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. 

Divorcing An Absent Spouse

Divorcing An Absent SpouseIt can be hard enough to come to an agreement with your spouse that it’s time to end the marriage, but what if your spouse skipped town, and you have no idea where they might be? If you’re ready to move on with your life after that marriage, but can’t find your spouse, you can still file for a divorce, but ultimately serve them by publication.

For many years in Illinois, you needed to prove your spouse was at fault for causing the dissolution of your marriage if you wanted to succeed in securing a divorce. You needed to provide evidence that they had committed adultery, were abusive, abandoned you, and/or was habitually drunk, etc. Some time ago, Illinois adopted a no-fault divorce option in which people listed “irreconcilable differences” as their reason for divorce. It’s known as the no-fault option because it does not blame either spouse for the dissolution of the marriage, but merely recognizes that the two parties have reached a point where maintaining the marriage is no longer possible or desirable. Prior to 2016, a petitioning party had to be separated from their spouse for two (2) years before a Judgment could be entered, unless both parties had signed a written acknowledgment that they had been separated for at least six (6) months and were agreeing to waive the 2-year separation requirement.

In 2016, Illinois became a true “No Fault” state when it eliminated all grounds for divorce except for irreconcilable differences. Further, under the current law, you only have to show that you have been living separate and apart from your spouse for six (6) months immediately prior to the entry of a Judgment for Dissolution. Such a showing creates an irrebuttable presumption that irreconcilable differences have arisen in the marriage, and you can seek a divorce much sooner than the old law.

So, how does this change in the law affect how and when you can file for divorce if your spouse is nowhere to be found?   Now, you can file for divorce against an absent spouse and you only have to show that you’ve been separated for six (6) months before requesting the Court enter a Judgment for Dissolution against your spouse on a “default” basis. But, some things have to be shown to the Court before they will default your spouse, as explained below.

Once you file your Petition for Dissolution, you have to actually serve your spouse with the Petition before the Court can proceed with any default proceedings. It is important to note as well that marriage and divorce laws vary from state to state, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements for filing a Petition for Dissolution and also with your State’s laws on service of process, including specifically on what is called “service by publication.” There’s usually a minimum amount of time you and your spouse must have been living apart before you can file for divorce, and you must also be able to prove that you preformed “due diligence” in trying to locate your spouse but were still unable to find them for purposes of serving them personally. It is important to also speak with an attorney before assuming you can or should serve someone by publication, as there may be other methods of “personal service” that are still available to you even if you do not have a known residential address for your spouse.

The requirements for due diligence also vary from state to state, but service by publication generally requires you to publish a notice that you are seeking divorce from your spouse in all the newspapers published in the area in which they were last known to reside. If, after a specified amount of time, the spouse does not respond to your notices, you can submit proof to the court that you performed due diligence in trying to find your spouse and to notify them of your intention to divorce them. Such proof will usually include a copy of the publication of your notice with the motion you file with the Court to request that the Judge find that you successfully served your spouse via publication.

Once service by publication is established, the court can then set the case for a final hearing and issue a divorce, even in the absence of your spouse. If you are truly unable to locate your spouse, the court does have the ability to enter orders for all aspects of the dissolution of the marriage, including division of property and assignment of debts. The Court may also enter default orders relating to parenting time and parental decision-making (formerly known as “custody”). However, in many jurisdictions, the Court may be more reluctant to enter default orders relating to child issues depending on the circumstances, so it is important to speak with an attorney who regularly practices in the jurisdiction you live to determine whether a default order is likely in your case.

While the Courts do not require that you have an attorney to serve your spouse via publication and/or seek a Judgment for Dissolution by default, it’s always recommended to have a knowledgeable legal professional help you through the process. There are a lot of forms to fill out, many of which are full of legal jargon, and you don’t want to miss any necessary steps by accident. A competent family and divorce attorney can help facilitate the divorce process for you as quickly and painlessly as possible, while making sure you get everything you need.

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. 

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 is Social Media a Contributing Factor in Divorces Today?

Social Media a Contributing Factor in DivorcesSocial media has quickly grown from something only a few college kids did to something that impacts every area of our lives – from our jobs to our ability to obtain a loan and, yes, even our divorces.

