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Can Mediation Work In A High-Conflict Divorce?

conflict resolution strategiesDivorce itself is difficult enough. Add animosity and lack of cooperation into the picture and the process becomes lengthy, expensive, and sometimes emotionally destructive.

From a Huffington Post article by Conflict Resolution Specialist Elizabeth Esrey, here are some facts about high-conflict divorce and some tips to survive the challenges it brings.

SOME DIFFICULT AND DISTURBING FACTS

A high-conflict divorce is the most expensive way to separate from your spouse, mostly because of the on-going litigation that results from one or both parties’ unwillingness to compromise or openly discuss issues. Full-scale divorce litigation averages almost $78,000.

This type of divorce also has a documented history of violence associated with it. “Family courts pit couples against each other – especially in high conflict divorce cases,” notes Esrey, and she cites several examples of people who shot their spouses because of hostile child custody and visitation battles.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent outright tragedy in the divorce process.

DIVORCE MEDIATION IS A VIABLE OPTION

Even though the conflicts may at first seem insurmountable, a skilled collaborative law attorney or mediator can help even antagonistic parties to work together toward positive outcomes for everyone involved.

It’s almost like hostage negotiations, according to Esrey. The negotiator (mediator) listens actively, treats all parties with respect, and keeps working at the process to produce the best possible results.

“Judges and lawyers typically don’t deal with the emotional aspects of divorce. Mediators help couples navigate the divorce process and reach agreements that are less expensive, more lasting and customized.” And both legal and non-legal issues can be put on the table in mediation.

YOU HAVE A CHOICE

You always have a choice in how you will handle your side of the divorce process despite what is going on around you. Even if your spouse is not willing to participate, having a mediator in your camp shows that you want to bring respect and dignity to the divorce proceedings and you understand how divorce mediation can beat litigation in resolving difficult issues.

No matter what kind of divorce you’re experiencing, I can help you find positive outcomes through mediation. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Key Questions To Achieve The Goals Of Your Divorce

White conceptual keyboard - Legal advice (blue key)Hiring the right lawyer can be a critical decision in any legal matter, but it can be invaluable in your divorce planning–especially if the process will include some type of family mediation or collaboration.

In a recent article on Mediate.com, mediator Justin Kelsey outlines some effective questions to ask yourself about your desired outcomes as well as what to ask an attorney you’re looking to hire.

DETERMINE YOUR GOALS

According to Kelsey, you really should understand what results you want or expect before you meet with a lawyer/mediator. As he puts it, “If the lawyer doesn’t value or agree with your goals, then you are guaranteed to have a negative experience in your case.”

To that end, he suggests asking yourself:

  • What’s the most important issue you want to address?

  • Do you have certain outcomes in mind for specific situations like property division?

  • How do you hope your life will look when the legalities are over?

  • Do you have specific hopes/desires for other people involved in your case, especially in situations of child and spousal support?

  • Why are you deciding to work with an attorney, a mediator, or both?

ENSURE THE ATTORNEY IS A GOOD FIT

Once you know your own objectives, Kelsey advises that you find out if the attorney is right for your situation with questions like:

  • Do you understand and can you support my objectives?

  • What are some of the ways we could achieve my goals?

  • How would your role change if I hired you as an attorney/a mediator/both?

  • What are your strategies for conflicting situations, i.e. reducing tension versus obtaining the best outcome?

  • How will you handle disagreements we may have over the best way to achieve my desired outcomes?

“Going through any type of family dispute can be extremely stressful,” says Kelsey, “and you want to find an attorney that reduces that stress by understanding you and your goals.”

As an experienced divorce attorney and mediator, I understand how connecting with your goals is critical to making them happen. Contact me for more information on how I can help you achieve your desired divorce outcomes.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Are Limited Scope Services Right For Your Divorce?

Day in CourtIf the cost of an attorney is keeping you from finalizing your Illinois divorce, Limited Scope representation could help you complete the process effectively without spending more than you would like or can afford.

