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Illinois Super Lawyers Recognize Masters Law Group Attorneys

Masters Law Group is proud to announce the firm’s Attorneys named by Super Lawyers in  both ‘Rising Stars’ and ‘Super Lawyer’ categories. 

Masters Law Group attorneys Erin Masters was named Super Lawyer list by Illinois Super Lawyers Magazine in 2020 and now 2021. Additionally, the firm’s Illinois-based attorney, Anthony Joseph was also granted the 2020 Illinois Rising Stars list as well.

The Super Lawyers designation, conferred upon the most respected legal practitioners in the state, is based upon peer recognition and professional achievement. No more than five percent of the lawyers in each state are selected by the research team to receive this honor. Rising Stars are those up-and-coming attorneys who are 40 years of age or younger and have practiced law for 10 years or less. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team to receive this honor.

About Erin Masters

Erin E. Masters is the principal of Masters Law Group, located in Chicago, Illinois. The firm handles family law matters in Cook County and surrounding counties. Masters Law Group concentrates in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support and Hague Convention/ international child abduction matters.

Ms. Masters earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, where she attended on a merit based scholarship, was a member of the Athlete Honor Roll, a participant of the NCAA Division II Track and Field Team and graduated in three (3) years with Provost’s Honors.

Ms. Masters 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.

About Anthony Joseph

Anthony G. Joseph is an attorney at the firm of Masters Law Group, LLC. Mr. Joseph received his B.A. degree in Global Economic Relations from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

He obtained both his J.D. degree and Certificate in Trial Advocacy from The John Marshall Law School. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November 2010, the Federal General Bar and Trial Bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2012 and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2020.

Mr. Joseph is an active trial lawyer. Mr. Joseph publishes in the area of civil litigation. Mr. Joseph has also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University. 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 concentrates his practice in area of domestic relations, which includes divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities and child support. Mr. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time as well as prosecuted and defended Orders of Protection. Ms. Joseph has also successfully litigated matters concerning modification and enforcement of child support,. Mr. Joseph has also litigated cases in both state court and multiple United States Federal Courts involving The Hague Convention and international child abduction issues.

About Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

According to Super Lawyers, the “Rising Stars” and “Super Lawyers” selection process is a comprehensive, good-faith, and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers who have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards, and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their field.

Selection Process

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.

For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Contact Masters Law Group

Masters Law Group LLC has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Divorce field. Schedule a consultation here to speak with an attorney regarding your family law matter today.

U.S. Hague Convention Treaty Partners

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

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, also known as the Hague Abduction Convention, is a treaty that ensures that a child internationally abducted by a parent is returned to their habitual country as quickly as possible.

The convention’s primary goal is to preserve a status quo child custody arrangement that existed immediately before an alleged wrongful removal or retention. This is to deter a parent from crossing international borders to find a more sympathetic court to rule a custody battle in his/her favor. Additionally, the child must be 15 or younger for the treaty to apply.

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

Hague Convention Treaties

The Hague Convention is a treaty that many countries, including the United States, have joined. So how do you determine whether the treaty is “in force” between the U.S. and the other country involved? The Federal Judicial Center explains:

‘The issue whether the Convention is “in force” between states can be complex. There are differences between the processes by which a state can be bound by the treaty, specifically between those who are “member states” and those who become “party states.” Member states are those states that were members of The Hague Conference on Private International Law at the time of adoption of the Child Abduction Convention at the 14th Session in 1980.

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

The legal significance of ratification versus accession is important.

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

The treaty “enters into force” between two countries when they are both bound by the Convention. In order for the Convention to enter into force between a member state and a party state, the member state must expressly accept the accession by the party state. The same applies to the accession of one party state vis-á-vis another acceding party state; that is, the accession must be specifically accepted by the previously acceding party state.’

As of July 2019, 101 states are a party to the convention. Like other multilateral treaties, such as extradition treaties, some countries that have signed a Hague Convention treaty with the United States are noncompliant or refuse to hold up the terms of the treaty.

List of U.S Hague Convention Treaty Partners

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

Final Thoughts

As you can see, most of the world, including the United States, belongs to the Hague Convention, and periodically they will negotiate treaties to streamline international justice.

When family law disputes cross not just state but national boundaries, it is essential to have a knowledgeable Illinois-based family law attorney who understands all of the laws that go along with child custody cases, including international custody cases.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

We have extensive knowledge and experience with The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) that was enacted into law through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (“ICARA”) which provides that a parent whose child has been wrongfully removed from or retained in the United States may petition for the child’s return to his or her country of habitual residence. Contact us here today to set up a complimentary consultation.

