Tag Archive for: Chicago Law Firm

Help Prevent International Parental Abduction with Supervised Visitation

If you are concerned your ex partner is at flight risk overseas with your child, supervised supervision could be beneficial. Here’s what you need to know…

Following a separation or divorce, particularly when relations are acrimonious, parental child abduction cases are an important factor to consider. Child abduction cases—particularly those involving international borders—are complex and extremely time-sensitive and require immediate action.

International child abduction often occurs for several reasons. It is a very frightening experience for parents and children alike, and it can have a profound effect on the lives of everyone involved.

Here is how supervised visitation and the help of the Hague Convention could help reduce international abduction.

What is Supervised Visitation?

When a parent’s fitness is in question, a judge may order supervised visitation. This is generally done when there have been allegations of alcohol or substance abuse or domestic violence. The purpose of supervised visitation is to ensure that the parent maintains contact with the child in a safe and comfortable environment.

Supervised visitation allows a parent to visit with their child only after the child has been taken away from the other parent. The visit may take place at the parent’s home or in a designated facility, such as a child care center. In most cases, the parent who has custody of the child will report to a designated visitation center for visits. In other cases, the judge may arrange for the child to be delivered to the parent’s home. In all cases, the judge will specify who is to supervise these sessions.

These orders are meant to protect the child and may include any of the following requirements:

  • A modification or elimination of the parent’s decision-making responsibilities and/or parenting time
  • Supervision by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
  • Having an intermediary present during the exchange between parent and child, or taking place in a protected setting
  • Restricting the presence of specified persons while a parent is exercising parenting time with the child
  • Ordering a parent to refrain from possessing or consuming alcohol or drugs during (or right before) parenting time with the child
  • Restricting the presence of certain persons when a parent is spending time with the child
  • Posting a bond to secure the return of the child following the parent’s visit
  • Completing a treatment program for abuse or for any other behavior that is detrimental to the child
  • Any other constraints or conditions that the court deems necessary to provide for the child’s safety or welfare.

The biggest takeaway parents should understand is that supervised visitation is a common tool used to protect children. Parents can still maintain contact with their children, but it also forces them to prove their ability to provide adequate care. Supervised visitation, when combined with the protections provided by the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, makes it more difficult for parents to abduct internationally.

With the help from your attorney, require supervised visitation of the parent by a visitation center or independent organization until the court finds under Section 153.501 that supervised visitation is no longer necessary.

Hague Convention and What You Should Know

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international agreement that aims to prevent children from being abducted from their home country. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.

Several countries around the world have joined an international treaty called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Conference on Private International Law drafted and concluded this multilateral treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 1983. In accordance with Article 3 of the Treaty, removal or retention of a child is considered wrongful “where it breaches rights of custody attributed to a person, judicial authority or other body at the time of removal or retention.”

Under the Convention, countries can help one another find solutions for difficult cases of international child abduction. This does not rely on a child’s immigration status or nationality; in certain situations, a child may be wrongfully detained in another country and therefore not a resident there. The Central Authority has the ability to 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.

It is important to remember that immigration status or nationality does not determine whether a child will be returned to his or her habitual residence.

Final Thoughts

If you and your spouse are having a hard time with child custody, supervised visitation may be the best option for you. Ensuring a child’s safety should always be a number one priority for all parties involved. Especially when faced with international borders as part of a custody dispute, the court system can be very involved in resolving custody rights. 

The family law attorneys at Masters Law Group have experience with international child custody (Parenting Time) disputes. If you believe your child is in the process of being abducted by a parent, legal guardian, or someone acting on their behalf, contact us today for a consultation.

For more information on our Hague Decisions, see here:

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.

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.

Post Divorce Disputes on National Ex-Spouse Day

Tomorrow is National Ex-Spouse Day, and while it may seem like a strange day to “celebrate”, it’s an opportunity to review your separation and understand your options should you have a post-divorce dispute. 

Celebrated annually on April 14th, the National Ex-Spouse Day is celebrated to encourage the people who have dissolved marriage to forgive their particular former spouses and successfully move beyond any bitterness and anger against them which might be present. But for many, this day isn’t a happy one. Some ex-couples engage in fighting about issues after the final divorce decree, and they need to head back to court to resolve them.

