Family Law Blog

Forwarding Thinking in Your Divorce - Child Support Considerations

Friday, March 09, 2018

It has come down to this - all options have been explored and you have finally come to terms with the fact that you are getting a divorce. Amid the emotional stress and legal decisions, sometimes it is difficult to look at the long-term needs of your children, especially when you are overwhelmed with parenting plans, visitation schedules, financial support, and even more immediate details such as where you intend to live or how you plan to pay your bills. It is easy to get caught up in the here and now without considering what your children might require in the future. This is especially true for parents of young children who have not yet begun writing the endless stream of checks required for the activities for children in middle school or high school. 

What do you consider to be necessary for raising a healthy, educated, balanced child? Often times in a divorce, parents do not consider these questions with regard to when their children are older. Do you believe participation in athletics, music lessons, travel, mission work, or academic competitions are activities that your children need to prepare themselves for adulthood? What about the expenses associated with taking Advanced Placement Exams or even Dual Credit courses offered in high school? Do you want trade school or college to be an option for your children after they graduate from high school? If so, who is going to foot the bill for these expensive but enriching experiences? Perhaps you do not consider all of these activities to be central to the development of your children, and that is certainly reasonable, but if even some of them seem relevant to your expectations on what opportunities your children should have, it is important to consider them now. 

Addressing these issues on the front end, when parties may be more agreeable to reasonable solutions, can save you a great deal of arguing, disappointment, or future court proceedings. While you are establishing a parenting plan and the terms of child support, it is important to be forward thinking and to include terms that address these needs. Preparedness on the front end can save you time and expense on the back end, and consolation with an attorney is certainly advised. The attorneys at Jamra & Jamra are available to advise you on these and other considerations in your divorce. Please contact us today if you are ready to protect your children's future opportunities.  

Property Division, Who Gets Custody of - Fido?

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Divorce and child custody battles often go hand in hand, with property disputes a close second among causes of high emotional and financial impact. Houses, cars, 401K distribution and what to do with the family RV provoke understandably strong emotions. Throw in disputes over who gets the family dog and the emotional stakes are even higher.

In most states, pets are viewed as property. The ultimate ownership of pets is dependent upon many factors, including which partner bought the animal and whether kids are involved.

Many pet owners find this approach heartless given that the animal's welfare isn't necessarily taken into account. The big screen TV and the car may hold high dollar values, but they also aren't granted quite the same status in the minds of owners, or, in fact, the law. Destroying your own television set rarely comes with legal repercussions, but animal abuse is another matter.

According to a new Illinois state law following in Alaska's footsteps, animals will be treated much like children in divorce proceedings. Effective January 1st, 2018, in cases where a divorcing couple is equally attached to a pet, judges in Illinois are now permitted to take the animal's best interests into account, much as they would a child.

The new law applies only in Illinois, but the results bear close watching. Most likely, who will make the better owner will be the main criteria for animal custody decisions, but, as with children, one wonders if that decision could usher in a host of other issues, including visitation. 

While California law still views pets as property, the California Family Code Section 6320 allows pets to be included in protective orders. Some California judges also consider visitation a valid option in pet disputes, as happened in the case of Gigi, whose ultimate disposition included a "bonding study" and cost her owners 100,000 dollars in legal fees.

Custody and ownership as separate issues is the standard in most states and under most conditions, but as pets have become normalized as part of divorce settlements, laws have had to keep up with human emotional bonds. Contact us to learn more about how pets factor into divorce proceedings.

What Conditions Allow for Termination of Spousal Support?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Spousal support was designed and put in place to help half of a divorcing couple get back on their feet after a separation. In many marriages, there is one spouse who earns more and one who earns less for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one spouse decided to stay home and care for the children, leaving them without income and work experience in the event of a divorce. However, spousal support is not forever. It has the ability to be modified and even terminated. However, what are the conditions for termination when it comes to spousal support?

Spousal support termination can be achieved through a variety of different conditions. These conditions include:

  • Self-Sufficiency Through Employment - Once the spouse receiving spousal support payments has obtained a job that allows them to be self-supporting, it can be petitioned by the courts to terminate or otherwise modify spousal support. However, even if a spouse is employed doesn't mean they are receiving enough to support themselves fully.
  • Getting Re-Married - Getting re-married is automatic ground for termination when it comes to spousal support. However, never try to game the system by putting off marriage. Courts will agree to termination if you are simply cohabitating with a romantic partner as well.
  • Retirement - If the paying party is ready to retire, they can request that spousal support be terminated or reduced in order to match their lower retirement income. However, the paying party must be retirement age or otherwise unable to work. They cannot retire early for the purpose of eliminating spousal support payments.

