September 25, 2014

Illinois Divorce Law Blog Once Again Top Divorce Blog

Law Office of Michael F. Roe's Illinois Divorce Law Blog has once again, for 2014, been named a "Top 50 Divorce Law Blog" by Criminal Justice Degrees Schools, which annually analyzes and rates professional blogs.

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My approach to the blog is to inform my clients and readers of the blog, to educate other professionals in the field, and to illuminate important issues in divorce and custody. Some of these important issues include issues that arise in complex custody cases, cases with high conflict issues, and critical issues in some cases, like Parental Alienation or new legislation that affects financial issues in divorce.

The blog journals many compelling issues, but if you have questions or concerns about your impending divorce case, contact our office so that we can meet and discuss the details of your family concerns, and develop a strategy to manage these issues toward a positive outcome.

April 22, 2014

Kane County Divorce Lawyer: Difficulties for Men in Divorce

From Michael Roe: every so often I will post an interesting commentary on divorce issues here at Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog. I'm not convinced that men have a necessarily worse time adjusting to divorce; I see in my female clients high levels of stress, grieving, and anxiety. I feel the case can be made that the stressors imposed on men can be different in some ways than those imposed on women, generally. Certainly, men start out a child custody case with the unwritten presumptions in place that child residential custody usually goes to the mother, though the law requires that the Court determine best interests...one reason I'm a shared parenting advocate in many cases. As an aside, I see that both the men and women that I represent in my practice do benefit, along with my work on the legal side of the case, from having a competent therapist to help process issues that arise in divorce.

From the article:

It turns out that in the age-old comparison of the sexes, men seem to be having a more difficult time coping with the dissolution of a marriage. According to a recent study from the Journal of Men's Health, divorced men are more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes than married men are — in addition to being 39 percent more likely to commit suicide and engage in risky behavior. Why does this finding exist?

Men Lose Their Sense Of Identity

"My key breakthrough was realizing that I was defining myself with respect to my marriage," said one man. Even with multiple degrees and a successful career, he found himself lost in the process of his divorce. "I made the marriage the be all and end all, and when I saw that crumbling, I felt like my identity was crumbling."

So what do you do? In order to rebuild confidence post-divorce, experts suggest getting involved in a new activity or organization. "One really powerful thing for me was joining a non-profit group called the Mankind Project," he said. There, he found his way to the New Warriors Men's Organization, where he would meet weekly with groups of men going through hard times, coming together to listen and help each other in "a non-judgmental way."

Their Paternal Instinct Is Challenged

"For me, family has always been important," says one man, now divorced. "I grew up in a happy family, and I never doubted for a minute that I would get married and raise one of my own. I think just as there are maternal instincts in women, there is a paternal instinct in men." He describes part of this paternal instinct as a longing to belong with the status quo, and to be a provider.

"If a man is feeling distraught or shameful [because of the impact his family is feeling from divorce], he might disappear from the picture" "Which is why most post-divorce men need to remain connected to their children, if they have them."

When men maintain relationship with their kids, it eases those feelings of shame, and can re-instill that lost sense of belonging. "The love that can flow back and forth between you and your children is very healing in itself," he said.

They Don't Allow Themselves To Grieve Properly

"Bottling up feelings with no outlet leads men to experience feelings of depression." "As someone with no biological predisposition, I definitely think that the breakup of my marriage brought me to experience physiological problems like high blood pressure and mental ones like my battle with depression at the time."

Rather than following this level of stress into a no-way-out mentality, D suggests that men see marriage counselors, regardless of the current state of their marriage. "I started seeing a marriage counselor on my own, before my divorce. My then-wife joined in for a while, but I continued on my own, even after the divorce was finalized, he said.

"Men have to break though the 'I've got to do it myself and go it alone' attitude," he said. "Women are so much better about relying on one another, and this whole 'big boys don't cry' mentality has had an entirely negative impact on men's well-being."

By Tiffany McHugh for YourTango.com. Post originally published on YourTango.com

January 28, 2014

DuPage Divorce Lawyer: Choosing Your Divorce Lawyer

The cost of a divorce can be a deterrent to the process for many couples who are already struggling with the expense of maintaining two separate households. The amount of property one owns, child custody and support issues, and the extent to which a couple agrees or disagrees will determine attorney and other professional service fees (like custody evaluators) incurred during a divorce. Whether there is a large or small amount of property, issues with the children or not, or little to no agreement, there are things that you can do to reduce the cost of a divorce.

