New Study Reports Online Dating Relationships More Likely to End in Divorce

October 30th, 2014 at 10:41 am

marriage, Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois family law attorney, dating, Relationships that began online are a growing trend today, especially among divorcees, but there are pitfalls that people entering into these relationships should be aware of. A new joint study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and Stanford reveals that relationships that begin online are more likely to end in divorce than comparable relationships that began traditionally. This new research, which is being published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, contradicts older research that was done on the subject at the University of Chicago, which was sponsored by the online matchmaking service eHarmony.

What the Study Found

The study examined the love lives of over 4,000 people over a two-year period. Of the people surveyed, almost 3,000 were either married or in a romantic relationship. Of those, almost 10 percent had met online. The participants were surveyed over the course of the study as well as at its beginning and end. The researchers compared the relationship statuses of those couples during the duration of the study. Over the first year, the couples that began online were 28 percent more likely to end the relationship than those that began using more traditional methods. As for divorce, by the end of the two-year study, eight percent of married couples who had met online had divorced. By comparison, only two percent of offline marriages had ended.

Potential Explanations

The study’s authors, as well as other commentators, have put forward a variety of potential theories that may explain the reasons for this wide gap in divorce rates. One theory centers around the fact that many online dating profiles contain false or exaggerated information. This high rate of dishonesty in the dating process may mean that there are trust issues that emerge early in the relationship, something that can often signal a relationship’s eventual end. Additionally, this can also slow the development of online relationships because there is a general stigma of dishonesty over the process; 86 percent of people who date online report concerns about false information on the profiles.

The researchers also believe that this disparity might be explained by the number of options that online dating provides. Many people can find it difficult to commit to one partner when there are so many readily available on the website.

Another similar potential explanation relates to the ease of online dating. The CEO of Match.com believes that people who date online are more willing to end relationships that they are not happy with quickly because they can more easily find a new partner.

If issues with your relationship have led to your wanting a divorce, contact a dedicated DuPage County divorce lawyer today. Our firm’s experienced professionals can help guide you through this complex and important process.

Tips for Handling the Holidays with Kids after Divorce

October 27th, 2014 at 10:27 am

Illinois family law attorney, child custody,American culture emphasizes the importance of spending time with one’s family during the holidays. This can make the holidays a particularly difficult season after a divorce. It can often be made tougher by the long wait for them to roll around because statistically speaking, divorces are most common just after the start of the new year. This means that there can be a big gap between when the divorce starts and the next holiday season. Fortunately, there are many strategies people can use to make the holidays run more smoothly after a divorce.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead for the holiday season can make everyone involved happier. Children are likely going to need to be shuttled between different celebrations for different parts of their extended families. That means that the two ex-spouses are going to need to work together to coordinate how pickups and drop offs work and who is going to be where and when. Alternatively, if the custody schedule creates holidays that alternate by year, then it is important to plan early for which parent is responsible for the kids during the holidays and to develop a system that works well for everyone involved. It can also be helpful to bring the kids themselves in on the planning. Accommodating their thoughts on how they want to spend the holidays, to the extent possible, can help improve everyone’s mood during the season.

Avoid Fighting the Divorce

The holidays tend to come with lots of opportunities to try to fight against the divorce’s effects on a person’s life. Family relationships are changing. Holiday traditions are changing. It can be tempting to try to cling to things by over-indulging children with presents or trying to recreate old holiday traditions that do not fit the new family structure. However, this can only cause problems in the long run. Indulging children will lead to financial woes, and old holiday traditions may not work in the new setting. It is better to accept the changes brought by the divorce and to develop new traditions that can help with family bonding.

Remember That It Is the Holiday Season

The holidays are a time of joy, especially for children. Fighting parents digging up old divorce grudges can make the season more difficult for them. This part of the year calls for particularly great amounts of civility and flexibility on the part of both parents. Even if the parents cannot get along in the long term, an extra effort towards having a businesslike relationship over the short holiday season can go a long way towards making everyone’s holiday better.

Divorce can be an emotionally difficult process, but you do not have to go through it alone. Reach out to a dedicated DuPage County divorce attorney today to learn more about the process and all your options.

Serving Divorce Papers over Facebook?

