April 2010 News: The Chicago Family Law Blog

The Chicago Family Law Blog

April 2010 Archives

The Chicago Tribune reported that 46-year-old Christopher Rood pleaded guilty to home invasion and armed violence after breaking into the home of his estranged family and stabbing his ex-wife and daughter with a knife.

Jayne Rood was hospitalized for several weeks for wounds to her head and abdomen, while 17-year-old daughter Molly Rood was treated at the emergency room for several body wounds. Both have recovered from their injuries, at least physically.

Christopher Rood is scheduled to appear in court on June 11 for sentencing and could receive as many as 90 years in prison for the charges of home invasion and armed violence.

The defendant entered the home around 2:40 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2008 through a basement window and confronted his ex-wife and daughter in the master bedroom, according to DuPage County State's Attorney David Breyer. Then he allegedly asked to talk to them but became "enraged" after Molly Rood tried to call 911, stabbing them both.

Adoption typically is a complicated process mired in paperwork with long lead times. But international adoption only magnifies these complexities, particularly when one considers the unique laws and processes associated with each individual country of origin. Chicago family law attorneys may not know about each country's laws but certainly could assist in the process.

FindLaw strongly recommends that prospective adoptive parents do as much research as possible before flying to a chosen country. Just to give an example, many nations' laws require the adoptive parents to stay in that country for several weeks or even months before bringing a child home with them. 

Haiti's deadly earthquake left thousands of orphaned children in its wake and brought the issue of international adoption to the forefront, as explained in a Chicago Tribune article.

What's more innocent than taking your 7-year-old son to Wrigley Field for a ballgame, perhaps munching on a hot dog while watching the Cubs play ball? The non-kosher meal might not seem so innocent to devout Jewish mother Elina Margolina, who is engaged in a fierce custody battle with non-Jewish ex-husband Nelson Derbigny, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. This interfaith battle for custody seems like a familiar issue for Chicago family law attorneys.

The story is very similar to the highly publicized custody dispute between Catholic father Joseph Reyes and his Jewish ex-wife, Rebecca Reyes. In that case, the father was barred from taking his daughter to Catholic mass, but a judge most recently ruled that he is now free to do so.

The case involving Elina Margolina and Nelson Derbigny also is being heard in the same downtown Chicago courthouse as the Reyes case.   

One of the rights granted to married partners is the ability to visit one another in the hospital outside of the limited visiting hours set aside for friends and other non-family visitors. Married individuals also are able to make difficult medical decisions on behalf of their partners when they are incapacitated. These hospital visitation rights are crucial.

FindLaw describes medical-related and other rights and benefits extended to married couples. Same-sex partners in committed, long-term relationships (sometimes even legally married in other states) do not have these rights. As a result, same-sex partners have been fighting for hospital visitation rights.

President Obama last week pledged to extend hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights to same-sex partners, as reported by The New York Times.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Joseph Reyes, who had been barred from taking his daughter to Catholic mass after divorcing her Jewish mother, is now free to take 3-year-old Ela to church

Joel Brodsky, the father's Illinois family lawyer, had argued that a court order barring his client from exposing his child to Catholicism was improper, as covered by CBS Chicago. Joseph Reyes faced possible jail time after violating a court order stating that he was not to expose Ela to any religion other than Judaism, at her mother's behest.

Mother Rebecca Reyes won full custody of Ela when the couple divorced and said that they had agreed to raise their daughter Jewish. Joseph Reyes said he was pressured into converting from Catholicism to Judaism when the couple got married.

After taking Ela to his Catholic church to be baptized last November, Rebecca Reyes secured a restraining order barring Joseph Reyes from taking Ela to Catholic church.

Adopting a child is nothing at all like ordering a vacuum cleaner from Amazon.com. If the vacuum cleaner doesn't work as advertised, you just put it back in the box and send it back. But if a child does not adapt well to his or her new family, particularly a child from halfway around the world, then that's just the luck of the draw.

Apparently Tennessee mother Torry Hansen thought her adopted 7-year-old son came with a return policy, ABC News reported, as she put him on a one-way airplane trip back to his native Russia.

Now it appears the adoptive mother is shopping around for a replacement to the "defective" Russian child. Although the mother lives in Tennessee, would any Chicago family law attorneys care to weigh in on her chances of getting approved for another adoption after this ordeal?

Whether or not you need a financial advisor along with an Illinois family lawyer probably depends on a number of factors, including wealth and the relationship with your soon-to-be spouse. Reuters published an article last week about the growing need for such professionals in out-of-court divorces

While the story targets finance professionals who might want to become divorce financial advisers, it's also informative for regular folks considering a divorce. First of all, divorce financial analysts typically are involved with out-of-court divorce settlements; either collaborative or mediated divorce.

In the context of a collaborative divorce settlement, the idea is to provide non-partial advice on how to split assets in a way that is beneficial to both parties. According to New York-based adviser Laura Hyman, it's a "financial neutral" role in which advisers are barred from taking on either spouse as a client after the divorce.

Sometimes marriages just don't work out. But it's really hard to remain neutral about recent news that former football star and current "Today" show correspondent Tiki Barber has left his pregnant wife for a young intern, as reported by the New York Post.

