January 27th, 2015 at 8:10 pm
Child custody issues can be some of the most high stakes and contentious issues in a divorce case. This is especially true in acrimonious divorces where child custody can end up being a long-standing issue, if the parents do not work it out well early on. These strong emotions can make custody disputes difficult, and they can also prompt people to make mistakes. These mistakes can be costly, and end up being the deciding factor in a custody case. Consequently, it is important for parents in these disputes to stay civil, stay honest, and stay persistent, so that they can have their best chance at the custody arrangement that they want their kids to have.
Staying civil is one of the most important parts of the child custody process, and all too often parents fail to do it. While this is understandable in light of the important issues being decided, rudeness will do more harm than good. Illinois law gives judges a wide range of discretion to decide custody issues in the best interests of the child. A judge seeing one parent being uncivil to the other is going to think worse of that parent, especially if the other parent stays above it. There is also a special warning here not to be uncivil about the other parent to the children. Judges are especially poorly-disposed to that, and many even issue legal orders forbidding it.
Dishonesty with the court is another mistake that can land a parent in hot water during a custody dispute. Courts and lawyers have a strong set of tools to ferret out dishonesty, and a person having their credibility damaged like that is a sure way to make the judge discount their statements in the future. Similarly, people should be sure to obey a judge’s orders completely, and not try to hide any disobedience. First, there could be legal consequences just for violating the order, and second, it is a surefire way to put the judge in the other parent’s corner.
Finally, parents in custody disputes need to stay persistent. Being civil and honest is not the same thing as being a doormat. Parents can find custody disputes emotionally draining, especially when dealing with a spouse who is not following these tips. However, calm, polite, firmness can often be the best tactic to show the court a reasonable parent who it would be in the child’s best interests to live with.
Divorce cases are not always easy, and issues of child custody can be especially difficult. However, people do not have to go through this process alone. If you are considering filing for divorce, contact an experienced Naperville divorce attorney today to make sure you have someone on your side.
January 19th, 2015 at 10:50 pm
When the relationship between mother and father becomes strained, grandparents often get caught up in the tension. Sometimes this results in a parent refusing to allow a grandparent to spend time with the child. While there is a general presumption that parents know best when it comes to visitation, there are exceptions. In Illinois, grandparents are permitted to request that the court allow them visitation with their grandchild. Keep in mind that a grandparent’s demand to see his or her grandchild, against the parents wishes, is a privilege and not a right. This means the court may not recognize grandparent visitation rights if it sees fit.
How to Seek Visitation
Visitation can mean face-to-face interaction between grandparent and grandchild, or it can simply mean communication by phone, email, or text message. The process of seeking visitation with a grandchild begins with a petition to the court. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a grandparent must show that he or she has been unreasonably denied visitation; essentially that he or she is not harmful to the child. Additionally, a grandparent must show at least one of the following:
- The parent is deceased or has been missing for at least three months;
- The parent has been deemed legally incompetent;
- The parents are divorced or separated and one of the parents does not object to grandparent visitation; or
- The parents were not married at the child’s birth and the petitioner is a maternal or paternal grandparent.
If one of these factors is established, the court will evaluate whether visitation is in the child’s best interest. Unless it is proven otherwise, Illinois courts assume that the parents’ decisions regarding visitation is in the best interest of the child. Thus, it can be difficult for a grandparent to be awarded visitation rights.
Revocation of Visitation Rights
The situation of a parent refusing to allow a grandparent to spend time with his or her grandchild can arise in many different situations. For example, where one parent has had parental rights terminated, the custodial parent may be hesitant to let the grandparents of that parent visit with the child. If the grandparents do allow the non-custodial parent to visit with the child during “grandparent visitation,” their rights could be permanently revoked. Termination of parental rights is done by court order and therefore it would be a violation of court order to try to abuse grandparent visitation in this manner.
If you are a grandparent seeking to establish or continue a relationship with your grandchild and you are facing difficulties, contact our experienced Naperville family law attorneys today. We understand how important family relationships are and how strained relations can take a toll on your life. Our experienced team is ready and able to help you repair these family ties today.
