Tag Archive for: Family law Chicago

Why Some Couples Choose Civil Unions Over Marriage

If you want to make your partnership official you may be looking at all your options. Civil unions are recognized in a handful of states and often offer the same protections as marriage. Learn more about civil unions and how they compare to getting married here.

Civil unions are marriage-like agreements but there are some differences they share. Civil unions were created to allow same-sex couples to publicly commit to eachother without granting them perimission to marry.

Nowadays, civil unions are less relevant since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional in 2015 (Obergefell v. Hodges). It’s important to note that there are many people who remain in civil unions or domestic partnerships despite the availability of same-sex marriage.

For these reasons, the distinctions between marriage and civil unions may still produce legal issues. Here’s a look at why some couples choose civil unions over marriage.

What is a Civil Union?

In Illinois, a civil union is a legal relationship between two people that gives them legal rights to marriage. Civil unions first became recognized in 2011, when the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act was passed. Civil unions can be entered by same-sex or opposite sex couples.

Partners who enter civil unions are granted the same protections, responsibilities and benefits that one would normally receive in a marriage. Eligibility for those wanting a civil union include the following:

  1. Must be 18 years of age or older.
  2. Cannot be related – by the half or the whole blood or by adoption; an aunt or uncle and a niece or nephew, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood, or by adoption; or between first cousins.
  3. Cannot enter civil unions prior to dissolution of marriage or similar legal relationships.
  4. Individuals who live out of state, as that civil union would not be legal in their home state.

It is important to note that while civil unions are legally recognized in Illinois, they are not federally recognized.

Benefits of a Civil Union

One of the biggest benefits that a civil union provides couples with is the same state rights as a married couple in Illinois. It is for this reason that many decide to join a civil union. If a couple decides that they don’t want to be married for personal reasons or other reasons, they would still receive the same legal protections as a married couple. 

The second biggest benefit of a civil union is the access to employment and healthcare benefits. In a civil union, you have access to your partner’s employer provided health insurance. Marriage oftentimes comes with social and religious obligations that some may want to demonstrate to their partner differently. A civil union is a great way to do those things. 

Here is a list of some of the benefits that a civil union and a marriage share:

  • Inheritance rights, or the right to automatically inherit from your spouse after he or she dies.
  • Bereavement leave to mourn for your spouse.
  • Right to your spouse’s employment benefits, including health insurance.
  • Automatic designation as next-of-kin by medical professionals.
  • Joint ownership of property, and community property rights if you’re in a community property state.
  • Joint state tax filings.
  • Joint parental rights over children born to or adopted by the couple.
  • Right not to testify against your civil union partner, and
  • Right to seek financial support or alimony after a dissolution from the civil union.

Limitations of Civil Unions

The biggest difference between a civil union and a marriage is that the former is not recognized by the federal government. Therefore, you will only get protection at a state level (and that is assuming you live in a state that recognizes civil unions.) It is because of this that couples in a civil union can’t receive the same federally based benefits that married couples receive. For example, the Social Security Administration gives benefits to partners in a marriage, but not necessarily those in a civil union. The surviving spouse of a veteran may be eligible for health coverage in a marriage, but not always in a civil union. Consequently, many couples are now opting to get married instead of entering a civil union. 

The other difference is that while marriages are recognized by every state (if you get married in Illinois it will be recognized in New York) civil unions are not. That means if you get a civil union certificate in one state and then move to another state you might not get the same benefits.

As a result of these differences, it is important to consider which option is best for your new family. Though a prenuptial agreement isn’t the most romantic item on the agenda, it’s a great way to protect you and your assets before entering a marriage or civil union. An experienced attorney can answer any questions that you might have about the process.

Final Thoughts

Now that same-sex marriages are recognized federally civil unions may be a lot less popular and common. In fact, only five states allow them: Illinois, Colorado, Hawaii,  Vermont, and New Jersey. However, civil unions can be beneficial in two circumstances:

  • If you or your partner don’t believe in marriage or don’t like the idea of getting married, but still want many of the same legal protections.
  • If you or your partner don’t want to be recognized as legally married by the federal government because of tax purposes.

Several unique issues can arise during the process of establishing or dissolving a civil union, so it is vital to have a knowledgeable lawyer to guide you through every step.