Did I happen to mention that current wife Ginny Barber is 8-months pregnant, with twins? They also have two other children together, boys aged six and seven. 

The article dishes out all the salacious details about Tiki Barber's affair with former NBC intern Traci Lynn Johnson, described as a "model-thin bombshell" who was only 12 years old when he married wife Ginny Barber 11 years ago.

An individual identified as lawmom37 posed a question on the Family Law section of FindLaw Answers regarding visitation rights. She wants to know how a mother can terminate her ex's visitation rights after their nine-year-old son allegedly witnessed his father's abuse and also exhibits abusive behavior himself.

Lawmom37 said the boy has been suspended from school twice for bringing weapons to school and that he disrespects both his teachers and his mother. That alone could be attributable to the pains experienced by children of divorced parents.

But he also allegedly witnessed his father physically abuse his girlfriend:

Child says his father has choked and hit his girlfriend in his presence. Child has also been told that it was the girlfriend's fault and she hit him first so it was okay. 

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Pamela E. Loza ruled that Illinois law will decide the fate of 9-year-old Tejas Byanna-Akula, who is caught in the middle of an international custody dispute, as reported by the Chicago Daily Herald. Malini Byanna was granted a visitation with her son in Hyderabad, India from April 2-11 of this year by a court ruling.

Ms. Byanna, (an attorney herself) who suspected the Indian courts were biased against her, told reporters she is pleased with the recent ruling:

"I can't even tell you how relieved I am."

The Chicago Family Law Blog covered the custody battle last month, in which Ms. Byanna claims her estranged ex-husband "tricked" her into relinquishing custody of her son. Her ex, the wealthy and politically connected Vikram Akula, was granted full custody of Tejas by a judge in India.

Deciding how a marriage will be dissolved before even getting married might sound like the ultimate red flag. But regardless of the "forever" concept of marriage and at risk of sounding too cynical, the fact is that U.S. couples have a 50/50 chance that their marriage will end in divorce. 

That means a prenuptial agreement (or "prenup") makes logical, if not romantic, sense for many couples. A USA Today article discusses how more people not named Tiger Woods or Sandra Bullock are drafting such agreements before getting hitched.

Marlene Eskind Moses, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, told reporters that prenups have become extremely popular for non-celebrities:

"It's not just something for the rich and famous any longer. It's for people that have assets and/or income that they want to protect."

Turns out there's quite a bit Chicagoans can learn about divorce and child custody just by reading the gossip columns. People Magazine reported on the latest chapter in the high-profile battle between estranged couple Jon & Kate Plus 8 stars Jon and Kate Gosselin.

Now Mr. Gosselin is suing his ex-wife to get primary custody of their eight children, claiming she doesn't spend enough quality time with them. His attorney pointed to Ms. Gosselin's gig on ABC's Dancing With the Stars to support his point. 

Just how exactly does one parent spend enough time with eight young children anyway? It seems like an impossible task, although a full-time commitment is probably advised. 

As in Illinois, Texas law does not recognize same-sex marriage. But just like heterosexual unions, which have about a 50/50 chance of ending in divorce, same-sex unions don't always work out either. The question is how do couples married in states that do allow gay unions, such as Massachusetts, go about getting a legal divorce in states that don't recognize same-sex marriage?

The Chicago Family Law Blog wrote about a Pennsylvania same-sex couple that got legally married in Massachusetts but couldn't get a divorce in either state. While they remain in legal limbo, the Houston Chronicle reported on a Texas couple that actually was able to get divorced.

Illinois law does not require proof of fault before a divorce is granted, so long as the couple lived apart for two years and claims "irreconcilable differences," but divorce can happen much sooner if one party is able to prove the other was abusive, or otherwise at fault.

Since an abusive partner is a danger to his or her spouse, divorce attorneys in Chicago would say that the marriage should be dissolved as soon as possible.

Along those lines, the entertainment blog Popeater reported on actor Dennis Hopper's allegation that estranged wife Victoria Duffy "was trying to kill him." In fact, court papers cited in the article claim a pattern of abuse by Ms. Duffy extending beyond the couple's relationship.

The Associated Press reported on the bitter divorce and child custody battle between Miami Heat superstar Dwayne Wade and estranged wife Siohvaughn Wade. The couple has two children, boys aged 8 and 12, whom Mr. Wade claims he has been kept from visiting ever since the couple's August 2007 separation.  

While the drama will play out in a Florida court room, this case highlights the types of factors an Illinois family lawyer would consider when advocating for a client's child custody claim.

It must be noted that people of means often have an unfair advantage in legal disputes. HoopsHype.com notes that Mr. Wade, who was born on the South Side of Chicago in 1982, will earn an estimated $15.8 million salary this season.

The Chicagoland Wedding Directory offers information on vendors of everything from wedding gowns and tuxedos to registries and disc jockeys. While this blog doesn't concern itself with the celebration of marriage, the same directory also provides a concise overview of the legal requirements and procedures for getting married in Illinois.

The services of Chicago family law attorneys, who typically handle divorce and other family law issues, are not required for a Windy City wedding. But in the absence of an ordained minister, non-theistic marriages require the "blessings" of a judge.

