Recent Blog Posts

When Divorce Leads to a Dog Fight: Increase in Pet Custody Cases

 Posted on July 13, 2012 in Divorce

When a couple divorces, puppy love may give way to a fierce dog fight. As more people treat their pets like family members instead of property, the number of pet custody cases has been growing.

A survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) in 2006 found that 25 percent of respondents had seen a substantial rise in pet custody cases since 2001. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, one attorney recently reported his pet custody cases had grown as much as another 15 percent since 2007.

Illinois, and all other states, consider pets to be property which is subject to the division of property in a divorce. Many pet owners, however, treat their dogs, cats, birds and other animals as members of the family. This can lead to emotional disagreements as to who will keep the pets when spouses part ways.

The law does not recognize visitation with pets, but a knowledgeable family law attorney can help couples discuss options and develop their own agreement regarding who will own the pet, visiting arrangements and how the pet expenses will be divided. For those considering sharing custody of a pet, a book about pet co-parenting has also recently been released titled, "What About Wally?"

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Illinois Most Recent State to Recognize Virtual Visitation

 Posted on July 10, 2012 in Child Custody

Since the 1990s when the first electronic visitation cases began to appear, virtual visitation between children and their parents has continued to grow. In 2010, Illinois became the most recent state to legally recognize virtual visitation. Currently six other states have laws governing "electronic" or "virtual" child visitation, and 22 more have efforts underway to develop similar legislation.

Virtual visitation includes anything from instant messaging to social media to video chatting. Technology has made it easier for parents who live far from their children to stay connected and involved with their kids' daily lives. For instance, a child may show off a lost tooth over Skype, or a parent may play a game with a child through Facebook.

According to the National Center for State Courts, an estimated 35 million children have parents who are divorced, separated or never married, and 25 percent of these kids have a parent who lives in a different city. Almost 10 million kids don't have routine in-person contact with one of their two parents.

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Divorce Expos Gaining Popularity

 Posted on July 02, 2012 in Divorce

Americans are familiar with wedding expos where future brides can see the latest wedding dress designs, check out new floral arrangements and sample wedding cakes. Recently, however, divorce expos have been attracting a significant amount of attention. At such events expo-goers will find seminars and booths on financial planning, parenting after divorce and an array of other topics.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece discussing the phenomenon of divorce expos, highlighting an event that took place in New York last month titled "Start Over Smart: A Modern Divorce Expo." Examples of featured seminars included: "Moving on After Infidelity," "Parenting Through Divorce," and "Into the Fog-Becoming a Single Dad and a Single Dude Again." The event also included booths staffed by attorneys, financial planners and even dating coaches.

The organizers who planned the New York expo based it on an event in Paris, and similar expos have gone on across Europe. They feel it fills a need to provide resources for those going through a divorce. "Even after divorce, people need a network of continued support to help them transition into their new, post-divorce life," one of the organizers explained. The expo serves as a place for people to get legal and financial information, as well as network with those individuals facing similar challenges.

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Divorce and Data Gathering

 Posted on March 29, 2012 in Divorce

Most people wouldn't imagine that a retailer could tell if you were recently divorced by your shopping habits. However, a recent exposé by the New York Times discussed how Target has an initiative in place to determine when customers are experiencing life cycle events. Such life cycle events include marriage, child birth and yes, divorce.

The aim of the initiative is to tailor advertising to customers at these various stages of life. By focusing on major life events, retailers are more likely to impact brand loyalty and change consumer shopping patterns.

For instance, if a retailer thinks a customer is pregnant they could send ads for specific brands of diapers, baby clothes and toys. If customers act on those ads they may remain loyal to those brands throughout their child's life.

How do buying patterns shift after divorce? Interestingly, it increases the chance that individuals will select a different brand of beer. Perhaps more predictably, research also indicates that right after divorce consumers may suddenly purchase frozen food, linens, furniture and low fat foods.

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More Baby Boomer Women Seeking Divorces

 Posted on March 27, 2012 in Divorce

Most people probably think it is unlikely that many couples would divorce after decades of marriage. In reality, this phenomenon of so-called "gray divorces" is a growing trend. Specifically, women over age 50 are more frequently initiating divorces.

According to data from the National Center for Family and Marriage, baby boomer couples now represent one out of every four divorces. This is up significantly since 1990, when baby boomers were only involved in one out of 10 divorces. Such divorces later in life are more likely to be initiated by women. According to a survey by AARP, in marriages among seniors women initiate 66 percent of the divorces.

