Divorce is not only a very trying and exhausting time; it can also create a financial burden for many families. Undoubtedly, child support can be the biggest of financial burdens. Child support is something that many parents are forced to pay following a divorce. It’s not something many parents want, or are able, to pay, but it is important and crucial to the welfare and safety of the child that payments are made in the correct amount and on time.

Child support is taken very seriously in the state of Illinois. Here, unlike other states, Illinois has a predetermined guideline in place that will determine how much a parent is due for child support.  It is based on how many kids you have, how much parenting time you have and what each of you earn.

When a parent fails to pay or falls behind on payments, the parent can face some pretty hefty consequences. Issuing of a warrant, resulting in high fines and possibly jail time, is the most severe punishment. Other consequences include driver’s license revoked, unable to receive government benefits or tax refunds, passports denied and fines with higher charges.

There are instances when the court may feel it necessary that child support payments garnished from the non-custodial parent’s wages. Sounds like a simple system. The court creates the order, gives it to the employer who garnishes wages and pays for the non-custodian’s child support. It doesn’t seem like it could get any simpler than that.

However, what happens if the employer garnishes from an employee’s check, but is not sending the child support as ordered?

This seems incredibly far-fetched, but it actually happens more than you might think. One Illinois mother found herself in this exact situation and was able to file a lawsuit against her ex-spouses employer for failure to deliver the child support payments. In many situations, this can turn into an illegal and expensive situation for the employer.

In Illinois, if an employer doesn’t pay the child support order, they will be fined up to $100 per day as a late fee for any payments not received within seven (7) days by the Illinois State Disbursement Unit, as well as owe the original amount. A late payment could be because of a glitch in the system, a turnover in admin, or just an outright refusal. It doesn’t matter the reason and can become very costly for a business.

Non-custodial parents can become very disgruntled for several reasons when it comes to paying child support. We get that. But, when it is because an employer ignores a court order that is unacceptable. It costs them nothing to comply with these orders and they should be held accountable for it.

If you have found yourself in a situation where your employer or your ex’s employer is not paying the court ordered child support, please call us now. We can refer you to an attorney that will fight for your case.

Divorce can be messy.  And if you are in an abusive relationship or were in the past, you rightfully wouldn’t want to have to see or talk to your soon to be ex.

I’ve noticed an uptick in people who want a divorce, but don’t want to tell their spouse about it. Many of these people have been lead to believe that they can get divorced by placing an ad in the local newspaper.  They are not correct.

In Illinois you can get divorced by publication, but only after a Judge grants you permission to do so. To do that you must first file for divorce and then show up to court.  At that point you have to convince the Judge that you have no idea where your spouse is or how to contact them.  You have to show the Judge all of the efforts you have made to contact your spouse.

These efforts include sending notice to their last known address, texting them, calling them, seeking out contact information from their relatives and friends, contacting their last known employer, etc.

In other words, you can’t pretend like you don’t know how to find them.  If their name is James Smith and you haven’t seen them in ten years, it’s one thing, but if it’s a unique name then finding them on social media is likely possible.  The Judge wants to see a good faith effort and proof that you’ve been diligent in trying to serve them with notice of the divorce.

So if you’ve done all of these things and a Judge really believes you can’t find them then they will grant you permission to get divorced by publication.  Even that takes time and costs money.  You have to publish three straight weeks in a newspaper local to the county where the case is taking place.

Even with all of that, while you can get a divorce, a Judge is not going to make final rulings on child custody, support or division of property.  So while you may be divorced, you really aren’t done.

To me, the best thing to do in a case like this is to get an experienced divorce lawyer to help you find and serve your spouse so you can be divorced and through with them for good.  If you would like a recommendation to a top family law attorney for Illinois, call us at 312-346-5320 any time.  We are attorneys who recommend lawyers independent of our firm that we think are best for you based on what you tell us about your case.

During custody or child support cases, many parents, especially fathers, feel they understand very little about their parental rights. A lawyer has the duty to passionately represent their client and advocate for them on their behalf, regardless of gender. Yet, many firms continue to market themselves as Father’s Rights lawyers.

