How to Find the Right Divorce Mediator in Illinois

Choosing a divorce mediator will be one of the most important decisions you reach during your divorce. When looking for a divorce mediation service, be sure to know what qualities to look for, key questions to ask, and how to begin your search.

Going through a divorce can be a stressful experience in someone’s life. Determining who gets what after the marriage ends is often a complicated undertaking. Decisions made through litigation involve the court system and can be time-consuming and costly.

However, there is an alternative resolution method available for divorce that is known as mediation. Mediation is generally less expensive, less stressful, and less time-consuming than going to court and having a long, drawn-out trial. Want to minimize the stress involved by choosing a good divorce mediator? Here’s a couple tips in finding the right divorce mediator.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) available to people who are in the middle of the divorce process. Mediation is essentially a negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party. Unlike arbitration, mediation doesn’t involve decision making by the neutral third party. ADR procedures can be initiated by the parties or may be compelled by legislation, the courts, or contractual terms.

The main goal of mediation is to use collaborative methods when determining who gets what after a divorce. If a couple can reach a mutual agreement, it is submitted to the court for approval. Some of the main issues that a mediator can assist you with include:

  • Child custody
  • Parenting time and visitation
  • Property/asset division
  • Alimony
  • Child support

Finding the Right Mediator

Once you and your spouse come to the consensus that mediation is your best option, you then choose a mediator you trust to guide you through the proceedings. This is the most important step in the process, since mediation is an unregulated profession in the United States, and not all divorce mediators are the same.

Below are a few steps you can take when choosing a mediator to help you navigate your divorce:

  • Compile a list of names of potential mediators. 
  • Evaluate materials/information on possible mediators. 
  • Interview the mediation candidates. 
  • Evaluate their credentials and make a decision.

Word-of-mouth referrals from friends or relatives who have used a mediator before can assist you in selecting the right one for you. In addition, there are national mediator membership organizations that maintain lists of practitioners and offer referral services. In the end, it is important to use a mediator with whom you feel comfortable in order to achieve a positive outcome. Overall, mediation allows you to create solutions that work best for you and your children. 

Final Thoughts

A divorce does not mean a couple has to go to court to reach a settlement. Mediation is an alternate option that allows spouses to come to an agreement through compromising with the help of a neutral third party and subject matter experts. If you’re looking for a mediator, Masters Law Group is here to help.

Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. If you are looking to settle your family law matter without court intervention, contact Masters Law Group to schedule a mediation appointment.

Schedule a Consultation today to learn more about how we can assist as your Divorce Mediators.

 

Got Half? Property Division in Illinois

Marital property is any property or money that either spouse got during the marriage. If you cannot come to an agreement, a judge will have to make decisions about dividing your property and debt, and also about spousal support. 

Illinois may boast some of the lowest divorce rates in the nation, but think twice before you dub the state a lover’s paradise. In 2019, there were 1.3 divorces per thousand inhabitants in the state. However, this figure is a decrease from 1990, when the divorce rate was 3.8 divorces per thousand inhabitants.

One of the most controversial parts of the divorce process is often the division of marital property. Divorcing couples have the option of dividing property on their own with the help from a mediator, but couples who can’t reach an agreement will require court intervention. Illinois courts divide marital assets and debts according to “equitable distribution.”

Unlike other states that divide the marital estate exactly in half, Illinois instead considers a variety of factors to determine an asset division arrangement that is fair and reasonable on both ends. Here’s a couple of factors to consider when determining property division in Illinois.

Dividing and Distributing Assets

The first step in dividing property during a divorce is deciding whether property is marital or separate. Marital property includes most assets and debts a couple acquired during marriage. Separate property is if a spouse owned it before getting married or acquired it during marriage as a gift or inheritance. 

There are many factors at hand when you try to split up assets such as, how much each side has contributed (income, debt, as a homemaker etc.), the value of property, property hidden or destroyed in the course of the marriage, the length of a marriage and more:

  • Economic circumstances of each spouse
  • Child upbringing costs
  • Existing court maintenance orders
  • Financial contributions from previous marriages
  • Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
  • The status of each spouse (i.e. age, health, occupation, employability)
  • Consequences of tax reallocation from a property division

Similar to property, debt is divided in a divorce. “Marital debt” means debts that a couple gets while they are married. Spouses are responsible for each other’s expenses for the family during their marriage. Marital debt can be divided in a divorce case.

