Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Illinois "Tweaks" Spousal Maintenance Guidelines in 2018

Illinois had a major change in the method of setting spousal maintenance (alimony) in 2015. At that time, maintenance was changed from the court giving factors to set an amount and duration to a system that kept the factors but added specific mathematical calculations to set both the amount and length of a maintenance award based on income and length of marriage.

Now those guidelines will be slightly modified in 2018 forward. Section 750 ILCS 5/504 of the divorce  statute dealing with maintenance raises the ceiling for cases where the guidelines are to be applied. Before, guidelines did not apply if the parties combined income was under $250,000 - now that ceiling is $500,000. So if you and your spouse's combined gross incomes fall under $500,000, the statute may apply. 

Also, under the old guidelines expiring in 2018, the duration (or length) of maintenance would jump at each 5 year anniversary of being married. Now the calculation of the length of maintenance is gradual and even throughout the term of marriage with no jumps at each 5 year anniversary.

Below is a link to a calculator we developed to help determine what is the proper amount of guideline maintenance based on the parties combined incomes. We will post a modified calculator once we have it set up to calculate the length of maintenance under the new statute.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Illinois Changes to Child Support in July 2017

On July 1, 2017 Illinois laws on child support will drastically change. Depending on your income, the other parent's income, child care costs health insurance costs and the amount of parenting time, there could be a major change in the support you pay or receive.

​The basic change is that Illinois will now use what is called an "income shares" model for setting child support. This is a major change from the percentage model that based child support only on the net income of the parent paying support that essentially ignored the income of the parent receiving support. One of the goals of this change is to address situations where the person receiving support had much higher income that the person paying support. Those situations could mean the person paying support could barely survive on a relatively lower income AND with an obligation to pay percentage support.

​Thus the income shares model factors in BOTH parties income and is meant to address the needs of both the household of the person receiving support as well as the household paying support. With the court now factoring in the combined incomes of both parents, the court can calculate the total contribution to be made to the child from both parents based upon that combined income.

To help calculate child support using the income shares model, the State of Illinois has released charts that establish:
​            A) the combined support amount based upon the number of children and gross income. "Gross to Net Income Conversion Table Using Standardized Tax Amounts"
​               B) a conversion chart that then calculates the total child support from the combined adjusted net income, "Income Share Schedule Based on Net Income"

Below is a more detailed outline of the steps. Note that with the changes, it will be important for you to use the services of a family law attorney to make sure this is done correctly. In the months following the implementation of the new law even judges and other family law lawyers will be working through the learning curve on this and having an experienced attorney help you will be critical.

1. Calculate Both Parent’s Combined Net Monthly Income

This is done by adding up all income from all sources and then properly calculating federal, state, FICA or self-employment tax, and medicare, Income from all sources includes the receipt of spousal maintenance. Similarly, the payment of any maintenance reduces gross income for the person paying maintenance. A major change from prior laws is that some of the previously deducted items from gross pay are no longer allowable deductions and so eliminated deductions are union dues, mandatory retirement contributions, student loan payments, and life insurance premiums.

From there, one of two formulas is used to calculate net income, by using either:
​           A) a standardized tax amount formula or
           B) an individualized tax amount formula.

The standardized tax amount formula makes blanket assumptions that will not apply to everyone's situation such as assuming everyone's tax filing status is single or that everyone has only one dependency exemption. Thus the standardized approach is fairly narrow and applies in limited situations. The individualized tax amount formula is far more accurate but also requires more detailed calculations as it factors in the parties actual tax filing status, the number of dependency exemptions and other tax matters affecting net income such as itemized deductions, earned income tax credits, etc.

Other Support Obligations. When one of the parents supports other children or households, there may be an adjustment so that the amounts paid to for another family are factored into the calculation.

2. Use the Combined Net Monthly Income to Determine the total Child Support obligation from the published Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligation.

To arrive at the total child support needed, use the combined income calculated in step one above and apply that to the to the number of children the parties have and then find the corresponding amount on the Schedule of Basic Child Support.

3. Calculate Each Parent’s Percentage Share of the total Child Support Obligation

​To then figure out how much child support a parent will pay, you divide one parent’s monthly net income by the total combined net income. Thus if the father's net income is $6,500 per month and the total combined net income is $10,000, then he is obligated to pay 65% of the total support obligation to the mother if she has a majority of parenting time.

Note: There is a deviation from this formula if the parents share parenting time equally or the parent without a majority of parenting time has 146 or more overnights per year.