In short, you’re hiring a lawyer to help you represent yourself.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Choosing limited scope representation means that you will handle some the responsibilities of your divorce case while your attorney performs other tasks, and you are only billed for the things your attorney handles. Here are some examples.

  • Your lawyer would prepare certain pieces of evidence and you would present them in court.

  • You gather financial records or other data; your attorney drafts the paperwork for the court.

  • The attorney coaches you on appearing in court by yourself or just advises you on how to handle the simpler aspects of your case.

  • You draft certain documents and your divorce lawyer reviews/edits them.

There are a variety of options available based on your time and budget restrictions and your attorney’s advice for your specific case.

If you choose this type of service, take note. You must be ready to share all the details of your case with the attorney—including things you want to handle yourself as well as any issues you have with organization, negotiation, and public speaking. This avoids any complications arising later in the case that could require more of your attorney’s time and cost you more money.

WHAT CASES ARE BEST FOR THIS PROCESS?

Any case that is time-intensive, not overly technical, and/or has just a few issues that can be divided between you and your attorney is a good match. You’re paying for your lawyer’s time, so it makes sense to have him or her in a situation that uses time most effectively.

Family mediation and collaborative law cases often work well with limited representation for just this reason. You can choose to wait at court rather than paying your attorney to do so. That leaves your budget available for your lawyer to coach you on handling more law-intensive issues or to handle them for you if you’re at all uncomfortable.

WHERE CAN I FIND A LIMITED SCOPE ATTORNEY?

As a trained DuPage County Divorce Attorney, I can provide limited scope representation for your situation. Contact me for more details.

You can also contact your local County Bar Association for local referrals if our office is unable to assist you.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Maintaining A Parenting Plan After A Second Divorce

Parenting Plan Book For Child's Education And UpbringingYour first marriage ended in divorce, but you and your ex used divorce mediation to set up a workable parenting plan for your minor children. Now your second marriage is ending, and your current spouse wants you to rework that initial parenting plan in favor of your current family.

The good news is that you aren’t required to do this as part of your divorce planning. Here’s why.

“FIRST FAMILES FIRST” DOCTRINE

Under Illinois divorce law, and indeed in most states, support owed to a child from a first marriage/relationship does not have to be adjusted in order for a parent to provide support to a child/children from a second relationship.

From the court’s perspective, the second marriage is undertaken with the full knowledge of the existing support obligation and parties must accept that obligation as is. Thus the court will first deduct the support obligation owed to the children of the first marriage before calculating the amount owed to the second family.

Here’s a “real life” example. A man makes $100,000 and pays 20 percent in child support for his first marriage. He marries again, has a second child, and divorces again. The child of the second marriage is also awarded 20 percent, but it is of the remaining income of $80,000, meaning that child would get $16,000 (20 percent of $80,000). The first child’s support will not be affected in any way.

PARENTING PLANS

You worked hard in your first divorce to allocate parenting time and decision making. Perhaps the second divorce is causing an increase in stress within your home and for your children from the first marriage.

Generally, the court will not modify the first parenting plan without a compelling reason. These include mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, criminal activity, a troubling environment—in short, anything that can be clearly shown to have a negative effect on a child’s health, safety, and welfare.

Modification of an Allocation Judgment or Parenting Plan, however, will also be considered if both parents agree to the new plan parameters and for other situational factors, all of which consider the child’s best interests. Any modifications should be written, signed by both parents, and entered with the Court.

DIFFICULT DECISIONS

Ending any marriage is difficult, but your second divorce does not have to affect your first parenting plan or allocation judgment, unless you or the court feel it’s in the best interests of the children.

Family mediation and the collaborative divorce process can help divorcing couples resolve their issues to everyone’s satisfaction. Contact me to see how your divorce can benefit from this process.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

A Totally New Image Of Divorce

New image of divorceSocial media has become the place to share meaningful life occasions such as birthdays, engagements, marriages…and now divorces.