One thing to keep in mind is that the court is obligated to ignore marital misconduct when dividing property unless it had an immediate impact on the property or assets of the marriage. The main goal of the property division is to be fair. It won’t always be an even split, it could turn into a 60/40 split or 70/30 as long as the court deems it to be fair.

Once the court has determined what is and isn’t marital and separate property, they will assign a monetary value to each item. Determining an item’s value can help both the couples and the judge determine whether a specific property distribution is fair and equitable. A spouse with more assets and a high earning career can potentially take on most of the debts in a divorce, while the lower-earning spouse could receive a greater share of the assets. An example of this would be if one of the spouses has a high net worth or owns complex assets, the property division process can become especially complicated since they are liquid assets. 

Couples can divide their assets and debts on their own by reaching a divorce settlement agreement. A settlement agreement should resolve all issues in your divorce. A judge will review any proposed settlement agreement and must approve it before your divorce can become final.

Divorce Mediation

As previously mentioned, working together with a mediator to come to an agreement over the dividing of the property will help the divorce move more quickly. This where instead of going to court and leaving the division of your hard-earned property and assets to court, you can opt to settle matters amicably. You can discuss the property division in the presence of a third party – or mediator – who will host the negotiations and help you and your spouse in reaching a fair settlement.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, trying to determine the division of marital and separate assets can be a lengthy process. One way to speed this process up is to do an audit of all of your household items. Make a detailed list and then go through it line by line with your spouse. If and when couples have trouble communicating, going through a family law attorney may be your best option.

If you are considering filing for divorce, the first step you should take is to contact our Chicago-based law office. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, we can help. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support, guiding our clients through the entire divorce process.

If you are going through a divorce and want an experienced property division attorney to handle your case, do not hesitate to call. Contact us here today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

What to do if Your Ex Won’t Return Child After Half Term

Half Term, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas… the last quarter of the year is packed full of family fun. However, if you are separated or divorced, sharing a child during the holidays is not easy, especially if your ex refuses to obey your parenting or custody agreement.

Half term school break is right around the corner, and for many parents, this is an exciting time to spend some quality time with your child. However, ask many divorced parents about child visitation rights, and you’re likely to hear some discontent about the situation. Especially when a parent ignores an established holiday exchange schedule.

When a parent violates a court-ordered or agreed-upon parenting plan, they run the risk of being held in contempt of court. A parent refusing to bring a child back to the custodial parent after a visit is also known as Parental Child Abduction which requires fast, legal action.

Parenting Plans 101

A parenting plan is a document that says who will make decisions for a child and how those decisions will be made. This often happens in a parental responsibilities case. These plans outline how you and the other parent will continue to care and provide for your children after you separate.

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.

What to include in your plan:

  • Where the child lives
  • Time the child spends with each parent
  • How each parent gets information and records about the child
  • How the child is to be transported for parenting time
  • An airtight Holiday schedule

The final parenting plan will always be aligned with what’s in the best interests of the child.

Important Factors of a Parenting Plan in Illinois

  • Each parent must file a parenting plan within 120 days of asking the court for parental responsibilities;
  • If the parents agree on parental responsibilities, including parenting time, they can file one parenting plan (signed by both parents) within the 120 days. If the parents don’t agree, they must each file their own parenting plans;
  • If neither parent files a parenting plan, the court will hold a hearing to determine the child’s best interests; and
  • The court will look at the parenting plans when it decides who gets parental responsibilities.

Once both plans have been created and shared with the court to examine each parent’s responsibilities, the court can accept the plan and it becomes a Joint Parenting Order. After the Joint Parenting Order is in place, changes cannot be made to it for two years.

Parenting Plans for Holidays, Vacations & School Breaks in Illinois

Splitting up holidays, vacation time, and school breaks can be challenging, but there are ways to make it work for everyone involved.

For many parents, it makes sense to take an odd/even approach to the holiday season. For example, one parent could have the child/children for Thanksgiving on odd years, but Christmas for even years. The other parent would have the children for Thanksgiving on odd years and Christmas on even years. An an alternative choice by parents during the holidays is a fixed holiday schedule. This takes a more simple approach of assigning a certain holiday, every year, to a certain parent. While this could cause some form of conflict for those to want to alternate the holidays, it works well for separated couples with different religions.

