Proposed Law Would Speed up International Adoptions

May 19th, 2015 at 8:29 am

Illinois family law attorney, Illinois adoption lawyer, Illinois adoption laws,While all adoptions involve no small amount of legal requirements and bureaucracy, international adoptions can add some extra difficulties because of the many different government entities involved. This is especially true in Illinois. Illinois is the last state in the country to have a position known as an Intercountry Adoption Coordinator. The Intercountry Adoption Coordinator is an additional state office official that needs to approve an international adoption on top of the usual offices that need to approve it in other states. This creates problems because it slows down the process, and lets adoptions rest on the unpredictable judgment of one person.

In recognition of this concerns created by the office, a bill has been introduced in the Illinois House to remove the Intercountry Adoption Coordinator’s position, allowing the international adoption process to move more predictably and more swiftly. Currently, the bill is awaiting debate in the Illinois Senate before it can potentially be voted on.

The Intercountry Adoption Coordinator

The Intercountry Adoption Coordinator is a position within the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services who is responsible for approving international adoptions in Illinois. The Intercountry Adoption Coordinator enters the process following the home study, a written report performed by a social worker who investigates and interviews the potential parents. That home study then goes to the adoption coordinator who must approve the findings in it before the adoption is allowed to proceed.

The New Bill

The new bill eliminates the Intercountry Adoption Coordinator based on two concerns about how the position hinders the international adoption process. First, the extra layer naturally slows down the process. This is especially true because there is only one person who can make the approval, which forms a bureaucratic bottleneck. It comes after a licensed social worker has already studied and approved the adoption. However, the Intercountry Adoption Coordinator can request extra documentation beyond that study, which can slow the process down even more.

Beyond the issues with speed, the bottleneck created by the Intercountry Adoption Coordinator also creates concerns about predictability. Leaving the decision up to one person introduces their own views and feelings into the mix. While the Intercountry Adoption Coordinator has the best interests of the child at heart, they are still only one person and there are many issues with adoptions that reasonable people could disagree about. Having only one person act as a gatekeeper makes it difficult to determine which side of those issues they will come down on.

Importantly, the bill still needs to make its way through the Illinois State Legislature before it becomes law. Regardless, dealing with the legal complexities surrounding international or domestic adoptions can be difficult. If you are considering adoption and want to learn more about the process, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney today.

Couples Therapy: What a Trip to IKEA Says about Your Chances of Divorce

May 13th, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Illinois divorce attorney, divorce study, Illinois family law attorney,While it may seem odd that a trip to a furniture store can have the ability to predict the strength of your relationship or likelihood of divorce, a psychology professor at California State University says that it can do just that. As it turns out the complexity of much of the furniture from IKEA can act as a test about people’s strength with skills like communication and cooperation that can be important for a relationship to succeed. Assembling the flat-packed dresser or desk can end up leading to resentment and hurt feelings or it can demonstrate real skill and compatibility.

The “Divorce-Maker”

The doctor has highlighted one particularly challenging piece of furniture as an excellent test run, nicknaming it the Divorce-Maker. The actual name is the “Liatorp,” an enormous entertainment center. The Divorce-Maker is nine-feet-wide and seven-feet-tall with over 150 screws and 30-plus pages of instructions, not to mention heavy planks of wood and fragile panes of glass. The wall unit is clearly a two-person job, and it often requires the couple to work together to get it built and to avoid someone being hurt if something goes awry. According to the doctor, the stress of putting the Liatorp together acts as a fair litmus test for a relationship.

Underlying Causes

Of course, couples who have trouble are not actually fighting over an entertainment unit per se. The test works because it places the couple into a high-pressure environment and it forces them to work together, often outside of their comfort zone. That type of environment often reveals deeper issues that the couple may not have been aware of.

In fact, even a simple trip to IKEA can cause trouble for a relationship without purchasing anything. The stores are famous for their maze-like layouts showing idealized domestic scenes. This can promote conflict for any number of reasons. Some are simple or straightforward, such as if couples disagree over a piece of furniture. The fight becomes less about the furniture and more about how much the couple respects the wants and needs of each other. However, some fights can go deeper. Shopping for furniture, particularly in IKEA’s uniquely domestic environment, can bring out more serious concerns such as where the relationship is going, people’s concerns about their own space, and even questions about children that can often stay buried in people’s day to day lives.

