Saturday, November 3, 2012

Grunstad v. Cooper

Here in Bloomington, in camera interviews are not rare, as opposed to other surrounding counties, so this new case from the Appellate Court may be interesting to some in McLean County:

Grunstad v. Cooper

Illinois Appellate Court
Civil Court
Case Number: 
 2012 IL App (3d) 120524
Decision Date: 
 October 17, 2012
 3d Dist.
 La Salle Co.
Court's custody decision reflected thorough consideration of evidence for custody, and did not err in granting mother's motion for directed verdict. Court was within its discretion in denying father's motion to conduct in camera interview of parties' 14-year-old child, as court had other evidence of child's custody preference. (HOLDRIDGE and McDADE, concurring.)

Jon D. McLaughlin
(309) 319-6206 



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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Illinois Supreme Court announces new standards for e-filing in trial courts

From: IllinoisLawyer

Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride and the Illinois Supreme Court announced on Wednesday new statewide standards and new and amended Supreme Court rules that will allow all courts in Illinois to begin electronic filing of court documents in civil cases.

To date, only five counties in Illinois have been approved to operate e-filing systems as part of a pilot project, mostly on a limited basis. Those counties are Cook, DuPage, Madison, St. Clair and Will. The announcement ends the pilot stage of e-filing in Illinois and allows all circuit court clerks to move to permanent and on-going procedures, if they so wish.

The new statewide principles and standards, new Supreme Court Rule 138 and amended Supreme Court Rule 201, give the go-ahead to civil case e-filing while placing an emphasis on protecting against identify theft and disclosure of sensitive information. They do this by protecting personal identity information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, mother's maiden names, driver's license numbers, financial account numbers and debit and credit card numbers. This information will be barred from documents or exhibits filed with the court—whether in a paper or electronic filing. Discovery responses are prohibited from filing as well, absent leave of court.

The new standards and rules will apply only to civil cases. They are the product of the Illinois Supreme Court Special E-Business Committee announced by Chief Justice Kilbride in June 2011, chaired by Chicago lawyer Bruce Pfaff.

"Illinois is behind on using e-business and e-filing in its courts. We know that," said Chief Justice Kilbride. "These uniform, statewide standards allow e-filing in our courts; it is no longer part of a wish list. Circuit courts may now use e-filing's greater efficiencies and long-range cost savings in addition to offering a modern way of doing things."

The Supreme Court also announced Wednesday an amendment to Supreme Court Rule 11 to allow service of documents electronically in the trial courts. Attorneys and parties must include an e-mail address for service of documents on appearances and pleadings filed in the court.

The new standards and rules will go into effect January 1, 2013. This will allow Circuit Court clerks, chief judges, judges and attorneys sufficient lead time to make required changes to court operations and automated systems. In the interim, the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, under Director Michael J. Tardy, will schedule regional meetings with stakeholders including chief judges, circuit court clerks and court management system vendors to chart the way to best move forward for each individual county.

"This is a great day," said Mr. Pfaff, who runs a law office that is essentially paperless. "Behind the initiative of Chief Justice Kilbride and approval of e-business by the entire Supreme Court, the legal system in Illinois will become more efficient and significantly less expensive to operate. Any county that wishes can adopt e-filing and electronic document management systems and start to take advantage of the power of computers.

"Issues relating to personal privacy have been resolved to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court and those committees which studied the matter. Our committee thanks all of the court clerks and their staffs from around the country that freely gave their time and expertise to help us choose a set of standards and guidelines that allows Illinois to move forward."

There are several jurisdictions around the nation, including the federal courts' PACER system that uses e-filing and other e-technologies. But there are special challenges associated with e-filing in Illinois.

The challenges stem from the fact that Illinois is comprised of 102 counties organized within 23 Circuit Court jurisdictions and five Appellate districts. Both the state and the counties provide financial support for the operation of the courts. Complicating the matter further in Illinois, there are at least 12 different Circuit Court management software systems operating in the various court jurisdictions. Under the new statewide standards, these management systems have to be integrated with any e-filing program.

Implementation requires the cooperation of various entities within a county, including software vendors.

"The Chief Judge and the elected Circuit Court Clerk will have to agree on implementing an e-filing program and inform the Supreme Court that their system is in accordance with the standards and the rules," said Mr. Tardy, who serves as director of the Supreme Court's administrative arm. "Each county has different priorities, needs and resources. I expect some counties, especially those which have been operating pilot programs, will choose to go forward as soon as they can. Others may wait to see how e-filing develops in counties similar to theirs."