Are these firms claiming to specialize as Father’s Rights Lawyers really more of an asset to fathers? We think not. There seems to be no special skill involved as an attorney in representing a father versus a mother, which is why we generally oppose firms that market themselves as such. It seems, to us, that this kind of marketing just prays upon the fears of the father, leading them to continue to believe the family law system is biased against men; therefore, they seek ‘specialized’ legal expertise and guidance.

We all know the situations where fathers have allowed the mother of the child to act as the final call maker for their children, giving the mother the ability to abuse the situation and left asking for more. Threats of the father losing custody of their children, giving very few visitations rights and determining a father’s child support fee are all ways a mother will try to control the situation. However, this is not the law. Fathers often make common mistakes in their child custody cases, further perpetuating the notion that family law is against men.  The bottom line is that in Illinois, custody and visitation are decided based on the best interests of the kids and there certainly is a trend for fathers to get more times with the kids than they have in the past and often sole custody.

The issues are the same throughout any child custody case. Yet, the main concern should always be the children’s rights, not the gender of the parent. A good family lawyer is capable of accomplishing just that: The child’s right to equal, fair and appropriate love, respect and parenting and provided with the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing from both parents.

We can imagine some Father’s Rights law firms can achieve success in their client’s case, but usually the story is the same: The fathers were overcharged and did not get the results as promised. Either your attorney fights for you or they don’t. A good family lawyer is capable of handling a child custody case, no matter whom they’re representing.

Our goal is to connecting you with honest, straight forward and experienced attorneys who can best represent your case. Contact us now before mistakes are made.

There is absolutely nothing fun about divorce. While some may choose to celebrate once the divorce is final, the road to a decree of dissolution can be a long and bumpy one. These tips may help you secure your seat belt for the roller coaster ride ahead of you.

1. Talk to your spouse before you do anything else. You once loved each other; you may even still love each other. Find a way to speak to each other respectfully when it comes to the terms of the divorce. Attorneys will promise you the world in their ability to obtain a divorce settlement, but in the end, most attorneys stir the pot and make the process longer than needed. If you and your spouse can work out at least a partial agreement the divorce process will be more smooth and cheaper.  If you can’t work it out at least you tried.

2. Jump off the diving board. This tip doesn’t apply to everyone. It really only applies to those who know with 100% certainty that their marriage is over. Take the leap of faith, and call things what they are. The longer you wait to file, the longer it takes to get through the process, and into the spot in your life where you can finally move on.

3. Don’t try to do it alone. Divorce doesn’t need to be a dirty little secret that you hide from friends, and family. While the specifics of what is causing the divorce don’t need to be put out in public, admitting what you are going through can be very helpful through the process.  Don’t be afraid to lean on people.

4. When dealing with your spouse, try your hardest to do so pragmatically and remove emotion. No not villainize your spouse in front of your kids. Emotions are annoying things that cloud our brains at the best of times, and at the worst of times. Anger and sadness may cloud you into agreeing to a settlement you never would agree to.

5. Set some goals and game plan with an attorney.  It is very easy to get sucked into the bitterness that divorce causes. Even easier to get sucked into the drama and unnecessary fighting that happens when kids and money are involved. Avoid these at all costs and focus more on your future and what you want. Where do you want to live, where are the kids going to live, where do you want to retire? The difference between a good divorce attorney and a bad divorce attorney is how they focus on your case and situation. Are they only focused on the now? Has your attorney not even mentioned the future? Try and set 10 achievable goals, this shifting of your thoughts should help you keep a clear mind and help move the case along quickly.

6. Know that the court doesn’t care who did what to whom. If you are looking for sympathy or to make him/her pay for their moral sins (cheating, neglect, etc) this will never happen in front of a judge. Judges don’t care about infidelity and it will have little to no impact on your case. I am aware how harsh this sounds but unfortunately, it is true. Weather he or she cheated has no direct impact on who gets custody or parenting time, has no impact on who is awarded what in the settlement, and has no impact on things like spousal maintenance (alimony) or any other details of the divorce settlement.

