Recent blog posts

Inverness family law attorney, unemployed parents, underemployed parents, child support payments, parental responsibilitiesRaising a child requires a parent to dedicate a large portion of his or her resources to adequately provide for the child's welfare, not least of which is a large financial obligation. Both parents are supposed to share this responsibility. However, this mutual obligation can become a point of contention between divorced and separated parents.

Child support is a Court-ordered duty to pay a set amount for a child's needs that is most commonly issued when parents get divorced or file a paternity a claim against a former partner. Typically, the legal process used to settle child support and custody claims are handled exactly the same, regardless of the marital status of the parties. Until earlier this year, however, Cook County had separate courtrooms for married and single parents. These facilities, which some claimed were dilapidated and imposed an unfair bias on unmarried parties, were shut down in February.

Apart from procedural issues, parents generally tend to disagree about how much money is being paid as well as how the funds are being used. Still, legitimate concerns can arise about a parent's ability to pay anything at all when he or she is under- or unemployed for significant periods of time.

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Posted on in Child Support

spousal support modification, spousal support, Palatine family law attorney, Illinois divorce, divorce processFinances during and after divorce are a concern for many when adjusting to single life on one income. While this change is challenging for those with established careers and secure employment, those who worked only part-time or stayed at home to raise children face a daunting task that is likely to extend into the foreseeable future.

To make this transition easier and to ward off the possibility of falling into destitution following divorce, a spouse has the right to request spousal support or maintenance from the other party. Some couples settle this issue in advance by executing a prenuptial agreement. However, the majority of couples do not address this issue until the marriage is coming to an end, especially if the parties married young or before a spouse achieved financial success in his or her career.

The founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America was recently ordered by an Illinois Court to pay his ex-wife $28,000 per month in spousal support, substantially down from the $400,000 she requested. For the party ordered to pay support, this obligation can feel like a never-ending burden that permanently keeps him or her tied to an ex-spouse. However, in some cases, spousal support orders can be modified, or even terminated, if the circumstances are right.

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parental kidnapping, Inverness family law attorney, child custody, custody rights,  concealing a childWhile parents who share child custody have to negotiate and compromise when disagreements arise, generally they are able to cooperate and keep the needs of the child a priority when making decisions. However, when parents who share childcare responsibilities with a former spouse or partner are asked what their greatest fear of the arrangement is, they will likely respond with having the other parent take their child out of the state or country.

Individuals recognized as parents under the law, usually through marriage or a paternity claim, have equal rights and access over their child. Therefore, they do not need permission from the other parent or a Court to see their child or travel with their child. However, when an enforceable parenting plan is in place governing when and how a parent can exercise his or her rights, the extent of that access and right to transport the child is restrained. In this situation, parents are required to abide by the terms of the parenting order, specifically, the allocation of parenting time.

Unfortunately, some parents decide not to follow these rules and become determined to take the child out of the state or country, or otherwise conceal him or her from the other parent. Typically, such action is precipitated by warning signs.

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divorce cases, alternative dispute resolution, collaborative divorce, Barrington family law attorney, collaborative law processDivorce does not have the best reputation for promoting civil and cooperative relationships between spouses. Traditional divorce actions pit the parties against each other in an adversarial process that does everything possible to limit — or completely cut off — direct contact. While this can make moving from the marriage easier, both emotionally and physically, the litigation model of standard divorce cases does not prepare the parties for working together over child custody, or allow them to have much a say in the terms of the divorce decree.

In recent years, the legal system has increasingly favored settling divorce cases in less contentious environments due to the practicalities of limited Court resources and also to facilitate a better outcome for the parties. This reduces the likelihood of needing to return to Court to settle additional issues.

A fairly new process in the alternative dispute resolution realm is collaborative divorce — mediation being the form with which most people are familiar— which was formalized into Illinois law this summer and will become effective January 1, 2018. Collaborative divorce is the least combative way to end a marriage, and in fact tries to give the parties a firm foundation for future interactions by teaching them more effective ways to communicate and cooperate.

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Arlington Heights divorce attorney, family business, family businesses in divorce, divorcing couple, divorce processOne of the largest challenges of divorce is dividing marital property. Each party typically has a legitimate claim to assets acquired during the marriage, and the need to relinquish rights over some of this property can be difficult to negotiate and settle. Dividing marital assets becomes significantly more complex if there is a family business involved.

Family businesses constitute a considerable portion of this country's employment and economic growth, but a good number are vulnerable to internal and external changes that threaten their survival, including divorce. The potential risk to a family business's stability following divorce requires obtaining a divorce attorney with experience dividing complex assets to ensure the division is handled properly.