New Supreme Court Rule 138, which applies to both paper and electronic filings, defines and prohibits personal identity information from inclusion in documents or exhibits filed with the court and if a court orders the filing of documents that contain personal identity information, it establishes specific steps to file it under seal in a separate document.

Supreme Court Rule 201 is amended to prohibit the filing of any discovery, which often contains sensitive and personal information, and much of which does not rise to evidence at trial. The e-filing standards do not preclude an e-filing vendor from charging fees for electronic filing, but no additional fee may be charged by the clerk of the circuit court, and no vendor fee may be shared with the clerk.

Since his colleagues elected him Chief Justice in October 2010, Chief Justice Kilbride has moved to make Illinois court operations more economical, more efficient and more user friendly by implementing improvements in technology. E-filing is still underway as a pilot project in the Supreme

Court; in addition, several Illinois counties are participating in pilot projects that allow attorneys, parties and appellate justices to electronically view, access and work from the official record of cases on appeal.

The Special E-Business Committee consulted with representatives from bar groups, appellate lawyers, circuit court clerks and members of the Illinois Judicial Conference. Along with Chair Bruce Pfaff, the Committee members are Sterling attorney Trent L. Bush; Chicago attorney David M. Hundley; Edwardsville attorney Rebecca R. Jackson; Chicago attorney Vanessa G. Jacobsen; Northbrook attorney Alan Pearlman; Wheaton attorneyEdward J. Walsh; and Springfield attorney Thomas H. Wilson.

Illinois Supreme Court Clerk Carolyn Taft Grosboll and Fourth District Appellate Court ClerkCarla Bender serve as ex-officio members of the Committee.

Jon D. McLaughlin
(309) 319-6206 



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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Law regarding Health Expenses, Daycare, and Extra-Curricular Expenses

Up to this point, our firm has been very successful with our requests from McLean County courts for a division of child-related expenses, such as medical costs, daycare, and extra-curricular activities. While there has not been any explicit statute regarding these expenses in the past, there has been case law, from the Illinois Appellate Court, that we have used to assist the judges who want to divide these expenses. But now, the State Legislature has passed Public Act 097-0941. This law amends the Child Support section of the Divorce Statute (Section 505), and specifically states that a court can, in its own discretion, divide these expenses between the parties. While we have found that it was almost a given in every Bloomington divorce (or separation) that medical expenses are divided, a number of judges have, at times, expressed reluctance to split extra-curricular expenses, perhaps worried about over-stepping the proper reach of a court. After January 13th (the date this new law goes into effect), the amended statute gives a court discretion to allocate these expenses between the parties.  Allowing the courts this discretion will likely enhance the odds that a court will actually use such discretion to equitably allocate these expenses. If you have any questions about this new law, and how it could affect your situation or case, please contact our office at (309) 622-5084.  

Jon D. McLaughlin
(309) 319-6206 



IRS CIRCULAR 230 NOTICE: To the extent that this message or any attachment concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Associate Judge Notice of Vacancy

Bloomington Illinois: 

The Eleventh Judicial Circuit has approval from the IL Supreme Court to post the attached Associate Judge Notice of Vacancy. Applications are due by October 24, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Law Gives Parents in Bloomington Some New Tools

Governor Quinn has now signed a new law that will provide parents in Bloomington some significant remedies in pursuing child visitation interference. This new law would permit courts in McLean County to punish visitation interference about as severely as failure to pay child support.  

The Illinois State Bar Association fought hard against the bill, arguing that the bill was unconstitutional. Here is the actual language the new law:


(750 ILCS 5/607.1) (from Ch. 40, par. 607.1)

Sec. 607.1. Enforcement of visitation orders; visitation abuse.

(a) The circuit court shall provide an expedited procedure for enforcement of court ordered visitation in cases of visitation abuse. Visitation abuse occurs when a party has willfully and without justification: (1) denied another party visitation as set forth by the court; or (2) exercised his or her visitation rights in a manner that is harmful to the child or child's custodian.

(b) An Action may be commenced by filing a petition setting forth: (i) the petitioner's name, residence address or mailing address, and telephone number; (ii) respondent's name and place of residence, place of employment, or mailing address; (iii) the nature of the visitation abuse, giving dates and other relevant information; (iv) that a reasonable attempt was made to resolve the dispute; and (v) the relief sought.

Notice of the filing of the petitions shall be given as provided in Section 511.