At any point, one parent may need to modify a parenting plan. A parenting plan can only be modified by the court. Take caution with any out-of-court arrangements because they are not enforceable.

Parenting Plan Violations

Either your ex isn’t complying with the schedule or maybe there are more serious issues where you’re worried about your child’s safety; If you are concerned about the upcoming holidays and whether your ex will stick to the plan, you can and should probably take legal action.

According to 750 ILCS 5/607.5, if one parent violates the parenting plan, the other parent can bring an action to enforce the parenting plan. If the court finds that a violation has occurred, it can order:

  • additional terms and conditions
  • require participation in a parental education program
  • require family or individual counseling
  • require parent-in-violation to post a Chas bond that can be forfeited for payment of expenses
  • require parenting time to be made up
  • find the non-compliant parent in contempt of court
  • impose civil fines
  • require a non-compliant parent to reimburse reasonable expenses to the compliant parent
  • require any other measure so long as it is in the best interests of the child.

What to do if Your Ex Won’t Return Your Child

If your ex isn’t sticking to the parenting plan, have your attorney send a letter to your ex. This is often the first step towards getting your ex to follow child custody orders. Your attorney can write up a forceful letter that informs the other parent that they must obey the court order or be prepared to face serious legal penalties. Sometimes this is all that it takes to wake up a parent and get them to follow the child custody order.

Illinois’ new parenting time law (750 ILCS 5/607.5(a)) requires the court to handle parenting time abuse cases on an “expedited basis.”  In the old days it could take six months to get parenting time violations addressed.  Now, thanks to the new law, I often can get a remedy in a few days or weeks.

However, keeping a child late on a visitation in Illinois is technically a crime. If you suspect that the other parent has taken your child and doesn’t intend to return (known as a parental child abduction), contact the police. If the other parent takes your child across state lines or out of the country, local police will work alongside federal law enforcement, such as the FBI, to ensure the return of your child.

Experienced Parental Child Abduction Attorneys – Masters Law Group

Above all, your actions should be taken in the best interests of your child.

An experienced attorney can help you navigate the court system in this emotional situation, and make sure that you get in front of a judge as soon as possible. At Masters Law Group, we focus exclusively on Family Law, with a particular emphasis on International Child Abduction and cross-border custody issues pursuant to the Hague Convention of 1980 and the UCCJEA. What’s more, our attorneys are also court-appointed Child Representatives and have experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters.

If you’re dealing with custody or visitation interference, or have related concerns about parental child abduction, contact us here today. We understand that above all, any actions taken should always be in the best interests of your child.

Do I Need to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?

Couples who have a functional relationship and are able to work together may be able to get an uncontested divorce. If you live in the state of Illinois, here’s what you need to know about whether or not you will need to attend court during this process. 

Going through a divorce is not easy; it can be a very emotional and stressful time for all involved. The prospect of having to attend court for hearings throughout the process can make it even more stressful and nerve-wracking. For most court appearances, both parties appear by the representation of their lawyers – meaning they do not have to be personally present.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

When one spouse challenges whether the couple should get a divorce or any other reason, you have a divorce dispute. This is referred to as a contested divorce and can take more than 18 months to be resolved. An uncontested divorce (referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” in our state of Illinois) means that both parties agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:

  • Dividing marital property.
  • Child custody and parenting time schedule.
  • Dividing marital debts.
  • Child support and medical insurance coverage for any minor children.
  • Spousal support (also called “alimony”).
  • Custody of pets.

While two divorces are the same, specific instances may require both spouses to appear at hearings throughout the divorce process. Here’s a look at some examples where both spouses do not have to attend court appearances and instances where both must be present. A lot of times this is determined by whether a divorce is uncontested or contested.

Spousal Attendance in an Uncontested Divorce

As mentioned, an uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on terms of the divorce by a marital settlement agreement. This includes matters such as property being divided up, whether any financial support will be granted to either spouse, and any child custody issues.

For an uncontested divorce to be finalized, the spouse who petitioned for divorce by filing with the county court must appear at the final hearing. The other spouse is not required to attend, as long as he or she has signed all the necessary documents regarding the marital settlement agreement.

