I’m really excited for 2017 to be Chicago Family Law Group’s Best Year Ever. Personally I’ve been working through Michael Hyatt’s rigorous goal-setting curriculum & some HUGE upgrades are being rolled out at CFLG literally this month of February. More details to come but to ‘tease it’ out a bit…adding multiple new legal staff AND total Website re-vamp set to hit by 2/15/17. So EXCITED to protect more families/marriages and IMPROVE OUR WORLD!
The Illinois Family Law Scene
Here’s what is strange to me about the Illinois political environment, on one hand there’s the perception/reality that our General Assembly is not accomplishing much and the state is in awful financial condition, HOWEVER, there have never been such significant changes in the family law space over my 15-years of lawyering as there have been over the last 2+ years.
6 RECENT PAST/FUTURE Law Changes Having MAJOR Impacts
- Income-Shares Child Support model. Effective 7/1/17 (and with major details still needing to be rolled out by lawmakers), we move from the % guidelines model that basically looked purely at the payor’s income to a model that considers BOTH parents’ incomes. The word on the street is that a payor’s support obligation is often lower under this model, however, the key issue likely will vary based on the payee’s income which is now a key component to a child support calculation. If you’ve been thinking about a child support reduction, shortly after 7/1/17 might be a good time to pull the trigger.
- Temporary Matters More Efficient. Parentage and divorce cases often take 6-months to 2-years to resolve-in-full and therefore we’re frequently filing for temporary (while the case is pending) maintenance/child support/attorney’s fees to protect clients over that 6-month/2-year period. Historically these ‘temporary matters’ included significant litigation. However, the new law that became effective 1/1/16 makes these matters easier/abbreviated based solely on the parties’ financial affidavits plus supporting documents (tax returns, paystubs).
- Spousal Support is FAR MORE Prevalent. The spousal support (maintenance) guidelines became effective 1/1/15 and maintenance is far easier to get for our clients now. Previously, maintenance amounts/duration were set wholly on a series of 10-12 factors that made maintenance VERY UNPREDICTABLE. Now assuming an income disparity between divorcing spouses judges are pretty much simply applying the guidelines (30% gross income – 20% gross income = maintenance amount). My observation is that the duration formula is a tad unfair with longer awards that aren’t appropriate.
- Student Loan deductions for child support. This wasn’t clear previously but as of 1/1/16 when we have young-ish parents if there are student loans BEING PAID that’s a deduction against ‘net income’ for purposes of the child support calculation…not a question any longer.
- Relocation Mileage Limits. So to review the big change here as of 1/1/16 became a majority-time parent’s ability to relocate with a child changed from being tied to moving to a different state to NOW having a 25/50 mile limit (depending on where you live in Illinois). In our experience over the last 12-13 months the new mileage limits have increased litigation. I thought this when the law was passed and it’s true….25/50 miles are too small of mileage limits.
- Cook County Domestic Relations Division Reorganization. Effective 2/6/17, a lot of shuffling is happening in the courtrooms that we frequent on a daily basis and hopefully I won’t get lost at the Daley Center with a ton of judge/courtroom changes…but that’s all just administrative and I’ll adjust. The BIG CHANGE that I believe will help our clients is that the 2 ‘parts’ of family law (divorce and parentage) will no longer will segregated. For my first 15-years of family lawyering, parentage cases (unmarried parents) were the ‘2nd class’ part of the universe with fewer courtrooms and judges. Now, all 43 (approximate current number of Cook County domestic relations judges) judges will be handing ‘combined’ dockets with divorce/post-divorce/parentage matters. I think this will upgrade the way in which parentage matters are handled.
Lets make 2017 YOUR Best Year Ever.
We can help with that HERE or @ 312-893-5888.
You are a parent raising young kids in the state of Illinois but you think another state or county within Illinois would benefit your family more. Problem: you share parental allocation or responsibility (formerly custody) with your ex-spouse. In the State of Illinois, just because the child(ren) reside with you, does not mean you get to dictate where they live, especially if it means relocating out of the State of Illinois.
