Third-Party Custody Rights in Illinois

There are times when a parent or both parents can’t take care of their child anymore. That’s when a third-party custody arrangement is often sought. Read on if you’re involved in a third-party child custody battle or you think one may be happening soon. 

When a couple divorces, it is not uncommon for one parent to try to keep the child away from the other parent and his or her family. This can occur when a mother or father refuses to allow the child’s relatives to see the child.

Child custody – which is now known as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities – disputes are often resolved through mediation or negotiation, but if these attempts fail, then litigation may be necessary. The court will make a decision regarding custody based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Third-party custody is when a court gives legal and physical custody of a child to someone who is not a biological parent. This person is sometimes called the custodian. Here’s what you need to know about third-party custody rights in Illinois and how Masters Law Group can help.

What is Third Party Custody?

While many child custody disputes occur between the parents of a child, some circumstances exist where a third party non-parent, such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, may seek custody.

Often, a situation arises in which neither of the child’s biological parents is able to care for him or her. It then becomes necessary for a non-parent to take legal steps to be appointed guardian or custodian of the child. This could be due to a single parent being incarcerated, suffers from mental health issues or are physically unable to look after their child.

Illinois family law allows for a third party relative to petition the court for custody under special circumstances if it’s in the best interest of the child. There are special circumstances and times when the court awards permanent custody of the child to a third party like a child’s grandparents.

Illinois Third Party Non-parent Child Custody

Under Illinois law, the court prefers for a child to remain in the custody of one or both of the child’s parents. However, if the parent is unfit to care for the child pursuant to 750 ILCS 50, then the court may regard awarding third party non-parent custody as in the best interests of the child. 

If the child is removed from his or her parents’ custody and/or if his or her parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to him or her, then there are several other situations in which third party non-parent custody may be considered for that child. These include:

  • One or both of the children’s parents are in jail for over three months
  • The court declares one or both of the parents unfit
  • The parents agree to the visitation
  • One or both of the parents are deceased or have been absent for over three months

Illinois Third Party Non-Parent Child Visitation

When a child custody lies with a fit parent, the chances of a third party non-parent seeking custody may not be as successful. To show a parent is unfit, they must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Abandonment
  • Habitual substance abuse problems
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Mental illness or instability
  • Placing the children in an unsafe living environment
  • Being incarcerated
  • Uninterested in the children’s welfare
  • Neglect

The court will almost always give preference to the parents’ wishes concerning visitation with the child. There are certain cumstances that will warrant a third party non-parent seeking visitation rights from the court. A third party non-parent who seeks to obtain visitation privileges must show that he/she has a significant relationship with the child. If that is the case, then they would have a better chance of warranting such an order.

Gray Areas with Grandparents & Child Custody Rights

In all but the most extreme cases, parents have full discretion over how to raise their children. If a parent decides they do not want their child to have a relationship with their grandparents, that is legally within their right unless it would cause physical, emotional, or mental damage to the child. 

In Illinois, legal custody is considered parental responsibility which automatically defaults to parents making a decision. Grandparents can only receive custody if they meet the following criteria:

  • The parents willingly give up the child due to extreme financial hardship or other circumstances
  • The court declares the parents unfit because of criminal activity or substance abuse

Grandparents must be able to back up the following with evidence such as police reports, medical records, photos, and other documentation. It is always important to consult with an experienced family law attorney before you proceed with pressing any legal charges against the parents.

Is Third Party Custody Permanent? 

An order granting a third-party custody is permanent. However, parties can ask the court to change the custody order after it has been in effect for a year and they meet certain requirements. It’s called a custody modification. But getting the court to change custody is not easy. The process for doing a third-party custody modification is the same as custody modifications between biological parents.

Final Thoughts

Oftentimes, child custody and visitation topics can be highly emotional issues. Disputes over third party non-parent visitation can be difficult. Because of this, the experienced attorneys at Masters Law group can assist you with third-party custody litigation.

Protecting the child and their best interests should be your number one priority regardless of which side you are on in this situation. If you or a loved one would like to know more about third party custody in Illinois, contact Masters Law Group here today.

Beaming With Pride: Illinois Civil Unions

With just two days left of Pride Month, Masters Law Group looks back at the history of LGBTQ rights, as well as the legalities of Civil Unions in our great state of Illinois. 

June is widely celebrated as Pride Month to the world. The month of June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City when LGBT people stood up against police brutality and injustice and demanded fair treatment for all. LGBT people and their allies celebrate accomplishments achieved since Stonewall, but they also advocate for what needs to be done in order to secure full equal rights.

Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence are unfortunatley still rampant. Marriage equality still remains an issue at the forefront of Pride. What better way to close out Pride Month than with love and acceptance. Here’s what you need to know about Illinois Civil Unions.

What is a Civil Union?

Civil unions allow two adults, of either the same or opposite sex, to enter into a legally recognized relationship.

Civil unions first became legal in Illinois on June 1, 2011. A civil union is a legal relationship granted by the State of Illinois. A common misconception is that civil unions are only for same sex-couples. Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples who are in committed relationships can enter into a civil union in Illinois. Partners who enter into a civil union in Illinois are entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits that state law provides to married spouses. 