​If this is confusing to you, then all the more reason you will need the assistance of an attorney to help ensure you are either paying or receiving the correct support under the new statute. Most family law attorneys also use software designed to assist in making these calculations accurate. If you are having issues trying to figure out child support, our attorneys stand ready to assist you. For a consultation, call (815) 954-8175


Gross to Net Income Conversion Table Using Standardized Tax Amounts
​Income Shares Schedule Based on Net income

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2017 Judge Reassignment Administrative Order Issued

The 2017 Order has been issued reassigning Will County Judges.

For the Family Courts, there is only one judge reassignment. Judge Victoria Kennsion (Room 306) will be replaced by Judge Zalazo

ORDERS OF PROTECTION: Associate Judge Jessica Colon-Sayre (Courtroom 300)
and Associate Judge Elizabeth Hoskins Dow (Courtroom 301).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Designs for the New Will County Courthouse Taking Shape

Will County is long over due for a new courthouse. The current building is literally falling apart and needs to go. At a recent seminar, a preliminary designs of the new courthouse was circulated. The new courthouse will take over the city block just West of the current courthouse and just east of City Hall. Current designs have it as a very modern 10 story building. Here is a link to a floor-by-floor layout.
Markup of Proposed Courthouse
Current Courthouse

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Updated Mediator List

Several times a year, the Will County Court issues a new list of court-approved mediators. Here is the latest list from March 2016. NOTE: it is subject to change without notice and if you want an updated list, either get one from a courtroom or obtain a list from the law library at the Will County Courthouse, Fourth Floor or the clerk's office on the second floor. The law library is open to the public.

Will County

Will County

Will County

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Parenting Classes in Will County - status as of August 2016

Illinois' Supreme Court Rules require that anyone getting a divorce complete parenting classes before the divorce is granted. In Will County judges often require that the parents complete the parenting classes in paternity cases as well. Sometimes the requirement can be waived when the only minor child is 17 years old. IMPORTANT: You will not be able to complete your divorce unless the parent that files for the divorce completes the parenting class and has his or her certificate of completion at the final court date. If the parent that didn't file the divorce refuses or fails to complete the class, the judge usually suspends his or her court-ordered parenting time/visitation - at least  until the class is completed and the certificate filed with the court.

Traditionally in Will County, the University of Saint Francis conducted all the parenting classes in person at one of their facilities. The registration process started at:

www.stfrancis.edu/content/solutions/parenting/register.htm - cost: $90.00

If you are unable to personally attend the class above because you are out of state or have some other valid reason, you may need to ask your judge to excuse you from the court approved classes. You should get the judge's permission BEFORE you take a class not approved. Here are some alternatives generally approved as alternatives:

www.children1stfoundation.net - cost: $80.00

www.dupageco.org/FamilyCenter/OnlineTraining/ - cost: $50.00 (must have Windows computer)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Grounds (Reasons) for Divorce Made Easy in 2016

The revised Illinois divorce law, enacted January 1, 2016, eliminates all of the fault-based grounds for divorce and left us with a single, no-fault ground for divorce, "irreconcilable differences". The revised law also eliminates the two (2) year separation period that was required to dissolve a marriage, and replaces it with a six (6) month separation period which reads as follows, "If the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months immediately preceding the entry of the judgment dissolving the marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met."

As a result, you only need to state in your initial petition that irreconcilable differences have led to the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage and that you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for six (6) consecutive months by the time a judgment of divorce is entered.

However, don’t panic if both you and your spouse plan to live in the family home throughout the divorce because, although the law states "separate and apart", it does not mean that one of you has to move out. This provision simply means that, for at least six (6) months before entry of the final judgment, you and your spouse live together as two separate, unrelated individuals living under the same roof, without a sexual relationship. Easy, right???

Friday, April 8, 2016

New Statewide Financial Affidavit for family law cases approved by the Illinois Supreme Court

As part of the new divorce statute that became effective in 2016, the Supreme Court developed a new Financial Affidavit to be used in all family law cases, specifically when there are motions filed for temporary child support or temporary spousal maintenance. I'm quite familiar with the new form because I was one of three members of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Commission on Access to Justice, Subcommittee on Standardized Forms responsible for coming up with the initial drafts of the form. The form went through public comment and then approval by the Supreme Court.

Here is a link to the new form that becomes effective as of April 7, 2016.