First off, take care when choosing your divorce attorney. The right attorney for your case is not always the most expensive attorney. Experience, unique technical skills, and positive relationships with the courts make for good lawyers. There are several things you should consider when choosing a lawyer and managing your case:

Attorneys’ fees are based on their experience, expertise, and special skills, but some very experienced lawyers charge reasonable fees, while others charge exorbitant fees. The hourly rates of lawyers should be competitive with their locale and market, but not excessive. A high hourly rate is not an indicator of special experience or skill.

If custody and support are issues upon which you and your spouse disagree, an attorney who does not specialize in custody may be initially less expensive, but not worth the savings in the end. Hiring an inexpensive lawyer who mismanages your child custody case will cause you heartache. Experienced attorneys know how to accomplish client goals without wasting time and money. Good custody lawyers bring good results that maintain positive family environments.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Choosing your battles during a divorce can save you time, frustration, and money. Think about your assets carefully, and listen to your lawyer's advice about equitable division with your assigned judge. For example, don't spend hours litigating the dining set versus the living room furniture.

Be realistic about what you want financially, and what is possible within the facts of your case. No litigant wins each and every issue, and the courts strive to be equitable. Experienced lawyers have a general sense of how certain judges allocate marital estates.

Author's note: The Law Offices of Michael F Roe has established a record of success with complex child custody cases, as well as a high degree of financial acumen with complex property issues. All of this experience is afforded to clients at a reasonable hourly rate. Please contact Michael Roe directly at (630) 232-2400 for to discuss your important case. www.illinois-attorney.net

January 15, 2014

Talking to Children About Divorce: Kane County Divorce Lawyer

Family therapist Diane Shearer says we should look beyond the questions about divorce and get at what kids are really asking for. "When kids ask tough questions, they aren't looking for complicated answers. They are looking for affirmation, not information." This means they want to be assured that you love them no matter what. They want to know that you recognize their turbulent feelings. Here are some tips on three of the most common questions.

1. Why? From "why did you stop loving each other" to "why are you doing this," kids want to know the big-picture reason behind your split. Shearer says the fear behind this question is that if mom and dad can stop loving each other, they might stop loving their kids, too. So you'll need to assure your child that love between parents is very different from a parent's love for their child. Your love for them is permanent and will never change. In most cases, it's not appropriate to get into the details of why you're divorcing. Instead, reassure your child that you are still a family, just a different kind of family.

2. Is this my fault? Young children, especially, are self-centered, so they can't help wondering if they are somehow at fault for your split. Again, the most important thing here is to assure your child that your love for them is unconditional. They need to know their parents' complicated relationship has nothing to do with them -- they are NOT the cause of the divorce. They will always be loved. That will never change.

3. Where will I live? Make sure you have agreed on a parenting plan -- even a temporary one -- before you break the news. Tell them where they will be, when, and for how long. Let them know that they can express their feelings about these arrangements to you any time they need to. And always speak respectfully about your ex in your answers -- don't involve your kids in whatever conflicts you're having with your spouse.

February 23, 2013

DuPage Divorce Lawyer: The 5 Mistakes Divorcing Parents Make

byline: Dr. Jeff Gardere:

Divorce can be one of the most stressful events in life, second only to a spouse dying. In fact, a divorce can become such a complicated and nasty affair that many people have joked that a spouse dying is a less stressful event because at least you don't have to fight the deceased in court!

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The point to be made here is that during this time of stress and duress we are no longer thinking with our brains, but instead with our hearts. Normally a pure heart will win the day, but a heart which is ruled by the pain, sadness and anger of a divorce will exhibit pure emotion -- often in an illogical and dangerous fashion.

In the lead-up to a divorce, many people fail to prepare themselves emotionally and focus mainly on the legal side of the process. This, in turn, makes it difficult for them to control their emotions, setting the stage for even well-intentioned partners to make serious mistakes during the divorce process. With that in mind, we now turn to a quick survey of the five worst mistakes we make in a divorce.

1) Refusing to throw in the towel
You should make every attempt to save your marriage. That may include going on another honeymoon, re-engaging in romance, making love much more often, going to dinners and talking and getting couples counseling. But after having made these attempts, if your soon-to-be-ex insists on the divorce, and even refuses to go to couples counseling, then you must let go! It takes two to tango, and certainly takes two to try to save the marriage. You just can't do it alone.

2) Giving in to withdrawal pains
It's very hard to start a new chapter without a partner that has played a large part in your life, either positively or negatively, for quite a while. We are creatures of habit and it can be difficult to live without that person. We use the term "withdrawal pains" because the habit-forming properties of an intense relationship are similar to those associated with a drug habit. An individual experiencing these withdrawal pains will send constant e-mails, texts, or make repeated phone calls to their ex. This is very ill-advised, though -- while it may not be your intention, your former spouse may view this as harassment. Courts don't like harassment.