What is a Post-Divorce Dispute?

Also known as a post-decree dispute, post-divorce disputes often arise when one party does not fulfill obligations indicated in the divorce settlement. Often, one ex-spouse determines that the other has violated a court order relating to the divorce, for example, when one ex-spouse fails to pay court-ordered alimony.

Some of the most common issues involve:

  • the payment of college expenses,
  • recalculations of child support and emancipation of children,
  • as well as modifications of maintenance.

Illinois has specific legal standards that relate to each of these issues, and we can help inform you of the law that relates to your post-judgment issue.

Post-Divorce Modifications in Illinois

While divorce decrees in the State of Illinois are considered “final” once they are admitted to the court, there are circumstances that warrant post-divorce modifications.

Whether one party’s financial situation changed and post-divorce child support or spousal maintenance awards must be updated accordingly, or if one of the parents wishes to move a marital child out of state, any official changes to the divorce decree require court intervention.

To request a post-divorce modification, one of the former spouses must file a “motion to modify” the divorce judgment. This motion is typically filed with the same court that issued the original divorce decree. The first step is to file the post-decree change request. You should make it clear what terms you want to be changed, and why. Then:

  1. File your motion with the court clerk’s office that originally issued your divorce decree.
  2. Serve your ex-spouse with the paperwork to notify him or her of the request and hearing date.
  3. Attend mediation or pre-hearing conferences if required.
  4. Appear in court for your hearing.

At the hearing, a judge will hear from both parties and any witnesses who can speak on their behalf. Once the judge makes a decision or final ruling on your motion, you could receive the final order that day; otherwise, it will be mailed to you.

Enforcement and modifications can be just as complicated as the initial settlement agreement, so it’s important to consult a qualified and experienced family law attorney.

How to Celebrate National Ex-Spouse Day

Even if you never envisioned yourself celebrating such a holiday, it’s something that millions of people go through with you and maybe there’s a silver lining to your partnership coming to an end. 

Here are some ways to positively celebrate Ex-Spouse Day this year: 

  • Make it a day that’s really all about you! There’s no day like Ex-Spouse Day to focus on yourself. There’s tons of activities that are even easier to do as a single man or woman without someone else’s opinion. Do what makes YOU happy today. Whether that is a self care day with a massage and a nice dinner or a new outfit, it’s a step forward in your progress and emotional recovery in your situation.
  • Enjoy time with the kids: If you share children with your spouse, today is an opportunity to fully embrace them and appreciate their presence. Go for an ice cream or a movie, and recognize the massive accomplishment it is to raise children.
  • Acknowledge your growth post-divorce: The odds are that you are stronger, more resilient, and more than capable of handling problems you once thought you never could. Maybe you reflect on something that made you insecure in your relationship, that now you have completely conquered. This is proof you can conquer any fear if she was willing to face it head on.
  • Remember that divorce happened, but it doesn’t define you: It may be hard to remember at times, but you are so much more than one single life event like divorce. Your divorce is only part of your story, which means you still get to write the ending. It’s important to release the past so it can stay where it belongs. The past remains in the past. So take the good – take the lessons – and leave the rest.

Final Thoughts

At Master’s Law Group, we are highly experienced in post-divorce disputes and offer a wide range of services that are tailored to our client’s unique needs.

Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the family law and divorce field. Are you in need of consultation regarding a post-divorce dispute? Contact us today and we’re here to help you resolve any issue we can. We look forward to hearing from you and supporting you through this time.

Top 6 Signs Your Spouse is Hiding Crypto

Is my spouse hiding Crypto? We know hiding assets is a penalty-inducing divorce tactic used by many. But in 2022, soon-to-be divorcees are hiding money from family members and authorities using cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency nowadays can add new complications to a divorce. Just like any other marital asset, if cryptocurrency, or other digital currency was purchased, or increased in value, during the marriage, it is a marital asset that is subject to distribution in both equitable distribution and community property states.

In the fourth part of our Crypto Currencies and Divorce series, we discussed the situations in which 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, this article will give you signs to watch out for.