Here are some other general instructions on filling out this Financial Affidavit form:
A.    If you are familiar with using PDFs, you should fill out the Affidavit on your computer, save it, print it, sign it and then send back the completed PDF. This is the preferred method because: 1) you can easily edit a saved PDF without redoing the whole Affidavit and 2) it automatically calculates most of the math.
B.    You can also just print it out, write in your answers, sign in the places indicated. The Affidavit may need to be revised throughout the case as conditions change.
If you are having trouble downloading the form, you will need to have Adobe Reader on your computer. That software is available at: https://get.adobe.com/reader/
Below are some general guidelines that are IN ADDITION to the instruction that go with the form. Those instructions override any suggestions here. Everyone’s situation is different and judges are different in how they handle their cases so this is not a substitute for a consultation with an attorney so that the form is properly filled out. 
1)     DUE DATE: The sooner this is completed, the better. However, it is absolutely required at the time you file a motion for temporary support or temporary maintenance/alimony. The party responding to the motion must also complete a Financial Affidavit. Also, both parties must include supporting documents such as paystubs and tax returns when completing it.
2)     Overview: While the Affidavit is lengthy, many of the questions may not be applicable to your case and it may be appropriate to just answer “none” or “N/A” (not applicable). Also note that there are four primary parts to this document:
a.      General Information (pages 1-2)
b.     Monthly Income and Deduction (pages 2-3)
c.      Monthly Living Expense Summary (pages 4-6)
d.     Assets and Liabilities (pages 7-9)
3)     Purpose of document. The purpose of filling out this form is to give the judge in your case a quick summary of your situation, assets, debts, income and expenses. You should spend considerable time properly preparing this as you can be punished for knowingly misleading the judge with the information. Below are some general ideas to help but again, none of this is a substitute for the direct assistance of an attorney.
4)     Assets and Debts not in your name or not under your control:
a.      Pre-divorce cases - You should list every asset or debt you have any knowledge of regardless of whose name it is in, who’s paying it or whether it is even getting paid right now. As far as what assets to list, all accounts get listed and personal property can be detailed on the “Additional Information” sheet.;
b.     Post-divorce cases or Paternity Cases – You should list just your own assets and liabilities.
5)     Averaging of income and expenses. Since the document calls for your repeating and regular monthly income and expenses, you will have to calculate what those are even if some are paid weekly or biweekly or if you have expenses that are paid quarterly (such as car insurance) or yearly (such as children's school fees). For those items not received or paid on a monthly basis, try to reasonably calculate your yearly amounts for that item and then divide by 12. If you are paid every two weeks, you would need to multiply your gross pay every two weeks by 26 (i.e. 26 pay periods per year) and then divide by 12 to get an average monthly gross income.
6)     Relationship between income and expenses. Often times clients have a tendency or inclination to overstate expenses and sometimes even understate income. You may lose credibility with the judge if you show that you have expenses of $5,000 a month but income of $1,000 a month. There are times where this is the fact and it is appropriate to put it down (like where your credit cards are meeting the difference or you have help from family), but these are the areas where the assistance of attorney is required to handle this properly before the document is submitted to the court.
7)     Access to records. Sometimes you may not have immediate access to all the records necessary to complete this form either because they don't exist or the other party is the only person with access. If you know an expense, asset or debt exists, use the best information you have available and include it.
8)     Sharing of expenses. Sometimes there are situations where you either have a roommate or someone else you share expenses with or live with family. In these instances, you should indicate how you are actually contributing. Again this is a situation to discuss with an attorney of it is not clear what to do or how to respond.
9)     Documents submitted with the Financial Disclosure Affidavit: Under the rule, you are to submit a copy of supporting documents that in most instances should include your most recent paystub and a copy of last year’s income tax return.
10)  Sign and date the Affidavit: Once you have completed the entire Affidavit you will need to sign and date it as well as provide a copy to the other party or their attorney if they have one. You should also bring extra copies to court for the judge.
Keep in mind that whatever information is put down is made under oath and as long as you use your best efforts to fully complete it and can explain and justify your answers, you should be okay.
Sometimes it is also helpful to complete one as a draft with all your notes, questions, documents and then for a final version to be completed after you have had a discussion with an attorney.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Governor signs new divorce law

Yesterday, July 21, 2015 Governor Rauner signed the new divorce law into effect. It is a huge change in family law - the likes of which  has not been seen in 45 years. Over the next several weeks I will continue to run articles on the new law and its likely effects on pending divorce cases and those to be filed. It is of note that the legislative notes indicate it will be effective January 1, 2016. However, some provisions could have different effective date. A careful analysis of the law will need to be made and there will be a substantial learning curve for lawyers and judges alike. Brace yourselves.

In the meantime, here is the text of Public Act 99-0090