February 1, 2016

Illinois Divorce Lawyer: Divorce Planning

2016 brings to Illinois a revised and amended Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The new Act brings some substantive changes to the way that divorce and custody is adjudicated in Illinois, but the guideline advice for preparing for a divorce remains steady. If you find yourself headed for divorce, you should consider taking the following steps to protect and prepare yourself:

Know Your Assets & Debts – Make an effort to summarize your important assets and debts, and if you have been kept in the dark about what your marriage holds by way of assets and retirement plans, talk to my firm about the use of discovery at the beginning of your case to get at these items. If you have assets that you owned before the marriage, or that were acquired by way of inheritance or estate plan gifting, be sure to segregate these gifts or bequests from your "marital basket" of accounts.

Maintain Behavioral Balance – In other words, don’t make impulsive changes or purchases, or begin a path of active dating while the divorce is in process. Starting a divorce case puts each party under the view and control of the Court; this can be an advantage in gaining control over, for example, assets being wasted by the other spouse, but this change also puts a premium on good behavior. Don't use social media as a confessional or bully pulpit to bash your spouse. Check the security of your email and social media accounts, and if you have any doubts about the integrity of your email, talk with my firm about steps you can take to prevent keystroke logging ( see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keystroke_logging ) or email hacking.

Focus on the Children – the new Illinois Divorce Act now establishes "Allocation of Parental Responsibilities" ... no longer do we contest custody and visitation, but there will be equal, if not more, emphasis in 2016 on evaluating each parent's fitness and ability to have a shared or balanced parenting allocation (time and decision making). Keep the children at the center of your decisions and behaviors. Don't use the home as a forum for fighting or toxic behaviors. If your spouse won't act properly, please speak with my Firm to discuss options to address toxic behavior in the home that affects the wellbeing of the children.

Hire an Experienced Divorce Lawyer – By experience, I mean a lawyer that has actively and successfully invested years of trial and negotiation experience, and a passion for the craft of divorce and custody lawyering. Michael Roe practices only Divorce and Custody law, and has done so at the highest levels of practice. Contact our firm to discuss your important case.

December 31, 2015

Illinois Divorce: 2016 Rings in New Rules for Child Custody

Thoughts from Law Offices of Michael F Roe as 2015 winds to a close:

2015 has been a year of successes for clients, and challenges in Illinois divorce practice, with some of the challenges including managing the maintenance statute (the statutory guideline formula) that caused a radical change in how support is calculated for incomes below a benchmark amount of $250,000.00

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2016 will bring us substantial changes to the practice of divorce and custody law. I use the term "custody" despite the fact that the new IMDMA has done away with the terms "custody" and "visitation" and now instructs the Court to determine "allocation of parental responsibilities," along with allocations of parenting time for the parents and children. Other new rules affect relocation within the state of Illinois; previously, a residential parent could relocate anywhere within the state with the children after a divorce, sometimes wreaking havoc on the nonresidential parent's access to the children.

These new rules will change the terminology of divorce and custody practice in Illinois, but at the same time, controversies will exist between parents as competing parenting plans are negotiated or litigated. Law Offices of Michael Roe is determined to utilize these new changes to further advance our client's goals in the area of child custody and parenting. As always, in cases where there exists parental alienation, or negative behavioral issues with a parent, the liberalization of the parenting laws will not affect our Firm's goal to ensure that all parenting plans serve the interests of both the children and the parent that seeks to protect the healthy developmental lives of their children.

The law has changed, but our Firm's commitment to cutting edge, tenacious and creative solutions in divorce and custody litigation will never waiver. 2015 was a great year for our clients and we look forward to an even better 2016. I wish each reader and their families a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

November 22, 2015

Parental Alienation: Illinois Divorce Lawyer

I am always careful to identify good articles on the emerging clinical science behind Parental Alienation. Here's an excellent review by Dr. Kruk for your consideration.

Credit: Edward Kruk Ph.D.

Recent Advances in Understanding Parental Alienation
Implications of Parental Alienation Research for Family-Based Intervention

Dr. Richard Warshak of the University of Texas has just published a new paper in the journal, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, entitled, “Ten Parental Alienation Fallacies that Compromise Decisions in Court and in Therapy.” Parental alienation is a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents have been engaged in a high conflict separation, allies him or herself with an alienating parent and rejects a relationship with the other parent without legitimate justification. Warshak's article is directed not only to researchers but also to mental health professionals, and family lawyers and judges. Its purpose is to identify and correct common misconceptions about research on alienated children, and examine implications for assessment and intervention. The article contains important practice recommendations for both therapists and legal practitioners.