7. Have a good support team including therapist if needed. Prepare yourself, you will more than likely have friends and family members who feel it necessary to choose sides. You might even loose longtime friend who were yours pre-marriage. Divorce is one of those times in life when you find out who your friends truly are. Know what you want and need from a friendship, and make sure you are only investing your time and energy into friends who are truly there for you. Talking to a therapist is never a bad idea. Especially if your marriage was a long-term marriage. Going from a family setting to being alone is a very hard transition. Friends, family, and a good therapist will help keep your mind on track.

8. Go over your finances before the divorce settlement is agreed on. At this point you should be close to reaching a settlement with your spouse. You need to protect yourself first and not just assume your spouse is being honest about debts and assets. Have you pulled your credit report to make sure every debt is included? Too often, a spouse will open a secret joint credit card, make sure you have all of the information so you can make an educated decision when it comes to how the debts and assets will be divided. Have you double checked your budget alone to make sure you can afford the debt to income changes? All of these minute details can affect your financial future. Make sure you look at everything before you jump into a settlement.

9. Do not lose your mind if your spouse starts dating before you. WOW. Just reading that screams the word, OUCH! But it’s true. Acknowledge again, the marriage is over and moving forward is part of the process. One of you will date before the other. Unless there’s some strange double date that occurs on the same night and all the stars line up making it possible for you both to become involved with new people on the same exact date; one of you will move on first. Breathe, do not Facebook stalk, do not become a green monster of jealousy. Talk to your friends and family (away from the kids) and perhaps a therapist about how you are feeling and get it out. Do not allow the anger to fester.

10. Treat yourself to something special. Take a trip, go to a ball game, have a spa day or treat yourself to a round of golf at that new course you’ve been dreaming about. Whatever it is, make it something that is just for you, and something to make yourself smile. You are about to start your new life, find out who you are now, and what really makes you happy. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You may have been afraid to try kayaking 20 years ago, but now you might find it exhilarating. You won’t know until you try.

Divorce is the death of a marriage. Not of the people who were married. It sucks, there’s no doubt. There will be days when you are absolutely fine, and others where you won’t want to get out of bed. Time helps, and while it doesn’t necessarily get “easier”, it gets different. Those differences in your day-to-day life are what makes it easier, and eventually better. I can tell you that the friends I’ve had who’ve gone through it all went through terrible periods but have become much happier than they were.

 

According to the news, Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson are engaged.  Congrats to the happy couple.

At the risk of sounding unromantic, I’m guessing that the over/under for how long their marriage will last, if it gets that far, is about two years.

So if I can give them one piece of advice, especially Ariana since I assume she’s the bread winner, they should have a prenuptial agreement.

Some people don’t like prenups because they don’t like to think about divorce.  I’ve heard some people say that if you are thinking about a prenup then you shouldn’t even get married.  That of course is a bunch of nonsense.

A marriage is really a business and a prenup is a partnership agreement.  Any good business startup identifies how things will be handled if one partner wants out of the business.  A prenup is no different.  You are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

If you are getting married in Illinois it’s important to remember that to be a valid and enforceable it needs to be completed at least 30 days before the wedding and each party should have their own attorney to review the document with them.

It’s important to remember that a prenup doesn’t have to say that if you get divorced that one party gets nothing.  It can say whatever you want it to say.  The bigger point is that if you do get divorced then you won’t waste time and tens of thousands on lawyers (or in the case of these two love birds, likely millions) because the document will control everything.

And you don’t need to be millionaires for a prenup to be a good idea.  It’s smart for any marriage and quite honestly it should be a requirement for anyone who is looking to get married. It could save a lot of trouble and heartache down the road.

So best of luck and many congratulations to the happy couple.  I hope it lasts.  And if it doesn’t last I hope that you are smart now so you don’t have legal regret later.

Historically speaking, pets were always treated like personal property when determining a settlement in a divorce case. There were no considerations legally for one party to retain “custody” and no provisions for the other party to have visiting time with the pet. The family pet would be awarded to one party in the same manner a vehicle or record collection would be, with the other party being left out in the cold with no recourse. However, a new law in Illinois will change the way pets are dealt with in the context of divorce.

