Facebook and Divorce

Social Media and Divorce

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Facebook and Divorce

 

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media and networking sites have become primary methods for people to stay in contact with each other. They have also become a primary source of information for family law attorneys representing parties to a divorce.

 

For example, if you post a photo of yourself at a party on Facebook and the divorce lawyer representing your spouse obtains a copy, it could be used to distort your ability to be an effective parent. A broader net is cast in some instances, and electronic discovery is used to obtain emails, phone records, text messages and other information that could be damaging.

 

If You’ve Got Something To Say, Say It In Person
With the evolution of electronic communication and the increased capabilities of data forensics specialists and other experts, there is a good chance that anything you post, email or store electronically will be found and used against you down the line. In short, if you have something that you want to say, have a face-to-face conversation.

 

Do not trust a site’s “privacy settings” or features on your computer that claim to encrypt or otherwise protect your information. In too many cases, divorcing spouses have found themselves in difficult situations because of electronically stored or distributed information that was later recovered by the opposing attorney. Some examples include:

 

Admissions about hidden assets

  • Disparaging or fraudulent comments about the other spouse
  • Photos depicting alcohol consumption or drug use
  • Vacation photos, particularly those with a partner who is not your spouse
  • Reliable Illinois Family Law Attorneys

 

At Feinberg Sharma, our top family law attorneys in Chicago represent clients across the Chicagoland area and North Shore communities in all facets of divorce. From the moment you retain our top-rated family law firm, we will pursue every available option in an effort to protect your interests and advise you on strategies for limiting the risks associated with using social media and other electronic communication.

 

Contact us to schedule an initial consultation regarding your family law concerns. You can reach us by phone at 312-376-8860, or via email.

Top Ten Fears of Divorce

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Top Ten Fears of Divorce

 

The family law attorneys at Feinberg Sharma, devote their entire practice to resolving complex matrimonial and family law matters, including divorce and child custody, for clients in Chicago, Illinois. We are sensitive to the anxiety our clients face in the process of working through a divorce. We have assembled a list of the top ten fears of divorce expressed by our clients and some clarifying information that you may find beneficial.

 

1. My spouse just filed for divorce. Am I at a disadvantage because I didn’t file first?
A: No. Under Illinois law, each spouse is treated equally regardless of which one is listed as the petitioner (the person who filed for divorce) or the respondent. The court does not discriminate against either party based on who filed first.

 

2. I thought I was entitled to half of the marital property. How is it possible that assets aren’t divided 50/50?
A: Only “community property” states have the statutory requirement of a 50/50 division. As an “equitable distribution” state, Illinois law requires that marital assets are divided equitably. While “equitable” does not necessarily mean 50/50, equal divisions occur in many cases. In the process of dividing marital property, a strategic approach can provide a better long-term result even if the initial division is not equal.

 

3. I had an affair. Does that hurt my standing in the divorce proceeding?
A: No. Illinois law is clear with regard to marital misconduct. It is not a consideration in the calculation of spousal maintenance, the calculation of child support, determining child custody or the division of marital property. One exception to the misconduct rule involves the spending of marital funds on items not related to the marriage after the relationship has undergone an irretrievable breakdown. This is referred to as dissipation, and each spouse can be held personally accountable for the full amount of such expenditures.

 

4. What happens if my spouse refuses to pay my attorney fees? I can’t afford a good lawyer on my own.
A: Do not let this be a concern. Illinois law gives the court the authority to help spouses who do not have sufficient finances to hire a qualified attorney. The more financially secure spouse can be ordered to pay his or her spouse’s attorney fees while the divorce is pending. The total amount of money paid by one spouse for the attorney fees of the other is reimbursed as part of the marital property settlement.

 

5. My spouse wants joint legal custody. Does that mean our children will spend half of their time with each of us? I’m not comfortable with that.
A: No. Joint legal custody refers to a situation where each parent has equal decision-making authority in matters involving the children’s religious upbringing, education and medical care. Legal custody does not impact where the children will live. The parenting-time agreement delineates which parent will care for the children on which days.

 

6. My spouse is seeking equal parenting time as a way to avoid paying child support. Is this possible?
A: Almost certainly not. There are extremely few situations where there would not be some type of child support order established. If one parent is even marginally more financially secure than the other, the more financially secure parent would likely be required to pay some level of child support as long as the recipient parent is caring for the children at least 50 percent of the time.