The petitioner, or plaintiff, is required to testify as to the identity of both parties, as well as the terms of the settlement. The spouse’s lawyer may ask the spouse questions to acknowledge they fully understand the terms of the settlement. 

Spousal Attendance in a Contested Divorce

Unfortunately, marital settlement agreements aren’t always reached easily. When this matter arises, both spouses would need to be present at pre-trials along with their lawyers. These are usually informal in nature, and require both attorneys to present their client’s side of the argument.

A judge then provides both attorneys with a non-binding opinion on how to proceed, which is then reported back to the spouses. It’s important for both spouses to be present for this because a resolution on an issue could be made. 

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a final divorce hearing will be held, where both spouses must be present. A judge will hear all evidence and arguments, and will make a decision on all issues. Both parties must abide by the judge’s final decision.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Illinois?

There is no divorce waiting period for uncontested divorces in Illinois. However, you still must meet Illinois’ residency requirements before you can file for divorce in the state. You or your spouse has to live in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing for divorce.

If you want a fast divorce in Illinois, you’ll need to meet the residency requirements and find a way to settle things with your spouse. Contested divorces can take several months depending on the number of issues in your case and whether your case requires a lengthy trial. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/401(a).)

Conclusion

To answer the initial question: you may not have to attend court to get a divorce in Illinois. If you’re the one who petitioned for the divorce, you would have to appear at the final hearing. If the goal is a quick and efficient divorce in which you don’t have to attend court, the best approach is to agree on terms of a marital settlement agreement promptly and before the final hearing. 

At Masters Law Group our attorneys are here to guide you through your divorce every step of the way. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, call Masters Law Group. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support throughout the divorce process. 

Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Can I Appeal a Family Court Judge’s Order in Illinois?

The Family Court will make decisions related to divorce, divorce mediation, civil unions, child custody, child support, orders of protection and more. But did you know if you disagree with the judge’s decision from trial, you can file an “appeal”? Here’s everything you need to know about applying for an appeal in the state of Illinois. 

Do you need help seeking an appeal from an unfavorable ruling in a divorce, child support case or other family law related matter? Judges can sometimes make an error that adversely affects the outcome of your case. In that situation, you may have a solid legal base for an appeal. An appeal is a request to have a higher court change or reverse a judgment of a lower court.

When you appeal, the entire case is reviewed by a higher court. Here are some points to note if you’re considering appealing a family court judge’s order.

Appealing a judge’s decision in family court

In some states, family court rulings can be appealed. This type of request is made to a higher court that will involve a judge, or panel of judges, to review the decision made by the lower court. This is not a rehearing, and you will not be able to present new evidence. The court of appeals’ objective is to review the trial record and determine whether or not the judge acted within their discretion. If the appeals court finds the judge acted accordingly, the decision will be upheld regardless of the appellate judges’ opinion on the matter.

In a majority of states, final orders given by the family court are the only cases that can be appealed. For example, in a divorce, a final order may include the final divorce decree, which might address asset distribution, child custody, and more. Temporary orders are pending and can only be appealed when you ask the appellate court to review them. It’s important to note that not all family law cases can be appealed. Grounds for an appeal are solely limited to:

  • Errors in law: A mistake in a court proceeding. For example: when state law requires a parent who has been convicted of domestic violence to complete counseling before being awarded visitation rights, but a judge grants visitation without any proof of counseling.
  • A mistake in fact: When a judge reached a final conclusion that no other person could have reached based upon the evidence. For example: when a parent is awarded sole custody even though they have been convicted of sexual abuse of a minor and the other parent has demonstrated to be a fit parent with no criminal record.

Appeals in Illinois

Because each state differs in law, you need to do your due diligence to ensure you follow the correct steps for the state you live in. In Illinois, a Notice of Appeal needs to be filed within 30 days of a final order, so if you don’t act quickly, you lose your right to an appeal. The appeals process can be lengthy and difficult. Should you decide to appeal your case without an attorney, you will need to follow the Rules just like those parties who have an attorney.