Under the new family law statute of January 1, 2016, ((750 ILCS 5/) Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act ) for parental relocation, if a parent whom the child(ren) resides with majority of the time wishes to relocate, whether it is somewhere else in the state of Illinois or another state altogether, they must give the other parent 60 days written notice (unless impracticable then it must be given at the most earliest date possible) of where they plan to move. Notice is required if you fall under three categories:
- Moving more than 25 miles from the child’s current home, if the child lives in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will County;
- Moving more than 50 miles from the child’s current home, if the child lives in any other county in Illinois;
- Moving out of state to a new residence that is located more than 25 miles from the child’s current home.
In this notice, the parent must include the follow:
1) Exact date that they plan to move
2) The new address
3) The length of time if the move isn’t permanent
If the other parent is agreeable with the move, then your job is just about done. You simply draft an agreement and have the other parent sign off on it and then you file the agreement with the court. If the other parent is opposed to the move, you must get permission from the courts to relocate by filing a petition. The court will usually considers the reason for the move – such as better opportunity for the child(ren) and the effect on parenting time for the other parent.
Most times, parents aren’t as far apart in their wishes. Be ready to compromise and offer reasonable parenting plan for the other parent’s parenting time to not be too affected. The courts would much rather you work out an agreement than to make a decision that may not work for either you or the other parent. The factors the court will consider are outlined below directly from an excerpt of the statute:
(750 ILCS 5/609.2)
Sec. 609.2. Parent’s relocation.
(g) The court shall modify the parenting plan or allocation judgment in accordance with the child’s best interests. The court shall consider the following factors:
(1) the circumstances and reasons for the intended relocation;
(2) the reasons, if any, why a parent is objecting to the intended relocation;
(3) the history and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child and specifically whether a parent has substantially failed or refused to exercise the parental responsibilities allocated to him or her under the parenting plan or allocation judgment;
(4) the educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
(5) the presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
(6) the anticipated impact of the relocation on the child;
(7) whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable allocation of parental responsibilities between all parents if the relocation occurs;
(8) the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to relocation;
(9) possible arrangements for the exercise of parental responsibilities appropriate to the parents’ resources and circumstances and the developmental level of the child;
(10) minimization of the impairment to a parent-child relationship caused by a parent’s relocation; and
(11) any other relevant factors bearing on the child’s best interests. (h) If a parent moves with the child 25 miles or less from the child’s current primary residence to a new primary residence outside Illinois, Illinois continues to be the home state of the child under subsection (c) of Section 202 of the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Any subsequent move from the new primary residence outside Illinois greater than 25 miles from the child’s original primary residence in Illinois must be in compliance with the provisions of this Section. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=8300000&SeqEnd=10000000
So quick recap:
- DO give the other parent notice
- DON’T give notice after moving
- DO put notice in writing with required details
- DON’T withhold your new address
- DO encourage parenting time between the other parent & minor(s)
- DON’T move in bad faith or place minor(s) in a worse off position than they will be in if they stay where they currently reside.
If you are planning on relocating and the other parent is not willing to sign off on the move and you are located in Cook, Lake, Will, Kane, and Du Page counties, call our offices and schedule an appointment at 312-893-5888.
Peter was honored to appear recently on Mauck & Baker’s Lawyer for Jesus radio program. Checkout the full broadcast HERE.
I’m actually undefeated in contested child custody trials in my career and just helped win custody for another gentleman/client in the last couple of months (so I know what I’m talking about). Of course to be ‘real’ I’m surely attempting to NOT waste a year or two heading towards contested trials when certain clients have BAD cases and frankly it’s rarer than one might think that there is actually a battle over who’s custodial parent (majority time parent and decision-maker). That said, if our firm has approximately 100 active family law (divorce or child custody) cases pending at any one time I’d estimate that typically 5 cases are full-on contested, custody matters.
