Tag Archive for: Child custody attorney

Who Does the Hague Convention Apply To?

If you believe you might be facing the terrifying situation of International Child Abduction, you will need to determine whether the Hague Convention treaty is “in force” between the U.S. and the other country involved. 

In a nutshell, the Hague Abduction Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions. An application may be made when a child is taken or retained across an international border, away from his or her habitual residence, without the consent of a parent who has rights of custody under the law of the habitual residence, if the two countries are parties to the Convention. The child must be promptly returned to the habitual residence unless the return will create a grave risk of harm to the child or another limited exception is established.

The Convention has the child’s best interest, and provides a shared civil remedy among partner countries. Depending on where your child was taken determines whether the Convention is “in force” between nations. It is therefore important to determine whether the Convention is in force with the particular country in question and when the Convention went into force between the U.S. and the other country.

HAGUE CONVENTION & ITS BACKGROUND

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

How do you determine whether the treaty is “in force” between the U.S. and the other country involved? The Federal Judicial Center explains with the following:

‘The issue of whether the Convention is “in force” between states can be complex. There are differences in the processes by which a state can be bound by the treaty, specifically between those who are “member states” and those who become “party states.” 

Member states are states that were members of The Hague Conference on Private International Law at the time of adoption of the Child Abduction Convention at the 14th Session in 1980.

The differences between the two is the following:

  • Actions by member states include ratifications, approvals, or acceptances.
  • Party states are all other countries that agree to be bound by the Convention and “accede” to the Convention.

For member states, the ratification by one member state causes the convention to automatically come into force between that ratifying member state and all other previously ratifying member states. However, when a member state ratifies the Convention, the Convention does not automatically enter into force between that state and a party state that has acceded to the convention.

The treaty “enters into force” between two countries when they are both bound by the Convention. In order for the Convention to enter into force between a member state and a party state, the member state must expressly accept the accession by the party state. 

The same applies to the accession of one party state vis-á-vis another acceding party state; that is, the accession must be specifically accepted by the previously acceding party state.’

101 states are a party to the convention. Like extradition treaties, some countries that have signed a Hague Convention treaty with the United States are noncompliant or refuse to hold up the terms of the treaty.

LIST OF U.S HAGUE CONVENTION TREATY PARTNERS

Below are the countries that participate in the Hague Convention and are “in force” with the United States of America. You can find the official list with dates and more here.

country pop2022 hagueConventionEntryDate
Andorra 77.463 1/1/2017
Argentina 46010.234 6/1/1991
Armenia 2971.966 3/1/2018
Australia 26068.792 7/1/1988
Austria 9066.71 10/1/1988
Bahamas 400.516 1/1/1994
Belgium 11668.278 5/1/1999
Belize 412.19 11/1/1989
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3249.317 12/1/1991
Brazil 215353.593 12/1/2003
Bulgaria 6844.597 2005/01//01
Burkina Faso 22102.838 11/1/1992
Canada 38388.419 7/1/1988
Chile 19250.195 7/1/1994
Colombia 51512.762 6/1/1996
Costa Rica 5182.354 1/1/2008
Croatia 4059.286 12/1/1991
Cyprus 1223.387 3/1/1995
Czech Republic 10736.784 3/1/1998
Denmark 5834.95 7/1/1991
Dominican Republic 11056.37 6/1/2007
Ecuador 18113.361 4/1/1992
El Salvador 6550.389 6/1/2007
Estonia 1321.91 5/1/2007
Fiji 909.466 5/1/2017
Finland 5554.96 8/1/1994
France 65584.518 7/1/1988
Germany 83883.596 12/1/1990
Greece 10316.637 6/1/1993
Guatemala 18584.039 1/1/2008
Honduras 10221.247 6/1/1994
Hong Kong 7604.299 9/1/1997
Hungary 9606.259 7/1/1988
Iceland 345.393 12/1/1996
Ireland 5020.199 10/1/1991
Israel 8922.892 12/1/1991
Italy 60262.77 5/1/1995
Jamaica 2985.094 4/1/2019
Japan 125584.838 4/1/2014
Latvia 1848.837 5/1/2007
Lithuania 2661.708 5/1/2007
Luxembourg 642.371 7/1/1988
Macau 667.49 3/1/1999
Malta 444.033 2/1/2003
Mauritius 1274.727 10/1/1993
Mexico 131562.772 10/1/1991
Monaco 39.783 6/1/1993
Montenegro 627.95 12/1/1991
Morocco 37772.756 12/1/2012
Netherlands 17211.447 9/1/1990
New Zealand 4898.203 10/1/1991
Norway 5511.37 4/1/1989
Panama 4446.964 6/1/1994
Paraguay 7305.843 1/1/2008
Peru 33684.208 6/1/2007
Poland 37739.785 11/1/1992
Portugal 10140.57 7/1/1988
Romania 19031.335 6/1/1993
Saint Kitts and Nevis 53.871 6/1/1995
San Marino 34.085 1/1/2008
Serbia 8653.016 12/1/1991
Singapore 5943.546 5/1/2012
Slovakia 5460.193 2/1/2001
Slovenia 2078.034 4/1/1995
South Africa 60756.135 11/1/1997
South Korea 51329.899 11/1/2013
Spain 46719.142 7/1/1988
Sri Lanka 21575.842 1/1/2008
Sweden 10218.971 6/1/1989
Switzerland 8773.637 7/1/1988
Thailand 70078.203 4/1/2016
Trinidad and Tobago 1406.585 8/1/2013
Turkey 85561.976 8/1/2000
Ukraine 43192.122 9/1/2007
United Kingdom 68497.907 7/1/1988
Uruguay 3496.016 9/1/2004
Venezuela 29266.991 1/1/1997
Zimbabwe 15331.428 8/1/1995