As of July 1, 2017, all documents filed in the Illinois Appellate Court and Illinois Supreme Court must be filed electronically (“e-filed”). If you need assistance, you may take your documents to the appellate court clerk’s office, where you can use a public terminal to e-file your documents. You can bring your documents on a flash drive or on paper. The terminal will have a scanner where you can scan, save, and then use the computer to e-file your documents.

IllinoisCourts.gov released a guide for appeals here which includes a full checklist of items to cover, along with a timeline of events in an appeal and where it is best to consult a family law attorney in this often-complex process.

Process for appealing a case

As mentioned, if you want to appeal a circuit court decision, you have 30 days after the final judgment to file a Notice of Appeal with the appellate court. This notice states what decision you are appealing and what you want to happen. Your Notice of Appeal must contain:

  • The court you are appealing to. 
  • The court you are appealing from. 
  • The name and number assigned to the case by the circuit court.
  • Who is filing the appeal (the appellant) and who will be responding to the appeal (the appellee).
  • What orders of the circuit court you are appealing from and the dates they were entered.
  • What you want the appellate court to do. For example, reverse the decision of the circuit court.

Next Steps

Each year in Illinois, thousands of families seek answers to questions regarding divorce, legal separation, allocation of parental responsibilities, support and other matters of family law. If you are thinking about appealing a decision related to divorce, child custody, child support, or another family law issue, you should really schedule a consultation with Masters Law Group immediately. 

If you or your loved ones are looking to appeal a family court judge’s order, contact the attorneys at Masters Law Group for guidance on these matters.

Learn more about the U.S. Courts of Appeals here. 

 

Preparation for a Family Court Trial

Your divorce and/or custody has been set for trial. With so much at stake, being well-prepared can help you feel more confident and calm. Here are some useful steps that can help you to prepare your case effectively in family court.

When parents divorce in the state of Illinois, their divorce settlement must outline a plan for different issues regarding their children. This plan should include child support, custody and visitation. Some parents are able to utilize mediation or work together to determine where their children will live and how much time will be spent with each parent.

There are some cases in which parents are unable to resolve custody disputes without legal intervention. In that situation, it is best to get a family lawyer to advise parents to prepare themselves for a potential child custody evaluation. Here’s some ways to prepare for a family court trial.

Preparing For Trial

Attorneys will guide you through the preparation process and help you gather evidence. Your job is to provide everything your attorney asks for and be 100% honest so they can prepare for arguments the other party may be compiling. 

If you plan on representing yourself, most legal experts would recommend consulting with an attorney to ensure you’re ready for court. This is different from hiring a lawyer to represent you since they will provide you with advice during meetings.

You’ll need to present evidence to support your case, which includes exhibits and witnesses. It’s always important to review the Illinois Rules of Evidence, and remember that witnesses cannot testify to hearsay.

Examples of Evidence You Can Provide

  • Bills and medical reports 
  • Photos/Videos of you and your child
  • Phone logs and visits with your child
  • A calendar showing when you care for your child
  • Anything that proves you to be fit as a parent and meets evidence requirements

It’s important to be prepared and have the judge know your stance on what is best for your child. You can do this by providing a parenting plan and parenting time schedule to trial. Along with all documents, bring a copy for the court, one for the other parent and one for yourself.

Witnesses can be anyone with knowledge relevant to the case. Parents almost always testify as witnesses. A child is more likely to do an interview with the judge outside of the courtroom, since the probability of them testifying is low. Expert witnesses provide professional opinions and are appointed by the court or hired by a party. Examples of expert witnesses are child custody evaluators or psychologists. Lay witnesses do not offer expert opinions, but they testify about their personal knowledge of a situation. These witnesses include family members, friends, and teachers.

Trial Scheduling

Trials usually take place several months after the initial filing. If the case is not progressing 18 months after filing, the judge may decide to issue a ruling at that time. Trials typically tend to be a few hours and will often be done in one sitting. 

Longer trials may be broken up into sessions spread out over days, weeks or, in some complicated cases, months. Be aware that the court may delay your trial date due to requests for more time from the other parent.

Trial Procedures

The parent who requested parental responsibilities, also known as the petitioner, may give an opening statement to explain how they see the case. The other parent, also known as the respondent, can then follow. 

If you are represented by an attorney, they will speak on your behalf. The petitioner calls witnesses and presents exhibits first. Any number of witnesses can be called to testify, as long as they were on the list that was filed with the court and provided to the other parent. 