Dr. Warshak's starting point is the assertion is that mistaken beliefs about the genesis of parental alienation and appropriate remedies have shaped both socio-legal policy and therapeutic and legal practice in ways that have failed to meet children’s needs during and after parental separation, and therefore are contrary to the principle of the best interest of the child. The article identifies and examines ten mistaken assumptions, each in detail. Note that there is no empirical evidence to support any of the following assumptions.

Ten Parental Alienation Fallacies:
1. Children never unreasonably reject the parent with whom they spend the most time,
2. Children never unreasonably reject mothers,
3. Each parent contributes equally to a child’s alienation,
4. Alienation is a child’s transient, short-lived response to the parents’ separation,
5. Rejecting a parent is a short-term healthy coping mechanism,
6. Young children living with an alienating parent need no intervention,
7. Alienated adolescents’ stated preferences should dominate custody decisions,
8. Children who appear to function well outside the family need no intervention,
9. Severely alienated children are best treated with traditional therapy techniques while living primarily with their favored parent,
10. Separating children from an alienating parent is traumatic.

The article provides a summary of the research on parental alienation that has emerged over the past decade. As with Warshak's (2014) article, "Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report," it supports shared parental responsibility as in the best interests of most children of divorce, and as a remedy for parental alienation. It is an important contribution to understanding the most common errors in judicial practice and social policy in this arena, as well as in mental health practice. It is the implications for intervention with children and families that should be of special interest to us.

One of the most controversial points is the last, "Separating children from an alienating parent is traumatic." Alienation and isolation by a parent in the absence of a child protection order is damaging to a child, and is itself a child protection concern. The key for children is to reunite with the alienated parent, ideally with the support of the other parent, which necessarily entails temporary separation from that parent. However, complete separation from an alienating parent may be a form of alienation in itself.

Another mistaken assumption that struck me is, "Young children living with an alienating parent need no intervention." It seems difficult to believe that such an assumption still exists, but there has been a widespread and persistent denial by some practitioners and policymakers about the reality of parental alienation. The fact that "parental alienation syndrome" is not identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), for example, does not mean that parental alienation does not exist; as Warshak's consensus statement and other meta-analyses have demonstrated, parental alienation is much more widespread than is commonly assumed.

In addition, as Warshak has written, although the DSM-V has no specific diagnosis of "parental alienation," the DSM-V includes, under the heading “Relational Problems” and the sub-heading “Problems Related to Family Upbringing,” two diagnostic categories that describe children who are irrationally alienated from a parent. The first is “Parent-Child Relational Problem,” which reads, “Typically, the parent-child relational problem is associated with impaired functioning in behavioral, cognitive, or affective domains.” Examples of impaired cognitive functioning include the domain of the alienated child’s relationship to the rejected parent: “negative attributions of the other’s intentions, hostility toward or scapegoating of the other, and unwarranted feelings of estrangement.”

The second DSM-V category descriptive of alienated children is “Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress.” This category is used “when the focus of clinical attention is the negative effects of parental relationship discord (e.g., high levels of conflict, distress, or disparagement) on a child in the family.” Descriptions of the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral problems of children who unreasonably reject a parent in the shadow of that parent’s disparagement by the other parent clearly fit in this category. The general acceptance of the concept of unreasonable rejection of a parent as indicated in both empirical research and the DSM-V makes it difficult for professionals to maintain credibility while denying the existence of parental alienation.

Yet favored parents’ disavowal of responsibility for their children’s rejection of the other parent continues to find support among advocates who claim that the concept of unjustified parental alienation is harmful to children. They maintain that the concept of parental alienation is a legal strategy used by abusive parents to deflect blame for their children’s fear and hatred of them. In this view, briefly, children who reject parents always have valid reasons and all "hated parents" have no one to blame for their suffering but themselves. Such advocates deny any possibility that children’s rejection of their parents could have predominantly irrational roots.

In contrast to denial of the problem’s existence is the consensus statement on the desirability of shared parenting following parental separation for most children (Warshak, 2014). In alienation situations, favoured parents’ behavior constitutes psychological abuse when they manipulate and influence children to participate in depriving themselves of love, nurturance, and involvement with their other parent. Denial of this form of abuse of children is reminiscent of society’s denial in the early twentieth century, Warshak writes, of the prevalence of physical and sexual abuse of children. The prevalence of such denial has prompted surveys addressing the issues of whether children can reject a parent whose behavior does not warrant such rejection, and whether the rejection can be due in part to the influence of the favored parent. A survey taken at the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts’ annual (2014) conference reported 98% agreement “in support of the basic tenet of parental alienation: children can be manipulated by one parent to reject the other parent who does not deserve to be rejected.”

