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.

If you are in the situation that you are supposed to receive child support, but the employer of the person responsible to pay isn’t withholding the funds, or then dispersing them for your benefit, there is relief available.

Did you know that under the Illinois Income Withholding for Support Act (750 ILCS28/) if an employer does not initiate income withholding within 14 days of receipt of the IWN (Income Withholding Notice) they are subject to penalty. If the employer doesn’t submit those withheld funds within 7 days, they are also subject to penalty.

The Withholding Act requires a payor to “pay a penalty of $100 for each day that the amount designated in the income withholding notice (whether or not withheld by the payor) is not paid to the State Disbursement Unit.” In some cases, those penalties can be extreme and substantial.

Take for instance the case In re marriage of Scott Bos and Lisa Watson, when all was said and done, the husband’s employer is facing $2 million dollars in fines because they did not withhold and pay the court ordered child support. In this case, over a 38 pay period time-frame, the employer should have withheld and submitted $7,820 in child support. Instead, they ignored the countless attempts to make them recognize the existing IWN. Because of their willful failure and refusal to pay, the employer now owes $2,263,500.00 between the amount of the withholding order and penalties and fines.

In another case involving Auto Zone, (-Grams v. Autozone, Inc., 319 Ill.App.3d 567, 745 N.E.2d 687, 253 Ill.Dec. 564, (Third Dist., 2001) the court was not friendly in its response. Auto Zone claimed that the $100 per day penalty could be devastating to an employer, the court responded “the penalty is justified on the basis that noncompliance with a child support withholding order by an employer may place a substantial burden on a child support obligee, who could be forced to miss mortgage payments or postpone purchasing necessities for a child until the overdue payment arrives.”

In Illinois, making sure you receive the child support ordered to you is a priority to the court. There are few legal issues where a person may feel like the court, or “the law” is actually on their side. This is one of those situations. The courts have thoroughly defined income source, as well as applying the statutory penalty to those who have failed withholding or submitting. The court has made it very clear in the matter that the “Payor” (employer in most cases) has to take their responsibilities in this Act extremely seriously.

If you are in a situation like this, the best thing to do is to speak to a knowledgeable Illinois attorney. If you would like our help in finding one, call us at (312) 346-5320. You can fill out our contact form if you prefer.

To some people, divorce can be as hard to deal with as a death. After all, it is a death of a relationship, so it does make sense that the stages of grief for the time during and after a divorce are similar to those of the death of a loved one. However, what happens when one person is less affected by those stages?

The first emotional stage of divorce is denial. “We’re not broken, just bent” are the lyrics to a popular song that comes to mind when speaking about denying the end of a marriage. This is what happens when one person denies the marital issues and believes wholeheartedly that they can work it out. During this stage, the party in denial may do things to hinder a divorce going forward like refusing to accept service of legal documents, or denying the issues to friends and family members which brings us to the next stage.

Anger and resentment is the second emotional stage in a divorce. This is by far the worst stage. Once a person has gone through the denial stage, an anger takes over. You may remember this stage if you ever saw the movie “Waiting to Exhale.” In this scene, Angela Bassett rips all of her soon to be ex-husbands belongings down from the closet, wheels them out to the front yard in a wagon and dumps the items into his car. She then sets everything on fire. When the fire department shows up and says “I’m sorry ma’am, you are only allowed to burn trash in your yard,” she calmly lights a cigarette and says, “It is trash” and walks away. Yes, the blind rage of realizing you have been left behind in a divorce can cause a person to do some pretty insane things.

The third emotional stage of divorce is bargaining. This can be a very dangerous stage because the emotional whirlwind is just starting to catch the person being left, and those emotions can start to bring the person down. During the bargaining stage a person may be prone to say things like “I can change if you don’t leave me” or “I’ll agree to whatever you want me to do, just don’t leave.” This stage is especially hard because it exposes a person’s confidence or lack thereof. This makes it very easy to take advantage of the situation. A person might do things like request full custody, raise alimony or child support, or even hand over the keys to family home all in an attempt to rectify whatever the problem was to make the divorce happen.