(c) After hearing all of the evidence, the court may order one or more of the following: (1) Modification of the visitation order to specifically outline periods of visitation or restrict visitation as provided by law. (2) Supervised visitation with a third party or public agency. (3) Make up visitation of the same time period, such as weekend for weekend, holiday for holiday. (4) Counseling or mediation, except in cases where there is evidence of domestic violence, as defined in Section 1 of the Domestic Violence Shelters Act, occurring between the parties.  (5) Other appropriate relief deemed equitable.

(c-1) When the court issues an order holding a party in contempt for violation of a visitation order and finds that the party engaged in visitation abuse, the court may order one or more of the following:  (1) Suspension of a party's Illinois driving privileges pursuant to Section 7-703 of the Illinois Vehicle Code until the court determines that the party is in compliance with the visitation order. The court may also order that a party be issued a family financial responsibility driving permit that would allow limited driving privileges for employment, for medical purposes, and to transport a child to or from scheduled visitation in order to comply with a visitation order in accordance with subsection (a-1) of Section 7-702.1 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.  (2) Placement of a party on probation with such conditions of probation as the court deems advisable.  (3) Sentencing of a party to periodic imprisonment for a period not to exceed 6 months; provided, that the court may permit the party to be released for periods of time during the day or night to: (A) work; or  (B) conduct a business or other self-employed occupation.  (4) Find that a party in engaging in visitation abuse is guilty of a petty offense and should be fined an amount of no more than $500 for each finding of visitation abuse.

(d) Nothing contained in this Section shall be construed to limit the court's contempt power, except as provided in subsection (g) of this Section.

(e) When the court issues an order holding a party in contempt of court for violation of a visitation order, the clerk shall transmit a copy of the contempt order to the sheriff of the county. The sheriff shall furnish a copy of each contempt order to the Department of State Police on a daily basis in the form and manner required by the Department. The Department shall maintain a complete record and index of the contempt orders and make this data available to all local law enforcement agencies.

(f) Attorney fees and costs shall be assessed against a party if the court finds that the enforcement action is vexatious and constitutes harassment.

(g) A person convicted of unlawful visitation or parenting time interference under Section 10-5.5 of the Criminal Code of 1961 shall not be subject to the provisions of this Section and the court may not enter a contempt order for visitation abuse against any person for the same conduct for which the person was convicted of unlawful visitation interference or subject that person to the sanctions provided for in this Section.

(Source: P.A. 96-333, eff. 8-11-09; 96-675, eff. 8-25-09; 97-1047, eff. 8-21-12.)


To summarize, a custodial parent who interferes with the visitation of the non-custodial parent "willingly and without justification," can have her driver's license suspended, be fined, jailed for up to six months, forced to post bond, etc.  

One unique feature of the new law is that it requires McLean County to establish an "expedited procedure" for dealing with visitation interference.  It should stand to reason that the procedure will be as quick as the one for child support arrearages.  It's long been one of the most serious, though least noticed, problems non-custodial parents face – the time it takes to get a hearing.  It's certainly true when a downward modification of child support is sought, and it's true in the case of visitation interference as well.  Often as not, by the time the hearing rolls around, the matter has gotten out of hand; Dad may not have seen his kid in months.  So with an expedited procedure fathers in Bloomington can get into court quickly with the hope of swift, sure action being taken.


Jon D. McLaughlin
(309) 319-6206 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5 Ways Fathers Influence Their Daughters

I saw this and thought it would be some good reading material for fathers going though a divorce in Bloomington Illinois, or anywhere...

A father's relationship with his daughter can significantly impact her throughout her life. Here are 5 ways Dad can influence his girl and help her to become a confident, happy, successful woman.

We've all seen them—the sitcoms and movies, even television commercials that portray fathers as inept creatures bumbling through family life. In a culture where dads are often portrayed as the dunces of the family, researchers are only beginning to scratch the surface of just how important their role in the family truly is.

"Fathers bring something very different to the table—many things that mothers can't," says Dr. Meg Meeker, author of the bestselling book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. "The biggest mistake dads make is not understanding their significance."

Without question, fathers are a powerful influence on both sons and daughters—an influence that reaches well beyond the roles of provider and protector. And as new studies emerge, it's becoming clearer just how deeply the father-daughter relationship can affect a woman throughout her life in a variety of ways, including self-confidence, body image, education, career, and romantic relationships.

1. Self-Confidence

"Dads are very good at teaching girls to be more assertive," explains Meeker. "They give their daughters a sense of strength and a huge amount of self-confidence. From a daughter's perspective, Mom is usually the safe person who will love them no matter what. Dad's love is a little more negotiable, so when she does feel she's getting his attention, it gives her a great sense of confidence, which translates into feeling good about herself and feeling in control of her life."

