Developing a Parenting Plan That’s Beneficial to Your Children

Parents needing to establish a co-parenting plan during divorce mediation or litigation should really consider both the short-term and long-term ramifications of their decisions.


Keep in mind that, if you have young children, you and the other parent might need to live with this plan for a decade or more.


Taking a step back and rationally thinking about your plan may give you a different perspective than you

have right now in the heat of the moment.


Don’t Burden Your Children with Your Anger

If you’re frustrated that your child still looks at your former husband or wife with unconditional love, devotion and admiration, you’re not alone. Many people in your situation are frustrated their children don’t have the same perspective or information as you do regarding the person they still call mom or dad.

Keep in mind your children’s feelings and how they may internalize the angry, spiteful things said about their other parent. Your children know that they are made up of and are a part of that other parent as well.  Not only do you risk putting a lot of confusing negativity on a child who doesn’t understand the context, you also risk a child’s starting to think of him or herself in some of the same terms. After all: ‘if mom or dad is such a terrible person, what does that say about me?


Child Custody Agreements Aren’t About You

Arriving at a viable parenting agreement plan must be all about what’s best for the children. Parental rights and the love for one’s children shouldn’t be used as weapons to get back at your ex. Even if you win and feel vindicated for making your former spouse suffer, you’re likely doing so at the cost of your children’s happiness and possibly their best interests.


If the other parent loves his or her children, and is committed to doing what’s best for them, then that other parent will likely still be a positive influence on your children’s lives, regardless of the wrongs you perceive the other parent may have committed during your relationship.


Depriving your children of the influence of the other parent, and of a person they love, out of anger or spite will not make for a constructive, healthy and sustainable parenting agreement.


Don’t Overextend in an Attempt to Get All You Want

Just because you may be in the position to get a significant amount of parenting time or prevent your spouse from obtaining anything but the bare minimum of parenting time doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in your best long-term interests, or in the best long-term interests of the children.


Family attorneys can likely tell you about scenarios they’ve seen where one parent wants sole decision-making and most of the parenting time, but then has to grapple with how to logistically manage alone with such an exhausting, time-consuming task.


Keep in mind the scheduling factors that could affect your capabilities:

  • Do your children all attend the same schools? How close are they to where you live?
  • Do your children participate in extracurricular activities?
  • How rigorous is your work schedule? Do you have to travel for work?
  • Do you have career or social commitments that result in a sometimes unpredictable schedule?
  • Do you have reliable, affordable child care solutions?


Communication and Creating a Sustainable Co-Parenting Relationship

It’s important to develop a way to communicate that doesn’t always escalate into arguments or bitter reactions. If talking to the other parent on the phone or even texting or emailing is not productive, consider other tools such as joint calendars.  OurFamilyWizard or Google Calendar are tools that can help parents communicate without needing to regularly engage with one another.


These software options track parenting time schedules on the joint calendar. It is also a convenient record-keeper for upcoming school events, immunizations, health records, upcoming doctor or dentist appointments, and even a message board for communicating without having to speak or see each other face to face.


If a dispute ever does arise, OurFamilyWizard or Google Calendar will paint a clear, accurate picture of what happened without needing to resort to he-said, she-said confrontations.


Learn More About Healthy Parenting Arrangements


If you would like assistance developing a parenting plan, or you’d just like to speak with an attorney about what you can and can’t expect in terms of parenting time and allocation of parenting responsibilities during or after your divorce, contact the Conniff Law Offices. Our committed family law attorneys would be happy to sit down with you and give you an honest, straightforward assessment of your situation.

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Should You Get a Prenup?

Many couples who are engaged to be married entertain the idea of getting a prenuptial agreement. There is certainly a societal stigma attached to premarital agreements. There’s the feeling that you’re already prepping for the inevitable dissolution of the marriage. But there are many advantages to formalizing a prenuptial agreement that can make it a valuable tool that doesn’t necessarily have to spell misgivings or doubt.

Consider life and health insurance. Ideally you and your family won’t need to use your health or life insurance, but should the unforeseen occur everyone is relieved to have the protection.

