New Spousal Support Guidelines Await Governor’s Signature

July 30th, 2014 at 6:53 pm

DuPage County divorce attorney, pay support, spousal support, spousal support guidelines, Wheaton divorce attorneyOne of the key portions of any divorce proceeding is the determination of spousal support, also referred to as alimony. This is the money that one former spouse pays to the other to support them as they transition back to their single life.

The current system of calculating spousal support is based on a wide array of factors, including things like both spouses’ incomes and property, the spouses’ needs and earning capacities, the standard of living that occurred during the marriage, and the duration of the marriage. This has led to spousal support amounts being somewhat unpredictable at times.

Now, a new bill that is currently awaiting the governor’s signature plans to reform that. The bill will not remove those factors from play entirely, but it will provide more concrete guidelines for judges to follow. The bill adds a new method of calculating support terms and the amount of time that the supporting spouse will be required to pay support, which will now be based on the length of the marriage. Additionally, the bill provides more strict mathematical formulas for calculating the amount of spousal support that a person will owe.

New Support Terms

The first set of guidelines that the law creates are a set of support terms. These are suggested periods for which supporting spouses must pay alimony, based on the length of the marriage. The new law applies a simple mathematical formula to calculate the support term. The judge multiplies the length of the marriage by a specific factor that changes based on the length of the marriage, as shown in the table below.

Marriage Length

Support Factor

0–5 Years

0.20

5–10 Years

0.40

10–15 Years

0.60

15–20 Years

0.80

20 or more Years

1.0

This means that a couple who has been married for four years would have a support term of 0.8 years because the support term would be four years times the support factor of 0.20. Additionally, the law also allows judges to order permanent support for marriages that lasted more than 20 years.

Support Calculations

The law also creates a new mathematical guideline for the amount of support owed, though the judge may deviate from this amount for a specific reason. The law requires judges to calculate support by taking 30 percent of the supporting spouse’s gross income and subtracting 20 percent of the supported spouse’s gross income from it. Thus, if the supporting spouse made $100,000 every year, and the supported spouse made $50,000 every year, the support obligation would be $30,000–$10,000=$20,000. However, there are two exceptions to this: this only applies to couples making less than $250,000 collectively, and the support may not exceed 40 percent of the combined income.

The legal landscape of the divorce process is constantly shifting. To get the most up-to-date advice for your specific situation, reach out to an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney. Our skilled team can help tailor a divorce strategy to your unique needs.

Illinois Marriage Law, Same-Sex Marriage, & Out-of-State Residents

July 24th, 2014 at 1:49 pm

DuPage County family law attorney, out-of-state residents, same-sex marriage, marriage law, Illinois marriage law, recognize same-sex marriageOn November 20, 2013, the Governor of Illinois signed a law legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois, and that law went into effect on June 1, 2014. This new right to same-sex marriage has attracted many people from out of state seeking to get married in Illinois because their home states do not yet recognize same-sex marriage.

However, an old Illinois law, Section 217 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, may prevent the marriages from being legitimate. The law voids marriages in Illinois if they take place between people who live in a state that would not, itself, recognize their marriage. This means that a marriage between a same-sex couple, whose home state did not allow same-sex marriage, would be void.

What the Statute Says

This section of the law, which was enacted in the late 1970s, voids any marriage entered into by a party who lives in another state and intends to keep living in that other state, if the marriage would not be legal in the person’s home state. Essentially, the statute applies the marriage law of a person’s home state to any marriage happening in Illinois. The statute was initially enacted to account for issues related to marriages by underaged parties. People would cross the border into Illinois to get married because Illinois would allow it earlier than some other states.