 

7. My spouse is between jobs and has historically been the breadwinner in our family. Am I at risk of not receiving child support?
A: No. If a parent is unemployed, it is expected that he or she will actively seek employment commensurate with his or her abilities. If the parent does not find gainful employment in a timely manner, the court can seize personal assets to be placed in a 503(g) trust and use the proceeds toward his or her child support obligations. In addition, if a parent is underemployed — that is, he or she could be making more money based on his or her capabilities — the court can impute income and order the parent to pay child support based on the amount of money he or she could be making.

 

8. Are my child support and spousal maintenance payments tax deductible?
A: One yes, one no. Spousal maintenance can be tax deductible to the payor and considered taxable income to the recipient. Child support is not tax deductible for the payor, nor is it considered taxable income to the recipient.

 

9. Can I modify my divorce agreement if I’m not satisfied with the outcome of the trial?
A: It may be possible in some aspects, but not in all of them. Items that may be modified include child support, spousal maintenance and child custody. A substantial change in circumstances must be shown in order for the court to consider a modification. The property order cannot be modified. However, it may be possible to seek relief from the order if unconscionability, fraud or duress can be shown.

 

10. My spouse has a strong case for permanent maintenance. Will I have to pay for it forever?
A: Probably not. Permanent maintenance is modifiable if there is a substantial change in circumstances. Job loss, an illness or injury that prevents the paying spouse from working or another circumstance that causes a marked reduction in the paying spouse’s income level can all be grounds for a reduction in the amount of spousal maintenance. In addition, permanent maintenance payments end under Illinois law upon the cohabitation, remarriage or death of the recipient spouse.

 

Contact Our Office To Learn More About Your Rights And Legal Options

 

Contact top-rated family law attorneys of Feinberg Sharma, P.C., with an office located in Chicago, to schedule an initial consultation regarding your divorce issues in Chicago. You can reach us by phone at 312-376-8860, or via email.

Three Red Flags That a Spouse May Be Hiding Assets During Divorce

Red Flags

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Three Red Flags That a Spouse May Be Hiding Assets During Divorce

 

Hiding Assets During Divorce
Even in the bitterest divorce, few people would like to believe that their spouse would conceal assets from them in order to affect the outcome of a property settlement, alimony or child support order. Unfortunately, however, asset concealment during divorce occurs more often than many people are aware. Therefore, it is important for divorcing spouses to be on the lookout for potential warning signs that a spouse may be hiding assets during divorce.

 

Being secretive about financial matters
If your spouse suddenly becomes cagey about financial matters, it may be because he or she has something to hide. While it is common among married couples for one spouse to take a more active role in paying bills and managing the couple’s financial affairs, both partners should have access to all relevant accounts and financial information, and should stay informed about the state of their finances.

 

This becomes all the more important when divorce is on the horizon, since it is much easier for a deceptive spouse to conceal assets from a partner who is inattentive or ill-informed on financial matters. If your spouse discourages you from taking an active role in your finances or seems unwilling to share passwords or account information with you, it may indicate that he or she is attempting to hide assets.

 

Complaining about money or debts
Some people attempt hiding assets during divorce by complaining about sudden financial hardships, such as failed investments or business difficulties. To an unwary spouse, this can create an impression that the complaining individual has fewer assets than he or she really does. As a result, it may be easier for the deceptive spouse to conceal assets without detection.

 

A related tactic involves taking out unusual amounts of debt in order to create the illusion that an individual’s assets are less extensive than they really are. Exaggerating or overstating debts in this manner can result in a divorce settlement that is unfairly skewed in favor of the spouse who is hiding assets.

 

Making unusual purchases
Another way that some people attempt to hide assets from a spouse during divorce is by purchasing expensive items like art or antiques, whose value is easy to overlook or underestimate in a divorce settlement. After the divorce is finalized, these objects are then sold and the profits retained by the spouse who purchased them. If you notice that your spouse has been making unusual purchases, be sure that the purchased items are thoroughly accounted for and accurately assessed at their full value during the divorce.

 

Contact an attorney for help uncovering hidden assets
If you suspect your spouse of hiding assets from you, be sure to seek help right away from an attorney who is experienced in uncovering hidden assets during divorce settlements. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can help you locate and identify all marital assets and will work hard to see that you get your fair share during the divorce.

 

Contact, Feinberg Sharma, a top-rated family law firm with an office in Chicago, Illinois, to schedule an initial consultation with experienced Chicago divorce attorneys regarding your divorce issues and divorce settlement. You can reach us by phone at 312-376-8860, or via email.