Q&A: Child Support During COVID-19.

The current global pandemic has caused devastating blows to both public health and the financial security of millions of Americans. For parents who have court orders to pay child support, the financial outlook may be especially bleak.  Read more

Protecting Your Business During a Divorce.

Under Illinois law, all marital property is subject to an equitable division between spouses. That includes all assets and debts acquired during the marriages, including income earned by efforts of either spouse. Meaning if you started a business during the marriage, it’s likely marital property.

The last thing you want to happen during a divorce is lose half of the business you’ve worked so hard to build. It’s important to put a protection plan in place that may help prevent a contentious situation between you and your spouse.

In Illinois, there are three main ways to protect your business during a divorce.

Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement

A formal agreement can help facilitate a resolution and ease anxiety for both parties at a time when emotions are likely running high. It’s best to consult an attorney to ensure appropriate disclosures are made because in Illinois, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements are not enforceable if either party did not provide a reasonable disclosure of their debts and assets.

If it’s found that you significantly undervalued the business, you could be accused of fraud and the agreement will be invalidated. For that reason, it’s also a good idea to get the business valued by a qualified business appraiser.

Providing Documentation

Even without a pre or postnuptial agreement, there are several steps to protect your business during a divorce.

  • First, you can establish yourself as the sole owner of your business by making sure the organizing documents for the firm clearly specify that the business cannot be transferred in the event of a divorce. In this case a cash award may be made to the non titled spouse.
  • Second, keep your business and personal expenses clearly separated. Untangling commingled funds adds unnecessary complexity for advisors and could be detrimental to the settlement.
    It’s important to keep clear records of both capital sources for the business, as well all cash transactions.
  • Lastly, if your spouse works at your business, even in a minor capacity, it’s essential they were paid market rates for their services. Otherwise, they may seek a higher percentage of the company’s value.

Seek Advice from an Experienced Divorce Attorney

One of the best things you can do is contact a divorce attorney early in the predicament who is experienced in handling divorces for business owners.

At Masters Law Group, we understand how stressful a divorce can be. That’s why we move through settlement negotiations, meditations or litigations with our clients assurance and well being at top of mind. We’re skilled at identifying and valuing assets and wealth, including real estate, securities, business interests, retirement funds, pension plans, tax shelters, overseas accounts, stock options, trust and other actual or potential sources of wealth.

If you are looking to explore your options on divorce or legal separation with professional and experienced advisors, contact Masters Law Group to schedule an appointment here.

USA Accepts Pakistan’s Accession to the Hague Convention: International Child Abduction.

The United States has now accepted Pakistan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention. The Convention was entered into force between the two countries on October 1, 2020.

What is the Hague Convention?

According to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year. That is more than 2,000 a day. The NCMEC says that 203,000 children are kidnapped each year by family members.

The convention is a multilateral treaty that establishes proceedings for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or kept away from their home country.

Currently, there are 98 contracting states to the Hague Convention.

Previous Issues with Pakistan

Pakistan has been consistently non-compliant with international norms concerning the return of children who are abducted to Pakistan. In prior years, the U.S. State Department reported frequently to Congress that that was the case.

It is also essential to understand that the Convention contains no provisions that will require recognition and enforcement of foreign custody orders. However, the compliance has been welcomed by the United States with hopes of a brighter future.

United States Accept Pakistan’s Accession

On October 1 2020, The United States accepted Pakistan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention.

The department said on its website, the US accepted Pakistan’s accession to the convention on July 1. It said that the convention would put in place an internationally recognized legal framework to resolve cases of parental child abduction between the two countries.

As partners, we will enhance our shared commitment to protecting children and open a new chapter in the vibrant US-Pakistan relationship…Preventing and resolving cases of international parental child abduction is one of the Department’s highest priorities.

The Department will continue to engage with Pakistani government officials regarding the partnership:

We look forward to welcoming Pakistan as a new partner in this global effort to address international parental child abduction.

If you need assistance with issues regarding International Child Abduction. You don’t have to go it alone.

Schedule a Consultation with Masters Law Group

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.

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

Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.

Divorce or Legal Separation: What’s best for you?

During the inevitably stressful time of going through a break up, it’s important to go through your options. To best determine what type of separation is best for you and your family, let’s first understand the difference between divorce and legal separation.

Divorce vs. Legal Separation

Your first thought may immediately go to divorce, and that is understandable due to it being the most common approach to seemingly irreconcilable differences. However, you have another option that is less permanent that is worth considering. There is a large difference between deciding to be physically separated from your spouse and legally separated from them.

