Monthly Archives: October 2010

Five Factors the Court Considers When Relocating Out of State With Children

Commuter marriages and removal cases are on the rise because of unemployment and job transfers to other states. Particularly in today’s market, a relocating parent who can show a direct corollary between the proposed relocation with the child and the child’s best interest might be allowed to move outside the state with the child, leaving the other parent behind. Such a situation requires parents to craft a new visitation schedule between the child and non-relocating parent. Depending on the distance between Illinois and the new state, the new schedule is likely to give the non-relocating parent larger blocks of time during school vacation periods and the summer to avoid perpetual travel back and forth between states by the parents and/or the child.

A custodial parent cannot just up and move out of state with a child because of a new job or other legitimate reason.  Rather,  that parent must obtain a court order allowing the child’s removal and establishing a new parenting schedule. If the issue cannot be resolved in an agreed order, the party seeking the removal must take the issue to court, where there he/she faces a high burden.

The most important factors the court considers when evaluating removal cases are:

  1. The likelihood of the proposed move will enhance the quality of life for both the custodial parent and the child
  2. The motives of the custodial parent in seeking to move
  3. The motives of the noncustodial parent in resisting;
  4. The effect on the noncustodial parent’s visitation rights
  5. Whether a realistic visitation schedule can be reached if the move is allowed. No one factor is controlling, and the weight accorded to each factor depends on the facts of each case.

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Studies Show Women Unhappy with Financial Advisors

Are you prepared to take control of your financial future after your divorce, especially in the area of retirement planning?  If you are a woman, probably not.  Studies show that 74% of women do not know enough about retirement investing, 59% can only guess at what they need to save for retirement, and 54% have no retirement savings strategy whatsoever.

A recent survey of women investors by the Boston Consulting Group found that more than 70% are dissatisfied with the investment advice they receive.  Some of the reasons women are dissatisfied with investment advice are disrespectful advisors, patronizing attitudes, narrower investment choices based upon the assumption that women can’t handle risk, and a lack of understanding of women’s financial needs.  These responses are partly due to different communication styles between women and men.  Most financial advisors presently are men.   So, if you are unhappy with the financial advice you have been getting, you are far from alone.

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Not All Divorces Have to End Up in Court

In my almost 28 years on the bench — most of which I spent presiding over family matters in the Circuit Court of Lake County in Waukegan —  I had a front-row seat for an amazing display of human nature. I met families in crisis, parents in stress, and children in trouble. They arrived in my courtroom with troubling stories of conflict, loss, disappointment, sadness, anger and grief.

I listened to their stories, sorted out their issues, ruled on their motions, heard their evidence at trial, and entered orders awarding custody, dividing property, setting child support, and establishing maintenance. Over the years I believe I developed the ability to see the middle ground in a dispute and to grasp the heart of the issues presented to me. My objective was to help the parties resolve disputes without extensive — and expensive — litigation.

Now that I have left the bench and entered private practice, the pain my clients experience when restructuring a family through litigation is even more apparent. It is therefore my goal to use my experience as a judge to help people ease their pain and reduce their cost by informing them on options to resolve their disputes through an alternative to litigation, including the process of mediation.

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Divorce Insurance: Financial Planning Before Marriage?

Premarital agreements that control the distribution of property at the end of a marriage by death or divorce may be a sensible and equitable choice for a prospective bride or groom wanting to preserve assets from a previous marriage for the children of that union or to protect business interests established several years before the proposed marriage.  However, many people believe that such agreements are, in effect, a type of insurance policy that forces both parties to enter the marriage not only on an unequal footing, but also with the somewhat chilling understanding that one party is already planning for the possibility of divorce.