It is important to note that civil unions entered into in Illinois are not recognized under federal laws. Partners to a civil union in Illinois are entitled to almost none of the obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits that federal law provides to married spouses. 

Civil Union Guidelines

You can enter into a civil union in Illinois if you are a same-sex or opposite-sex couple in a committed relationship. You and your partner must both be at least 18 years old (or with the sworn consent of your parents or legal guardians if you are 16 or 17 years old) and neither of you can already be in a marriage, civil union, or substantially similar legal relationship.

If you are 16 or 17 years old, you may enter into a civil union in Illinois if your parents or legal guardians appear before the county clerk when you apply for a civil union license, provide valid identification, and give sworn consent to you entering into a civil union. 

Illinois also does not allow civil unions between close relatives. Illinois law prohibits you from entering into a civil union if you or your partner are currently married or in a civil union or substantially similar legal relationship. To enter into a civil union, your prior marriage, civil union, or substantially similar legal relationship must either be dissolved or your previous spouse or civil union partner must have died. 

What Happens if We Enter into a Civil Union and Our Relationship Later Ends? 

If you enter into a civil union in Illinois, and later divorce or become legally separated, you will need to apply for dissolution of the civil union before the court can end your legal relationship. If you and/or your partner move to another state after entering into a civil union in Illinois, the courts of that state may dissolve your civil union. If your civil union cannot be dissolved by the courts in the state of your residence, it can be dissolved by an Illinois state court.

 The dissolution of civil unions follows the same procedures and is subject to the same rights and obligations that are involved in dissolving marriages. Illinois law will dissolve a civil union if either you or your partner establish grounds for dissolving the union, or if you have lived apart for at least two years and can establish that the union must be dissolved due to irreconcilable differences.

It is important to dissolve your civil union when the relationship ends. If you do not, your legal relationship with your civil union partner will continue.

Do You Need a Family Law Attorney for Your Civil Union? 

At Masters Law Group, we are committed to providing exceptional, individualized services to clients in civil union disputes. Our firm has extensive experience in this area of family law. We handle family law matters in civil unions and same-sex marriages, providing legal representation for clients throughout the state of Illinois. 

Whether you want to form a civil union or are in need of a civil union dissolution, we will take the time to fully understand your situation and provide honest advice regarding your options. Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

The Illinois Divorce Process and Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are a new form of currency, rapidly gaining popularity and media attention across the globe. It’s estimated more than 20 million Americans may own cryptocurrency, and how to split holdings has become a growing concern in divorce settlements. 

The problem for divorcing couples is that the division and valuation of cryptocurrencies can be just as difficult as dividing up the equity in a home.

Throughout our cryptocurrency series we have answered many questions regarding different types of crypto and where you can find hidden assets. In a world where cryptocurrency is increasingly accepted as legitimate, it’s only natural that Masters Law Group’s experienced attorneys would know how to handle it. Here’s a quick look at how the state handles the issue at hand.

Disclosing Bitcoins And Cryptocurrencies in an Illinois Divorce

It’s important to understand how the state of Illinois divides and separates cryptocurrency assets. Illinois has taken steps to protect individuals who have invested in cryptocurrencies by allowing them to be counted as part of their overall net worth during divorce proceedings.

However, there are some stipulations involved in this process. Any money received from selling cryptocurrency is considered to be liquidated property and thus should not be counted as part of the overall net worth of an individual during a divorce settlement.

This process may trigger a couple of questions. How would you verify Bitcoin holdings? Would you print a screen grab from an online platform where you hold Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies? Would you entrust your ex-spouse or their attorneys with the password to your accounts? Coin exchange companies such as Coinbase will issue a 1099-K each year if there have been $20,000 or more in exchanges of cryptocurrency.

Typically, the opposing party’s attorney will go through the process of cleaning up the financial affidavit and ask you for these documents to verify the claimed assets. The opposing party’s attorney will issue a “Notice To Produce” asking for copies of statements for your 401k, bank accounts, etc. If you have access to those documents, you must provide them a copy of those documents if they request it. Failure to do so can result in a finding of contempt of court.

The Illinois Department of Revenue requires 1099-K forms to be submitted electronically to Illinois when four or more separate transactions exceed $1,000 or if you are required by the IRS* to electronically file Forms 1099-K.

Essentially any 4 crypto-currency purchases, sales or trades will trigger a 1099-K in Illinois and the cryptocurrency holder will have those 1099-K as part of their standard tax packet. If your spouse will not fully disclose their cryptocurrency holdings, you may have to turn to an expensive third party to discover any additional holdings.

How Do You Divide Crypto in Illinois?

After determining the actual existence and quantity of your spouse’s cryptocurrency, the next step in the analysis is to figure out what portion of the cryptocurrency is marital. In Illinois, all property held by either party is presumed marital property unless it falls under an exception such as being acquired before the marriage, being a gift or an inheritance.

Typically, if both parties agree to the settlement they might have to include a formula for the volatility of the crypto. Once the judge approves of the formula, the price of that cryptocurrency in the martial estate becomes more foreseeable. 