October 24th, 2014 at 3:49 pm

service process, Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family law attoreny, Lawsuits are full of procedural requirements to make sure that both sides get a fair hearing, and divorce suits are no different. One of these procedural requirements is known as “service of process.” This is a step that happens early in the suit and is designed to alert the other party to the fact that they are now involved in a lawsuit. It involves delivering the other party a copy of the court filing that started the case, along with a summons to appear in court.

This is, naturally, a necessary step in any legal proceeding because the other side needs to be aware that it is happening for them to come in and tell their side of the story. However, this part of the process is also rife with opportunities for abuse. There are some parties who attempt to avoid service by dodging the person sent to deliver the papers in an effort to delay the start of the case indefinitely. While the law does have a variety of tools to combat that sort of behavior, a New York family law judge just added another one that is perfect for the 21st Century

What Service of Process Looks Like

Under Illinois law, people have several different options for serving someone with their court papers. The most straightforward is called personal service. With this method, the person hires a professional process server and that person acts like a courier, hand-delivering the papers to the other party. The process server can also use something called substitute service, where they leave the papers at the person’s home with someone over the age of 13, and also mail a copy to the house. If both of these methods fail, then the serving party can get permission for service by publication, which is where notice of the suit is placed into a newspaper.

The New York Case

The case in New York related to a wife who was avoiding service because the husband wanted to complete the termination of his child support since the child had turned 18. She left no forwarding address and the husband could not track her down despite diligent efforts. While this would be cause for service by publication in Illinois, that method seemed outdated to the New York judge. The judge granted the husband permission to serve his wife over social media, since he knew that she was active on Facebook. While this is the first time any judge has granted permission to serve someone still in the country via Facebook, it may signal a coming shift in the future that would make litigation easier.

If you are considering filing for divorce and would like to know more about how the process works, contact a dedicated DuPage County family law attorney today. Our firm’s experienced professionals are here to help answer your questions.

Children and Taxes: Dependency Exemptions after Divorce

October 20th, 2014 at 9:25 pm

 IRS tax deduction, Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family law attorney, Divorce is a process with many different moving parts, and people going through it often focus on the major ones, issues like child custody and property division. While these are absolutely life-altering decisions, there are other, smaller questions that can still be incredibly important. One such question is which parent gets to claim the child as a dependent after the divorce. While this seems to be a fairly minor point of tax law, it is actually quite important. According to IRS regulations for 2013, a person’s being able to claim the dependency exemption could save them almost $4,000, and that is just for a single child. The answer to this question turns out to be a little complex and it depends on both IRS rules and Illinois law.

The IRS Answer

The IRS answer is known as the Custodial Parent Rule, and it can be found in section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code. It states that the custodial parent is the only one who gets to claim the exemption. If there is a joint custody agreement in place, then the parent who has custody of the child for more of the time qualifies as the custodial parent. However, there are two exceptions to this rule. First, if the parents have a multiple support agreement in place, then this rule does not apply. Second, and more importantly, the parents are allowed to agree between themselves who gets to claim the child’s dependency exemption, which is where Illinois law gets involved.

Illinois Law

Illinois courts have the authority to force one parent to give the dependency exemption to the other as part of a divorce decree. The courts can also shift the exemption between the parents as part of the post-decree divorce proceedings. For instance, in at least some districts in Illinois the court will award the dependency exemption to the parent who is contributing more of the support to the child from a financial perspective. Courts in Illinois have actually taken a fairly sophisticated approach to determining exactly what “more support” means. For example, there have been some very close cases where the parents have been contributing very nearly equal amounts to the child’s support. In those cases, the courts have assigned an alternating dependency exemption. Each parent was allowed to claim the exemption in alternating years. In the end, courts have a wide degree of latitude to determine the answer to this question as they see fit, so it is important for parents to understand their divorce decree when it comes time for them to fill out their taxes.

If you are considering filing for divorce or have recently been served with divorce papers, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney today. Our firm is here to help you through this legally complex and emotionally difficult time.

Children’s Rights during Child Custody Disputes

October 16th, 2014 at 10:43 am

Illinois child custody lawyer, child representative, children's rights, The American court system is set up to be adversarial in nature, which means that it pits the two parties in the courtroom against each other. Unfortunately, this is the same system that American courts use in divorce, which can lead to spouses getting involved in bitter fights as they try to assert their rights against each other. This setup often obscures the third party being affected by the divorce, the children. Children in a divorce have some rights too, though often limited ones, and it is important to understand these rights during the process. For instance, in some circumstances, Illinois law gives children the right to be represented by an attorney or a guardian ad litem, a lawyer who has their best interests in mind. Additionally, children have a right to be heard in child custody proceedings, although this right is often misunderstood.