A divorce means your marriage is 100% legally over, the court can assist in determining the allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time, and child support. The court can also determine spousal support and divide property. Couples that have decided they can’t reconcile may be ready for an immediate divorce. However, even if you believe you will ultimately file for a divorce, a legal separation is worth to consider.

A legal separation is a less permanent option, meaning you’re living apart but still legally married. If you don’t think you can live with your spouse, you can file for legal separation. Obtaining a legal separation does not prevent you or your spouse from obtaining a divorce later. Legal separation is less emotionally taxing than divorce because the permanence of a divorce isn’t there which still allows for the legal relationship to exist between the married couple. The court can order a separation between you and your spouse, and it would include similar aspects to a divorce such as allocation of child support and custody arrangements.

When is a legal separation the better option?

Divorce may be the best option for you, it often is for many couples. However, there are some situations where a legal separation rather than divorcing straight away would make the most sense.

  • You’re not sure if your partnership is ready for a divorce, you just need some separation
  • Your religion doesn’t permit divorce
  • Certain benefits are at risk such as health insurance, social security, and others

As much as you may feel differently now, most couples are capable of making a compromise or would agree to a specified time to attempt to reconcile their differences. For troubled marriages, a legal separation is a solution that is often overlooked, but proven very effective for many couples that give it a go. The separation may ultimately lead to a divorce, but at least you can rest assured that you did everything that you could to try to repair your marriage.

Additional common questions about legal separation in Illinois

– Can I still get a Legal separation if my spouse does not live in Illinois?

Yes, you can still get a legal separation granted by the court when your spouse doesn’t live in Illinois, or never has lived there. Something the court may potentially not be able to decide upon in this scenario is custody of children.

– Can custody be decided in a legal separation?

Yes, custody can be decided between the partners if the child has lived in Illinois for over 6 months.

– How long do you have to live in Illinois to file for a legal separation?

You have to be living in Illinois for at least 90 days.

– Where should you begin with this overwhelming decision?

Hiring an experienced legal advocate that is well-versed in family law will be the best option for you moving forward. They can help explain this process to you and is the greatest way to ensure the best possible outcome that is custom and unique to your family’s situation.

At Masters Law Group, we provide divorce and legal separation services and also represent clients involved in these matters. If you are looking to explore your options on divorce or legal separation with professional and experienced advisors, contact Masters Law Group to schedule an appointment here.

 

 

Child Custody During COVID-19 and The Holidays

Dealing with child custody issues is stressful enough. Dealing with child custody issues during the COVID holidays poses an entirely complicated dilemma. Here’s how keep the magic alive for your children and ensure that the 2020 holidays are your best yet.

Shared custody is raising COVID-19 concerns as kids travel between households for the holidays this year. Millions of children split their time between parents every week and even more so during the holidays, but concerns over pandemic safety can make that time even more stressful.

Parents are facing unforeseen issues this year such as:

  • The child having to travel to another part of the state, or another state altogether, to visit their parent
  • One parent living in a COVID-19 hotspot
  • One parent had COVID-19 or is currently experiencing symptoms
  • One parent is not being careful about COVID-19 and could be putting the child in danger
  • One parent does not feel the virus is a true health threat
  • One parent is immunocompromised and in isolation
  • There may be a second wave and more shelter-in-place orders

These new and complex issues may be even more difficult if the courts backed up with cases because of the nationwide lockdowns this past year.

If you’re concerned about COVID-19 and your child’s holiday visitation schedule, then there are steps you can take to work it out with your co-parent, and then go directly to the court to ensure it is legally binding.

Parenting Time COVID Rules

Unless your specific court order prevents out-of-state travel or has other restrictions, then generally speaking, each parent may choose to travel during the holidays even during the pandemic, whether or not the other parent agrees. However, violating state travel laws, CDC and state quarantine guidelines and court-ordered visitation arrangements can potentially affect a custody case. Furthermore, personal issues may also arise when one parent feels safe with airline travel or interstate travel and the other parent prefers to stay at home and self-isolate.

First and foremost, if you chose to travel with your children during the holidays, check in advance for any quarantine restrictions. Following state-imposed guidelines while traveling and attending events during the holidays will help minimize or reduce any potential impact to your custody arrangement.

In Illinois, the Department of Public Health (IDPH) is offering recommendations on how to celebrate safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.  During a time when social distancing and limiting the number of people at gatherings is important, special considerations should be taken.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “While the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually, we know, for many, the holidays are all about family and friends, so we want to provide some tips on how to celebrate safer.”