For the child, the biopsychosocial-spiritual effects of parental alienation are devastating. For both the alienated parent and child, the removal and denial of contact in the absence of neglect or abuse constitute cruel and unusual treatment. Adversarial court processes often add salt to the wound of both parents and children. This new research dispelling parental alienation fallacies thus represents a call to action. As a form of child maltreatment, parental alienation is a serious child protection matter as it undermines a basic principle of social justice for children: the right to know and be cared for by both of one's parents.

Warshak, R. (2015). Ten Parental Alienation Fallacies that Compromise Decisions in Court and in Therapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

Warshak, R. (2014). Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report. Psychology, Public Policy and Law.

November 3, 2015

Illinois Divorce: Fathers and Custody

I represented this year a Father who was facing what is called a "termination of parental rights" in court, due to actions that the Mother of the children had taken. Sometimes, if one parent neglects the child or children, both parents can be found to be jointly responsible and the courts can take action to terminate the rights of the parents.

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I was told at the outset of the case that the State's Attorneys never lose these cases; in a sense, once the boulder starts to roll, there is no way to stop it. A week before the trial, I met my client at the courthouse, and I told him that I wanted to fight this termination case. I felt it was wrong to deprive a good Dad of his rights as a Father, only due to the failures of his partner in parenthood. I had been warned by many, including lawyers watching the case, that the State never loses these kinds of cases.

I told my client at our meeting that I wanted to take the case to trial. I wanted to resist the efforts of the State to terminate his rights. My client, a good man and a good Father, agreed to fight. He knew the downsides if he fought and lost, for at that point the court would adjudicate him as having lost his parental rights. He could agree to sign away his rights, and hope to get some visitation rights, but to go to trial meant adjudication.

My client knew he was a good Dad, and perhaps it was his resilience, and the fact that he did most all that had been asked of him to keep his rights to his kids, that inspired his confidence. But, most of all, he and I agreed together to push back, and to take the case to trial. In the end, the State decided not to fight us...perhaps they saw our resolve to win...the State agreed to suspend its termination case, and allow this good Dad to get his kids back.

Representing parents in difficult cases is what I treasure about this practice. But, without a client with the heart and courage like this man I've described, it's a tougher battle. We were a good team, and a good Dad is getting his kids back.

October 15, 2015

Illinois Divorce Law: Changes in the Law for 2016

I spent some time yesterday in discussion with some other experienced divorce attorneys concerning the changes in the divorce laws in Illinois that become effective as of January 1, 2016. The consensus view is that there is no consensus about how these new provisions to the IMDMA will affect divorce and custody litigants with pending cases as of January 1, and with new cases filed in the new year. Some lawyers see the changes as needed change, and others see the changes as confusing and likely to increase litigation.

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Here are but a few of the key changes that shall become new law as of 2016:

- There will one ground for dissolution of marriage – irreconcilable differences. Gone is the requirement that fault (such as "mental cruelty") be proved in contested cases.

- Instead of the court awarding custody to one parent and 'visitation' to the other, the court will "allocate parental responsibilities" and parenting time. Lawyers for the parties must file within a brief period of the commencement of the case a proposed parenting agreement for the court to consider.

- Parental responsibilities such as education, health, religion and extra-curricular activities will be allocated by the court, and the court can allocate these either jointly or solely to one parent. One parent is to be identified as the primary residential parent.

- Parents from Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties may relocate up to 25 miles from his or her current residence without permission from the court. A parent in other counties may move up to 50 miles without leave of court. Parents can move up to 25 miles across state lines without permission of the court (prior law forbade a parent crossing state lines for a move without court permission).

Other changes in the law affect financial issues, such as a change to the college funding rules such that the U of Illinois' tuition be used as the maximum for college costs, even if the child goes out of state to a private school costing more. In other words, parents no longer will be exposed to contributing to a high cost university unless the parents agree to the private or out-of-state school.

Like many changes to law, the appearance of progress can be deceptive. My sense of these new laws is that they have changed what appeared to be outdated and inequitable concepts (such as "custody" and "visitation") and replaced these terms with rules that may only promote further litigation over parenting allocations. However, parents should now be mindful that expanded parenting allocations are possible, and for some of my clients, this will open doors to more equitable parenting time with the child(ren).

If you have questions about your family issues and concerns about divorce and child custody issues, as well as financial issues that are affected by the new laws, please contact my office. I understand the new rules and I'd like to help you understand how they may affect your important family case.