Here’s what you need to know if your spouse is hiding crypto.Hiding Crypto

1. Bank and Credit Statements

First things first, if you believe that your spouse is hiding cryptocurrency and has used marital money to purchase it, you should take an active role in looking for proof of your suspicions.

Cryptocurrency is usually purchased with liquid cash, so at some point money moves from a bank account into a cryptocurrency exchange. Certain websites function as the entry point for most people interested in obtaining or trading Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Look for popular echange names such as: Coinbase, Binance, Etoro, Coin Switch, Luno and PaxForex. All it can take is one initial transaction in “normal dollars and cents” to enter this new world of Bitcoin, where untold more digital currency can be obtained. 

If you see any crypto activity, however insignificant, it’s worthy to investigate further — especially if your spouse omitted it from the initial deivorce documentation.

2. Crypto Wallets and Private Keys

Crypto keys make for excellent evidence. Each crypto wallet comes with a key that can then be traced to show all transactions associated with the wallet. A sure sign of Crypto activity in the household is the discovery of a crypto key. But not many know what to look for, since the key doesn’t represent a traditional metal object. So what do these keys look like?

A private key is a secret, alphanumeric password/number used to spend/send your bitcoins to another Bitcoin address. It is a 256-bit long number that is picked randomly as soon as you make a wallet.

The degree of randomness and uniqueness is well defined by cryptographic functions for security purposes.

This is how the Bitcoin private key looks:

2zJ4kLf5zgWrnogidDA76MzPL6TsZZY36hpXXssSzNydYXYB9fe

Many of these password keys are stored on a keydrive. If you happen to find this key, take note of it for evidence. Many hide these keydrives in a private and secure place, such as a safe, while others can simply save these password key codes hidden on their laptops.

3. Presence Crypto Exchanges in Apps

See if there are any crypto-related apps installed on shared electronic devices. Look for Bitcoin wallets like Coinbase, Mycelium, Ledger, SoFi, and Trezor, or apps for buying and selling crypto, like CEX.IO or BlockFi.

Any of the common exchanges listed above offer apps for mobile crypto banking. If you share one phone account, you may be able to access the history of all apps downloaded to any phone on your plan. If you are not able to obtain this information on your own, your attorney can add to this to items to be produced during discovery.

4. Loan Applications & Tax Returns

Another area to explore are loan applications and tax returns. If a person is trying to hide assets from you, and they are not disclosing Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies on their net worth statement, they might record it on a loan application. 

It’s also important to check if your spouse has reported crypto on tax returns. Reporting of digital currency is required by the IRS, even though there are those who fail to do so. In 2014, the IRS declared that virtual currencies are property.

5. Large Online Purchases

For spouses who are hiding currency, they don’t buy the initial crypto to put in their wallet, which in turn, avoids any direct charges made to a bank or credit account. Instead, they connect with a crypto user in one of the many user forums who is willing to accept goods that will be paid in said cryptocurrency. 

The agreement might entail buying items of the crypto owner’s choice on Amazon, and in return, this crypto will be deposited in the owner’s empty wallet, giving them their entrance into this world. It’s important to remember that crypto wallets function completely outside the normal banking system, so no one will be the wiser should this transaction take place — unless you get smart about your spouse’s buying habits. 

Scan Amazon and other online sellers. If you don’t have access to your spouse’s Amazon account, this can be something that your attorney requests to see during divorce discovery.

6. Secretive Behavior with Finances

If you still receive paper statements this is a great way to track down their use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. If the paper trail used to show up in the mail and then suddenly stopped – that’s a red flag and should raise some suspicion. 

It’s important to have passwords to all of your shared online bank and credit accounts, but if they’ve been changed, that’s again, another red flag. Call your bank and credit card company to request copies be sent directly to you for all joint accounts. Let your attorney know as soon as possible so that steps can be taken to make your spouse produce documentation of all joint accounts.

Final Thoughts

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. 

At Masters Law Group, 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 here today for more information, or to schedule a consultation 

Divorce Advice Every Woman Needs on National Women’s History Month

As a woman unhappy in your marriage, divorce may have crossed your mind from time-to-time. But you could be left wondering whether it’s the right choice for you, your children, and even your spouse. That’s why you need specific divorce advice to make the most informed decision possible. 