Guardians ad Litem

Guardians ad litem, along with attorneys for the child and children’s representatives, are lawyers who work to advocate for the best interests of the child. Each of these professionals has slightly different roles and powers. For instance, the guardian ad litem, which the court can appoint on its own or at the request of one of the parties, undertakes an investigation of the facts of the situation. They interview the children, the parents, and other important witnesses, and they gain a full understanding of the facts of the divorce. Then they prepare a written report for the court, making a variety of recommendations about child custody with the best interests of the child in mind. Children’s representatives are similar except that rather than preparing a report, they undertake an investigation of the situation, and then make legal arguments to the court based on the evidence, acting more like the child’s lawyer.

Choosing the Custodial Parent

Another major right that children have is one that is more commonly discussed than guardians ad litem. Children of a certain age have the right to express a preference during a child custody decision that the court makes. Often, this right interacts with the guardian or other representative expressing the child’s preference to the court. However, this right is commonly misunderstood or exaggerated. First, many people think that there is some specific age after which the child has a right to be heard. This is not the case. Once a child forms the ability to articulate a preference, they may be heard, but not all preferences are equal. This is because of the other common misunderstanding, the belief that the child’s preference is binding. This is not the case. The court takes the child’s preference into account, but it is just one of many factors that go into the decision, usually with an older child’s preference carrying more weight.

If you would like to file for divorce and anticipate child custody issues, contact an experienced Wheaton family law attorney today. Our firm’s skilled professionals are here to help answer your questions, and guide you through the complex legal process.

Understanding Child Custody

October 13th, 2014 at 9:23 pm

parenting time, visitation, Illinois family law attorney, One of the central issues of any divorce is that of child custody. However, despite its importance to everyone involved, many people do not fully understand the different types and components of custody. For instance, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows for either joint or sole custody.

These two types of child custody relate to whether one or both parents have custody of the child, and they cover related issues like shared parenting time. Beyond this distinction, the law actually recognizes two different types of custody, physical custody and legal custody. Each of these two different types of child custody are important because each provide different rights with respect to the child.

Joint vs. Sole Custody

The legal distinction between joint and sole custody is one of how many parents have custody over the child. With sole custody, only a single parent has custody of the child, taking care of them full time. However, this may still include some forms of visitation. Additionally, a parent may be awarded sole physical custody with joint legal custody, a distinction that will become clearer later.

The opposite of sole custody is joint custody. In this child custody setup, the parents share physical and legal control of the child. While the law makes this an option to judges, it is not available to all parents. Instead, the court looks at whether it believes the parents will be able to cooperate in matters related co-parenting. This is because joint custody situations with uncooperative parents can often be difficult for the children to cope with. Notably, joint custody is not the same thing as having equal parenting time. As usual with family law, the court sets the parenting schedule in accordance with what the court perceives to be the child’s best interests.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

The other distinction that the law draws in relation to child custody is that of physical custody versus legal custody. Physical custody is the type of custody that people most often think of when they think of custody. It refers to the physical control over the children, issues like whose houses they stay at, when, and similar concerns. Legal custody is a more nebulous right, but one that is just as important. Rather than dealing with the physical issues of raising a child, legal custody pertains to control over decisions which need to be made about the child’s upbringing. For instance, legal custody gives parents a voice in decisions about what school the child should attend and what religion they should be raised in.

If you are thinking about filing for divorce or have recently been served with divorce papers, reach out to an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney today. Our team of experienced professionals is here to represent your rights and to help you understand this complex legal process.

Supreme Court Rejects Same-Sex Marriage Cases

October 9th, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Illinois same-sex marriage, Illinois family law attorney, SCOTUS, On Monday, October 6th, the United States Supreme Court rejected petitions from five separate states requesting that the Court make a final ruling on the issue of same-sex marriage in the United States. This decision is a victory for same-sex marriage advocates since the petitions were appealing five appeals court rulings upholding same-sex marriage in Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia. This rejection surprised many experts who were expecting the Court to take at least one of these cases, possibly to issue a final decision on same-sex marriage, especially since the Court had issued a stay preventing these marriages from going forward while it deliberated. With these petitions denied, marriages in these states can now go forward.

