Category Collaborative Law

Divorce And Your 401(k)

Broken 401KAlthough it seems unfair, your personal 401(k) retirement plan is considered marital property and, as such, is subject to the same rules as other marital possessions in a divorce.

A recent article by Jerry Shaw on NewsMax.com offered advice on how to ensure this asset is shared equitably between both parties.

UNDERSTAND YOUR PLAN

Once you’re sure about your divorce, talk with your plan administrator as soon as possible. It’s important that both you and your attorney are familiar with your plan’s particular requirements, as asset protection in divorce is often a key point of negotiations.

Shaw states, “The plan may have requirements or options to use when dividing the plan with your spouse. Some plans allow disbursement as soon as the divorce is finalized, but other plans may not allow distributions of any kind until retirement age.”

KNOW YOUR OPTIONS

Understanding your alternatives will help you negotiate a property division outcome that works for both parties. Options for dividing a 401(k) plan can vary and include:

  • Simply splitting the assets equally

  • You keep your plan and replace your spouse’s portion of its value with other marital assets

  • Liquidating only a portion of the assets

  • Rolling over a set amount of the asset into your spouse’s retirement plan

Per IRS regulations, dividing the assets of a 401(k) through a cash payment is a one-time option. “Any additional payouts decided later on would be subject to a 10 percent penalty on the withdrawal. Any distribution from the plan before age 59 and a half is also considered an early withdrawal,” says Shaw.

In addition, any money distributed before retirement age requires an employer to withhold a pre-payment tax of 20 percent on the distribution amount.

HAVE YOUR ATTORNEY CREATE A QDRO

A QDRO, or Qualified Domestic Relations Order, tells your 401(k) plan administrator how to divide up the money according to federal regulations. If needed, your plan administrator will have “model copies” of completed QDRO documents for you to follow.

Both your plan administrator and the presiding judge must sign the completed QDRO, which should then be shared with your attorney and your spouse’s attorney so they’re familiar with your plan details for negotiations on splitting this asset.

Ensure that the QDRO is filed, approved and signed as soon as possible. If the party with the 401(k) plan dies or retires before this happens, the other party could potentially lose any funds due to him or her.

Using family mediation or a collaborative divorce process often results in a win-win for both parties around property division in a divorce, and I am well-experienced in these areas. Contact me to learn how I can help with your situation.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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 Adult Children Accept Your Divorce

Portrait Of Family With Adult Son At HomeAlthough you’re not dealing with child custody and visitation issues, a divorce can be just as or even more difficult for grown children than for younger ones.

The good news is that there are a few more ways to successfully help your adult children to accept the situation and move on.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST

Although this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s actually one of the first and best ways to help your grown kids to move on, says Amanda Nicole in her article on DivorcedMoms.com.

When divorce happens, states Nicole, most parents will put all their focus on ensuring that their kids are okay while ignoring their own feelings and needs. “As a result, they become part of the cause of the same hurt that they are trying to shield their kids from.” Nicole believes in a different approach. “The best thing you can do as a parent for your children is work on being okay yourself.”

Nicole compares it to the situation of putting on your own airplane oxygen mask first so you can then fully help your kids.

BE A ROLE MODEL

By working toward your own acceptance of the divorce and subsequent new beginnings, you show your adult children what it means to manage and navigate through the inevitable difficulties that show up in some way in everyone’s life.

You don’t want your children to “become victims blaming mom and dad for everything that goes wrong in their life, rather than learning to take control of their own lives,” says Nicole.

What’s more, according to Nicole, adult kids “will most likely spend more time with the parent that is less maintenance and drama free; that usually is the one who is healed and is moving on.”

REMEMBER THAT YOUR KIDS ARE ADULTS

In the end, your children are adults and it’s their responsibility to work through their own emotions about the divorce, states Nicole. They should be paying more attention to their own lives and families at this point, anyway.

You can help by being willing to talk with them and not putting them in the middle of issues between you and their other parent.

If you didn’t use collaborative divorce with your spouse (or even if you did), consider using family mediation with your adult children to help all family members understand each other’s feelings and come to some kind of closure.

As a DuPage County Divorce Attorney skilled in the areas of divorce mediation, I can help you, your spouse, and your family to come to terms with this major life change. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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.

Teaming Legal and Mediation Services In Your Divorce

conflict resolution cycle illustrationTo get through your divorce with the best concessions in place, hiring a lawyer is always a good idea. To reach those concessions through effective communication and negotiation versus anger and conflict, hiring a lawyer such as a Mediation Consulting Attorney will help you determine those best concessions.