Settlements and divorce orders pertaining to property division should be treated as the final word on this issue, as the Courts will only revisit the division of marital assets in rare and very limited circumstances. Thus, addressing this matter correctly on the first attempt is crucial.

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parental responsibilities, divorcing spouse, spouse lies during divorce, Inverness divorce attorney, Illinois divorce lawThe stereotypical image of a divorcing spouse doing everything possible to make the other party look bad is, unfortunately, not always an exaggeration. However, Courts are not interested in hearing divorcing spouses badmouth one another and will generally not give this type of information any consideration unless false allegations are made that significantly affect a party's rights. Under these circumstances, the situation changes and becomes more than bickering that may be disregarded.

Falsifying documents or making untrue allegations principally affects a party's rights in property distribution and the allocation of parental responsibilities. Typically, false allegations come in the form of claims of abuse (child and/or domestic), drug use and submissions of fabricated financial affidavits/documents.

While dishonesty between spouses is rarely worth taking legal action, lying or misleading a Court can result in serious consequences. Statements made directly to the Judge and documents filed with the Court all come with the stipulation that the information provided is true and accurate. If the Court later discovers a party intentionally lied or provided erroneous information, the potential consequences can reach both the outcome of the divorce case and include the imposition of criminal penalties.

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Palatine family law attorney, end a marriage, divorce, annulment, seek an annulmentHearing that a family member, friend or acquaintance is ending his or her marriage automatically provokes the thought of divorce. Divorce is a legal process by which a Court says a couple is no longer married in the eyes of the state, and no longer has rights to the legal benefits granted to those in a valid marriage, such as the right to inherit a spouse’s property or have an ownership claim to the marital estate.

Divorce is the most popular method of ending a marriage, especially now that Illinois is a no-fault state. However, another possibility exists for ending a union — annulment.

Annulment is a concept many people take to be antiquated and associated with religion. However, while there is a separate religious procedure to annul a marriage, a Court also has the ability sever a marriage in a similar manner.

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parenting time, Palatine family law attorney, parenting plan, deny parenting time, child custodyEstablishing and maintaining a meaningful connection with one's child is one of the primary goals of all parents. While this effort often becomes more complicated as a child grows up, parents that are separated or divorced have an even bigger hurdle to overcome.

Nurturing a relationship with one's child when custody is shared is challenging for both parents, but the parent allocated the lesser amount of parenting time must work even harder to overcome the lack of time together. Parents generally have a right to exercise a reasonable amount of parenting time with their child, and are presumed fit to exercise parental responsibilities unless evidence is submitted to show the contrary. However, in practical terms, one parent — often the mother — is granted a greater share of the parenting time and care taking duties. The other parent, on the contrary, is typically left with weekends — not always consecutive — and one night per week to foster the parent-child connection.

Reflecting the tendency for fathers to receive less parenting time, a non-profit hosted a free event for fathers in Chicagoland affected by divorce or other family disruptions to learn how to be the most effective parent possible under such circumstances. Regardless of which parent has a greater role in a child's day-to-day life, the parent with more parenting time has the power to block the other parent from seeing the child, in violation of the parenting plan.

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Barrington family law attorney, medical decisions, decision-making responsibilities, divorce, child custodyAs the summer comes to a close, parents of children entering school for the first time must adjust to the change in routine and their child's daily needs. Yet while this transition is challenging for any parent, those who share child custody have the added factor of coordinating decisions on education, transportation and health with an ex-spouse.

Most schools, including those in Illinois, require all incoming students to prove they received certain vaccinations as a measure of preventing the spread of dangerous diseases. The vaccination of school-aged children has become a controversial issue in recent years, with some parents opposing the practice due to fears that vaccinations can provoke serious physical/developmental reactions in children. A difference of opinion on this issue can create complications when parents are together. However, conflicting viewpoints post-divorce can lead parents to seek Court intervention if a compromise cannot be struck.

Decisions related to a child's health are some of the most important matters a parent will ever consider, and determining how to balance this shared responsibility with an ex-spouse is a critical aspect of co-parenting.

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Arlington Heights family law attorney, divorce case, parental responsibilities, electronic communications in divorce, divorce and communicationIn today's society, many Americans split their lives between in-person interactions and social media communications, and not necessarily in that order. This tendency to put a large chunk of one's life online does not go away when a couple decides to divorce. Social media and other forms of electronic communication (email, text, etc.) can present issues during the divorce proceedings.

In the wake of divorce, emotions can take over and cause a person to say, write or do something out of character as a way to cope with the situation. Before social media, incidents of this type rarely made it to the courtroom. However, social media and electronic communication generally memorializes the behavior and therefore makes using an email or post as damaging evidence in the divorce case easier for the other spouse.