The guidelines also say if you are hosting a holiday gathering, limit the number of guests and try to have as many activities outside as weather permits.

What this Means for Separated Parents

This is going to be a long winter for our country, businesses, schools, and families — no doubt. It will take a child-focused, selfless perspective by countless co-parents this holiday season in how to best approach visitation and traditions with families and children.

First and foremost, you must remember that child custody agreements in Illinois, and in every other state, are legally binding. As long as a parent is following these state guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions, most judges will not alter custody orders to prevent one parent from traveling with the children.

While it’s tempting to want to ask that you have your children for the entire holiday season, you should not be angry or upset with your ex-partner if you are denied this due to the schedule set by the court. This year, it is highly suggested that people who live together celebrate together, rather than mixing households. Consider hosting a virtual holiday get together or check in with your kids and mailing your gifts instead. We know it hurts to not be able to visit your children for the holidays, but if it means risking your own life to do so, it’s worthwhile to heavily consider the alternatives.

If you believe a holiday visitation or celebration could place your child and your family at a heightened risk for COVID-19, you should communicate this fact to the other parent and/or your attorney. Offer some safer options and attempt to be as flexible and compassionate as possible. Always try to set emotion aside and as parents, choose what is best for your children and your family as a whole.

Final Thoughts

This is going to be a long winter for our country, businesses, schools, and families — no doubt. It will take a child-focused, selfless perspective by countless co-parents this holiday season in how to best approach visitation and traditions with families and children. Most of all, keep in mind who the holidays are the most special for: your children.

If you need legal assistance to modify a child custody or parenting time agreement to reflect new choices that better keep your family safe, contact the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group. We represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule.

 

Navigating The Hague Convention – International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. The powerful international treaty that can yield beneficial results when it is implemented correctly and appropriately.

The History of the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“The Hague Convention”) 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.

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

As of July 2019, there are 101 states are a party to the convention.

Initiating the Process

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 county’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.

Defenses/Objections

If the conditions for the return of a child to the country of habitual residence are established, there are at least six possible defenses, or exceptions to the mandatory return of a child. The burden of proof rests firmly upon the parent who opposes the return.

Under the Convention, a court may deny return of an abducted child if one of the following defenses apply:

  • There is a 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;
  • The child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which the court can take account of the child’s views; or
  • More than one year has passed since the wrongful removal or retention occurred and the child has become settled in his or her new environment.
  • The party seeking return consented to or subsequently acquiesced to the child’s removal or retention.
  • The return would violate the fundamental principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country where the child is being held.
  • The party seeking return was not actually exercising rights of custody at the time of the wrongful removal or retention;

Note: Interpretation of these exceptions varies from country to country.

Outcomes

If a court decides that a child must be returned to its country of habitual residence, it may make the return contingent upon certain “undertakings” from the petitioning parent. These may include: 

  • A requirement that the petitioner pay for the respondent and child to travel to the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner make appropriate housing arrangements for the respondent and child in the country where the child habitually resides.
  • A requirement that the petitioner pay living expenses for the respondent and child in the country of the child’s habitual residence.
  • An order that the petitioner have no contact with the respondent if the respondent returns to the country of the child’s habitual residence.
  • An order that the petitioner will have no contact or limited (e.g., supervised) contact with the child once the child returns to the country of the habitual residence.

As you can see, international custody disputes are almost always extremely complex and delicate situations, and you should not attempt to navigate them without the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.

Why Choose Masters Law Group?

International custody issues can be incredibly difficult to deal with as a parent because of the concern you have for the safety and security of your child, and should be handled properly by a knowledgeable attorney.

Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes and kidnapping in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.

Read the details of our most recent successful Hague Convention case here. Furthermore, see what our clients have to say on representing their Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction case:

 

I had a very difficult case in the United States Federal Court. My ex husband filed a Petition against me under the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child abduction asking to return our two sons to Lithuania. Seeking for the legal representation, I was advised by the U.S. Department of State to contact lawyer Erin E. Masters. I was so lucky to have the team of the best lawyers Erin E. Masters and Anthony G. Joseph representing me in this difficult trial.

They represented with the highest standards of law, but also provided support and empathy through the process. The communication was fantastic, always answered every question, explained every situation and possible outcome. As it was a very fast track case, Erin and Anthony worked hard including weekends to prepare everything for the hearing. There was only one hearing and the Decision was totally in my favor. All my family, especially the kids, are very grateful! It is also fair to mention that the legal expenses for the amount of services provided was very very reasonable. Taking in mind my difficult financial situation, Erin even agreed to provide the service for the reduced fee.