Export the list here. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Most of the world, including the United States, belongs to the Hague Convention, and they will negotiate treaties to help streamline international justice. When family law disputes cross international boundaries, it is essential to have the help from a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands all of the laws that go along with child custody cases.

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

Browse Our Featured Hague Decisions:

Contact us here today to set up a complimentary 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.

What Happens if I File for Divorce in Illinois but my Child Lives Somewhere Else?

While it is fairly common for someone to move to a different state once they separate from their spouse, doing so can present potential difficulties when formally filing. Add children to the mix, and the situation rapidly becomes more complex. Here’s what you need to know. 

All states require that the spouse who files for divorce be a resident of the state in which they file their divorce petition.  If you’re seeking an Illinois divorce and have children, you may be wondering what the proper steps are to take. You may also want to know how you can get full custody in Illinois, and what criteria a judge uses to determine a child’s best interests.

Here, Masters Law Group provides an overview of Illinois custody laws and answers to common questions about custody in Illinois, cross-border custody, and international custody matters via the Hague Convention. If you have additional questions after reading this article, contact your trusted law attorneys at Masters Law Group. We’re here to help you every step of the way.

Establishing Child Custody in Illinois

The term “custody” is no longer used in the law. It is now called “parental responsibilities.” This includes parenting time (formerly “visitation”) and decision-making power.

Divorcing parents who live in Illinois will receive an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities/custody order as part of their divorce case. Things can get complicated if parents live in different states or a parent has recently moved into or out of the state. Before an Illinois judge can issue a custody order, the Illinois court must have jurisdiction over your case.

In order to avoid conflicting custody opinions from courts in different states, a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) sets the rules on which court has jurisdiction. 

Among other things, the UCCJEA determines which state is the child’s “home state” for custody matters. Courts in the home state have jurisdiction over custody litigation involving that child and are the only ones that can hear a custody case for that child.

Illinois has jurisdiction to hear a child custody case if:

  • The child has lived in Illinois for the last six months.
  • The child lives out of state, but lived in Illinois within the past six months and one of the child’s parents still lives in the state.
  • No other state is the child’s home state and either (1) the child and at least one parent have significant connections with Illinois, and (2) substantial evidence exists in Illinois concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.

The UCCJEA and associated rules can be complex and hard to understand. If you’re unsure whether your child custody case should be heard in Illinois or in another state, you should consult with an experienced attorney. 