But because fathers wield a tremendous amount of influence, they should be mindful of their well-meaning attempts to instill confidence in their daughters. "If you comment on her beauty, athletic prowess, or academic achievement, she'll focus on her 'external self' and worry about retaining your love through achievement and appearance," cautions Meeker. "Your daughter wants you to admire her deep, intrinsic qualities. Focus on her character and her worth. Compliment her on her ability to be a good listener or a caring friend, her courage, and her integrity."

2. Body Image

Research has proven that fathers who are involved in their daughters' lives can play a pivotal role in preventing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Daughters who feel a stronger emotional connection to their fathers are less likely to be depressed or have an eating disorder. In one such study, published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, all of the anorexia patients' fathers had become less accessible during their adolescence.

Studies also show that girls recovered from eating disorders more quickly if their fathers were involved in their recovery. In fact, Meeker says one of the primary treatments for girls with
eating disorders is spending time with their dads. "Spending enjoyable time together teaches father and daughter that beneath her illness—and the misbehavior it can cause—she is still a girl to be loved, and that's the first big step toward her recovery."

3. Education

A study by the U.S. Department of Education found that highly involved fathers had children who were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly A's and 33 percent less likely than other children to repeat a grade.

Another government study concluded that girls with involved fathers are twice as likely to stay in school. And those with fathers who are actively involved in their lives have higher quantitative and verbal skills, as well as higher intellectual functioning.

4. Career

Fathers have also been proven to help daughters become more competent, more achievement-oriented, and more successful.

Lisa, a 40-year-old vice president of marketing and communications for an international financial institution, credits her father for much of her academic and professional success. "My dad was the one who always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be," she recalls. "He's the reason I earned a full-ride scholarship to college. And he's the one who encouraged me to go for my dream job in a highly competitive field—a job that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise."

A Mormon woman, Lisa hoped to be married and start a family years ago, but since the opportunity hasn't come, she finds herself pursuing her career and turning to her father for advice—something her mother, a stay-at-home mom, doesn't have experience with. In fact, as women both in and out of the LDS Church marry later—or sometimes not at all—or return to the workforce out of necessity, it creates a new opportunity for fathers and their adult daughters to bond.

In an article published by PsychologyToday in 2011, Dr. Peggy Drexler, author of Our Fathers, Ourselves, observed: "The conveyor that once reliably delivered daughters from the protection of a father to the protection of a husband is not reliable. . . . As a result, fathers who might have once defined their role as helping daughters prepare to be good wives now see it as preparing
them to make and manage money, compete for jobs, handle relationships, be tough."

She continued, "We are entering an awkward stage where a generation of stay-at-home mothers must find ways to relate to career-minded daughters, who by shared experience alone may gravitate to dad."

5. Romantic Relationships

"It's uncomfortable for most dads when their daughters start to become women," acknowledges Dr. Jonathan Swinton, a marriage and family therapist. "Dads become more hands off, with the
exception of the protector role, and it changes the nature of the relationship with their daughters—they're not as close emotionally."

But distancing themselves emotionally is a huge mistake, warns Meeker. "That's the time when daughters need their dads more than ever. Fathers need to talk to their girls about uncomfortable subjects like sex and dating because they can have a huge influence on their daughters' behavior."

A study published in 2010 in The American Journal of Family Therapy supports Meeker's assertion. It states: "Girls' interactions with their fathers during their formative years may be important predictors of their later intimate and sexual interactions with male peers. . . .
Adolescent daughters who perceive less communication with and attachment to fathers report more frequent sexual behavior. . . . Girls deprived of closeness are likely to seek substitute male affection through interactions with male peers. . . . More specifically, paternal responsiveness
may predict greater self-worth. . . . In turn, to the degree that daughters have strong self-worth, [they] may successfully refuse unwanted heterosexual activity."

Meeker recommends that fathers take their daughters on "mini dates," or daddy-daughter dates, as they are more commonly known among Latter-day Saints. "Take her to dinner and spend one-on-one time with her so she becomes comfortable being a woman in a social setting. You can
show her how she can expect to be treated."

Above all else, be the kind of man you want your daughter to marry. "Women gravitate to what is familiar," says Meeker. "How you treat your daughter and your wife is how she will expect to be treated by her spouse."

By Jamie Lawson 

Jon D. McLaughlin
(309) 319-6206 



IRS CIRCULAR 230 NOTICE: To the extent that this message or any attachment concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Man who had 30 kids with 11 women wants child-support break -- LA TIMES

By Rene Lynch
1:30 PM PDT, May 18, 2012

You have to say this much for Desmond Hatchett: He has a way with the ladies.