Dividing crypto in Illinois is similar to the division of any other assets. Illinois is not a community property state, which means the court will split assets purchased, converted or appraised throughout the marriage in an equitable manner. It’s important to note that when it’s split equitably, it doesn’t always mean equal. Here are a couple factors that determine equitable distribution:

  • Age, health, financial circumstance of a spouse
  • Financial contributions to marital estate
  • Court-ordered obligations related to previous marriages
  • Child custody considerations
  • Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
  • Tax Concerns
  • Marriage Duration
  • Alimony provisions

If you are ever unsure about the ownership of your property, you should consult legal counsel immediately in order to avoid any uncertainness. Lastly, if both parties agree to the settlement they might have to include a formula for the volatility of the crypto. Once the judge approves of the formula, the price of that cryptocurrency in the martial estate becomes more foreseeable.

The volatility of the price of these assets makes it very difficult to adequately value at the time of the divorce. Discovery and final negotiation of a divorce can sometimes take months and in that time a cryptocurrency could double or halve in value. A cash out of the cryptocurrency before the finality of the divorce is probably advised to finalize the marital value.

How Masters Law Group Can Help

When it comes to modern-day divorce cases, Masters Law Group has you covered on all things crypto. If you’re facing a divorce and suspect that your spouse is hiding crypto (and don’t know what signs to look out for), you can find that information in our recent blog here. If you have questions about the different types of popularized crypto, you can find that information right here.

Masters Law Group is here to help you through this stressful time. It’s important to consult your attorney as soon as you find any hidden cryptocurrency and discuss everything you know about the assets such as the type of crypto, the date of purchase and its appreciation. Gather any documents and records you may need in order to get your affairs in order. 

Our team of attorneys are highly experienced in dealing with Cryptocurrencies in divorce and are here to answer your questions about divorce and digital asset division.

Contact us today for more information, or to schedule a consultation.

Father’s Rights in Illinois

Father’s Day is a special time to celebrate the men who have given so much to their families. But it’s also the perfect opportunity to reflect on fatherhood in America. Here at Masters Law Group, we want to take this opportunity to remind fathers their rights are equally important; to you, to your child/children, and to the law. 

If you are the father, you may worry about what your parental rights are under Illinois law. Unmarried or divorcing fathers are often especially concerned about their parental rights and responsibilities.  According to the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, the state recognizes “the right of every child to the physical, mental, emotional and monetary support of his or her parents.” The law provides that “the parent and child relationship, including support obligations, extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents.”

Before paternity is established, the current system has mothers as primary caregivers by default, even though we know that most dads want equal time with their kids. If you’re one of those dads, or know someone who hasn’t been treated fairly, here’s what you should know to help ensure that your rights as a father are protected.

The Importance of a Father in a Child’s Life

It is no secret that mothers and children share a special bond. Mothers are viewed as the most important person in a child’s life, being their capable caregivers, caring supporters, and strong providers. While there is no doubt that mothers play a vital role in children’s lives, it is also important to know about the importance of fathers or father figures in children’s lives. 

Studies have shown that children who have involved and supportive fathers tend to do better academically while also having an easier time with their language and social development. Fathers can also act as capable caregivers, loving nurturers, and effective disciplinarians for children.

Because of these findings, it is essential for both parents to be involved in their child’s life. It is important for both parents to spend quality time together with their children so they can share experiences together as well as develop meaningful relationships with one another.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

If you are a father who wants to establish your parental rights, one of the first steps you need to take is to establish paternity, also known as “parentage”.

In Illinois, all children have a right to the mental, physical, monetary, and emotional support of their parents. Additionally, Illinois law states that both children and parents have a right to a relationship with one another—whether or not they are married. Married parents have an easier time establishing paternity than unmarried ones do: married couples can simply marry after the child is born in order to establish paternity, while unmarried couples must take additional steps.

There are four processes parents can follow in order to establish paternity: 

  • Marrying after the child is born
  • Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity 
  • Paternity action brought before the court
  • Paternity order issued by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Child Support Services.

The easiest way to establish paternity is by signing a VAP form. When families go to the hospital or medical facility to have their baby, the staff provides them with this form if the couple is unmarried. Both parents should read the form, ensure they understand it, and then sign and date it before a witness (someone 18 years or older). Once this form is completed, the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate before the family leaves the hospital.

When both parents sign a VAP form, they are agreeing that the male listed on the form is the child’s legal and biological father. This form also waives both couples’ right to genetic testing for themselves and the child. Both parents are acknowledging that they will provide financial support and medical care for the child. While signing this document provides all of these rights, it does not give either parent any right to custody or visitation – parents need to take any custody issues they have through the family court system in Illinois.

Father’s Rights to Custody and Visitation

In Illinois, child custody and visitation are called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that all parents have a right to enjoy “reasonable” parenting time unless there is a good reason for the parent to be denied access to his or her child. If the court holds a hearing and finds that granting parenting time “would seriously endanger the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development,” the parent may not be allowed to spend time with his or her child unsupervised. Unless you have a history of domestic violence or previous convictions for violent crime, or if there is another reason for the court to restrict your parenting time, you have a legal right to spend time with your child.

In cases where parents have gone to court to determine Illinois child custody and visitation, the judge overseeing the case uses the “best interests of the child” standard in order to guide his or her decision making. This means the judge only considers a decision that benefits the child involved regardless of the parents’ other group’s wishes.

