Saturday, January 20, 2018

Will County Breaks Ground on New Courthouse

I have blogged in the past (click here) about the new Will County Courthouse plans. Well the county has broken ground and crews will soon start to demolish the old First Midwest Bank Building to prepare the site. It is located on the city block between the old courthouse and City Hall. From my office on Chicago Street, I will have a front row seat to the construction and plan to bring regular updates

This will be the county's latest building project in recent history - a nearly $200 million 10 story building, 365,000 square-feet with 38 courtrooms (we now only have 23). The plan envisions a two-story glass lobby, 6 six security screening stations (we now have only 2) with areas to line up. The current courthouse was never designed for modern security so there are often long wait lines stretching out to Jefferson street some mornings. They will also have escalators on the first several floors to move people to their courtrooms much faster that the 4 elevators that serve the current courthouse.

View from my Office

1st Midwest Bldg to be Demolished

Drawing of new courthouse

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Repeal of deduction for alimony payments. One year delay in implementing.

So under the new tax plan approved by Congress (awaiting presidential approval) alimony will NOT be tax deductible. A strange result given that our president is on his third wife and reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in alimony to his former wives.

What does the new tax bill do? Compare the current law and the tax law as approved by the House and Senate.

CURRENT LAW: Alimony and separate maintenance payments are deductible by the payor spouse and includible in income by the recipient spouse. Child support payments are not treated as alimony and is tax neutral.

PROPOSED LAW: (about to get signed) Alimony and separate maintenance payments are NOT deductible by the payor spouse and repeals the Tax Code provisions that specify that alimony and separate maintenance payments are included in income. The treatment of child support is not changed.

WHEN IS THIS EFFECTIVE? When signed by the president. this change becomes effective for any divorce or separation agreement entered after December 31, 2018, or for any divorce or separation instrument executed on or before December 31, 2018 and modified after that date, if the modification expressly provides that the amendments made by this section apply to such modification.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? It means there will likely be a lot of arguing in court over this issue and re-reading and re-interpretation of tax provisions in old settlement agreements about taxes! Hopefully the state legislatures will also address this issue - luckily the new provisions will take another year before they become effective.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Proposed Law would state that equal parenting (shared custody) time is presumptively in children's best interests

House Bill 4113 / HB-4113 

STATUS 1/20/18: Looks like the bill has been placed into the hands of the Rules Committee. There have about 19-20 co-sponsors to the bill and there was a hearing on the bill in mid-January 2018.

There is a major change being proposed to address the battle of "traditional" custody (alternating weekends parenting time) vs. a presumption of equal parenting time - all with such a slight re-arrangement of words. Right now there really is no presumption one way or another although many believe that no presumption for equal parenting time is a presumption against it. I don’t really follow that line of thinking but I agree there is a problem to be addressed – just not this way (using a presumption).
With 20 years of practicing family law and seeing presumptions come and go, I think a presumption in any direction is instituting a hurdle that shouldn't be there. A presumption in any form puts its fingers on the scale - many times at the expense of children's best interests and in certain other circumstances - at the encouragement of financial or other abuse.

If judges are the problem, this is not the solution - certainly not as drafted!
How about some factors in there....
  1) how close do the parties live together
  2) what is the pre-divorce filing pattern of care for children,
  3) what is the current pattern of care?
  4) degree of party cooperation on children's issues both pre and post filing
  5) financial ability for two households to be supported on the parties incomes after support is paid.... and I'm sure a few more are needed.

Overall, shared custody is not a panacea - it fixes one problem but invites a whole new set of problems.
Below is a summary of the proposed law available at theState Assembly website
Amends the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. To the list of purposes of the Act, adds recognizing that the involvement of each parent for equal time is presumptively in the children's best interests. Deletes language providing that nothing in the Act requires that each parent be allocated decision-making responsibilities. Provides that it is presumed that it is in the child's best interests to award equal time to each parent. Provides that it is presumed that both parents are fit and the court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time unless it finds by clear and convincing evidence (instead of a preponderance of the evidence) that a parent's exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child's physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. In specified situations, requires the court to issue a written decision stating its specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of its ruling. Provides that the court may restrict or modify parental responsibilities after a showing of clear and convincing evidence (instead of a preponderance of the evidence) that the restriction or modification is warranted.

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).