Determining a Child’s Best Interests in Illinois

Even when parents agree on custody, a judge must ultimately determine what custody arrangement would be in the child’s best interests. The emphasis in a custody determination is not on which parent is “better or worse”, but solely on the child’s safety and happiness. 

Here are some of the following factors to consider:

  • Both parent’s wishes.
  • The child’s wishes.
  • The child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community.
  • The parents’ and child’s physical and mental health.
  • Whether there has been physical violence by either parent, either directed against the child or another person.
  • Whether there has been ongoing or repeated domestic violence, either directed against the child or directed against another person.
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

Every case is unique, and the court is free to decide what weight to give to these and other factors in making its decision. However, Illinois custody laws expressly state that the court should not consider a parent’s marital conduct unless it affects that parent’s relationship with the child. Judges will typically give both parents maximum involvement in the child’s life.

Can a Parent With Primary Physical Custody Relocate Out of State?

Illinois Courts require that a parent looking to permanently relocate a child from the State of Illinois have a written agreement and/or Court Order allowing the move.  There are a variety of factors the Court will consider in adjudicating whether the move is within your child’s best interest.  The parent who wants to relocate with the child out of state bears the burden of proving that the move serves the child’s best interests. A court must consider the following factors in determining whether a proposed move to another state is in the best interests of the child:

  • Whether the move will enhance the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and the child.
  • Whether the custodial parent’s proposed move is a ruse to frustrate or defeat the other parent’s visitation rights with the child.
  • The motives of the noncustodial parent in resisting the removal.
  • Whether a reasonable visitation schedule can be achieved if the move is allowed.

The parent seeking to move must prove that it is in the best interests of the child, not just the parent’s best interests. A judge will want to address housing arrangements, job opportunities, neighborhood and school quality, available activities for the child, and a well-considered plan to keep the child in touch with the left-behind parent. Some judicial districts in Illinois are more lenient about allowing removal than others. An experienced lawyer will know what to expect from the judges in your district.

Unless the parties have agreed in writing to the contrary, a custodial parent may remove the children to another part of the state without a court order. However, because this will bring about a significant disruption in the child’s relationship to the other parent, such a move could be considered a material change in the child’s circumstance, which could be the foundation of a petition for custody modification.

A permanent relocation is different from a vacation. Parents are free to take the child out of state on a temporary vacation as long as the court order allows it and the traveling parent provides the other parent the address and telephone number where the child may be reached while out of state, and the date on which the child will return to Illinois. 

What Happens if my Ex Want to Move Across International Borders?

International child custody cases are on the rise due to the mobility of couples who either desire to live abroad, move back to their home country or who receive international job assignments.

While legal issues involving Parental Responsibilities are common, many do not know what to do when their child/children are taken overseas. It’s important for the residents of the Greater Chicagoland area who share custody of their children know about the ins and outs of the Hague Convention should this occur.

Accredited family law attorneys Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph of Masters Law Group have extensive experience in cases involving international child abduction disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Masters Law Group Featured Hague Decisions:

At Masters Law Group, we know the requirements parents must abide by when they want to move, and we know how to challenge the move so you do not lose out on time with your child.

Final Thoughts

If you’re faced with an out-of-state divorce or international custody battle, our skilled and knowledgeable family law attorneys can help educate you on your options, and provide legal assistance if your child is being taken out of Illinois. 

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation and that our clients want to move on with their lives. Especially when children are involved. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients’ assurance and well being in mind.

Our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most. Schedule a consultation with us today to discuss our divorce services.

Hague Convention – International Child Abduction Questions and Answers

What is the Hague Convention? Can I protect my child from Parental Child Abduction? What should I do if my child is taken across state or international borders? Find all the answers to these time-sensitive, high-stakes questions here. 

The Hague Convention is a treaty that many countries, including the United States, have joined. Its purpose is to protect children from the harmful effects of international abduction by a parent.

While there is a lot of information out there about the Hague Convention, we decided to make a list of the most frequently asked questions. Here’s what you need to know if you are facing the frightening situation of International Child Abduction.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 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.

