Tag Archive for: divorce lawyer

Beaming With Pride: Illinois Civil Unions

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

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

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

What is a Civil Union?

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

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

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

Civil Union Guidelines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Illinois Divorce Process and Cryptocurrencies

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

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

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

Disclosing Bitcoins And Cryptocurrencies in an Illinois Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Do You Divide Crypto in Illinois?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Masters Law Group Can Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Step: Get Mentally Prepared

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

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

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

Anticipate Unexpected Costs

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

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

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

Dig Deeply Into Your Joint Finances

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

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

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

Decide if it’s a 50/50 Divorce

Unlike other states that divide the marital estate exactly in half, Illinois instead considers a variety of factors to determine an asset division arrangement that is fair and reasonable on both ends. Unfortunately, Illinois is not a 50/50 state for divorce. This means that the court weighs a number of factors to determine how to fairly divide property rather than dividing property 50/50. 

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

Decide if Divorce Mediation is for You

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

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

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

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

Uncontested Divorce

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?

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

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

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

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

A Quick Recap of Cryptocurrency 

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

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

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

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

Looking for Cryptocurrency

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

It is important to make sure that bitcoin is properly discovered and valued in family law matters. If you know or suspect that cryptocurrency will be a part of your divorce, talk to your family law attorney immediately and put together a game plan for dealing with it. This may include a plan for how to explain how cryptocurrency works with other parties or professionals in your case.

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

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

 

Divorce Planning: Finding Freedom in 2022

Celebrating the holidays with family and friends is one of the most anticipated times of the year. But for parents considering divorce, the holidays are not always a happy time. Now is a good time to figure out how to manage your expectations of divorce in 2022.

They say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” But is it, when considering a divorce? No matter how long you and your spouse have been together, a divorce can be draining—both emotionally and financially. It can be difficult if you’re unprepared or disorganized. With the new year around the corner, now may be the best time to prepare yourself for your next steps to finding freedom in 2022.

To make the transition as smooth as possible, the family law attorneys at Masters Law Group have put together divorce planning tips for 2022 to help you navigate through the process. Here’s what you should know.

Discuss the Divorce 

If you haven’t talked with your spouse about a divorce yet, decide when, where, and how to approach the subject. Try to pick a date that doesn’t coincide with a major event, which is why many individuals put off the process until the new year. Then, choose a time that will give both of you a chance to talk, think, reflect, and rest before work or other obligations arise. If possible, plan to have the conversation in a neutral place—out of the home and away from domestic triggers and distractions. Keep it simple, try to remain calm, and avoid saying more than you need to. 

Any divorce can get messy and complicated. It’s important to have a support system in place when you’re going through a hard time. A group of trusted friends and family members who will be there to listen and lend a hand will be especially important throughout this tough time. It’s also a good idea to meet with a therapist, especially if you’re coping with any trauma, such as domestic or substance abuse. 

Navigate Separation Details

Some couples live together until the divorce is final, but usually, one spouse or the other moves out before that time. Decide where you, your partner, and your children will live. Keep in mind that maintaining two separate homes will be expensive. Both you and your soon-to-be-ex should aim to spend no more than 25% of your respective take-home pay on rent or mortgage costs. Be sure to create a realistic budget that reflects the new living arrangements and ensures both households are safe. 

Compile Your Legal Documents

Part of divorcing is figuring out who gets what. A good place to start is to make a list and keep proper documentation of personal items that belong only to you, such as jewelry, family heirlooms, or photos and papers that have special meaning to you. If necessary, give these items to a trusted family member or friend for safekeeping. 

It’s essential to have your financial paperwork organized and in one place, such as a file or binder. Start by collecting and making copies of your legal documents, including:

  • Marriage documents: Agreements and marriage license
  • Tax returns: Federal and state tax returns for the past five years
  • Real estate: Deeds, appraisals, cost basis of home, mortgages, rental property records
  • Business documents: Receipts, tax returns, payroll information, and any registrations, patents, or trademarks
  • End-of-life plans: Will, power of attorney, advance healthcare directive

If you have trouble finding any documents (or your spouse is making it difficult), your attorney can help. 

Hire a Divorce Attorney

How well you are able to navigate through your divorce may rest in large part on your ability to produce documents and evidence that can support your claims for alimony, child support, a division of assets and other important issues. Even if your divorce is amicable, it’s best to hire an experienced attorney who will help you understand your rights and responsibilities—and ensure you follow the appropriate steps. That way, you can make educated decisions about you and your loved ones’ future. 

Making sure you are treated fairly is vital to give you the best chance of moving forward in the best possible way after your divorce is finalized. To find a reputable lawyer, seek out recommendations from family and friends or research several family law attorneys in your area. Either way, be sure to interview a few candidates to find the one with whom you will be most comfortable.