How This Affects Same Sex Marriage

This issue affects same-sex marriages because of the current schism between states that recognize same-sex marriage and those who do not. Thus far, the federal government has stayed away from introducing a uniform rule about same-sex marriage across the entire country. This means that each state is free to choose for itself whether or not to recognize these sorts of marriages. This can cause problems for couples traveling to Illinois to be married because their home state may not recognize the marriage. For instance, in 2004, Missouri voters amended their state constitution by popular referendum, making the recognition of same-sex marriages unconstitutional. That means that if a couple from Missouri crossed into Illinois for the purpose of getting married, the marriage would be void under Illinois law, unless the couple intended to move to Illinois on a permanent basis.

Illinois lawmakers were aware of the trouble that this section of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act could cause for couples coming in from other states. At present, some representatives have plans to adjust Section 217, but the Illinois legislature is currently in recess, so those plans will have to wait until the house and senate are back in session.

Family law can be a difficult patchwork of conflicting statutes. Consequently, it is important to find an experienced DuPage County family law attorney who understands the full field of the law to ensure the smoothest possible experience.

Middle Aged Divorce Can Lead to Happier Marriages Later

July 21st, 2014 at 7:40 pm

happier marriage, DuPage County divorce attorney, healthier relationships, marriage length, middle-aged, middle-aged divorce, unhappy marriage, Wheaton divorce attorneyA pioneer longitudinal study has recently revealed that people who end troubled marriages when they are middle aged, colloquially referred to as “silver splitters” or “grey divorcees,” can often find later marriages to be much happier. The study in question, the “Grant Study,” tracked young men over their whole lives, starting in the 1930s. The study, which focused in part on relationships, recorded whether the participant got a divorce, how long the participant’s marriage lasted, whether the person remarried, and the qualitative happiness of the marriages using periodic survey questions.

The Grant Study

The Grant Study, formally known as the Study of Adult Development at Harvard Medical School, began in 1938, when researchers started tracking the lives of then 19-year-old Harvard students. The study began with 268 participants, but only 242 remained following World War II, in which many of the men fought. The researchers required participants to answer periodic surveys about their families and their relationships, usually annually or every other year. This allowed the researchers to track marriage length and marital status.

The participants were also asked to rate the quality of their marriages using a self-report happiness index. The index had three ratings: happy, so-so, and unhappy. The study then tracked participants over their entire lives, watching them grow up. The last update to the study occurred in 2011. At the time, the remaining participants were 92 years old.

What the Study Found

The study correlated the three levels of relationship happiness to happy marriages, stable marriages, and unhappy marriages. Of all the participants, only seven of them never married at all. Of those who did marry, 73 remained in a single “stable” marriage for their lives, while 49 stuck with an unhappy marriage permanently. Sixty-two of the people who married got divorced. Of those 62, 23 remarried happily. While that may seem like a relatively low number, only one spouse in an unhappy marriage managed to convert it into a happy marriage later on in life.

The study’s author says that the lesson to learn from this set of data is that people grow. Prior to finding out the results of the study, he was of the opinion that certain people were just temperamentally unsuited for married life; their personalities simply did not mesh well with the institution. This new research has caused him to rethink that stance. Even middle aged people still have the capacity to change and grow, leading to happier, healthier relationships later on in life.

Contact an Attorney if You Are Seeking a Divorce

If you are currently in an unhappy marriage and would like to have a second chance at a happier marriage, seek out an experienced Wheaton divorce attorney today. Our skilled lawyers can help you end the marriage cleanly and fairly, allowing you to move forward with your life and relationships.

Wage Garnishments and Child Support

July 19th, 2014 at 11:52 am

DuPage County family law attorney, wage garnishments, collecting child support, child support, Wheaton divorce attorney, enforcing child supportEven after going through the entire divorce in court and getting a divorce decree finalized, the process may not be over. The aftermath of a divorce involves a variety of practical issues, among them collecting child support. While many parents readily keep up to date on their support obligations every month, some require legal enforcement or collection activities before they pay their court-ordered sum. One such method of legal enforcement is to use a wage garnishment, also known in Illinois as a wage deduction order. This is a type of court order that pulls the child support payment directly from the supporting parent’s wages without letting it get into their hands.

What Are Wage Garnishments?