ENTER “DIVORCE SELFIES”

The growing trend of “divorce selfies” shows newly divorced couples happily together, often outside the courthouse, after finalizing this major life change.

According to a recent article on Mediate.com by Hadassah Fidler, this trend actually represents the changing face of divorce from an angry and bitter separation to a scenario where “emphasis is on conciliatory divorce and mediation,” which is especially important for couples with child custody and visitation concerns.

It’s an outcome most everyone would like, but it doesn’t happen without work.

LOOKING BEHIND THE SMILES

Although divorce selfies give the impression that the divorce planning process was easy and uncomplicated, Ms. Fidler sees them as a statement of successfully navigating a very difficult situation. “It is not saying that there was not a lot of hurt and obstacles to overcome along the way,” says Fidler. “It means that there were, but they were overcome and here we are on the other side.”

These pictures prove that while an amicable divorce is challenging it’s also quite obtainable with the help of divorce mediation professionals.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

The expectation of collaborative divorce is that it will be a smooth process with no difficulties or hard feelings, so when these do occur many couples want to give up. A good divorce mediator helps couples to manage their expectations and ultimately announce that they worked through the issues and separated amicably–without a long and expensive court battle.

Ms. Fidler comments that “you are much more likely to come out with a divorce selfie from mediation than you ever will from litigation” because mediation allows “each person to move forward and still retain a civilized workable relationship with their former partner.”

Is your goal to have a cooperative divorce (and maybe post your own divorce selfie)? Contact me to learn how I can help make this happen.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Recent Illinois Divorce Maintenance And Child Custody Rulings

divorce decreeSummarized below are two recent court rulings involving spousal maintenance and child custody issues in two Illinois divorce cases.

SPOUSAL MAINTENANCEIn re Marriage of Roberts

After 37 years of marriage, a public school teacher filed for dissolution of marriage from her husband, a disabled pharmacist. When determining spousal maintenance, the trial court ruled to divide the wife’s pension plan equally between both parties but denied the wife’s request for spousal maintenance. The court did not include the husband’s Social Security disability benefits as part of the decision, citing that these benefits cannot be considered in property division.

The wife filed a motion for the court to reconsider this, stating that this ruling would cause her financial hardship upon retirement because it would prevent her from having the same standard of living she achieved during the marriage, while her husband would have the ability to pay. She requested that the pension money be awarded solely to her or, if split with her husband, that he pay monthly maintenance to her equal to the amount he would receive from pension plan. When the trial court denied this motion, the wife filed an appeal.

The appellate court ruled that the trial court was correct in not considering the husband’s Social Security benefits in marital property division. However, Social Security benefits can be used in determining a maintenance award, and “the trial court abused its discretion in denying petitioner maintenance outright and not reserving the issue of maintenance until a later date.”

They reversed the trial court’s order denying maintenance and ruled that when the wife retires the court must consider the value of her husband’s Social Security benefits in determining the amount of maintenance that she will receive.

CHILD CUSTODYHeisterkamp v. Pacheco

In this case, a father filed a malpractice suit against the clinical psychologist appointed by the court as an expert in the father’s divorce proceedings. The psychologist diagnosed the father with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The father contended that this “diagnosis deviated from the standard of care in clinical psychology and, as a direct and proximate result, [he] lost custody of his children.”

The father claimed that the psychologist was appointed only to advise the court of his children’s wishes around child custody and visitation, and the psychologist exceeded this role by seeking and being granted approval to force the father into psychological testing.

In the end, the court ruled against the father and in favor of the psychologist stating that the “[psychologist] acted at the direction of the court in the dissolution proceedings and [is] entitled to absolute immunity regardless of whether the direction given was proper under section 604(b)” of the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

These two cases highlight the hardships–legal fees, time in court, family disruption–that can often be avoided by using settlement-based divorce practices such as family mediation or collaboration in the divorce process.