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. This holiday has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since 1987.

Divorce is one of the biggest and the toughest decisions that a woman can make and if often twice as problematic. There are factors you have to think of beforehand, and then there are others that you can not avoid later down the line. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, here are a couple tips you can follow to protect yourself during a divorce.

First Step: Get Mentally Prepared

When you tell your spouse you want a divorce, and especially when you actually file for divorce, you’re crossing a line that you can’t usually go back over. To decide if you are ready for this life changing step, be sure to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I really ready for divorce?
  2. Should I speak with a therapist?
  3. Do my kids need a therapist?
  4. Do I have all relevant information and financial documents gathered?
  5. What are my set goals?
  6. Do I have a support network?
  7. How do I put my children first?
  8. What should my negotiations be?
  9. How do I foster a good relationship between my kids and their other parent?
  10. Am I prepared for other relationships to change?
  11. Am I being kind to myself?

Once you have answered these questions and mentally prepared yourself, it’s time to go through the following pieces of advice with your family law attorney.

Anticipate Unexpected Costs

In life and divorce, always be ready for unpleasant surprises. You may be well-prepared for all the monetary issues that you think you might face, but even then, there are chances of unexpected expenses popping up at just the wrong time.

For example, if you find yourself in a situation where your spouse is able to boot you from their health insurance, it will leave you with an additional cost of as much as $1,000 per month. A majority of spouses avoid their financial responsibilities, so the divorce advice for women is to be careful in this matter and make your choices with eyes wide open.

From hiring the wrong divorce attorney to unnecessarily taking your divorce to trial, discuss potential hidden costs with your family law attorney to be most prepared for what’s to come.

Dig Deeply Into Your Joint Finances

It is a matter of common knowledge, more or less a fact, that 40% of divorce proceedings are about money. So the best divorce advice for women is that you need to get as much information as you can about your joint accounts. This includes:

  • All of your online passwords to joint accounts.
  • All of the minor details of your joint investments.

As a precautionary tactic, it’s important to discuss the details with your attorney and seek their advice on matters dealing with financial assets. Your top priority should always be your financial well-being. This is because the emotions and the mental stress will eventually lessen and will go away one day but the fulfillment of your expenses is a reality, and you will have to face it today, tomorrow and in the days to come. You should estimate how much you will be needing after the divorce and make sure you ask for it – and get it.

Decide if it’s a 50/50 Divorce

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. Unfortunately, Illinois is not a 50/50 state for divorce. This means that the court weighs a number of factors to determine how to fairly divide property rather than dividing property 50/50. 

These factors include each spouse’s contribution to acquiring the property, the value of the property, the duration of the marriage, and which party has more responsibility for any children of the marriage. 

Decide if Divorce Mediation is for You

Does your divorce case need to go to trial? Not always.

Mediation is considered an alternative dispute resolution process where an impartial or neutral mediator helps guide you and your spouse in settlement efforts – hopefully helping you reach a final agreement.  Unlike judges, a mediator has no authority to make decisions for you or your spouse. Their job is to keep you and your spouse’s focus on your needs and interests instead of fault and rights.

When a couple begins divorce mediation, they either choose the mediator in advance or one may be appointed by the court, with the court deciding how to split the costs.  Both spouses provide documentation to support their viewpoint regarding disputed issues, while the mediator works with both sides to find a resolution. The goal of the mediator is to reach an agreement between the two parties, therefore it is critically important to work with your divorce mediator attorney to ensure that the proposed solution is truly fair and equitable to you.

Even when parting spouses disagree, a divorce doesn’t always have to be a big fight. Divorce mediation is a way of finding solutions to issues such as child custody and spousal support. It acts as an alternative to the formal process of litigation in divorce court.

Uncontested Divorce

People might want to stop you from getting a divorce and sometimes they might even be right, but one thing that you should always try and remember is that getting a divorce is better than staying in a toxic relationship. It will hurt, but what matters in the long run is your happiness. 

Divorces usually tend to be drawn out, especially when the parties cannot agree on how to handle issues such as child support, allocation of parenting time and responsibility, spousal maintenance, and division of assets and debts.  

