Just a Lawyer in Lincoln's Hometown

October 13, 2017

False Accusations of Child Abuse

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 7:45 am

I’ve seen an increase in false accusation of sexual abuse of a child in custody battles. Whether the reports are knowingly false, unknowingly false, the result of paranoia, etc. is of little import. The matter may be devastating. Read this the Family Defense Center’s manual.

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October 9, 2017

Preparing for a Divorce

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 7:30 am

Several potential clients have come to me wholly unprepared for the realities of divorcing. Below is an excerpt of a part of my website:

There are steps you should take to be prepared if you see a divorce coming. The following list is far from comprehensive – but if you complete these tasks, you will be ahead of the game:

  • Make Personal Notes: You are sure that you will remember all that you need to when the time comes – but under the stress of an actual divorce, memory flees. Make sure you write about specific incidents and patterns of any kind of abuse, etc.  Note your contribution even if not monetary. Contributions of a homemaker, parent, household administrator, etc. are all important even if they did not directly contribute to the family’s finances. Also keep good notes concerning any financial contributions you have made to the family. The more information – the better.
  • Collect Documents: Marriage is a life partnership, but it is just as much an economic partnership. You should collect copies of all records affecting the finances of the family. Try to obtain copies of any: bank statements, credit card statements, mutual fund and other portfolios, brokerage account statements, mortgages, mortgage applications, tax returns, pensions and retirement fund documents, insurance policies, wills, receipts and warranties for significant items, loan applications, legal documents, financial documents medical records, and employee benefit books and records.  Credit card records can be extremely important if you think your spouse is not declaring all of his or her income.
  • Rainy Day Fund: You need to start setting aside money. When you leave a marriage and establish a new home, you may well need a significant amount of cash for deposits, etc. You will also need money to pay your lawyer and other fees associated with your divorce. Money has a tendency to disappear from joint accounts. Therefore, don’t save money in a joint account, but establish a new account for yourself and make sure that your spouse does not have access to it. It can be a good idea to make this new account joint with someone you trust. Maintain good records concerning money that goes in and out of this account, and if you can, take out new credit cards in your name only.
  • Get a Lawyer: Even before you have decided to divorce your spouse, you need to find a good lawyer to give you advice. Make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer, and that the lawyer is sensitive to your needs. Your lawyer needs to communicate with you in a clear and understandable manner, and must not be so busy, or self important, that he or she does not listen to you as an individual. Trying to find a lawyer that does a lot of divorce work is also a good idea. Although your family lawyer may well be able to do a good job for you, if you use a lawyer that works in divorce and family work, you are much more likely to receive good advice. Before you actually file, get a written contract, and make sure you understand it. Don’t feel that you cannot ask your lawyer to change items in the contract. Finally, be sure that your lawyer understands that you want to make the final decisions in your case, and before you sign anything, make sure you read it carefully. Under no circumstances should you use the same lawyer as your spouse.
  • Make Financial Notes: Your notes concerning the family’s finances, lists of assets, debts, income, and expenses are important for your lawyer. Tracking assets such as IRAs, property, insurance policies, degrees and licenses, other kinds of investments, real estate are all important.
  • Keep a listing of passwords and safety deposit box numbers. Debts are also important: keep lists of any money owed to other parties such as credit cards, auto loans, promissory notes, unpaid taxes, student loans, home equity loans and other like debts. Keep track of income from such common sources as salaries, etc. but also from business distributions, rental payments, interest, capital gains, etc.

October 5, 2017

Women Drivers – about time!

Filed under: Family Law,Other Law I want to pontificate about — Chuck @ 7:19 am

Your culture does not need to be the same as my culture – but c’mon:

Saudi women drivers

July 28, 2012

Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:59 pm
Tags: ,

Sometimes acts of domestic violence seemingly come from nowhere. But the usual case is that the victim didn’t see the “warning signs.” In my practice I often talk to people who I believe are in a potentially abusive relationship. In tracking those cases and reading many other cases and articles, I have developed my own list of “warning signs.”