One of the most common pieces of advice regarding social media is to refrain from posting anything you wouldn’t want a potential employer seeing. Well, divorce attorneys are also advising their clients not to post anything they wouldn’t want a judge to see. Just like conducting an online search is one of the first things prospective employers do, it’s also one of the first things your spouse’s divorce attorney will do when collecting evidence against you. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) Don’t assume your spouse can’t see what you post just because you’ve blocked them.

If your friends post about your job or your vacation, your spouse may be able to access that post and use it against you in divorce court.

Despite the fact that you may use privacy settings to make sure your spouse can’t see your posts, keep in mind your friends who may be posting compromising pictures of you. Even if your spouse can’t see your posts, they may be able to see what your friends are posting and that information can still be used in court against you. Not only should that caution you against posting indelicate information, but it should also warn you to keep track of what your friends are posting about you.

2) Think before you post.

You’ve probably heard that, once something is published on the Internet, it never really disappears. Keep that in mind before you post anything because, even if you delete compromising posts, forensic experts may still be able to access them.

3) Ask your friends for help.

If you see an unflattering or compromising post one of your friends put up that includes you, you can ask them to remove your tag from the post or remove the post altogether. But remember that nothing is ever truly deleted from the Internet. While your friend may comply with your request, the damage may have already been done.

4) Remember: nothing is private online.

Also keep in mind that the social media sites we use every day are owned by businesses with their own agenda. Most of them have Terms of Service that allow them to do pretty much whatever they want with the information you post. Even if your friends are on your side, Facebook probably is not and they can decide to sell your information to the highest bidder.

5) Take a break from social media.

The best way to keep a clean profile is to simply stay off social media until your divorce is finalized. Don’t post anything, no matter how innocent it may first appear.

6) Don’t delete any of your accounts.

At the same time, don’t delete any social media accounts you already have. It may be tempting, but it can also be considered destruction of evidence. This has the potential to get you in even more trouble than the social media account itself could.

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!

Quick Guide To The New Illinois Custody Laws For 2016 PART TWO – POST-JUDGMENT ISSUES

Illinois custody lawsAs we touched on in Part One of this series, several things have changed in Illinois Divorce Law as it relates to Illinois custody laws. See below for a summary on the changes affecting how cases are handled after there has been a custody judgment already in place.

Abuse of Parental Allocation

These situations arise when one parent doesn’t follow the Court’s orders regarding decision-making or the parenting time schedule. In the event of an abuse of Parental Allocation, the Court can expedite a procedure for enforcement. Either parent can file a petition to enforce the order, and it must include: the name and address of the person filing the petition, the respondent’s name and address to include place of employment or mailing address, terms of existing parenting plan, nature of the violation with relevant dates and pertinent information, as well as indication that reasonable attempts were made to resolve the dispute.

Should the court find that a parent was non-compliant with the parenting schedule or the Order on decision-making, the court can issue another order revising and/or providing for additional terms consistent with the original judgment. The Court can also order the parents to attend parent education classes or counseling, as well as provide for makeup parenting time and fines per incident if there was indeed a violation.

Further, the Court can punish an offending party by:

  • Ordering them to pay attorney’s fees and/or court costs,
  • Suspension of driving privileges
  • Issue probation or periodic imprisonment
  • Make a finding for a petty offense ruling; and/or
  • Issue a contempt order, transmitted to the sheriff.

Relocation

Additionally, the Court’s role with parental relocation has experienced significant changes.

First, let’s look at the previous parental relocation laws in Illinois. Parents with shared children in a household, needed to obtain permission from the Court in order to move from Illinois. An “Order of Removal” had to be issued by the Court and the moving parent had to prove the move was in the best interest of the child(ren). This version relied on the Illinois border to determine whether a parent had to get permission from the Court to move. A couple of challenges were defined with this law:

  • It did not consider a parent currently living near the border may relocate to a residence outside of Illinois that’s a reasonable distance away
  • It did not take into consideration the relocation of a parent with children within the state may still be even farther than if the parent had moved out of state.

Senate Bill 57 – In Effect January 1, 2016

This new bill addresses these challenges. The requirements have changed for parents who seek permission of the Court prior to relocation with their children. Further, the new provisions base the requirement for Court’s permission on the distance from the original residence, rather than whether the move solely crosses state lines. Parents living in Cook, DuPage, Kane, McHenry, and Will can move to a new residence in Illinois within 25 miles without obtaining Court permission, and for all other counties the distance is increased to up to 50 miles. If seeking to cross State lines, parents can move up to 25 miles away from the original residence without obtaining permission from the Court. In the event your move exceeds these mile boundaries, then either consent from the other parent or from the Court will be necessary.