January 13th, 2015 at 9:51 pm
Family law is an area of law that is almost always left to the states to develop, and it rarely involves serious constitutional questions. Consequently, it is uncommon to see the U.S. Supreme Court take a family law case. However, it does happen occasionally, and the Court recently issued a decision in just such a case, Lozano v. Alvarez. The issue in the case was one of child custody, but it was unique because it had to do with international parents. This left the Court interpreting an international treaty on child custody issues, which would decide how this international child custody case should be decided.
Lozano v. Alvarez
The Lozano case had to do with two parents from England who had a young daughter. In late 2008, the mother left the husband and took the daughter with her, alleging that the husband had been abusing her. The mother and daughter came to New York to live with some of the mother’s relatives. The husband attempted to track them down, and he eventually did so, 16 months later. After finding them, he petitioned the U.S. courts to return the child to England, so that English courts could make a decision on child custody.
The husband made this petition under The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty that, among other things, lays out rules for how to handle situations where one parent wrongfully takes a child to another country. In most instances, the treaty automatically requires courts to compel the return of the child for a proper custody decision. However, there is an exception to that rule if the child has been living in another country for more than a year. The husband argued that that time limit should not apply to him because the mother hid the child, and it took him over a year to find them.
The Supreme Court took this case, and had to deal with two competing interests. Sticking strictly to the time limit may have been the best thing for the daughter. That limit exists because moving a child from country to country can be a disruptive experience, and it is likely that after a year the child would have adjusted to life in the new country. Uprooting them again would be difficult. However, sticking to the limit would also encourage parents to take their children to another country since they would simply need to run out the clock in order to keep them. Ultimately, the Court did decide to stick to the stringent time limit, citing the fact that the treaty made no exception in cases where a parent conceals the child.
Child custody disputes, even purely domestic ones, can still be high stakes. If you have questions about your child custody dispute, contact an experienced Naperville divorce attorney today.
January 5th, 2015 at 7:36 pm
With 2015 just beginning, many people are looking back over their last year and deciding to make changes. Some people want to lose weight and other try to quit smoking, however many people come up with a surprising New Year’s resolution: “Get a divorce.” The first few months of the year are some of the busiest times for divorce, with many people finally deciding that it is time to turn over a new leaf. While no one is quite sure what causes this early year bump in divorces, there are a variety of factors that seem to play a role.
Reliable month by month statistics for divorce rates are difficult to come by, but many divorce lawyers report that interest in divorce starts rising in January and ends up at a high around March. Ordinarily, people begin to get curious around the New Year and start looking into their options and trying to learn more about divorce. Some jump right in, but divorce is a big decision, which means that it can, understandably, take people a couple months before they really decide that divorce is right for them.
There are a number of factors that probably come together to cause this set of divorces so early in the year. For one, the holidays are a stressful time of year, and they usually involve spending a lot of time in close proximity with a spouse. While a single bad holiday season is probably not enough to drive most people to divorce court, it can often be the final straw. Additionally, many people looking to divorce want to wait until after the holidays in order to have one last holiday season with the family. This is especially true of couples with children, and it may also be responsible for a similar spike in divorces around September when the kids go back to school.
The start of the year is also a good time to get a divorce from a practical standpoint. Filing for divorce around the new year can help people draw clean lines for things like taxes, and it tends to be right after a holiday bonus is paid. That can give people a little bit of extra financial security if they are worried about the divorce. Additionally, most people have a bit of extra free time after the holidays end. Many spend that time doing the research to determine if divorce is right for them, and organizing things they need to file for divorce, like financial records.
While there is never an ideal time to get a divorce, the start of the year is often the best option for many people. If you are considering filing for divorce and want to learn more about it, contact an experienced Naperville divorce attorney today.
December 23rd, 2014 at 5:47 pm
Deciding to get a divorce can be an intimidating thing to do for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest concerns people have is the cost. In fact, a study by one legal forum revealed that the cost of divorce was the number one concern for a lot of people. Fortunately, there are a lot of things people can do in order to keep the cost of their divorce down. Having a good understanding of how an attorney’s legal fees work is one of the most important things a client can do to keep costs low, but there are also other ways that clients can work efficiently.
