Tagged as Child Support

Why Fighting Can Actually Be Productive In Divorce Mediation

For many people, divorce mediation can be helpful at opening up channels of communication between parties to air their individual thoughts, desires, and expectations.

It can also provide the opportunity for either party to air specific feelings of sadness about the divorce, fears about the future, and anger at their partner for past hurts large or small.

That last one often can include some pretty explicit and creative name-calling, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, says Dan Simon in a recent blog on Mediate.com. Below are some of Dan’s reasons why mediators and couples should be open to this strategy in mediation.

  • IT’S QUITE POSSIBLY THE TRUTH. “Mediation can be an opportunity for parties to speak their truth, to name reality as they see it. After having been perhaps horribly mistreated by the other party, the opportunity to tell them what they really think of them is an essential part of a process that’s intended to meaningfully address the conflict,” says Simon

  • IT CAN BENEFIT THE NAME-CALLER. According to Simon, once the naming party gets it off his or her chest, so to speak, in the presence of the mediator, it’s quite possible they can then calmly discuss other key aspects of the divorce process such as property division or child support.

  • IT CAN BENEFIT THE PERSON BEING NAMED. “The namee may become more aware of just how angry the namer is; they may gain insight that the namer is out of control, which might inspire the namee’s compassion; the namee might reflect more deeply on their own behavior that inspired the namer.” It also allows the namee to decide whether to sit there and take it or respond in kind with the mediator there for support.

In Simon’s view, “Mediation is supposed to be about self-determination.” This includes both parties being able to engage each other, say what they need (or want) to say, and even walk away when it suits them.

Parties using divorce mediation generally want the best results for everyone involved. That’s why they chose to mediate. If it takes some name-calling to reach that end, couples should be open to experiencing it and mediators should be ready to let it happen in that safe space they provide for their clients.

As an experience divorce mediator, I can help you successfully work your way through all aspects of this process. 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.

 

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.

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.

New Illinois Parentage Laws In 2016

FamilyAmong the specific changes being made to Illinois divorce laws in 2016 are new statues around parentage rights. Key changes are as follows:

NEW PARENTAGE ACT – The Parentage Act of 2015 goes into effect on January 1, 2016, and replaces the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984.

PURPOSE OF NEW ACT – Through this new act, the state of Illinois extends equal rights to every child and parent regardless of marital status and gender. It also extends the marital presumption of parentage to same-sex couples.

SPECIFIC KEY CHANGES TO VOLUNTARY ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF PATERNITY (VAP)

  • The VAP can now be signed before the birth of a child.

  • Any challenges to the VAP must be made with two years and offer clear and convincing evidence around paternity.

  • The VAP form will not be updated by 2016 to include gender-neutral terms. For now, the current form will be used and considered valid.

Issues around child support, custody and paternity can be stressful even in separations or divorce with little or no hostility. As an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney, I successfully use divorce mediation skills and litigation experience to help you resolve these and other issues to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

Contact me for more details.


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.

Illinois Family Law Case Summaries

wooden gavel and book isolated on whiteHere are summaries of two recent family law cases from the Appellate Court of Illinois.

PAYMENT OF OVERDUE CHILD SUPPORTIn re Marriage of Rocha

When this couple divorced in 1998, the husband was ordered to pay child support of $150 per week.

In 2001, three years after the initial “Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage,” the husband filed a motion to reduce child support because he was unemployed, and the court reduced the support amount to $74.40 per week.

Later that year, the wife informed the court that her ex-husband was actually receiving 95% of his pay from his former employer, and the court increased child support back to the original $150 per week. Eighteen months later, the ex-wife returned to court because her ex-husband had been failing to make regular support payments and was now behind on them.

The ex-husband paid some of what was owed, but fell behind again due to another job loss. He was ordered to stay current on support payments and provide evidence of a job search. Nothing else was brought before the court until 2010 when the ex-wife petitioned the court “to vacate prior court orders based on the court’s finding” because her ex-husband “fraudulently concealed his income and employment from the court beginning in 2003.”

On appeal by the ex-husband, the appellate court found in favor of the ex-wife and maintained that the ex-husband “tried to hide information for purposes of minimizing his child support obligations” and “committed a fraud on the court in 2003” because he was not truthful about his employment status and salary at that time.

As a result, the appeals court upheld the order for the ex-husband to pay $32,419.47 in unpaid child support plus $17,640.77 in interest dating back to the time of the fraud in 2003.

CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATIONIn re Marriage of Perez

As part of the dissolution of marriage in 2012, the court granted both parents in this case joint legal custody and visitation for their daughter, giving physical custody to the mother and liberal visitation rights to the father.