A further change is that as parents seek to relocate, new requirements include written notice of intended relocation from one parent to the other, and there are specific requirements for how and when this notice must be given. In the event the non-moving parent objects, the Court determines whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child.

Given these changes, it is extremely important to contact an experienced family law attorney before you make the decision to move with your children.

MODIFICATION PROCEEDINGS

Along with the changes to how a Court decides an initial parental allocation proceeding, the Courts now have new rules for how they look at modification proceedings, i.e. cases where a parent wants to change the old order in some way.

The new statute still provides for two types of modification requests: petitions filed within 2 years after the Judgment and those filed after two years.

If you want to file for a modification within the first 2 years, the new amendment does not make your request any easier than the old law. But, the statute does now reference that a Court can consider whether not allowing the modification will result in a “significant impairment of emotional development.”

If filed after 2 years, the parent seeking modification now has a much more relaxed burden of proof than the old “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which provided the petitioning party show that “it was highly and substantially more probably to be true” that a modification was in the best interests of the child, due to a substantial change of circumstances that occurred after the Judgment was entered. Now, litigants need only prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which means that it is “more likely true than not” that the circumstances have substantially changed and a modification is in the child’s best interest.   Although this may seem like more legal talk, it makes a big difference in how difficult it will be to get a Court to agree with your position to modify the old Order.

Almost equally significant is the addition of a new law providing that a parent can now request a modification of parental allocation even where there has been no substantial change of circumstances. (gasp!) But, this exception to the long-established “substantial change” finding is limited to the following four situations:

  1. Where the proposed modification reflects what the parents have been doing, without objection from either parent, for the past 6 months
  2. Where the proposed modification is only a minor change
  3. Where the modification is necessary to change a prior “agreed order” due to the fact that, had the Court known about certain circumstances at the time, would not have approved the agreement of the parents
  4. Where the parties agree to the modification

Understanding such a comprehensive and complex rewrite of the Illinois divorce laws is no easy task. For assistance with understanding the new laws regarding Parental Allocation in Illinois, please contact Sherer Law Offices. Our attorneys can provide you with the most recent information and guidance with Parental Allocation procedures and requirements, and answer any questions you may have when considering what is best for you and your family.

Top 5 Things To Consider When Hiring A Divorce Attorney

o-LAWYER-CLIENT-MEETING-facebookIf you are looking for a divorce attorney to represent your case, you are already aware that this can be an overwhelming and daunting task. The attorney you select will be trusted with your personal and financial information that you may not have shared before. They will take on many different roles throughout your case – most importantly, they will assist you in making important and very difficult decisions, so this person must not only be experienced and knowledgeable, but also highly trustworthy.

The following are some of the top aspects you should look for when searching for a divorce attorney:

#1 – Attentive and Concerned

The attorney you choose should actively care about your situation; you should not feel that you or your situation is unimportant to your attorney. Additionally, your attorney should be willing to introduce you to the people who will actively work alongside you throughout your case, such as paralegals, associate attorneys and administrative staff. Your attorney’s team plays an important role in the process as well.

#2 – Recommended by Someone You Know and Trust and Who Has Been in Your Shoes

The attorney you choose should have experience in family law. Don’t be afraid to ask a potential attorney about the cases he or she has successfully handled and if they have a specific area of expertise with the most important issues in your case, such as child custody, maintenance, or property division. Become aware of the number of cases your potential attorney has tried to juries and judges and/or their experience with in-depth settlement negotiations. In the event your case goes to court or enters the negotiation stage, you will want an attorney who is comfortable and competent, delivering your case in any setting.

A good practice is to seek out former client testimonials. Ask family members and friends if they know of the attorney and/or have any feedback they can share. Talk with people who have been represented by or have worked with the prospective attorney to get an idea of the client-attorney relationship. If family and friends aren’t the best resource for you, then do your research of the firm online to see if they have any published reviews from clients. The best advertisement that an attorney can get is word of mouth.

#3 – Clear Lines of Communication

A good attorney will speak in terms that you can easily understand and also be willing to explain anything that may be confusing to you. Clear communications with a potential attorney is a must; look for an attorney who listens and responds readily to your questions. Be sure to bring any questions to your initial consultation.