There are probably a variety of factors behind these trends. Once spouses retire and their children have left the nest couples often spend more time at home together. This may cause differences to be magnified and tensions between the couple to grow. People are also living longer, and may not want to continue to devote time and effort to an unsatisfying relationship.

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Couples Frequently Choose January to Divorce

 Posted on January 09, 2012 in Divorce

When people think of January they often think of cold weather, snow and New Year's Day. Apparently, however, January also brings thoughts of divorce to many couples. According to several studies, January is the most popular month for couples to choose to divorce, earning it the nickname "Divorce Month".

There are several theories as to why couples select the month of January to split. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season may put many divorces on hold during November and December. Those couples with children in particular may choose to stick it out through the end of the year for the sake of family gatherings and celebrations.

As the coldest month of the year, January is also a time when couples may be spending more time in the home together. Tensions that may have grown during the stressful holiday season may finally reach a breaking point in January. Spouses may also reflect upon the past year and decide it is a time for a fresh start as the new year begins.

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End-of-Year Checklist for Individuals Contemplating Divorce

 Posted on December 30, 2011 in Divorce

Most couples who have recently decided to go their separate ways choose to wait until after the holiday season to file for divorce. Of course this is understandable, considering all the family obligations and events this time of year.

Once the New Year begins it is a time for turning the page and for fresh starts. Perhaps not surprisingly then, nationwide, more divorces are filed in January than any other month of the year. Even if you have chosen to wait until the beginning of next year to formally begin the divorce process, there are steps you can take as this year comes to a close to properly prepare.

One important step you can take is to collect year-end statements from your accounts. You will need to supply information regarding your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, credit cards and mortgages. As you receive month and year-end statements from these accounts keep them together in a safe place. If all your accounts are currently shared, you may also want to consider taking the step of opening new bank accounts and credit cards in your own name.

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Increase in Delinquent Child Support Seen in Chicago Suburbs

 Posted on December 29, 2011 in Child Support

Statistics from the Daily Herald show that the number of delinquent child support cases handled by the state, and also the amount of child support funds owed to parents are increasing in the Chicago suburbs. The increase is reflective of the challenges people are facing in the economic downtown, which has made it more difficult for parents to make and collect child support payments.

The Daily Herald reports that the number of Illinois child support cases tracked by the state for late payments has risen faster in the Chicagoland area than the rest of the state. In DuPage County, the number of cases in arrears rose 48 percent from 2008 to 2010, with 9,000 cases being tracked for delinquent child support. In the same time period, the total amount of back child support owed in DuPage County alone increased by 36 percent, to more than $110 million. McHenry County also saw a significant increase of 66 percent, while Kane County saw a 24 percent rise.

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Including Both Parents on School Forms

 Posted on November 10, 2011 in Child Custody

The return of fall signals back-to-school time for children across the country. A new school year brings a flurry of forms for parents of school-aged children to fill out, such as emergency contact information forms and permission slips for who has a right to pick a child up from school. When a child's parents are not married and share child custody, sometimes school forms cause problems down the road if one parent is not included.

It is usually beneficial to list both parents on most school forms, even if one parent does not have primary physical custody. In fact, most custody judgments require both parents to be listed on school forms. If a non-custodial parent is not listed as a person who can pick a child up from school, the non-custodial parent may not be allowed to get his or her child from school if an emergency arises or during times when he or she has parenting time with the child.

While it may merely be an oversight, the child involved is the one who really loses out, when both parents are not listed on the records as the child has less access to the other parent.

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Child Support Taken From Casino Winnings? Not Yet in Illinois

 Posted on November 02, 2011 in Child Custody

In what some analysts call a rising trend, several states have recently passed laws requiring casinos to check for back child support owed by gamblers before giving them their winnings - minus any child support owed - at the casino cage. Illinois does not have such a law or program in place to recover past due child support payments, but some legislators say they are intent on passing such legislation next year.

Currently, five states divert gambling winnings from people who owe child support to the other parent of their children. According to the Chicago Tribune, the programs have collected almost $3 million in child support while avoiding placing significant burdens on casinos.

In Colorado, where a casino child-support confiscation law took effect in 2008, the system works like this: Casinos check the Social Security numbers of gamblers who win $1,200 or more at gambling machines or who beat odds of at least 300 to one and win more than $600 at table games, which are the points at which gamblers must report their winnings on federal tax forms.

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