Back-to-school tips for divorced parents

Effective, amicable communication with your ex-spouse about your children’s needs is always theMother on porch waves to child heading off to school goal, but achieving it can be a tall order in times of stress—and the beginning of the school year can be one of the most stressful. Follow these tips to reduce conflict with your ex and ease your children’s transition back-to-school:

  • Meet before the school year starts. A neutral setting is best. The agenda might include bus schedules, extra-curricular activities that may affect pick-up times, late start days, and who is responsible for school supplies. This meeting can diminish confusion at the start of the school year and foster a spirit of cooperation. A shared online calendar can help you both stay on top of the schedule throughout the year.
  • Make sure both parents are listed as emergency contacts and that both are on the school’s distribution lists for notifications and report cards. Never use children as go-betweens to convey important information to the other parent; contact each other directly.
  • Confirm children have everything they need to complete their homework when they are going to their other parent’s house for the evening or weekend.
  • Inform your child’s school and teachers that you are divorced so they will be sensitive to, and can alert you to, any emotional struggles your child may be experiencing.
  • Share any concerns you may have about a child’s development with your co-parent. Both parents have a right to know about any difficulties a child is experiencing. If conflict arises, seek out a counselor or mediator for these important discussions.
  • Don’t allow back-to-school to become a battlefield or occasion to prove that you are the better parent. Keep your focus on your child’s school experience and development. All children need and want the love and involvement of both parents.

This article originally appeared in West Suburban Living Magazine.

Custody Awards to Stay at Home Fathers – Myth or Reality

Most people would like to believe that custody laws in Illinois are gender neutral. While earlier caseLet me show you dad... law favored mothers of young children under “the tender years doctrine”, in an effort to be more gender neutral, the custody laws were rewritten in the 1970’s and 1980’s so that they now clearly indicate that it is the children’s “best interest” that is the overriding consideration for custody awards, without regard to gender. In reality, however, it seems that most judges still award primary residential custody to the spouse who is or was in the recent past the primary caregiver, i.e. the-stay-at-home-parent and, despite many more working mothers now, this more often is the mom than the dad. Much of this thinking appears to be based on the idea that if it is not broken, why fix it?

What about situations when a dad truly does or has stayed at home with the children? When a dad has been present, available and a competent parent. “All things being equal”, Dad should be awarded primary residential custody. Is there still a lingering bias that the mother would do a better job parenting? While the answer may still be yes, that is much less so now than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

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A Major Blow to Obamacare? Depends on who you ask

In an odd twist, just hours apart, two Federal Appellate Courts came out with different answers toiStock_000028144508Small the same questions, regarding a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, (also known as the “ACA” or “Obamacare”).

The two Courts addressed the issue of whether or not the IRS could offer tax credits to individuals who purchased health insurance on federally facilitated exchanges, or whether those credits were limited to those exchanges that were facilitated by the states. The issue has to deal with Section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code, which was enacted as part of the ACA, which allowed for tax credits to be issued to those who purchased health insurance (and otherwise qualified for the tax credit) through a health care exchange. The key language in 36B provides for the subsidy for those exchanges “established by the State under section 1311”.

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The High Cost of a DIY Divorce Agreement

Family law attorneys help people with their divorces and also with issues that arise after a divorce.Chalkboard writing - DIY Resolution of post-divorce issues is governed by the Marital Settlement Agreement (divorce agreement), which contains both parties’ rights and responsibilities regarding financial and child-related issues.

Sometimes post-divorce issues are unavoidable. For example, changing economic circumstances require a new support order, or parties disagree about visitation issues or child- related decisions.

Other times, easily preventable problems arise because parties enter into a marital settlement agreement and obtain a divorce without attorneys.  Parties to do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce agreements are often divorcing on good terms and have uncomplicated finances.  These factors do not insulate parties from problems, however.  The problems that arise with DIY divorce agreements are many and happen even in simple agreements.  Certain issues can be a basis for a court to vacate all or part of an agreement; several of these are:

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On Father’s Day and Divorced Dads

Perhaps the most traumatic repercussion of a divorce is the inability to see one’s children everyiStock_000002487096XSmall02 day. I have met many a client who has refused to pursue a divorce merely because he could not contemplate separation from his children. Even (and perhaps especially) in a failing marriage, parents are comforted by routines that involve our little ones in so many aspects of daily life. Waking up, eating breakfast, coming home at the end of the day, dinnertime, evening entertainment, bath time, bed time. Whether we participate in every activity or not, we are simply happy that they are occurring. We take for granted the fact that the kids are sitting at the breakfast table as we make our coffee and sleeping upstairs as we watch Game of Thrones. Even when we are not directly interacting with them, there is comfort in proximity.