If you are seeking to modify spousal support payments or are getting divorced and want spousal support on the table, contact us today. Let the Law Office of Jamra & Jamra help get you the results you desire.

Does Child Support Include College Education?

Friday, January 19, 2018

In many cases, child support is seen as a way for the custodial parent to better care for their child after divorce. It helps with various expenses that come with raising a child. However, when getting a divorce with older children, the custodial parent may wonder if child support should include expenses such as college education.

In truth, child support can include payments for college education. However, when children are young and their parents are getting a divorce, often the courts will leave the issue of who pays for college until the child is older. This is often done because circumstances can greatly change over that time period and the courts do not know if or what kind of college that child will pursue.

However, once that age has come, both parents may need to return to court to discuss the issue of tuition. Unlike child support payments, both parents will be expected to pay their fair share of a child's tuition. This means if your ex-spouse has attained a higher paying job since child support started, they may be expected to pay more towards college expenses. However, even the custodial parent will need to pay a share as well. Issues factored in to this include what sort of education the child is pursuing, their academic record, and any financial aid they are receiving, such as scholarships. Depending on these factors, the parents may have to pay more or less, but the amount will be split regardless.

If you are pursuing a divorce with older children, their college education is undoubtedly a worry. If you want to talk through your divorce and child support options, contact us today to see what the Law Office of Jamra & Jamra can do for you.

Spouse is Employed, But No Spousal Support is Being Paid

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

After a divorce, spousal support is put in place to help you restart your life. However, while there are exceptions made for spouses that lost their jobs for reasons beyond their control, if your spouse is employed, they should be paying. Perhaps you gave them a little leeway in terms of payment, but what do you do after a few reminders haven't manifested in payment?

 If spousal support payment is not being made, your only most effective option is to return to court, but even then receiving payment is not a guarantee. While your spouse may be employed, sometimes the court will state that they do not have the funds to adhere to their spousal support payment, particularly if there is a substantial amount past due. However, a judge may initiate any of the following to see that payment is followed through.

  • Wage garnishment
  • Offsets of tax returns
  • Garnishment of retirement accounts
  • Spousal support reduced to a money judgment
  • Suspension of passport, driver's license, or professional license until payment is made

If your ex-spouse has the funds in order to be paying their spousal support, all of the above will be used by the court to make sure they pay you what is due. If they have been consciously withholding payment while also having the means to pay it, you may also receive past due payments to help make you whole.

If you are getting divorced or have an ex-spouse that is not making spousal support payments on time, contact us today. Let the Law Firm of Jamra & Jamra help make sure you get the spousal support that you need so you can get back on your feet after a divorce.

Challenges of Early Life Divorces

Friday, January 12, 2018

You know what they say, your younger years are for making mistakes. However, for most people, those mistakes don't include a bad marriage, or rather, they don't realize it is a mistake until much later. However, if you get married young and realize it was a mistake, getting a divorce in your 20's can provide some unique challenges.

One of the most unique challenges you will face is the social stigma. Friends and family will likely have the "I told you so" of it all ready to go once the filing has begun. For many, this may pressure them into staying in an unhappy marriage because they don't want deal with the negativity. However, one of the benefits of realizing a marriage is not working while you are young is that you have plenty of time to start over. Don't let it ruin you for other relationships, but rather use it to know what you want out of your next one.

Furthermore, another unique challenge you face through an early divorce is the financial strain of the process. You may not have to deal with stock portfolios or retirement accounts quite yet, but many young divorcing couples find the divorce process more expensive than they can afford. This means it might be difficult to come up with funding for the legal process, but typically in early divorces, there is not much in the way of asset division. Neither you or your spouse have become accustomed to a lavish way of living because the wages in your early years are somewhat low. Typically this means asset division is easier, but you should both plan for post-marriage life before divorcing. Money may be tight and you should both allow yourself enough time to make arrangements.

While early divorces are stressful and expensive (though not more or less expensive than if you were married 10+ years), you still should not be afraid to go through with it. You deserve to be in a marriage where you are happy. If you are young and considering a divorce, contact us today.

What Happens When A Child Doesn’t Want to Have Visitation?

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Often when it comes to visitation issues, typically it is one parent not showing up to a scheduled visitation, resulting in understandable heartbreak. However, occasionally it can actually be the child that doesn't want to attend a visitation. Maybe they are bored just watching TV with dad all day, or maybe mom is seeing someone new and it is resulting in some discomfort on their part. Regardless of the reason, what happens when a child no longer wants to attend visitation?