First things first: Individuals of the opposite sex who are 18 years of age or older and not related by blood may legally marry. The exceptions are 16-year-olds with the sworn consent of their parents and first cousins over the age of 50 (and thus unlikely to conceive children).

The Jacksonville Journal-Courier reported on a couple who have not seen their granddaughter in the more than 16 months following the shooting death of their son, Steven Watkins, on Nov. 25, 2008. Court-mediation did not resolve the issue as paternal grandparents Dale and Penny Watkins seek visitation of Sidney Watkins, who is nearly 3-years-old.

Steven Watkins (Sidney' father) was found shot to death in the Ashland home of Shirley Skinner, the grandmother of estranged wife Jennifer Watkins. The divorcing couple was scheduled to appear in court the very next day for a child custody hearing.

Ms. Skinner, 75-years-old, was accused in the killing and will stand trial for murder in May.

After a mediation to determine the paternal grandparents' visitation rights failed, the Illinois family lawyer retained by Jennifer Watkins (Sidney's mother) filed three motions to dismiss Dale and Penny Watkins' visitation petition. The attorney, Michael Goldberg, argued that his client should be making these decisions and not the court.

Remember the recent story about Naperville dad Agim Demiri, covered by this blog, who was found in contempt of court for lobbing a couple of raw eggs at a DuPage County family court judge? Well, the Chicago Daily Herald has an update of his case.

Mr. Demiri reportedly spent seven days in county jail for the egg-hurling incident, even though the yolk-filled missiles failed to hit Judge Timothy J. McJoynt. The article reported that Judge McJoynt declined to press battery charges, but how would such a charge hold up in court if he wasn't actually battered?

Regardless, a shackeled and presumably eggless Mr. Demiri appeared before Judge McJoynt after serving a weeklong jail sentence. 

As in Illinois and other states, child custody disputes in Tennessee typically are settled (sometimes through mediation) between the parents. The only problem is that dads in Tennessee usually get the short end of the stick, at least according to fathers' rights advocates cited in a USA Today article.

A Tennessee bill (PDF, H.B. 2916) would enforce 50/50 physical custody arrangements, meaning the child would split his or her time equally with each parent, which is legislation that Tennessee father Eric Kyle supports. 

But even though it doesn't directly affect Illinois law with respect to child custody, divorce attorneys in Chicago and elsewhere are paying attention. It's also reigniting tensions between fathers' rights groups and women's support groups. 

An unidentified man took his 5-month-old son from the Rogers Park home of the boy's maternal grandfather; fleeing to Indiana last weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times (via CBS) reported. Police say the boy in all likelihood is not in danger.

The boy was at his grandfather's house after his father dropped him off and then returned later that evening. Rogers Park District police Capt. Robert Whalen told reporters the father said he wanted to take the baby back:

"A scuffle ensued and the father took the baby.''

The boy's 18-year-old mother is serving a prison sentence, but the article does not indicate which correctional facility, what crime she was convicted of, or how long her sentence is. The father lives in Washington, Indiana and is believed to have fled there with his child.

Perhaps you shouldn't be so surprised that Kate and Jon Gosselin got divorced despite having all those kids to care for. Research conducted by University of Birmingham professor Stephen McKay suggests that parents of twins or triplets are 17 percent more likely to divorce than parents who don't have multiple-birth deliveries, according to The Times Online.

Parents of twins or triplets also are more likely to end up financially broke, emotionally stressed, and out of work, according to the study. At the risk of sounding cynical, maybe the name of a good divorce attorney in Chicago is not such a bad gift for expectant parents of twins.

Mr. McKay's research, which tracked 18,500 families, also discovered that those couples with multiple-birth deliveries tend to start out more financially sound and are more likely to be married:

"We would expect quite a low divorce risk among families with twins, because they are older and better off, which are important protective factors against the risk of divorce."

While the city of Baltimore is about a 12-hour drive from Chicago, one particular case involving matters of both criminal and family law is sending ripples of outrage across the country. As reported by the Baltimore Sun, a man accused of domestic violence was found not guilty after he married his alleged victim

Frederick D. Wood was charged with second-degree assault when his fiancée claimed he hit her in the face (drawing blood), kicked her, and rammed her head into a wall. As with the majority of domestic violence cases, Mr. Wood's partner was the main witness in the case against him.

In an attempt to protect himself from her testimony, Mr. Wood requested time to obtain a marriage license when his case came up for trial, which Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. granted. A second judge waived the standard 48-hour waiting period between the issuance of the license and the wedding, and Judge Russell married the couple in his chambers that same day.

Parents who have lost custody of a child due to neglect or similar violations are given nine months "to make reasonable progress toward the return of the child to the parent," as outlined by the Illinois Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50). Depending on the reason for removal, parents often get a second chance to turn things around.

But incarcerated parents are not given additional time outside of prison to prove their worthiness to raise a child because of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year.

That means parents who were unable to "make reasonable progress" toward becoming responsible parents because they were in prison for much, or all of the nine months time may want to contact an Illinois family lawyer and explore other child custody or visitation options.