Three Tips for a Successful Mediation

Ad a divorce mediator in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois, Many people ask me about the pros and cons of meditation, and some of them have been addressed in my prior article.  However, once you have decided you want to try mediation, it can help to keep in mind the following three tips for successful divorce mediation. If you are interested in divorce mediation, you can contact me or check out a mediation website I’m a part of [click here].

Continue reading “Three Tips for a Successful Mediation”

New Changes to Illinois Child Custody Laws Coming in 2016

Forget everything you thought you knew about custody in Illinois, or what your divorced friends have told you about custody in Illinois.   Come January 1, 2016, custody in Illinois ends as we know it.

Bye-bye Sole Custody, Joint Custody and Visitation

Are you seeking sole custody or joint custody with visitation?  After January 1, 2016, those terms will no longer exist.  The new framework is allocation of parental responsibilities with parenting time.  Parental responsibility is broken down into categories, such as health, education, religion, extra-curricular activities, etc.  One or both parents is given sole or joint responsibility for these categories.  No one knows how the new law will play out in court, but the purpose was to level the playing field.  Under the current scheme, to defeat joint custody, the parent seeking sole custody usually argued that the parties don’t get along and that joint custody would be burdensome.  Under the new framework, both parents are equal stakeholders with the purpose of the law being to maximize the time the child spends with both parents and to encourage cooperation, rather than adversity, in child rearing.

Child’s Best Interest for Allocation of Parenting Time

The current statutory framework is amended as follows: In determining the child’s best interests for purposes of allocating parenting time, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, without limitation, the following:

  1.  the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
  2. the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time;
  3. the amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24 months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2 years of age, since the child’s birth;
  4. any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect to the child;
  5. the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and with any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  6. the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school,and community;
  7.  the mental and physical health of all individual involved;
  8.  the child’s needs;
  9.  the distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
  10.  whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate;
  11.  the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child or other member of the child’s household;
  12. the willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
  13. the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
  14.  the occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household;
  15.  whether one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so, the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment the offender has successfully participated in; the parties are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this paragraph
  16.  the terms of a parent’s military family-care plan that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed; and
  17.  any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

What Does this Mean for Divorces with Children?

It means that parenting agreements will necessarily be much more complex, making it imperative that you hire a competent attorney who is well versed in the new law.  Many of my cases are complicated custody cases, and child representatives have already started implementing the changes, as have the judges that I’ve been before in anticipation of the new law.  This means that come January 1, 2016, I will be ahead of the curve.

What do I do next?

To schedule an appointment, please call Rhonda Stuart at (708) 466-6912.

Illinois Has a New Maintenance (Alimony) Law. What Do You Need to Know?

Starting January 1, 2015, a new law determining spousal maintenance is in effect for divorcing couples. Maintenance is also known as alimony (particularly by the IRS) or spousal support. The new law, P.A. 98-0961, affects couples whose combined gross income is less than $250,000. The new law was put into place to fix inconsistencies in the way different courts awarded maintenance across Illinois. As this is a new law with complex mathematical computations, it is strongly advised that you consult an attorney before agreeing to any divorce settlement that includes a maintenance award. Continue reading “Illinois Has a New Maintenance (Alimony) Law. What Do You Need to Know?”

Should I Mediate My Divorce?

It depends.

Why Mediate a Divorce?

When a couple files for a divorce, usually there are a lot of angry feelings. The tendency is to want to fight for every conceivable advantage. That is why you hire a lawyer, right? Well, yes and no. You hire a lawyer to fight for your rights, but also to advise you as to the best course of action to take, all the ramifications that certain actions will have and how to achieve the best possible results. Your attorney will likely inform you that mediation is the best way to go. Why? Continue reading “Should I Mediate My Divorce?”

Ex Violating Divorce Judgment or Custody Order?