I will gladly recommend Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph to represent any of my friends and family in need of an excellent and highly professional family attorney.

— Aistė Šulcaitė

Final Thoughts

Instead of trying to figure out international law issues alone, contact the Family Law Attorneys at Masters Law Group. Our experienced team will help you navigate the legal complexities of your case and are committed to vigorously representing you in these frightening, high-stakes proceedings.

Contact us to schedule your consultation here today. 

Divorce Disputes: Know Your Rights

Divorce can be an extremely emotional time. On top of this, couples need to decide how to split their assets, including money, the marital home and the custody of the children.

The divorce process is stressful and can easily bring out the worst in people. Although divorce can get you out of an unhappy marriage, it can also leave you high and dry if you don’t know your rights.

Emotional vs Financial Decisions

Divorce professionals will tell you that it’s best to approach your settlement discussions as a business discussion; but how do you take your emotions out of your divorce negotiations?

Fear, anger, sadness, loss. While you should let yourself feel all of these emotions and seek out the support you need to get through the hurt, when it comes to the divorce process itself, controlling your emotions is key to getting the outcome that you are looking for.

Reasons why these discussions need to be more about business than emotions include:

  • The legal system is not set up to resolve disagreements based on moral arguments, but bound by statutes and case law and these likely will not provide resolution for the wrongs you’ve experienced.
  • Decisions based on emotions are not the best long term or even short term decisions. For example a fight over a home you can’t afford to upkeep will only harm your financial future.
  • You could easily end up regretting your emotional decisions further down the line. For example you realize something you are fighting for is harming the welfare of the children.

Letting go of those feelings during the divorce process not only helps keep the focus on protecting your legal rights, but it also gets rid of those old hopes and dreams so you can start building new ones for the future.

If your marriage has any complicated issues to settle (see below), a family law attorney can be an invaluable resource.

Spousal Support/Alimony

While divorce may end a marriage, it doesn’t necessarily end the obligations of one spouse to another. Oftentimes, one spouse is able to receive spousal support, or alimony, to help them establish a new, post-divorce life.

The court will award financial assistance based on factors such as the duration of the marriage, each person’s earning capacity, contributions to the household and physical health of the recipient.

There are five different types of alimony that may be awarded:

  • Rehabilitative Alimony: Granted for a specified time period. It provides the recipient with the funds to obtain the job skills and education needed for him or her to become self-sufficient.
  • Lump-Sum Alimony: A one-time, fixed payment and is often granted in lieu of a property settlement. The amount awarded is equal to the total of future monthly payments.
  • Permanent Alimony: Which continues until the recipient remarries or either payor or payee dies. The payments may be adjusted due to changes in financial circumstances.
  • Reimbursement Alimony: The dutiful spouse who works full time to put her partner through school and is divorced shortly after is a candidate for reimbursement alimony. As the name implies, this support reimburses one spouse for expenses incurred in helping the other complete an education or training program.
  • Temporary Alimony: Temporary alimony is sometimes paid when a couple separates but the divorce is not final. The parties execute a written marital separation agreement stipulating how much and when payment will be made.

Property Disputes

When the court grants a divorce, property will be divided equitably (not always equally) between the two spouses. This is decided under the Equitable Distribution Law. During the divorce both spouses have to tell the court about their income and any debts they owe. There are two different types of property for the purposes of a divorce. Property that the couple bought during the marriage is called “marital property”. Property that belonged to you before the marriage or was a gift to just you from someone other than your spouse is called “separate property”. Marital property can be divided between the two spouses. Rather than using an automatic 50/50 split, an Illinois judge will consider all relevant factors in deciding what kind of property division is fair.

There’s no hard and fast rule for who gets the house in an Illinois divorce. In cases where a couple can’t afford to keep the marital home, a judge will order the house to be listed and sold as soon as possible so that the couple could divide the proceeds.

Child Custody

Probably the most contentious and emotionally difficult aspect of a divorce is deciding on custody of the children.

In an Illinois divorce or custody case, either parent may request custody, or both parents may agree to joint custody.

You may also ask the court to determine custody in other situations, including:

  • If you are not married to the other parent but need to determine custody of a child.
  • If you want to be the legal guardian of a child.
  • If you need to determine who the parent of your child is.

