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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.

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

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

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

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

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

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

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

Spousal Attendance in an Uncontested Divorce

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

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

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

Spousal Attendance in a Contested Divorce

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

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

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

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Illinois?

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Preparation for a Family Court Trial

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

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

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

Preparing For Trial

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

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

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

Examples of Evidence You Can Provide

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

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

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

Trial Scheduling

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

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

Trial Procedures

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

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

Following Procedures:

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Child Relocation Laws in Illinois

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

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

Parental Responsibilities in Illinois

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

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

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

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

Relocation Inside and Outside of Illinois

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Hiring Child Relocation Legal Help

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

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

What Does a Family Law Attorney Cover?

Most people will use the terms “Family Law” and “Divorce Lawyer” interchangeably with each other.  The truth, however, is that Divorce Law is only one aspect of Family Law. 

What is family law and what do family lawyers do? Family law is a legal practice area that focuses on issues involving family relationships, such as adoption, divorce, and child custody, among others. Therefore, family law attorneys are legal professionals that specialize in these specific matters. Family lawyers can also act as mediators when family disagreements develop and represent litigants in family conflicts that end up in courts.

Below are some of the things that an experienced and reputable family law attorney can do for you.

Child Custody/Child Support agreements

In the hardest of times when a couple separates, one of the most challenging problems to solve is children.

Court orders and settlement agreements involving both custody and support usually are included in the larger divorce case, but may be revisited as conditions change. For instance, child support may be altered after the non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes.

A child support order is determined by what is reasonable and necessary for the support of the child or children. It is presumed that the guideline support amounts represent the amount of support that is reasonable and necessary, unless it can be demonstrated to the court that circumstances exist that would make the guideline amount inappropriate.

Divorce and Divorce Mediation

Undergoing a divorce is probably one of the most draining experiences that a family can face, and divorce cases involving substantial assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge. A good divorce attorney is skilled at dividing marital property, calculating spousal support, and proposing a plan for child custody, visitation, and support (if applicable).

Attorneys can also cover divorce mediation. Divorce Mediators work with a couples involved in family break-ups to make arrangements, either to plan for a separation or divorce, or after the split has taken place, without the need for court intervention.

Domestic Violence Protection

Domestic violence is described as abusive behavior when a family or household member uses physical or mental maltreatment toward another family or household member. The IDVA uses the following terms as abuse:

1. Physical abuse
2. Harassment
3. Intimidation of a dependent
4. Interference with personal liberty
5. Willful deprivation
6. Exploitation
7. Stalking

An Order of Protection is a court order made in writing which prohibits, by law, further abusive behavior.

Who are persons considered to be family or household members?
The IDVA defines members to include:

1. A spouse
2. Ex-spouse
3. Girlfriend/boyfriend who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship
4. Parents
5. Children
6. Stepchildren
7. Significant other/partner
8. Persons who share or allege to have a blood relationship through a child
9. Persons who live together or formerly lived together
10. Persons with disabilities and their personal assistants

International Child Abduction (Hague Convention)

Although not a common practice for most family lawyers, some specific attorneys have the knowledge, experience and skills in Hague Convention cases to take on international parental child abduction cases. 

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. Proving claims in international child abduction cases under the Hague Abduction Convention requires analysis and careful development of all evidence and testimony that may support or defeat defenses to claims of wrongful abduction or retention. Therefore, choosing an attorney who has extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes is vital.

Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

Now that you know what a family law attorney is, you’re probably wondering how hiring legal representation in your family law case would benefit you. Here are the major benefits that come with hiring a family lawyer.

Legal Protection

How realistic are the claims coming from the other party? Can the other party actually receive what they’re stating they’ll receive? A family law attorney knows the law, as well as the outcomes of past verdicts, and can use that knowledge to help you receive the best possible outcome.

Legal Knowledge

There’s a lot of red tape and substantial paperwork when it comes to family law proceedings. And that’s before it goes to trial. By hiring a family law attorney, you can rest assured the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. Consequently, you will not have to sweat about your case being thrown out as early as possible.

Court Experience

If a case goes to court, experienced attorneys can make sure that their client is prepared for everything that is going to happen when they enter the courtroom room, and will know exactly how to handle any particular situation that arises during the pendency of a family law case. This will keep the judge happy and the proceedings running smoothly and efficiently.