Here’s how you can put yourself in a great position to WIN:
- Facilitate the ‘Other’ Parent’s Relationship with the Kids. This is far and away the most critical factor in custody cases and yet it’s often a tough needle to thread because basically you’re talking about promoting/supporting the other parent’s relationship with your kids while your relationship with that other parent might be breaking down simultaneously (divorce). But, this is a specific factor in Illinois child custody law and I guarantee you judges have this question foremost in their heads, “If I give custody to parent X, is she going to promote parent Y’s relationship with their daughter?” I nearly always ask one or both parties when they’re testifying to talk about the other parent’s strengths because if you have a parent who can’t even say 1 supportive thing about the other parent do you really think he’s going to support mom’s parenting time going forward?
- Be Involved in Your Kid’s Life (what’s your track record?). This is often a key factor I consider when advising a client regarding his/her likelihood of success in a custody battle. You need to know the teachers, doctors, and coaches who are working with your children. You need to attend (and have a history of attending) the conferences, appointments, and games. Perhaps you’re attendance is less than 100% but if it’s nearly non-existent then you’re not winning custody and you likely shouldn’t even try to win custody.
- Have a Support System (frequently extended family). I typically want 3 types of witness at a custody trial: 1) The party; 2) Objective 3rd-party like teacher/coach/church leader; 3) Extended family member, close support system person. We obviously can’t control the family we’re born into but a Court still loves to hear from a grandparent or sibling of the parent who’s a major, supporting influence to a parent and a major, supporting influence to the kids too. I have a great memory of a strong, Irish grandmother being a critical witness on behalf of a client of ours in some successful custody-related litigation a few years back and have a case right now where our client’s parents are a major part of the kid’s life and will help him win custody in his case too.
- Education Matters (particularly in minority or lower-income households). First, lets understand that judges are lawyers and lawyers have a lot of education so I think there’s surely some pro-education bias in all situations. Second, I have observed that in cases with non-white clients or in lower-income households generally that judges REALLY want to see who is the parent who will or won’t promote education as an important factor to a child’s future. We just won custody for a guy last month and the ‘education issue’ was the reason why…when mom had custody of the 13-year-old daughter the daughter missed 50% of school days. The court made a custody change to our client.
- Parental Maturity Matters (child discipline). I’m not saying that the harshest discipline wins, but, I am saying the parent with a structure and plan for discipline wins. I’ve seen more than a few times where a parent is too soft and just wants to be a friend of their child. I helped a guy win custody of his son 2-3 years ago where the mom still lived with her parents, was way too emotional, and was simply unwilling to really PARENT.
A child custody award is an IMPORTANT deal that can really change the trajectory of a kid’s life. It’s not fun while you’re in it but it can be worth the fight oftentimes. We can help.
How can I serve you? The initial consultation is always free:
We’re really thankful for a guest post by a good friend of Chicago Family Law Group, Kate McClelland, a Chicago real estate broker. The simple reality is that a home is nearly always the most valuable asset of a marriage and you must handle the home right when going through a divorce.
The decision to divorce comes when all other options fail for a couple. While divorce is an emotionally excruciating move in life, there are several other aspects associated with the separation that you need to look into.
What to do with the marital home is a giant question in front of the divorcees. Since this is a challenging and tricky decision, you need to consider every option. A number of choices and implications will come up that are going to affect you and your former partner financially and emotionally.
3 Options for Your Divorced Home
Just like separating after a divorce, parting with your home you love is a rough time. Not that it can compare to breaking up with your spouse. Nothing can compare to that, but parting with your house is still tough.
One important question that you and your ex-spouse must address quickly is ‘what are you guys going to do with the house?’. If you are leaning toward selling considering the advice of attorneys, financial counselors, therapists and realtors is a smart thing to do. Don’t rush to sell it and cost yourself money. Don’t settle with your spouse as soon as you can and cost yourself money. Think it through.
