#HarveyLawSpeaks | Mother’s Day

Mother’s day is a special time for families to express appreciation and love they have for mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, and other maternal figures. It’s also a day that could stir up mixed emotions for families who have dealt with or are currently dealing with divorce. When a blended family is involved, it may require a little extra sensitivity and time management to ensure everyone is happy on this day.

Some divorced couples aren’t as amicable as others, but it is important to try to facilitate parenting time with Mom on a day like Mother’s Day. This is a great way to show children that even if their parents are not together, everyone respects the mother’s role in the family (even in a family that has shifted). A lot of times with divorced families, the mother and/or father remarries, and stepparents can play an important role in the upbringing of the children. To that end, showing appreciation for step-parents (or bonus parents as we like to call them) can show children the positive aspects of being a part of a blended family.

Here are some tips on how to spend Mother’s Day for divorced parents and blended families:
• Children should be able to spend Mother’s Day with their mother, so if it’s not addressed in your parenting plan, try to see if any adjustments can be made informally so that the children and mom can have an enjoyable day together. Negotiating is never easy, but you can gain a lot of cooperation in the future by showing a willingness to compromise.
• Mother’s Day is a great opportunity for the other parent to show the children they respect the relationship between the children and their mom no matter what. Let the children plan what they would like to do with their mom, and help them make these plans happen.
• Whether you are the birth mother or Bonus mother, it’s important to show respect for the other woman’s role in the children’s lives. Where a Bonus mom is very involved with the children, try to make her feel involved in the special day (even if they have spent a portion of the day with their mother). Perhaps plan something the day before or the day after. Being tied to that day is simply semantics. As long as they are celebrated- that’s what matters. Please note, this of course depends on the nature of the relationship between the Bonus mother and the children, so follow your children’s lead on this. Bonus parents can be an integral part of a child’s life, and it’s important to make them feel appreciated.

The key to celebrating Mother’s Day for divorced/blended families is respecting the mother’s role and facilitating any plans. Parents, stepparents, and the children will feel more connected if everyone puts aside their differences and works together to make it a great day.

Have a great Mother’s Day!

#HarveyLawSpeaks | New Child Support Law in Illinois

Photo: MensDivorce.com

Beginning July 1, 2017, a new law will take effect in Illinois, completely changing the way child support is determined. The law was signed into Public Act 99-0764 by Governor Rauner on August 16, 2016 and will modify sections 750 ILCS 5/505 and 750 ILCS 5/510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

Under the current law, child support is calculated based on the net income of the support-paying parent:
• One child: 20%
• Two children: 28%
• Three children: 32%
• Four children: 40%
• Five or more children: 50%

The new law eradicates the percentages shown above, and sets forth the income shares model approach, currently adopted in 39 (soon to be 40) states. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) will set forth economic tables for the court to refer to determine how much money would be allocated for the care of the child/children if both parents were living together. The court would look at the combined income of the parents, cost of living, and the number of children. Each parent, rather than just one, would be responsible for their allotted portion based on his/her income.

It is important to note that the courts must apply the tentative guidelines once they are given by DHFS, unless there is a finding that application of these guidelines would be inappropriate after considering the best interests of the child. This would involve the following factors:
• The financial resources/needs of the child;
• The physical/emotional conditions of the child;
• The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents stayed together;
• The child’s educational needs

As the law has not gone into effect yet, worksheets and formulas are still in development. We will continue to post updates as more information comes out. Stay tuned!

#HarveyLawSpeaks | Spring Break and Parenting Time

Photo: SouthernMamas.com

As we enter the warmer months, one thing on everyone’s mind is Spring Break—what to do, where to go, and how to spend the time off. When it comes to co-parenting, parents must decide (if they haven’t already) how parenting time will be determined during their child’s week off.