If you’d like to reduce or prevent these types of difficulties in your divorce, contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Helping Lawyers Cope With Job Stress

Family Friends Neighbors Co-Workers Support System GearsGood lawyers commit themselves to helping their clients in every possible way. While there’s great satisfaction in this, there can also be a fair amount of stress that comes along with it. Add any personal issues into the mix, and the pressure can lead to unhealthy coping responses.

If you are or know of a lawyer in DuPage County who is struggling to cope with stress, or if you are a family member being affected by this struggle, there is help available from the Lawyers’ Assistance Program, Inc. (LAP).

For over 30 years, this non-profit organization has offered free, confidential assistance to lawyers, law students, judges and their respective family members in a respectful, non-judgmental way.

In addition, anyone concerned about a friend, family member, or colleague in the legal profession can contact LAP for additional help with their own stress and concerns that come with being a caretaker or support system for this person.

Specific assistance includes free individual assessments, short-term counseling, support groups, attendance at two weekly 12-step meetings, and referrals for those who need or want continued treatment beyond what LAP offers.

LAP also hand picks and trains volunteers from the local legal community who provide confidential peer support for certain situations. As a DuPage County Divorce Attorney, I’m honored to have been chosen to be a peer volunteer for the Lawyers’ Assistance Program, and I value the trust placed in me to help my fellow legal professionals.

The Illinois LAP office is located in Chicago at 20 South Clark Street, Suite 1820, and there are several ways to contact them:

You can also contact me directly for information on LAP or for help with your divorce planning process in DuPage County and surrounding areas.


 ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

 

How Divorce Affects College Funding

529 college savings plan theme with textbooks and piggy bankDivorce planning for parents with a child in or on route to college includes navigating some potentially difficult issues to ensure the best possible financial aid benefits.

According to a recent article by Andrea Williams on USNews.com, there are three specific areas that can affect the child’s ability to receive adequate financial aid funding.

OWNING A 529 PLAN

If you and your spouse opened a joint 529 college savings plan, you must decide who will take ownership of the plan after the divorce.

“If one parent becomes the sole owner, he or she will be the only person who can make decisions regarding the use of account funds, so it is important that parents come to a mutual agreement,” says Williams. Divorce mediation can be a huge help in reaching a consensus on this issue.

College aid specialists often recommend that the plan be owned by the non-custodial parent because this person’s income and assets do not need to be included on the FAFSA form when requesting financial aid. If the custodial parent owns the 529 plan, that asset will have to be reported.

Only one person can “control” the plan, but experts say that the non-owning parent should be designated as an authorized user who can see the assets but cannot move them around. The non-owning parent should also be named the “successor owner” on the death of the owner parent.

CLAIMING THE CHILD ON TAXES

The parent who claims the child as a dependent on their annual taxes will receive the available tax reduction as well as any college credits given by the IRS that year. It’s important to take a good look at potential financial implications before making this decision.

For example, a parent who makes too high a salary is not eligible for certain IRS credits so it might make more sense for the lower-earning parent to claim the child and be eligible for financial refunds. Check with the IRS for specific salary thresholds.

CUSTODY DECISIONS

The child custody decision can have an effect on how much financial aid a child can receive. Williams states that “it is the custodial parent’s finances that are used to determine financial aid eligibility – unless the noncustodial parent still resides in the same household. Additionally, if the custodial parent remarries, the new spouse’s finances will be considered also.”

Colleges can also ask for additional financial aid forms and these generally do not require the non-custodial parent’s financial information. So if the potential non-custodial parent makes $40,000 per year and the custodial parent makes $250,000, the child has a better chance at financial aid if the lower-earning parent has custody.

These are very tough, complicated decisions that often cannot be made without the help of a separate party such as a family mediator or collaborative law expert.