In some situations, the court will specifically require divorce mediation assistance, and a new trend to help you meet your goals is retaining a Mediation Consulting Attorney.

The good news is that currently legal divorce services and mediation services do not have to be separate and distinct during the divorce process. Rather, they can work as a team to help all parties get the results they desire at the end of the marriage.

THE ROLE OF A MEDIATION CONSULTING ATTORNEY

Also known as a Limited Scope Attorney, a Divorce Legal Consultant, or a Collaborative Divorce Attorney, this person helps all parties to come to agreement on the various issues of their particular divorce case. This includes facilitating dialogue, identifying any issues between parties, clarifying points of consensus, preparing a spouse for the mediation sessions and/or divorce litigation, and exploring any and all alternatives to reach a settlement everyone approves.

A Mediator must work equally in the best interests of both parties, does not act as an attorney or advocate for either side, does not provide legal counsel, and does not make any decisions on disputes between the divorcing parties. A Divorce Mediator stays impartial to any one party’s needs and neutral around the results of the collaboration efforts. Hiring a Mediation Consulting Attorney, however, provides you with an advocate for your side and a convenient and timely way to obtain legal advice without disrupting or prolonging the mediation process.

THE ROLE OF THE DIVORCE LAWYER

Unlike the Mediation Consulting Attorney, divorce lawyers are obligated to work for the specific party that hires them, advising them and preparing any required legal documents in preparation for litigation. Lawyers are always partial to the needs of their client and will work to create the best possible outcome for that person. A good Mediation Consulting Attorney, however, also knows the value of mediation, particularly in difficult or contentious divorces and will work with the mediation process, not disrupt or terminate it.

HOW THEY WORK TOGETHER

Working as a collaborative team, lawyers and mediators can help divorcing couples to reach effective agreements. In this scenario, parties can agree to meet with the Mediation Consulting Attorney with both of their lawyers present, with one or the other’s lawyer present, or without either of their lawyers present.

If one party wants to bring a lawyer, the other party is notified of this prior to the mediation session to determine whether that lawyer will also participate.

When necessary, the divorcing parties can agree to bring on other collaborative professionals to help with financial issues, property division, child custody and support matters, or any other situations that need expert assistance to reach a solution. I spend my time networking and collaborating with other divorce professionals so that I can assist my client with building the best team for support and knowledge during the divorce process.

I am available to work as a Mediation Consulting Attorney to fill the gap between mediator and divorce litigation and I can help support you through any aspect of your divorce process. My focus is DuPage, Cook, Will, and Kane Counties, including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Chicago, Plainfield, Elgin and others.

Contact me for more information on services for your specific area.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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.

Is Divorce Truly The Best Solution?

Vector concept of Questions Couples, question markIf divorce has been put on the table by you or your spouse, stop and consider one very important thing: Are you truly ready for all the emotional and legal issues that come with divorce planning?

This idea is explored in a recent article on Mediate.com titled “Are You Really Ready for Divorce? The 8 Questions You Need to Ask by Bruce Derman and Wendy Gregson, both experts in Collaborative Divorce.

Below are the eight specific questions from the article and a brief overview of each.

  1. “Do You Still Have Feelings For Your Partner?” – Many people who still love each other will consider divorce because of power struggles or intimacy issues. The authors state, “If this is you, it is best that you work on your relationship prior to deciding to divorce otherwise your feelings of loss will overwhelm you and you may find yourself worse off after the divorce than you are now.”

  2. “Were you ever really married?” – We’re talking about the emotional aspects, not the legal state. The authors describe it as a relationship that has no “us” to it; rather it’s just two people meeting their own needs. “If you have not developed a genuine ‘we’ in your relationship,” say Derman and Gregson, “this would be the time to either commit to learning how to do that or to admit that you have never really had a marriage.”

  3. “Are you truly ready for divorce or are you just threatening?” – Are you using the threat of divorce to force your partner to change or to raise awareness of your marriage issues when you don’t really want to split? Those truly ready for divorce will want to move on with their lives and don’t have to blame their partner for making it happen, according to the authors.

  4. “Is this a sincere decision based on self-awareness or is it an emotionally reactive decision?” – Derman and Gregson state, “To be ready for divorce is to have a lower emotional attachment to the person you are separating from, otherwise, the divorce process itself will be roller coaster of intense feelings, including anger, distrust and hurt.”

  5. “What is your intent in wanting a divorce?”If it is for any other reason than ending your marriage, you need to rethink things, say the authors. A divorce will not fix all the things that were wrong in your relationship.