Spring Break is often a busy time for family. Whether you want to go on a vacation or stay in, there is lots of planning involved to coordinate everyone’s schedules. Unfortunately, when parents are no longer together, and Spring Break is not addressed in a parenting plan, complications can arise when it comes to which parent will have the child during the week or how the week will be split.

Here are some co-parenting tips for dealing with Spring Break:

  1. Examine your court order: Most orders should reference school breaks, and specifically which parent will have the child on certain days (if not the whole week). Usually the holiday break will take precedent over which parent’s respective weekend it may be. But ensure that the order has that information.
  2. Share important information: If you take your child on vacation, make sure to share with the other parent important information, such as where you’ll be, flight/hotel information, and when you will be returning with the child. This is important to know because he or she may be taking the child out of the country out of state- common courtesy goes a long way.
  3. Keep contact respectful: If you child is on vacation with the other parent, it’s okay to check in every once in a while, but be respectful of the other parent’s parenting time with the child. One call in the morning another call in the evening. It’s important for the child to be able to enjoy their own break without the other parenting constantly checking in on their whereabouts.
  4. Be flexible: It’s Spring Break! You want your child to have fun, so keep that in mind if he or she doesn’t call/text you right when expected.

 

Have a great Spring break!

 

#HarveyLawSpeaks | Making Your Goals Attainable

One of our favorite “lawyer” things to do besides attend court is go to speak to bright young minds about our profession. In what has now become an annual activity, Harvey Law Office was invited to speak at Alain Locke Charter School, where we spoke to Fourth Graders about our profession, goals, and the steps to take to make a particular goal attainable.

One of the amazing things about speaking to young people is you can never really stick to a particular script. Sure we knew we wanted to speak about being a lawyer and our path to the law- – but we also wanted to speak to them about the importance of goals and some of their own goals.

They were all very excited to share some of their goals for the future and even some goals to work towards achieving now.

We explained to them the importance of the little things you can do that can make a big difference. They understood that even today things such as:
• Waking up early everyday to get to school on time
• Making the honor roll
• Finishing a book
• Making a friend
• Turning in an assignment on time
All are behaviors that can ultimately affect their big goals.

And big goals indeed did they have. They included:
• Making the world a better place
• Traveling the entire world in 3 days
• Getting into a good college
• Going to the Olympics
• Becoming a police officer
• Becoming a lawyer (our favorite!)

Thank you again to the teacher Ms. Keim for inviting us to speak to her class. Watch out world, future leaders loading now!

#HarveyLawSpeaks | Who Pays for College Expenses?

In Illinois, during a divorce even with young children, the court typically will handle the issue when it comes to college and college expenses. Where it has typically been governed by statute, it was not until 2016 that the Illinois legislature took their time in really explaining how college expenses would be handled going forward (750 ILCS 5/513)

It is important to remember that contribution to college expenses is not the same as child support. College expenses include the following: tuition, room and board, and book costs. If divorced parents cannot come to an agreement on how to pay for college, you will need to consult your divorce decree or parenting agreement to see if it addresses this issue. Otherwise, you will need to return to court, and a judge will determine how college will be paid for per the statute.

In order to make a determination the court examines the following:
1. Each parent’s income and their ability to contribute. This is different from child support wherein the court currently only looks at the income of the none-custodial parent.
2. The child’s ability to contribute. The court will examine financial aid, scholarships, grants and/or work study or if the child has a job how much if any, he or she can contribute.
3. The child’s academic performance. In order for the court to continue to award child support, the child must maintain a 2.5 GPA.
4. Access to information. Typically the money for college/college expenses is not given to the other parent, it is paid directly to the school. A parent has to have access in order to make those payments and should be able to access the student’s grades as well.
5. Also the contribution to tuition is capped at the cost of tuition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign at the time of the student’s enrollment.

