”

Divorce is never easy, particularly when children, large sums of money, personal property or family-owned businesses are at stake. The right legal representation is critical to understanding complex financial circumstances and resolving difficult cases efficiently. One of the leading boutique matrimonial law firms in the Chicagoland area, the Bennett Law Firm leaves no stone unturned when helping clients put the past behind them and move on with their lives.

“We understand business valuation, tax law, complicated marital estates and other financial issues,” Bennett says.

While vigorously representing clients’ interests, the Bennett Law Firm is also sensitive to the needs of children who are affected by their parents’ divorce. Bennett is a frequent lecturer on the subject of child support, and serves on the state’s Child Support Advisory Committee and the Illinois State Bar Association Family Law Section Council. She is helping to draft child-focused legislation that attempts to reduce parental conflict for families in transition. Bennett’s passion is to help legislators improve Illinois laws pertaining to families and children in crisis.

Bennett has been named by Chicago Magazine as one of the Top 50 Women Attorneys and Top 100 Attorneys in Illinois. Experienced and respected, she is both a skilled negotiator and a tough-as-nails litigator, always seeking the best possible outcome in one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face. Specially trained in the collaborative law process in family law matters, Bennett helps clients avoid litigation when possible.

“One of the hardest things anyone can go through is when their spouse leaves them with an uncertain financial future,” she says. “I like being able to help clients walk out of court with a smile on their face, knowing they are going to have a secure financial future.”

Six Marital Assets You Cannot Afford to Overlook

Divorce may cause you to view your life and possessions through a fresh pair of eyes. Dividing marital assets becomes necessary in most divorce cases. This may cause you to feel depressed when faced with the possibility of selling the family home, dividing financial assets, or even parting with your prized espresso machine. While your feelings are valid, it is important to remember that emotions often cloud the mind, and acting on your emotions can have negative and long-term effects. Remaining focused enables you to review all of your marital and non-marital assets objectively. It is nearly impossible to compile a comprehensive list of assets in one sitting. For instance, have you considered calculating the value of your travel reward points, a small 401(k) plan from a previous employer, or even photographs or keepsakes? These items may seem to have little worth, but small assets add up. It is best that you are fully aware of all of your marital and non-marital property so you can retain the possessions you are entitled to at the conclusion of your divorce. Some of the most obvious assets like real estate, retirement plans, investments, and/or bank accounts are likely to get a lot of attention when discussing your separation. Not-so-obvious assets can be easily forgotten during divorce proceedings. Below is a list of six assets that are often overlooked.
  1. Retirement Plans from Previous Employment:

Many times pension plans and defined contribution plans from prior employment, such as 401(k) plans, or profit sharing plans, acquired during the marriage are overlooked in divorce proceedings. All retirement plans acquired during the marriage are subject to division by the court. A detailed employment history and benefits for you and your spouse should be provided to your attorney especially if the former employer offered a retirement plan to the employees.
  1. Memberships:

When you have a private club membership in an “equity” club, whether to a country club, golf club, or yacht/sailing club, you are entitled to part of the membership’s value. It does not matter whether or not you actively used the club membership during your marriage; it is a marital asset and should be considered. Given the exorbitant membership fees associated with private equity club memberships, this is something you don’t want to leave out of the list of marital assets.
  1. Collectors’ Items:

A collection of vintage stamps, baseball cards, rare coins, or other collectables acquired during the marriage are considered assets of the marriage and should be appraised. It is easy to forget collectors’ items especially if you did not take interest in your spouse’s hobby. Similarly, any collectors’ edition item your spouse acquired during the marriage is also part of common property. When reviewing your marital assets, take into consideration items such as comic books, first edition books and records, sports memorabilia, and related items that are valuable now or may have value in the future. There are appraisers who can value these special items for you during your divorce proceedings.
  1. Trademarks and Patents:

If your spouse has registered patents, trademarks, or received royalties, be sure to include them in your divorce settlement. Ideas and inventions are rarely successful overnight, so it is possible that this asset can be overlooked when creating your list of shared property. Additionally, there is a chance that the asset will become lucrative in the future. Be sure to include patents, trademarks, and royalties in your divorce settlement so that you can share in future benefits.
  1. Money Due From Others:

Remember, your spouse’s debtors are your debtors too. In the upheaval of divorce, you may have forgotten that your spouse loaned money to a third party or business. But when the loan is repaid, you ought to receive a portion of the monies repaid. Make sure you don’t miss out on the repayment.
  1. Non-Wage Employee Benefits:

Stock options, restricted stock units, defined benefits and other non-wage benefits provided to an employee from an employer are marital assets which should not be overlooked in a divorce proceeding. A thorough list of employee benefits should be provided to your attorney to be included in the property settlement agreement so that you receive a proportionate share of same when paid to your spouse. These six assets can easily be overlooked during the emotional upheaval of divorce.  Divorce is not easy. It is emotional, time consuming and, sometimes, a complex process. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you remain focused and level-headed when it comes to dividing your assets. Take care not to forget intangible assets and move forward in life without regrets. Contact Margaret Bennett at Bennett Law Firm, LLC, today about the not-so-obvious assets you should consider when pursuing a divorce.  

Divorce in Retirement and Social Security Benefits

The years leading up to retirement may be full of anticipation. You might look forward to long road trips and white sandy beaches while expecting retirement income and Social Security checks to cover day-to-day expenses. One reality that may catch you off guard, however, is divorce. Each year, many retired couples agree to separate and divorce. When this occurs, questions arise regarding the allocation of retirement benefits, especially Social Security spousal benefits. If you are entering the era of retirement and divorce seems like a possibility, take time to learn about the benefits that will be available to you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. In an effort to clarify a complex topic, let’s review the ages at which partial and full retirement benefits begin and then expound on what this means for divorcees of different ages and dissimilar earning levels. (Much of the information presented in this article is adapted from

Social Security Retirement Benefits – By Age

A taxpayer can begin receiving partial Social Security benefits at age 62. However, full retirement benefits kick in at age 67 for most people. (Those born between years 1938 and 1959 may need to check a sliding scale to see exactly when they qualify for full benefits. It will be between the ages of 65 and 67.)

Also, at age 62 a person can begin collecting partial spousal benefits based upon the Social Security earnings of a taxpaying spouse or ex-spouse who is 62 years or older. The full amount of spousal benefits (which takes effect at full retirement age) is 50 percent of what the primary earner receives. This is the same whether you are married or divorced and eligible to receive benefits.

What Qualifies An Ex-spouse For Benefits?

An individual may apply for spousal benefits if the marriage lasted more than 10 years, if he or she is unmarried, and if his or her full retirement benefits are less than 50 percent of the ex-spouse’s benefits. While spousal benefits are not available to a spouse who remarries, if the later marriage ends in death or divorce, he or she may be able to file for retirement benefits based on the earnings of his or her first spouse. Taxpaying individuals who also qualify for spousal benefits will receive their personal retirement benefits first. Should an ex-spouse’s retirement benefits be of greater value, however, the individual may receive a combination of the benefits, which will equate to the higher benefit amount. Once full retirement age is reached, the individual will need to choose whether to collect personal retirement benefits or spousal benefits. In addition, if you have been divorced for at least two years, upon reaching age 62, as an eligible former spouse, you can claim spousal benefits based on benefits  accrued by a taxpaying ex-spouse who is also of retirement age, even if he or she has not filed for Social Security benefits yet. According to the Social Security Administration website, the amount of retirement benefits claimed by an ex-spouse has no impact on your Social Security benefits or those of your current spouse. (Find a complete list of the Social Security Administration’s spousal benefit qualifications at this government website:

How Do Earning Levels Effect Spousal Benefits?

Information about spousal benefits can come as a relief to a divorced couple who has disparities in their earning levels. For instance, if one spouse was the primary earner while the other spouse did not work or did not accrue Social Security benefits, then each party can rest assured knowing they will both receive retirement benefits. When approaching life’s “golden years,” it is important to know that you will have the money you expected to fulfill the plans you’ve made for retirement. A later-in-life divorce does not need to disrupt these plans. Learn more about what you and your ex-spouse are entitled to by fully understanding your Social Security retirement benefits.
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