The judge deciding the case looks at a number of different factors when choosing the best possible custody decision for the child. Some of those factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between each parent and their children
  • How well each parent is able to care for their children
  • The age of each child involved in this case
  • The mental health status of each parent involved in this case (if either party is suffering from some sort of mental illness or addiction)

Should fathers be granted primary custody, they have the same right to seek child support as mothers would in the same situation. Should fathers have difficulty collecting the ordered child support, there are a number of resources to use in order to collect those payments. For the state of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is solely dedicated to providing child support services based on both state and federal laws.

Final Thoughts

Fathers often feel as though they are at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody and support. This can make it difficult for fathers who want to fight for their rights in a paternity case, child custody case or child support case. As attorneys experienced in father’s rights, we can help guide you through this process by explaining your options and help you understand what steps you need to take to ensure your rights are protected under the law. 

We can also assist you in gaining the time with your children that you deserve while providing valuable assistance when it comes to paying child support and other expenses associated with raising a child. 

For more information on Father’s Rights, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. 

Child Visitation Rights for Same Sex Couples

Happy LGBTQ Month! To celebrate Pride month, Masters Law Group dives into everything you need to know about Child Visitation (Parenting Time) Rights for Same Sex Couples in our great state of Illinois.

It’s been eight years since Illinois legalized same-sex marriage in the state. If you are a spouse in a same-sex marriage, you may be unfamiliar with Illinois’ visitation rights laws. Though the same statutory provisions apply regardless of same or opposite sex parents, the laws can be complex.

Masters Law Group understands how difficult divorce is for parents who want nothing but the best for their children. Rest assured, our attorneys have in-depth knowledge of same-sex child custody and vistation laws in order to help you. Here’s a look at Parenting Time in Illinois for Same Sex Couples.

What are Child Visitation Rights?

Child Visitation Rights is the in-person time spent between a child and the child’s parent, or guardian which can fall under a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, step-parent, or any person designated under subsection (d) of Section 602.7.

The amount of time that a parent or guardian is allowed to visit their child depends on many things. A court won’t restrict visitation in either a joint custody arrangement or a sole custody situation except when it’s necessary to protect a child’s welfare. Under Illinois law, the restriction of parenting time refers to any limit or condition on parenting time, including supervision.

Courts in Illinois don’t typically place restrictions on parenting time, unless necessary to prevent serious endangerment to a child. In Illinois, courts can create restrictions if they feel it necessary in order to protect the child, here are a couple examples of the following:

  • Supervision at visits
  • Mandate locations for visits
  • Deny visits when the parent is under the influence of drugs/alcohol or has used them within a designated period preceding the visit; and
  • Deny overnight visits

It’s important to note that only parents have a legal right to parenting time. However, there are circumstances where guardians may ask for a visitation order from the court when they have been denied reasonable visitation.

Same-Sex Parents Have the Same Parenting Time Rights

In 2015, the Overgefell v. Hodges case went to the US Supreme Court which handed a decision that put same-sex couples on equal footing with all other spouses in domestic relations matters.  People of the same-sex can marry, divorce, and address all of the key issues that come up when dissolving their marriage. The basis of this ruling is the 14th Amendment which prohibits the government from denying a person of certain rights without due process.

States were violating this constitutional concept by forbidding same-sex marriage so the Justices made it legal across the board. As such, same-sex couples can – and must – address child custody, visitation, and child support in any divorce case involving minor children.

Illinois Law on Child Visitation/Parenting Time For Same-Sex Couples

Illinois divorce law uses the terms “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time to refer to the various issues involved with raising a child. Here are the following provisions:

  • Parenting Time: This concept goes hand in hand with the idea of traditional visitation, where the parent enjoying the time with the child is responsible for the care of the child and making non-significant decisions about the child.
  • Parenting Plan: When a couple divorces, they must submit a Parenting Plan to the court outlining agreements on decision-making and parenting time. Parents who cannot agree may file a separate Parenting Plan and the court will make a decision based upon the child’s best interests.

Illinois Parenting Time Guidelines

Illinois prefers shared parenting time whenever it’s in the child’s best interests. In shared parenting time, the child spends periods with both parents.

A judge must approve all parenting time schedules, even when parents come to an agreement in a settlement. If parents can’t agree, each submits a proposal, and the court decides.

Keep in mind that schedules should align with your child’s needs and can affect your child support payments.

The schedule is a part of your parenting plan, meaning it becomes a legally-binding court order with a judge’s approval. It is important to follow the schedule as written, though parents can agree on small tweaks or ask the court to modify the order.

Hiring an Experienced Attorney

By hiring a knowledgeable family law attorney – who is highly experienced in same-sex family law issues  – you will only help put you and your family at ease. 

Masters Law Group represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule.

Throughout her career, attorney Erin E. Masters has focused her practice on all areas related to family law, including divorce, child custody and support, paternity issues, visitation and parenting time, pre- and postnuptial agreements, prosecuting and defending Orders of Protection, and many other areas involving domestic relations and dissolution of marriage.

Furthermore, attorney Anthony G. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. So you can rest assured you are in the best possible hands.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Hague Convention – National Missing Children’s Day

Today is National Missing Children’s Day; dedicated to encouraging parents, guardians, caregivers, and others concerned with the well-being of children to make child safety a priority. If you are faced with the terrifying scenario of International Parental Child Abduction, here is what you need to know. 