Speak to an attorney today if you want to discuss college expenses: (312) 981-0096

#HarveyLawSpeaks | The Importance of a Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representative

Image by CareersinPsychology.org

A child representative or a Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”) is an attorney appointed by the court for the parties’ child, usually in proceedings involving allocation of parental responsibilities, relocation, abuse, or general welfare purposes. The child rep/GAL will investigate the facts of the case, interview the parties and the child, and will speak to the court regarding recommendations in accordance with the best interests of the child.

By definition, a child representative and a GAL have almost identical duties. What is the main difference? A GAL may be called as a witness for cross-examination, whereas a child representative may not be called as a witness.

Having a Child Representative or GAL essentially forces parties (and their attorneys) to prepare better and be on their best behavior. It is crucial to understand that judges respect the authority of the Child Rep or GAL, and the court trusts their judgment of what is in the best interests of the child. If the parties do not come to an agreement, the judge will ultimately make the decision. The judge has no independent “behind-the-scenes” knowledge of the case, and that is ultimately the purpose of the child rep or GAL: to find out the facts and report back to the court. Since they are giving the court a look “behind the scenes” so to speak, it is imperative to have a civil relationship with the child representative or GAL on your case. Hostile or adversarial behavior is not appropriate with the child rep or GAL. Adverse behavior, difficulty making compromises, inability to follow directions and the like are all issues the Child Representative observes when giving reports to the court.

A Child Representative or GAL does not represent either party. They represent the child. They are the court’s eyes and ears to a case. It is vital to show the GAL that you are engaged, courteous, and take your case seriously. Avoid any acrimonious behavior with the opposing side and instead focus on your own parenting abilities and efforts at co-parenting. As long as a GAL is on your case, you are under observation and do not want anything to negatively affect the GAL’s thoughts on your fitness as a parent.

#HarveyLawSpeaks | What to Wear to Court

We all know appearance is important, in both professional and personal settings. At some point in our lives we hear the saying “dress to impress”, and although that may sound cliché, it is a lot more important than people think.

It may seem like common sense, but when you represent yourself in court, it is always a good idea to “dress to impress”. Although there is no official dress code in Cook County, a trip to the courthouse should be considered an occasion warranting business attire. You are there to advocate on your own behalf, and dressing appropriately shows the court that you take yourself, and the case, seriously.

Dressing well in court will not only show competence, but confidence as well. According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, how you dress can affect your negotiating skills, as well as spike your creative thinking. When you’re up before a judge, you need to be thinking clearly, as anything you say can affect the outcome of the case. Even parties who are represented by attorneys should dress appropriately when required to be present in court.

Here are some quick tips on attire as well as etiquette:
• No hats or baggy clothing
• No revealing clothing
• No sunglasses
• No gum chewing
• No cell phone usage

Worker’s Compensation Reform in Illinois

Last week, I had an opportunity to attend a Worker’s Compensation seminar hosted by the Illinois State Bar Association. Topics ranged from claims of retaliatory discharge, 2016 Appellate Court decisions, and ethical dilemmas. A great topic of discussion was Governor Rauner’s latest proposal regarding worker’s compensation reform.

Illinois employers spend approximately $3 billion per year on worker’s compensation, which includes medical expenses as well as disability benefits. Governor Rauner recently introduced an outline of proposed changes to the state’s worker’s compensation system, which he claims will help overcome the state’s economic policies that have led to “very weak economic growth and massive manufacturing job losses”.

Rauner has met with employers all over the state, and he says they typically mention two challenges for Illinois businesses—an “uncompetitive” worker’s compensation system as well as an extremely high property tax burden. As a result, Illinois has lost 34% of its manufacturing jobs since 2000. Taxpayers are also affected, since government employees file worker’s compensation claims more twice as often than private-sector employees.

Image by TaskInsurance.com

According to Governor Rauner, “Many other good ideas have been proposed to make the system more efficient. Ultimately, we will all benefit from balanced reform: Employers will save costs, Illinois will be a more attractive place in which to create jobs, workers will still be protected in the case of a workplace injury while enjoying greater job opportunities, and the state and local governments will experience a broader tax base through growth.”

