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Family Law

Stephanie L. Tang with Kogut & Wilson discusses the five things every family law attorney should know about the amended child support statute, which took effect on July 1.

A postnuptial agreement is "an important and effective tool in Illinois and should not be forgotten by practitioners," writes Chicago lawyers Joshua S. Singewald and Kellie Rose Bylica in the September ISBA Family Law Section newsletter.

As in the case of any contract, a postnup must be entered into voluntarily by the parties, and the familiar contract-law protections against coercion and mistake apply, Singewald and Bylica note. And Illinois law "require[s] a full disclosure of each party's assets and liabilities for every postnuptial agreement," allowing each "to make an informed decision."

So when would a married couple use one? "[I]f one spouse intends to start a business during the marriage, the business-owning spouse may want to protect his or her business in the event of divorce," Singewald and Bylica write. "Similarly…a spouse [who] makes a substantial non-marital contribution to a marital asset," such as making the down payment on a house, might want to assure reimbursement, they write. Postnups also enable the parties to allocate debt, deal with bequests to children of previous marriages, and even "[r]evise a prenuptial agreement based on current/changed circumstances."

Learn more about postnups in the September Family Law newsletter.

On September 22, 2017, HB 2537 became Public Act 100-0520. It makes changes to the Code of Civil Procedure and the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), which has been the subject of a major overhaul in the past few years. The law takes effect June 1, 2018.

One major change during the Act's first overhaul was to make it gender-neutral to better include same-sex marriages within the language of the statute. Some portions of the new law seem geared towards cleaning up remaining language that wasn't gender neutral. It also streamlines the process for name changes, rewrites the calculation for the duration of spousal maintenance, and raises the combined income ceiling for couples to whom the maintenance guidelines apply from $250,000 to $500,000.

Perhaps the biggest change in the new law appears in 750 ILCS 5/504, which involves the calculation of spousal maintenance and its duration. It also increases the gross-income ceiling for cases to which the guidelines apply from $250,000 per year to $500,000 per year.

Under the current math, the duration of maintenance is calculated based on five-year chunks of time. For instance, a marriage that lasted five years or less receives different treatment than one that lasted more than five but less than 10 years. Under the new law, calculating the duration of maintenance takes a more granular approach that seems more logical. For instance, it seems arbitrary that a one-day difference in filing for divorce can result in a doubling of the modifier used to determine how long a spouse will receive maintenance.

Find out more about P.A. 100-0520 in the November Illinois Bar Journal

Divorcing clients have a range of estate planning needs, but some issues arise for nearly everyone whose marriage is ending, notes Chicago lawyer and ISBA member Lauren Evans DeJong. So be prepared to counsel your divorcing client about the following five estate-planning tasks.

Changing beneficiary designations. These include removing the soon-to-be ex as beneficiary "of [the client's] life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts, land trusts, and annuities," DeJong writes. Also review "transfer on death or payable on death bank or brokerage accounts, land conveyed by transfer on death deeds, and employee benefits."

Controlling access to online accounts. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, 755 ILCS 70/1 et seq., which took effect last year, "provides a priority system for individuals to specifically control disclosure of digital assets and content of electronic communications" on social media, email, and the like.

"Many clients will not want their…ex to have access to their e-mails, Facebook or Instagram accounts, financial or banking information, diaries, or other personal information," DeJong writes.

"Individuals can use online tools established by providers [e.g., Google's Inactive Account Manager and Facebook's Legacy Contact] to direct disclosure of digital assets," she writes. "[A]n online tool…takes precedence over any other method of directing disclosure." Another option is to draft a statement directing disclosure, which can be included in a client's will, trust, or POA.

Gabriela O. Asrow of Hoffenberg & Block, LLC discusses the six types of difficult family law clients and how to work with them.

On July 1, 2017, a major change for calculating child support obligations takes effect. Last year, Public Act 99-764 was enacted. The legislation amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to replace the percentage guideline formula with the income shares model for calculating child support. This is a significant change that brings Illinois in line with 39 other states and the District of Columbia, which already use the income shares model.

Since 1984, Illinois has used the percentage guideline formula to determine child support. It arrives at the child support obligation by multiplying the payor's net income by a statutorily set percentage, which increases based on the number of children. This model is now considered outdated "because it does not reflect actual child rearing costs or allocate those costs between the parents." (Find out more more in the December 2016 IBJ at http://bit.ly/2qYq8Rr). Rather, the old formula required payors to simply pay a percentage of their net income regardless of the actual child rearing costs. Oak Brook attorney Margaret A. Bennett believes the old model often caused acrimony between divorcing parents because it is not always perceived as equitable and accurate.


Don’t miss ISBA’s final installment of the Family Law Table Clinic Series! Join us in Chicago on May 18, 2017 as our speakers offer informal table top presentations on a number of key family law topics, including how to understand financial statements, personal returns, operating agreements, and LLC returns; proving marital and non-marital characterization; maintenance issues; property division; issues with pension and retirement asset division; and more. This interactive innovative CLE format gives you ample opportunity to ask questions, clarify issues, and discuss concerns with faculty members at the end of each presentation. Attendees move from table to table throughout the day, gaining the perspective of both experienced and newer attorney speakers throughout each 30 minute table clinic. The series is open to all levels of practice experience, but designed with attorneys new to family law (or who need a refresher) in mind.

The program is presented by the ISBA Family Law Section and qualifies for 6.0 hours MCLE credit.

Click here for more information and to register.

The Illinois General Assembly enacted changes in 2016 to the Illinois family laws. Divorce and custody cases are sent to mediation, but the changes in the law have effected how mediators and attorneys handle the mediation process. Don’t miss this opportunity on September 22, 2016 to hear from our panel of mediators as they discuss how the new laws have influenced their approach toward family law mediations, the skills they use during mediation, and their interaction with both parties involved in the mediation. Additional topics include: whether or not the new law has changed their mediation practice; the use of caucusing; how to explain the new law to your mediation clients; and previewing plans with the parties.

Don’t miss ISBA’s first installment of the Family Law Table Clinic Series! Join us in Chicago on September 15, 2016 as our speakers offer informal table top presentations on a number of key family law topics, including orders of protection, domestic violence, summary judgments, interim fees, declaratory judgements, pleadings, and more. This interactive innovative CLE format gives you ample opportunity to ask questions, clarify issues, and discuss concerns with faculty members at the end of each presentation. Each table clinic lasts 30 minutes with attendees moving from table to table throughout the day. The series is open to all levels of practice experience, but designed with attorneys new to family law (or who need a refresher) in mind.

Don’t miss this two-day program on June 2, 2016 – June 3, 2016 that’s designed to help attorneys who represent children. Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 906(c)*, attorneys should receive ten hours of education every two years in child development; roles of guardians ad litem and child representatives; ethics in child custody cases; relevant substantive state, federal, and case law in custody and visitation matters; and family dynamics, including substance abuse, domestic abuse, and mental health issues. Topics for this seminar include: the requirements for those representing children in litigation; the challenges facing the next generation of advocates; the issues attorneys may face when dealing with client problems; recent changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act; legislative and case law updates; how to prepare children for litigation; how litigation may impact children; the work of non-attorney professionals in the parental allocation process; establishing parental responsibilities; structuring and scheduling parenting time; the rights of stepparents and grandparents; addressing domestic violence; and more. The roles of attorney, child representative and guardian ad litem are also discussed.