The Chicago Family Law Blog

May 2010 Archives

In yet another example of the difficulty in resolving religious differences after a parents' divorce, NBC Chicago reported on a couple fighting over two different brands of Christianity. The father, Victor Sarmiento, is a practicing Catholic; the mother, Lizette Perez, is a Pentecostal Christian.

Victor Sarmiento pleaded his case earlier this month in a Cook County court house to have his son baptized, a Catholic ritual Lizette Perez vehemently opposes. Illinois family lawyer Jeff Leving represents the 3-year-old boy's father:

"This divorce has been going on for two years now, so how long must one wait to baptize their child?"

American father Christopher Savoie, whose ex-wife took their two children to her home in Japan in violation of a Tennessee court order, told Today Show host Meredith Vieira he may never see his kids again until they're adults. Unlike most other countries, Japan explicitly ignores international treaties that uphold parental custody rights. In essence, international child custody law is a 'black hole.'

The Today segment was summarized at MSNBC's web site, highlighting the painful story of a father who has tried everything to get his kids back:

"It's a black hole. The children go in. They don't come out."

While Chicago family law attorneys are skilled at helping their clients gain custody of their children domestically, international child custody issues involve the laws of sovereign states. That means contradictory court decisions from vastly different parts of the world may leave custody issues unresolved.

Social networking websites, most notably Facebook, are great for reconnecting with old friends and classmates; but there also are potential risks. It seems that divorce and Facebook are getting used in the same sentence more often. Chicago family law attorneys usually stick to matters of law, but several of them cited in an ABC News article are now advising their clients on the finer points of social networking etiquette

Anita Ventrelli, a divorce attorney in Chicago, said such networks have created "a whole new area" for people to say too much and get into trouble:

"I would tell you to be circumspect and that even things said jokingly can be printed out and spun with a sinister context."

Foster parent applicants are denied for a number of legitimate reasons. According to FindLaw, prospective foster parents must be over 21, have a steady income source, have a record free of felony convictions, submit to a home assessment and attend parent training sessions.

Standards can be high, but apparently they can be daunting to a Muslim woman.

Contemporary Family Services (CFS) in Baltimore has strict standards. The Baltimore Sun reported that a woman was denied the opportunity to become a foster parent by the foster placement agency because she doesn't allow pork in her home.

That's it, no pork?

Does marrying young increase a couple's odds of divorce?

Everyone's unique, but statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics tell us that 60 percent of couples who marry between the ages of 20 and 25 will end up divorced (compared to the 50 percent rate overall), the Chicago Tribune reported.

That doesn't necessarily mean that divorce attorneys in Chicago have a higher percentage of young clients, just that getting married in your early twenties may be rushing things.

Obviously the big question is "why?" Elaine Spencer-Carver, a social work professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said that while younger couples may have the all-important biological chemistry, they may lack emotional maturity and have limited life experiences.

Embattled golf superstar Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren Woods may be filing for divorce in Sweden in a bid for greater privacy, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The widely expected divorce could net Elin Nordegren one of the largest divorce settlements in history, with estimates ranging from $300 million to more than $500 million.

But Tiger Woods, with an estimated net worth of around $1 billion, is good for it.

According to unnamed sources, Tiger Woods has hired an attorney with expertise in international child custody cases. And according to still more unnamed sources, Elin Nordegren is planning to move back to her native Sweden and is in the process of renovating a house there.

Siohvaughn Wade, Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade's estranged wife, was taken into police custody in Chicago earlier this week for missing a mandatory court hearing, according to online journal Times Newsline. The hearing was in connection with the sparring couple's increasingly nasty divorce.

Cook County judge Maya Nega said the all-star NBA guard's wife "repeatedly neglected" court orders related to the case. Marsha Fisher, the divorce attorney in Chicago representing Siohvaughn Wade, filed an emergency motion to quash the order.

A more recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times indicated that Dwayne Wade's soon-to-be ex was advised by Marsha Fisher not to attend the hearing because the attorney had been in a car accident. She didn't want her client to go to court without her.  

Do you smile and feel good when you tell your "how-we-met" story, or does your voice sound full of regret and negative energy? This might be a much more important question than most people realize, as a book excerpted by MSNBC suggests that how you tell your story indicates with amazing accuracy whether or not the union will end in divorce.  

A University of Washington study in which oral histories of married couples were recorded and analyzed predicted with 94 percent accuracy which marriages would last and which wouldn't.

Newlyweds may not want to call an Illinois family lawyer if the how-we-met story is told with lackluster enthusiasm, since the study concludes that it isn't as great of a predictor for newlyweds.

The excerpt is from "For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage," by Tara Parker Pope.

If the thought of your son or daughter not having a new pair shoes to start the school year isn't enough to make you send the child support check, perhaps a hold on your driver's license will. That may be the sad reality behind the success of an Illinois program that suspends deadbeat parents' driving privileges, as covered by the Chicago Tribune.

The good news, obviously, is that it seems to be working.

Since its implementation in 2008 as a partnership between the Illinois Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services and the Secretary of State's office, officials have secured more than $100 million in past due child support payments. DHFS sends warning letters to delinquent parents who also have a driver's license.

A Chicago Tribune article from last month asks whether the Dept. of Children and Family Services is diverting child custody cases to probate court merely to save money. If so, the money-saving move may actually be adding more cost and hardship for families that rely on critical state services, particularly foster families.

While juvenile court provides a much better process for handling such cases, including a stipend for foster parents and free medical care for foster kids, probate court offers no such things.

Illinois family lawyer Margaret Benson, executive director of the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation, told reporters that DCFS simply isn't doing its job.

Consumer behavior and financial health usually are impacted one way or another by a divorce. And according to sources cited by a Daily Beast article, credit card company Visa can predict whether or not your marriage will last.

Swiping your credit card at the office of a divorce attorney in Chicago would be an obvious red flag, but Yale Law School Professor Ian Ayres tells reporters that it's more sophisticated than that. He says Visa's data-mining technique for predicting divorce is a closely guarded secret intended to make sure you keep sending in your payments:

"Credit card companies don't really care about divorce in and of itself--they care whether you're going to pay your card off."

The estimated $500 million to $600 million Tiger Woods may have to pay to estranged wife Elin Nordegren Woods to settle the impending Tiger Woods divorce, as reported by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker, certainly is a lot of cash. Worded another way, that's a half-billion dollars in alimony. 

But not only is golfing superstar Tiger Woods fabulously wealthy, with an estimated net worth in the $1 billion range, his alleged infidelity was so egregious that he may not have much legal leverage on his side.

At the risk of judging Tiger Woods in the court of public opinion, the sheer number of arguably shady women claiming to have slept with him and the release of text messages to mistresses detailing his preference for violent sex certainly won't help his case.