Can I Start Dating During a Divorce?

dating during a divorceEven though you and your spouse have decided to call it quits, dating during a divorce can be very tricky and should be approached with caution because it can come with serious legal consequences.

First of all, be especially careful if there are children involved in your divorce. Not only do you want to avoid causing them any more pain and confusion than they’re already feeling, but a vengeful spouse can use evidence of another relationship to show you’re not mindful of the children’s best interest. The last thing you want is your spouse using your new relationship (or relationships) as evidence that your home will not be a good environment for your children. This is especially true if you decide to rub their face in it. Don’t flaunt your relationship by making a big deal about it on social media or talking about it with a lot of people. Instead, you’re better off keeping the relationship quiet until the divorce has been finalized. You can still see your new flame, but keep it off social media and make sure only a few trusted friends and family members are aware of the new relationship. At the same time, however, your soon-to-be ex should be one of the people you do inform about the relationship, particularly if you have children.

Second, if you are planning to seek alimony in the divorce, engaging in a new relationship may have consequences on your arguments for seeking spousal support. Many litigants make the mistake of rushing into a new serious relationship and/or moving in with the new significant other, which can result in the Court determining that the spouse has a new source of financial support and no longer is reliant on his or her current wife/husband to make ends meets. While the factors for determining cohabitation are complex, and should be discussed with an attorney, it is usually best to avoid moving in with a significant other altogether.

Third, while you may want to go out on dates or take vacations with your new significant other, expenditures on such things may be considered by the Court to be “dissipation of assets.” What this means is that if you spend $5,000.00 on a trip to Hawaii with your new beau, your spouse could then be entitled to seek an award of $5,000.00 from your other assets to compensate him/her for money you spent on a “non-marital purpose.” Dissipation claims can be very expensive to litigate, so most attorneys will suggest that you only maintain the status quo during your divorce process when it comes to expenses.

Finally, be very careful to make sure you are spending only your own money on this new relationship. Never, ever spend marital funds or money from marital assets on another relationship because the court may require you to pay that money back to your spouse. In fact, you’re better off not spending much money at all on the new relationship. If it looks like you have money to burn, the court may either lower the amount of alimony you’re eligible to receive or increase the amount you’re required to pay, depending on your circumstances.

Of course, every marriage (and by extension, every divorce) is unique. You and your spouse may have agreed to see other people before the divorce is finalized. Your spouse might even be seeing someone. Know your spouse and know yourself in order to determine what would be the best course of action for your unique situation. In some cases, it might be putting off a new relationship until you’ve both finished signing the divorce papers.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What if Your Ex Refuses to Help Pay for College?

ex refuses to help pay for collegeIdeally, if your ex refuses to help pay for college you two can work out a solution without resorting to court. If that fails, here’s what you need to know about taking your ex to court if they insist on refusing to help:

Don’t Wait

Everything has a time limit, including demands that your ex-spouse pay their share of child support and/or college. If you wait too long to take your ex to court over failure to contribute to your children’s education, the court may interpret the time you waited as having waived your right to your ex’s financial contributions. If your ex has violated the divorce agreement in any way, it is imperative that you file a complaint against them immediately so you always have a paper trail to show the court.

Doing so also helps prevent your ex from claiming ignorance. Without having those complaints as evidence, your ex may be able to claim they didn’t know about the expenses. In some cases, they may even claim they had no knowledge of your child’s intention of going to college, where they were going, or what they were studying. Some people will then claim they were denied a say in their child’s future, and then you have another problem on your hands.

This is also why it’s important to maintain a record of all correspondence between your ex. Keep track of emails, letters, and statements between you and your spouse so you can prove you made them aware of the expenses and show the court your ex’s responses.

It’s also important not to wait to pursue an Order for college expenses once you know where your child wants to attend school. Many divorce judgments don’t address college because the children are too young at the time of divorce. So, we typically recommend you start the discussions about college with your ex when your high schooler starts visiting campuses. This way, if he or she indicates a refusal to help with tuition, you have time to consult with an attorney and get a motion on file with the Court.

Get an Attorney

If you can’t afford to hire an attorney to go to family court, you can take your spouse to court without an attorney – although we highly recommend you hire a competent legal professional to help represent your interests in court. If you make a mistake or forget to bring up an important point, it can be much more expensive to hire an attorney to try undo your mistake, if that’s even possible.

An attorney can also advise you on the how’s, what’s and when’s in filing for post-minor support, such as what is needed when filing, how to get information about the school’s cost, when the Court will deny a request for contribution to college, etc.