The fourth stage of emotions is depression. Once a person’s lack of confidence is exposed during the anger and bargaining stage, they become raw. Everything about the situation hurts. They may lock themselves in a bedroom and cry for a few weeks, or they may result to using drugs or alcohol to help ease the pain. Both of these can be very bad during a divorce proceeding as they may also be doing things like ignoring the children and other household responsibilities, simply because it is just too hard to cope with.

The fifth and final stage of emotions during a divorce is acceptance. This is the clarity stage. The stage where the person looks in the mirror and says, “I’ve got this and I deserve to be happy.” During this stage, if the divorce hasn’t been finalized, the person may look at their ex and decide to truly stand up for themselves. They may take back that family home or even see through clear eyes that full custody is simply not reasonable. Another way a person may express the final stage of acceptance is by changing their hair or appearance, losing weight, perhaps even sticking a toe back into the dating pool.

Divorce is one of the hardest things adults will have to go through. It is not only difficult because of the emotional trauma caused in this situation but also because you have to be able to find the balance of your own feelings not affecting the children. If you are stuck in a sticky divorce and need legal help, the best thing to do is to contact a local attorney who specializes in divorce and family law. Call us at (312) 346-5320 if you’d like to just ask questions or get a referral.

It’s a pretty well settled principle that non-lawyers can’t give legal advice in Illinois. I think it makes sense to most people as you want to have some belief that the advice they are getting is for sure correct. It’s a way of protecting the public and also preventing false information from getting out there.

Legal Zoom is a heavily marketed company that I’ve always understood to be a place where you can try to print off legal forms to do things yourself. It was founded by one of OJ Simpson’s defense attorneys and I assume it’s successful with all of the money that it spends on advertising. Next to erectile dysfunction and daily fantasy games, it feels like Legal Zoom is the third most common advertiser.

They can sell legal forms even if much of what they sell can be downloaded for free on the internet. Apparently some of what they provide is the opportunity to have forms reviewed by a lawyer (which seems to defeat the whole purpose), but they also provide instructions on the forms themselves.

If those instructions are written by lawyers in the state that they apply to then they seem permissible. On the other hand, if there are any non lawyers who own legal zoom, they might be illegally receiving compensation for giving legal advice.

Whatever the situation is, the big problem I have with anyone relying on written advice is that it doesn’t consider your unique situation. This came up recently when a woman called me after downloading divorce forms from this site and reading about what to do with them. According to her they said that there is a two year waiting period to get divorced in Illinois if you have kids.

Technically what she read is correct. The problem is that she read it to mean that she can’t get divorced any time soon. What she didn’t read or didn’t understand was that the waiting period can be waived by both parties to allow for a quicker divorce. She also didn’t understand after reading their advice that the waiting period applied to divorces based on irreconcilable differences. She could plead something else and get divorced sooner even if her spouse didn’t want the divorce to happen.

Look, I’m in favor of anything that can make the legal system cheaper and more accessible for the general public. It’s one reason I created Funded Justice. But what I don’t like is when people get more confused or sold something that they don’t really need.

Legal Zoom needs to decide if it is or isn’t a law firm. If it is, it needs to start acting like one. If it’s not, then it needs to be really careful about the guidance it provides. They may be doing more harm than good. If you’d like to speak with one of our licensed attorneys, call us at (312) 346-5320 or fill out our contact form.

When people call us looking for an Illinois divorce attorney recommendation, we have a basic set of questions that we go through before learning about what is unique about their case or any special concerns they have. These questions can lead to more questions and also some advice.

It’s normal for us to ask how long you’ve been married, if you have kids, how old they are and what you and your spouse do for a living. The reason we want to know what your job is has to do with the fact that it could affect the type of lawyer you need. If you get a 401(k) or a pension, you need an attorney that knows how to handle a QDRO (qualified domestic relief order) which in plain English is how those benefits get divided up.

If you or your spouse owns a business and it was started during the marriage, that also can affect the type of lawyer that you need. Any business started during the marriage is a marital asset and without a prenup you own half and your spouse owns half. This makes sense when we think of someone who has started a restaurant or any other type of traditional business. It doesn’t always seem as obvious when your spouse is a doctor.