“My ex is violating a court order. What should I do?” As a divorce lawyer Cook, DuPage, and Lake counties, I get that questions a lot. Unfortunately, many people are surprised when they get divorced then find their ex is not following the court order.

I wrote this article to shed some light on what a divorce lawyer can help you do when your ex is violating a court order in Illinois. I’m a divorce lawyer in Illinois, and many times I’ve taken action against against people who don’t follow court orders. Continue reading “Ex Violating Divorce Judgment or Custody Order?”

Who is the Best Divorce Attorney in Chicago?

You decide that you want to get a divorce.  Should you try to retain the best divorce attorney?  Absolutely.  You should retain the divorce attorney who is best for you!  What does that mean?  One who listens, who charges a rate that you can live with, knows the law, and understands that your divorce doesn’t exist to fund his or her next island vacation.

Here’s a few things you should know . . . . Continue reading “Who is the Best Divorce Attorney in Chicago?”

Can’t Find Spouse But Want a Divorce?

Sometimes people have been separated for many years and have never gotten divorced.  They may figure that they have no children, they own no real property,  they have no marital property, or they never plan to remarry, so what’s the big deal?

If you have been separated for many years, in the eyes of the court you might as well still be living together because your rights and responsibilities are still the same.  Anything that you have purchased is marital property, even if purchased in your own name.  Your spouse is still entitled to a portion of your pension benefits, and if you die without a will, your spouse will still be able to get a spouse’s share of the intestate estate.

The only way to separate your finances from a spouse is through a legal separation, which is a court proceeding, or a divorce. Continue reading “Can’t Find Spouse But Want a Divorce?”

Joint Simplified Divorce in Cook County

As a skilled attorney, I generally advise against people trying to do their own divorces.  While you might think it is simple, I receive many calls from people who want to undo things from their divorce.  There is a simple way to get divorced in Cook County, but you must meet all of the criteria. This is not the same as a standard uncontested divorce.

What are the Criteria for a Joint Simplified Divorce?

To be eligible for a joint simplified divorce in Cook County you must meet the following criteria (note that this also applies to civil unions):

(a) The duration of the marriage/civil union does not exceed 8 years.

(b) Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage/civil union and the parties
have been separated 6 months or more. Efforts at reconciliation have failed or future attempts at reconciliation
would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.

(c) No children were born of the relationship of the parties or adopted by the parties during the marriage/civil
union. Neither party is pregnant by the other party.

(d) Neither party is dependent on the other party for support or each party is willing to waive the right to

(e) Each party waives any right to spousal support.

(f) Neither party has any interest in real estate.

(g) The total fair market value of all marital/civil union property, after deducting all debts owed, is less than

(h) The total annual income of both parties is less than $35,000. Neither party has a gross annual income from all sources in excess of $20,000.

(i) Both parties have disclosed to each other all assets and their tax returns for all years of the marriage/civil union.

(j) The parties have executed a written Agreement dividing all assets in excess of $100 in value and
allocating responsibility for debts and liabilities between themselves. A copy of the Agreement, signed by
both parties, is filed with the petition.

If you do not meet these criteria and you live in Cook County, chances are you need an attorney to help you navigate through the divorce process.



If I Have Joint Custody Why Am I Paying Support?

Many people are confused about what joint custody means in Illinois.

In Illinois joint custody means:

  • that the parents must consult with each other regarding:
    • education
    • religion
    • medical decisions

Joint custody does not mean:

  • custody is split 50/50
  • neither parent pays child support

So why am I paying support?

Even if you have joint custody and are splitting time 50/50, it is still possible that you will have to pay support.  Illinois has a statutory formula that is based strictly on a percentage of net income.  However, judges have the  discretion to deviate either up or down depending on the circumstances – but you must ask the court for a deviation.  It is not automatic.

If you are spending an equal amount of time with your children and paying statutory support, and your ex-spouse has a similar income (or more) you may be able to get a downward deviation which would reduce your monthly support obligation.

If you would like to see if a downward deviation might apply to your situation, please contact me.