As of January 1, 2018, Illinois family law judges will now be able to take into consideration the best interest of the pet when determining who gets to keep the pet. This includes provisions for if the pet was acquired during the marriage or if one party owned the pet prior to the marriage. Meaning, if you brought a pet into the marriage and are the primary caretaker of the pet, more than likely you will be awarded ownership of the pet in your divorce settlement. The new law also provides for companion pet owners to have sole or joint ownership dependent on the pet’s needs if the pet was acquired during the marriage. Who is better suited to care for the pet will be determined in the best interest for continuing care of the pet. The one stipulation to the new law is that “companion” animals are not the same as “service” animals. If a person has a service animal, that person would keep the animal.

While it’s not exactly the same, in many ways the best interests test is like what is done during child custody cases in Illinois. It makes sense as pets are like a member of the family.  My wife and I certainly view our dog that way and I know we are not unique in that regard.  Just like child cases, it’s important for you to document what you do for your pet, e.g. time spent walking them, feeding them, taking them to the vet, etc.

If you are considering divorce or break up and worried about who will retain custody of the pet, or if you have questions about pet parenting time, feel free to call us. We will provide a free consultation and put you in touch with a qualified divorce attorney in your area.

We are lawyers in Chicago who help you find the right attorney for your case for all areas of Illinois law, including Illinois divorce law.  Here are 40 things we think everyone should know about divorce.

1. You can’t use the same lawyer as your spouse.
2. Annulments are rare and typically a religious term.
3. File for divorce locally in the county you or your spouse lives in.
4. You have to live in Illinois for at least 90 days to file here.
5. The case will last as long as it takes you to agree on all issues.
6. It is possible to ask your spouse to be responsible to pay your attorney’s fees if there is a disparity in income.
7. While you can dispute the contents or grounds of a divorce and delay it., typically you cannot stop a divorce from happening.
8. For the most part, it doesn’t matter who did what to cause the divorce.
9. Children don’t get a say in custody, but as they get older they have more influence.
10. Most cases settle and don’t go to trial.
11. There is a difference between legal separation and divorce.
12. If you change your mind during the process, you can have your divorce case dismissed.
13. Divorce attorneys charge per hour unless it’s a truly uncontested divorce in which case some do flat fees.
14. “Fathers’ rights” is just a marketing term.
15. If you or your spouse started a successful business during the marriage, you will need a divorce attorney who understands forensic accounting.
16. Inherited money is not considered a marital asset.
17. Either party may ask for maintenance which some people call alimony. Typically the higher earning spouse will be ordered to pay a reasonable amount per month until the other spouse can become self-sufficient.
18. You may move the children out of state only if you have been granted legal permission from the court.
19. Child support amounts due are ordered by the court.
20. There is no law stating you can’t date new people during the divorce proceedings.
21. There is a difference between joint and sole custody and shared custody when children are involved in a case.
22. Temporary orders may be put in place to allow visitation and support to start as soon as the case is filed.
23. Child support is not taxable to either party. Maintenance is deductible to the person paying and taxable income to the person receiving.
24. You must have the other party personally served to start a case if there are children, property or alimony involved.
25. If your spouse simply doesn’t respond to the divorce petition, you may be awarded everything requested in the petition by default.
26. You may be ordered to go to mediation if you are unable to agree to certain terms of the divorce.
27. The cost of your divorce is based on the complexity of your case and how long it lasts.
28. The wife may have her name legally restored to her maiden name if she chooses.
29. Illinois child support law changed dramatically in July of 2017.
30. There is no waiting period prior to filing, the only contingency on filing in Illinois is one of you must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days prior to filing.
31. Typically, even if there is a signed divorce settlement, at least one of you must go before a judge for the final court date.
32. There is no such thing as common law marriage in Illinois. So if you never received a marriage license you are not legally married, therefore you wouldn’t need a divorce.
33. All child related issues will be ruled on by a judge before the divorce is finalized.
34. All parents must attend a parenting education class before their child custody issues in a divorce are finalized.
35. The marital home or family home may be kept by one party depending on the needs of the children, how the other property will be divided and who has the ability to pay for the home. Typically it will be ordered within a certain time frame the mortgage be refinanced into the awarded parties name alone.
36. Any debt incurred during the marriage will be divided during the divorce. Any new debt since the date of filing will not be part of the divorce.
37. A legal civil union requires a legal divorce proceeding.
38. Non-marital property or debt cannot be attributed to the other party. IE: You cannot force your spouse to pay your student loan or tax debt obtained prior to the marriage. Your spouse also cannot lay claim to property you acquired prior to the marriage.
39. Your spouse may be entitled to a portion of your 401K, IRA or pension benefits and you may be entitled to theirs.
40. Health insurance may become an issue during and after a divorce if you both are on one employers plan. The non employee party may remain on the plan for up to 36 months under COBRA, for additional fees, or they may have to obtain separate health insurance once the divorce is final.