It Won’t Take as Long as You Think

If you’re afraid you don’t have time to take your ex to court and get them to pay up before the bills are due, you don’t have to worry. First of all, that’s why it’s so important for you to file a complaint against your ex as soon as possible – don’t wait until the bills are overdue, and certainly don’t wait until you’ve already paid them before filing, because a judge might perceive that to mean you’ve waived your right to your ex’s help in paying those bills. Also, many times the Court will back-date any Order for post-minor support to the date that you originally filed your motion.

Second, concluding a post-judgment motion (meaning a motion filed after the initial divorce judgment) does not have to take as long as the divorce itself. Unlike many court motions, which can often take months, if not years, to be decided, a post-judgment motion can usually be decided in much less time depending on the case. If it’s a simple matter of your spouse refusing to help pay your child’s education expenses, and you can prove they were made aware of the bills and have refused to contribute, it shouldn’t take a court long to decide the matter. If you don’t have an Order yet for contribution, the process is usually just a matter of exchanging the financial information about each parent’s income and the costs of the school so that the Court can decide whether it is appropriate to make the parents pay for college.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What is a Divorce Mediator?

divorce mediatorWhile we’ve all heard horror stories of couples fighting over every single little item in their house when going through a divorce, and while that does happen, it’s not always the case. Many couples mutually agree to end their marriage, in which case they’re both more likely to cooperate in the divorce process (dividing marital property, determining custody and parenting time, etc.) For couples with an amicable divorce who don’t want to pay the fees associated with going to divorce court, there is a more affordable option: divorce mediation.

A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who helps facilitate the divorce and create an agreement that is amenable to both parties. Both spouses meet with the divorce mediator to determine the terms of the divorce agreement and make sure everyone can abide by those terms.

Representation

You don’t need an attorney if you’re using a divorce mediator, but you might still want a qualified family law attorney to help represent your interests in the divorce process. In that case, your attorney would be able to prepare you ahead of time, before you go into your first session with the mediator. This preparation would include explaining the legality of what some or all of your options are, and what those implications would be, if you decided to agree upon that term in the mediation. This is important to be informed on your legal options before entering mediation, as a mediator cannot give you specific legal advice. Rather, the mediator, in addressing you and your spouse together, can only explain in general terms what the law provides.

A common misconception is that a divorce mediator is a judge. This is not the case, as unlike a judge, a divorce mediator won’t make decisions for you and your spouse about who gets what in the divorce. Nor will a mediator examine “evidence” for you and tell you or your spouse who is “right” under the law. Instead, they’ll act as a facilitator to help you both agree on the terms of the divorce. For example, if there’s a piece of marital property or financial asset that you and your spouse both want, a divorce mediator can point out the fact that there might be something else of a similar value that you both want and each partner can get one of those things. Compromise is the name of the game in divorce, as well as in marriage, and a neutral third party can be invaluable in helping both you and your spouse recognize where you can find the potential for compromise.

You Decide Together

Because you and your spouse work together with the mediator to reach a mutually agreeable solution to the dissolution of your marriage, you’re both more likely to abide by the terms of the divorce and avoid conflicts in the future. While going to divorce court might provide an option that settles the matter relatively quickly and efficiently, all decisions are ultimately made for you by the judge. You both have a chance to say your piece, but the final decision is up to the judge, which usually leaves both of you feeling unsatisfied with the result .When that happens, you’re both less likely to abide by the terms of the divorce settlement, and this could end both of you back in divorce court if one spouse sues the other for failing to comply with the terms of the agreement.

Privacy

The other bonus of mediation is that it is completely confidential. Anything that happens in court goes on the record, which is then made publicly available. That can lead to some awkward conversations if a future spouse or potential employer gets their hands on a record of you and your spouse sniping at each other in court. But what happens in mediation stays in mediation. You’re not prohibited from telling your attorney about what happens in mediation, but the attorneys cannot give the Judge any details about what was negotiated, agreed to, or not agreed to with the mediator. Further, the mediator cannot be called to testify in your case about what was discussed in mediation, so this helps to ensure that discussions in mediation are honest, forthright, and productive.

If you’re going through a divorce, and you have children, more likely than not, you will have to attend sessions with a mediator during the process if you and your spouse are not otherwise able to agreed to a Parenting Plan on your own. In Illinois, parents are required to attend mediation for up to four (4) hours in any divorce or contested litigation involving children.   If used properly, mediation can save the parties thousands of dollars in litigation fees, so it is a smart thing to discuss with your spouse if you know divorce is coming.