Warning Signs:

Easy: If he does this – get out!

  • He constantly makes you feel worthless and devalued; putting you down.
  • He threatens you or your loved ones.
  • He slams things, throws things, or breaks things when upset.
  • He punishes you, by abusing your kids or pets.
  • He makes all the decisions.
  • He doesn’t let you further your education, or work.
  • He makes you work, but the money goes to him.
  • He controls your access to medicine, medical care, and/or medical devices.
  • He pushes, slaps, restrains, kicks… physically abuses you.
  • He expects/demand sex, sexual acts you aren’t comfortable with, or sexually assaults you.

Hard: These are more subtle and may or may not point to potential abuse. The more of these he engages in or the more severe the act, the more likely that abuse is imminent, or happening.

  • He is jealous of who you talk to.
  • He puts you down in front of others.
  • He always finds fault with things you said or did at social events.
  • He checks in very often to see what you are doing, where you are, and/or who is with you.
  • He only wants you to do things with his friends and family.
  • He is utterly uninterested in spending time with your friends or family.
  • He objects to you being involved with you friends or family.
  • Everything is your fault.
  • He rushes to move in move-in, or get married.
  • He wants to be involved with everything you do.

You see that almost all of these clearly involve him being in control. Abuse is almost always an issue of control. Anything he does that appears to be him asserting control to the exclusion of you, can be another “sign”.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, there are other lists of signs. Looking at your own life and relationships, and speaking with friends, family and counselors is very important.

Domestic Violence: Some Warning Signs

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:47 pm
Tags: ,

Sometimes acts of domestic violence seemingly come from nowhere. But the usual case is that the victim didn’t see the “warning signs.” In my practice I often talk to people who I believe are in a potentially abusive relationship. In tracking those cases and reading many other cases and articles, I have developed my own list of “warning signs.”

Warning Signs:

Easy: If he does this – get out!

  • He constantly makes you feel worthless and devalued; putting you down.
  • He threatens you or your loved ones.
  • He slams things, throws things, or breaks things when upset.
  • He punishes you, by abusing your kids or pets.
  • He makes all the decisions.
  • He doesn’t let you further your education, or work.
  • He require you to work, but the money goes to him.
  • He controls your access to medicine, medical care, and/or medical devices.
  • He pushes, slaps, restrains, kicks… physically abuses you.
  • He expects/demand sex, sexual acts you aren’t comfortable with, or sexually assaults you.

Hard: These are more subtle and may or may not point to potential abuse. The more of these he engages in or the more severe the act, the more likely that abuse is imminent, or happening.

  • He is jealous of who you talk to.
  • He puts you down in front of others.
  • He always finds fault with things you said or did at social events.
  • He checks in very often to see what you are doing, where you are, and/or who is with you.
  • He only wants you to do things with his friends and family.
  • He is utterly uninterested in spending time with your friends or family.
  • He objects to you being involved with you friends or family.
  • Everything is your fault.
  • He rushes to move in move-in, or get married.
  • He wants to be involved with everything you do.

You see that almost all of these clearly involve him being in control. Abuse is almost always an issue of control. Anything he does that appears to be him asserting control to the exclusion of you, can be another “sign”

November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving and Visitation

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
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You remember Henry and Samantha. They’re divorcing and trying very hard to being good parents to their children, Ken, age 8, and Jenna, age 6. They have worked out a temporary agreement on custody and visitation for Henry’s regular visitation. But although they had consulted lawyers, they went against advice and agreed to “alternate holidays.”

As every experienced divorce lawyer would have told them, this kind of language in a visitation schedule can lead to horrible complications. Even well-meaning people, like Samantha and Henry, can have a hard time deciphering what this means, and remembering who had what holiday.