In re Marriage of Allen, 2016, 1st District

Marriage of Allen

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In re Marriage of Allen, 2016, 1st District

By: Feinberg Sharma / February 10, 2017

 

 

Keith and Debra Allen had lived together for 13 years prior to getting marriage. They had been married for less than 7 months when they filed for divorce. Before their case went to trial, Debra sought leave to amend her Petition with common law claims based on their 13 pre-marital years of cohabitation. The primary dispute was whether Debra was entitled to a greater share of the marital property and to maintenance due to the length of their relationship and cohabitation.

 

In Hewitt v. Hewitt, 77 Ill. 3d 49, 394 N.E. 2d 1204 (1979), an unmarried woman, who was in a relationship for 15 years, filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and in an attempt to claim property from her boyfriend. The Illinois Supreme Court rejected all of her claims, stating the Judiciary should not recognize mutual property rights between nonmarried couples.

 

In In re Marriage of Blumenthal, 2014 IL App (1st) 132250, 28, 24 N.E. 3d 168, a lesbian couple was allowed to bring common law claims regarding property they accumulated together. The Court came to this holding because in contrast to Hewitt, the couple in Blumenthal did not have the right to marry in Illinois and Illinois’ public policy favored the recognition of same sex domestic relationships.

 

In the Allen case, the Court denied Debra leave to add common law claims to her divorce proceedings based on her relationship with Keith. Since they are an opposite sex couple who had the option to marry throughout their relationship, any other holding by the Court would contravene Illinois public policy which bans common law marriage.

 

Hacking Spouse’s Email

Hacking Email

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Hacking Spouse’s Email

 

In the highly emotional time of a divorce, it can become tempting for people to cross lines that should not be crossed. Hacking into your spouse’s email account or computer to try and find some damning evidence against them is that step too far. Recently a husband sued his wife for reading the private emails he was sending to other women. The wife had set up her husband’s email to automatically forward any emails sent by him to her. This case eventually reached the U.S. Appellate Court where under the existing Federal Wiretap Act the court found that the wife had violated the law by accessing her husband’s computer without his consent. The wife’s actions were found to be illegal despite the fact that she had uncovered her husband’s adultery. Although not often prosecuted, adultery remains an illegal act in Illinois. One Judge expressed his concern that this law protects the husband’s illegal act by allowing his dishonesty and deception. However, as the law stands you must always get consent before accessing your spouse’s personal email account. Hacking your spouse’s email on a non-shared computer violates the Wiretapping Law. This criminal offense carries a possibility of prison time if convicted and the illegally obtained evidence cannot be used in Court.

 

Recognizing Unreasonable Divorce Demands

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Recognizing Unreasonable Divorce Demands

 

As an Illinois couple considers a divorce, financial issues and child rearing can be some of the most contentious matters under the scrutiny of both parties, their lawyers, and the court system. In trying to avoid litigation, an individual might suggest negotiating an agreement without legal help in order to save money on fees. Alternative methods such as collaboration or mediation could also simplify the process, but an individual might want to proceed with caution if the other party seems to be making unreasonable demands.

 

It can be helpful to have an understanding of divorce laws related to property division and child custody. For example, funds that were received by one spouse as a gift might not be considered marital property. However, the use of such gifted funds to purchase a family home might be viewed as commingling, which could leave an inheritance or gift vulnerable to being split. Retirement benefits might be viewed as marital assets, but there is not a responsibility to split future retirement savings. A court order to split such benefits can typically be processed by the administrator overseeing the retirement fund in question, which will allow each party’s share to be managed independently.

 

In dealing with a marital home, one spouse might insist on remaining at the property in spite of joint ownership. In such a case, an agreement that no other adult moves in for at least two years from the time of the split is appropriate. In a contentious case, it might be helpful to request the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent the needs of the children.

 

In a high asset divorce case, spouses could spend a huge amount of money in fees as they bicker over minor matters. A divorce lawyer could be helpful in streamlining the matter to ensure that a fair settlement is proposed. In reviewing a settlement offered by the other party, a lawyer might bring inappropriate demands to the client’s attention.