At Sherer Law Offices, all of our attorneys in the firm are certified mediators in Illinois. So, we have several options for qualified mediators if you’re looking to pursue a more amicable and cost-friendly way to resolve your divorce. Contact us today to set up a time to discuss it.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

When Your Spouse Refuses to Participate in the Divorce Process

Spouse Refuses to Participate in the Divorce ProcessThe best-case scenario for a divorce is an uncontested divorce, in which both parties agree to the dissolution of the marriage and cooperate in the dividing of marital property and determining things like alimony and custody (if necessary). But sometimes one spouse refuses to participate in the divorce process, making it difficult to complete the divorce process.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need both parties to sign the papers in order to finalize a divorce. All you need is to file a petition for divorce and make sure you can prove your spouse is aware of the petition. Further, you have to be able to show you gave them a chance to respond, and each state has their own time requirements before the Court will find someone in “default.” In Illinois, all contested divorce cases start by serving your spouse with divorce papers. If he or she does not respond within 30 days of receiving your petition for divorce, or otherwise file any motions with the Court, you can ask the Court to find your spouse in default and to set the case for hearing on a default Judgement. If your spouse does not show up to court on the appointed date, the court may decide to grant you a default divorce. By failing to respond or show up to court, your spouse forfeits their right to have a say in the divorce process or judgment.

However, there are some instances in which the spouse cannot be located. So long as you can attest to the Court that you have made all reasonable attempts to locate your spouse, you can get what is known as a publication by divorce, in which you publish notice of you your petition for divorce in the local media outlets of the last known whereabouts of your spouse. Your notice has to run a certain number of times before the Court will accept service by publication, so it’s important to check your local Court Rules or consult with an experienced attorney for the required procedure. If your spouse still doesn’t do not respond within 30 days, most courts will grant a default judgment.

If your spouse did file a response to your petition for divorce, but refuses to participate further in the process, the judge may proceed as though it is an uncontested divorce, but you might have to wait to be assigned a court date. If you get a court date and your spouse fails to appear in court on the appointed day, the judge may enter orders based on the divorce petition and response.

As always, a competent family law attorney can help with this process, as even seeking a default divorce can be stressful since there are specific rules you must follow. If your spouse thinks they can avoid divorce by simply refusing to sign the papers, a letter from your attorney can set them straight. When they see that the divorce can proceed with or without their cooperation, most people will choose to cooperate in the divorce. There are many reasons one might refuse to sign divorce papers, but an experienced family law attorney can usually ensure that the divorce proceeds according to your wishes.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Common Mistakes People Make During Divorce

Common Mistakes People Make During DivorceWe all make mistakes, especially when we’re stressed and feeling emotional. Few things are more stressful or more emotional than divorce, but that’s also when it’s most important to refrain from making any mistakes.

When litigating and/or settling divorce, it’s nothing less than our lives at stake. In addition to financial assets and alimony, any marriage with children will also have to deal with dividing decision-making duties and parenting time schedules. These are all things no one can afford to lose, so if you’re getting divorced, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes:

Not listening to the experts.

We’ve already talked about why it’s important to hire a divorce attorney rather than trying it DIY, but it’s equally important to listen to the attorney you’ve hired. They’re the expert and they’re able to look at the situation without all the emotional baggage you’re bringing to the divorce. You don’t have to take their advice if you don’t feel like it’s really what you want, but if your attorney is strongly advising you to do (or avoid) something, you need to take that under serious consideration.

Taking advice from people other than your attorney.

Just as important as taking advice from your attorney is not taking advice from people other than your attorney. When getting divorced, everyone will be full of advice, and it may be tempting to take advice from everyone from your best friend to your pharmacist. Even though they may have the best of intentions, they won’t necessarily know what’s best for you.  Even if you trust their opinion or believe they have all the facts because they went through a divorce or custody battle in the past, understand that they don’t have all the facts. Every divorce is different and more than likely, the Judge handling your case now did not hear your friends’ case. Outcomes in divorce vary greatly depending on the Judge you have, and it is your attorney’s job to advise you on how the Judge on your case may rule.   Also, as we posted previously, the laws changed significantly in Illinois in 2015, 2016 and 2017 via separate amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. So, all of these changes mean your divorce will be handled much differently than those heard by the Court even just a year ago.

Fighting over the children.