If you are a divorcing parent with a child in college, contact me to learn how I can help you make the best possible decisions for the child’s college education.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

More On New Illinois Divorce Laws

A judge?s gavel coming down on a broken heart designFor the past several months, I’ve been providing information on the new Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act that went into effect on January 1, 2016.

Outlined below are a few more important changes from a recent article by P. André Katz and Erin B. Bodendorfer in the Illinois Bar Journal.

This is key information for those in the midst of an Illinois divorce, particularly parties with children.

RESTRICTIONS ON EDUCATIONAL EXPENSES AFTER HIGH SCHOOL

Educational expenses for children continuing beyond high school can be incurred until a student turns 23, but no later, unless for good cause or on the agreement of both parents. However, awards cannot be made under any circumstances once a student is 25 years of age.

Without good cause, the allowed amount for tuition, fees, meals, and housing cannot exceed what is charged for these expenses at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Medical and other living expenses are not part of this capped amount. Students receive this benefit as long as they maintain a “C” average or better.

This provision ends when a student reaches the maximum age allowance, receives a bachelor’s degree, or gets married. However, it will continue if the student becomes pregnant, goes to jail, or joins the military.

When setting the award for post-secondary education, the court can consider how this decision will affect the current and future financial situation of both parties.

SUPPORTING A NON-MINOR CHILD WITH DISABILITIES

Under the new law, the court can now order that awards to support a disabled non-minor child be paid to a trust for the benefit of that child. Parties must apply for this award either when the child is eligible for child support or is eligible for post-secondary educational expenses.

USE OF FINANCIAL EXPERTS

When valuing assets or property, the court may appoint financial experts or other specialists to reduce or eliminate the costs of each party engaging their own professional for the purpose of asset protection in divorce.

MARITAL AGREEMENT MODIFICATIONS

The new law describes what is and is not open for modification in a marital agreement. Decisions on property can never be modified. The following are open to revision based on the requestor showing a major change of circumstances: parental responsibilities, child support, maintenance, and educational expenses. Parties can also decide on modifications of maintenance amounts, time, or both.

These new laws are meant to be more fair and transparent for all parties involved in a divorce. They also provide the opportunity for open discussion so that all parties can come to mutual agreement on various issues. Sometimes, however, parties reach an impasse. When this happens, divorce mediation can often help everyone to reach a consensus.

The professionals of Birt Law are trained in the effective use of family mediation and collaborative law procedures. Contact me to learn how we can help in your specific situation.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

More Court Involvement in Illinois Parenting Agreements

Cropped image of male judge signing document at desk against black backgroundDoes the joint parenting agreement from your Illinois divorce need updating? It might, based on several new family and divorce laws taking effect in 2016.

Parents who are already divorced or still in the process of divorce planning should be aware of how these changes will affect them and of the potential for more court involvement in post-divorce parenting arrangements.

RE-DEFINED PARENTING ORDERS

After January 1, 2016, a parenting order will be referred to as an “allocation judgment.” Under the new laws, the Court can allocate parenting plan rulings (formerly called visitation) and can also assign specific parenting and decision-making responsibilities to each party. These include:

  • Education
  • Religion
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Nutritional needs
  • Bedtime/wake-up routines
  • Illness and injury care
  • Hygiene, grooming, dressing
  • Ensuring attendance at activities
  • Transportation
  • Protection of child’s safety

MODIFIED PARENTING PLANS

In addition, any changes or modifications by the Court to a parenting plan or allocation judgment will now be considered and determined by a preponderance of evidence rather than the higher standard of clear and convincing proof.

This means that the Court will be involved in many more parenting issues than before, which may help some parents but may also be an invasion of privacy to others.

MAKING USE OF MEDIATION

Developing a professional relationship with a divorce mediator or attorney can help separated parents maintain control and privacy and prevent over-involvement of the court in the parenting of their children.

My practice offers family mediation and collaborative divorce services by trained professionals. We show divorced parents how to work as a team to reduce or eliminate the Court’s involvement in their parenting duties. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.