In 15 years of helping people find the right Illinois divorce attorney for their case, many spouses of doctors don’t realize that they are married to someone who owns a business. But when you support someone through medical school and/or residency and they leave you right before or after they start making a real living in private practice, the courts in Illinois have recognized that has value and as a supportive spouse you are potentially entitled to a great part of their income.

When doctors go in to private practice they are in most situations becoming a business owner. In fact, many doctors’ offices are really just a group of doctors who call themselves partners, but in reality just share office expenses. Their pay is usually dependent on how much work they produce. It doesn’t seem like a business in the traditional sense, but whether their career is just taking off or they’ve been doing it for a while, it’s a business. If it started during the marriage, it’s a marital asset.

When you divorce a business owner, whether it’s a doctor or anyone else, if the business is successful or has great potential to be, you need to hire a divorce attorney who handles forensic accounting as part of their case work. That means that they have experience in determining what a business is really worth. Your spouse might say that they only made $100,000.00 for example. But a closer look might show that they had one time expenditures of a half a million (e.g. if you start a radiology group there are many machines you’d need to buy) or some other number. Forensic accounting show the true value of a business which helps figure out what you are owed.

Even if the business was started before the marriage, knowing how to properly value a business can help determine what child support payments or maintenance (often referred to as alimony) should be. Having the wrong law firm in your corner could literally cost you tens of thousands of dollars or more.

We have been helping people find the right attorney for the their case since 2001 and would be happy to help you find the right firm for you. Call us at (312) 346-5320 for a no cost, confidential consultation.

If you read our website, you know that we highly recommend that when you hire an attorney in Illinois, you choose one who has a very narrow practice focus.  Illinois attorneys can’t legally call themselves specialists, but you want someone who isn’t a jack of all trades lawyer, but instead just handles the type of case you have.  So a “specialist” even if we can’t call them that.

When it comes to choosing a divorce attorney in Illinois, you not only want someone in your corner who is experienced and will fight for you, but you need to make sure that they understand the issues you are facing.  Some law firms are good at divorces when one spouse owns a business. Others have had success with child custody disputes.

Most firms who focus on family law will also deal with substance abuse in marriages because it comes up a lot. The question for you is, are they paying appropriate attention to this potentially devastating problem.

If your husband/wife is an alcoholic or abusing drugs it can cause so many problems. First and foremost is that you don’t want them to be alone with your children and certainly not taking the kids anywhere in a car. As a client you can’t just hope to prevent this, but instead need a lawyer who knows how to properly present a motion that shows this concern and knows how to prove your allegations are true. Often this will mean getting an order of protection on behalf of the kids.  Other times it’s handled in a straight custody hearing where we argue that any visitation should be supervised.  It’s all about knowing how to win and showing that you have won in the past.  You don’t want an attorney to have one of their first experiences handling this problem on your case.

Beyond the kids, there is also the issue of the spouse who blows all of the family funds on their habit and runs up large debts.  These are marital funds and even if they are taken away via reckless spending, they some times can be recovered as well.  For example, if you have a $100,000.00 401k, typically you and your spouse would split it 50/50 if it was all earned during the marriage.  But if your spouse spent $20,000.00 on a cocaine habit, you might get a credit for that wasteful spending when it comes time to divide the 401k.

Other things can be done such as drug testing to prove your allegations are true.  This all starts though with an attorney in your corner who knows what they are doing.  We can’t call them specialists, but that’s what you need.

If you would like our help in finding the right lawyer for your case or just have questions, call us for free at (312) 346-5320 or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.

With the holidays upon us, more people in Illinois are thinking about divorce than any other time of the year.  The holidays have a way of making people realize that they aren’t happy in their marriage and with 2016 right around the corner, many want to get a fresh start.

The very funny comedian, Louis CK, has been through a divorce and I love his joke in the picture. He’s right when he says that “no happy marriage ends in divorce.”  You might be happy in your relationship and get blindsided by a cheating spouse, but the truth is that if they are cheating on you, it’s not a happy marriage.