In many divorces, each party just wants to hurt the other, and few things hurt worse than denying someone access to their children. But it’s important to set aside your hurt feelings and pride and consider what’s really best for the children. If the other party wants to spend time with their children and they’re not putting them in any danger by doing so, the Court will insist that you allow them to have time with their children. Denying time or the ability to participate in a co-parenting relationship usually backfires on the parent withholding the children. Finally, your relationship will benefit from it in the long run and your children will benefit from having both parents remain active and present in their lives.

Continuing to litigate a case when settling would make more sense.

There are many reasons people choose to continue to litigate a case rather than settle. Sometimes people think they can get more money out of their spouse if they have their “day in Court.” Other times they just want to get revenge on their spouse, and they decide to do that by dragging out the matter as long as possible.

But in many cases, you can get more money by settling the case as soon as possible and saving yourself the additional legal fees involved in continuing to litigate. And while you may want revenge for the pain your spouse inflicted on you, choosing to drag out the litigation, rather than settling and getting it over with, can do as much damage to you (both emotionally and financially) as to the other party. There’s no point in taking the time and energy to hurt someone else if you hurt yourself in the process. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney can advise you when it is worthwhile to litigate the case than to settle.

These and many other mistakes can be made when you allow yourself to be carried away by the harrowing emotions that can come along with divorce. Instead of focusing on the negative feelings you’re experiencing right now, try to consider the kind of relationship you want with your ex-spouse and your children later on down the road. Let that foresight (and your attorney) be your guide in how you handle your divorce.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases, as well as all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Need Help With Fees For Summer Camps And Activities?

It is that time of year – time to sign the kids up for the summer camps and activities to keep them busy while they are out of school. But if you are dealing with an ex-spouse, this can be difficult. Learn more from Barbara Sherer here.

If you are the parent receiving child support, and there is not a separate allocation for extracurricular fees such as summer camps or daycare during breaks, you can petition the court and ask for additional amounts to be allowed for this.

What if you are the parent that is paying the child support and order is vague on this issue? Another good question. It depends on your income, what the order does say, etc. Every situation is different.

The best way to have your questions answered is to contact our office today.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

How Do I Get Temporary Support Until My Divorce Is Final?

temporary supportDivorce agreements commonly include orders for alimony and/or child support, but the divorce process can take months, or even years, to complete. So what do you do if you can’t wait that long to pay your bills?

Fortunately, you can file a petition for temporary relief. Once the court receives the proper form (which varies, depending on the court), a brief hearing will be scheduled in which you can make your case as to why you need financial assistance now. Under the new amendments passed to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) in 2016, hearing on temporary child support or temporary maintenance (a.k.a. alimony) can be heard on a summary basis, unless one or both parties request a full evidentiary hearing with good cause. A summary hearing means that the Judge will review the parties’ Financial Statements, which must be filed in all divorce cases, and supporting financial documents that are attached to the Financial Statements to make a ruling on temporary support. No testimony is presented during these hearings, but the Judge rather reviews the documents alone. However, if a party wants to present evidence, perhaps to counter the other party’s arguments for support, then an evidentiary hearing may be scheduled in lieu of a summary proceeding.

In any hearing for temporary relief, the judge will first determine whether you should receive any alimony or child support, and if so, how much you will receive. The Judge can also divide the party’s use of and access to assets, such as real estate, cars, and access to bank accounts, all on a temporary basis until the divorce is finalized. The temporary order will likely include a provision that prohibits either party from selling significant financial assets before the divorce has been made final.

If you can’t afford an attorney, you do have the option of filing a petition for temporary relief on your own. Most of the court’s forms can be found online or at your local Family Court. You may file the paperwork yourself and receive a valid order for financial support from a Family Court Judge without having to pay for an attorney, but it is always suggested that you seek legal counsel, as these motions do require a lot of financial documentation as well as submission of various forms and affidavits.

If you and your spouse are still getting along fairly well and they make a verbal promise to continue supporting you, that’s great, but don’t rely on it. Attorneys always recommend you get a promise in writing, especially when your livelihood is at stake. Even the best intentions can go unfulfilled, so don’t rely on a verbal contract alone.

If you and your spouse have managed to reach your own agreement regarding spousal and/or child support, you can request that the Court enter an Agreed Order memorializing these terms. The judge will then review the terms to make sure the agreement is fair to both parties before approving any agreed order.

The process of getting divorced is stressful enough. You don’t need to make it more stressful by wondering how you’re going to pay the bills. Fortunately, the courts recognize this and have put in place systems to help give you one less thing to worry about.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

CONTACT US TODAY!