The Petition Process

The way this decision happened from a practical standpoint is affected by the process by which cases get to the Supreme Court. There are three levels of Federal courts, just like there are for courts in Illinois. The first level is the district court, where trials are held. Then, losing parties are automatically allowed to appeal to the second level, the circuit courts, which exists to watch over the district courts and correct mistakes. These courts are based geographically, which each court covering several states. For instance, Illinois sits in the Seventh Circuit, which covers Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Finally, there is the highest level, the Supreme Court. Unlike the circuit courts, to which parties automatically have access, the Supreme Court gets to choose which cases it takes. Parties file “petitions for certiorari” that ask the Court to review their case. Ordinarily, the Court chooses cases in which different circuit courts have ruled differently on the same issue, a condition known as a “circuit split.”

What This Means

This decision represents a victory for same-sex marriage advocates because in all five cases the circuit courts upheld people’s right to same-sex marriage. Before this decision, 19 states, including Illinois, had legalized same-sex marriage. The court’s rejection of these petitions pushes that number up to 30. This is because, in addition to the five petitioning states, the circuit courts’ rulings also apply to all the other state’s within their jurisdiction.

Court watchers think that the reason for the rejection is the lack of a circuit split. Thus far, every circuit court that has ruled on the issue of same-sex marriage has upheld it. The Court is likely waiting for a circuit court to oppose it before taking a case on same-sex marriage, especially in light of the recent decisions the Court has already made on the subject.

This decision represents just one of the many complexities that can arise in the area of family law. If you have questions about family law or divorce, contact a DuPage County family law attorney today.

Bifurcated Judgments and Divorce

October 6th, 2014 at 5:01 pm

marital negotiations, Illinois divorce attorney, divorce trial, Ordinarily, divorce proceedings are handled in a single hearing. This means that there is a single proceeding in which the court both enters an official judgment dissolving the marriage and settles issues like property division and child custody. However, there are certain circumstances under which the court can hold two separate hearings, one to dissolve the marriage officially and another to settle the practical issues like property division. These sorts of proceedings, known officially as bifurcated judgments, are allowed under Illinois family law 750 ILCS 5/401(b). Yet, the law only allows for these sorts of split judgments under a limited set of circumstances, and even when they are allowed, they come with a set of pros and cons that need to be weighed.

When Bifurcated Judgments Are Available

Illinois statutory law allows for bifurcated judgments under “appropriate circumstances.” This vague standard has left it largely to the courts to determine when such circumstances exist. Courts have been creating non-exhaustive lists ever since. Generally speaking, the circumstances are appropriate whenever one of the parties has an interest in terminating the marriage in a timely manner and it does not unduly prejudice the other spouse. For instance, there was a divorce case in which a woman was dying of disease, and was not expected to live long enough to make it through a conventional divorce. She was allowed a bifurcated judgment for estate planning purposes. In another case, a married woman was seeking a divorce so that she could marry another man. She was already pregnant with the other man’s child, and sought the bifurcated divorce so that she could marry him quickly. The court allowed this because the other man was better able to provide for her and the child’s medical care. These are just some of the many examples of circumstances where courts may consider using a bifurcated judgment.

The Pros and Cons of Bifurcated Judgments

As previously mentioned, bifurcated judgments often come with a variety of pros and cons. Usually, many of the benefits are specific to the individual cases, like the ones above. It may be an issue of estate planning, insurance, or some other legal formality, but generally speaking it is a situation in which formally ending the marital rights as quickly as possible is beneficial in its own right. Beyond that, there is also an emotional benefit to making a quick end of the marriage. The difficulties of these sorts of judgments are twofold. First, there is the practical issue that it will require two separate legal hearings, which means more time in court. Second, the end of the marriage is often a powerful factor in making spouses settle contentious issues. With that already taken care of, many parties become more stubborn, which can lead to a judge making more of the decisions.

If you believe you could benefit from a bifurcated divorce or you simply have more questions about the practicalities of the divorce process, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce lawyer today. Our professionals are standing by to answer any questions you may have.