This multilateral treaty was developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and concluded on October 25, 1980, entering into force on December 1, 1983. These participating countries are also included in a large treaty that governs the way different legal systems work together. There were two specific goals in mind at the time of The Hague Services Convention’s formation:

  • Create a means to ensure that judicial and extrajudicial documents to be served abroad can be brought to the notice of the addressee in sufficient time.
  • Improve the organization of mutual judicial assistance.

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

What Countries does the Hague Convention include? 

Listed below are the countries that are participants of the Hague Convention in force with the United States of America. The official list and dates the treaties signed can be found here.

Andorra Lithuania
Argentina Luxembourg
Armenia Macedonia, Republic of
Australia Malta
Austria Mauritius
Bahamas, The Mexico
Belgium Monaco
Belize Montenegro
Bosnia and Herzegovina Morocco
Brazil Netherlands
Bulgaria New Zealand
Burkina Faso Norway
Canada Pakistan
Chile Panama
China (Hong Kong and Macau only) Paraguay
Colombia Peru
Costa Rica Poland
Croatia Portugal
Cyprus Korea, Republic of
Czech Republic Romania
Denmark Saint Kitts and Nevis
Dominican Republic San Marino
Ecuador Serbia
El Salvador Singapore
Estonia Slovakia
Fiji Slovenia
Finland South Africa
France Spain
Germany Sri Lanka
Greece Sweden
Guatemala Switzerland
Honduras Thailand
Hungary Trinidad and Tobago
Iceland Turkey
Ireland Ukraine
Israel United Kingdom (Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Isle of Man, Montserrat)
Italy Uruguay
Jamaica Venezuela
Japan Zimbabwe
Latvia

My Ex wants to move out of state with our child. What can I do?

First off, it’s important to note that your options will depend on a number of different factors, and we want to provide you with some general information below. If your former spouse makes the decision that they want to move out of state with your child, they must first notify you of the move. 

The notice they give you must state the date they intend to move, the address of their new home, and how long they intend to remain in the new location. They must deliver the notice to you at least 60 days before they move unless they have a court order that specifies different instructions.

You can sign the notice if you approve of the move and your former spouse will then file the notice with the court. Of course, you do not have to consent to the move. If your spouse moves out of state with the child without your consent, or without sending you notice, it is considered parental kidnapping or child abduction.

If you don’t consent to the move with your child, your ex has two options. They can either agree not to move out of state with the child, or they can petition the court to overrule you and allow the move. If your ex petitions the court and asks them to allow the move, you and your former spouse must attend a court hearing. During the hearing, a family law judge will take many factors into consideration and then deliver their decision.

Like when making child custody decisions, the judge will take many factors into consideration. All of the factors are guided by what is in the best interests of the child. However, if your ex wants to move for a better-paying job that would allow them to better care for the child, the judge may consider the move in the best interests of the child.

What are the defenses to a petition for the return of my child?

There are a few defenses to a claim of wrongful removal or retention under the Hague Convention, which include:

Defense 1: That the petitioner (parent seeking the return of the child) was not “actually exercising custody rights at the time of the removal or retention” under Article 13.

Defense 2: That the petitioner “had consented to or acquiesced in the removal or retention” under Article 13.

Defense 3: That more than one year passed from the time of the wrongful removal or retention until the date the petitioner commenced a judicial or administrative proceeding for the return of the child, under Article 12.

Defense 4: That the child is old enough and has a sufficient degree of maturity to knowingly object to being returned to the petitioner and that it is appropriate to heed that objection, under Article 13.

Defense 5: That “there is grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation,” under Article 13(b), and

Defense 6: That return of the child would subject the child to violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, under Article 20.

If your child has been wrongfully removed to a country overseas, you should immediately contact your local family law attorney that is experienced in international custody disputes for help.

How do I initiate the process of International Parental Child Abduction?

Deciding whether to file a Hague application is an important decision and must be considered based on each case’s specific circumstances. Perhaps after separating from their partner, a parent wants to take their child and move to another country. Maybe a parent moved internationally in violation of a custody agreement.