Before you make a decision though, it’s important to understand exactly what a prenup can and can’t do for you.

Do you have children from a previous marriage?

Prenups are an effective way to ensure any children or grandchildren from a previous marriage can maintain their inheritance rights.

At the same time, this could have negative ramifications for the new spouse, as they and their children may not receive the inheritance to which they may feel entitled.

Do you own your own business?

Some of the most contentious disputes during high-net-worth divorces concern with business interests owned. Typically, most divorcing couples have no desire to continue working together or to have a spouse be in a position to interfere with the running of the business.

A premarital agreement can protect that business from being divided during divorce proceedings, and can be used to ensure a former spouse isn’t entitled to any further involvement.

There is also an argument against drafting a prenup, if the non-owner spouse has contributed significantly to the business’s growth during the marriage. This applies even if a spouse was running a household that gave the other spouse the necessary time to grow the business. Signing a prenup that dictates one partner or the other receives all or majority ownership of a business following a divorce could prevent the spouse from receiving the benefits to which they may be legitimately entitled.

Do either of you have a significant amount of debt?

There are certainly many scenarios where two people, one of whom has extensive debt, decide to get married. A prenup can protect the debt-free party from having to assume the debt burden should they decide to divorce in the future.

Is getting married going to affect your earnings potential?

Marriage can change your entire life trajectory. Many people give up lucrative careers in order to start a family when they decide to get married. Maybe one income is enough to sustain that family, but should the couple decide to get divorced in the future, the spouse who abandoned her or she career may discover a challenge in trying to secure comparable employment.

A prenup may benefit people in this situation, because they can be appropriately compensated for the opportunity they abandoned to get married.

Conversely, a prenup can also be used to limit the amount of spousal support one spouse will be required to pay to the other spouse, which could be a negative for the non-wage earner in the relationship.

Does the stigma concern you and your future spouse?

There are a lot of people who just can’t get over the fact that they’re drafting a contract that is setting out the terms for divorce. It’s often especially hard to think about during the months leading up to marriage, where couples are generally still infatuated with each other to the point where they can’t imagine ever getting divorced.

Whether you’ve already decided you want a premarital agreement, or you and your future spouse just want to speak with an attorney about what it may entail, please contact Conniff Law Offices today.

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Save Time and Money on Divorce with Mediation

Deciding that it’s time to dissolve a marriage is never easy for either party, even if it’s the best option for you and your family. The stigma surrounding divorce is often one of heated arguments and each party doing his or her best to make the other party suffer for marital mistakes.

While that is the case in some divorces, it certainly doesn’t have to be the case in yours. Many couples can still interact with one another on an amicable, rational, and co-operative basis, which enables them to pursue non-litigated divorce methods such as mediation.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

 Although divorce mediation is sometimes done with just one attorney participating, it’s most common for both parties to retain the services of their own attorney. Then both parties agree on a divorce mediator who is specially trained to help couples negotiate their divorce. The mediator should be impartial, and will have an end goal of developing a final settlement where both sides feel as if they were treated fairly.

One of the reasons divorce mediation is such a valuable process for both parties is the non-aggressive and co-operative communication it fosters. Being able to sit down with one another to compromise and work through the divorce issues may act as a foundation for future communications.

The assistance of a mediator is especially valuable for couples with children. Custody, parenting, support and time sharing issues are often the most contentious issues in divorce proceedings. A divorce mediator can help you and your spouse find realistic solutions that are equitable and stability enhancing.

Divorce is especially difficult on children, as is adjusting to living in a two-family household. A divorce mediator can help you and your ex compromise on these issues and foster a sense of calm and collaboration.

The importance of maintaining the mindset that you and your former husband or wife are still partners in terms of raising your children is essential not only to reach an effective settlement, but also to ensure that settlement and co-operation last well into the future.

Mediation is also significantly healthier for your children. The more you two can get along and make a shared parenting plan work, the less vitriol the children will experience in their home lives.

How Does the Divorce Mediation Process Work?