From my standpoint, the best part of the joke is that it has a real lesson which is that if you can accept that you aren’t in a happy marriage then you can accept that it’s best for you to get divorced.  Of course that’s a lot easier said than done, but the ones who have that ability can start making rational decisions instead of emotional ones.  You won’t be trying to get back at your spouse, you’ll be trying to get a result that you will be satisfied with and move on with your life.

Whenever someone calls us for advice on a divorce or looking for an attorney referral, the first thing we tell them is that they need to get a game plan together.  By meeting with an experienced family law attorney you can make sure you are thinking about EVERY issue that needs to be handled to get you to the end point in your case.  You also need to not just worry about what you want to happen right now (e.g. custody of the kids), but also a year from now (religion of the kids, where you want to live), five years from now (what are you going to be doing for work and does that impact your case, what will happen if you re-marry) and ten years from now (possibly planning for college expenses or selling the marital home).

It’s not easy to game plan when you are only thinking about revenge or the hurt you are feeling or simply trying to hold it all together.  We get that.  That’s why having a good attorney in your corner is important as it can take a lot of the pressure off of you.  But it’s still on you to focus on your goals and the Louis CK joke, while funny, should help you realize that.

That’s not to say you are going to finish with a divorce and be happy or even enjoy the divorce process.  But you can make it go smoothly and start getting on the path back to happiness.  If you’d like our help in making that happen, please call us at (312) 346-5320.

Probably the most common area of law that we help with is Illinois divorce law.  Plain and simple there are just more of those cases than any other area of law.  We help people find the right attorney no matter what their situation is, but divorce is clearly the most common.

While some divorces are clean breaks, many involve hurt feelings and people acting on emotion instead of logic. Because of this, crazy things can happen that can, well, drive you crazy.

The #1 problem is from soon to be ex’s acting like a jerk and doing whatever they can to get under your skin.  A good lawyer can’t always do something about that, but we can try.

The #2 problem though is created by lawyers.  A recent caller to my office is typical of the problems a bad attorney can create in this situation.  My caller is a stay at home mom with three kids.  She and her husband both want the divorce, although he moved a little faster than she did and got a lawyer.

The lawyer had her served with a petition for dissolution of marriage, e.g. a divorce petition.  She didn’t know it was coming, but it didn’t rattle her.  What did cause a problem were the contents of the petition.  In it, the lawyer asked that she move out of the maritial home, give him full custody of the kids with no visitation for her, pay him child support, pay him his lawyer fees, give up any rights to the joint bank account or other marital property and have her pay him maintenance.  Mind you that one of the kids has special needs, she’s been a stay at home mom for 15 years and while she did a couple years of college, he’s a medical doctor pulling in a mid six figure salary.

Needless to say, she was stunned and then pissed off and then a little bit frightened.  Her husband gave her no indication that this was coming and beyond that, he hardly spends any time with the kids.  She called me and was ready to go to war.

We’ve been helping people find the best lawyer for their case for almost 15 years via our state wide network of experienced, successful law firms.  The lawyers we recommend fight for their clients and they are people who we as attorneys would hire ourselves.

We don’t just recommend lawyers though, we also provide free legal guidance.  Part of being a good attorney is helping take the emotion out of the situation and getting a client to be goal focused.

What I explained to this caller is that her husband clearly has a terrible attorney.  Basically the lawyer presented what would be an extreme best case scenario.  Lawyers without skills will use this tactic so they can have a lot of room to negotiate on a case and act as if they are really compromising when they give up on some of their demands.  It’s a pretty amateur move.  It would be similar to the agent for a baseball player who hit .250 the year before asking the team to pay him $30 million a year so he won’t look as unreasonable when he asks for $10 million a year.  I can tell you that it doesn’t work in sports and doesn’t work on good attorneys.

I was able to talk this very nice woman off the ledge and let her know that based on what she told me, she’ll actually end up getting just about everything her husband’s lawyer was asking for if this goes to court.  It’s clear that either his attorney is inexperienced or is just trying to create a battle to run up some huge bill.  It’s really his client who will be hurt by this.

These types of motions aren’t much different than when your ex says something like, “You’ll never see the kids again!” It’s really easy to let them get you riled up, but you have to take emotion out of the equation and remember that they aren’t the Judge and you certainly shouldn’t take legal advice from them.