Filing a case under the Convention does not guarantee that your child will be returned. To obtain the return of your child, through a Hague proceeding, you must first be able to demonstrate:

  • That your child was habitually resident in one Convention country, and was wrongfully removed to or retained in another Convention country;
  • The removal or retention of your child is considered wrongful if it was in violation of your custodial rights, and you were exercising those rights at the time of the removal or retention, or you would have been exercising them but for the removal or retention.
  • The Convention must have been in force between the two countries when the wrongful removal or retention occurred (the dates are different for every country); (Note: In many  instances, when a country accedes to the Convention, it is not automatically partners with all of the other countries who have ratified or acceded to the Convention.  Countries must accept another country’s accession to the Convention under the terms described in the Convention before a treaty partnership is created.
  • The child is under the age of 16.

How do I find a reputable parental child abduction attorney?

To make sure you have the best possible chance in your Hague Convention case, you need an attorney who understands both the severe circumstances and the delicate interplay of state, federal, and international laws.

Accredited family law attorneys Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph of Masters Law Group have extensive experience in cases involving international child abduction disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Masters Law Group Featured Hague Decisions:

If your former spouse wants to move out of state or cross international borders with your child against your consent, or they already have, our skilled and experienced team can help. At Masters Law Group, we know the requirements parents must abide by when they want to move, and we know how to challenge the move so you do not lose out on time with your child.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your case immediately.

 

5 Tips to Survive the Holidays Co-Parenting

Co-parenting over the holidays. These four words can bring either a sense of joy or dread this season, or even both. But with the right planning in place, you can experience a harmonious Hanukkah, cohesive Christmas and no-drama New Year. 

The holidays can be a magical time for everyone. Children have breaks from schools; families and friends gather for meals and multi-day celebrations; and emotions run hot. While the season brings joy and laughter for some, they can also be hard to manage – especially when co-parenting.  Yes co-parenting has its challenges on a good day, but throw in the holidays and it takes on a whole new level.

To make sure your holidays remain special for you and your children, it’s important to have a plan. Here are 5 tips to help you survive the holidays and set your loved ones up for a season of success.

  • Create a Parenting Plan

Since you and your spouse went through the formal divorce process, you likely have a parenting plan in place that also includes how the holidays are meant to be shared. If you feel that you need to make new arrangements this year and it is not your first time co-parenting during the holidays, do not save this for the last minute. A parenting plan is a legally-binding agreement and should be respectfully treated as such.

If you don’t have a parenting plan you may want to consider getting one. 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 and on autopilot, you won’t have to stress over everything. Try one if you don’t already have one. It can make your life a lot easier.

  • Allow Flexibility

You’ve gone through a lot this year; trying to process divorce, finalize child support and navigate the co-parenting world – just to name a few. Add coronavirus to the mix, and you have yourself the perfect ending to a horrible year. COVID-19 has arisen many grey areas for families across the world, including parenting time schedules. Use your parenting plan as a tool to keep things focused, but while compromising might not be easy, it is an effective way to make things easier for your children, assuming they are only minor adjustments. For example, help yourself by giving your ex some wiggle room on logistics. A great rule of thumb is to plan at least 15 minutes of flex time around any child exchange. Depending on your location and the weather gets worse, you will need more flex time.

Consider having a civil conversation about what you both have in mind for the holidays and how time with the children can be shared with each of you and extended family members. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin the conversation. “The sooner the better” is in order to iron out any initial disagreements that could occur. 

Try to cooperate with each other during this emotionally-charged season and do what is needed for both you and your ex so that you can both spend happy, quality time with your children.

  • Stability is Key

Once you have made some logistical decisions, present a united front in telling the children together (if possible) what the plans are going to be. Make them feel that everything is worked out and it’s going to be a good holiday season because mom and dad have figured it out.

This will provide stability and comfort to your children. It will ease their anxiety and their concerns about mom and dad getting along during the holidays. Children think about holidays and how mom and dad are going to feel if they are alone. Give them peace of mind that everything will be okay even though you are no longer together.