3) Dating too early
While going through the divorce process, some people medicate with alcohol, some with drugs, and many more through sex and dating. You will certainly feel either lonely or liberated after a divorce, but either way you will want to hook up with someone to get you through this very difficult time, or just to plug the emotional void your partner once filled. It is only natural to get out there and shake your moneymaker. In reality, though, it is simply much too soon to begin dating; you are experiencing too many emotions, and that new person will most likely be collateral damage. You may also put yourself in more emotional peril by making decisions while you are in a state of emotional imbalance.

4) Putting the kids in the middle
Everybody needs to have someone on their side, especially during a divorce. One of the biggest mistakes we make is dragging our kids into the divorce conflict, by either bad mouthing the other parent or making it difficult for the other parent to see the children. You know who wins here? No one. Everyone loses, especially the kids who may experience everything from parental alienation to depression and anger.

5) Neglecting to get help
Divorce is a difficult process, but it does not have to be a dirty word. The major reason that people find divorce to be so challenging is that they are unprepared for the tsunami of stress and emotion that comes along with it. As I wrote above, people tend not to put enough of a premium on their own emotions, instead choosing to focus on that of their children or their family. By consulting a professional or even opening up to a close friend, we can avoid the emotional anguish that is often associated with divorce.

Credit: Dr. Jeff Gardere

February 7, 2013

Kane County Divorce: Fathers Seek Shared Parenting Statute

Sydney Morehouse, 13, of Omaha cries in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, as she tells the Associated Press how hard it is to only get to see her father every other weekend and Wednesday nights following her parent's divorce.

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Omaha resident Gary Owens pounded the table and raised his voice Wednesday as he testified before Nebraska lawmakers, demanding they pass two bills that could allow him to spend more time with his son.

A coalition of fathers, doctors and family-law attorneys is asking lawmakers to change a Nebraska parental custody law that they view as unfair to men.

The Legislature's Judiciary Committee had to open an overflow room to accommodate the advocates who testified in support for two parental custody bills.

"Men should have a right to have custody of their children just as much as their mothers," Owens said.

Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber introduced the first measure that would create a legal presumption that both parents are entitled to at least 45 percent of the total parenting time. If the parents disagree on this, one parent would have to prove with a preponderance of evidence that parenting time should shift in favor of one parent. He said studies show children who spend less than 35 percent of their time with a parent have diminished physical and mental health.

The legislation is modeled after a measure recently passed in Minnesota but later vetoed by the governor. The bill would have increased the amount of time each parent gets with a child from 25 percent to 35 percent.

Karpisek grew up in a divorced family and is a recently divorced parent. He said he and his wife share parenting time and that his children are doing well because of it.

The second bill, introduced by Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley, would change provisions of the Parenting Act to say it is in the best interest of the child to have substantial parenting time with both parents, and that both parents should be equally involved in making decisions involving the child. This bill is modeled after Arizona legislation that went into effect this year. Ten states have provisions that say joint custody is in the best interest of the child.

"The time has passed when the sex of the parent is the determining factor," Hadley said.

However, a legal group for Nebraskans, attorneys and advocated for domestic violence victims opposed the bills, saying they would create more family fighting, reduce child support most mothers receive and could reduce public benefits for poor households. Advocates for domestic violence victims worried women in such situations would have a harder time protecting themselves and their children.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln worried about the impact Karpisek's bill would have on child support payments. Karpisek said he didn't introduce the bill to help dads get out of paying child support.

Hasting family law attorney Chris Johnson said judges would take into account the number of days the child spends with each parent and the parents' income to decide who should pay child support and how much should be paid.

"I don't care about the child support," Owens said. "Take all my money. I don't care. I want my son."

Omaha 13-year-old Sydney Morehouse asked the lawmakers Wednesday to pass the bills that would help her spend more time with her dad. Before the hearing, she burst into tears when she talked about how hard it is to only get to see her dad every other weekend and Wednesday nights. She hates shuffling between two households and not feeling settled at her dad's house.

Her dad, Curt Morehouse, said he has been fighting to get more time with her since she was a baby. He also heads a father's rights group to help divorced dads gain more time with their children.

"I'm not a bad person," he said. "There's no reason I shouldn't be able to see her more."

December 13, 2012

Kane County Divorce lawyer: What is Divorce?