  6. “Have you resolved your internal conflict over the divorce?” – Know that you can (and will) feel guilty or betrayed while simultaneously feeling glad that the marriage is over. As the authors put it, “Recognizing the conflict and owning that different parts of you will be struggling with the impact of divorce, at different times, is part of the process of getting ready for divorce.”

  7. “Can you handle the unpleasant consequences of divorce?” – It’s a fact, say Derman and Gregson, that your divorce will cause pain for your children, extended family and friends. It will probably change your lifestyle financially and personally. There will be times of feeling lost and afraid. If you’re not ready to accept these consequences, you probably aren’t ready for divorce.

  8. “Are you willing to take control of your life in a responsible and mature way?” – People have many different reactions to ending a marriage. “They can come from a position of bitterness, revenge or helplessness or they can negotiate for their future from a position of strength, understanding and respect,” say the authors. “The attitude you choose will determine the type of divorce you have.”

Knowing the answers to these questions can mean the difference between a long, expensive, emotionally-damaging process and a divorce where each party gets what they need through Illinois Collaborative Divorce Law.

As a Dupage County divorce attorney, I can help you work through these questions and any others to end your marriage in a positive, respectful way. Contact me to learn more.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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 Effective Illinois Divorce Options

Negotiate You and I Want Street Signs Negotiation AgreementAnyone dealing with legal issues, divorce in particular, deserves to have all the information necessary to make the best possible decisions. This can be tricky if you’re not a legal professional or can’t afford one to help you, but a new Illinois policy will help change this for the better.

THE ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT SPEAKS

The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued a new policy to help ensure that litigants are informed about the many important and helpful services available to them. These include pro-bono (free) and low-cost legal services, legal aid hotlines, and internet-based resources.

For anyone who is or will be involved in divorce proceedings, two of these services are worth noting. They are:

  • Limited Scope Legal Services
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Services

While the names are fancy, the important part is that both of these services fall under the larger umbrella of Illinois collaborative divorce law and divorce mediation, which have a proven history of successful divorce resolutions with little or no time spent in court.

CLIENT SUCCESS STORIES

Below are summaries of two Birt Law divorce cases where clients started out in the formal divorce litigation process, with little or no success. When they began working with us using limited scope services including divorce mediation and the collaborative divorce process, they were able to create solutions that satisfied all parties.

  • Case 1 – A young couple with no children initiated their divorce at the courthouse and soon realized that the amount of time spent at the courthouse and with attorneys might be better served with a mediator. They came to me with much anger about the process and hurt emotions. We worked around their schedules to minimize time off from work, which also minimized hostility and anger during the sessions, and soon the parties were able to discuss matters without arguing. They quickly resolved their differences within five mediation sessions.

  • Case 2 – After attending couple’s counseling for several months, a couple with children determined they should divorce. Each consulted with divorce attorneys who informed them of the litigation process and the fees associated with the divorce process. Both parties determined that litigation was not what they had anticipated and sought the help of attorneys who would meet with both of them periodically to discuss and negotiate a parenting plan. They also wanted to work with a financial professional to address the allocation of assets and debts. After explaining limited scope services, our client stated, “I am thankful that I can hire an attorney that listens to what I want and not tell me what has to happen.” The parties reached an agreement to settle within four weeks.

As a DuPage County divorce attorney and trained practitioner in these processes, I know that limited scope and alternative divorce resolution can create results like those outlined above, regardless of where you are in your divorce litigation. Contact me to learn how you can get started.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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.

Facts And Benefits Of Collaborative Divorce

Teamwork EssentialsThere’s been little or no fighting. You’re on relatively good terms with each other. You actually even like each other. It’s just that you don’t love each other any longer and divorce is the inevitable outcome. In situations like this–and even ones with more emotion–collaborative divorce planning may be a very good option.

At Birt Law, we offer a Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit, prepared by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, which outlines the process and helps you know what to expect. Here are a few excerpts from that kit.

WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?

  • Collaborative Divorce, also called Collaborative Practice, is a new way for you to resolve disputes respectfully–without going to court. It offers you and your spouse or partner the support, protection, and guidance of your own lawyers, and allows you the benefit of child and financial specialists, divorce coaches, and other professionals.

  • You and your spouse control the process, make the final decisions, and pledge mutual respect and openness.

  • The discussions and negotiations of the process are kept private.

  • It is a flexible divorce solution that allows you to control your outcomes.

CASE STUDIES

These are just a few of the case studies presented in the kit that show the effectiveness of the process.