Understanding Legal Fees
Legal work can have a complex fee structure, but there are ethical rules that push lawyers to make sure that their fees are clear. Consequently, an upfront conversation about how the lawyer charges can go a long way. Ordinarily, a divorce lawyer’s fee will be broken down into a retainer and an hourly rate, although some lawyers use only one or the other.
A retainer is an upfront cost that some attorneys charge customers. The amount an attorney charges as a retainer can vary greatly and may depend upon a lot of different factors, so shopping around can yield dividends. It is also important to understand whether a retainer is refundable, and whether the attorney will credit the retainer towards their hourly rate.
The hourly rate is the other option many attorneys use. The attorney keeps careful track of how much time he or she spends working on the case, and will bill based on that time. It is especially important to understand an attorney’s hourly rate if he or she does not charge a retainer because that may mean that the attorney plans on making up that cost with a higher hourly charge.
Additionally, clients should learn about what other things the attorney may charge for. Some attorneys charge for travel time, others for office work or supplies. Knowing exactly what the money is being spent on can help it be used more efficiently.
Tips for Keeping Costs Low
Beyond understanding a lawyer’s fee structure, there are other things clients can do to keep divorce costs low. One of the best things to do is to be organized. Coming to a meeting with the necessary documents and questions prepared in advance can make the meeting go faster, which will keep the amount of time the lawyer spends on the case, and the ultimate fee, down. Similarly, clients should understand the lawyer’s purpose. Lawyers are there to provide legal help. While venting is an important part of dealing with a divorce and the best attorney’s are sensitive to the emotional nature of the case, lawyers make expensive therapists. Keeping on task when dealing with an attorney means keeping down the final bill.
Costs are just one practical element of going through a divorce. If you have questions about them or other realities of the process, contact an experienced Naperville divorce attorney today.
December 16th, 2014 at 8:43 am
Many people going through divorce end up spending a lot of time thinking about the major issues like property division and child custody. While this makes a lot of sense, people should also spend some time thinking about some smaller considerations that can creep up on them. One of these considerations that affects women in particular is what to do about their last name. While the number of women taking their husband’s last name has declined somewhat in the past 30 years, statistics still place the number of women changing their last name at over 80 percent, so the decision of name change after divorce is still one many women will have to face.
Considerations About Name Changes
One of the biggest things a person should think about when considering a name change after divorce is how their name is tied to their identity. For some women, the name will be a constant reminder of their ex-husband and the marriage they left behind. For others, the name has become a part of their own identity, and they do not associate it with their ex-husband, just themselves.
Beyond that, there are practical issues involved in a name change. Driver’s licenses, bank accounts, professional licenses, and utility hookups all have a name attached to them. Changing that name involves no small amount of bureaucracy, and it can be a little while before all the straggler accounts get updated.
Finally, children from the marriage can also complicate the issue. Many children will continue to keep their father’s name. An ex-wife reverting back to her maiden name may end up with a different name than her children. While this is largely a symbolic issue, some children can find it upsetting, especially in the middle of the other issues associated with divorce.
How to Change Your Name
Name change after a divorce is not a difficult process, but it does involve some paperwork and phone calls. A woman’s final judgment dissolving the marriage gives her permission to change her name. This needs to be done before the divorce is finalized, and it almost always makes sense to do so. Putting it in the final judgment gives a woman the option of changing her name at a later date; it does not require it.
The next thing to do is to work with the Social Security Administration to get a new Social Security card with the changed name. To do this, the Social Security Administration usually requires documents proving identity, citizenship, and the authority to change the name. With a new Social Security card in hand, the next step is a new driver’s license. Again, this is going to require documentation linking the old name to the new name, such as a copy of the final judgment dissolving the marriage. Once the woman has both of these new official pieces of identification, the rest of the process is simply contacting private entities to make them aware of the change.
Divorce comes with many practical considerations, and it is important to have a full picture before making any decisions. If you have questions about the divorce process, contact an experienced Naperville divorce attorney today.