Henry Gornbein, a family lawyer in Michigan, wrote a recent article about the trauma of divorce for the Huffington Post. Gornbein discusses appropriately the ramifications of the threat of divorce and the actual divorce process. In reflecting on his article, I am brought back to the idea that divorce is appropriate and necessary in many cases, though all efforts should be made to save marriages that have a proper basis for being preserved. In the event that the marriage has broken down, the parties are no longer compatible, or there is mental illness affecting the health and safety of the spouse and children, or domestic violence, divorce can be a healthy intervention. The key to a healthy divorce in many cases is the Cooperative Divorce or a divorce that avoids the high conflict of 'out of control divorce,' and focuses on the emotional and financial wellbeing of the parties and the children.

"A divorce can be many things. It is a legal proceeding to end a marriage. Divorce laws differ from state to state regarding the requirements and reasons or grounds for a divorce. The mechanisms and procedures for obtaining a divorce differ from state to state as well. In every state there is a legal requirement that a divorce proceeding be filed to end the legal marriage between a couple.

A divorce is a weapon. It can be a legal weapon. It can also be a verbal weapon which too frequently is used by an unhappy spouse who will hurl a threat: "If you do not do this, I will divorce you." This often is a means of control. It is also dirty fighting. Sometimes this threat of a divorce is a means of keeping someone in a marriage. To me, it is a statement that the marriage is in trouble and could perhaps end in a divorce unless the parties go into counseling.

There is also a psychological divorce. This occurs when one or both spouses finally let go of the relationship and move on emotionally. I believe that a psychological divorce is just as important, if not more important, than a legal divorce. Emotionally it is much more devastating than the legal divorce. Until both people in a marriage let go, they will continue to battle through the Courts. This will create havoc and damage, often for years to come. Long after the legal divorce is over, people fight over custody, child support, and any other issue in order to continue the psychological battle through the Courts.

Divorce is not only painful, but it can be very costly. It can be damaging. Costs and damages in a divorce depend on the complexity of the case. They depend on how angry or inappropriate each spouse is going to act. The amount and complexity of the finances and whether custody is an issue, can increase the costs and attorney fees tremendously. These are things that you should think about as you decide whether or not, and how you want to have a divorce."

My practice focuses on difficult, complex and sometimes high conflict divorces with a child custody component. I work with difficult financial issues in divorce. I also encourage cooperative divorce strategies when appropriate. I have developed tools and strategies to manage the conflicts and stressors in divorce. If you have questions about divorce, please call my office for an initial consultation.

August 2, 2012

Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog: Top 50 Again

For another consecutive year, Law Offices of Michael F. Roe, PC's Illinois Divorce Law Blog has been named one of the Top 50 Divorce Blogs in the country.

Criminal Justice Degree Schools

March 11, 2012

Kane County Divorce Lawyer: Top 10 Reasons

Mindy Smith wrote an interesting article in the Huffington Post last year on the "Ten Signs Your Marriage is Headed for Divorce." I may not agree completely with her Top 10 List, but I include it for interesting reading. She listed the following:

RED FLAG #10: If your spouse is facebooking with his or her high school sweetheart on a daily basis, you may be heading for a divorce.

RED FLAG #9: If you spouse has gained more than 20% of his or her body weight, you may be headed for divorce.

RED FLAG #8: If you spouse is donning sexy new underwear all of a sudden, you may be headed for divorce. I

RED FLAG #7: If your spouse lies around all day and yet house needs cleaning, you may be headed for divorce.

RED FLAG #6: If your spouse is secretive with his or her cell phone, you may be headed for divorce.

RED FLAG #5: If your spouse makes you write down everything you spend money on, you may be headed for divorce.

RED FLAG #4: If your spouse no longer wants to have sex with you, you may be headed for divorce.

RED FLAG #3: If your spouse spends more time on the tennis courts than spending time with you, you may be headed for divorce.

RED FLAG #2: If your spouse cruises singles bars after work, you may be headed for divorce.

RED FLAG #1: If your spouse wants you to swing with your neighbors, you ARE headed for divorce.

Michael Roe's comments: In my 20 plus years of experience in family law, I can say that within every family system, there are unique reasons for the failure of a marriage. Many of my cases involve unique causes, or a multitude of causes that may include psychological issues. It's hard to suggest that there really exists a "Top 10 List." In my work as a divorce and custody lawyer, I really make an effort to understand the unique factors that have created conflict in the marriage, and I take a focused family system approach to the custody issues. In my view, there is no one size fits all solution for a family in divorce. My approach is creative, while at the same time being tenacious and goal oriented for my clients. Whether the breakdown of your marriage was triggered by one of the above 10 reasons, or you have unique issues you'd like to discuss, please go to my Firm's contact page and contact me for an initial consultation.

