October 13, 2010

Illinois Divorce and Financial Preparation

One of the hallmarks of an impending divorce is a noticeable change in financial status within the family household. Retirement plans get moved to new accounts. Joint checking accounts and credit card accounts begin to show unusual activity, such as unexplained charges or cash withdrawals. Some spouses will defer discussing the desire for a formal divorce until they have, in their mind, secured the family cash and the assets in a hidden account.

Judges will eventually require the return of marital assets to marital accounts, but all of us that work in the court system know that getting these injunction orders takes time and effort. It can be far better to be proactive in protecting marital assets, and securing copies of accounts, once the financial "red flags" of impending divorce start to appear.

I've provided a list of 12 items you might gather to ensure that you have most of the critical information in hand before your spouse has a chance to conceal, transfer or sell marital items. These include (but are not limited to) obtaining:

1. Copies of bank and credit card statements, either from the bank or from online access;
2. Copies of recent 1040 tax returns, W-2s and 1099's;
3. Copies of insurance policies;
4. Copies of retirement plan statements, including pension plans for qualified employees;
5. Copies of wills, codicils, and trusts;
6. Copies of titles to real property and vehicles;
7. Copies of receipts or statements for all nonmarital property;
8. Copies of small business ledgers, financial journals, payroll, sales tax returns and expense account records, for self employed individuals;
9. Copies of appraisals for art, antiques, jewelry and collectibles;
10. Video or Excel/photo inventory of each room and its contents in your home;
11. Copies of any loan applications or other docs that show sources of income/assets;
12. Copies of your spouse's pay stubs for the last months and recent end of year.

October 13, 2010

Kane County Divorce and Joint Custody

J_custody.gif I receive calls from parents contemplating divorce in Kane County and DuPage County about joint custody in Illinois. Many good parents tell me that "I just want joint custody," though many times I feel that people do not understand what joint custody means in Illinois.

In general, Illinois Joint Custody means that the parents agree to make major decisions regarding the child or children together, such decisions as schooling, medical care, and religious practices. In Illinois, the concept of statutory joint custody does not address, at all, the idea that the parents will share the parenting time with the children.

As I have written before, Illinois still has an archaic, and in my view, unfair approach to custody. Unlike other states that have adopted "presumptive shared parenting," Illinois still requires that the Court determine a "residential parent" and a parent that has "visitation." Most often, Mom becomes the residential parent, and Dad is relegated to the status of a "visitor" of his own children. Illinois still allows for the stress, financial hardship, and animosity that is engendered by forcing good parents to contest each other for the role of "primary residential parent."

My goal in representing both Moms and Dads in custody cases is to engineer a Parenting Plan result that best suits the individual parenting styles and family system dynamics of each family. In many cases, a creative solution can be devised that allows both good, healthy parents to have an equitable role in the developmental lives of their children. In those cases where the fitness of a parent is at issue, it is necessary to devise a unique strategy that may involve clinical intervention, so that the developmental safety of the children is best addressed.