However, if the parties can agree on the issues mentioned above, this is called an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties and their attorneys draft written agreements at the outset. These are known as Marital Settlement Agreements and Joint Parenting Agreements. Uncontested divorces can be resolved with one court appearance and can be finished as quickly as a month.  

Final Thoughts

Divorce is rough – nobody can argue that. But remember: You don’t need to do everything perfectly. Give yourself some space and let your mind heal from the divorce process you have just undergone, or are currently undergoing. Be in control of your life as it comes to you and don’t push yourself too hard. When you’re going through a divroce you should allow yourself some grace for taking the steps to change things for the better.

While there are many questions and valid concerns that come with divorce, the divorce process itself does not have to be difficult, and you don’t have to go it alone. Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

If you are a woman contemplating filing for divorce, Masters Law Group’s team of experienced attorneys can answer any questions you may have throughout this process.

For more information on the divorce process in Illinois, contact us here today.

Divorce and Cryptocurrencies Part 3: Ethereum Assets.

There’s no doubt that cryptocurrency nowadays can add new complications to divorce. Popular crypto assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum rise (and fall) dramatically in price making them often highly volatile. If you have an impending divorce on your hands, you need to know how to find, value and divide these new world assets. Here’s what you should know. 

In the second 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 Ethereum Assets.

If you or your spouse owns cryptocurrency, you are going to want to make sure it is discussed with your divorce attorney. It may be a marital asset that needs to be valued and divided; but due to cryptocurrency wildly fluctuating, it can sometimes be problematic to value, and therefore split, fairly.

Here’s what you need to know about handling Ethereum Assets amid divorce.

What is Ethereum?

Ethereum, also known as ETH, is a decentralized, open-source blockchain with smart contract functionality. Currently, Ethereum is the largest and most well-established, open-ended decentralized software platform. 

Ethereum comes with its own programming language that runs on a blockchain, enabling developers to build and run distributed applications. The potential applications of Ethereum are wide-ranging and are powered by its native cryptographic token, (ETH).

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.”

Bitcoin Vs. Ethereum

Ether and Bitcoin are similar and also differ in many ways: Each is a digital currency traded via online exchanges and stored in various types of cryptocurrency wallets. Both of these tokens are not issued or regulated by a central bank or other authority. Both make use of the distributed ledger technology known as blockchain.

Transactions on the Ethereum network may contain executable code, while data affixed to Bitcoin network transactions are generally only for keeping notes. BTC and ETH are both digital currencies, but the primary purpose of ether is not to establish itself as an alternative monetary system but rather to facilitate and monetize the operation of the Ethereum smart contract and dApp platform.

The ultimate main difference between the two is that Bitcoin is primarily designed to be an alternative to traditional currencies and a way to exchange and store value. Ethereum is a programmable blockchain that finds application in numerous areas, including DeFi, smart contracts, and NFTs.

Ethereum is another use case for a blockchain that supports the Bitcoin network and theoretically does not compete with Bitcoin. However, the popularity of ether has pushed it into competition with all other cryptocurrencies, especially from the perspective of traders. For most of its history since the mid-2015 launch, ether has been close behind Bitcoin on rankings of the top cryptocurrencies by market cap.

Finding & Splitting Ethereum Assets

While Bitcoin and Ethereum are not the same thing, it’s important to know that Ethereum can be just as easily divided as Bitcoin. When Bitcoin is considered marital property, the easiest way to divide them is to split the determined value 50/50. Since most Bitcoin can be cashed out in full, splitting the value 50/50 means each spouse would simply get half.

Another way to divide cryptos is by negotiating other marital property in exchange. If the spouse with the cryptocurrencies wants to keep them, they can give up other marital property with the same determined value to the other spouse.

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. 

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, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies are expected to pop up in a divorce settlement. 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 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.

What is Parent Alienation?

Parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to foster a child’s rejection of the other parent. If your former partner is constantly, and severely, making false statements about you to your child, can this lead to alienation and an accompanying syndrome? Let’s take a closer look.