If your ex or any opponent in a legal case is making you insane, the best advice I can give you is to relax, take a step back and put your case in the hands of someone who will fight for you, but isn’t going to make emotional decisions.  Of course helping you find that person is what we do better than anyone else.  Fill out our contact form to the right if you’d like our help.  It’s free and confidential.

My grandmother was a wonderful woman who as she got older tended to repeat herself a lot. That was alright with me because she was adorable and mostly repeated things that made her laugh. Often this involved sayings that included her favorite, “It takes two to tango!”

I think of her and this saying every time someone calls me and wants a divorce lawyer referral to someone that knows about the mediation process or simply wants to do a collaborative divorce where they figure things out with the help of a mediator.

I’m a big fan of the mediation process and in fact I used to be a licensed mediator. Whenever my kids are acting up I try to use mediation tactics to diffuse the situation.

But my grandma was right, it does take two to tango. If you want to mediate and your spouse does not or is not giving it a good faith effort, then mediation is a waste of time.  It only works well when two people want to use mediation to come to a resolution or at least try to.  I did a ton of mediations back in the day where it was obvious that one party didn’t want to be there (often a Judge made them) and like a child throwing a tantrum, nothing I could say would turn around their behavior.

On the flip side, if you both can mediate in good faith it can save you a lot of money on lawyer fees.  That said, you’d be crazy not to have a lawyer in your corner either at the mediation or at least before and after to make sure of two things: 1. That you are talking about every issue that needs to be talked about.  You don’t want to settle a case and then end up back in court because you didn’t agree on what religion a child would be raised for example or because you didn’t divide up a pension. 2. That you aren’t screwing yourself over by agreeing to things that would never happen if you went to court such as not getting any child support if you are the primary custodian of the kids or having your parental rights terminated.

Those things can happen if you really want them to, but most attorneys would never advise it.  Getting a lawyer involved is about educating yourself and covering your backside. If you make a mistake it will cost way more in the long run if you have to go to court to try and fix it.

In general though while divorce sucks and nobody likes the process, if it can be amicable, that’s the best way to do it.  But there’s a big difference between “we both want to get divorced” and “we can work together to solve EVERY issue that needs to be solved.”  It’s great if you can use a mediator, but there’s no shame if you can’t.

When it comes to awarding custody in an Illinois child custody case, the number one factor is the best interests of the child. This sounds obvious, but these exact words are written into Illinois law. The best interest of the child is always the main concern of the judge. In some cases this means physical safety, where one parent may be abusive, but in many cases it’s deciding which environment would provide the best and most stable home for the child.  It’s assumed by many that the mother will get the kids and the Dad will get almost nothing and that does happen, but it’s not the law.

Instead a Judge looks at the best interests of the child.

So how does the court know what’s in a child’s best interest? The law includes several factors for the court to consider. No one factor is considered most or least important; all will be applied to determine the best interests of the child. The judge has an important job in this respect – each case is different and the factors may have different weight depending on the circumstances. For this very reason, it’s extremely important to have an attorney on your side who knows how these cases usually go, what judges tend to care most about, and how to prove that you are the best person to have custody.

Here is the list of factors that can be taken into consideration by the court in an Illinois child custody case:

  1. the wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to his or her custody
  2. the wishes of the child as to his or her custody
  3. the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parent or parents, his siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest
  4. the child’s adjustment to his home, school and community
  5. the mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  6. the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s potential custodian, whether directed against the child or directed against another person
  7. the occurrence of ongoing abuse as defined in Section 103 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986, whether directed against the child or directed against another person
  8. the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child

If, when examining these criteria, none of the factors clearly point to one parent or the other, the court usually will look to the parent who can provide the most stable environment for the child. If this is how your case will be decided, you will want to make the best argument possible. We believe having the right attorney can make a big difference.  Often the Judge will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to help them make the decision.  Hiring an attorney who knows the GAL’s well can be the difference between winning and losing.

If you have any questions about Illinois child custody and family law, or if would like a referral to a family law attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us. All calls and emails are free and confidential.