Wage garnishments are court orders used to collect a variety of debts. Although they affect the debtor, in this case the supporting spouse, the order is technically a command by the judge to the supporting spouse’s employer. The order requires the employer to deduct some set amount of money from the supporting parent’s paycheck and send it to the other parent. This takes the decision to pay support out of the parent’s hands and makes it automatic. Additionally, if an employer fails to comply with a wage garnishment, the state may fine them up to $100 every day they are out of compliance.

Enforcing Child Support with Wage Garnishments 

Wage garnishments can be especially useful in enforcing child support orders because the state takes child support debt very seriously; Illinois used to have one of the worst records with collecting child support arrears in the country. Consequently, the state prioritizes the collection of child support above many other debts. This means that a wage garnishment based on a child support order is likely to be paid even before pre-existing garnishments on older debts.

Further, the law ordinarily places a 15 percent cap on the total amount of wage garnishments under which a person can work. For child support, the law allows a maximum garnishment of 20 percent for someone supporting one child, and it increases based on the number of children for which a person has to provide support. The maximum child support cap possible is 50 percent, which applies to people supporting six or more kids.

However, there is still a limit that applies to the collection of child support using wage garnishments. Courts may not garnish the wages of someone whose weekly pay, after taxes, is less than 45 times the federal or state hourly minimum wage, whichever is greater. In Illinois, that means the supporting spouse’s weekly pay after taxes has to be greater than $371.25.

If you are a parent having trouble collecting child support or a spouse considering divorce, reach out to a DuPage County family law attorney today. Our experienced team of attorneys will work hard to ensure that your legal rights are fully enforced.

A New Kind of Infidelity

July 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am

DuPage County divorce lawyer, financial infidelity, hidden assets, infidelity, joint finances, lawsuits for infidelity, Wheaton divorce attorneyPeople commonly treat their finances as a personal, private matter, and not something to be discussed with others. However, that changes once they enter a marriage. Couples join their lives together during a marriage, and that includes joining their finances. They have to share bank accounts, take on debt together, and make purchases for the marriage as a unit. Not every couple does so successfully though. Instead, some spouses end up being financially unfaithful.

A recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education discovered that one out of every three adults who have been in a relationship with combined finances admits to lying about money. Some people even lied about such basic topics as the amount of debt they owe or the amount of income they earn. Seventy-six percent of people who responded to the survey also said that when dishonesty about money occurred, it had an effect on the relationship. It even ended in divorce in 16 percent of cases.

Warning Signs 

There are many different warning signs that a spouse may be committing financial infidelity. These include:

  • Becoming reserved or defensive when issues of money or spending come up;
  • Hiding cash or bank accounts from the other spouse;
  • Making large purchases on a whim or without consulting the other spouse;
  • Refusing to share financial information like bank statements or online banking logins;
  • Opening new credit cards in only their name; and
  • Hiding purchases, especially large ones, from the other spouse.

Responding to Financial Infidelity

Once a spouse discovers financial infidelity, they must make their own decision about how to handle it. Some couples choose divorce, while others attempt to go through the long, difficult process of working through the trust issues associated with financial infidelity.

If spouses do want to work through the issue of financial infidelity, then communication and transparency are key to solving the problem. At its core, financial infidelity is an issue of trust. The spouse who was lied to is going to need to learn to trust the other spouse again, and that takes time and understanding. Additionally, the communication is important to help spouses work through whatever issues caused the financial infidelity in the first place. Often, such dishonesty results from the two spouses’ having different money management styles; one spouse may prefer to save their money for a rainy day, while the other may prefer to spend it when they can. This is a common problem in many marriages, and simply requires compromise and openness to work through.

If your spouse has been financially unfaithful and you would like to file for a divorce, reach out to a skilled DuPage County divorce lawyer today. Our experienced team of attorneys will help defend your rights in and out of the courtroom.