There are many reasons that people can start thinking that divorce may be right for them. If you are considering filing for divorce and want to learn more about how the process works, contact a skilled Naperville divorce lawyer today. Our firm is here to help answer your questions and determine whether divorce is the right choice for your unique situation.

The Grey Divorce Trend

May 6th, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Illinois divorce lawyer, illinois family law atorney, gray divorce,It used to be the case that divorce was something only undertaken by younger couples; older spouses with longer marriages tended to be considered “safe” from it. However, that is no longer the case. Shifting divorce demographics reveal that couples over the age of 45 have seen a major increase in the number of divorces. In fact, according to statistics reported by the Washington Post, couples in that age group are divorcing at twice the rate that they used to in 1990. This shift has important implications for divorce law because divorces between older spouses tend to have different issues or shifted priorities.

Understanding Grey Divorce

The trend of grey divorce is a relatively recent one, and sociologists have been attempting to explain what is causing it. It seems to be a confluence of a variety of different factors. For one, divorces are generally looked on with much less stigma today than they were in the past, so people of all ages feel freer to get them. Beyond that, many women are achieving considerably greater financial independence than they had in past generations, which means that divorce is now a realistic possibility because they can comfortably support themselves.

There has also been a shift in the way that people view the institution of marriage. What was once about raising children and creating a stable environment for them has become much more about the personal fulfillment and happiness of the couple. Many people find it difficult to maintain that level of fulfillment and happiness with just one person throughout their whole lives. This is especially true because people are living longer now, meaning that marriages would have to last longer than they did in the past.

Special Considerations in Grey Divorce

If a couple is going through a grey divorce, it is important to understand that the priorities and issues may be different than they are in a divorce with a younger couple. For instance, child custody is much less likely to be an issue since the children are probably grown and out of the house. However, the adult children are still going to be affected emotionally and financially by the divorce, so there are special considerations to managing the spouses’ relationships with them during the divorce. Additionally, retirement assets such as IRAs will become more central to the property division process because the spouses will likely have less time to get their retirement plans back on track. Similarly, there are special Social Security issues related to ex-spouses that will likely loom large.

Grey divorces present unique issues that spouses should consider carefully. If you are thinking about filing for divorce and want more information about the process, contact a skilled Naperville divorce attorney to learn more about your options.

Illinois Family Law Primed for Major Updates

April 28th, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois family law attorney, Illinois marriage laws,The primary Illinois statute covering divorce, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, was passed back in 1977. The 40-year-old law was designed for a different society with different social conventions and is in need of an update. An Illinois legislative advisory group has been working for years to develop revisions to the law. The group recently introduced Senate Bill 57, which would make a variety of changes to Illinois’ family law if it passes. The most important of these changes is the fact that the bill removes the concept of child custody, but it also makes a couple other changes to the law.

Removing Custody

The biggest change the law makes is that it includes major revisions to the way that Illinois courts handle child custody proceedings. Currently, Illinois courts award custody of the child to one or both parents. This involves both physical custody, which determines who actually cares for the child, and legal custody, which determines which parent can make decisions about how the child is raised. The new bill would eliminate this view of custody.

Instead, courts would be responsible for allocating parental responsibilities between the divorcing spouses. These parental responsibilities mirror the types of parental actions that used to be covered by custody. For instance, courts can award parenting time, the right to choose what school the child attends, and the right to direct the child’s religious upbringing, among other things. The general standard for making these determinations would not change with the new bill, and would still be based on the child’s best interests. However, it is important to note that the bill lays out a variety of different factors that judges should look to when determining the best interests of the child.

Other Changes

The bill would also make a couple of smaller changes, such as the elimination of a separate hearing that is currently required in which the spouses show why the court should grant them a divorce. This hearing often involves couples airing their dirty laundry or criticizing each other, which can result in otherwise friendly divorces becoming more acrimonious.

The bill also eliminates a pair of archaic legal actions known as the “heart balm torts.” The heart balm torts are a pair of legal causes of action that allow a spouse to sue a third party who breaks up a marriage or engages in adultery. Although these types of cases used to be more common, most states have already removed them from their laws. This change would bring Illinois into line with most of the country.

Illinois family law is constantly changing to better suit the needs of Illinois families. If you are considering a divorce and would like more information, contact a skilled Naperville divorce lawyer today.