 The divorce mediation process generally takes place over a few meetings. The times of these meetings are dictated by the availability of all parties involved, including the mediator, both attorneys and both spouses. So, scheduling can be a challenge.

During the first meeting, the divorce mediator will spend most of the time firmly establishing the issues and goals of each party. The mediator will work with you to rank these issues by importance in order to understand your priorities. After that’s been established, the divorce mediator will detail all the relevant information that needs to be acquired and shared to ensure the parties have what they need to make informed decisions.

After the first meeting, you and your spouse will be tasked with gathering the necessary information or any required resources, whether they be financial documents, appraisals, insurance information or other items of importance.

The subsequent meetings between you, your mediator and your attorney will be dedicated to meeting you and your spouse’s divorce settlement goals through compromise and discussion. This is where the mediator’s pragmatism and impartiality are especially important.

Once both parties agree to a negotiated settlement, the mediator will finalize a draft for review by each party’s attorneys.  The final settlement agreement is drafted by one of the parties’ attorneys based upon the mediator’s statement of the settlement terms.

Will Mediation Work for Your Case?

If you and your spouse are amicable enough to agree on most issues and are willing to sit in the same room together, you may be good candidates for divorce mediation.  If you prefer, you can choose to do “shuttle mediation’’ where, instead of you and your spouse being in the same room, the mediator “shuttles” between you and your spouse who are in separate rooms, and works out an agreement between you.  If you would like to learn more about the mediation process or how to begin divorce mediation, please contact the helpful, compassionate family law professionals at the Conniff Law Offices.

They can represent you throughout the process as well as provide several reputable divorce mediator options for your consideration.

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Income Shares: The New Illinois Child Support Law

Effective July 1, 2017, Illinois will join thirty-nine other states, in addition to Washington D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands, that use an “Income Shares” model for determining child support.  Currently, Illinois applies a “Percentage of Income” formula that applies a set percentage to the supporting parent’s net income.  However, on August 12, 2016, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law House Bill 3982, which will become effective on July 1, 2017, as Illinois’ new child support statute incorporating the “income shares” model.

The assumption behind the “Income Shares” model is that when a family is intact then each parent contributes to the expenses and the care of the children.  For purposes of determining child support, the new Illinois statute elaborates on the current child support statute, 750 ILCS 5/505, and provides additional guidance for the court to consider, including, the residential parent’s income, the parents’ additional expenses, working potential or working history if unemployed or underemployed, and parenting time.

How to Calculate Child Support Under the New Statute

Under the new statute, the child support obligation is determined by first calculating the net income of each parent. The net incomes of each parent are then combined to determine the total income of the family (“Total Family Income”).

The Total Family Income is then compared to economic estimates of an average intact family with similar income and number of children.  A chart clarifying these details has not yet been pusblished.  The estimated expense is the basic child support obligation, which can be adjusted for additional expenses.  Additional expenses include:  child care expenses, extracurricular activity expenses, health insurance, and educational expenses.  The statute provides guidance as to which expenses are considered under each category and how the court should consider each expense in relation to each parent and his or her child support obligation.  If the court decides that either or both parent should contribute to certain child expenses, then the basic child support obligation will be prorated for each additional expense in proportion to a  parent’s percentage share of the Total Family Income, and the additional expenses will then be added to the child support obligation.

The new statute also provides for an adjustment or “offset” to child support for shared parenting.  If a parent is in the physical care of a child for at least 146 overnights a year, the court may first multiply the basic child support obligation by 1.5 to calculate the “shared care child support obligation.”  Then, each parent’s child support obligation is calculated by multiplying each parent’s portion of the “shared care child support obligation” by the percentage of time the parent is allocated parenting time with the minor child or children.  The parent who owes more child support pays the difference between the two amounts to the other parent.  As more information is released, we can clarify this change in the law further.

