Articles Posted in Divorce Coaching

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Confusion still reigns with respect to the tax treatment of spousal maintenance for Illinois divorce cases. I still see other law firms discussing online spousal maintenance (support) using the old rules.

In Illinois, spousal maintenance (also known in other states as alimony) is generally not tax-deductible for the payor nor taxable income for the recipient. This change came into effect due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, which significantly altered the tax treatment of spousal support (maintenance)  nationwide.

Under the TCJA, for divorce or separation agreements executed after December 31, 2018, maintenance payments are no longer deductible by the person paying the maintenance and are not considered taxable income for the person receiving it. This change applies to federal taxes and, in most states including Illinois, state taxes follow federal guidelines on this matter.

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Introducing children to a new romantic partner, or “paramour,” during or after a divorce is a delicate matter that should be approached with careful consideration and sensitivity to the children’s needs and emotions. Here are some factors to consider when determining the appropriate timing for such introductions:

  1. Stability and Adjustment: It’s generally recommended to wait until the divorce process has reached a point where the children have had time to adjust to the changes in their family dynamics and establish a sense of stability. Rushing into introductions too soon can add additional stress and emotional harm for children still grappling with the divorce.
  2. Seriousness of the Relationship: Introducing children to a new partner should be reserved for relationships that are serious and highly likely to endure. Children can be deeply harmed  by the comings and goings of romantic partners, so it’s important to be very mindful about the emotional impact of introducing them to someone who may not turn out to be a long-term presence in their lives.
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My practice has managed successfully cases dealing with NPD traits for many years. People with toxic narcissistic traits can cause a lot of harm and damage in a marriage and with children. In a divorce, people with toxic narcissistic traits can continue their self-centered toxicity, blaming, gaslighting, and other harmful behaviors. Narcissists can present significant challenges in a marriage, as well as a divorce, due to their characteristic traits which often include:

  1. Lack of Empathy: Narcissists typically have difficulty understanding or empathizing with their partner’s feelings and perspectives. This can lead to emotionally abusive behaviors.
  2. Self-Centeredness: Narcissists tend to prioritize their own needs, desires, and achievements above those of their partner and children. This self-centeredness can lead to a one-sided relationship dynamic where the narcissist’s needs are consistently prioritized over their spouse’s, sometimes to the point of abuse.
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Through the decades of practicing divorce and child custody law in Illinois, I have encountered the myriad reasons that a spouse or couple is seeking a divorce.  In some cases, there are serious behavioral issues that make staying together unhealthy for the marriage, and unhealthy for the children. In a minority of time that people meet with me for a complimentary initial consultation, the issues are fixable…for example, young couples that need counseling to learn how to manage conflicts in a marriage. I always encourage fixable family situations to seek counseling or other behavioral health modalities before initiating a divorce process.

As every relationship is unique and complex, some common reasons for considering a divorce include:

  1. Communication issues: Ineffective communication can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and feelings of being unheard or unappreciated. Communication issues are amenable to counseling and family therapy before a divorce is considered.
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One aspect of my practice is to deliver high level legal skill to my clients, while at the same time optimizing their outcomes in a cost-effective manner. Divorces don’t need to cost an “arm and a leg.”

Divorce can be emotionally and financially taxing for all parties involved. While the emotional aspect might be harder to mitigate, there are several strategies to save on the cost of divorce:

  1. Mediation: Consider opting for mediation instead of litigation. Mediation involves a neutral third party who assists in facilitating discussions and negotiations between spouses to reach mutually acceptable agreements. It’s often faster, less adversarial, and less expensive than going to court.
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Source: One Mom’s Battle

” The High Conflict Person’s actions are driven by revenge and anger. This person is unable to act in the best interest of their child and is unable to move forward in a healthy direction. They use every opportunity to berate, chastise or make digs at the healthy parent. They undermine the healthy parent by disrupting the child’s sleep schedule, diet and routines. They contradict established rules and withhold information. Ignoring school responsibilities, projects and homework to create chaos for the healthy parent. It’s also using the parenting time schedule as a weapon and, forcing custody schedules that are not in the best interest of the child. The abuser is so focused on hurting and controlling the other parent that their actions directly affect the children.

DV by Proxy: When the unhealthy parent continues to exert control and is intent on tormenting the other parent post-separation by weaponizing the children and using them as pawns, or as “spies.”This person is known to manipulate the children to choose sides, or to feel responsible for the unhealthy parent’s emotions. The unhealthy parent will often accuse the healthy parent of transferring their own anxiety or fears onto the children. Often, it’s the abuser’s own actions and behaviors that is affecting their bond and relationship with the children and, causing the children to feel anxious and afraid. They strategically attempt to turn the children against the healthy parent and if their attempts are unsuccessful, they will often claim enmeshment, alienation or gate keeping. Sadly, their attempts to turn the children against the healthy parent are sometimes successful.

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For the decades that I have been practicing Family Law/Divorce/Child Custody, I have always endeavored to deliver good value for the money spent on legal fees. Aside from keeping my hourly rates at a moderate level so that they are affordable for all clients, I also have some pride in the fact that my Firm really works to manage the cases aggressively and at the same time, cost effectively.  With this in mind, I thought I’d post some suggestions on how clients can help keep legal costs down in a contentious divorce:

Here are 7 ways to save on divorce costs:
1.  Try to maintain some measure of BIFF (Brief, Informational, Firm and Friendly) communication with your spouse over children’s issues. Use Our Family Wizard or similar platform. When all communications go through lawyers, the costs go up.
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I can say that most of the calls to my firm involve significant and complex child custody issues, many involving psychological issues or parental alienation concerns. Yet, it is still very important for my practice to focus on financial issues in divorce, as well.  Issues concerning support calculations, and valuation issues of real estate and/or business are an important and essential part of the practice.  I spent a few years, along with my law school training, in MBA school as well. These years of the study of accounting and finance have proven beneficial in the practice of Illinois Divorce Law.
A case I tried some years ago made its way to the Appellate Court in Illinois. The case was ultimately brought to the Illinois Supreme Court, which decided not to address the Third District Appellate Court’s decision in Marriage of Liszka.  I tried the Liszka case before a Will County judge, and it was a barnburner, involving both child custody issues and financial issues including the valuation of a closely held business worth in the millions of dollars.
Part of my approach with the trial court in that case was to ask the Court to not only value the retained earnings in the business as marital property, but as these retained earnings had not been part of the valuation of the business, that the Court should distribute the marital earnings to the parties as a cash distribution of marital property.  The trial court declined to do so. Fortunately, because the case was tried with some expectation that the court might make some mistakes in its judgment of the case, I tried the case with an eye that the decision of the court would be appealed.
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Have your children turned against you? Do they resist spending time with you? Have they joined with your ex in treating you with contempt? If so, they may be suffering from parental alienation.

In this article I provide an overview and summary of parental alienation to help separated and divorced parents, grandparents, and others affected by this problem to identify, prevent, and heal psychologically damaging fractured relationships.

You can read more about parental alienation by clicking on the links at the end of this article.

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A big part of my Firm’s approach to divorce law practice is helping clients navigate communications with a High Conflict Personality (HCP).  Many times, the Court will order that the parties limit communication to online monitored platforms like “Our Family Wizard” or “Talking Parents,” but regardless of the platform, difficult, angry, offensive or high conflict narratives can emerge in this messaging from one side. Too often the impulse is to respond in kind, but this kind of like-kind response is almost always counterproductive. Bill Eddy is a longstanding expert in managing High Conflict personalities, and one of his most popular methodologies for managing communications with a HCP is the following:


  • Brief: It helps to keep it to one paragraph, three to five sentences.
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