Following Procedures:

  • Next, the respondent calls their witnesses and presents their exhibits.
  • Later, each side can submit additional evidence (called rebuttal evidence) to disprove the other side’s claims.

Finally, both parties give closing arguments to summarize their points. Judges announce rulings immediately following closing arguments, but they can take several days or weeks to decide. The final judgment replaces temporary orders previously put in place. Your options for changing a final judgment include appealing to a higher court or applying for a modification.

Final Thoughts

Masters Law Group understands that preparation for a family court trial can be a stressful situation. Our firm makes sure they are with you every step of the way. We currently handle family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties and concentrate in the area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and related family matters.

We offer a wide range of services tailored to our clients’ unique legal needs and have a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to set up a consultation today.

Masters Law Group Named ‘Best Law Firm’ by The US News and World Report

Masters Law Group is proud to announce the firm has been named in Best Law Firms 2021. Regionally ranked in 2 practice areas, the U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process. 

Today, U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers in America© issued the 2021 edition of their “Best Law Firms” rankings, and we are pleased to announce that Masters Law Group LLC has been recognized.

The annual rankings are determined after a rigorous evaluation that includes analysis of client and lawyer submissions, peer reviews from leading attorneys, and additional information provided by law firm candidates directly. Data is also collected from Best Lawyers ballots, which can only be completed by attorneys who are currently recognized by Best Lawyers.

We are delighted to once again receive such recognition, which comes only a few months after eleven of our attorneys were selected to the 2021 list of the Best Lawyers in America, The Best Lawyers in Family Law and Best Lawyers for Family Law Mediation.

About Masters Law Group

Located in Chicago, Illinois, the firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and related family matters.

About Erin E. Masters

Erin Masters is the principal of Masters Law Group, located in Chicago, Illinois. Masters Law Group concentrates in the area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and Hague Convention/ international child abduction matters.

Ms. Masters received her Juris Doctorate and Certificate in Child and Family Law from Loyola University of Chicago, School of Law, in May of 2004. She was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2004 and to the General Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2005 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020. Ms. Masters was admitted to the United States Supreme Court in March 2009.

Throughout her career Ms. Masters has represented a variety of clients, both pre-decree and post-decree. Additionally she has prepared Prenuptial Agreements, drafted Marital Settlement Agreements and Final Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Orders, as well as prosecuted and defended Orders of Protection. Ms. Masters has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time.

In addition to representing clients, Ms. Masters is also a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Further, she has also been appointed by the Circuit Court of Cook County to mediate complex family law cases. Since 2016, Ms. Masters has been named “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers and has been named as an “Emerging Lawyer” by Leading Lawyers. In 2020, Ms. Masters was named “Super Lawyer” by Illinois Super Lawyers, and now in 2021, She has been recognized by Best Lawyers for her work in Family Law Mediation.

About Anthony G. Joseph

Anthony G. Joseph is an attorney at the firm of Masters Law Group, LLC. Mr. Joseph received his B.A. degree in Global Economic Relations from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

He obtained both his J.D. degree and Certificate in Trial Advocacy from The John Marshall Law School. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2010, the Federal General Bar and Trial Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2012 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020. Mr. Joseph is an active trial lawyer. Mr. Joseph publishes in the area of civil litigation. Mr. Joseph has also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University. Mr. Joseph is “AV” Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review, which is the highest peer review rating available and has been named a “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers in both 2019, 2020 and 2021. He has also been recognized by Best Lawyers for his work in Family Law.

Mr. Joseph concentrates his practice in the area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities and child support. Mr. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time as well as prosecuted and defended Orders of Protection. Ms. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support. Mr. Joseph has also litigated cases in both state court and multiple United States Federal Courts involving The Hague Convention and international child abduction issues.

About Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer review publication in the legal profession.

Recognition in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers. For four decades, their publications have earned the respect of the profession, the media, and the public, as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.

Their lists of outstanding lawyers are compiled by conducting exhaustive peer review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. 

Best Lawyers use a voting system to choose their candidates. If the votes for a lawyer are positive enough for recognition in Best Lawyers, that lawyer must maintain those votes in subsequent polls to remain in each edition. 