Case Studies

WHY IT WORKS

Along with providing the support of caring and talented professionals, a collaborative divorce:

  • Encourages mutual respect

  • Emphasizes the needs of children

  • Utilizes a problem-solving versus an adversarial approach

  • Identifies and addresses the interests and concerns of all

  • Prepares participants for their new lives post-divorce

As a trained collaborative law attorney, I can help you determine whether your situation could benefit from Illinois collaborative divorce law services. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37034Illinois 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 Family Law Decisions

Civil Law book with scales isolated on whiteIn an on-going effort to share helpful information for anyone currently or previously involved in Illinois divorce proceedings, here are summaries of two recent cases from the Appellate Court of Illinois.

REMOVAL OF A CHILD FROM ILLINOIS – Hedrich v. Mack

In October of 2104, a woman took her boyfriend’s car and drove herself and their 18-month-old daughter from Illinois to Minnesota, saying she would return in a few days. Shortly thereafter, the boyfriend filed a petition to establish paternity and requested that he and the child’s mother be named joint custodians.

The day before the mother was to return, the father was informed that she and the child were not coming back. Over the next month, the father repeatedly asked the mother to return to Illinois with their child, but the mother refused. Based on this, the father petitioned the trial court to require mother and child to return within two days and to prevent the mother from again removing the child from Illinois.

At a hearing of the trial court in November 2014, the mother moved for a finding which said the court had no authority to mandate the child’s return to Illinois because she had been removed from the state before the father filed his parentage action.

The trial court agreed with the mother, and the father subsequently filed an appeal of this ruling, stating that the trial court incorrectly interpreted Section 13.5 of the Illinois Parentage Act.

After review, the appellate court found for the father, stating that Section 13.5 “is the only mechanism available to the court to order the return of a minor child in situations such as this where the parents were never married and no proceedings whatsoever existed prior to the custodial parent leaving the state with the child.”

PATERNITY DETERMINATION AND CHILD SUPPORT – In re Marriage of Ostrander

In 2012, the husband in this case filed for dissolution of marriage. In this petition, he acknowledged two children born during the marriage but alleged that the youngest child, now age 8, was not his biological offspring. He was listed as the father on the birth certificate and did not refute his parentage at the birth; however he never legally adopted the child.

DNA testing did prove that the child was not his, and so the husband filed a “Motion Regarding Finding No Paternity,” asking the court to acknowledge that he “owed no duty of support for the child.” At the hearing, the wife stated that her husband knew all along he was not the child’s father but chose to stay in the marriage and work things out and provide for both children.

At trial in 2013, the court found that the father did not owe child support. The wife filed a motion to reconsider based on Section 8 of the Illinois Parentage Act which states that “An action to declare the non-existence of the parent and child relationship brought under subsection (b) of Section 7 of this Act shall be barred if brought later than 2 years after the petitioner obtains knowledge of relevant facts.” However, the court again found for the husband.

The wife appealed based again on the statute of limitations, and the appellate court found in her favor. The court cited that the husband did not meet the Act’s required burden of proof that he had only recently discovered that the child was not his. In fact, the court felt that his testimony helped show that he knew of the parentage issue early on.

Finally, the court stated that “the statute of limitations of the Parentage Act is intended to control in situations precisely like the one before us.” The order of non-paternity was reversed and the husband will be required to pay child support.

Contact me for information if you need help in matters of family law, child support, collaborative divorce and more.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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.

3 Reasons To Use Mediation In An Unwanted Divorce

Divorce and seperationThere are many reasons why it happens, but sometimes a spouse chooses to end a marriage with little or no warning to their significant other.

For the unsuspecting party who didn’t see it coming, this sudden life change can leave that person shocked, angry and depressed–often meaning they have no intention of cooperating with the person who turned their world upside down.

Yet even in this extremely difficult situation, divorce mediation is worth the effort of overcoming those challenging emotions. From an article by divorce mediator Joseph Dillon, here are three compelling reasons to participate in mediation when faced with an unwanted divorce.

  1. IT CAN AVOID LENGTHY DIVORCE LITIGATION – Dillon describes how one client (the spouse who walked away from the marriage) wanted to keep things civil and waited a long time for the other party to accept the situation and come to mediation. When that didn’t happen, they felt “they had no choice but to get an attorney and file.” In the end, it cost them a great deal of money and years of litigation that might have been avoided.