Peace of Mind

Ultimately, one of the best benefits of hiring a family law attorney to represent your interests in a case is the fact that you will be able to trust your legal issues are being duly dealt with. Whenever you have an issue or a family matter that requires legal representation, it’s essential to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced professional.

Last Words

There are areas of Family Law that involve people who are involved in Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships, and same-sex relationships.  As a Chicago-based Family Law practice, we can ensure that the appropriate contracts and agreements are in place to help to avoid any issues in the future.

If you are facing a family law issue, contact the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and related family matters.

We offer a wide range of services tailored to our clients’ unique legal needs. Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Click here to view our practice areas. And click here to set up a consultation today.

Can Social Media Affect My Family Law Case?

Social media is a popular way to keep in touch and communicate with your loved ones, but it has also become an increasingly useful tactic to collect information for family law hearings. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now being submitted as evidence in family law cases.

When you are going through a divorce, child custody, or placement battle with your ex, what you post on social media networks could come back to haunt you.

While it is not unusual for character witnesses to be called in family law cases, social sites can sometimes be used in a similar manner. Negative comments, images, offensive posts, and hostile interactions can all be submitted as evidence in custody cases. Partners can much more easily keep tabs on one another – and collect evidence against one another – by using social media.

Social Media Evidence in Hearings

Social media is affecting relationships and being used as ammunition in hearings. Lawyers can effectively use or defend against social media evidence in cases. According to the National Law Review, 

  • 81% of attorneys discover social networking evidence worth presenting in court. 
  • 66% of cases involving divorce employ Facebook as one of their principal evidence sources. 
  • 1/3 of all legal action in divorces cases is precipitated by affairs conducted online.

Not all evidence can be used in a divorce case. For example, an opposing attorney cannot open a fake account to “friend” or “connect” with their client’s spouse to obtain evidence.

Generally, public posts that can be inspected by anyone are fair game and can be submitted as evidence in court. If a “friend” or “connection” on a spouse’s social media account shares a post or text and that secondary post is seen by the spouse’s ex, that too, can typically be legally used as evidence in a divorce case.

What’s Fair Game and What’s Not

It is important to note that you should not delete items from your social media for the purpose of “hiding” bad evidence if you have a reason to believe that litigation may be coming. This may be considered spoliation of evidence. 

In most cases, a spouse’s social media posts are admissible as evidence in the U.S. as long as you don’t obtain them illegally. An example of obtaining evidence illegally would be if your estranged husband or wife created a false account with the purpose of “following” you to collect damning evidence. It’s illegal for your ex to hack your accounts to try to gain evidence.

For many, using social media is second nature. However, it is worth discussing your situation with a family law attorney to determine the best way to deal with any social media evidence that may hurt your case.

Social Media Can Affect Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Divorcing parents often have disagreements about child custody and visitation which is officially called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time“ in Illinois. There are several ways that social media posts can influence child custody matters. 

Imagine a scenario in which a husband and wife each want to have the majority of parenting time with the children. If the wife posts pictures of herself going out to bars several nights of the week when she is allegedly caring for the children, this could call into question her desire and ability to take on a large amount of parental responsibility. 

It is important to remember that even if you have your social media account set to private, there are still many ways that your social media activity could be used against you during divorce proceedings. The best way to avoid negative consequences from social media during divorce may be to simply take a break from social media websites until the divorce is finalized.

Final Thoughts

It is important to be very cautious when using social media during divorce or other family law hearings. Masters Law Group takes social media into account when dealing with family law cases. Each case is uniquely different and the attorneys at Masters Law Group have the experience to help you during difficult times. Learn more and set up a consultation with us here today.

What Should You Include in Your Illinois Parenting Plan?

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

When filing one plan, both parents must sign the plan indicating they agree on all the terms of the document. If parents do not agree, they must file separate plans. The court will look at each detail of both plans to determine what’s in the best interest of the child or children. 

Important things to know about Parenting Plans:

  • 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. 