Rauner’s proposed reform involves the following:
• Rebalancing the fee schedule: certain procedure costs remain to be three, four, and even five times more than the comparable Medicare rate
• Illinois workers receive some of the highest benefits, almost two or three times more than the national average. While Rauner does not want to reduce benefits, he wants lawmakers to take specific circumstances of a case into consideration.
• The court system: Recent judicial rulings have removed award caps for certain injuries, undermining employers’ defenses when it comes to the accompanying conduct of the employee. Rauner wants to restore the commonly accepted practices, which would reinstate award caps.

Image by InsuranceJournal.com

While Rauner’s proposed reform is aimed to reduce claims and costs, there is no mention of insurance companies being required to provide lower insurance rates, which is very concerning to employers. Worker’s compensation reform must involve protecting employers from insurance companies’ high company profits. House Democrats have been relentlessly fighting for legislation that would reduce costs for local businesses, prevent fraud, and ensure insurance savings to local employers. This legislation would allow the Illinois Department of Insurance to review insurance rates before they become effective, and also allow for rejecting excessive rates.

#HarveyLawSpeaks | Common Mistakes in Parenting Agreements

A parenting agreement, known as an “allocation judgment” in Illinois, is a written agreement negotiating and resolving issues related to parenting time and decision-making regarding a couple’s child/children. These issues can involve almost anything regarding the children, including the following issues:

  • Parenting time schedules
  • Holiday time schedules
    • This would also include summer, winter, and spring breaks
  • Which parent (if not both) has primary decision making authority regarding religion, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and education
  • How medical costs are to be divided amongst the parents

When deciding on these major issues, it is best to be as detailed as possible. Dealing with specifics at the time of drafting the agreement can save the parties from coming back to court due to the agreement not addressing a certain details.

Here are some examples of common mistakes:

-“The parties agree the father will have parenting time with the child Friday after school to Sunday.” However, there is no mention of who is to pick up or drop off the child on Sunday back to the mother, or what time his parenting time ends Sunday.

 –“The parties agree the mother will have the children on New Year’s Eve, and the father will have the children New Year’s Day.” No pick up or drop off times are indicated, or where the exchange of the children is to occur.

-Not addressing the possibility of one parent going on vacation with the child

-Failing to take into account spring, summer, and winter breaks

Some parents are able to resolve issues like these in a civil manner, but others are unable to, causing conflict and the possibility of coming back to court. While it is impossible to plan for every single type of contingency, laying out the specifics in a parenting plan can save the parties hassle in the future.

 

New Alaska Law Takes the “Well-Being” of Pets into Consideration

via GIPHY

There is no doubt that divorces can be messy, especially when it comes to dividing property, both real and personal. Marital property needs to be distinguished from separate property when determining distribution, and this can include items such as vehicles, bank accounts, furniture, vacation homes, and in most states, pets.

More than half of pet owners consider their pets as apart of the family. However, in a majority of states, including Illinois, pets are treated as property. Last December, a Canadian judge’s ruling in a divorce case sparked controversy when he refused to discuss custody regarding the couple’s two dogs, further stating “But after all is said and done, a dog is a dog. At law it is property, a domesticated animal that is owned. At law it enjoys no familial rights.”

Until recently, all fifty states have considered pets to be property rather than family members. This time, the second to the last state added to the United States, was the first to change. An amendment to Alaska’s divorce statutes, which went into effect the first week of February, makes it the first state to treat pets more like children in a divorce proceeding. The amendment requires courts to take the “well-being” of pets into consideration, and explicitly gives judges the power to assign joint custody. It even allows the courts to name pets in domestic violence protection orders, and requires the owners of pets taken as a result of cruelty or neglect to pay for shelter costs.

The new law is groundbreaking in the world of animal law, and animal activists everywhere hope other states follow suit in protecting pets in divorce and domestic violence proceedings.