Imputed Income in Illinois Divorce

April 20th, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Illinois child support attorney, Illinois family law attorney, Illinois divorce lawyer, One major piece of any divorce involving children is calculating the proper amount of child support. A key input in that calculation is the amount of income that the supporting parent earns. Ordinarily, determining the parent’s income is simply an exercise in checking records, but there are some cases where the court will increase the supporting parent’s income compared to what they are actually earning. This increase, known as imputed income, occurs in two scenarios. First, it happens when supporting parents consciously earn less than they could in order to evade a support obligation. Second, courts will impute income to certain business-owning spouses when it can be difficult to distinguish the income of the business and the income of the parent.

Evading Support Obligations

One of the main reasons that courts will impute income is because the supporting parent can be earning more than they actually are. This can happen in two cases, either through voluntary underemployment or voluntary unemployment. The underemployment context occurs in cases where a parent is employed, but they could be earning more than they do at their job. The court can decide that the parent is under-earning based on a variety of reasons. Some of them are general, such as the parent’s vocational training or work experience compared to their current job. Others are more specific, such as the parent not taking a promotion that they were offered, or delaying the payment of commission or bonuses.

The other common instance of imputed income is when the supported parent is voluntarily unemployed. Courts will find cases of voluntary unemployment when the parent has quit or intentionally gotten fired, yet they refuse to find another job without a medical reason for doing so.

Business-Owning Spouses

The other common instance of imputed income is when the supporting spouse owns a business. There are certain instances where spouses have control of a business and as such can manipulate the amount of income they receive as compared to the amount of income that they choose to reinvest in the business. A recent case dealt with this in the context of S-Type corporations. Those corporations have an extra wrinkle in that taxes on them are decoupled from actual payments to the shareholders. This means that the corporations can end up paying out only enough to actually cover the taxes and keeping the rest in the company for future years. Consequently, courts may use imputed income in some circumstances to allow the child support to properly reflect the amount of money that the parent actually earns.

Family law involves many doctrines like this to try to allow legal decisions to better reflect reality. If you are considering divorce and have questions about how the process works, contact a skilled Naperville family law attorney today.

Illinois Supreme Court to Reconsider Property Division for Cohabitation

April 13th, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois family law attorney, case law, The Illinois Supreme Court recently agreed to hear an appeal in a case that could have major ramifications for cohabiting couples in Illinois. At present, courts in Illinois do not get involved in property division in instances where an unmarried couple who was living together ends their relationship. This rule flows from a case decided in the late 1970s, Hewitt v. Hewitt, that was decided on grounds of public policy more than legal principles. However, the cultural landscape surrounding cohabitation has changed considerably from the late 70s, and it has become much more common.

The Current Law

The Hewitt court decided that courts would not get involved in the property division of cohabiting couples based on what the Illinois Supreme Court believed was the legislature’s public policy decision to encourage people to marry. It is important to note here that when the Court decided Hewitt, Illinois law was considerably more hostile to cohabitation and focused much more on encouraging and preserving marriage. In fact, the law actually criminalized non-marital cohabitation.

Beyond that, there were also other legal ways that the legislature was attempting to encourage marriage such as a lack of no-fault divorce. Many of the policies on which the Court based Hewitt have been repealed. The one exception to this is that Illinois still does not recognize common law marriages, which proponents of the Hewitt rule consider to be a key legislative decision that overturning Hewitt would partially invalidate.

The New Case

In order to reconsider the Hewitt rule, the Court agreed to hear the case of Blumenthal v. Brewer. The case centers around a same-sex couple who began living together in the early 1980s. They lived together for about 25 years, and functioned as a married couple in a practical sense. They had three children, registered their domestic partnership, and jointly took care of family responsibilities. Eventually, the couple separated, and one member of the couple made a legal claim on the earnings of the other.

Although the party making the claim lost at trial, the appellate court reversed that decision, holding that the principles behind Hewitt were 35 years old and were no longer in effect. The court also made the point that although the Hewitt rule was designed to encourage marriage, it may actually have the opposite effect. The lack of property division in cases of cohabitation could encourage couples with a large difference in assets to simply avoid marriage in order to protect their finances in the case of divorce. The Illinois Supreme Court will now review this decision to determine whether to allow it to stand.

Family law is constantly changing, and an experienced practitioner can help guide you through the system. If you are considering filing for divorce and to learn more, contact a skilled Naperville divorce lawyer today.