  • Tolerate Difficult Circumstances (New Partners)

Divorce can be a painful and draining process. Be kind to yourself while going through your divorce. Many medical and mental health professionals recommend treating divorce like grief. There is happiness on the other side of all the legal and emotional issues, and the chances of your children feeling that pain are highly likely. If you or your ex are in the process of separating, try to not make small matters an issue. 

While the holidays can be a delicate time to test your tolerance, by doing so, you’ll look back without regret at handling these emotional issues maturely. Try to have an open discussion with each other about the role of a new significant other and how that will play in the lives of your children. Introducing a new partner is a big and important decision. Incorporating new partners into the family structure is delicate, especially during the holidays. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can receive sound advice on how to speak with your children so everyone involved is comfortable.

It’s important to remember to stay calm, the chances of your child remembering you losing your temper are high in the event that someone interferes with your plan. When something goes wrong, you can absolutely feel angry. The suggestion here is to try to have some patience, and focus on your child’s priorities.

  • Show Yourself Some Love

The holidays can be hard even for those who are not recently divorced, so do not begrudge yourself some self-care. There is a chance that you will spend some time alone this holiday season, and with Covid-19 variants looming, you could end up alone more than you expected.

Try to make some plans for yourself that do not involve the kids, even if it is just to sit at home on your own, binge-watching TV shows with your favorite takeaway meal. A little time to yourself can do wonders for your mood and help you get through the holidays with a little less stress. As much as you might want to make the holidays perfect for your kids, you cannot forget yourself. The happier you are, the smoother the holiday season will be them, too.

Last Thoughts

The holidays are meant to be a special time for everyone involved. And remember, having patience while trying to execute the holiday co-parenting plan is crucial to maintaining everyone’s enjoyment of the holidays. 

We hope with the help of these tips mentioned above, it can make way for you to navigate through your holidays in a seamless, appropriate and enjoyable manner. 

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 the holiday season together.

 

Finding the Right Chicago Divorce Attorney

The selection of your Chicago Divorce Attorney will likely be one of the most important factors in the outcome of your divorce. With such a massive pool of lawyers to choose from in the city of Chicago, making this decision could be extremely difficult. It will take research and time, but the choice of your legal representation should not be taken lightly.

Anyone seeking a divorce lawyer needs to ensure that their best interests will be kept at the forefront of the settlement negotiations. Here are a few things to look for when beginning your search for a divorce attorney in Chicago.

Setting Real Expectations & Goals

Before finalizing your choice of a divorce attorney in the city of Chicago, you must first determine what type of divorce process suits your needs, goal, and situation. There are seven types that you can choose from:

  • Contested Divorce
  • Uncontested Divorce
  • At-Fault Divorce
  • No-Fault Divorce
  • Summary Divorce
  • Limited Divorce
  • Default Divorce

It’s important to understand that divorce is a legal process with the sole purpose of dissolving your assets and resolving custody issues. That being said, it’s important to do your due diligence and find a lawyer you trust. Allow yourself to have several options by making a list of lawyers you think can provide the kind of legal service you need. It’s easy for most people to use the first lawyer they find. 

Your divorce attorney’s job is to represent you to the best of their ability in this process. You might want to consider working with a family law attorney, especially if you want a lawyer who can represent you later on if the divorce settlement is not followed. Attorneys specializing in family law are generally more experienced in divorce law than those who are not. The board-certified family law attorneys at Masters Law Group are educated, trained, and experienced in handling family law issues, as well as divorce cases. 

Read Reviews

Many choose to go with an attorney who has worked with someone they know and can assure you of first-rate service. This is where first hand recommendations come into play. But if you don’t know anyone currently (or previously) go through the divorce process, you should take the time to read their online reviews. 

An ideal attorney has the legal knowledge and experience you need, and will help you understand the process, and ultimately is experienced in your specific court system. Regardless of whether or not your divorce is headed to trial, your attorney should understand the fundamentals of family law in your jurisdiction so they can advise you appropriately on legal strategy. 

Choose Local

Family law attorneys who practice in your state or area should be your #1 priority. Working with a locally-based Chicago Attorney has a lot of advantages. The biggest advantage being, an attorney who’s familiar with state/county divorce laws and with legal officials and judges. 