September 7, 2015

Illinois Divorce: Will New Law Change Divorce and Custody?

Illinois law is about to change with respect to divorce and custody. Put simply, SB57 is the Illinois legislature's effort, effective January 1, 2016, to change the way that divorce and custody litigation is conducted in Illinois. But, as the old saying goes, "the more things change, the more they stay the same," and such may the case with this sweeping new law.

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As many other states have done for years, Illinois law now rejects determinations of fault (such as adultery or mental cruelty) in divorce. More importantly, SB57 does away with terms like "custody" and 'visitation" and now requires the court to determine "parenting allocation," though the court is still required to determine which parent will have the primary residence of the children, as well as assign the obligation for the payment of child support to one parent.

While other states have crafted more modern laws that allocate between parents both parenting time and financial responsibility, Illinois' new law still has inappropriate vestiges of the old custody, visitation, and child support law. As the law changes, parents in divorce beginning in Fall of 2015 will need to be mindful of the new laws and their effects.

If you have questions as to how these new laws affect your case, please contact Michael Roe.

August 2, 2015

Illinois Divorce: Factors to Consider in Deciding to Divorce

Excerpted from psychcentral.com: Are You Ready For Divorce? 7 Questions To Ask Yourself

" This article outlines what couples need to do to face the numerous dilemmas associated with divorce. But first, they must identify their unique dilemma. Couples facing the possibility of a divorce face one of these three dilemmas:

* I want the divorce but I am not sure if it is the right decision. Since going through a divorce impacts the lives of your children as well as your lifestyle, economics, and marital investment, the pressure to make the “perfectly correct” decision is enormous.

* I do not want the divorce but my spouse does. Being in this reactive place will leave you feeling out of control and helpless. You will experience intense emotional devastation as your life will be changing before your eyes without you having any say in the outcome. In addressing this dilemma, you need to ask yourself if you are clinging to familiar, safe ground and to a marriage based on illusions. It is not easy to acknowledge and confront the problems in a marriage, especially when you are feeling so hurt by your partner.

* I only want this divorce because my marriage is not working. There will be tremendous preoccupation and anger about how your partner caused you to make this decision. The amount of noise generated from this blaming will be in direct proportion to your unwillingness to risk expressing any of your own fears and sadness. If this doesn’t occur, the divorce proceedings to follow will be riddled with tension and conflict as well as a continuation of the blaming.

The common element in all three dilemmas is fear. Victims of the first dilemma fear making a mistake. Victims of the second dilemma fear their own attachment to the familiar. The third group of victims fear accountability and softness. All three result in divorces that are combative and drag on and on, sometimes for years on end." Credit: http://psychcentral.com/blog

Continue reading "Illinois Divorce: Factors to Consider in Deciding to Divorce " »

July 26, 2015

One Man's Story: Parental Alienation

This is one person's account of their life as a child victim of parental alienation, and the more positive outcome that arose as an adult.

July 20, 2015

Illinois Divorce: Parental Alienation Issues

From an interview with Dr. Amy Baker, PA expert:

" I must admit I am a bit disappointed in the comments so far on the WDET website in response to my interview. I hate to see the conversation devolve into a gender war when the research is so clear that both mothers and fathers can be alienators. I would prefer to see attention focused on prevention (education of custody evaluators about differentiating alienation from estrangement, training attorneys in proper handling of these cases, and so forth). There is so much to agree on! See http://wdet.org/posts/2015/07/17/81018-what-is-parental-alienation-syndrome/

..and my response to those commentators questioning Dr. Baker's approach:

Having had years of experience with PA cases, it's my impression that what underlies PAS is a mental health issue; a pathology that resides with the alienating parent. It can be a personality disorder, or some other constellation of disorders that causes the alienating parent to see the other parent in "black and white" terms, and to view the targeted parent as deserving of malicious retribution in the form of losing a relationship with their children.

Once we accept that underlying PA is a form of pathology, we can understand that its occurrence is gender neutral, as that it presents in both men and women. I have seen it present in both genders, and I cannot say whether innocent men are targeted disproportionately to innocent women.

As Dr. Baker points out, there is so much that can be agreed upon and acted upon, that we need not spend energy arguing about which gender is more abused in a PA case. The children are the victims, and the innocent parents as well victimized, regardless of gender.