Parents may share legal custody, or legal custody may be vested in one parent (i.e. sole legal custody). While it is possible to share residential custody, such arrangements are oftentimes impractical or would impose too much stress on their children.

Child custody cases are intensely fact specific, and it is important to speak to an experienced family law attorney before letting emotions or fear dictate your decisions should you be faced with a custody battle.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Divorce

Despite what you hear and see on television, most legal disputes never make it to court and are usually resolved by a settlement outside of court proceedings.

Resolving divorce issues listed above can happen without lengthy and expensive litigation. More couples are now going with alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to end their marriages. The popularity of mediation has shifted the role of divorce attorneys from representing their clients in a legal battle to acting as divorce mediation lawyers to help clients achieve mediation success. In this new role attorneys can serve as a lawyer coaches, legal consultants, and legal advisers in the divorce mediation process.

ADR may prove to be a beneficial tool in resolving your divorce and related issues, depending on factors such as the degree to which you and your spouse are in dispute on key issues, and your willingness to work together to resolve those issues.

Get the help you need

Unfortunately, while it is always possible to represent yourself in a divorce case, it may not always be advisable.

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.

Divorce cases involving substantial assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge. Masters Law Group is skilled at identifying and valuing assets and wealth, including real estate, securities, business interests, retirement funds, pension plans, tax shelters (domestic and foreign), overseas accounts, stock options, trusts and other actual or potential sources of wealth.

Schedule a Consultation today to learn more about how we can assist as your Divorce Mediators and Attorneys.

 

Making a Parenting Plan for Thanksgiving

If this is your first Thanksgiving as a divorced or separated parent, there could be a lot of confusion wondering how to create a fair parenting plan. If the holiday periods haven’t been defined in the custodial arrangements yet, make sure that you are creating a plan that is fair and takes the best interest of the children into consideration.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday November 26th. A time designed for family gatherings, it’s a tough spot for many recently-divorced or separated parents.

Because Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend are times when both parents want to be with the child or children, you want to make solid arrangements for this holiday in your holiday schedule. The obvious answer is to divide up the holidays, but it’s often hard to imagine how the holidays could be split in a way that feels fair to everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the options for splitting custody for Thanksgiving and other important holidays.

Alternating Holidays

For many parents, it makes sense to take an odd/even approach to the holiday season. For example, one parent could have the child/children for Thanksgiving on odd years, but Christmas for even years. The other parent would have the children for Thanksgiving on odd years and Christmas on even years. This way, each parent has their children for some of the big holidays every year, and they never go more than one year without their child for any given holiday.

Fixed Holidays

An an alternative choice by parents during the holidays is a fixed holiday schedule. This takes a more simple approach of assigning a certain holiday, every year, to a certain parent. While this could cause some form of conflict for those to want to alternate the holidays, it works well for separated couples with different religions. For example, if one parent is Jewish, they will have the child(ren) over Hanukkah, and if the other parent Christian, they will have the child(ren) over the Christmas holidays. However, this does leave holidays like Thanksgiving up for debate where individuals of almost every religion celebrate throughout the United States.

Split Holidays

Split holidays are a great idea if both parents live close together as the child(ren) can spend Thanksgiving (or any holiday) with BOTH parents at different locations. The only thing to decide upon is the time. For example, one parent can have custody the day prior and the first half of Thanksgiving day, then the other parent has custody the second half of the Thanksgiving and the following day. For obvious reasons, if the parents’ homes or holiday celebrations are too far apart, it can get more complicated.

Double Holidays

Finally, some parents may choose to run “double holidays” where they both have a day of celebrations, just on different days. Parents can simply let the custody schedule play out as is, letting whichever parent would normally have the child on the official holiday date celebrate that day, and the other parent can celebrate with the child on their next scheduled visit. Alternatively, parents can designate a date for the second holiday – one parent celebrates Thanksgiving on the 26th and the other celebrates on the 30th. In this scenario, parents could alternate years so that they each get the official holiday every other year.

Final Thoughts

The prospect of formulating a custody calendar is a daunting task for many recently divorced or separated parents.  Working directly with your co-parent to create your joint custody schedule and holiday custody plan is a great way to keep the peace. Your schedule will be unique to your family dynamic and must be sensitive to each of your personal schedules, but most importantly, putting the welfare of the children should always come first and foremost.

Parenting Time Rights with Masters Law Group

From allocation of parental responsibilities to legal separation matters and parenting time rights, Masters Law Group focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children.

We understand parenting time of your child is a very emotional law topic, especially during the holidays. 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. Are you facing a family law issue involving the children? Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.