“I will sue you!” is a common phrase meant to inform someone that you will seek legal recourse in order to settle your dispute in court. In the alternative, “I will meet you ‘on the field of battle where I will rend [your] souls from [your] corporal bodies’” is not a common phrase, nor is it a means by which people typically settle their disputes. However, one Kansas man was mad enough to invoke an age-old form of dispute resolution against his former wife and her attorney in a post-divorce case, which was, of course, a motion for trial by combat.

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On January 2, 2020, David Ostrom, 40, of Paola, Kansas, filed a motion for trial by combat with the Iowa District Court in Shelby County alleging, in part, that his ex-wife, Bridgette Ostrom, 38, “destroyed (him) legally.” Such legal destruction being resolved by the possibility of death would seem hardly reasonable to the common layman. However, “to this day, trial by combat has never been explicitly banned or restricted as a right in these United States,” Mr. Ostrom would go on to say that trial by combat was used “as recently as 1818 in British Court.” Not surprisingly, shortly after filing his motion, Mr. Ostrom was quickly faced Ms. Ostrom’s Motion to Suspend Visitation and Motion for Psychological Evaluation.

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When going through a divorce, a marital asset is defined as any asset that a party accrued during the marriage. For example, a husband’s retirement account that accrued during the marriage would be considered marital, while any portion of his retirement account that he accrued prior to the marriage would be considered non-marital. Therefore, when going through a divorce, the wife would only be entitled to the marital portion of the husband’s retirement account. The wife would not be entitled to anything that the husband accrued prior to the marriage.

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Of course, with any legal issue, there are certain exceptions. Cue the Martin v. Martin case that came down on June 20, 2019 in Florida. This case specifically dealt with military service and how pre-marital military service credits could become a marital asset in a pension. What most people don’t know is that a member of the military is required to accrue 20 years of military service to receive military retired pay, which is the proper term for what people often refer to as a “military pension.” If a servicemember has less than 20 years of service, they are unlikely to receive retired pay. However, those years of service can be applied to certain defined benefit pension plans to enhance the value of the monthly benefit at retirement age.

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In general, the purpose of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) is to resolve custody disputes by directing the court with “continuing and exclusive jurisdiction” the jurisdiction to modify and enforce custody disputes that may arise between two different states.  While each state has its own child custody statutes, the UCCJEA governs which state’s child custody laws will control in the event of a conflict involving a custody or enforcement proceeding where more than one state’s laws might apply. In 2004, Illinois adopted the UCCJEA, along with 48 other states.   Massachusetts is the only state that has not adopted the it.

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Probably most importantly, the UCCJEA indicates that the child’s “home state” should resolve all custody conflicts. The Act defines the child’s “home state” as “the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child-custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period” (emphasis added).

 

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In a divorce case involving children or in parentage case, it is usually pretty easy to figure out what each of the parents wants. What often isn’t clear is what the child wants, and how much weight the court should give to a child’s expressed wishes.

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The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), which governs child-related issues arising in divorce and parentage cases, sets out a series of factors a court should consider in making determinations related to the allocation of decision-making responsibilities (i.e., “custody”) and parenting time (i.e., “visitation”), as well as other child-related issues.  This list is commonly referred to as the “best interests of the child” factors.

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In Illinois, the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (MHDDCA), protects communications made between a client and a therapist. Generally, when an individual begins therapy, the therapist’s first obligation is to explain that anything the client says to the therapist will remain confidential. However, this may not always be the case for children whose parents are simultaneously involved in a custody battle, and where a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) has been appointed to investigate and recommend to the court what is in the best interest of the minor child.

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In 2017, the Illinois legislature added section 607.6 to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). Given how recently section 607.6 was added, there is not much case law interpreting its provisions. Under this section of the statute, a court may order individual counseling for a child, family counseling for the parties and the child, or parental education for one or more of the parties. Perhaps the more controversial portion of 607.6 can be found in subsection (d). Section 607.6(d) provides, “all counseling sessions shall be confidential. The communications in counseling shall not be used in any manner in litigation nor relied upon by any expert appointed by the court or retained by any party.”

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If you are currently an active duty military servicemember with orders to deploy, you may be wondering what happens to your parenting time with your kids while you are deployed. In other words, will you be forced to forfeit your parenting time with the minor children by virtue of your deployment? Will the children automatically need to stay with the non-deploying parent the entire time you are gone or can someone else exercise your parenting time in your place? Worry not, because these questions have been answered by the Illinois legislature.

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For many servicemembers, the thought of “substitute” parenting time never crosses their mind. A common assumption is that if they are deploying, their children will naturally need to stay with the other non-deploying parent full-time until they return. However, for some families, this is not always the most functional scenario. For example, for children with parents who live in two different states, and with parents who do not get along, seeing both sides of the family can get very complicated when the non-deploying parent is unwilling to schedule time for the children to see the deployed parent’s family. Another example of where this may become complicated, is where the non-deploying parent does not have the capability of having parenting time with the children full-time due to other obligations such as work.

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It is not uncommon for a spouse to have  received an inheritance during the marriage.  When people are divorcing, one of the biggest issues is how the court will divide their assets. The first step a court must take when determining how to divide assets in a divorce case is to classify those assets as either marital or non-marital.  How would an Illinois court classify the inheritance?  Is it marital or non-marital?

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Pursuant to Section 503(a) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, all property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be marital property, except where that property is shown to be obtained by a certain method. Specifically, the statute lists “non-marital” property as “property acquired by gift, legacy or descent or property acquired in exchange for such property.” One party’s inheritance in a divorce case would typically fall under this category of non-marital property.

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Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows a court to modify a child support obligation upon a substantial change in circumstances.  Prior to the 2017 amendments to the Act, child support was based solely on the payor’s income.  After the amendments, child support is calculated based upon both parties’ incomes.

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What happens when a parent with an obligation to pay child support attempts to modify a pre-2017 order based upon the recipient parent’s new job, when the recipient parent was not previously earning income? According to the Illinois Appellate Court, the answer depends not on the existence of their new-found income, but whether that new income was contemplated at the time of entry of the judgment.

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Would an Illinois family law court restrict a parent’s ability to smoke cigarettes or vape around a child?  Specifically, can a court limit a parent’s time with his or her minor child to prevent the exposure to second-hand smoke or vapor?  The answer to this hypothetical question is hazy at best.

 

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First, there’s the data about the harm caused by smoking.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 34 million people in the United States smoke tobacco products. That’s about 14% of all adults in the nation.  While the health effects associated with one’s personal use of tobacco are well-established, ranging from cancer to arthritis, it is further believed that approximately 2.5 million nonsmokers have died from health-related problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke since 1964.

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The Illinois maintenance law went through a major overhaul between 2018 and 2019 in that the calculation for the amount of maintenance changed and the tax treatment of maintenance payments changed because of the new tax laws.  Imagine a scenario where a judge enters a divorce judgment in 2018 that awards maintenance (alimony) to the wife, but the amount is not set at the time.  The judgment just says that upon the occurrence of a specific event, the wife will be awarded guideline maintenance.  The judgement does not specifically state whether the 2018 version or 2019 version of the law should be used to determine the “guideline” amount, however.

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Fast forward in this scenario to March of 2019 when  specific maintenance triggering event occurs.  Using the 2018 version of the law, the wife would receive $400 each month for maintenance, however, using the 2019 version of the law, the wife would not be entitled to any maintenance at all.  Which law should be used?  Does it matter that the 2018 judgment says that the wife was in need of maintenance?

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