However, two years later, the father filed a motion for mediation to help create a new, more balanced parenting schedule. Witnesses for each parent said both were extremely committed to the happiness and stability of their child, and many extended family members also helped in the child’s care.

The child’s mother would not participate in the family mediation process, so the court created a joint parenting agreement which gave each parent joint legal custody and “joint care of the child” as well as a 50/50 schedule for parenting time. Neither home was designated as the child’s primary residence.

On appeal, the child’s mother said that the trial court was in error by granting the 50/50 parenting and for not designating her home as the child’s primary residence. The appeals court disagreed on both counts, stating that the trial court found it was in the child’s best interest “to fashion its custody order to maximize the involvement of both parties.”

Because both parents lived near each other, shared joint legal custody and had equal parenting time, the schedule was not a hardship for either party. For these same reasons, the appeals court concluded that the trial court was also within its scope when it refused to designate either parent as the “‘primary’ residential custodian.”

If you need the help of a DuPage County Divorce Attorney for child support, mediation, or other family law issues, 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

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.

Recent Court Decisions Worth Noting

Judge Knocking GavelBelow are summaries of two recent cases from the Appellate Court of Illinois.

Each one has something worth noting, whether your Illinois divorce proceedings are beginning soon, presently in process, or already completed.

CHILD SUPPORT EXPENSES – In re Marriage of Saracco

This appeals case centered on continuing payment of college tuition and expenses by the ex-wife for the couple’s son.

The original divorce proceedings in 2008 stated that college expenses would be split, with the father paying 40 percent and the mother paying 60 percent. At that time, the father was disabled and the mother’s salary was substantially larger than that of the father.

In 2013, the mother petitioned to stop her portion of the tuition payments because of a “substantial change in circumstances.” She stated that her ex-husband was receiving an additional $11,000 of disability income for his daughter. The mother also felt she should no longer contribute because her son’s grades were low, he would not work to help with expenses, and their relationship was strained.

At that time, the court agreed with this assessment and granted her petition to stop her portion of the payments.

In 2014, the father petitioned to reinstate the original payment agreement, and the appellate court agreed. Upon review, the appellate court did not concur with any of the mother’s arguments and stated she did not prove a “substantial change in circumstances.” As a result, the mother was ordered her to resume her payment of college expenses.

GRANDPARENT VISITATION RIGHTS Robinson v. Reif

In 2010, an auto accident killed the mother of two young children and severely injured their father who required a long-term hospital stay and extensive recuperation. Over the next 18 months, the children (who were unhurt) lived with and were cared for by their maternal grandparents, where they appeared to be happy and thriving.

By 2011, the father had recovered and remarried, at which time the grandparents sought to obtain sole custody of their grandchildren. After a long court battle, the father was awarded custody and changed his phone number so the grandparents could not have any contact with him or the children.

Later that year, the grandparents petitioned for permanent and temporary visitation under the grandparent visitation statute of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The grandparents also requested mediation, but the father would not participate.

Finally in 2013, a hearing was held regarding this petition. Testimony was presented by child psychology experts on both sides, one particular expert stating that the children had indeed become emotionally attached to grandparents during the 18 months of living with them. After hearing from the experts and from many witnesses for both sides, the court found for the grandparents and set a visitation schedule.

The father appealed, arguing that the evidence failed to prove that his decisions on visitation were harmful to the children’s mental, physical or emotional well-being. However, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision of allowing grandparent visitations, believing that any harm that might come from grandparent visitations was overruled by the harm of ending the children’s relationship with their grandparents.

Contact me for information on how I can help with your initial divorce proceedings or an appeal of the court’s decisions regarding your divorce.


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.

Conveniently Pay an Invoice Online

The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C. accepts family law clients (adoption, mediation, divorce, collaborative divorce, general family law, child support, paternity, etc.) from Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Kendall County, and Will County.  Understanding that it is often difficult to write a check or pay for legal services upfront with cash, the firm accepts credit cards (Discover, Mastercard, & Visa) which allow clients to budget and create a personal payment plan.

At the time of retaining the firm, clients select a private and convenient method for payment.  Clients seeking to pay for family law or mediation services with a credit card are offered traditional and green payment options.  The traditional option includes receiving a paper copy of an invoice via regular mail and requires that the client manually pay the invoice via mail or telephone.  The green paperless option includes the convenience of paying an invoice privately online through the firm’s website or via email notice.

Whether a client receives a paper invoice or an emailed invoice, the client can pay online through the firm’s website.  The online payment method can be found on the contact page of the website.  When viewing the contact page, the left-hand column indicates “Pay Invoice Online.”  Clicking “Pay Invoice Online” will open a second window that allows for safe and secure payment of an invoice.