Child Support Changes In Illinois

Child Support Changes In IllinoisIn the past, when a couple with children got divorced, one parent (the non-custodial parent) would be made to pay child support to the custodial parent. But in 2016, Illinois changed its divorce law to exclude titles like “custodial” and “non-custodial.” Instead there is only “parental responsibilities” and also “parenting time,” which get divvied up between the two parents.

At this time, Illinois law still requires the parent with less parenting time to pay child support to the primary caregiver, but that’s all about to change in July 2017. The current system is outdated in that it presupposes a household in which one parent earns the family income and the other parent stays home to raise the children. While many families do still operate this way, an increasing number of families have two parents who work outside the home and the Illinois Legislature recently passed a new law that takes into account these changes.

Rather than ordering one parent to pay a certain percentage of their income based on the number of children being supported, the new law orders the courts to determine how much it costs to raise a child depending on the combined net incomes of the parents. Based on this figure, the Court then decides what each parent must pay toward the cost to raise the child, allocating their responsibility based on his or her income.

For example, let’s assume that based on the parents’ net income, the Court determines that the cost to raise a child is $2,000.00 per month. Husband makes 70% of the household income and Wife makes 30% of the household income. Wife also has primary parenting time with the children. Husband may be looking at paying $1,400 per month of this $2,000 cost, and the Wife would be paying $600. Once you offset these amounts, Husband’s direct contribution to Wife would be $800.00 per month.

As referenced above, the new law also takes into account how much time each parent spends with the children. If the parents share 50-50 parenting time, or one parent has at least 40% of the time with the children, the new guidelines may not apply, and the Court will have to determine a proper child support figure.

Although that last provision was no doubt created with the best of intentions, it may have some unintended consequences. One or both parents might try to spend at least 40-50% of the time with the children, at least on paper, as a way of avoiding paying extra child support, rather than because such an arrangement would be best for the children.

A parent may likewise argue that the other parent should not get to spend that much time with the children because they want more child support, without taking their children’s best interests into account. If both parents start fighting to have the children for a minimum of 40% of the time (or approximately 146 nights each year), a judge may have to step in and determine whether the parents are acting in their own financial interests or the wellbeing of their children.

If one parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court will assume their income is 75% of the current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for an individual. If that’s case, they will be required to pay a minimum child support obligation of $40 each month.

The new law will go into effect on July 1, 2017, so there’s still time to prepare for these changes.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

CONTACT US TODAY!

Who Can Claim Children As Dependents? What To Do When Your Divorce Does Not Specify

Who Can Claim Children As DependentsIllinois marital and divorce law was recently changed to redefine “custody” as “parenting time.” Under the new law, the parenting time is split between the parents. In most cases, one parent ends up with the majority of the parenting time (determining which party gets the most parenting time depends on a number of factors to be considered by the judge ruling in the matter). In some cases, especially in amicable divorces, the parties may agree on a parenting plan that divides up the parenting responsibilities between them. They then merely ask a judge to approve their plan.

The parent awarded the majority of the parenting time is known as the “custodial parent,” for situations where certain federal or state statutes still require use of the designation. Generally, this distinction also falls on the parent who gets the primary parental and decision-making responsibilities of the children, but sometimes, such as in the case of a 50-50 parenting arrangement, it is a technicality defined in the parenting plan. Although the term “custody” no longer has any meaning in the context of Illinois family law, it is still used for the purpose of designating one parent that can claim the children as dependents on their tax returns.

In some cases, parents may agree to a Parenting Plan that divides the parenting time equally between the parties and gives them both parental responsibility of the child. As mentioned above, even if the parents are able to work out such an agreement, Illinois law requires one of them to be labeled the “custodial parent” for tax purposes. In order for the other parent to be able to claim the child as a dependent on their tax forms, the designated “custodial parent” must fill out a Form 8332 in order to sign off on the other parent’s right to claim the child dependency tax exemption.

If you and your ex-spouse agreed to evenly divide the parenting time and responsibilities between you, one of you should still have been labeled the “custodial parent.” If that title went to the other party, you can ask them to fill out Form 8332 so you can claim your children as dependents on your tax form and take the coinciding deduction.

It is most common for parents to agree to alternate the child exemption, regardless of who was given the title of “custodial parent.” The reason being that the non-custodial parent is still often paying child support for purposes of assisting with the child’s needs when the child is in the care of the custodial parent.