December 9th, 2014 at 12:27 pm
The holiday season in America is a time that people make a point of spending with their families. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports a 54 percent spike in travel around the holidays as people traverse the country to visit their families. All this emphasis on togetherness can make the holidays after a divorce a difficult time especially for people with children who will likely need to see both sides of the family over the course of the season. Fortunately, people have ways of making the holidays easier on everyone after the divorce, so that the kids can still enjoy this special time of year.
The biggest thing that divorced parents can do to make the holidays simpler is to avoid conflict. The season only lasts for about a month, but kids can remember holiday fights for a lifetime. Everyone is under a lot of familial pressure during this time of year, and that can make people more prone to fighting, but putting off conflicts that do not need to be settled urgently and keeping old arguments buried for a month will make the whole season easier. Divorced parents do not need to be the best of friends, but cultivating a civil, business-like relationship based on compromise can make the holidays after a divorce go smoother. In fact, it can make parenting after a divorce smoother all year round.
Plan Things out
Another way of avoiding family drama during the holiday season is through an abundance of planning. Ex-spouses know their former in-laws’ routines. They know who celebrates which holidays and when. They probably even used to have a plan for how to see both sides of the family during the holiday season. The divorce is no reason to throw all of this information out.
Both parents know that everyone is going to want to see the grandchildren, and this time of year is not the place to be petty or obstinate. Working out compromises in advance of the holidays can make it easier to cope. Figure out who gets to see the kids on which days. Work out if they are going to be moving between different parties on the same day. Talk about when and where the children have to be. Even work out the practical details like which parent is responsible for making sure the children get somewhere on time. These plans do not have to be perfect, but it is important for parents to figure out an arrangement they can live with since this will not be the last time the holidays come around.
The realities of divorce may appear daunting, but spouses do not have to go through it alone. Contact an experienced Naperville divorce attorney today to learn more about how they can guide you through the process.
December 2nd, 2014 at 10:10 am
Divorce cases require the court to get involved in the personal details of a marriage to determine the best way to unwind it. Consequently, divorce cases are often highly emotional and can result in couples debating personal topics in court. These sorts of issues can become complicated if there are state laws that affect personal privacy layered on top of them.
For instance, Illinois law provides confidentiality for visits related to a person’s mental health, but a person’s mental health can also be an important issue in a divorce case. Consider a situation where a partner’s mental state may affect their legal obligations. Prenuptial agreements, as with all contracts, must be signed by individuals who are legally capable of doing so and agreed to under their own will – free of duress. Lacking that capacity may result in the contract being unenforceable. Amidst divorce, a partner to one of these agreements may argue along these lines to have the agreement tossed out. But what evidence can be presented to prove incapacity or duress, particularly when confidentiality and privacy rights are involved?
This unique issue recently arose in a much publicized divorce case relating to “the richest man in Illinois.” The case centers around a hedge fund manager and his wife, who was also a successful financial professional. Before getting married, the couple signed a prenuptial agreement that laid out, among other things, certain stipulations about how the property was to be divided in the event that the couple filed for divorce.
The wife in the case is now fighting to have that prenuptial agreement invalidated. While there are a variety of ways that prenuptial agreements can be invalidated under Illinois law, one of them is duress. A duress argument can be made on the basis that one of the spouses signed the contract based on the improper influences of another person. The wife argues that prior to signing the agreement she met with the husband’s psychologist who also had a professional relationship with the husband, and that she signed the prenuptial agreement on the improper advice of the psychologist. Conversely, the husband, who was also present at the meeting, argues that her disclosure of the meeting violated his right to keep communications with his psychologist confidential under Illinois law.
The Illinois Law In Question
Courts dealing with and similar issues are forced to make tough decisions that way competing rights and interests. The issue of disclosure centers around the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act. This Act places restrictions on when information about mental health visits may be disclosed.
Cases may eventually hinge on nuanced details. For example, if both parties were jointly present at a meeting with a mental health professional, then either one may potentially claim privacy rights related to the meeting. Alternatively some argue that the court should interpret the Act as applying only to people seeking mental health treatment rather than simply counseling on marital issues.