All of those figures are going to offer a few different points of view, so it’s worth talking about all of those different factors and all the choices you will run into. Even though it may seem like there a few choices, there are only three realistically.
First, retain the house leaving the title and mortgage as they are. Someone would still have to move out, but if you have kids this could make sense.
Second, transfer the title and mortgage to either you or your ex-partner. This would require a buyout of some type, in the majority of circumstances.
Third, sell the home together and move on to a new place. There are pros and cons to each of these decisions. You have to consider them each.
I can’t stress enough that rushed decisions could cost you big time. Start off by seeing if any of you would want to keep the home or can afford to not sell it. As said before, children and schools are going to be a big factor in your choices.
If you aren’t comfortable staying in the house, selling is the only option on the table. If you have kids, child support may come into play. So that makes maintaining two houses even tougher to imagine. Still, it is not uncommon to see families holding on to a house and paying separate mortgages.
Adding one more payment to your present one can be an impossible task. Try to make your transition as structured and smooth as possible.
Remember that we are all working with a future that is not certain. Though a positive attitude to life is important, you should consider what is possible and feasible. That way you can safeguard your interests and financial safety in the long run.
Selling the house
Most industry experts agree that selling the home is the best viable solution for divorcing couples. This is often the best option. It addresses and takes care of several complicated issues. It also will alleviate a lot of the friction once it is over.
Once you have agreed to sell your home at the time of the divorce, there are a few things that should guide you through the process. In the first place, understand that when you are already undergoing a rough phase of your life, it’s not a good time to take on the additional burden of selling the home yourself. It’s overwhelming and could lead to rushed and clouded choices.
Do some good research to find the right agent who can understand you while helping sell the house fast and for a reasonable price. A real estate professional will be able to give you a suggested listing price based on research showing current market value. Listen to her. Starting off with the wrong price in your listing will set you back.
Staging the house can be a tough job while selling a home. You need to decide which minor repairs and improvements need to be done.
If you have already left the property, then you can entrust the responsibility of staging the home to the agent. Cleaning the home, removing clutter, clearing the extra furniture, making some fine tunings are all some tough jobs, and if one partner is doing all this, then the other might think of compensating them adequately for this effort.
Reviewing the offers received is the combined job of the divorcing partners. While both of you can benefit from the advice given by the agent, and should head it, ultimately you both have to agree on the details of offers and contracts.
With choosing to sell the house, you might again land on some crucial questions. Whether to do it before or after the divorce? Whether to tell the buyers about their divorce status or not? Several lawyers and counselors will stress on the possibility of benefiting from capital gains if the property is sold before divorce.
It will all depend on the specific situation that you have in front of you. Once the sale of the home is decided and there is an agreement on what happens with the sale and who is to pay for what, the best thing would be to leave one of the partners to deal with the process.
The final and the most important thing in selling the house is to divide the profits. You need to pay off all the obligations of the house and also settle whatever other payments and commissions you have agreed upon.
Some divorcing couples decide to co-own the house to let their children live there till they get older and sell the house after that. There are some pros and cons to such a decision.
Any failure to make mortgage payments can equally show up on the credit scores of both the partners. It is also necessary to decide the ways of allocating the mortgages, keep up with the expenses and decide who would benefit from the mortgage interest deduction.
If one spouse can be allowed to benefit from that, the other partner can be compensated adequately through some other financial means.
Co-ownership will also require lingering involvement with one another. Sometimes when the transfers during divorce are not taxable, the co-ownership agreement prevents such benefits.
The arrangement of co-ownership must be included in the decree of divorce or, accompanied by a court order. While they continue as co-owners, it is also essential that they make contingency plans to cover the death of one of the partners.
If one partner really wants to retain the property for himself or herself, the option of buying out the other partner’s equity comes into the picture.