Final Thoughts

January is often dubbed “divorce month” because many people say, “Let’s make this the last good holiday for the kids and our families” or “Let’s wait until after the New Year when the kids go back to school.” No matter what the reason though, divorce is never easy. There is no “good” time for a divorce – period. Coming to terms with your divorce and divorce planning does not have to be hard.

At Masters Law Group, our award-winning attorneys are here to guide you through your divorce every step of the way and help you untangle the process. When you need the assistance of an experienced divorce 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.

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.

 

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.

5 Signs It’s Time to Consider Divorce

Divorce can be a draining, time consuming process when it comes to legally dissolving one’s marriage with their former spouse. It’s important to recognize warning signs that it may be time to consider the divorce process. In doing so, it will lessen the blow of preparing for this emotional journey.

Signs it’s time to get a divorce can be a confusing, especially when there are children involved. Therefore deciding whether you’re in a failing marriage that’s beyond repair is obviously not a choice that comes easily.

It’s not always as black and white as infidelity or financial problems, and while divorce is no one’s plan in life, these red flags could mean the end of your marriage.

1. Lack of Communication

Communication is a key ingredient to a healthy relationship.  Even when it leads to a disagreement — it is important for spouses to understand how the other is feeling. Some might think that avoidance of conversation to prevent arguments is preferable to fighting with a spouse.

When conversation breaks down completely – and neither of you are willing to put forth the effort to learn about what each other is feeling – is a clear indication that the relationship may no longer be worth the ongoing upset. 

2. Avoiding your Partner

You start to find ways to avoid any interactions with them, and would rather have no contact than negative confrontation. You find yourself wanting to spend more time with friends and family. This can be a sign that things have changed on your end in a big way.

3. Change in Values and Priorities

In good relationships couples value the same things. People can change over periods of time which is completely normal and healthy in a relationship, but what they once used to value no longer matters to them any more.

It could be as small or as big as a partner changing a couple things in their lifestyle which forces a new way of life upon their partner. For example, one partner wants to move somewhere for a job opportunity while the other would rather not. Unless both people can adapt to significant changes like this, it can be a tough one to surpass.

4. Indifference inside and outside the relationship 

If negative thoughts have begun to override the way you see your partner, things may be headed for divorce. Prolonged feelings of indifference toward your spouse is a major sign that something is off within your marriage. When you stop caring about what the other person thinks and feels, you’ve lost the ability to listen and connect—which is not as easy to fix.

5. Lack of Intimacy 

Feeling close to your partner goes far beyond the physicality of the relationship.  The deficiency of emotional intimacy is equally as big of a sign as the more apparent lack of physical intimacy. If you feel like you can’t connect with your spouse on a deeper level—or don’t want to—you’ve lost an important part of the marriage.

It’s always possible to seek out counseling to find out what’s not working. But if you’re past the point of feeling attracted to your partner, divorce may be the next step. 

Final Thoughts

Breaking up a marriage can be one of the hardest things to do — but thinking long term is the best way to go about these types of situations. Divorce can be frightening and overwhelming. But when you break it down into small, manageable steps, like those outlined above, it becomes somewhat “do-able” to leave a relationship that no longer benefits you and your family. 

It could mean setting time aside to sit down and openly talk to your partner about your feelings, going to counseling or maybe even starting the separation process. Living unhappily is not necessary and there is usually a light at the end of every tunnel —if you look hard enough. 

Read more

Managing Your Money After a Pandemic Divorce

As the world slowly begins its back-to-normal phase, the aftermath of the pandemic has left a lot of devastation in its wake. If your marriage didn’t survive quarantine, here’s how to get your finances back on solid ground after a divorce. Read more

Helpful Actions for Children While Going Through a Divorce

Each year, thousands of US children face the extreme stress associated with divorce. Parents should provide their children with understanding and support with patience, reassurance, and a listening ear as your children learn to cope with unfamiliar circumstances.

Going through the process of divorce is a challenging life transition for both parents and children. Many times the initial reaction is one of shock, sadness, frustration, anger, or worry. But kids also can come out of it better able to cope with stress, and many become more flexible, tolerant young adults. While you can’t make your child’s hurt go away, you can help them cope with the various disappointments divorce brings. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind.

Breaking the News

When it comes to telling your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up. Of course how you tell your children is a very personal choice, but try to make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing what you’re going to say before you sit down to talk.

Because children often assume that they are somehow to blame, begin by letting them know what happened is definitely not their fault and they are loved by both parents – and that will never change. If possible, try to break the news together with your ex partner. By demonstrating solidarity and maturity, you will help paint a picture of a drama-free future as their minds race to “what now?”.