National Missing Children’s Day was proclaimed by president Ronald Regan on May 25, 1983. This was to honor Etan Patz, a 6 year old boy who disappeared in New York City on May 25, 1979.

Every year for national missing children’s day, the Department of Justice commemorates Missing Children’s Day by honoring the heroic and exemplary efforts of agencies, organizations, and individuals to protect children.

Here, Masters Law Group covers the Hague Convention – aimed to protect children from international parental child abduction. Let’s take a look at the Hague Abduction Convention, and what you should know in honor of national missing children’s day.

HAGUE CONVENTION & ITS BACKGROUND

The Hague Convention is a treaty that many countries, along with the US have joined. On May 29, 1993, the Convention established international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions. The United States signed the Convention in 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. 

The overall purpose of the Convention is to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction by a parent by encouraging the speedy return of an abducted child to their country of habitual residence. As well as to organize and secure the effective rights of access to a child.

BECOME AWARE OF CHILD ABDUCTION

Awareness is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the unthinkable from happening. Oftentimes, the people who you least expect are capable of abducting your child are family members. It’s not unusual for a parent who abducts their child to believe that they know what is best for the child. 

Young children are the easiest to abduct because they don’t know to go for help or do anything to bring attention to their parents taking them. Some other warning signs and factors that are important to be aware of are:

  • A parent with no source of income/job.
  • A parent who is financially independent.
  • A parent with no real ties to the community they live in.
  • A parent who abruptly quits their job, sells their home, applies for passports.
  • A parent who starts collecting the child’s medical and school records.
  • A parent who has domestic violence and/or child abuse history.

Some additional steps to lower the risk of parental abduction or increase your odds recovering your child if they are abducted would be:

  • Have up-to-date pictures of your child.
  • Fingerprints of your child.
  • Have a written detailed description of your child including: height, weight, hair color, eye color, birthmarks, and noticeable physical characteristics.
  • Copies of your child’s Social Security card and passport.
  • Register your child with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).

THINGS YOU CAN DO THIS MISSING CHILDREN’S DAY

While all of the things mentioned above are great things to keep in mind, another layer of safety would be having child custody and visitation matters in place. Having a system that works for you and your child as well as the other parent involved can make it easier to keep accountability. 

Whenever a Child custody or visitation issue arises, you should report it to state or local law enforcement authorities or a state judicial officer. In addition to contacting the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues, law enforcement or left-behind parents should also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”): www.missingkids.org

NCMEC works closely with the State Department and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and administers its Victim Reunification Travel Program. Eligible parents can request financial assistance so they can be reunited with a child located in another country or obtain travel support for the child’s return to the United States.

Lastly, seeking a family law firm who are highly experienced in cases involving international child custody disputes (in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system) could be an invaluable resource in this incredibly stressful time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The commemoration of National Missing Children’s Day serves as a reminder to continue our efforts to reunite missing children with their families and an occasion to honor those dedicated to this cause. It’s important for the US along with other countries to be a part of the Hague Convention. By doing so, we can negotiate treaties to help streamline international justice. 

It is essential to have the help from a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands all of the legalities that go along with international child custody cases.

Our attorneys, Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph, have extensive knowledge and experience with The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) that was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (“ICARA”). 

See Our Featured Hague Decisions Here:

Contact us here today to learn more.

Parenting Time & Visitation Tips for Visit your Relatives Day

National Visit Your Relatives Day is recognized on May 18. It is a day dedicated to spending time with your loved ones and cherishing family time. Parenting Time of your child can be an emotional law topic. Parenting Time rights may be determined by the agreement of the parties or by a court order.

Masters Law Group represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. Here are a couple parenting time and visitation tips you can follow in honor or visit your relatives day.

Create a Parenting Plan

This is by far one of the most important steps you can take when you’re divorced and co-parenting. A parenting plan is a legally-binding agreement and should be respectfully treated as such. You can develop one informally if you are communicating well or you can have your attorney or mediator help create one for you. 

It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan. 

The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children. Once you have it in place, you’ll be a little more at ease. If you don’t already have one, it can make your life a little easier.

Be Reasonable when Establishing a Parenting Arrangement

A divorce is difficult to go through. At times you may need to take a step back and try to be reasonable when it comes to your children. Start by looking at the relationship your children have with each parent, and remember that children do best when they are allowed to continue to have a strong relationship with both parents. 

While you may have some disdain for the other person, your children love them. Pointing out every flaw the other parent has is not going to help your children when it comes down to establishing custody. 

Respect the Needs of Your Children

Children do not need to be put in the middle of your divorce. They need to know that both parents love them, and that both parents want to be part of their lives. Telling your children how horrible the other parent is will only confuse them. Respect the needs of your child by enjoying them when they are with you, doing your best to parent them. Unfortunately when it comes to younger children they aren’t able to verbalize what they want out of a custody arrangement, but older children can. For example, they may verbalize that they want to stay in the same home during the week while they are at school. 

Perhaps you were an absent parent, always on the road working. While it may be hard to agree that the child should spend more time with the other parent, your sacrifice will make the divorce easier on your children.