Small Businesses in Divorce

April 6th, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Illinois divorce lawyer, Illiois family law attorney, marital estateEntrepreneurs and small business owners often have strong, even emotional, ties to the companies that they run. This can make for a difficult realization for business owners when they discover that their business may need to be divided in the divorce. While this may be intuitive in instances where both spouses had a hand in running the business or founded it together, it is true in far more cases than that because businesses often qualify as marital property. This gives rise to a new problem. If businesses are part of a couple’s marital property, the court must somehow determine the company’s value. While this is easily done for major, publicly-traded businesses, it is a much more complex inquiry to value small businesses in divorce.

Dividing up a Business

The notion that a business may be divided up in divorce may seem surprising, but it is actually the logical endpoint of Illinois’ marital property laws. In Illinois, most property acquired during a marriage qualifies as marital property, and there is no exception for businesses. Even property acquired before a marriage can become marital property in some circumstances.

It is also worth noting that this notion of “dividing” up a business may give people the wrong impression. Although there are some cases where the court may actually give each spouse an interest in the business, this is not always so. Oftentimes, the court will simply enter the business into the marital pot, but allow the spouse who is involved in the business to keep it, provided that the overall division of marital assets ends up being equitable.

Valuing a Business

In order to determine whether a division is ultimately equitable, the court will need to figure out how much the business is actually worth. At first blush, this may seem like a simple matter in favor of checking the company’s balance sheet, and checking assets versus liabilities. However, that is often an overly-simple way of looking at a company that misses important portions of a business’ value.

Instead, valuing a business involves the hiring of an appraiser who can use a variety of techniques to determine how much a company is actually worth. For instance, some analysts can look at the cash flows of a business over a period of several years and use that information to make predictions about what the company could be sold for. Importantly, couples can decide whether they want to use the same neutral appraiser, or whether they would each like to hire their own independent appraiser.

The valuation of businesses is just one of many potential complexities that can arise during a divorce. If you are considering filing for divorce and want to learn more about how the process works, contact a skilled Naperville family law attorney today.

Engagement Ring Ownership: Divorces, Broken Engagements, and Returning the Ring

March 30th, 2015 at 10:49 am

Illinios divorce lawyer, Illinois family law attorney, divorce, property division, People often focus on the symbolic value of engagement rings, but for many couples engagement rings have real financial value that can make them contested items in a divorce or after a broken engagement. Beyond their actual worth, many people also place sentimental value on getting to keep the ring or have it returned to them respectively. Consequently, the law has special rules to deal with who gets the ring in the event of a couple’s separation. However, the rules change depending on whether the couple is going through a divorce or whether there is a broken engagement as to who has legal claim to the engagement ring ownership.

During Divorce

The key thing to understand about engagement rings in a divorce is that the law in Illinois treats the ring as a conditional gift. This means that it is a freely given gift, but that the gift is only given if some condition comes to pass, in this case if the couple gets married. If the couple is getting divorced, it necessarily means that the marriage occurred, so the ring qualifies as a gift to the wife. This status as a gift is important because of how Illinois treats marital property.

In Illinois, gifts to one spouse do not qualify as marital property, including gifts from one spouse to another. This means that they are not divided up during the divorce. Consequently, the wife is allowed to keep the ring in a divorce without having to bring it through the property division process.

Broken Engagements

The rules with regard to broken engagements are different because Illinois has a special statute known as the Breach of Promises Act. This Act exists because people in Illinois used to be able to sue in cases where one party to an engagement broke off the wedding, and they could get damages for the emotional harm and embarrassment of the broken engagement. Naturally, this led to abuse by people seeking excessive damages, so the legislature limited the available damages to actual monetary harm that people suffer as a result of the broken engagement.

The loss of an engagement ring is one of the biggest financial harms that people can suffer as a result of a broken engagement. However, the law still places importance on the classification of a ring as a conditional gift. In a practical sense, this means that it matters who broke the engagement. If the future wife breaks the engagement, then the man gets the ring, and if the future husband breaks the engagement, then the woman can keep it. In the case of a mutual breakup the ring reverts to the husband.

Property division is just one of many nuanced issues in a divorce. If you have questions about how the divorce process works, contact a skilled Naperville divorce attorney today.