Well, a recent article in TIME Magazine described a company that has gone one better: it offers divorce insurance as “the perfect wedding present.”  In return for the payment of a set monthly premium per unit of insurance purchased, WedLock, the company offering the new policies, is currently charging about $16 dollars per month for each $1,250 of coverage.  Premiums must be paid for four years before an insured may collect on the policy, but the company pays a premium of $250 per unit for every year the marriage survives beyond four.  Ideally, both prospective spouses would purchase policies   While such insurance may soften the impact of a financially devastating divorce, it does not appear to encourage spouses to commit to staying together and working to restore the feelings for each other that caused them to marry in the first place.

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How Does Divorce Affect My Family’s Health Insurance?

As we enter open enrollment season for health insurance, it is timely to discuss how divorce can affect your current health insurance.  If you are currently covered under your spouse’s health insurance, divorce or legal separation is a qualifying event that triggers COBRA coverage for the non-participating spouse (and possibly the children) under a group health plan covering 20 or more employees. Making a change to the beneficiaries during an Open Enrollment Period is not a qualifying event and does not activate COBRA coverage.

Many medical plans have an Open Enrollment Period once a year allowing participants to select among HMO or PPO coverage or other options the plan/employer may offer.  Often the plan provider will change during this period as well, as the employer seeks to find a cheaper medical plan vendor.  A participant can add or drop a spouse or children (or any other qualified person) during the Open Enrollment Period without having to explain the reasons for the change.  Usually the parties being dropped have their own medical coverage via their own plan, or the spouse can cover the children at a more reasonable price.

A party who is obtaining a divorce may be tempted to drop the spouse and children from medical coverage during an Open Enrollment Period to save a few dollars or to gain leverage in the proceeding.  The dependent spouse will not receive any notice of the change and will find out their coverage is cancelled only when they attempt to obtain treatment.

What can you do to prevent this from happening?

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Spouse’s Income Could Be Relevant When Child From Prior Marriage Goes To College

Your divorce is behind you, you are happily remarried and your child from the first marriage is about to start college.  You want to enjoy the last few months before your child enters adulthood, but you find yourself embroiled in litigation with your ex-spouse over who is going to pay for college expenses.  Surprisingly, your new spouse is drawn into the case as well.  How can that be?  What does your new spouse have to do with the payment of college?

The answer is that the courts consider, amongst other factors, your financial resources in determining the amount of your contribution to college, and your spouse impacts your financial resources.  Since the 1980’s, parties have used their new spouse as a shield from paying for college expenses.  The typical argument is that the court should consider the financial obligations and expenses for the second family in assessing the ability of a parent to contribute to the college expenses of a child from the first marriage.  Clearly, if you have additional obligations that need to be met, your available financial resources to pay for college would be reduced.  Yet, in today’s world, many second marriages result in two-income households.  If you fall into this category, it is more than likely that your former spouse will use your new spouse as a sword to obtain more funding for your child’s education.
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Practical Tips For Divorced Parents: Traveling With Children

Traveling with children is a rewarding, although often stressful, endeavor.  In today’s highly mobile society, families are scattered across the country, and interstate and international airline travel continues to increase in frequency for the ordinary family.

Over the past decade, increased security and airline industry constrictions have made the logistics of travel increasingly difficult for everyone, from the first class jet setter to the mom and dad who load their kids into coach class for a trip to visit the grandparents in Florida.  For divorced parents, the added wrinkle of legal and practical constraints placed upon them by their Divorce Judgment only adds to the headaches.  Yet there are a few simple tips that every divorced parent can keep in mind in order to make sure the trips run smoothly and no one is sent home from the airport or the border at the last minute:

  • Review your Judgment as soon as you decide you want to travel. Every Divorce Judgment should contain provisions for travel, including the requirements for prior notice to identify vacation dates and to provide travel itineraries.  Make sure that you comply with all of these requirements, in writing, well in advance of the deadlines set out in the Judgment.  By doing so, you certify your right to travel with your children during your allocated time and can prevent your ex-spouse from attempting any last minute hold ups that have you in court instead of on the beach on the first day of your planned vacation.

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