July 14, 2015

Illinois Divorce: Parental Alienation

The case involving the Michigan judge that placed three children in juvenile hall as a punishment and coercive measure has been roundly criticized for using contempt proceedings, in what even the judge agreed is a longstanding Parental Alienation case. From a local Detroit newspaper account:

Three Bloomfield Hills kids who refused an order by a judge to go to lunch with their father have been ordered to a juvenile detention facility.The Tsimhoni family was in Oakland County's family court for a hearing on supervised parenting time when Judge Lisa Gorcyca took matters into her own hands.

June 24 court transcripts showed how upset the judge was. She ordered the Tsimhoni kids ages 14,10 and 9 to have a "healthy relationship" with their father. She criticized them for avoiding him and even compared them to Charles Manson and his cult. Gorcyca then ordered the children to apologize and have a nice lunch with their dad. When they refused, Gorcyca held them in contempt and had each child hauled off to Children's Village's juvenile hall - until they are 18 years old.

The judge in this case was angry, frustrated and without sufficient understanding of her options, when she jailed these children. Subsequently, as of this week, she has released them and ordered them to a Michigan summer camp, where their parents may visit them.

Parental Alienation cases are difficult for all involved. However, there have emerged in recent years clinical interventions that can be very successful in repairing estranged parent-child relationships. What may have been useful to this judge was an understanding that she could have ordered a clinical intervention, and used the power of the court to force compliance by the parents.

Jailing the children may only have played into the alienating parent's hands, and allowed the alienator to further blame the targeted parent for the jailing of the kids. Most PA cases, in my experience, involve an innocent targeted parent, and the pathological alienator. This Michigan case may be more complex. The fact that this case seems to involve many years of litigation between tw highly educated, wealthy parents, one of whom removed the kids to Israel at some point in the case, highlights what may be a high level of toxic behaviors between both parents, with the children the casualties of the war.


May 3, 2015

Divorce and Stress: The Path to a Less Stressful Divorce

As part of my law practice I am fairly heavily invested in the study of psychological issues in divorce, including issues such as personality disorders and the pathology of parental alienation. Included in my approach to the psychology of divorce is the study of how to make life changes less stressful and how to manage a divorce and custody case with tools to lessen the severe stresses that a contested divorce involves.

Reading an article from a prominent psychologist neuroscientist and author, the following observation was made:

“The stress of divorce is … equivalent to the stress of experiencing a car crash every day over six months.” Lyubomirsky, 2013, p. 15 of "What You May Not Know — Soundbytes from The Myths of Happiness," Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.

Divorce certainly can be stressful. Whether a divorce approximates the trauma of a daily car crash, I am not sure, but in my practice, all efforts are made to make the process of divorce as manageable and as comfortable as possible. One means toward this goal is good preparation and coaching of my clients: so much anxiety can come from clients fearing the unknowns in the process. Another approach is to bring my experience from actively managing complex cases for over 20 years, using mediation, negotiation, and trial experience (when negotiation fails).

Finally, I do try to bring to bear my experience not just as a lawyer but as counsel: I counsel and coach my clients through the process to educate them and set appropriate goals and expectations. Finally, if a client needs clinical therapy, or the children are acting out or having troubles in the midst of change, I help them connect with therapists that can provide appropriate counseling and therapy for the client and the children.

A difficult divorce need not feel like a daily car crash. My job is to be an experienced vehicle for positive client outcomes and professional management of the case. Please contact me if you have questions or concerns about your family situation, and I will be happy to help lessen the stress of divorce for you.

April 27, 2015

DuPage Divorce: Grandparent Alienation

I have represented, along with alienated parents, the grandparents that have been kept out of the lives of their grandchildren. For many years, Illinois did not recognize the right of grandparents to assert a petition for Grandparent Visitation. Illinois, however, currently has a Grandparent visitation statute that permits, under certain circumstances, grandparents petitioning a court for the right to have visitation with their grandchildren.

Recognizing the seriousness of the issue, leading Parental Alienation expert and author Dr. Amy Baker has written on the issues concerning Grandparent Alienation:

" Grandparents can derive tremendous pleasure from relationships with grandchildren and suffer terrible pain and loss when those relationships are disrupted or prevented. As with alienation between a parent and child, alienation between a grandparent and grandchild represents a form of ambiguous loss in which the child is physically absent but very much alive in the heart and mind of the grieving grandparent. There is no closure because the child is still alive. That is the blessing and curse of alienation.
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Because the middle generation functions as a gatekeeper, they are the key. The alienated (or estranged) grandparent must try to repair that relationship in order to heal the psychic wound that is preventing that parent from allowing access to the grandchildren. However, it is essential to not treat that person as a means to an end. They will most likely sense that they are viewed merely as obstacles rather than as valued individuals. "

Cite: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/caught-between-parents/201504/alienated-grandparents