Income Taxes and Divorce

March 26th, 2015 at 10:39 am

Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family lawyer, tax implications, With April 15th just around the corner, many divorcing and recently-divorced people wonder how the divorce affects their income taxes. After all, taxes are highly dependent on a person’s family structure, and divorce is a major change to that structure. Although there may be a variety of subtle impacts divorce can have on taxes, three are particularly common. First, divorce will affect the filing status of both spouses. Second, divorces involving custody disputes will affect the dependency exemptions that filers can claim for raising children. Third, some property transfers during the property division process may have tax implications.

Filing Status

The most direct way that a divorce will affect a person’s income taxes is through their filing status. A person’s tax status depends on whether they are filing as married, single, or head of household. These filing statuses affect which tax bracket people end up in and the size of certain exemptions they can claim. Generally speaking, the choice following a divorce is whether to file as a single individual or as a head of household. The head of household status is available to unmarried people who have a dependent to take care of. It is generally treated better than single status for tax purposes, though every person’s tax situation is unique and requires individual analysis.

Dependency Exemptions

Another way that divorce can affect a person’s income taxes is through the dependency exemption. These exemptions are tax breaks that people get to claim for raising children. After a divorce, people may no longer be eligible to claim it. The general IRS rule is that the dependency exemption goes to the custodial parent, and that in cases of joint custody it goes to the parent who has the child for more of the time, unless there is a multiple support agreement in place. However, the IRS allows parents to decide between themselves who gets to claim the credit as part of the divorce settlement. Consequently, a couple’s divorce decree may end up overriding the IRS rule.

Property Transfers

Property transfers as a result of a divorce may also have important tax implications. The general rule is that property transfers “incident to a divorce” are ignored for income tax purposes. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, the divorce may involve the transfer of appreciated assets, such as stocks or real estate. While the receiving spouse likely does not have to pay taxes on that transfer from the divorce, the later sale of those assets will likely have important tax implications.

Filing for divorce is an important decision that affects many different facets of a person’s life. If you are considering seeking a divorce and want to learn more about the process, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney today for more information.

The Option of Collaborative Divorce in Illinois

March 4th, 2015 at 9:21 am

Illinois divorce attoeny. Illinois family lawyer, mediation,A new spin on the divorce process may be able to save separating couples thousands of dollars, according to a recent report. People call it collaborative divorce, and it involves focusing on an amicable, negotiated divorce, rather than using the court system. In fact, in some collaborative divorce situations, divorcing spouses can even sign a contract stating that the lawyers who represent them in the collaborative divorce cannot represent them if the negotiations break down and go to trial. This can help spouses work together to find common ground and solutions that they can both live with, rather than having to start over from scratch with new lawyers in the court system. Of course, as with many things, this strategy can work better for some types of people than others.

Parties Who Can Benefit from Collaborative Divorce

The people who can most benefit from a collaborative divorce process are those that can still have a civil relationship. This type of divorce involves working together without the benefit of a judicial referee. Consequently, spouses need to be able to sit down at a table together and speak rationally enough to come to an agreement. Though, this requirement should not necessarily scare off people who are worried they would not be able to do it.

Collaborative divorce involves more than just the couple sitting down alone. They will also have their lawyers present to help keep them focused and on task. Some collaborative divorces can even involve other sorts of counselors who can help the couple work together to build a divorce solution that they can both be comfortable with, rather than relying on a judge to ultimately decide what is best for the two of them.

Parties Who May Want to Use Traditional Divorce

However, not all couples will be able to take full advantage of the collaborative divorce framework. Some spousal relationships are just too far gone for people to comfortably sit down together and talk things out. This is completely understandable given the emotionally-charged nature of many divorces, and those couples may be better served by using the ordinary legal system.

The other set of spouses who may be better off with traditional divorce are those whose relationships have imbalanced power dynamics. There are some marriages where one member is particularly averse to conflict or is unwilling to stand up to the other spouse. In those cases, collaborative divorce may allow the more dominant partner to get the better of the other one, rather than actually producing an outcome that the pair of them could both be happy with.

People considering filing for divorce have a variety of different options available to them. If you are thinking about divorce and want to learn more about the process, contact an experienced Naperville divorce lawyer today for more information.

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Roscich & Martel Attorneys has provided high-quality legal representation in divorce, family law, real estate, estate administration, probate, wills, Advance Health Care Directives (living wills), powers of attorney for over 60 combined years to residents of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook, Wheaton, Warrenville, Winfield, Downers Grove, Lisle, Kendall County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Will County in Illinois.

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