If either parent does not follow the order, they are breaking the law and can be taken to court. The purpose of a court order for parental responsibilities is to protect both parents’ rights when it comes to the care and decision-making responsibilities of the child.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

There are three basic types of child allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois — joint allocation of parental responsibilities, sole allocation of parental responsibilities and shared allocation of parental responsibilities:

Joint allocation of parental responsibilities requires parents to cooperate in decision-making regarding education, health care and religious instruction. It does not mean that the children live with each parent for an equal amount of time. The parties will agree or the court will assign a residential parent. The non-residential parent will pay child support and exercise parenting time. The amount of time the children spends with the non-residential parent is addressed in a parenting time agreement or order.

Sole allocation of parental responsibilities is the term that describes the arrangement that gives one parent the responsibility for deciding everything related to the child’s welfare. It does not mean that the other parent is out of the picture. Parenting Time and parenting time can be the same in a sole allocation of parental responsibilities case as it is in a joint allocation of parental responsibilities case.

Shared allocation of parental responsibilities is a form of joint allocation of parental responsibilities. It is appropriate when the child spends equal time with each parent, the parents reside in the same school district and are able to join parents.

Parenting planning of your child can be a very emotional law topic. It can become complicated and require much interaction between the parents and the court. It’s in your best interests to hire an experienced attorney if you need assistance with parental planning issues.

Hiring Legal Help

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

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

 

New Child Tax Credit 2021 for Parents Who Share Custody

As a part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, monthly child credits are starting this July. But if you share custody with your ex-spouse, who claims the child tax credit? 

President Joe Biden recently signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. Amongst other things, the legislation will increase the child tax credit to $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 annually for children under 6 for the tax year 2021. Here’s what else you should know…

How Claiming Child Tax Credit Typically Works

When parents share joint custody, they usually work out a schedule according to their work requirements, housing arrangements and the children’s needs. This includes financial plans like which parent is eligible for child tax credit payments. 

However, if you are recently divorced or separated – or simply don’t have a plan in place – which parent claims the new tax credits? 

Fundamentals of the New Child Tax Credit

The American Rescue Plan temporarily expands the child tax credit for 2021 which aims to substantially reduce child poverty by supplementing the earnings of families receiving the tax credit. The U.S. Department of the Treasury states that Child Tax Credit has been revised in the following ways:

  1. The credit amount has been increased. The American Rescue Plan increased the amount of the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age 6, and $3,000 for other children under age 18.
  2. The credit’s scope has been expanded. Children 17 years old and younger, as opposed to 16 years old and younger, will now be covered by the Child Tax Credit.
  3. Credit amounts will be made through advance payments during 2021. Individuals eligible for a 2021 Child Tax Credit will receive advance payments of the individual’s credit, which the IRS and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service will make through periodic payments from July 1, to December 31, 2021. This change will allow struggling families to receive financial assistance now, rather than waiting until the 2022 tax filing season to receive the Child Tax Credit benefit.
  4. The credit is now fully refundable. By making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, low- income households will be entitled to receive the full credit benefit, as significantly expanded and increased by the American Rescue Plan.
  5. The credit is now extended to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories. For the first time, low- income families residing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories will receive this vital financial assistance to better support their children’s development and health and educational attainment.

To facilitate the disbursement of Child Tax Credit advance payments during 2021, the American Rescue Plan requires the IRS to establish an online portal for taxpayers to update relevant data for mid-year payment adjustments (for example, the birth of a child during 2021). In addition to this online tool, the Treasury Department and the IRS will carry out a sweeping public awareness campaign parallel to its Economic Impact Payment campaign to reach all Americans who may be eligible for this financial assistance.

What Are The Updated Requirements For The New Tax Credit?

There are net income limits and rules to be aware of. But simply put, if your adjusted gross income is $75,000 a year or less and you are a sole taxpayer, you can receive a full tax credit for your child. It fluctuates as your net income increases.

For now, the tax credit extends to:

Children ages 5< 

  • $3,600 per child

Children age 16<

  • $2,000 per child

Children age 17<

  • $3,000 per child

Children 18-24 currently enrolled in college and full-time status

  • $500 per child

To help see exactly how much money you’ll receive in advance, Kiplinger has released a Child Tax Credit Calculator. Try it out here.

Can Both Parents Receive The Monthly Payment In A Shared Custody Situation?