Work with the Best

With a long history of awarded recognitions in Family Law (and more to come), Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Schedule a consultation here to speak with an attorney regarding your family law matter today.

MASTERS LAW GROUP CASE REVIEW: HAGUE CONVENTION ON CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION: NEW ZEALAND

In one of our most recent Hague Convention cases, the attorneys at Masters Law Group succeeded in this landmark ruling in favor of our client.

The husband – represented by Masters Law Group –  filed a petition for the return of his child who was taken from his residence in New Zealand to the United States by his wife – the mother of the child. As relevant here, the Hague Convention provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence.

CASE OVERVIEW

On June 18, 2020, Respondent and the child traveled on round-trip tickets from New Zealand to Chicago, via Los Angeles, for a one-month trip. Respondent and the child had tickets to return to New Zealand on July 17, 2020, via Los Angeles, arriving in New Zealand on July 19, 2020 via Air New Zealand. The Petitioner worried and speculated to the Respondent that she might not come back from the United States with their child, despite her denials of leaving permanently. The Respondent did not get on the flights back to New Zealand with their son.

This case arises under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), 42 U.S.C. § 11601 et seq., which implements the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Act entitles a person whose child has been removed from his custody in another country and taken to the United States to petition in federal or state court for the return of the child.

CASE RESULTS

By agreement of the parties and as required by the Convention, the Court Court concludes that the child was a habitual resident of New Zealand at the time of the wrongful retention in the United States, Petitioner had and was exercising custody rights under New Zealand law, and the “grave risk” exception was not established in this case.

Accordingly, the Court finds that the child must be returned to New Zealand, and grants the Petition for return of the child, [dkt. 1].

The Court allowed an approximate one-week time period to avoid any abrupt transition for the child.

READ THE FULL CASE REVIEW HERE.

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HAGUE CONVENTION – INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION LAW WITH MASTERS LAW GROUP

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.

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”) which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence.

SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION

If you are faced with instituting or defending child abduction proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in the United States, work with the experienced lawyers at Masters Law Group. Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

 

 

Child Relocation Laws in Illinois

Whether it be for a new career, a remarriage or even the desire to get to a specific school district, moving a child’s primary residence has serious legal complications if not carried out properly. 

Divorces and separations can be emotionally overwhelming. Especially when a child is involved. Disputes regarding child custody (parenting time), child support or even where the child will live can easily arise between parents. Even if these specific issues have been resolved by an Illinois court order, other problems can arise quickly. Here’s a look at the Child Relocation Laws in Illinois and how Masters Law Group can help.

Parental Responsibilities in Illinois

With today’s economy, many parents are discovering that they need to move great distances in order to find work – sometimes across state lines. Before a parent can remove a child from Illinois they must seek approval from the court, even if they are the primary parent.

Currently under Illinois Law, a child is governed by Section 609.2 of the IMDMA (Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act). This IMDMA indicates when a parent is looking to move with their child or children, they must seek court approval, since a parent’s relocation is a substantial change for the child. 

If you move out of state, and the other parent files a parental responsibilities case in Illinois within 6 months, you will probably have to come to Illinois to participate in the case, or you might have to return your child to Illinois. You can move with your child if there is no court case involving your child and:

  • You and the other parent are married or are in a civil union
  • You are the natural mother and the child has lived with you for more than 6 months

Relocation Inside and Outside of Illinois

There are a couple things to note when you’re considering relocating. Relocating in terms of Child Relocation Law, means to move more than 25-50 miles away from the child’s original home if it is in Cook, DuPage, McHenry, Kane, Lake, or Will Counties or if the new home is out of state. 

After you ask the court for permission to relocate, you’ll have a hearing where the court will decide if relocating is in the child’s best interests. The court is going to look at many things, primarily the quality of each parent’s relationship with the child, to the reason why the parents would be relocating. Here are a couple other things the court will consider:

  • Educational opportunities available in each location
  • The arrangements for parental responsibilities
  • Impact on the child, and the wishes of the child

If you are relocating with your child, you must follow these steps. 

  • File a Notice of Relocation, and give a copy to the other parent at least 60 days before your planned relocation. If the other parent agrees and signs your notice, you can file the signed notice with the court and move without going to court any further. 
  • The court will also change your current parenting plan or parental responsibilities order to allow the move. 
  • If the other parent doesn’t agree or doesn’t sign the notice, then you must ask the court for permission to relocate. You would then file a Petition to Relocate.