If such was the case for you and your ex-spouse, you might want to check in with them regarding whose turn it is. Whoever did not get to claim the tax credit the year before should get to claim it this year. If this is your first time filing taxes after the separation or divorce, talk with the other parent to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to filing taxes. You can choose to have the “custodial parent” claim the exemption first and switch off from there or work out another system that works for both of you. It is always best for there to be a court order that clearly defines the tax dependency arrangement, including who can file and whether that parent can file in even or odd tax years.

When filing your taxes, it also helps to get a written declaration from the custodial parent that they will not claim the child as a dependent and have them attach the declaration to their tax return. This would expedite the resolution of any issues filing your return.

No matter your situation, it is always best to maintain open and respectful communication with your ex-spouse regarding the parenting of the children and the terms of the divorce. It makes everything much easier, including the children’s ability to adjust to their new circumstances.

If you are having any family law issues, consulting a knowledgeable attorney can help. At Sherer Law Offices, we can guide you through the legal steps you need to take to ensure your rights are protected.

CONTACT US TODAY!

What is Required for Planning for A Special Needs Child During Divorce?

special needs child during divorceThere are very few things that are harder to deal with when going through a divorce than planning for your children’s future when you have a special needs child. The burden of supporting your child on the day-to-day basis can fall squarely on your shoulders as the parent with the majority of parenting time. The daily living and special moments may test your self-confidence to parent your child alone.

A pending divorce that involves a special needs child brings up unique issues of decision-making, parenting time, and also property division that can become more complex to negotiate. During the process of your divorce, you must consider what your child’s special needs entail and work with your attorney to determine what a day would be like caring for your child, particularly from a financial standpoint.

The State’s child support guidelines don’t normally address the extra expenses that come with a child of special needs, but there are special laws that allow for additional support above and beyond percentages of income. There may be a need for special medical care, therapy services, medical equipment, nutritional needs, and even paid respite care for the parent who has been awarded the majority of parenting time with the child. The uncertainty of the future costs makes it difficult to estimate the related expenses of a special needs child during a divorce.

Legally, the goal is to identify what the child’s best interests are and to understand them. Some examples include:

  • Who will the child live with?
  • What amount of contact will the parents or other parties have with the child?
  • What amount of child support will be paid to the parent who is caring for the child for the majority of the time?
  • Are there going to be transportation issues relating to the parenting schedule?
  • How will the parties share medical expenses and other costs that go above and beyond just daily needs?

The devised parenting plan should spell out all pertinent information and instructions on the special needs child’s care, daily routine, medications, and safety plans. A great staring point would be to look at how much you and your ex agree concerning your child’s disabilities and abilities. Additionally, when putting together a divorce agreement, special attention must be paid to parenting arrangements, estate planning, and the child’s eventual transition into adulthood. Legislation and case law are always evolving in this area and more family attorneys are dealing with an increasing amount of cases involving a special needs child.

In a divorce decree, it is important to discuss with your attorney the unique issues that come up in the child’s transition into adulthood. These may include:

  • Guardianship
  • Recreation
  • Social skills
  • Independent living
  • Custodial care

In most cases, child support and custody (now “parental responsibilities” in Illinois) end at the age of majority, or when they graduates from high school. The Court does, however, have the ability to extend child support beyond high school for students attending college or for children with special needs. Divorcing parents of a child with special needs, particular those who have severe impairments, face the reality of life-long care giving and co-parenting beyond just age 18

When considering spousal maintenance and child support, you need to think about the child’s eligibility for public benefits as a minor and as an adult. It is very important that your family law attorney work with a special needs attorney and an experienced financial advisor to eliminate the possibility of forfeiting the child’s benefits. It is not always known how child support payments made to the custodial parent will affect, negatively or otherwise, government programs like SSI and Medicaid. Support of any kind should be considered to preserve government benefits. It is imperative to consider these issues during the divorce proceedings. Finally, it would be wise to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, as special needs trusts can be established and both parents can be required to contribute to a trust within a divorce agreement, as well as be ordered to maintain life insurance benefits naming the child’s custodian or trust as the beneficiary.

Managing the care of a special needs child is a full-time job. The effects it can have on the income of the custodial parent should be considered when deciding the amount of maintenance or support. Because caring for your child with special need may extend past the age of majority, you need to have your divorce agreement tailored for the long term. Use special needs trusts in tandem with public benefits. Effectively channel support obligations and tailor parenting plans within the divorce settlement to provide fully and adequately for your special needs child.

Make the system work for you by taking a hard look at what special needs exist and how they are addressed during your divorce. The family law attorneys here at Sherer Law Offices can guide you during this difficult process and give you all the advice you need to make sure that the future of your special needs child is taken care of fully.

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