In divorce and child custody cases, a syndrome often develops called parental alienation. Parental alienation is a strategy where one parent intentionally displays to the child unjustified negativity aimed at the other parent. The purpose of this strategy is to damage the child’s relationship with the other parent and to turn the child’s emotions against that other parent. Parental alienators are adept manipulators and you should look out for signs of this behavior immediately.

Here is everything you need to know about emotional abuse and how you can take action to protect yourself and your children.

Traits of an Alienator

Parental alienation syndrome, was a term coined back in the 1980s by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner. As mentioned above, the sole purpose of parental alienation behavior is to keep the children with the alienating parent as much as possible, away from the targeted parent. A parent who is angry at the spouse accomplishes this goal by painting a negative narrative of the other parent by making deprecating comments, throwing blame, and making false accusations which are shared with the children.

Clinical psychologists have noted this type of behavior shown by the alienating parent has narcissistic or borderline tendencies. A narcissist is a person who has an excessive interest and admiration in themselves – essentially they think the world revolves around them. While those with borderline personality disorders have emotional hyper-reactivity often expressed as anger and a tendency to see themselves as victims. A parent with an antisocial personality is an accomplished liar who has the ability to harm others without any guilt. 

Alienation by one parent interferes with the rights of the child and the other parent involved to have a healthy relationship.  It also interferes with the other parent being able to exercise their right to care for the child.

Signs and Symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome

When Gardner talked about PAS, he identified eight “symptoms” (or criteria) for it:

  1. The child constantly and unfairly criticizes the alienated parent (sometimes called a “campaign of denigration”).
  2. The child doesn’t have any strong evidence, specific examples, or justifications for the criticisms — or only has false reasoning.
  3. The child’s feelings about the alienated parent aren’t mixed — they’re all negative, with no redeeming qualities to be found. This is sometimes called “lack of ambivalence.”
  4. The child claims the criticisms are all their own conclusions and based on their own independent thinking. (In reality, in PA, the alienating parent is said to “program” the child with these ideas.)
  5. The child has unwavering support for the alienator.
  6. The child doesn’t feel guilty about mistreating or hating the alienated parent.
  7. The child uses terms and phrases that seem borrowed from adult language when referring to situations that never happened or happened before the child’s memory.
  8. The child’s feelings of hatred toward the alienated parent expand to include other family members related to that parent (for example, grandparents or cousins on that side of the family).

Impact of Alienation on Parenting Time

Parental alienation and parenting time go hand in hand when trying to determine an appropriate parenting plan that lays out with which parent the child will mainly live. Parenting Time of your child can become a very emotional law topic. The division of parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilites to make decisions for the child. 

To determine the child’s best interests, the court must look at anything relevant to the question, including specific factors listed in state statute. Of those, some are particularly relevant when parental alienation may be involved:

  • The child’s needs.
  • The mental health of all parties involved.
  • Restricted or modified parenting time.
  • Parental ability to put the child’s needs first.
  • Abuse against the child, including emotional or psychological abuse to try to alienate the child against the other parent.
  • The ability of each parent to facilitate a close relationship between the other parent and the child.
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with each parent.

Any parent who believes their spouse is trying to alienate their child against them should seek immediate assistance from an experienced Family law attorney. It’s important to have someone who can assist with reporting emotional abuse or protection for themselves or loved ones.

The safety of the child or children involved should always be your number one priority. If your child is being emotionally abused, there are several steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of the situation at hand prior to legal help. Masters Law Group is here to help you with divorce consultation or litigation involving parental alienation.

Final Thoughts

While all forms of abuse can feel like a never-ending hopeless situation, Masters Law Group is here to help you see a light at the end of the tunnel. We provide an array of family law services including Orders of Protection and divorce services for our clients. Our highly experienced family law attorneys offer skillful legal representation that will guide you through to safety for your children and yourself.

Get in touch with us here today to discuss and execute the best plan of action for you and your family.

Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?

While some cryptocurrencies are easily found during the discovery phase of divorce proceedings, others, such as bitcoin, can be more challenging to find, particularly when they are private. If you have an impending divorce on your hands, you need to know how to find, value and divide them. Here’s what you should know. 

In the first of our Cryptocurrencies and Divorce series, we discussed how the rise and popularity of cryptocurrency has led to some spouses hiding digital assets during divorce settlements, and tracking down the funds isn’t an easy process.