#4 – Carries a Professional Demeanor

Remember, you are hiring someone to accurately and effectively represent you. You want an attorney who works with you to recommend and implement the best strategy for propelling you toward your goals. They absolutely must be an effective advocate for you, so make sure they represent you in an ethical manner and promote your interests. Although it may not be evident in the initial meeting, you will want to be wary of an attorney who promises something quickly or makes a guarantee. No attorney can ever “guarantee” a result, as there are often too many factors at play in any court case. Your best bet is an attorney who is honest with you, one who has the skills to accomplish your goals, and one who you believe has your best interests at heart.

#5 – Offers a Clear Outline of Financial Expectations

Lastly, your attorney should clearly outline her/his hourly rate, retainer amount and policy, billing and payment procedures. All of this should be presented to you in writing and explained thoroughly to you preceding representation. Note, however, that unless the attorney is charging on a flat fee basis, rarely will an attorney be able to tell you with certainty what the “final cost” will be for any case. Again, often there are too many factors at play in litigation.

Find The Right Attorney for You

If you are looking for a divorce attorney, you will need a legal team that you can trust. Contact the divorce lawyers at the Law Office of Barbara Sherer. We offer you access to expert legal advice while making sure that the outcome serves your best interests.

What Is Involved If I Want To Appeal My Divorce Case?

Divorce-ModificationsYou should know if you want to appeal your divorce decision that divorce appeals are the least common form of litigation. In addition to uncommon, appealing your divorce is also not an easy process. Essentially, when you make an appeal, it states to the court that you are not happy with the previous court decision, that the decision was not equal, and/or that the law did not support the judgment.

Anyone thinking about an appeal should make the decision carefully. Appeals are expensive and often cost more than the initial trial since issues can be more complicated. Also, since not all attorneys who practice family law will agree to take on an appeal case, the appellant (you) and/or the appellee (your former spouse) will likely need new representation. If new counsel is hired for the appeal, the new representation must be informed of pending issues, and each attorney will spend several hours studying transcripts from the original trial.

An appellant usually has 30 days from the date of entry of the divorce granted to make notice of appeal, but the deadlines can also be sooner depending on what type of appeal you wish to bring. So, it is always highly advisable to speak with an attorney about an appeal immediately after receiving the Trial Court’s Judgment in the case, as time is always of the essence with appeal deadlines, and they must be strictly adhered to in order for the appeal to proceed.

Filing an Appeal

A Notice of Appeal informs the trial court and the adverse party that an appeal will be filed. An appeal typically includes a file brief, which outlines reasons for the appeal. The appellant must pay for the transcript of the trial and all paperwork, such as documents and evidence that must accompany the appeal.

Also, very specific protocols regarding the format of the appeal must be followed. These protocols entail which formal documents must be submitted, as well as the inclusion of specific sections to accompany the brief, such as an appendix, numbered pages and an index. In addition, the appellate documents are required to be filed with the Appellate Court District where the Trial Court is located. The following parties/entities are required to get copies:

  • Appellate court (plus the original documentation)
  • Adversaries
  • Trial court
  • Representing attorneys

Appellate court

When the appellate court reviews all party briefs, hears all oral arguments, and reviews the Trial Court record, the judges can reverse the court ruling of the trial and/or remand (send the case back) to trial court for a new trial or with instructions on which part of the decision the Trial Court needs to readdress. You should note that the appellant court does not review new evidence, nor do the judges hear testimony from any party or witness.

Modifications to Divorce Judgment

As an alternative to an appeal, you could also discuss the possibility of a modification proceeding with an attorney if you are not happy with the Trial Court Judgment. A request may be made to modify a divorce decision by filing a Motion to Modify, but these can usually only be filed after there has been a significant change of circumstances. Such requests can include modifications to child custody arrangements, visitation schedules, child and/or spousal support. This request is filed with the divorce court where the divorce judgment was issued, but there are some exceptions.

Filing an appeal and accompanying appeal procedures are very complicated and a time-consuming processes, so it is not advisable to try and handle an appeal yourself. Contact the divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Barbara Sherer who can serve as your legal counsel, making sure you are presented with a clear understanding of the appeal process, ensuring that you are thoroughly informed about your legal rights and assist you toward making the best decision possible for your case.