If the custodial parent denies visitation, they can be held in contempt of court. This can still happen if your child is refusing. This is why the custodial parent needs to take steps in order to remedy their relationship with the non-custodial parent.

The incontrovertible first step should always be to ask your child why they don't want to go. Sometimes it can be from neglect or abuse, and then that becomes a whole different ball game where you can often have visitation revoked. However, if it is something like boredom and negative emotions, often you can ask your ex-spouse to address these issues. Perhaps it would be better to spend time with their child doing more interesting things or it would be better if their new significant other wasn't around until they were more comfortable. You, as the custodial parent, need to explain very clearly how spending time with both parents is important. Make sure it is known that both sides love them and both sides always want to spend time with them.

If your child still refuses, a last resort may also be asking your ex-spouse for a little break from visitation. However, this might open you up to legal action. This means that if your child is refusing visitation, you may want to contact us to talk your options over with a lawyer.

What Happens if One Party Doesn’t Show Up to a Divorce Hearing?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Divorce is a very contentious time in the lives of divorcing couples. Emotions run hot and a lot of arguments can come up. It often gets to the point where bitterness can take over and one part of a dissolving marriage doesn't want to see the other's face ever again. They think that maybe they can trip things up a little by not showing up to a court date. However, not going to court when ordered to appear is perhaps one of the worst things you can do.

If you or your spouse fail to show up for your scheduled divorce hearing, then it is effectively wasting the court's time, and they are not pleased about it. If no good reason is given, the judge will hold the absent party in contempt of court, authorize a bench warrant for their arrest, and you will likely have to pay a fine for it. Furthermore, skipping a court date in a divorce only works in favor of the party that was present. It could cause a biased in their favor when it comes to the terms of the divorce.

That being said, sometimes one party just wants things to be over without going to court. If you agree to the terms of the divorce, but don't want to sit in court, either party can file for an uncontested divorce. In this, only the filing spouse needs to attend court. However, before this can happen, the separation agreement needs to have agreed upon terms by both parties in regards to spousal support, child support, debt repayment, and property division.

If you are filing for divorce and believe your spouse may be non-compliant to showing up to court or agreeing to an uncontested divorce, contact us today. The good news is that is your spouse is being difficult, the divorce will still progress after filing whether they like it or not. Furthermore, it may even come out more in your favor.

What Happens to the Family Home in a Divorce?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

You made a lot of good memories in your home, and even if your marriage started to sour, those memories may be something you want to hang on to. However, the messiest part of divorce is dividing up the stuff, and the family home is part of that stuff.

If you want to keep the property, your best course of action is to come to some agreement on it. When it comes to property division, real estate isn't physically divided by the courts, but rather it must be sold off and the monetary value is then split between the divorced couple. This means you lose the house and all those memories are now just solely in your mind.

However, there are some cases in which one party may retain ownership without having to make a compromise. The most common situation for this is if the home was bought before the marriage. If you bought the home before the marriage and your name remained the sole name on it, then it will most often be awarded back to you. However, even if you added your ex-spouse's name on to the house, it may still be argued that since you bought the property before the marriage that it is still yours.

Unfortunately, most married couples buy their first home together. This means that no matter how much you cherish those memories, your property will still need to be divided. If you still want to retain it, you will need to work extensively to compromise with your ex-spouse. If you are divorcing and desperately want to keep your family home, contact us today! 

Utilize Technology to Facilitate Co-Parenting

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Communication! When you cannot communicate with your child's other parent, it can make everyone's life miserable, especially if the other parent is trying to make it difficult! 

The Game: do these false accusations and lies sound familiar?

  • I didn't get the message!
  • You never sent me _____!
  • My phone was off!
  • My battery died!
  • I sent you the money last week!

Well, good news! Technology can help! Stop stressing out about petty lies and accusations so you can focus on your child!

Here are two companies that offer software that can help: 2houses and Our Family Wizard. Both offer you the ability to communicate solely through their program, which eliminates a lot of miscommunication and false claims! Both programs feature financial tracking options that allow you to upload relevant receipts. The programs can calculate how much each party should pay and you can pay through the portal! The calendars are easy to use so that both of you can add events or request a change in the schedule! Our Family Wizard's messaging system detects aggressive tones and makes suggestions to keep communication civil. Both programs are available on desktop and phone apps for easier access! 2houses offers a free 14-day trial and monthly payment options while Our Family Wizard offers a 30-day money back guarantee, military discounts and scholarship opportunities. 

If you are in a high-conflict situation and the other parent is damaging your child's emotional well-being, contact us! We can help you develop a parenting plan that will protect your child!