New Statute’s Effect on Existing Child Support Obligations

In anticipation of the practical effect the new guidelines will have on existing child support obligations, the new statute provides that the enactment of the new child support law does not in and of itself constitute a substantial change in circumstances for purposes of modifying past-ordered support.  See 750 ILCS 5/510(a).  Upon petitioning the court, the court may modify an existing child support obligation if it finds that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred for reasons other than the change in statute, and then the court would apply the new statute’s guidelines.  Id.  Nevertheless, the court may experience an influx of petitions for modification of child support in July 2017 simply due to the enactment of the new statute.

If you would like to learn more about the new statue and how it may affect you in the future, please contact the helpful, compassionate family law professionals at the Conniff Law Offices.


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There Are Many Divorce Options That May Save You Money, Time, and Excessive Heartache

Divorce is an all too common occurrence for many couples today. It’s also one of the most stressful life events a person can endure. Many couples face a hard choice of dissolving a marriage and being happier, or trying to stick it out for a variety of reasons ranging from children to the financial costs.

Many are under the misconception that divorce always has to be an expensive, long, and vitriolic process. That’s simply not the case. In fact, if you and your significant other are still on amicable enough terms there are a number of options that can save you time, money, and future headaches.

There’s no doubt that people who collaborate together, compromise, and act pragmatically end up having better, longer-lasting divorce resolutions. The more contentious a divorce, the more likely you’ll be going back to court eventually to renegotiate or, worse yet, argue again.

Before you go straight to a divorce lawyer to embark upon a contentious divorce process, consider these faster, simpler, and more affordable options.

Collaborative Divorce

One of the defining characteristics of the collaborative divorce process is the written agreement wherein both parties agree to keep the divorce out of the courts. Both parties should have their own attorneys trained in the collaborative divorce process and have the choice of using other collaboratively trained professionals. The collaborative process focuses on the family’s goals, needs, and interests. Both parties and their attorneys will negotiate toward an agreement with the pre-established goal of completing the process quickly, affordably, and in a manner that promotes cooperation and undistorted communication.

Because there are only minimal court appearances and no lengthy divorce fights, collaborative divorce tends to be a much more affordable option than divorce litigation. The terms agreed to in the collaborative process are generally easier for both parties to accept, as they were negotiated and agreed to with everyone’s cooperation, and the process stays focused on each parties’ needs and interests.

Negotiated Divorce Settlements

Negotiated divorce settlements are similar to collaborative divorce agreements except no trained collaborative professionals are required for the negotiated divorce process, and there is no agreement to stay out of court. In a negotiated settlement, both parties work together with their family law attorneys to negotiate an agreement.

If both parties are amicable and are in agreement on the general division of assets, debts, parenting time, and other important factors, then a negotiated divorce may be the ideal solution for them. Negotiated divorces are generally finalized more quickly than prolonged divorce litigation, and cost significantly less because there’s a diminished need for involvement of attorneys or courts.

Divorce Mediation

Specially trained divorce mediators are available for divorcing couples who wish to cut court and legal costs and accomplish their dissolution quickly and without a lot of fighting. One of the mediator’s jobs will be to establish each party’s goals, needs, and interests, after which they will work on helping you develop a resolution that will provide the best outcome for all parties and the smoothest transition. Good mediators should be impartial, objective, and excel at keeping communication progressing in the right direction.

Mediation can be especially beneficial when the divorcing parties are parents to children. In addition to helping divorcing parties come to negotiated agreements, mediators are also trained to advise and help parents on transitioning their children into a two household family.

Divorce Litigation

 Divorce by its very nature is a contentious process, which is why it’s not overly surprisingly that many couples just can’t communicate, amicably or otherwise, in the manner required for mediation, collaboration, or negotiation. In these situations divorce litigation is often the only option.

There are also situations of impropriety, such as one party attempting to hide assets or accusations of abuse. In these circumstances divorce litigation is generally unavoidable.

In divorce litigation, a judge will be the final arbiter on issues of assets, children, maintenance, and support issues. There are many steps in the litigation process, beginning with a petition of divorce and ending with a trial, and a judgment for dissolution of marriage.

If you would like to learn more about the steps in between or would like to speak with an attorney about your divorce options, please contact the experienced family law attorneys at the Conniff Law Offices today.

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