Frozen Embryos during the Divorce

July 11th, 2014 at 3:10 pm

DuPage County divorce lawyer, frozen embryos, IVF, modern technology, reproductive technology, significant divorce issueThe law often cannot keep up with rapid changes in modern technology. This can lead to legal gray areas and open questions in the law. One recent example of this involves advances in reproductive technology. These advances have made the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) more common. This type of treatment involves extracting sperm and egg cells from the couple and creating embryos from them in a lab. Doctors then implant some of these embryos in the woman, and the rest are often frozen in case the couple chooses to use them at a later date. These frozen embryos can present challenging questions in the context of divorce, a topic that Illinois courts have only recently begun to address, starting with the case of Szafranski v. Dunston. This case is an example of a significant divorce issue, which arises when the wife would like to keep the embryos for future implantation, while the husband would prefer to have them destroyed.

How Courts Decide 

In order to decide the issue, courts will look to the forms that the spouses signed throughout the process. One of these forms is generally an agreement that the clinic will not release the eggs without the spouses’ consent. However, it is not clear that this would actually be a binding contract. Courts in many states refuse to enforce those contracts since they find them to be “against public policy.” This means that the court will not enforce the contract because it involves an area of life that courts do not want to regulate or that they think should be absent of private contracts. Other common examples of such unenforceable contracts include contracts between parents and children for love and affection or contracts to complete illegal acts.

However, the court in Illinois, along with courts in many other states, has held the contracts enforceable out of concern for the husband’s rights, which are twofold. First, some courts recognize that the decision to become a parent to a child is not one that should be entered into lightly. Holding these contracts unenforceable removes the husband’s ability to decide for himself whether to have another child. Second, the husband would likely owe obligations of support to the new child. This obligation would be difficult to remove because the right to parental support is the child’s right rather than the other spouse’s. That means that the two spouses may not agree to absolve the husband of any child support duties in exchange for ceding control of the embryos to the wife.

Though not all divorces involve this sort of issue, each divorce poses unique challenges. If you are considering filing for divorce, reach out to a skilled DuPage County divorce lawyer today. We can help analyze your situation and give you the tailored help you need.

Tax Status and Divorce

July 8th, 2014 at 7:00 am

dependent exemptions, divorce, divorce and marital status, tax status, tax deductions, tax brackets, tax credits, dependent deductions, married filing jointly, married filing separatelyFiling taxes can be a complicated endeavor at the best of times, and doing it during a divorce only serves to make it more difficult. This is because many parts of a person’s taxes depend on marital status and family relationships. Those sorts of relationships can affect things like tax brackets, deductions, and tax credits.

Two of the largest issues that a divorce presents in regards to taxes are marital status and dependent deductions. Marital status, which includes categories like single, married, or head of household, alters a person’s tax bracket and it can raise or lower their standard deduction. Dependents, which refers to people relying on the tax filer for care, allow the filer to claim them for the purposes of tax deductions.

How Divorce Affects Marital Status

The most obvious way that divorce impacts a person’s income tax filing is via their marital status, which has an effect on the tax rates applied to specific income levels, as well as on the standard deduction allowed by the filer. There are four basic filing statuses that most people will claim: single, head of household, married filing jointly, and married filing separately. Most of these are self-explanatory.

A single status means that the person is unmarried. Married filing jointly means the spouses are filing a single return. Married filing separately means the spouses are each filing their own return. The unusual one is head of household. The head of household status denotes a person, usually single, who is caring for a dependent. The head of household status receives preferential tax treatment in comparison with the single status.

Obviously, going through a divorce will alter the marital status categories available to someone. A single person cannot file as married and vice versa. This leaves open the question of how to handle the tax year in which the divorce occurred, if the spouses were married for part of it and single for the rest. For tax purposes, the IRS declares that marital status is judged as of the last day of the year, so in the example the couple would be counted as single.