That is what makes divorce so traumatic on the father/child relationship – the loss of that regular proximity and contact. So on this Father’s Day, here are some suggestions for all the divorced dads out there to help maintain that contact, and with it the strong bond that every father and child want and need.

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When is Income, Income? A Rhetorical Question. Not in Illinois.

The Illinois Supreme Court proclaimed that family courts are not bound by the Internal RevenueiStock_000005303068Small Service definition of income in establishing or setting a child support order. In 2004, in the case of In Re Marriage of Rogers, the Supreme Court reversed two Appellate Court decisions that had previously ruled that the Internal Revenue Service Code, and the definitions therein, control or have a significant bearing on the definition of the word “income” as would be used in child support statutes relating to the setting of child support.

In Rogers, the father was receiving regular monthly gifts from his mother and the question was whether or not those gifts should be considered by the Trial Court in establishing the father’s net income for the purpose of setting child support. The Supreme Court held that it should, and, in doing so, stated that when a child support obligor receives funds that represent a benefit which enhanced the obligor’s wealth, it should be considered income for the purposes of establishing child support. The Court went on to say that the lack of a guarantee of recurrence of such funds is not controlling in setting the child support pursuant to the statutory guidelines.

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Special Considerations for Special Needs Children During Divorce

Each year, approximately 6,000 children born in the U.S. have Down Syndrome,[1] as many as 5Boy with Developmental Disability out of every 100 children in school may have Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) [2] and autism now affects 1 in 68 children.[3]  The emotional and financial toll of caring for a disabled child can be overwhelming, even for the strongest of families.  As such, the added stress of a divorce can leave parents unwilling or unable to focus on the child’s unique circumstances in order to ensure the uninterrupted continuation of care, emotional and financial, for a disabled child.

Outside of typical child support for the payment of food, clothing, entertainment and other living expenses, divorcing parents of disabled children should consider additional financial support and arrangements for the child:

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The Unexpected Consequences of Filing a Petition to Modify Custody

In most legal matters, the Court can only award relief which is requested by one of the parties.iStock_000010810650Small However, in matters regarding modification of child custody, the Courts are not restricted by the parties’ requests. Instead, once the issue of custody is placed before the Court, the Court possesses broad discretion to alter custody or visitation rights to the extent required by a child’s best interests.

In determining the best interest of a child, the Court is charged with considering all relevant factors regarding the child and his or her surroundings, including the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. It is this factor that is the undoing of many custody judgments, but not always in a way that is expected. While a parent may bring a petition before the Court seeking custody of his or her child, the parent may wind up in a worse position after all the evidence is presented.

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Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin Separate in “Conscious Uncoupling”

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced this week that they are ending their 11 yearArrow signs on asphalt marriage. They termed their decision to separate as “conscious uncoupling.” While most people would just call it “divorce,” the fact that they were aware (i.e. conscious) of their need to separate for themselves and for their children is commendable. The ability to take ownership of the decision to end a marriage gives way to moving forward for each person. Many couples have not yet achieved that level of acceptance as a result of fear, reluctance, denial, anger or resistance. Despite the fact that the divorce process affects everyone differently, there are certain behaviors which can aid in the “uncoupling” process:

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The Executive Divorce – 10 Strategies for Keeping It Private

Executives, such as self-employed presidents of closely held companies, the C Suite (CEO, CFO,Protected Files etc.), executive employees, officers, and directors, are charged with managing and directing other people in a company. These executives are trusted with significant responsibility including day-to-day operations and future direction of a company. As a result of this responsibility, their personal lives, if made public, may have an impact on the company they work for – particularly with respect to the issue of divorce.

When an executive is faced with divorce, the impact of the proceeding on the executive’s position within a company and the company itself may not receive the priority and privacy it deserves because divorce proceedings are a matter of public record in most states, including Illinois. Take for example the divorces of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, CEO, Hubert Joly, and oil mogul, Harold Hamm. Each of these had a public presence that quickly attracted media attention. This brought the public to the personal issue of divorce, as well as less than desirable attention to each of the companies the individuals worked for.

The public nature of divorce demonstrates the importance of safeguarding the privacy of an executive’s divorce. Moreover, there are a number of key considerations that warrant maintaining privacy for the executive, spouse, and company. For instance:

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