Think About Your Support Network

Having children is hard, and raising them without a support network is nearly impossible. Think about your new life, and how being divorced is going to impact your support network. Look at the people around you, and those you believe will still be around even during the aftermath of your divorce. While you can’t create a custody schedule based on support alone, it’s important that you have the help you need if an emergency arises.

Communication is Key

If the two of you struggle to communicate in a civil manner, it’s important to establish one form of communication right away. Many couples use different methods of communication but it’s ultimately what works for the both of them.  Nowadays there are various online software programs, where both parties can send messages, a calendar can be created, and all communication between the two of you can be recorded in one place. 

The court will look at this communication when there are issues brought forth to the court, and both parties will be held responsible for what they are communicating with the other person.

Final Thoughts

We hope with the help of these tips mentioned above, it can make way for you to navigate through parenting time and visitation in an appropriate and enjoyable manner. Shared legal and shared physical custody entitles you to regular visitation, and decision-making in all aspects of their lives. While the other parent may try to prohibit you from making decisions, you need to know that you have the legal right and obligation to help make these decisions. 

For more information on Divorce, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. With their in-depth knowledge and experience in Family Law, we’re sure to help you get through parenting time and visitation together.

Cryptocurrency Series: 12 Most Popular Types of Crypto and What to Know Before Divorce.

Cryptocurrency is by design difficult to trace, making it an ideal asset to hide from a spouse. If you’re new to the world of Crypto, it gets even more challenging. Here’s a list of the most popular cryptos to look out for and how to include them in your divoce settlement. 

If you’ve been following our Crypto and Divorce series you may already be aware of the difficulties crypto assets bear in divorce. As a quick recap, we’ll be covering what Cryptocurrency is as well as the 12 most popular types of crypto in the market.

With all of these forces at play during a divorce, it’s best to be prepared for whatever the outcome may be and hiring a family law attorney well-versed in cryptocurrencies is always an advantage. Here’s what you need to know about the 12 most popular types of Cryptocurrencies and how you can best prepare for them before divorce. 

Cryptocurrency is a digital form of payment that can be used to purchase goods or services online. Every transaction is done online and tracked via a highly secure ledger called a blockchain. Let’s jump into some of the various types of crypto there is on the market.

  • Bitcoin (BTC)

Notably known as the most popular form of crypto, Bitcoin is widely known as the first major cryptocurrency to hit the market. It first debuted in 2009 and many others have become popular but not as popular as the original. 

Bitcoin is still the coin people generally reference when they talk about digital currency. Its mysterious creator — allegedly Satoshi Nakamoto — debuted the currency in 2009 and it’s been on a roller-coaster ride since then. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that the cryptocurrency broke into popular consciousness.

  • Ethereum (ETH)

Ethereum is the second name you’re most likely to recognize in the crypto space. The system allows you to use ether to perform a number of functions, but the smart contract aspect of Ethereum helps make it a popular currency.

Ether is used mainly for two purposes: It is traded as a digital currency on exchanges in the same way as other cryptocurrencies, and it is used on the Ethereum network to run applications. According to Ethereum, “people all over the world use ETH to make payments, as a store of value, or as collateral.”

  • Tether (USDT)

Tether’s price is anchored at $1 per coin. That’s because it is what’s called a stablecoin. Stablecoins are tied to the value of a specific asset, in Tether’s case, the U.S. Dollar. Tether often acts as a medium when traders move from one cryptocurrency to another. Rather than move back to dollars, they use Tether. However, some people are concerned that Tether isn’t safely backed by dollars held in reserve but instead uses a short-term form of unsecured debt.

  • Binance Coin (BNB)

Binance Coin is the cryptocurrency issued by Binance, among the largest crypto exchanges in the world. While originally created as a token to pay for discounted trades, Binance Coin can now be used for payments as well as purchasing various goods and services.

  • USD Coin (USDC)

Tether and USD Coin are both stablecoins that are attached to the dollar, meaning that its value should not fluctuate. The currency’s founders say that it’s backed by fully reserved assets or those with “equivalent fair value” and those assets are held in accounts with regulated U.S. institutions.

  • Ripple (XRP) 

Formerly known as Ripple and created in 2012, XRP offers a way to pay in many different real-world currencies. Ripple can be useful in cross-border transactions and uses a trust-less mechanism to facilitate payments. 

Ripple is known for their advanced blockchain technology for global payments. Where financial institutions are able to expand into new markets around the world and eliminate pre-funding by leveraging the power of XRP.

  • Solana (SOL)

Solana was created in 2017 by Anatoly Yakovenko alongside current Solana board member and Chief Operations Officer Raj Gokal. Yakovenko, now Solana Lab’s CEO, came from a background in system design and wanted to apply his knowledge toward a new blockchain paradigm that enabled faster processing speeds.

Solana is a newer cryptocurrency and it touts its speed at completing transactions and the overall robustness of its “web-scale” platform. The issuance of the currency, called SOL, is capped at 480 million coins. Solana’s increasing popularity has made it Ethereum’s growing rival. 

  • Terra (LUNA)

Using its currency Luna, Terra is a platform that helps backstop a range of stablecoins based on real currencies such as the dollar or euro. Terra helps stabilize the price of stablecoins through various technical means, and it also supports smart contracts.