How Divorce Affects Dependent Exemptions

Another area in which divorce can affect taxes is in dependent exemptions. These exemptions relate to the number of qualifying people relying on the filer for support. The most common example of a dependent is a minor child that the filer supports. For most people, that dependent exemption will not change in divorce. However, divorces involving blended families present a unique issue, since stepchildren also qualify as dependents. The U.S. Tax Court only recently ruled on this issue, holding that stepchildren remain stepchildren after the divorce, qualifying them as dependents for exemption purposes.

Filing for divorce is an important decision that can have a significant impact on many different areas of your life. Whether you have already made the decision to file or you simply want more information, contact a DuPage County divorce attorney today. Our firm can help you find the right type of divorce strategy for your specific situation.

The First Amendment Right to Infidelity?

July 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am

alienation of affection, criminal conversation, DuPage County divorce attorney, First Amendment, infidelity, lawsuits for infidelityA handful of states, including Illinois, still recognize a pair of torts that allow spouses to sue their unfaithful partner’s lovers in certain circumstances. These torts, alienation of affection and criminal conversation, were recently the subject of a judicial opinion in North Carolina, where the trial court judge ruled that they were unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of expression. While such a ruling would have no actual legal effect in Illinois, courts do often look to other jurisdictions for persuasive legal reasoning, and the opinion provides a modern view on some very old laws that still affect people today

The Two Torts

Illinois still allows people to bring lawsuits for infidelity, but the circumstances need to be precise. The first cause of action that allows people to do this is a suit for alienation of affection. People would not bring this cause of action against their unfaithful spouse, but would instead sue the spouse’s lover. In order to prevail, the spouse would need to show that the lover’s actions were the sole cause of the divorce. It would not be enough that the unfaithful spouse’s feelings slowly faded on their own. Instead, the lover must have “pirated” away the affection, a very high bar to meet.

The other related tort is criminal conversation, which counter-intuitively is still a civil matter. Unlike alienation of affection, which requires the end of a marriage, an action for criminal conversation just requires the plaintiff to prove that their spouse and the lover engaged in intercourse, and that the spouses were not permanently separated with the intent to divorce.

Importantly, the Illinois legislature reformed both of these torts in the 1940s to limit the amount of damages available to plaintiffs. Rather than allowing punitive damages or damages for emotional distress, the law limits plaintiffs to the quantifiable economic harms of losing a spouse.

First Amendment Protections

A court in North Carolina, the nationwide leader in infidelity tort suits, recently reexamined these types of lawsuits in view of the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, but courts have long recognized that such protection is not absolute. Instead, courts examine the type of restriction on speech, the type of speech, and the level of state interest compelling the restriction. The court here held that these torts constituted the most severe type of restriction on speech: a restriction based on the speech’s content.

The opinion stated that, because the torts restrict the couple’s expressions of intimacy, it is presumptively invalid unless the state has a compelling interest in regulating the speech. The court found that no interest existed serious enough to justify restricting consensual sexual intercourse and what it expresses, so it held the torts unconstitutional. Whether that holding survives an appeal remains to be seen.

Whether you are considering filing for divorce or have already made your decision, reach out to an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney today. Our firm can help guide you through the process and answer your questions.

Tips for Childhood Obesity in Divorce

June 29th, 2014 at 5:49 pm

divorce trends, Illinois family lawyer, Wheaton divorce attorney, eating habits, children's eating habits, childhood obesity, children’s weightDivorce can be a stressful process for everyone involved, including the children of the divorcing spouses. That may explain why a study, recently published in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), discovered a correlation between childhood obesity and parental marital status.

The researchers studied over 3,100 third-graders and found that children whose parents were divorced were 54 percent more likely to be overweight. This means that parents going through a divorce may want to keep a special eye on their children’s weight, and ensure that they take steps to keep their children healthy.

What the Study Found

The study’s authors reported more than just the 54 percent increase in the likelihood of obesity. They also analyzed the breakdown by gender, finding that boys were more likely to be at risk of being overweight than girls. In fact, boys with divorced parents were 63 percent more likely to be overweight when compared to those whose parents were still married. Additionally, the research found that children whose parents had separated were 89 percent more likely to have fat buildup in their abdominal region.