December 6, 2011

Kane County Divorce Attorney: The Art of Civility in Practice

The American Bar Association's Section of Family Law adopted standards of civility for Family (Divorce and Custody) Attorneys. The ABA recognized that civility is important in family law practice. As a litigant and client, why should lawyer civility be important to you?

In my divorce and custody practice, there is a time for negotiation, and there is a time for aggressive representation of my client's interests. Aggressive representation, however, does not suggest inflammatory or reckless litigation. In my 25 years of litigation experience, as a prosecutor and trial lawyer, the most successful approach to litigation is aggressive, focused civility. Lawyers that treat their clients with respect and care, who treat opposing lawyers with a measure of civility, and who show respect for the Court, get the best results.

Why, as a trial lawyer, act with civility? It saves you, the client, time and money, lowers the stress of the case, and gets the best results. If you hire an angry, reckless, "bulldog" lawyer for your case, you'll spend more, have more anguish and stress, and your results will likely be far lower. Judges typically don't respect the generalist "bulldog" lawyers.

So, what are the ABA's recommendations for civility in divorce practice?:

1. Treat the the client with respect.

2. Try to keep the client on an even emotional keel and
avoid characterizing the actions of the other party,
opposing lawyers, and judicial officials in emotional
terms.

3. Be aware of counseling resources and be prepared
to refer the client to counseling where appropriate.

4. Where a client has an exaggerated or unrealistic
view of his or her options in any given situation,
explain matters as carefully as possible in order to
assist the client to realistically assess the situation.

5. Respond promptly to client requests for advice or
information.

6. Consider the availability and appropriateness of
forms of alternate dispute resolution.

7. Where a client wishes to pursue a claim or motion for
purely hostile or vindictive purposes, explain to the
client the reasons why the client should not do so.

8. Do not assist a client in pursuing a claim for primary
custody or visitation where the purpose of the claim
is to obtain bargaining leverage in order to achieve a
purely economic objective.

9. Avoid any communication to client about the judge,
the other lawyer, or the other party that will contribute
to disrespect for the legal process.

10. Encourage clients to comply with all court orders.

Says the ABA: "These Standards address the responsibility of the family
lawyer to be civil to clients, opposing counsel, and the
Court. Civility is an important obligation of a lawyer."

November 6, 2011

Illinois Divorce does not always mean being fully divorced

Excerpted from the Huffington Post from an Article by HP writer Nancy Fagan (The Divorce Reporter) on attachments that continue after divorce. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-fagan/cut-the-marital-cord-alre_b_1018650.html

Michael Roe's comments immediately below:

Nancy, a very interestin­g and legally sound article. Illinois has been a part of a trend toward requiring judges to do all that they can to terminate the connection­s with former spouses, once they are divorced. However, as there is also an expressed trend toward joint and shared parenting and permanent maintenanc­e (also known as alimony), in reality, the cord does not get completely severed in divorce. In Illinois, divorced parties of long term marriages are bound to each other through their duty to co-parent and through years of maintenanc­e and support payments.

Having said the above, your excellent article highlights and important aspect and boundary issue. Divorce is also an emotional and psychologi­cal transition­. Individual­s that maintain codependen­t ties, or, as you note in your example, maintain a sexual relationsh­ip even while "moving on" with others, cultivate a very unhealthy post decree environmen­t. Couples that use their children as a platform for retributio­n in the years after divorce also contribute to the unhealthy developmen­t of their children.

So, as states like Illinois trend toward keeping certain attachment­s between the parties in place, your article does a very good job of offering the idea that the severing of the connection must start as an emotional and psychologi­cal one. Your recomendat­ion for counseling and therapy is very appropriat­e.

“Hi Mr. Roe,

Thank you for the nice things you wrote. One of the biggest challenges in writing to a large audience is hoping people are able to open their minds to the message being conveyed. Sometimes people have hurt and pain (past &/or present) that alters their perspectiv­e which causes them to react negatively to what they read. I'm sure you encounter this with the population you write for in your blog. If you have any suggestion­s on how to lessen a reader's reactivity about divorce issues, I'd love to know.

Take care,

Nancy Fagan, The Divorce Reporter
www.TheDiv­­­­orceHel­p­C­l­inic­.c­om”

October 22, 2011

DuPage Divorce Attorney Advice: 10 Tips

Divorce is a very difficult life transition. Divorce is known to be one the highest stress events of a person's life, especially when the divorce was unexpected or involves dramatic changes to the children in the marriage.