All the tips and suggestions mentioned above should help make the process of choosing the right divorce lawyer in Chicago easier and more convenient for you. 

Qualifications and Work History

Legal matters involving your family, children, or spouse can be some of the most important and trying times of your life. Finding the right Chicago family law attorney can really make the difference in how painless the experience is. Lawyers can say they have experience in family law all they want but having the certifications with the State Bar Board of Legal Specialization is the best way to prove it.

Ms. Erin E Masters of Masters Law Group 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.

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.

Masters Law Group’s Attorney, Mr. Joseph is an active trial lawyer whose practice focuses 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. Mr. Joseph also publishes in the area of civil litigation. Mr. Joseph has also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. 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. Mr. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Last Thoughts

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation and that our clients want to move on with their lives. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients’ assurance and well being in mind.

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.

Schedule a consultation with us today to discuss our divorce services.

 

Why the Hague Convention Could Matter in Your Child Custody Case

International child custody cases are on the rise due to the mobility of couples who either desire to live abroad, move back to their home country or who receive international job assignments. Let’s take a look into the implications of International Child Custody cases and how The Hague Convention can help. 

While legal issues with Child Custody (now known as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities) are common, many do not know what to do when their child/children are taken overseas. It’s important for the residents of the Greater Chicagoland area who share custody of their children know about the ins and outs of Hague Convention should this occur. Rest assured, these issues can be handled with caution and care by the Family Law Attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our seasoned attorneys have extensive knowledge and experience in handling international child custody cases under the Hague Convention.

The biggest issue in determining custody issues is where the children reside, as that is typically where the custody battle will take place. Here’s an extensive look on why it’s important to be familiar with the Hague Convention and what it could mean for your international child custody case.

Why the Hague Convention is Important

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

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

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

Convention Framework

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

The Central Authority must do the following:

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

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

The Court May Deny Return

Under certain circumstances, the court may deny the return of the child. It’s important to note that these exceptions can vary from country to country. 

Here are some reasons where the court may deny return:

  • There is risk to the child where they are exposed to physical or psychological harm.
  • The child objects if they are old enough and mature enough.
  • More than a year has passed, and the child acclimates to their new home.
  • The custodial parent agrees to let the child remain.
  • The return would violate human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • The custodial parents seeking return are not exercising rights of custody during wrongful removal. 

The Hague Convention establishes numerous procedures for contacting each country and coordination in an international child abduction. According to the treaty, a suit for the return of the child is given priority, and courts typically make decisions within six weeks.

Get the Help You Need

High-stakes international child disputes are not going away. If you are facing such a case, you need to act fast. An attorney must be ready to file a Hague Convention application and institute or defend a Hague Convention lawsuit on extremely short notice. This is why it’s extremely important to locate counsel with knowledge and experience in Hague proceedings. 

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. We 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.

Our Featured Hague Decisions:

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Welcome to Our NEW Home!

Masters Law Group opens its doors at a new downtown office space. 

Masters Law Group welcomes you to their new Chicago office located in the heart of downtown Chicago: 30 North Lasalle Street, Suite 2250, Chicago IL 60602.

Senior partners Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph have taken another step in their commitment to their clients.

“Moving into a brand-new office space is an exciting occasion for all the team at Masters Law Group, and our growth will allow us to help more clients facing family law and divorce issues. The expansion represents our various successes, especially the development of thriving practice areas such as high-stake Hague Convention, International Child Abduction cases and divorce mediation cases,” says Ms. Masters, “We’re also expanding our team of first-class attorneys and support staff, and created an environment to represent our firm.”

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. Furthermore, Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. Mr. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

“We are quickly moving to meet the shifted expectations for office environments and we’re incredibly proud to welcome clients to the new and improved space.” says Mr. Joseph. He continues, “We’re excited to stay on a course that our clients can trust, while remaining focused on delivering solutions for families navigating a consistently challenging legal environment.”

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

Ms. Masters concludes, “We invite you to schedule a consultation to speak with us about your case and look forward to inviting you to our new office location.”

Contact Masters Law Group here today. 

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.

 

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.