The study did not go into the details of why this correlation might exist, but the study’s authors did suggest some theories. One theory holds that the increased emotional stress at home could lead to changes in the children’s eating or exercise habits. Another possible reason is that the financial strain of the divorce leaves less time and money for parents to prepare healthy meals. Fortunately, there are steps parents going through divorce can take to help keep their children healthy.

Obesity Strategies

Parents have a variety of strategies available to them to prevent their divorce from impacting their child’s weight. First, parents can attempt to maintain a civil demeanor with each other, especially around their children. An amicable divorce is often less stressful. This can lead to greater emotional stability, which may help maintain a child’s healthy eating habits. Beyond that, a parent’s being conscious of a child’s needs can help prevent obesity.

Divorces are emotionally trying for parents, and there is a risk that kids can be lost in the shuffle. Easy food options tend to be unhealthy food options, but parents adjusting to a new lifestyle often fall back on them nonetheless. Awareness of the risk can help curb the impulse to provide fast food as a meal option during the sometimes hectic divorce process. Additionally, common steps people take to prevent obesity like encouraging physical activity can also work just as well in the divorce context.

If you are considering seeking a divorce from your spouse, reach out to an experienced Illinois family law attorney for advice. Our skilled team can help analyze the particulars of your situation to provide you with the best advice.

How Spouses Hide Assets: Part 2 – Income Manipulation

June 27th, 2014 at 12:47 pm

concealing income, Illinois divorce attorney, income manipulation, income manipulation strategies, concealing assets, filing for divorce, hide money, divorce and financesOne of the main focuses of the divorce process is the division of the marital assets between the spouses. This requires the court, through the spouses and their attorneys, to take a thorough accounting of all of the marriage’s property. This can tempt some spouses to hide away assets for themselves rather than revealing them for division. Because the concealment of marital assets can be a problem, people going through a divorce should be aware of the different strategies others can use to hide assets, as well as how to spot them.

The strategies for concealing assets fall into two major groups: expense manipulation, making it look like more money is coming out than actually is, and income manipulation, making it look like less money is coming in than actually is. The prior post in this series covered some common expense manipulation strategies. This post will focus on the other type of concealment: income manipulation.

Income Manipulation Strategies

Income manipulation strategies focus on concealing income. This usually means deferring it until after the divorce has finalized. One common method of doing this is when a spouse coordinates with their boss to hold off on compensation or compensation increases during the divorce. For instance, a spouse who works in sales and is owed commissions may ask to have them paid only after the divorce is finalized, or the spouse may ask their employer to wait to promote them until after the process ends. This tactic can be difficult to spot when it happens, but it could possibly be grounds to modify support orders if it affects the concealing spouse’s income on a going-forward basis, like a promotion would.

Spouses who are also business owners have access to another means of deferring their payments. They can have their business hold off on billing customers for their services, which will decrease the business’ cash flow during the divorce. Then, after the divorce ends, they can send out their bills and pocket the money. Catching this requires a thorough examination of the business’ records to see whether the company’s customers are paying on time, as well as whether the bills are still going out.

Spouses looking to hide their money can also take advantage of their taxes. IRS regulations provide people with the option of receiving their refund as cash or banking it against taxes in future years. Most people choose the cash refund, but a spouse attempting to conceal their assets can leave the money with the IRS in the hopes that their husband or wife will not notice it, leaving them to reap the benefits of the banked money in future tax years. Alternatively, the IRS also allows spouses filing jointly to have returns deposited into an individual account, meaning a spouse could attempt to hide the refund in an account solely in their name. Spotting these strategies requires people to diligently review tax forms to ensure that any overpayment is accounted.

Speak with a Lawyer Today

If you are considering filing for divorce, contact a DuPage County divorce lawyer today. Whether you are concerned your spouse may attempt to hide assets, or you simply want more information about the realities of divorce, our experienced team can help you better understand the process.