Summary

It is important to keep your current parenting plan or parental responsibilities up to date so if you do look to relocate, the process of following said steps above are made easier for you and your loved ones. It can unfortunately become complicated and require much interaction between the parents and the court. It’s in your best interests to hire an experienced attorney if you need assistance with Child Relocation Law.

Hiring Child Relocation Legal Help

Hiring an attorney highly experienced in family law will help you understand your legal options and create a plan for what comes next. Masters Law Group LLC focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. We help clients put aside their grief and educate them about their options in child allocation of parental responsibilities.

We represent individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. If you require a review of your current parenting time schedule or parenting plan, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Failing to Respond to the Divorce Petition

Whatever “side” took the initiative to begin divorce proceedings, resisting spouses can make the divorce process very difficult by refusing to sign the necessary divorce papers. Or even completely failing to respond altogether. Read on to learn how the process works on both sides and what happens if a spouse does not respond to divorce papers. 

Making the decision to end a divorce can be difficult and can be hard to navigate since there are many steps taken in order to finalize a divorce. A divorce process begins with one spouse filing a petition with the court. In Illinois, you are required to complete a number of documents, such as the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Summons, and a few others, that are served to the defendant.

In some cases, an Injunction order or an Application for Temporary Matters are also served. These documents can either be served by a spouse in person to their partner, or through a process server, who is generally the county Sheriff. Here are some steps to help you navigate responding to a divorce petition.

Divorce Summons

After receiving divorce papers, you must file for appearance at the local courthouse. You can do so by visiting the clerk’s office of your county, where your spouse has filed for the Petition of Dissolution of Marriage. You will have to pay a certain fee for Appearance, showing that you acknowledge the papers and will participate in the divorce proceedings.

When a divorce petition is filed with the court, the court will issue a summons to be served with the divorce petition on the opposing party. The summons is a legal document that informs the opposing party that a divorce action has been filed. 

The service of the summons and divorce petition on the opposing party is a key step in the divorce process because it also informs the responding party of the deadline for filing an answer to the divorce petition. This deadline is very important because if the opposing party fails to answer or otherwise respond to the divorce petition, he or she may be barred from participating in the divorce process.

Failing To Respond To The Divorce Petition

The opposing party has 30 days in which to file a response to the divorce petition. The party is not required by law to file an answer or otherwise respond to the allegations contained in the divorce petition unless he or she chooses to do so. However, if the opposing party does not file an answer or other response, the court may assume that the party does not want to participate in the divorce process.

When an opposing party does not file an answer, the petitioning party files a motion for default judgment asking the court to grant him or her the relief sought in the divorce petition. If the court finds the opposing party is in default, the divorce process may continue without any further notice being provided to the defaulted party. In most cases, the court will grant the relief requested by the petitioning spouse in the divorce petition provided the relief sought is not “unconscionable.”

Do Not Ignore A Divorce Summons And Petition

The court may continue the divorce process without further notice to a defaulted party. Never ignore a summons and divorce petition. Even if you consent to the divorce and the relief sought in the petition, you still should have competent, experienced legal counsel to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the court proceedings. Things can change in a divorce proceeding very quickly and you do not want to be caught unaware or without legal representation.

It’s important to take the deadline seriously and make sure you take appropriate actions well before it so that you do not face any problems in the later stages of your divorce. You should make a decision about your legal representation, whether you are going to hire an attorney or go for a do-it-yourself divorce, within the first week. This will give you enough time to prepare and submit the required paperwork at the clerk’s office.

Final Thoughts

Ask your Family Law attorney to provide guidance for revising your financial records and assets. You may have to close joint accounts, and transfer your finances to a personal account, as well as cancel any credit cards that are in your name and your spouse has access to. If you have children, make sure you do not include them in the discord with your spouse. Resist exhibiting any behaviors that can impact the allocation of parental responsibilities, as well as parenting time in the parenting plan.

If you are considering filing for divorce, the first step you should take is to contact our office to schedule a consultation. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, call Masters Law Group. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support throughout the divorce process. 

Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary consultation.