If you have any questions or need help finding an attorney please contact us at any time for a free consultation with one of our lawyers.

Last July Illinois changed the child support law.  Now payments are based on how many overnights each parent has with their child as well as the joint incomes of both parents.  There is a table that shows what payments should be based on these factors as well as the number of kids that you have.

Nobody was sure how this was all going to work out and it’s still not 100% settled as some aspects of the law are being challenged at the Appellate Court.  But I asked a Chicago family law attorney his thoughts on the law and here are some of the highlights he gave us:

  1. Many parents in custody cases are trying to get to 146 nights with their kids to try and lower their potential child support payments.
  2. In cases where one spouse is getting permanent maintenance on 20+ year marriages and the maintenance is being reviewed, child support payments are going down because the maintenance is being considered as income.
  3. Many cases are getting rejected when the changes in income are relatively minor.  Essentially Judges are rejecting the cases and applying the old law even though if the case was brand new the payments would be much less.  That is a big area of appeals right now so time will tell how this shakes out.
  4. In cases where modifications to child support are being made, it’s very rare to see one where payments are going up.  So in most cases if you are paying support you’d want to consider a modification, but if you are receiving it you’d want to sit tight.
  5. Some parents aren’t doing a great job of documeting their actual overnight time.
  6. The same issues of people being paid under the table still exists and is being used to try and hide income and lower payments.

It’s been only nine months since the new law was put in to place so you can expect that a year from now we’ll have a much clearer picture on how things are working. If you have any questions or would like a referral to a Chicago area child support attorney, please call us at (312) 346-5320.  All calls are free and confidential.  While we don’t promise a result, we do promise that every attorney we recommend has tremendous experience and a great track record.

It’s Valentine’s Day and while you hopefully are in a happy marriage, days like today cause many to take an honest evaluation of their relationship and for some they realize that they’d be happier if they were divorced.  With that in mind, here are 12 things everyone should know about getting divorced in Illinois.