Stay at Home Parents and Divorce

September 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am

DuPage County divorce attorney, file for divorce, stay at home parents, temporary alimony, prenuptial agreement, postnuptial agreementStay at home parents can face unique disadvantages in divorce, despite the fact that, according to U.S. Census data, there are tens of millions of stay at home parents taking care of children across the country. Stay at home parents often run into trouble following a divorce because they chose to give up careers to take care of their families. However, this can leave them without options to support themselves after the divorce.

In the past, this was less of an issue because permanent alimony was more common, but recent changes to the law have made temporary alimony a more likely outcome. Such alimony is designed to allow the stay at home spouse time to get back on their feet and reenter the workforce.

Difficulties Faced by Stay at Home Parents 

Stay at home parents who have been provided only temporary alimony by the court often face challenges for which they need to be prepared. First, many stay at home parents attempt to reenter the workforce too quickly because they know that they are working under the deadline of their alimony ending. While this impulse is understandable, and in some cases necessary, many parents can afford to take longer than they do to attempt to reestablish old professional contacts or to develop new marketable skills. Second, stay at home parents, especially those who reenter the workforce too quickly, can often find themselves without benefits, like health insurance, for which they had been relying on their spouse.

How They Can Protect Themselves

Unfortunately, the best ways for people to protect themselves from these issues are to take precautions before the divorce happens. For instance, people should maintain contact with the professional world after they stop working full-time. This could be as simple as seeing old colleagues for lunch every so often, or it may even involve working part-time or freelancing if their type of profession can accommodate that sort of a schedule. For those who have already cut themselves off from the working world, it may be beneficial to start moving back towards it before the divorce process begins. This could involve dredging up old contacts and rebuilding a professional network, or maybe even finding a new part-time job.

Another way stay at home spouses can protect themselves is through either a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. These agreements allow couples to decide issues like spousal support for themselves, and thus allows for the creation of a safety net for the spouse who chooses to stay at home.

If you are considering filing for divorce and would like more information about the process, reach out to a DuPage County divorce attorney. Our firm is happy to help you better understand your rights and your options.

Pre-Pups: A New Trend in Divorce

September 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am

divorce trends, DuPage County family law attorney, prenuptial agreements, pre-pups, personal property, shared custody, shared pet agreement, pets and divorce, pet visitationThere is a new trend in family law aimed at protecting people’s relationships with their pets. Prenuptial agreements related to pet custody are now being referred to by some as “pre-pups.” These new agreements stem from a variety of factors. First, many are choosing to marry and start a family later in life. As a result, couples are embracing a joint pet as a stepping stone along that path.

However, according to a CBS report, this new trend is causing pet owners, overwhelmingly dog people, to try and protect their relationship with their pets once the relationship with their significant other ends. Second, the law treats pets as personal property for the most part. This means that shared custody and visitation—ideas that were developed for children—do not have legal relevance to pets. Hence, people need to make private agreements to mimic those ideas.

How the Law Views Pets

One of the driving forces behind these new agreements stems from the way the law regards pets. The law in relation to animals was developed during a time when animals were more tools than companions, and they worked on farms, lived as livestock, or were used for hunting. This meant that the value of the animals was more practical. Courts developed doctrines that considered animals, whether pets or otherwise, as ordinary personal property. Consequently, for purposes of divorce, deciding who received the family dog became an issue of property division rather than an issue similar to custody dispute over children.

However, there is some evidence that this legal view of pets is changing. The prevalence of disputes over family pets has led some jurisdictions outside Illinois to begin treating the issue of pet custody like child custody, and thus look to the spouse who will take better care of the pet. Additionally, Illinois is one of the few states that allows for pets to benefit from the protection of restraining orders, therefore signifying the special place companion pets hold in people’s lives.

What Pre-Pups Can Do

Pre-pups allow couples to determine what happens to their beloved pets in the event their relationship does not work out. While they can simply be used to determine which partner receives custody of the pet, they can also be more sophisticated. Some couples choose to use them as a way to mimic more complex custody arrangements like those that exist for children. These can include things like joint custody, visitation rights, and even support obligations for the couple’s pet.

If you are currently considering purchasing a pet with a spouse or significant other, contact a DuPage County family law attorney. Our firm can help you arrange for an agreement to help handle the logistics of owning a pet in the event the relationship ends.