The discussion should fit the child’s age, maturity, and temperament; with younger children try to keep things simple, older teens will be more in tune with what you, as parents, have been going through, so more details will be beneficial.

Avoid the Blame Game

It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. Confining negativity and blame to private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside the home will help children feel less “torn” between parents, therefore creating less stress on them.

If you and your ex can’t agree on matters like parenting time or allocation of parental responsibilities, save this information for your family law attorney as you navigate these new waters. Your message to the kids should be united, reassuring, and free of bickering and blame.

Expect the Unexpected

While many children will be confused, hurt, saddened and shocked, many also don’t react right away when faced with the news their parents are splitting. Sometimes it’s simply because they are overwhelmed and don’t know how to process the information, while others don’t want to upset their parents by acting as if everything is fine, or try to avoid any difficult feelings by denying that they feel any anger or sadness at the news. Let them know that that is OK, too and that they can talk when they are ready.

Whether your kids express fear, worry, or relief about your separation and divorce, they’ll want to know how their own day-to-day lives might change.

Be prepared to answer these possible questions:

  • Who will I live with?
  • Will I go to the same school?
  • Where will each parent live?
  • Where will we spend holidays?
  • Will I still get to see my friends?
  • Can I still do my favorite activities?

Being honest is not always easy when you don’t have all the answers or when children are feeling scared. But telling them what they need to know at that moment is always the right thing to do.

Helping Children Cope

Like any big life change, many children experience grief when parents are divorcing. Mourning for the family unit they once had is normal, but over time, you and your children need to work through the grieving process and accept and adapt to the new situation.

Here are some ways to help kids cope with the upset of a divorce, according to KidsHealth.org:

  • Encourage honesty. Kids need to know that their feelings are important to their parents and that they’ll be taken seriously.
  • Help them put their feelings into words. Kids’ behavior can often clue you in to their feelings of sadness or anger. You might say: “It seems as if you’re feeling sad right now. Do you know what’s making you feel so sad?” Be a good listener, even if it’s difficult for you to hear what they have to say.
  • Legitimize their feelings. Saying “I know you feel sad now” or “I know it feels lonely without dad here” lets kids know that their feelings are valid. It’s important to encourage kids to get it all out before you start offering ways to make it better. Let kids know it’s also OK to feel happy or relieved or excited about the future.
  • Offer support. Ask, “What do you think will help you feel better?” They might not be able to name something, but you can suggest a few ideas — maybe just to sit together, take a walk, or hold a favorite stuffed animal. Younger kids might especially appreciate an offer to call daddy on the phone or to make a picture to give to mommy when she comes at the end of the day.
  • Keep yourself healthy. For adults, separation and divorce is highly stressful. That pressure may be amplified by custody, property, and financial issues, which can bring out the worst in people. Finding ways to manage your own stress is essential for you and your entire family. Keeping yourself as physically and emotionally healthy as possible can help combat the effects of stress, and by making sure you’re taking care of your own needs, you can ensure that you’ll be in the best possible shape to take care of your kids.
  • Keep the details in check. Take care to ensure privacy when discussing the details of the divorce with friends, family, or your lawyer. Try to keep your interactions with your ex as civil as possible, especially when you’re interacting in front of the kids. Take the high road — don’t resort to blaming or name-calling within earshot of your kids, no matter what the circumstances of the separation. This is especially important in an “at fault” divorce where there have been especially hurtful events, like infidelity. Take care to keep letters, e-mails, and text messages in a secure location as kids will be naturally curious if there is a high-conflict situation going on at home.
  • Get help. This is not the time to go it alone. Find a support group, talk to others who have gone through this, use online resources, or ask your doctor or religious leaders to refer you to other resources. Getting help yourself sets a good example for your kids on how to make a healthy adjustment to this major change.

The process of explaining the issue and giving suggestions to your children will help them see divorce in a better perspective.

Adjusting to a New Life

While it’s good for kids to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new circumstances at once can be very difficult. Help your kids adjust to change by providing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives.

It’s crucial that you and your ex create a schedule that lessens the likelihood that your child will experience divided loyalties because they may feel like they have to choose sides. When both parents work together to determine schools, activities, social calendars and all the other aspects of the child’s life, it fosters a cohesive daily experience for the child, no matter whose house they are at on a given day.

At the end of the day, children are the most important assets a married couple can own. When children are confident of the love of both of their parents, they have an easier time adjusting to co-parenting after divorce.

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Masters Law Group – Experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

Divorce certainly has the potential to change the lives of parents and children, and while it is a difficult process, help and support is available.

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation for everyone involved. 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.

Divorce cases involving children require specialized knowledge.  The attorneys at Masters Law Group are highly experienced in the following legal areas associated with separating parents:

Don’t go it alone. Schedule a Consultation with us here today to speak about your family law case.