  2. YOU’LL POTENTIALLY REDUCE EMOTIONAL SCARS – It’s difficult to accept that your spouse no longer wants to be married to you. However, if that person wants a divorce then there’s going to be a divorce, says Dillon. How you deal with it will determine the overall effects it has on you (and any of your children). Participating in divorce mediation could make it easier for everyone involved in both the short- and long-term.

  3. YOU’RE INVOLVED IN KEY DECISIONS – Rather than leaving things to a judge, divorce mediation gives you the opportunity to push for positive outcomes on things like support or debt issues that could impact you and any children. Dillon believes it’s likely “you’ll be able to recover quicker as you won’t feel so powerless since you had a hand in your agreement.”

While you didn’t have a say in getting the divorce, you can have a say in how you go forward by participating in divorce mediation. And if the person who walked away doesn’t initiate the mediation, take back more control and arrange for it yourself.

Whether you need divorce mediation, collaborative divorce services, or assistance with Illinois child visitation and child custody issues, I can help. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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.

How Social Media Can Impact Your Illinois Divorce

love Dislike Icon. Thumb down SignSocial media (Facebook, Twitter, texting and more) has become a favorite way for people to share information about their lives in real time.

However, if you’re involved in a divorce and/or child custody case, what you post or text can have a huge effect on the ultimate outcome, and you need to be very careful about the information you share.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND FAMILY LAW

According to the site Divorcesource.com, “Lawyers are now more than ever using the social media websites as evidence in all types of family law cases. When people are typing on their computer, and no one is watching them, they have a false sense of anonymity when none really exists. However, in reality you are posting your private life to the entire cyber world.”

Social media can provide attorneys with information on everything from job search activities and spending habits to parental behavior, and it’s now “routinely used in divorce cases, alimony reduction/Lepis hearings, child support hearings, and child custody visitation disputes.”

Text messages can also create trouble, says Law Technology Today, since the message strands can be printed out and entered into the court’s record. “Anytime you pick up your phone to have a conversation, whether voice or text, there may be an exact record of what was said.”

WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT

When you’re tempted to jump on social media to vent feelings about your spouse, discuss your children, or talk about a new relationship, stop and think of the impact it could have on your case. Even if you’ve blocked your spouse from your Facebook page or other accounts, you may not have blocked friends or relatives who will see the comments and pass them on to him or her.

If your spouse brings this to court, you’ll have to consider divorce mediation or spend time and money defending yourself against anything from poor parenting to potential adultery. Should your child happen to read negative comments you made about your spouse’s parenting skills, you could be guilty of disparaging a parent in front of a child, possibly violating a court order.

As Law Technology Today reminds us, “Because we now live in a world where we tend to share our frustrations or our private moments with more and more people, we need to remember that what we share with our ‘friends’ could end up in the hands of people who will use those frustrations and private moments against us.”

And always check with your divorce attorney before shutting down a social media account, as deactivation could be seen as an attempt to withhold potential evidence.

I can help you successfully navigate these and many other issues through mediation and collaborative divorce options. Contact me to learn more.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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.

Child Custody And Visitation For Parents In Different States

ed266c96-1665-4bbe-9ad1-c6f852414bb0Today’s mobile society often creates difficult decisions for divorced parents and their children, particularly when a parent needs to move out of the state where the children reside.

Last October, I wrote a blog about the importance and value of collaborative divorce for couples with children, which reviewed the case of a mother’s petition to move from Illinois to California with her minor child due to a change in employment.

Recently, my firm worked on a similar case that generated a very positive outcome, proving once again that divorce collaboration is a powerful tool for solving custody and visitation issues.

CASE OVERVIEW

The focus of this case was to resolve a child custody and visitation matter between parents who lived in two different states. Complicating the overall issues between the adults was the fact that their child had never left Illinois and was not comfortable traveling to another state.

Our initial strategy was to make the custody and visitation matters a priority, working to first resolve the parenting plan so that everyone involved, especially the child, would have the time they needed to work on the emotions they were all experiencing.

SATISFYING RESULTS THROUGH COLLABORATION

By helping the parties to focus on the child and not the entire divorce settlement (money, debt, support, etc.), they were able to develop a parenting plan that first and foremost met the needs of their child.

Once that parenting plan was established, the other aspects of the divorce were resolved more quickly, in part because the parties had first settled the emotionally difficult matter of child visitation and custody.

This case is another great example of how collaborative divorce and divorce mediation services can create outcomes that work for all parties in the Illinois divorce process, often without much or any time spent in a courtroom.

As an attorney who is specially trained in these practices, I can help you achieve the same kinds of positive outcomes in your divorce. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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.