My job as a divorce and custody attorney is to help my clients navigate the divorce process as successfully as possible. Divorce is a difficult process, but it should not be a "war." Wars, as we all know, end with casualties on both sides, cost a lot of money, and leave wounds that do not heal.

What basic advice can I give to help divorcing parties manage the stresses of divorce?

1. Understand that your life is changing, not ending. 99.9 percent of divorcing parents are adapting to life after divorce within a year of the divorce.
2. Keep your attorney informed of job changes, tax problems, relocations, and unplanned new events, such as a girlfriend or boyfriend.
3. Provide the financial documents and responses to discovery as promptly as you can. Upon hiring the firm, please start to gather tax return copies for recent years and complete the "Comprehensive Financial Statement." If a guardian ad litem or custody evaluator is appointed to your custody case, be sure to contact the GAL or evaluator as soon as possible.
4. Never involve the minor children in the details of the divorce, and don't send information or support payments to your spouse through the children.
5. Keep an electronic or paper file copy of the pleadings and correspondence sent to you by the firm.
6. Obey all court orders, even if you don't feel the order is fair. If the Judge orders you to maintain health insurance for your spouse during the divorce, keep them on your plan until the judge allows you to take them off the plan, usually post-judgment. If the judge sets a parenting schedule, don't change or interfere with parenting times without the consent of the other parent.
7. Obey court orders for this reason, too: In Illinois, if a party fails to obey a court order, and the judge finds that the failure was done without "cause or justification," the judge will order the disobeying spouse to pay the other party's attorney's fees for enforcing the order. Don't willfully skip a $200 support payment, only to incur $2000.00 in attorney's fees.
7. Join a divorce support group or find an individual therapist if the stress of the divorce or the stress of life changes becomes overwhelming.
8. Don't act out in front of the judge while in court. If you don't like a judge's ruling, wait until you're in the hallway outside the presence of the court to vent. Judges have good memories, and will remember people who act out in displeasure at their rulings. In divorce, there is give and take. Judges make rulings based on the law, and the courts make an effort to be fair under the law. Not every ruling will go your way; this is the nature of divorce litigation.
9. Instead of using the process to get revenge on your spouse, use the process the find resolution where possible. Don't be the divorcing couple that fights over every piece of dishware or tool in the toolbox. If you want to fight over the Ikea lamp, concede the Ikea lamp to your spouse, and take the $250 you would spend on lawyer's fees for an hour, and go to Ikea and buy yourself a new lamp...and a chair.
10. Even if you've had a difficult day at court, go home and breathe deeply, and remember the good that you have in your life. If you have children, treasure them. If you have only yourself, treasure yourself...life will get better after divorce.

May 29, 2011

The Tragedy of the Overly Expensive Illinois Divorce

Divorces cost too much. I have practiced long enough in Illinois to understand that the process in the Illinois Court system of divorcing and reaching custody determinations takes too long, and costs the divorcing parties too much. My fees for divorce cases, including those that reach trial are always a fraction of that of my opponent's fees, and I work hard to keep costs down for my clients, but I still feel that the present system promotes delay, stress and cost for families. Why is this so, and how can all of us in the system work to change it?

First, the process itself is inefficient. Divorce cases are filed, and the courts set lengthy periods in which the opposing parties appear to set case management schedules. Then there is the endless march of discovery: Marital Interrogatories and lengthy and cumbersome Requests to Produce Documents, subpoenas of bank and credit card records that the parties won't produce voluntarily, depositions, motions, hearings over temporary issues: all of this activity which is billed to the client by the hour.

If the case can't settle, there is trial preparation. Finally, months later, the trial date, whereupon the judge sets a pretrial conference in chambers and the lawyers and judge work toward settlement with the judge's input. The lawyers then go out into the courtroom hallway and work with their clients under the pressure of the trial setting and try to settle the case.

Mark Baer's article, cited below, suggests mediation as an avenue for reaching earlier, cost effective settlement. As a mediator myself, I'm a proponent of mediation, but I disagree with Mr. Baer as to the efficacy of mediation in a complex or contested case. Mediation requires the absolute willingness on the part of both parties to reach settlement, and the parties need to have the emotional and logical balance to mediate. If one party is resistant, or confused, or feels stress, mediation tends to fail. My recommendation is the "Cooperative Divorce." I have trained in and taught cooperative divorce for years; it's an efficient, lower cost methodology of getting to resolution that does not involve active litigation but does allow for the intervention of the settlement judge, during the cooperative process, if needed.