At Masters Law Group, we provide professional and individualized legal representation for a wide range of family law concerns, including civil unions. Our firm has dedicated considerable time in order to become knowledgeable and up to date in this new area of family law. 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.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Parenting Time & Visitation Tips for Visit your Relatives Day

National Visit Your Relatives Day is recognized on May 18. It is a day dedicated to spending time with your loved ones and cherishing family time. Parenting Time of your child can be an emotional law topic. Parenting Time rights may be determined by the agreement of the parties or by a court order.

Masters Law Group represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. Here are a couple parenting time and visitation tips you can follow in honor or visit your relatives day.

Create a Parenting Plan

This is by far one of the most important steps you can take when you’re divorced and co-parenting. A parenting plan is a legally-binding agreement and should be respectfully treated as such. You can develop one informally if you are communicating well or you can have your attorney or mediator help create one for you. 

It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan. 

The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children. Once you have it in place, you’ll be a little more at ease. If you don’t already have one, it can make your life a little easier.

Be Reasonable when Establishing a Parenting Arrangement

A divorce is difficult to go through. At times you may need to take a step back and try to be reasonable when it comes to your children. Start by looking at the relationship your children have with each parent, and remember that children do best when they are allowed to continue to have a strong relationship with both parents. 

While you may have some disdain for the other person, your children love them. Pointing out every flaw the other parent has is not going to help your children when it comes down to establishing custody. 

Respect the Needs of Your Children

Children do not need to be put in the middle of your divorce. They need to know that both parents love them, and that both parents want to be part of their lives. Telling your children how horrible the other parent is will only confuse them. Respect the needs of your child by enjoying them when they are with you, doing your best to parent them. Unfortunately when it comes to younger children they aren’t able to verbalize what they want out of a custody arrangement, but older children can. For example, they may verbalize that they want to stay in the same home during the week while they are at school. 

Perhaps you were an absent parent, always on the road working. While it may be hard to agree that the child should spend more time with the other parent, your sacrifice will make the divorce easier on your children.

Think About Your Support Network

Having children is hard, and raising them without a support network is nearly impossible. Think about your new life, and how being divorced is going to impact your support network. Look at the people around you, and those you believe will still be around even during the aftermath of your divorce. While you can’t create a custody schedule based on support alone, it’s important that you have the help you need if an emergency arises.

Communication is Key

If the two of you struggle to communicate in a civil manner, it’s important to establish one form of communication right away. Many couples use different methods of communication but it’s ultimately what works for the both of them.  Nowadays there are various online software programs, where both parties can send messages, a calendar can be created, and all communication between the two of you can be recorded in one place. 

The court will look at this communication when there are issues brought forth to the court, and both parties will be held responsible for what they are communicating with the other person.

Final Thoughts

We hope with the help of these tips mentioned above, it can make way for you to navigate through parenting time and visitation in an appropriate and enjoyable manner. Shared legal and shared physical custody entitles you to regular visitation, and decision-making in all aspects of their lives. While the other parent may try to prohibit you from making decisions, you need to know that you have the legal right and obligation to help make these decisions. 

For more information on Divorce, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. With their in-depth knowledge and experience in Family Law, we’re sure to help you get through parenting time and visitation together.

Post Divorce Disputes on National Ex-Spouse Day

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

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

What is a Post-Divorce Dispute?

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

Some of the most common issues involve:

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

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

Post-Divorce Modifications in Illinois

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Celebrate National Ex-Spouse Day

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Divorce and Cryptocurrencies Part 3: Ethereum Assets.

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

In the second part of our Cryptocurrencies and Divorce series, we discussed the situations in which cryptocurrency can be found during the divorce settlement process and also if it can be lost within the settlement. While tracking down the funds isn’t an easy process, our third part of the series will give you a little more insight on the Cryptocurrency Ethereum Assets.

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

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

What is Ethereum?

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

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

Ether is used mainly for two purposes: It is traded as a digital currency on exchanges in the same way as other cryptocurrencies, and it is used on the Ethereum network to run applications. According to Ethereum, “people all over the world use ETH to make payments, as a store of value, or as collateral.”

Bitcoin Vs. Ethereum

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

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

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

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

Finding & Splitting Ethereum Assets

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

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

The costs associated with uncovering hidden cryptocurrency assets can also be substantial. Before moving forward with a court order to uncover potential hidden crypto assets, a spouse and their divorce lawyers may want to make sure that they are relatively certain about the outcome. 

The amount of money involved is also a consideration. People with a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars in undisclosed cryptocurrency are rarely the proper target of such an investigation. An experienced family law attorney may help a spouse concerned about crypto assets decide whether or how to pursue a court order and full forensic investigation. 