If you or your spouse own cryptocurrency, you are going to want to make sure it is discussed with your divorce attorney. It may be a marital asset that needs to be valued and divided; but due to cryptocurrency wildly fluctuating, it can sometimes be problematic to value, and therefore split fairly.

Here’s what you need to know about handling bitcoin and other cryptos in divorce.

A Quick Recap of Cryptocurrency 

The use of cryptocurrency varies user to user. Some people prefer to use cryptocurrency for online purchases to ensure secure financial transactions. Others might use it simply to capitalize on discounts or rewards offered for the use of digital currencies.

The most popular form of cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. Some examples of other digital currencies are Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Zcash, Bitcoin Cash, and Cardano. Digital currency is bought, sold, and traded on various platforms. Coinbase is a popular platform used for Bitcoin. Some other digital currency exchange platforms are Kraken, BitStamp, ShapeShift, Gemini, and Bisq.

Cryptocurrencies are validated by a blockchain. This refers to a list of records called blocks that are linked together like a chain. Blockchains are designed to be secure. The foundation of a blockchain is a “decentralized database.” Blockchains can include a piece of information called a hash.

It is very important to know if any parties in a family law matter have cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency can be a marital asset eligible for division in a divorce. If you know cryptocurrency exists, it will need to be valued. Cryptocurrency has an exchange rate just like standard currency and it can be converted into U.S. dollars. There are programs on the internet that can assist with the conversion of cryptocurrency to dollars. It may be helpful to know which conversion rate program that cryptocurrency owner utilizes.

Looking for Cryptocurrency

Figuring out whether or not cryptocurrency exists is important. Have you discussed cryptocurrency with your spouse? Have you overheard them boating to their friends about their crypto wallet? Will bank account statements or credit card statements show deposits or withdrawals from a digital currency platform? Are there emails or other correspondence that contain information about cryptocurrency?

If any of these are true in your marriage or divorce, you should notify your attorney immediately. Your attorney will need to start collecting information about the cryptocurrency. Obtaining documentation about cryptocurrency can be tricky because often the point of cryptocurrency is for transactions to remain private or secure.

First, it needs to be determined if the cryptocurrency owner has a wallet and whether that wallet is online or is a physical device. The wallet will have an ID and a password for logging which can be requested in discovery. Wallets can be similar to a portable hard drive and be an actual physical item. In other instances, the wallet may just be online and through one of the cryptocurrency exchange platforms. Different steps need to be taken to preserve information from both kinds of wallets.

An owner can usually download a transaction history from his/her wallet or exchange platform. The transaction history is often downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet or other electronic document. The download contains information like a bank statement such as date, time, amount of cryptocurrency, conversion rate, balance, transaction ID, and hash information.

Most transactions will show some sort of confirmation of purchase. Often the confirmation occurs via email and serves as a receipt. The confirmation may include the conversion rate, dollar amount, and a date and timestamp. In some instances, the confirmation may identify where the cryptocurrency user deposited the funds after sale or where they withdrew the funds from to make a purchase. This can help you in the long run to identify other assets.

Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?

Bitcoin is treated the same as any other asset in a divorce. If the bitcoin transaction was before the marriage, was given as a gift or through an inheritance, it is not marital property and usually cannot be divided. Therefore, if the transaction was during the marriage, it is marital property and can be divided.

When bitcoin is considered marital property, the easiest way to divide them is to split the determined value 50/50. Since most bitcoin can be cashed out in full, splitting the value 50/50 means each spouse would simply get half.

Another way to divide bitcoin is by negotiating other marital property in exchange. If the spouse with the bitcoin wants to keep them, they can give up other marital property with the same determined value to the other spouse.

Final Thoughts

These days, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all the rage. As such, the issue of bitcoin is bound to pop up in divorce cases.

It is important to make sure that bitcoin 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. This may include a plan for how to explain how cryptocurrency works with other parties or professionals in your case.

If you are concerned about how your or your spouse’s cryptocurrency assets could affect your divorce or the asset division process, Masters Law Group can help. Our team of highly trained and experienced attorneys are here to answer your questions about divorce and digital asset division.

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