Tag Archives: division of property

Hiding Assets in Digital Currencies

bitcoin, Wheaton divorce attorneysA common concern in divorce cases is that one spouse may be hiding assets from the other. In the past, hiding assets might have involved stashing cash in a safety deposit box the other spouse does not know about or transferring an investment account into the name of another family member. In the digital age, however, there is another method an unscrupulous spouse might employ—using marital assets to purchase Bitcoins.

Hiding Money in Digital Wallets

You may have heard of Bitcoin and similar digital currencies without understanding exactly how they work. Essentially, Bitcoin is an independent financial network that allows individuals to send electronic payments to one another. These payments are expressed in units of “Bitcoins,” which are not physical currency but rather the product of a complex encryption algorithm. This is why Bitcoin is often called a “cryptocurrency.”

Bitcoin may attract a spouse looking to hide assets because there is no central bank or regulatory authority overseeing the exchange of funds. Each individual Bitcoin user stores their units in a unique identifying address that is similar to an email account but commonly called a “wallet.” There is no way to access the Bitcoins except through the wallet.

In theory, a spouse can hide Bitcoin assets by keeping his or her wallet on a computer or smartphone that the other spouse cannot access, including a device physically located outside of the United States. Additionally, a person can purchase Bitcoin in cash from an existing user without leaving any paper trail. Unless the other spouse can somehow identify which wallet belongs to their partner, it may be impossible to trace these hidden assets.

Contrary to popular belief, however, Bitcoin is not 100 percent anonymous. Bitcoin and other digital currencies depend on a technology known as the blockchain, which refers to a common ledger shared among all users. In other words, every Bitcoin user has a copy of every Bitcoin transaction. So, if you are able to identify which wallet belongs to your spouse, you will be able to see every transaction he or she has made with other Bitcoin wallets.

Hiding Assets From Your Spouse Is Risky and Illegal

Hiding assets through Bitcoin is financially dangerous. Bitcoin is an unregulated and still-developing technology. Its value can fluctuate wildly with demand, making it less safe than most other investments. In the wake of Bitcoin’s popularity, a number of unstable and outright fraudulent cryptocurrencies have managed to dupe investors looking to make a quick buck.

Risks aside, hiding assets through Bitcoin or any other method is also illegal. Spouses have a legal obligation to disclose all of their assets in a divorce proceeding. If they attempt to hide or conceal assets, the court may take appropriate action to ensure the other spouse receives an equitable share.

If you have any reason to believe your spouse is hiding assets from you, you need to speak with a qualified DuPage County family law attorney right away. Do not dismiss your concerns as unfounded. Schedule a consultation today by contacting one of our three convenient office locations.




Can I Seek Pet Visitation in an Illinois Divorce?

petsIt is not unusual for spouses to argue about child visitation rights as part of a divorce settlement. But what about pets? After all, many couples consider their dogs, cats, and other animals to be “members of the family.” It stands to reason, then, that custody of pets, including visitation rights, could be a matter for a divorce court to resolve.

Canadian Judge Says Dogs Are the Not the Same as Children

Unfortunately for animal lovers, that is not how the law works in most places. A judge in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan was recently asked to award custody of two dogs in a contested divorce. The husband offered to split custody—each spouse would take one—but the wife wanted to keep both.

Before the Court of Queen’s Bench, Saskatchewan’s trial court, the wife proposed what the judge described as “an interim custody” order granting the husband limited visitation rights with the dogs. The wife effectively wanted the judge to treat the dogs as if they were children. The judge said this idea “holds absolutely no attraction for me.” Noting that dogs are “wonderful creatures,” when “all is said and done, a dog is a dog.” Under Saskatchewan law, dogs are property, no different in legal status than, say, furniture. The fact that the parties in this case, who did not have children, had “lavished their natural love and affection on these pets” did not convert the dogs into the legal equivalent of human children.

Illinois Judges Do Not Want to Settle “Pet Visitation” Claims

The law in Illinois is similar to that of Saskatchewan. In fact, in a 2015 case the Illinois First District Appellate Court was asked to deal with a situation like the case described above. A husband asked for court-ordered visitation with the couple’s dogs, who lived with the wife because his apartment complex did not allow pets.

The First District, noting that no Illinois court had previously addressed this issue, said there was no legal authority supporting the idea that courts could order “pet visitation” in a divorce proceeding. The court cited a decision from a New York divorce court that said allowing such claims “would only serve as an invitation for endless post-divorce litigation. (Indeed, the Saskatchewan judge made the same point, noting litigating the custody of pets was “wasteful” of “scarce judicial resources.”)

Mediation May Offer a Better Way

The fact that Illinois courts do not wish to involve themselves in “pet custody” matters underscores the importance of alternative forms of dispute resolution. A qualified mediator can assist divorcing couples in settling a wide variety of issues–including custody and visitation rights with pets–without the need for expensive and time-consuming litigation. If you need to speak with an experienced DuPage County mediation attorney, contact our offices today.





Military Survivor Benefits in an Illinois Divorce

military divorce, Wheaton divorce lawyerA common issue in military divorces is determining the non-military spouse’s share of any pension benefits. For example, members of the armed services participate in a survivorship benefit plan. Under federal law, former spouses are not entitled to a survivor benefit unless the military spouse makes a voluntary designation of benefits or an Illinois court orders such a designation as part of a divorce decree.

Court Rejects Wife’s Appeal Over Husband’s Military Benefit

Military survivorship benefits are not divisible. This means that if a court orders a military spouse to name an ex-spouse as beneficiary, he or she cannot split the benefit with any future spouse. Survivorship benefits are therefore an “all-or-nothing proposition,” according to an Illinois appeals court that recently addressed such a case.

In that case, the husband was—and still is—an officer in the United States Navy. He entered the service 12 years before marrying the wife. The couple were married for approximately six years before separating, and the wife filed for divorce.

A circuit court judge held a trial regarding a number of disputed property issues and entered a written divorce decree in 2014. As part of its ruling, the court denied the wife’s request to award her the husband’s military survivor benefit. The court noted the survivor benefit is part of the husband’s overall U.S. Navy pension. Since more than half of that pension is non-marital property– he was married to the wife for less than half of his career–it would be “unequitable” to award her the survivor benefit.

The court also cited the indivisible nature of the survivor benefit. If the husband were to, say, remarry and enjoy a “long marriage of 30 years” with his new spouse, he could not give the new spouse his survivor benefit if his ex-wife was already named as the beneficiary.

Finding a Creative Alternative

Now, the husband and wife agreed that she would receive 50 percent of his actual pension, but that will only provide her with benefits while he is still alive. Since the husband’s premature death would be financially devastating to the wife (and the couple’s son), the court therefore ordered the husband to name the wife as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. This would protect the wife and son against a sudden loss of pension and/or child support payments. The court also suggested the wife could, at her own expense, obtain additional life insurance coverage on the husband’s life.

Despite this resolution, the wife still appealed the denial of her claim on the military survivor benefit. The Illinois First District Appellate Court rejected the appeal and affirmed the circuit court’s decision. The First District noted the circuit court “was not required” to award the survivor benefit to the wife as a matter of law. The trial judge’s job was to ensure the “fairest result” for both parties taking into account all relevant factors, and here the Appellate Court said it could not say the circuit court failed to do that.

An Illinois Family Law Attorney Can Help

Divorce often involves untangling a complex web of property and laws. That is why it is essential to work with an experienced DuPage County military divorce attorney to help protect your interests in court. Contact our offices today to speak with a qualified attorney about your case.