Final Thoughts

Living in a digital age like we do today, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies are expected to pop up in a divorce settlement. It is important to be prepared and make sure that crypto is properly discovered and valued in family law matters. If you know or suspect that cryptocurrency will be a part of your divorce, talk to your family law attorney immediately and put together a game plan for dealing with it. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Establishing Child Custody in Illinois

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

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

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

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

Illinois has jurisdiction to hear a child custody case if:

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

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

Determining a Child’s Best Interests in Illinois

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

Here are some of the following factors to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Masters Law Group Featured Hague Decisions:

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

How is Cryptocurrency Divided in Divorce?

Cryptocurrency is an asset like any other kind of asset, and as a result, it may be considered separate property or marital property. What many people do not understand is exactly how complicated this can become. 

Cryptocurrency is a type of code or software that dictates how a unit of currency is produced and regulated.  Essentially, the creator of the cryptocurrency makes the units using an algorithm that relies on cryptography to secure the currency. The most common cryptocurrency, and the first of its kind, is Bitcoin, but there are thousands of other types that can be purchased or earned.

Despite Bitcoin and Crypto prices being extremely volatile, (the recent Crypto crash being a prime example), cryptocurrency is gaining in popularity and becoming a more and more common asset seen in divorce cases.

Crypto and Divorce Trend

Cryptocurrency has gone from an obscure hobby to a significant investment for many people across the country. As crypto assets like bitcoin rose dramatically in price, many investors became wealthy, especially those who entered the crypto market in the early days. However, cryptocurrency can also add new complications to a divorce, particularly when it comes to dividing assets between divorcing spouses.

Here’s a look at some commonly asked questions about cryptocurrency assets in a divorce.

Q: What is Cryptocurrency and is it Considered Marital Property?

A: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that allows secure transactions on the internet without having to go through a bank. Bitcoins can be exchanged or traded for other currency, products, or services and have increased in use since their creation in 2008. With this increase comes new challenges in a divorce when it comes to dividing up assets.

Cryptocurrency is considered an asset and as a result, it may be considered separate property or marital property. In some cases, growth in the value of cryptocurrency during the marriage may be considered a marital asset, even if the original purchase took place before the marriage. 

This is especially true when both spouses were involved in using cryptocurrency, investing in crypto assets, or planning to rely on crypto to fund future financial ventures. If you’re a crypto investor considering divorce, you should always consult with your lawyer about how you can expect your investments to be affected by the separation.

Q: Can You Lose Bitcoin in a Divorce?

A: Bitcoins are 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 cannot be divided. Therefore, if the transaction was during the marriage, it is marital property and can be divided.

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

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

Q: Can Cryptocurrency Be Used to Hide Assets During Divorce?

A: A misinformation gap can easily arise especially when only one partner is involved in the crypto market and the other spouse has little knowledge on the aspects of crypto investments. This gap can lead to one partner not knowing what to look for when it comes to uncovering crypto holdings in the asset division process. 

The growing awareness of cryptocurrency technology has led to more divorce attorneys thinking about how to deal with crypto as a way of hiding assets. In some cases, a spouse may suspect the other party has undisclosed crypto holdings, while in other cases, they may notice that the other spouse suddenly seems to have a source of funds that is not tied to their existing employment or investments.

There are several ways that cryptocurrency assets may be discovered. The best-known and easiest to uncover are bitcoin and ethereum. Other cryptocurrencies may offer higher levels of anonymity. Those assets are much less valuable and more volatile than the better-known digital currencies. A forensic expert typically brought in by the parties, may search for cryptocurrency tickers, login credentials for exchanges, or keys for certain types of digital wallets.

Bank statements, credit card statements, and other financial documents may indicate transactions for crypto purchases from various exchanges.

Final Thoughts

During a marriage, it’s important for both partners to have an understanding of their marital income, and investments. With greater knowledge about finances shared between spouses, it can be far more difficult for one person to hide assets during a divorce. 

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 family law attorneys are here to answer your questions about divorce and digital asset division.

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

 

Hague Convention – International Child Abduction Questions and Answers

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

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

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

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (“ICARA”) which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence.

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

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

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

What Countries does the Hague Convention include? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I find a reputable parental child abduction attorney?