According to the Terra website, the Terra protocol creates stablecoins that track the price of any fiat currency using a combination of open market arbitrage incentives and decentralized Oracle voting. On the Terra blockchain, users may spend, save, trade, and swap Terra stablecoins.

  • Cardano (ADA)

Cardano is the cryptocurrency platform behind ada, the name of the currency. Cardano is a proof-of-stake blockchain platform: the first to be founded on peer-reviewed research and developed through evidence-based methods. It combines pioneering technologies to provide unparalleled security and sustainability to decentralized applications, systems, and societies. Cardano was created by the co-founder of Ethereum, and this cryptocurrency also uses smart contracts, enabling identity management. 

  • Avalanche (AVAX)

Avalanche is a fast and low-cost smart contracts-based blockchain platform focused on building decentralized apps and facilitating the creation of custom blockchains. Its users can process transactions in the native AVAX token. 

The AVAX token is hard-capped which makes it a scarce asset that is used to pay for fees, and secret the platform through staking. Ultimately the hard cap provides a basic unit of account between the multiple subnets within Avalanche.

  • Polkadot (DOT)

Polkadot is a currency that connects blockchains which allows value and data to be sent across other incompatible networks. For example Bitcoin and Ethereum. It’s also designed to be fast and scalable. 

The DOT token is used for staking and governance; it can be bought or sold on Coinbase and other exchanges. Polkadot was founded by another co-founder of Ethereum. Industry specialists believe Polkadot is looking to eventually dethrone Ethereum.

  • Dogecoin (DOGE)

Dogecoin originated as an alternative to traditional cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. Both the name and logo were based off of a meme that went viral. Dogecoin is intentionally abundant which is different in comparison to bitcoin which is scarce. In 2021, Dogecoin became one of the biggest cryptocurrencies in the market. Dogecoin crypto can be used for payments or sending money.

Divorce and Crypto Assets

Cryptocurrency is considered an asset and as a result, it may be considered separate property or marital property. In some cases, growth in the value of cryptocurrency during the marriage may be considered a marital asset, even if the original purchase took place before the marriage.

This is especially true when both spouses were involved in using cryptocurrency, investing in crypto assets, or planning to rely on crypto to fund future financial ventures. If you’re a crypto investor considering divorce, you should always consult with your lawyer about how you can expect your investments to be affected by the separation.

Bottom Line

The cryptocurrency market could be compared to the Wild West. Although, the U.S. government has been taking on a more active role in overseeing crypto space. Volatility can be intense, with crypto assets fluctuating significantly even in a single day. This leaves individual investors to trade against highly sophisticated players, making it a fraught experience for beginners getting into crypto.

Regardless of your skill level, splitting digital currency may be more complex than traditional investments, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. It is important to be prepared and make sure that crypto is properly discovered and valued in family law matters. If you know or suspect that cryptocurrency will be a part of your divorce, talk to your family law attorney immediately and put together a game plan in your divorce case.

Our team of award-winning attorneys are highly experienced in dealing with Cryptocurrencies in divorce, and are here to answer your questions about divorce and digital asset division.

Contact us today for more information, or to schedule a consultation.

International Child Abduction Facts

Parental child abduction cases are, unfortunately, a factor to consider following a separation or divorce, particularly when relations between the parents are acrimonious. Child abduction cases, particularly across international borders, are complex and extremely time-sensitive. Here are  some facts you should know if you’re facing such a case.

“Desiring to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention…as well as to secure protection for rights of access.”

–Hague Abduction Convention, Preamble

International child abduction happens for a number of reasons. Child abduction can be a very frightening experience to the parents involved and of course to the children. International parental child abduction is an act of illegally taking a child from their home usually by one of the parents across international borders; but it can also be done by an acquaintance or another member of the family.

International child abduction is actually on the rise and many investigation offices have open cases in all 80 countries the Hague Convention applies to. Here’s what you need to know about this growing problem. 

WHY THE HAGUE CONVENTION IS IMPORTANT

Firstly, what is The Hague Convention? The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is the main international agreement that covers international parental child abduction. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.

A number of countries around the globe have joined a treaty called the Hague Convention. This multilateral treaty was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and concluded on October 25, 1980, entering into force on December 1, 1983.

According to the Convention, the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever it breaches custody rights attributed to a person or any other body. If, at the time of removal or retention, those rights were exercised. Even if a parent already has legal custody of a child, the Convention is needed. U.S. court orders may not be recognized in other countries, and sovereign nations cannot interfere with each other’s legal systems, judiciaries, or law enforcement.

CONVENTION FRAMEWORK

The Convention’s framework allows countries to help one another find solutions for difficult custody cases where a child is abducted. This doesn’t rely on the immigration status or nationality of the child. In certain situations, a child may be wrongfully detained in another country, where they are not a resident. Violations of custodial rights happen when the child is wrongfully removed from their habitual home and now lives in a foreign country.

The Central Authority must do the following:

  • Be the point of contact for parents and children in international child custody cases.
  • Help locate abducted children.
  • Encourage solutions that work for both parents.
  • Submit documents as part of the application are admissible in courts in partner countries.