In this situation, one of the worst decisions for one partner could be to transfer the title to the other while still being committed to pay the loans. This is something that will create lingering stress and heartache.
Though this could be one of the remote options, there are certainly ways to disown the legal and financial ties to the transferring owner while giving the co-owner the sole right to the title.
This can happen through the right kind of refinancing arrangement where an entirely new loan is offered in replacement of the existing loan. However, the fact remains that the co-owner must now be able to qualify for the loan.
In some cases, the ex-spouse willing to keep the property might want to sell the equity in the house for other jointly owned assets. Under such arrangements, a fixed amount needs to be assigned to all the assets put together. After this, the parties can mutually agree on an equitable division or appeal to the court to direct the proceedings.
However, in most cases, the divorcing partners will have only a few valuable assets to divide with the house being the major one. Therefore, how the house is settled is a crucial decision with implications for both the parties.
If the divorce goes to trial, the issue of home assumes the secondary importance. When there are no equities to divide and the divorcing partners defend their rights over the home strongly, the situation must be approached objectively.
Unfortunately, sometimes a home does not have any equity and it is not an asset but only a liability. This happens when the current mortgage is greater than the market value and is called being ‘underwater’.
Under such circumstances, the best option would be to liquidate the property and settle things as painlessly as possible. This means shifting to a short sale of the house.
If it is feasible for one spouse to buy out the other, and there is substantial equity in the property, that is a good option.
Keeping it for kids or other options
The modern age scenarios are changing drastically. An increasing number of couples resort to creative solutions because of their children.
After splitting, they wish to keep their children in a stable atmosphere, rather than pulling their roots from the home while they are growing up, and they look for a creative way to make that happen.
This could mean waiting until the children are a particular age and then selling the house. Some couples move in and share the house while ending their marriage, which is also called nesting. This is a sort of amicable breakup.
Such arrangements can have less emotional influences on the children, in addition to having minimal financial implications on the separating partners. Such conditions might also be forced if the couple is already upside down on their mortgage.
This could be a tough decision considering the several pitfalls, and this cannot go on for an indefinite length of time.
Why selling is often the best option
Once the decision is made to divorce, most couples want to proceed with dividing assets and finalizing the split. This can lead to arguments over who gets what and what things are worth. If you are unable to come to an agreement, and the attorneys and mediators find it unsuccessful to work with you, you will have to go through court proceedings.
Liquidating the property and dividing the proceeds as it is appropriate often solves the issue more peacefully with least friction and dissension. It also eliminates the potential stress of missed mortgage payments in the future due to changes in circumstances, or failure of an ex to make payments they have been ordered to make. It happens. They might find it unaffordable at a point in time. Since circumstances can always change, you need to be realistic. Employed professionals are at the risk of being laid off. Self-employed are at the risk of swings in income.
Several reasons might justify or motivate you to keep the home. However, know that things have significantly changed these days.
While homes are a symbol of security at some point in time, they could also turn into nuisance under some circumstances. There is the loan payment, needing to pay the insurance and property taxes, the escalating tax payments during the escalation of the property value and so on.
You also will need to set aside something for home maintenance. Other issues that you may have never thought of while living with the spouse could crop up now, including what to do with the yard, how to maintain the pool and how to pay for the utilities of the home. While planning to keep the home, you must weigh each of these aspects and consider what they would cost.
Therefore, at times, a smaller and newer home can meet your real needs more effectively, while also freeing you from the headaches and memories associated with the marital home.
Condominiums are getting more popular among different kinds of owners. In this system, the homeowners’ association takes care of the hassles associated with the maintenance issues, and a lot of expenses are shared among the association members.
During times of transition, such arrangements can offer a big relief.
When you are married and sell a home, you are going to benefit from the capital gains tax ramifications. Check out your local property tax guidelines to find out.
Often divorcing couples decide that selling the home is the best course of action for them, and working with a patient, knowledgeable real estate professional can help make the journey as painless as possible.