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

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

Masters Law Group Featured Hague Decisions:

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

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

 

Finding the Right Chicago Divorce Attorney

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

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

Setting Real Expectations & Goals

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

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

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

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

Read Reviews

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

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

Choose Local

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

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

Qualifications and Work History

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

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

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

Masters Law Group’s Attorney, Mr. Joseph is an active trial lawyer whose practice focuses exclusively on Family Law, with a particular emphasis on International Child Abduction and cross-border custody issues pursuant to the Hague Convention of 1980 and the UCCJEA. Mr. Joseph also publishes in the area of civil litigation. Mr. Joseph has also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Joseph is “AV” Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review, which is the highest peer review rating available and has been named a “Rising Star” by Illinois Super Lawyers in both 2019, 2020 and 2021. Mr. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Last Thoughts

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

Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

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

 

Welcome to Our NEW Home!

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

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

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

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

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system. Furthermore, Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. Mr. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

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

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

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

Contact Masters Law Group here today. 

How to Request a Modification of Child Support in Illinois

Divorces and separations can be emotionally overwhelming. Especially when a child is involved. In Illinois, it is always possible to ask the court to change a custody order, but getting a judge to agree to make a change isn’t always a straightforward process.

There are several ways that a child custody arrangement (also known as Parenting Time) can come about in Illinois. The parents of a child can develop their own agreement and then have it approved by a court. Or, the court can order custody based on the state’s laws.

Either way, there could come a time when one or both parents wish to change the arrangement in place. Here’s a look at what constitutes a “substantial change in circumstances” that would allow an agreement to be modified.

Modifications to Child Support Orders

In Illinois, a temporary child support order that has been entered while a child support proceeding is pending may be modified any time before the entry of a final judgment. Child support that has been established by a final judgment may be modified at any time from the entry of the order until the termination of the obligor parent’s obligation to pay child support under the order.  

Although child support may be modified at any time, a “substantial change in circumstances” must be demonstrated in order for the child support obligation to be modified. If you file a petition to modify a child support order based on “substantial change in circumstances” the child support obligation in question can be modified retroactively to the filing date of the petition, but can not have an earlier effective date.

Illinois child support obligations can only be modified by filing a petition for increase or decrease in child support with the court that has jurisdiction over your case.  The petition should state the basis for the request for modification explaining the change in child support obligation that you are requesting from the court.

Because you are seeking modification of an existing order, you do not need to serve the petition by the sheriff.  You can serve notice of the petition by mail at the responding party’s last known address. Note: if the petition seeks other action by the court other than the modification of child support, such as a change in the allocation of parental time and responsibility, the petition must be served by certified mail 30 days prior to the date of the hearing.

If you are seeking child support modification after a final judgment has been entered in your case, the notice must be delivered to the responding party, as opposed to his or her attorney, because the attorney’s representation is deemed to have ended at the entry of the final order.  

You should note that you cannot use self help to modify child support in Illinois.  If the other party fails to comply with visitation rights, you are not entitled to suspend your child support payments without obtaining an order from the court. 

Child Support Payments & Appeals

If you are appealing the final order in your child support case, you are still required to pay child support according to the terms of that order while the appeal is pending. However, you can request the court that entered the order to modify your child support obligations during the appeal process based on a showing of “substantial change in circumstances.

Reasons for Modification of Child Support in Illinois

The court has discretion to modify child support obligations based on either a substantial change of circumstances, upon a showing that the modification is necessary to provide for the healthcare needs of the child, or upon a showing of a substantial deviation between the child support obligation and the guidelines set forth by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“the IMDMA”). 

Child support modifications can be modified without a showing of a substantial change in circumstances if the petitioner can show that the obligor’s child support obligations differ from the guidelines set forth in the IMDMA by more than 20%, but no less than $10.00 per month, unless the court that entered the existing order intentionally deviated from the amounts shown in the guidelines.  

However, this option is only available to individuals who are receiving child support enforcement services from the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services and whose child support order was entered more than 36 months prior to seeking modification.

Those who may request a review include: 

  • Non-Custodial Parent: the parent who does not live with the child(ren),
  • Custodial Parent/Caretaker: the parent/caretaker who lives with the child(ren),
  • Healthcare and Family Services, or
  • Another state’s child support agency.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that all existing orders will remain in effect until a court or an administrative agency modifies the order. Your support order may be modified (increased or decreased) based on the income of the non-custodial parent and state law. 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 Support modifications and  Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. If you need to request modification of parenting time in Illinois, contact us here today to schedule a consultation.