One example of how digital evidence is becoming more prevalent in divorce cases, and in litigation, involves an Illinois man who recently sued his ex-wife for violations of federal wiretapping and privacy laws. The lawsuit claims the ex-wife gained unauthorized access to his email accounts and used them in their divorce case, which spanned from 2011 to 2016, to get a better settlement.

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Posted on in Child Custody

Barrington family law attorney, child custody, parenting plans, domestic violence, domestic abuse victimsEvery parent takes precautions to protect their children from exposure to violence, including depictions in the media and, more importantly, in real life interactions. Continued contact with incidents of violence is almost guaranteed to leave a negative and long-lasting impact on the child.

Typically, the consistent presence of violence in a child's life comes from domestic violence issues in the home. One method used by the state to curtail the perpetuation of violence is to take serious account of domestic violence issues in the allocation of parental responsibilities (often referred to as child custody).

According to statistics gathered by the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the number of domestic abuse victims helped by the organization in 2016 was 41,916. Disturbingly, 8,124 children witnessed some of this abuse.

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child custody, divorce, special needs child, child support payments, allocation of parental responsibilitiesDivorce has the potential to completely uproot a child's sense of stability and security when child custody considerations (now titled decision making and parenting time under Illinois law) are not handled properly.

Raising a child under the best of circumstances is a challenging endeavor, and this responsibility is greatly increased when a couple has a child with special needs. In the event of divorce, deciding how to split parental responsibilities under these circumstances can be especially difficult due to the additional attention and/or medical care special needs children often require.

Further, special needs children often require some level of care for their entire lives that has direct implications on child support from both parents and is another issue that most divorced parents do not have to face.

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child custody, Palatine family law attorney, reproductive rights, frozen embryos, Illinois divorce casesDisputes over child custody are not uncommon in divorce cases, as each parent vies for retaining the maximum amount of control and physical custody. These conflicts involve fully formed and sentient human beings. But what about the legal status of frozen embryos?

Medical technology is making it easier for couples to become parents or expand their families along an extended and predetermined timeline. As part of this process, some couples are electing to create and freeze embryos in order to shorten the gestation process for use at a later time, or to address fertility issues that require in vitro fertilization.

This decision is prudent and forward-looking for couples in solid relationships, but a complex issue arises if a couple later decides to divorce and some or all of the frozen embryos remain viable for potential use. This issue is particularly thorny because lawmakers rarely keep up with scientific advancements, leaving gaps in the law Courts must struggle to answer.

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child support rules, Income Shares System, pay child support, Barrington divorce attorney, Illinois divorcesThe payment of child support is an issue that commonly produces anxiety and agitation from both parents. The parent obligated to pay child support often believes the Court-ordered amount is too high and/or the money is not being used for the child's benefit. From the other side, the recipient parent frequently feels the required amount is too low, and the obligated parent creates unnecessary tension over this matter due to resentment.

Certainly, this situation could spill over to the child and leave a negative impression if one or both parents badmouth the other on financial issues. In hopes of reducing conflict over child support, Illinois implemented new child support calculation rules on July 1, 2017 that are supposed to bring a more balanced and fair approach to the division of support between parents.

Previously, Illinois employed a percentage model to calculate child support, which only took into consideration the non-custodial parent's income (the parent with less parenting time). This model calculated child support as a percentage of the parent's income, which was increased by the number of children he or she must support. The new child support model, income shares, is the method used in most states throughout the country.

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Posted on in Divorce

mental illness and divorce, spousal threats, Barrington family law attorney, divorce process, child custodyWhy a person decides to divorce is often varied. Yet many divorced individuals cite financial and family pressures as the impetus for ending a marriage. However, a situation that is particularly difficult to navigate is when one spouse has a mental health issue, either due to substance/alcohol abuse or a psychiatric condition, which makes staying married unworkable.

Individuals with mental health problems can be unstable and unpredictable, which complicates the legal process. Even amicable divorces are likely to have some amount of contention due to the nature of the situation. Still, divorcing someone with mental health issues can greatly inhibit, if not completely eliminate, the ability to negotiate a settlement or avoid a highly-litigated divorce case.

While mental illness can impact a number of issues related to divorce, the one that rightfully gets the most attention is child custody/parental responsibility. Courts will work with struggling parents to give them every opportunity to see their children. Still, mental health problems frequently reverberate far beyond child custody.

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child custody exchanges,  Palatine family law attorney, custody exchange, parenting plan, parental responsibilitiesSharing custody of a child routinely presents many parents with the potential for conflict. Whether related to decisions on education or childcare, or the amount of time a child spends with each parent, points of disagreement are likely to arise.