 

Millionaire Ex-spouses Have Been in Court for 7 Years

Judicial Perspective

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Millionaire Ex-spouses Have Been in Court for 7 Years

By: Feinberg Sharma / October 6, 2016

 

 

A divorced couple in Illinois has failed to reach a final divorce settlement after seven years of litigation. In April, Cancer Treatment Centers of America founder Richard Stephenson and his former wife Alicia Stephenson formally dissolved their 18-year marriage. However, the couple still has not been able to reach a final agreement about property division.

 

Though there is no argument that Richard is a multi-millionaire; however, Richard’s attorneys have disputed Alicia’s attorney’s assessment of his wealth. According to Alicia’s attorneys, Stephenson owns assets with a total value exceeding $1 billion. There is a prenuptial agreement in place, but Alicia’s attorneys have argued that Alicia has been denied ownership rights to several businesses that are in her name. The ex-couple has not been able to reach a final agreement about spousal support.

 

Richard and Alicia’s attorneys have butted heads many times during the seven-year divorce proceedings. An attorney for Alicia claims that he has never seen a court allow a divorcing spouse to withhold financial documents the way that Richard has. Richard’s attorneys have denied allegations that they are hiding financial information and argued that Alicia’s attorneys have inflated the value of the marital estate. Soon after the divorce paperwork was filed, a judge awarded Alicia temporary alimony payments of $65,800 per month.

 

When divorce proceedings are prolonged, the divorce process can end up costing both spouses a lot more money than it is worth. An attorney may be able to represent a divorcing spouse during property division hearings and work toward an efficient settlement. If a spouse is concerned that they will lose certain assets, an attorney may be able to help them to assert their property rights.

 

Source: Chicago Tribune, “With millions at stake, trial looms in cancer center founder divorce,” Robert McCoppin, Sept. 22, 2016

Safeguarding a Child’s College Savings During Divorce

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Safeguarding a Child’s College Savings During Divorce

By: Feinberg Sharma / September 20, 2016

 

 

An Illinois parent who is going through a divorce might worry about the future, especially with regard to finances. Even those who have saved carefully can see their resources decimated in contentious situations, especially if litigation is focused on minor issues. The best interests of one’s children might be the goal of all parties involved, but expensive settlements could leave options for paying legal bills and settlement costs limited. In such a case, some types of college savings plans might be diverted.

 

Those involved in high asset divorce situations may have saved a significant amount of money to assure their children of the best possible post-secondary education. A custodial 529 savings plan is one of the safest in terms of how the funds can be used. The beneficiary must remain constant for the life of the plan. A traditional 529 plan, however, could be changed for the use of another beneficiary in paying for college. A new spouse or child could become the recipient of these benefits in some instances. ESAs are similarly flexible in terms of possible beneficiary changes.

 

To head off the potential diversion of college funds, a concerned parent could request that details related to the accounts and their intended use be specified in the divorce settlement. It is also wise for a concerned party to request that they be listed on the account as an interested person, which can help in obtaining duplicate statements. This provides a method of oversight and accountability.

 

Because high asset divorces can be complicated, it may be sensible to discuss the situation with a divorce lawyer as early as possible. There may be a need to enlist accounting professionals to evaluate the values of family businesses, investigate possible hidden assets, and determine which assets are subject to property division rules. Not all high asset divorces have to be contentious, and in some cases, a collaborative approach could be considered.

 

Gaining Financial Skills Important When Preparing for Divorce

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Gaining Financial Skills Important When Preparing for Divorce

By: Feinberg Sharma / June 29, 2016

 

 

Most married people in Illinois don’t want to think about the possibility of divorce. Since a large percentage of marriages will eventually end, however, it may be wise for spouses to develop good financial skills.

 

Individuals should think ahead to their retirement, and both spouses should increase their individual contributions to their plans if they are able to do so. As people get older and their incomes increase, they should continue contributing more to their retirement accounts. This may help to ensure that a person will be able to retire on time even if the marriage ends in divorce.

 

It is also important for both spouses to develop other financial skills. These include the ability to balance a checkbook, budget money and pay bills. In many divorces, one spouse will be much more financially prepared than the other. People who take the time to learn and implement good financial decisions may be better prepared to deal with the financial impact that a divorce can bring.

 

If a couple has been married for a number of years, they may have finances that are intermingled. Over time, they may also have accumulated numerous assets, including real property, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds or businesses. The property division of a high-asset divorce can be very complicated. When a person is considering filing for divorce, they may want to get assistance from a family law attorney. A lawyer might be able to locate assets that the other spouse is attempting to hide. The attorney may also be able to work out a property settlement agreement that protects a client.