For parents who share custody, child support can sometimes add complications to their stimulus check total and eligibility. Furthermore, rules for the third payment have changed from the first two payments, removing a loophole that allowed some families to “double-dip” (both parents receiving their own dependent payment for the same child), among other major changes as listed earlier. If you are wondering if there are the same loopholes when it comes to claiming the new child tax credits, the short answer is “no”. Only one parent can claim a child and receive the credit.

So which parent gets the tax credits? When the terms of the divorce clearly identify a custodial parent — the parent who has primary custody of the child — that parent is legally entitled to claim the child as a dependent and receive any associated tax refunds. Many parents have a 50-50 custody agreement but don’t have a written agreement regarding which of the parents claims the child on their taxes. Whether you have primary custody or joint custody of a child after divorce, the fact remains that only one person can claim the child on each year’s tax forms.

Be aware that if you falsely claim your child, you will possibly have to pay all or a portion of that payment back the following year.

Can The Tax Credit Money Pay For Overdue Child Support?

If you are divorced and haven’t been paid the correct child support unfortunately, the tax credit cannot be used for overdue payments – according to the congressional research service. However, the credit you will claim in 2021 and 2022 can be subject to overdue child support CRS stated. 

What Action do Families Need to Take to Receive the Payment?

Most families won’t have to do anything to receive their child tax credit payment starting July 15. Similar to the stimulus payments, the CTC payments will be automatically deposited into the taxpayer’s bank account, or sent in the form of a prepaid debit card or paper check (depending on what information the IRS has on file for each qualifying taxpayer).

However, action should be taken for non-filers. Even those who made too little to file a 2020 tax return should do so now in order to receive the advanced monthly CTC payments in the future. The Treasury Department and the IRS say they will continue efforts to make more families aware of their eligibility.

Conclusion

If you have children or other dependents under the age of 17, you likely qualify for the Child Tax Credit that hits bank accounts July 17. When you address the issue of claiming children on taxes, it’s important to research your rights and make your claim correctly. 

If you need further assistance with a parenting plan or child support, you can contact Masters Law Group to schedule a consultation. We represent individuals in the Chicagoland area in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule, child support orders and allocation of parental responsibilities.

 

Can Your Ex-Spouse Just Move Away with The Kids?

Is your ex-spouse trying to move away with your children? One of the most difficult parts of a divorce is seeing your children less, and if your spouse moves away, it could make that even more difficult. Luckily, with the help of a Chicago family and divorce law firm, we can help prevent this from happening. 

Here are some factors that could affect the outcome if your ex-spouse wants to move your children away.

The custody arrangement

Now called Parenting Time, the child custody arrangement will affect whether or not your ex can move with your children. If you have partial custody, it’s unlikely that they can legally move far away. If you don’t have partial custody, and only have regular visits, there’s still a good chance the courts will not allow them to.

What is the distance of the move?

In several states, there is a specified range in which an ex-spouse can move with your children without at least giving notice. Typically, it must be within 50-100 miles.

Did they give formal notice?

Oftentimes, your ex-spouse must give a formal notice prior to moving. It should be in the form of a legal document and should include the destination, why they’re moving and a visitation plan. It should also be given at least 60 days before the move date.

Relocation trial

You have 30 days to object to the move when your ex-spouse proposes it, which will then result in a relocation trial. In most states, the courts treat staying in the same location as the norm, so your ex’s lawyers will have to be the ones arguing for the move. They will have to prove that the relocation is in your childrens’ best interests. There aren’t specific rules for these situations, so judges generally make different decisions case by case. The primary factors looked at by the courts include:

  • Custody arrangements
  • The distance of the move
  • The motivation of both parties
  • What is in the childrens’ best interest

Getting Professional Advice from Masters Law Group

At Masters Law Group, we specialize in all family law related matters and focus on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interest of their children.

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

If your ex-spouse is proposing to move away with your kids, we can help. Contact us to schedule your consultation here today. 

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PARENTING TIME SERVICES WITH MASTERS LAW-GROUP

Whether to hire a lawyer or navigate child custody solo is one of the first considerations for parents who are petitioning the court for child custody.

Parenting Time of your child is a very 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. Learn more and set up a consultation with us here today.