When a client selects to receive invoices via email,  the client will receive a detailed monthly invoice via email to the secure email provided by the client.  The email will also contain a private and secure payment link. An example of the payment link is here.  Once the client clicks on the payment link, the link will open a second window that allows for safe and secure payment of an invoice.

For clients that do not have access to a computer or an email address but still wish to pay for services with a credit card, the firm offers another convenient payment option (in addition to paying via mail or telephone).  Clients can authorize the firm, in writing, to process payment each month with the credit card information provided by the client.  This method of payment provides the client with a paper copy of the detailed monthly invoice and payment via credit card will be made approximately one (1) week after the detailed invoice is mailed to the client, unless otherwise agreed.

Payment methods can be modified at any time. To obtain more information about the firm’s payment options, please contact The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C. to discuss your questions or concerns.

 

Case Law Update: Property, Child Support/College Expenses, and Maintenance

Case law provides guidance for appropriate negotiating, the preparation of settlement agreements, and if necessary, trial preparation.  The following updates provide information about property classification, child support and expenses, and maintenance.

Marital vs. Non-Marital Property

The timing of property acquisition is not the only factor in determining marital vs. non-marital property. In a recent case, the Circuit Court deemed certain property, a Chicago
residence and an investment in a partnership, as non-marital property.  The Appellate Court, however, reversed.  It stated that the residence, although purchase prior to marriage, is marital property.  It was purchased in contemplation of marriage and paid for with marital funds since Husband obtained several mortgages on residence after the parties’ marriage.  The investment was also marital property as funds derived from mortgages obtained during the marriage were used for the investment.  In re the Marriage of Weisman.

Child Support/College Expenses

When a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage includes provisions that reserve the issue of future college expenses (aka Section 513 language), a court can only order payment on expenses that occur after the filing of a petition to allocate college expenses.  In this case, the mother had incurred expenses prior to filing her petition and the court erred in ordering the father to pay for expenses incurred prior to the filing date.  In re Marriage of Petersen.

Maintenance

If a judgment (that incorporates a settlement agreement) states maintenance is non-modifiable, it is non-modifiable, even if there are conflicting provisions within the settlement agreement.

Therefore, watch out for provisions in settlement agreements that render the judgment non-modifiable. Such language is often present in the maintenance provisions, or as a separate article within the settlement agreement.  There are times when such language is necessary; however, sometimes such language does not accurately represent the agreement of the parties.  There are forms out there that include a boilerplate article that ultimately renders maintenance non-modifiable. Make sure the article is appropriate and does not conflict with other internal provisions because if it does, the court will determine that maintenance is non-modifiable.  Recent examples of non-modifiability are In re Marriage of Nilles and In re Marriage of Doermer.

 

Child Support Discussion Topics

People get heated about finances.  They become especially angry about child support and any delay in the payment of child support.  Such feelings are understandable.  The anger and strong emotions felt during the stressful time when no support is being paid causes many people to run to the courthouse to file a Petition for Rule to Show Cause for the failure to pay support. 

When I worked in the Child Support Division of the State’s Attorney’s Office, the child support courtroom was always packed, and there were always familiar faces.  Child support enforcement is and can be a long process and people may find themselves in the child support courtroom several times (actually many many times) throughout a child’s life. 

So what can be done?  Learning about the options and remedies available can help you avoid becoming a familiar face in the child support courtroom.  Enforcement remedies are typically used in litigation, but there is no reason why you can’t discuss the remedies during mediation or during a meeting with your collaborative attorney.  Becoming knowledgeable about the various options available to litigants will give you tools to use during negotiations in mediation or the collaborative divorce process.

An article entitled “Maintenance, Support, and Underemployed Payors,” by Burton S. Hochberg and Kimberly A. Cook in the Illinois Bar Journal, January 2011, reminds us that certain remedies are available during tough economic times.  I will highlight the remedies discussed in the article so that you may create a list to discuss in mediation or with your collaborative attorney:

1. Job Diary – permissible due to the statutory “affirmative obligation” to support your child/children.  Ensures the payor is not voluntarily unemployed.  Also provides certain additional remedies for litigants (contempt and evidence).

2. Impute Income – can help prevent voluntary unemployment or voluntary reduction in salary/income. Used if court finds the person is voluntarily unemployed, attempting to evade support obligations, or unreasonably failed to take advantage of employment opportunities. Typically use income averaging.

3. 503(g) Trust – court can set aside assets/property into a trust to ensure payment of support.

4. Vocational Expert – help determine the highest level of employment capability and appropriate imputed income.

The above should be discussed either in mediation or with your attorney.   Prior to filing a petition, although do so if the other party will not mediate or engage in the collaborative process, use the above tools as discussion points in your mediation or collaborative sessions. For example,  parties may proactively set up a 503(g) trust or ask that a spouse spend some time creating a job journal prior to the next settlement conference.