Does alternating holidays mean that Samantha has Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and Henry has both next year? Does having Thanksgiving mean the day only, or from Wednesday after school until the end of the weekend. What if the tradition has been to go to Henry’s parents’ house, in town and only requiring a trip of twenty minutes, one year and to Samantha’s parent’s the next year, 500 miles away and requiring a couple of days?

To add to the confusion, what is a holiday? Samantha celebrate Thanksgiving, the first Sunday of Advent and then Christmas, while Henry only celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas. What does this mismatch do to the “every other” language?

Again, because they are both trying to be good parents while, henry and Samantha talked about Thanksgiving before it came up, and remembered that both of their lawyers had said that what looked simple, wasn’t. Between them, the two attorneys came up with a schedule of holiday visitation that set out the hours and days that each parent had holiday visitation. For example, this year, an “even” year, Henry has the children from Wednesday after school, until Friday at 5:00 PM when Samantha gets them for the weekend (even if it would normally be Henry’s). The next year, and “odd” year, the schedule is reversed. The schedule sets out who gets what in odd and even years.

Now that the schedule is written down, in all its complicated detail, all Samantha and Henry need do is consult the schedule to know exactly who gets what holiday and what that means.

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

November 19, 2010

Dating and Divorcing

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
Tags: , ,

Divorcing is always an emotional time in a person’s life. Even short-term marriages started off with a commitment to stay together. Even though a lawyer will try to introduce some unemotional advice into the equation – emotions run high. Calming those emotions is often very important to settlement.

But that same divorce induced stress makes it important to have and develop emotional support. Moving on with life is important, and finding new love may give enough support to allow a divorcing spouse move on. But it can cause problems as well.

Spending excessive money in your dating life may well be looked upon as dissipation of marital assets that could lead to a change in the allocation of marital assets.

Flaunting your new boyfriend in front of your divorcing husband will NOT dampen emotions. In some circumstances it will guarantee going to trial.

Introducing your new girlfriend to your children before they are ready may generate negative emotions that may tilt the custody equation against you.

Some judges may consider your dating relationship to be infidelity, and technically, if you are engaged in sexual relations, you are committing adultery. If your judge takes a dislike to you, you may not get the good side of any discretionary rulings.

There are many good reasons to not date while divorcing. But the emotional support may be important. So if you do date, you need to be discrete. Flaunting the relationship carries too many negatives. Don’t go showing off your new love in all of your old haunts. If you do, you may regret the decision. Be smart and be discrete!

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

November 16, 2010

George, Doris & Mikey: Support?

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
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George and Doris were married years ago, and had Mikey. After their divorce, Mikey lived with Doris, and George paid child support. For years George worked a series of low wage jobs. He wanted to be a decent father and he always paid child support, but it was never very much. The judge set George’s child support at 20% of his net income, which worked out to $230 per month.  Even though she resents the amount of support, Doris has never sought an increase. Until Now.

George is driving a Mercedes. Doris is upset. If George can afford a Mercedes, even if it is used, he can afford to pay more than $230 a month! She takes George back to court for more support. After discovery, subpoenas, and a hearing (that her lawyer advised against), and $2000.00 in attorneys fees, she got an increase: $270 per month. George is only making $9.00 per hour and 20% of his net, according to the court, is but $270 per month. Because Mikey is a senior in high school, and support will end soon, she will lose money on the transaction!

Very upset, Doris demands to know how George can drive a fancy, expensive car, and only have to pay $270.00? Her lawyer reminds her of why her advised against the hearing: although George is living large, he still only makes, $9.00 an hour. He lives with Diana, a wealthy widow (times 3!), who bought the car for George. Because Illinois looks to the income of the non-custodial parent, and very rarely anything else, all the court looked at was that $9.00 per hour!

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

November 14, 2010

College – Who pays?

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
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It’s that time of year again. Divorced parents are getting together – in court – over who is paying for college for their 12th grade children.