  1. There is no set time limit for how long a case takes.  If you and your spouse agree on everything you can be divorced within 30 days.  If not, the case could take months or even years. In general, when kids are involved or you are fighting over property or a business it will cause the case to drag on.
  2. The cost of a divorce if you hire a lawyer depends on how much the lawyer charges and how long the case takes. In general you will be billed for everything an attorney does whether it’s appear in court, talk to you on the phone, draft a motion, talk to the other lawyer, etc.
  3. The best thing you can do for your case is to set a list of goals, both short term (what are you concerned about for the next six months) and long term (where do you want to live in five years) and work with your lawyer to make sure you are thinking about everything that you should think about.  Prioritize your goals.  The more you can achieve the more that settling makes sense.  The less you can achieve indicates you should go to trial.
  4. Beware of lawyers who over charge.  Ask for itemized bills every month.  There is one divorce law firm in Chicago that is famous for billing for “research” on basic issues.  There is no research being done, they are just stealing from their clients.  I’ve seen other cases where the attorney for one spouse charged five times as much as the lawyer for the other spouse.  It shouldn’t cost $100,000.00 to get divorced unless you have a difficult case.  In most cases it should be less than $10,000 and in many in can be under  $5,000.
  5. Joint custody refers to parenting decisions.  That is different than the amount of time you spend with the kids.  If spending a lot of time with the kids is important to you, document all of the things you do from driving to practices, helping with homework, playing with them, changing diapers, etc.
  6. As of July of 2017 there is a new formula for calculating child support in Illinois that is based on how many over nights each parent has with the child as well as joint income.  It can get tricky when one spouse doesn’t work or another either doesn’t report or hides income.
  7. Beware of law firms that market themselves in ways that makes you think they are special by saying things like “father’s rights.”  It’s a gimmick.  A good lawyer fights for their client, communicates, doesn’t over bill and does whatever they can to get the best result possible.
  8. Nobody is excited about getting a divorce.  It’s not fun.  What we’ve seen is that the process, since it’s rarely amicable, can wear on attorneys.  Many formerly great Illinois family lawyers become jaded or burned out.  You don’t want one of them in your corner because they won’t be in your corner.  If you see red flags like failure to return phone calls, yelling at you or having no idea what is happening on your case, switch firms before they ruin your life.
  9. You typically want a lawyer who has these qualities: 1. Just about 100% of what their practice is involves family law. 2. They’ve been practicing for at least ten years. 3.They do a lot of work in the county where you are getting divorced and know the Judges.  That usually means they are local.
  10. Don’t worry about the grounds of divorce.  Also don’t freak out if your soon to be ex sends a divorce petition that asks for the moon and contains nothing that the two of you talked about.  That’s often a lawyer’s “strategy” that gives themselves room to negotiate even though their actions make the case drag on, creates bad feelings and costs everyone more money.
  11. If you don’t have a lawyer, don’t ever skip a court date.  Even if the attorney for your spouse says they will do something, don’t take their word for it.
  12. One lawyer can’t legally represent two people in the same divorce.

Bonus tip.  I have a lot of good friends who have gotten divorced. They all have been miserable at first, plowed forward and come out on the other side happier and in better relationships.  Getting divorced isn’t ideal, but it can be the first step toward making you happy.

If you have questions or would like help with a case, call us at (312) 346-5320 for a free consultation.

On July 1st, Illinois radically changed its child support laws to become more aligned with other states that consider the incomes and parenting times of both parents when determining child support.

Under the new law, how much support you pay depends on how much time you and your ex have with the kids as well as how much you each make.  The State of Illinois has created a table (see: https://www.illinois.gov/hfs/SiteCollectionDocuments/IncomeSharesScheduleBasedonNetIncome.pdf) that tells you how much you’d have to contribute for support based on your monthly net income and the number of kids you have.  The key term is net as in after taxes and mandatory deductions for items like healthcare.

Under scenario #1 of the new law, you and your ex split custody of the kids 50/50.  If that happens you find your monthly income number on the table and theirs as well.  You multiply each by 150% and then subtract the lower one from the higher one.  Whoever earns more will pay that difference to the other person.  While there will surely be arguments about what each person truly makes per month, this is a relatively simple calculation.

Under scenario #2, if you have your kids less than half the time, but more than 40% of the time (146 overnights) then you will be paying child support, but under a different formula.   It’s a bigger calculation.  You take the joint monthly income of both parents, multiply it by 150% and then multiply it by the income percentage the paying parent earns and then by their soon to be ex’s parent percentage time. Does that sound confusing?  Let’s break it down.  If you and your ex combine to make $12,000 a month and you make $8,000 of that, but have the kids 42% of the time, you’d take the child support number on the table I linked to for $12,000, multiply it by 1.5 and then by .667 (your income percentage) and then by .58 (your ex’s parenting time).

Scenario #3 is a little simpler. When one parent has the kids less than 40% of the time (again this means overnights), you take the combined net income of both parents and find that number on the table.  You then multiply that number by the income percentage of the parent who will be paying.  So if a couple makes eight grand combined a month and the paying father/mother makes 75% of that amount, the number on the table is multiplied by .75.

There are a few things to know about this new law.  The biggest is that you can’t go in and get your old child support order changed just because the law is different.  You have to show a change in your circumstances such as making more or less money.  Also, Judges have some discretion in how to apply this law so if you try and get more custody of your kids just to pay less and they see through that, you’ll still end up paying.

The courts in Illinois are already getting flooded with cases and you can bet that will continue.  If you have questions or want help on a case, call us at (800) 517-1614 to speak with one of our Chicago based attorneys for free.