In addition to the philosophical and custodial aspects of sharing parental responsibilities, the very act of exchanging custody of a child between parents can create a number of logistical and psychological challenges. This practical consequence of divorce is one that is easy to overlook when the parties are deciding how to allocate parental responsibilities. Moreover, these exchanges can have profound implications on the ability of parents to cooperate with one another.

Consequently, deciding where and when a custody exchange will take place is an important issue that should be directly addressed, especially if there is concern that outside factors, such as anxiety over seeing a new romantic interest or fear of an altercation, may provoke tension and thus make civil exchanges difficult, if not impossible. Certainly, the amount of interaction, which is often tied to the age of the child and the frequency of exchanges, is a big driver of the potential for conflict. Further, the context of child custody exchanges is likely to change as the child gets older, and is in less need of supervision and direction.

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Barrington family law attorney, divorcing parents, parenting time, shared custody, allocation of parental responsibilitiesWhen divorced parents are asked what part of the experience was hardest to confront, most will respond that the impact the divorce had on their children was most difficult. A number of studies have shown that children thrive best in two-parent households that divorce suddenly and permanently takes away. However, parents still have the ability to mitigate this negative impact with proper intervention and long-term planning.

Shared child custody, the situation most divorced parents face, presents many logistical and financial challenges for the adults. Moreover, shared custody can be emotionally upsetting the child. To minimize the likelihood of future disputes between ex-spouses and to better protect the well-being of the child, advanced long-term planning should be a large aspect of any parenting plan or custody agreement and should be executed as part of any divorce or legal separation.

Advanced planning presupposes the parties mutually and privately agree on terms that will govern the exercise of parental responsibilities. While parties do have the option of allowing Courts to decide this issue for them, a Judge can never fully know the unique needs of each family, nor have the capacity to address every potential concern of each parent.

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Rolling Meadows family law attorney, custody of pets, pets and divorce, pet custody law, divorcing spousesWhen the divorce process is put into motion, sudden and abrupt shifts in the structure of the affected household shortly follow. As a parent/spouse moves out of the home, those left behind must figure out how to adjust to this new reality. Children are known to struggle with these drastic changes in living situations, and the focus of divorcing spouses are, understandably, geared towards making the transition as easy as possible.

Child custody, generally, is a big facet of many divorces. However, another member of a household that can be overlooked in the shuffle — one that still feels the impact of the divorce — is the family pet. How central the family pet is to a household varies greatly from family to family, but deciding which spouse will have primary responsibility for the animal's care can be a hotly contested issue.

Americans, in general, place a high degree of importance on their pets that is reflected in the amount of money consumers annually spend on pet-related purchases — $66.75 billion in 2016. Recognizing the new status of pets as full family members in many households, as well as the difficulties of determining which spouse will retain possession in a divorce, the Illinois Legislature passed a Bill that addresses this issue. The Bill is currently awaiting the governor's signature, and would provide clarification and direction to Courts when pet custody is unsettled.

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divorce proceedings, legal separation, Illinois divorce, Inverness divorce attorney,  allocation of parental responsibilitiesThe build-up that leads to the end of a marriage can be slow and methodical, with each spouse looking for ways to avoid the potential unfortunate outcome. The last step some couples take, before starting formal divorce proceedings, is to separate for a period of time in one final effort to salvage the marriage.

Periods of separation are commonly informal, and spouses mutually and privately decide how living arrangements, child custody and finances will be handled. Additionally, periods of separation will typically lead to either reconciliation or divorce; however, couples do have the option of formalizing their separation with the Courts.

Legal separation may be a mere formality before initiating divorce, or separation could be an in-between arrangement a couple remains in for a significant period of time. Legal separation provides most of the legal mechanisms and benefits offered in divorce, yet this process stops short of dissolving the marriage. Consider the following suggestions as to when couples may want to consider legal separation over divorce, the drawbacks of separation and how Courts handle these petitions.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_suspend-child-support-Barrington.jpgDisputes over child support from separated or divorced parents are fairly common, and each party has a legitimate stake in convincing the other why the money is being properly or poorly spent. Despite these disagreements, most parents ordered to pay child support realize the importance to the child's well-being, and continue to pay support regardless of contention with the other parent.

However, circumstances do arise that directly impact a parent's ability to pay child support, such as job loss and serious illness, and he or she may be motivated to ask a Court to modify the child support obligation to a level that is financially feasible.

Usually, constraints on a parent's ability to pay are connected to situations that engender some degree of sympathy or understanding. Still, some facts push others to have little to no compassion for the financially-strapped parent. One circumstance that squarely fits within this group are those parents who are incarcerated. People do not typically end up in jail or prison for following the law, but one obvious and serious consequence of incarceration is the inability of many of these parents to pay child support.

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