In the absence of a divorce the state has no authority to force a parent to pay, or help pay, for a child’s college career. Most parents want their children to go further than they, and will willingly put themselves in hock to help a child get a college degree. But divorce changes that equation. A non-custodial parent my become estranged from their child, and feel no urge to help. A single parent may simply need help. Or the parents may have become so bitter about each other that it gets in the way of rational decisions about the child. Whatever the case, the Illinois legislature has provided a way to sort the issue out – IMDMA Sec. 513. (Illinois is in the distinct minority of states – most states do not have a similar statute.)

Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, provides for the support of adult children who have become emancipated (become considered an adult before the law) due to age – but who are actually still dependent on their parent(s). College support comes from this.

Assuming the parties cannot agree – always the best choice – and at any time, but usually after the child has narrowed his or her college choices, the FAFSA (using the income figures, etc of the “custodial” parent) has been completed and the actual out-of-pocket cost of going to college is becoming clear, the either parent (but usually the “custodial” parent) may bring an action to require the other parent to contribute to the college cost.

The court will generally require each of the “parties” – the mother, the father and the child – to contribute to the cost of the child’s education. Some courts start with each paying a third, others are not so formulaic. Generally each parent will contribute roughly in accordance with their available resources. And while the child is usually expected to contribute toward her education, the she is not generally required to run up a debt.

You might notice that I indicated that the parties contribute in accord with their resources and not their income. The court is supposed to look past income and into the total resources available to the party. For example, if one party has a small income, but access to huge investments, that person may be required to contribute all out of proportion to his income.

If a child has access to scholarships, that may be the child’s contribution. This is especially true if continuing access requires a certain grade level. The statute now also makes the child’s academic performance a factor in allocating (or not) the cost of college.

Government grants fill the same function as scholarships, but generally only require the child to maintain adequate progress toward a degree. So the argument that they should be considered the child’s contribution is problematic. They are often simply taken off the cost of education and the remainder is split.

Sometimes one or more of the parents and/or the child do not agree on where the child should attend. The courts are loath to interfere in this decision, but will most often when the question is one of public vs. private school. If after the application of grants and scholarships, the cost of private school far exceeds the cost of public education the court will sometimes limit the contribution of the non-custodial parent to a contribution based on the public school cost. This may make the decision for the parents.

You may have noticed that there are few, if any, absolute statements in the discourse above. That’s because there are few, if any, hard and absolute rules. If a parent want absolutes, an agreement must be reached. With the help of competent counsel the parties who have the best interests of their child at heart should be able to reach agreement.

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

November 9, 2010

Samantha & Henry: Visitation with Children

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Samantha and Henry have decided that they are going to get a divorce. They simply cannot live together anymore. About five months ago Henry moved out and is living in an apartment near the house where Samantha and the children, Ken, age 8, and Jenna, age 6, live.

Both Samantha and Henry have tried to cooperate with each other over visitation with the children. They have decided that Samantha will have the children living with her, and Henry will have visitation. They have tried to arrange visitation, but there have been problems.

Being wiser than many, Samantha and Henry decided to mediate the issue. They recognized that they needed some knowledgeable help. A mediator helped them come to an agreement that met their needs. But both worried that the agreement that worked for them today might not in the future. So before they inked the deal, Samantha went to her lawyer.

The lawyer was impressed with the efforts both parties went to and the agreement itself. But he had one criticism: the agreement did not have a provision requiring periodic review. He felt that if the parties got together and reviewed how the agreement was working, they could possibly prevent minor irritations from growing into litigation producing complaints. The lawyer recommended that they get together every other one or two years.

The lawyer also told Samantha that she and Henry could informally agree to vary the agreement. He explained that the agreement represented what each of the parties could enforce against each other. But as long as they both agreed to change visitation, one time or for a long time, there was no problem. He noted however, that if the two of them wanted to make a long-term or permanent change to the visitation schedule, they probably should put the change down on paper. This helps avoid misunderstandings.

Henry and Samantha, although getting divorced, are being good parents. They understand that minimizing the effect on the children is one of their primary concerns.

We will visit Henry and Samantha again as they go through this process.

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

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