Please contact my office at (630) 232-2400 if you'd like more information about my Cooperative Divorce strategies.


Credit to: http://www.markbaeresq.com/documents/Why-the-US-Family-Law-System-Is-Barbaric.pdf

May 26, 2011

DuPage County Divorce and Virtual Visitation

Virtual Visitation and Out of State Removal of Children

"Virtual visitation" is a term that is gaining relevance in Illinois divorces. It refers to using online video programs like Skype to create a visual and audio connection by which physically distant parents can connect online with their children.

A recent New York divorce case granted a mother's request for permission to move with her children to Florida, despite the fact that the children's father would continue to live in New York. As a condition of the removal order, the mother had to agree to allow the children to visit with their father via Skype, an Internet service that allows for live videoconferencing. The New York judge noted that economic conditions justified the move, as the parents' house was underwater, employment prospects were dim, and the mother had supportive family in Florida.

Comment: I have always favored "virtual visitation," and have written "Skype type" e-parenting language into parenting agreements, but only to allow for each parent to have enhanced and increased contact with their children when the children are not residential with them. I like the fact that Skype permits an enhanced experience for Dads and kids; far better than the typical evening phone call that most agreements provide for. I use these "Skype" clauses even when the children and parents live in the same city. However, I have never advocated that the use of Skype be a factor in permitting the removal of children to another state. Put simply, removal is a harsh and destructive outcome for many parents, usually Fathers, who must suffer the loss of local contact with their children after divorce. Fortunately, unlike some other states, Illinois law disfavors removal of children, but I can tell you that judges here do grant removal petitions.

If you are facing the possibility that your spouse may try to remove the children from Illinois out of state, on the pretext that there is family or friends in some other state, aggressively defending removal is critical. In my view, while "Skype" has been a boon to facilitating enhanced contact between nonresidential parents and children within Illinois, it should never be considered a substitute or factor in a removal case. Call my office for a consultation if you have concerns that your spouse may seek court permission to leave the state with the children during or after the divorce.

December 1, 2010

Illinois Divorce: Personality Disorders and the New DSM

Personality Disorders affect the quality of marriages, and when the conflict and distortions in a marriage lead to a divorce and custody case, the harmful elements of the personality disorder can be raised and inflamed in the divorce case: intense anger, blaming, targeting, false allegations, parental alienation.

As Bill Eddy (expert and author of Splitting) has described, probably the most prevalent personality disorder in family court is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) -- more commonly seen in women. BPD may be characterized by wide mood swings, intense anger even at benign events, idealization (such as of their spouse -- or attorney) followed by devaluation (such as of their spouse -- or attorney). Also common is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) -- more often seen in men. There is a great preoccupation with the self to the exclusion of others. This may be the vulnerable type, which can appear similar to BPD, causing distorted perceptions of victimization followed by intense anger (such as in domestic violence or murder, for example the San Diego case of Betty Broderick). Or this can be the invulnerable type, who is detached, believes he is very superior and feels automatically entitled to special treatment.

It is then notable that the study committee on the DSM-5 is considering doing away with the NPD diagnosis, along with four other traditional DSM diagnoses. The committee seems to feel that the new DSM should create a "menu" of traits, and require the clinician to focus on the traits, rather than naming the cluster of traits as a specific diagnosis.

Diagnosis is helpful in psychology, as these diagnostic terms give a framework for treatment and can be helpful in assessing, for example, the fitness of a parent in a custody case. How these traits affect the ability of a parent to co-parent is an important consideration in a custody case.

The new DSM is due to be published in 2013. It will be interesting to see how the debate over the elimination of NPD and other disorders is continued by clinicians over the next few years. I will continue to track these debates and developments, recognizing that the advancements (and reversals) made in the field of psychology are important to the understanding of parenting qualities that meet the best interests of children in contested divorce and custody cases.


August 15, 2010

Illinois Divorce Mediation

I receive calls and email every week from individuals about divorce mediation. These calls remind me that it is important for divorcing parents to understand what mediation is in Illinois, and how mediation fits into the divorce process in Illinois divorce courts. Mediation in Illinois can cover both the financial planning issues in divorce as well as the parenting issues. Illinois mandates that all divorcing parents with a custody dispute mediate these custody issues before they can litigate custody and visitation.

If you are required to mediate, what does mediation entail? Well, much depends on the parties and the mediator that is chosen. Among trained and experienced mediators, we recognize distinct styles of mediation: Facilitative, Evaluative and Transformative. When I am mediating a custody issue, I use a "Facilitative" approach with some elements from the Evaluative and Transformative models.