Divorce law can implicate a wide variety of other areas of law. If you are considering a divorce, contact an experienced Naperville divorce lawyer who can help guide you through these complex interactions.
November 25th, 2014 at 6:11 pm
Divorce can be a stressful process, and many people prepare for the mental and emotional toll that the decision can take. However, fewer people understand that the stress from divorce can also impact a person’s physical health if he or she does not take steps to avoid it. In fact, research from the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University show a 20 percent increased risk of developing chronic health conditions for people who go through a divorce. Consequently, it is important for people to understand the risk of these problems and the steps they can take to help ensure that they stay healthy through their divorce and after it.
Divorce is a difficult experience, and many studies show that people who go through a divorce are at risk for a variety of health problems. Many of the mental health issues such as depression or anxiety are expected in the wake of a separation, but the physical impact can be a more long-term problem. For instance, people who have been divorced are at risk for sleep disorders, which can persist well after the divorce ends. Seeking treatment for these disorders is important because they also correlate with high blood pressure, another health risk.
The stress from divorce can also cause other health issues. For instance, people who have gone through a divorce show an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Beyond that, many people suffer from mobility limitations later in life, which can include things like problems climbing stairs, or walking. The added strain can also decrease the effectiveness of a person’s immune system, which can result in someone become more prone to infections in the time following a divorce.
The causes of these health effects are likely a combination of stress and depression. Mental stress can actually place a physical strain on the body by causing it to release hormones. These hormones alter the body’s normal functioning, which can eventually lead to adverse health effects. Consequently, it is important for someone going through a divorce to take time out of his or her day to relax and de-stress as a way of preventing these problems.
Depression can also take a physical toll because it often leads to people not taking care of themselves. As it sets in, people can feel tired and unmotivated. This can result in more meals out, snacking on unhealthy food, and fewer trips to the gym. It can be difficult to stick to a normal, healthy routine during a divorce, but doing so can help keep these adverse health effects at bay, letting the newly-divorced enjoy the freedom that comes from a separation.
If you are considering ending your marriage and would like to learn more about the different options for reducing the difficulty or stress divorce, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney today. Our firm is here to help you make the best decisions for your situation.
November 18th, 2014 at 10:05 am
In most circumstances, child support stops once the child has reached the age of majority. However, that is not always in the child’s best interest. Many children have mental or physical disabilities that require more care from parents. Additionally, many parents these days have a hand in covering their children’s expenses during college. The law does not require child support to cover these sorts of issues, but Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage act does give judges the option of awarding non-minor children support in certain circumstances.
When Non-Minor Support Is Available
The law makes non-minor child support available to children in two cases. The first case relates to children with disabilities. The law is fairly sparse on guidelines in this area. It only states that courts may award non-minor support in cases where there is a child with a mental or physical disability.
The law provides considerably more guidance in the second case, which relates to educational expenses for non-minor children. Courts can award support related to education expenses for non-minor children with regard to college, professional school, vocational school, and even expenses incurred in high school after the child reaches age 19. The law also provides examples of things the expenses can cover, like tuition, room and board, transportation, books, and other fees. The statute also provides for the actual procedures that can be used to pay the expenses such as paying the other parent, paying the school directly, or setting up a trust for the purposes of educational expenses. Importantly, if courts do award educational support, the law requires parents and children to consent to the supporting parent’s ability to access academic transcripts.
How Judges Decide
As with most issues of child support, the law gives judges a wide latitude to consider the entire family situation in making their decision about whether to award non-minor child support. In fact, the law directs judges to “consider all relevant factors that appear reasonable and necessary.” In order to illustrate some of those factors, the law lists four as examples:
- What the financial resources of each parent are;
- What standard of living the child would have had if the parents had not divorced;
- What financial resources the child has access to; and
- How the child is performing in school.
However, these are just some of the many different considerations that may ultimately end up impacting the decision to award non-minor child support for college expenses or additional care.
Protecting your child’s future is an important consideration for any parent. If you are thinking about filing for divorce and would like to learn more about these issues, contact an experienced Naperville divorce lawyer today. Our team of dedicated professionals is here to help you understand the process and make the best decisions for yourself.