Presenting a custody order is not needed to prove that a parents custodial rights were violated when the child was taken from their country; this can be proven by showing proof of parenthood or marriage. When a child is returned to his/her habitual residence, it does not depend on the immigration status/or nationality of a child or his or her parents.

Family Abductions are More Common than you Think

When parents report that their children have been abducted or retained outside of the United States, country officers inform them of potential options and provide resources to help them seek the return of, or access to, their children. 

Some years, family abductions make up as much as 90% of abductions that occur, especially by parents. This usually happens in homes where the parents are separated, divorced, or estranged and is more common in lower-income households and during custody disputes. 

If your child wasn’t taken by a family member, the odds are that it was done by someone you know. 

A Fraction of 1% of Child Abductions is Total Strangers

About 100 children a year are abducted by total strangers as you hear on the news, so it’s exceedingly rare for a child to disappear this way. While this is the rarest, it is also the least likely that your child will come home if they are taken by a total stranger. Out of the approximately 100 kids a year that are taken this way, only 50 come back.

In 2020, country officers responded to 157 initial inquiries in which parents sought information and resources regarding parental abductions, but did not proceed with providing complete documentation. Country officers handled 664 total outgoing abduction cases, including 246 cases opened in 2020. Of those cases,129 were resolved with the return of 185 abducted children to the United States.

Final Thoughts

Nothing can make a parent feel more helpless than having a child taken away to, or held in, a foreign jurisdiction. If you believe your child is in the process of being abducted by a parent, legal guardian, or someone acting on their behalf, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Masters Law Group.

Our Senior Attorneys, Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph, have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Our Featured Hague Decisions:

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

The Dogecoin Divorce

Industry groups estimate more than 20 million Americans may own cryptocurrency, including Dogecoin. Now many are left wondering how to split holdings in divorce settlements. 

Divorce is one of the most stressful events that a human can endure. It can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. Especially when you’re dealing with the division of your assets. Now that some of those assets have gone digital for an increasing number of people, an already complicated process stands to get more difficult.

Cryptocurrency is a digital form of payment that can be used to purchase goods or services online. Every transaction is done online and tracked via a highly secure ledger called a blockchain. You might have heard of Dogecoin, a crypto that has made big news lately for its wildly fluctuating value. There are more than 10,000 unique publicly-traded cryptos, with more being added every day.

In the sixth part of our Cryptocurrencies and Divorce series, we discussed the situations in which cryptocurrency can be found during the divorce settlement process and also if it can be lost within the settlement. While tracking down the funds isn’t an easy process, our third part of the series will give you a little more insight on the Cryptocurrency Dogecoin Assets.

With all of these forces at play during a divorce, it’s best to be prepared for whatever the outcome may be and hiring a family law attorney well-versed in cryptocurrencies is always an advantage. Here’s what you need to know about Dogecoin and Divorce.

What is Dogecoin?

Dogecoin originated as an alternative to traditional cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. Both the name and logo were based off of a meme that went viral. Dogecoin is intentionally abundant which is different in comparison to bitcoin which is scarce. In 2021, Dogecoin became one of the biggest cryptocurrencies in the market. 

Since Dogecoin was created to be abundant, miners were able to produce more by the minute. DOGE was based on supply and demand, and that surged enomurlsey which inturn has given it a higher value- due to reddit threads popularizing this cryptocurrency. 

Fast-rising DOGE prices in 2021 attracted media attention due to social media memes, which created a cycle that attracted more investors and further increased prices. Whenever an asset sees such dramatic gains, people tend to have a fear of missing out, which brings waves of new traders into the fold. 

It’s important to note that DOGE remains a highly volatile cryptocurrency. Like any investment there is no guarantee that it will go up or down in the future.

Challenges of Crypto & Divorce

The rising popularity of cryptocurrency for investors means that it is becoming a factor in divorce settlements. Many spouses are attempting to hide their money inside crypto to keep it from being divided between themselves and their future ex-partners.  

​​The costs associated with uncovering hidden cryptocurrency assets can also be substantial. Before moving forward with a court order to uncover potential hidden crypto assets, a spouse and their divorce lawyers may want to make sure that they are relatively certain about the outcome. 

One of the biggest obstacles for divorcees is simply a lack of understanding about what crypto is and how it factors into the traditional financial portfolios of divorcing spouses. The amount of money involved is also a consideration. People with a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars in undisclosed cryptocurrency are rarely the proper target of such an investigation. An experienced family law attorney may help a spouse concerned about crypto assets decide whether or how to pursue a court order and full forensic investigation. 

Final Thoughts

Living in a digital age like we do today, where things become meme-able by the second due to social media, it’s important to stay in the know. That’s why Dogecoin, Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies are increasingly expected to pop up in a divorce settlements today and in the future.

Because splitting digital currency may be more complex than traditional investments, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, it is important to be prepared and make sure that crypto is properly discovered and valued in family law matters. If you know or suspect that cryptocurrency will be a part of your divorce, talk to your family law attorney immediately and put together a game plan for dealing with it. 

Our team of award-winning attorneys are highly experienced in dealing with Cryptocurrencies in divorce, and are here to answer your questions about divorce and digital asset division.

Contact us today for more information, or to schedule a consultation.