Facilitative: The mediator is helping the two parties make their decisions based on their individual definitions of fairness. I help the parties find common ground, and propose alternative parenting approaches. I can provide information and guidance but do not give recommendations or opinions. A divorce mediator in this model is helping the parties create a parenting plan that meets legal requirements, as well as that family's needs.

Evaluative: Strictly speaking the evaluative mediator plays a stronger role, making recommendations and giving opinions, pushing the parties to a decision. Some judges prefer the heavy handed mediators, as the cases are forcibly settled, but mediation by definition must allow the parties to create their own agreements without coercion. I use evaluative approaches only to provide nuanced guidance; no arms are twisted.

Transformative: This approach tries to improve the relationship between the parties, concentrating on communication and interactivity. When each parent has an understanding of the other parent's issues and goals, the parents can then come to agreements with greater success. I stress this transformative model, as many parents come to mediation with strong misunderstandings of the other parent's intentions, and a lot of distrust based on false assumptions.

I feel the goal of mediation is to guide the parties to a result that reflects their family system's needs and goals, while at the same time creates a plan that the parties can reasonably be expected to follow without difficulty, and a plan that meets the requirements of Illinois law.

Mediation is a challenging and involving process, but for the right parents in combination with an experienced mediator, the result can be beneficial for the family and save the parents a lot of money otherwise spent on stressful litigation.

April 8, 2010

Illinois Domestic Violence Act

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act is an important part of family law. The Act is designed to provide abused family members and their children with an expedited and safe means to obtain necessary legal protection from continued abuse or harassment.

My first work in the law was as a domestic violence prosecutor, and I appreciated how the law strove to provide protection for abused parents and their children, and criminal sanctions for the abusers.

In divorce and custody practice in Illinois, however, I have all too often seen the IDVA misused as a "sword" to undercut another parent in a custody case, rather than as a proper "shield" against abuse. In the space of one week , I helped a deserving parent obtain emergency relief and a change of custody, and thereby protect young children from a chaotic, abusive environment, and then, within about a day's time, on behalf of my client I successfully blocked an opposing party from litigating an EOP based on false, fabricated claims. Two IDVA cases, with two very different applications.

An article from 2008's Illinois Bar Journal discusses this phenomenon of improper use of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act in high conflict divorce and custody cases. The article presumes that the wronged party is a husband, and many times this is true, but I can say from my experience that false allegations of abuse in high conflict custody cases know no gender:

Orders of Protection, available at any courthouse, are easy to file, and rarely require any fees. The DVA permits non-attorney domestic-abuse advocates to sit at counsel table and give confidential and privileged advice to the petitioner.

It's also much easier to get an OP, and once granted along with exclusive possession of the home, the law clearly favors the wife maintaining child custody and the home unless the husband is able to present a preponderance of evidence that the custody arrangement is a hardship to HIM. The divorce act gives no such preferential presumption.

Accusations of abuse and demands for an OP are extremely useful in denying child custody to the respondent. The DVA includes "a rebuttable presumption that awarding physical care to respondent would NOT be in the minor child's best interest."

The DVA requires that a petition for an OP be expedited, and judges typically allot only 15 or 20 minutes to each case, which is not enough time to hear all the relevant evidence. Resolving a custody decision in a divorce proceeding usually requires many months.

The Illinois Bar article concludes: "If a parent is willing to abuse the system, it is unlikely the trial court could discover (her) improper motives in an Order of Protection hearing."

The Domestic Violence Act is an excellent and proper vehicle to provide safety and security for victims of abuse. When the Act is used as a sword against a fit and good parent in a custody case, no court sanction against the maker of the false allegations is strong enough.


February 13, 2010

Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog Named Top Divorce Blog

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Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog and Law Offices of Michael F. Roe is pleased to have been announced as a Top Divorce/Family Law Blog for 2009-2010 by Attorney.org. In addition to featuring breaking legal news, Attorney.org profiles different organizations and associations around the country to promote awareness and bring well deserved recognition to different causes.

I enjoy writing for my Firm's blog, presenting cutting edge issues and developments in Illinois Divorce, Custody, and Family Law. I will continue to do my best to illuminate important issues in Illinois Divorce law, and share with my clients and followers of the Blog insightful information that affects divorcing families.

Issues concerning parental alienation, high conflict divorce, psychological issues in custody cases, collaborative and cooperative divorce, and trends toward shared parenting will be just a few of the subjects that I plan to focus on for 2010.