The 33-year-old Knoxville, Tenn., resident has reportedly set a Knox County record for his ability to reproduce. He has 30 children with 11 women. And nine of those children were born in the last three years, after Hatchett -- who is something of a local celebrity -- vowed
 "I'm done!" in a 2009 TV interview, saying he wouldn't father more children.

But Hatchett is back in the news this week because he's struggling to make ends meet on his minimum-wage job. His inability to make child-support payments on such a meager salary also means he's back in court again and again, most recently to ask for a break on those payments.

"Yes, we've got several cases with Mr. Hatchett," Melissa Gibson, an assistant supervisor with the Knox County child support clerk's office, said with a sigh.

Hatchett's attorney, Keith Pope, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Under the law, there's nothing officials can do to force Hatchett to keep his pants on.

"If there's something out there like that, I'm unaware of it," Gibson told The Times, before adding, "It definitely needs to be."

Gibson said Hatchett is believed to hold the Knox County record for most children. (He'd hold a similar record in most counties in the U.S., which might explain why news of his predicament was pinging around the Internet on Friday.)

Gibson said she couldn't say whether any of his children receive public assistance. The youngest is a toddler; the oldest is 14. Asked in a TV interview whether he can "keep up with it all," Hatchett
 said he knows all their names, ages and birthdates.

Also in a TV interview, Hatchett tried to explain -- in a PG-rated way -- how he managed to end up with so many kids: "I had four kids in the same year. Twice."

When Hatchett is working, he is required to turn over 50% of his wages for child support -- the maximum allowed under law. Child support payments are based in part on the ages and needs of the children.

Some of the mothers of Hatchett's children get only $1.49 a month,
 reportedWREG in Memphis.

Jon D. McLaughlin
(309) 319-6206



IRS CIRCULAR 230 NOTICE: To the extent that this message or any attachment concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Violence ages children's DNA, shortens their chromosomes

By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY

Conventional wisdom says that hardship can make us old before our time. In fact, a new study suggests that violence leaves longterm scars on children's bodies — not just in bruises on the skin, but also altering their DNA, causing changes that are equivalent to seven to 10 years of premature aging.

Scientists measured this cellular aging by studying the ends of children's chromosomes, called telomeres, according to Idan Shalev, lead author of a study in today's Molecular Psychiatry. Telomeres are special DNA sequences that act like the plastic tips on shoelaces, which prevent the DNA in chromosomes from unraveling. They get shorter each time a cell divides, until a cell can't divide anymore and it dies.

Several factors have been found to shorten telomeres, including smoking, radiation and psychological stresses such as early life maltreatment and taking care of a chronically ill person. In this study, researchers examined whether exposure to violence could make children's telomeres shorten faster than normal. They interviewed the mothers of 236 children at ages 5, 7 and 10, asking whether the youngsters had been exposed to domestic violence between the mother and her partner; physical maltreatment by an adult; or  bullying. Researchers measured the children's telomeres — in cells obtained by swabbing the insides of their cheeks — at ages 5 and 10.

Telomeres shortened faster in kids exposed to two or more types of violence, says Shalev, a post-doctoral researcher at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy in Durham, N.C. Unless that pattern changes, the study suggests, these kids could be expected to develop diseases of aging, such as heart attacks or memory loss, seven to 10 years earlier than their peers. Shalev says there is hope for these kids. His study found that, in rare cases, telomeres can lengthen. Better nutrition, exercise and stress reduction are three things that may be able to lengthen telomeres, he says.

The study confirms a small-but-growing number of studies suggesting that early childhood adversity imprints itself in our chromosomes, says Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School. In a 2011 study, Nelson and colleagues found shorter telomeres in Romanian children who had spent more time in institutions, compared with children sent to foster care.

"We know that toxic stress is bad for you," says Nathan Fox, a professor of human development at the University of Maryland and co-author of the 2011 paper. "This paper provides a mechanism by which this type of stress gets 'under the skin' and into the genes."

Jon D. McLaughlin

(309) 319-6206 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mother faces contempt, jail for baptizing children

Mother faces contempt, jail for baptizing children

Published March 30, 2012 | Associated Press

A Shelby County mother faces contempt-of-court charges and possible jail time for baptizing her two children without the knowledge or consent of her ex-husband.

This week the Tennessee Court of Appeals said Lauren Jarrell must face a criminal contempt hearing for violating a court order that said major decisions regarding the religious upbringing of her two children should be made jointly with the children's father.

Both parents are Christian. Emmett Blake Jarrell, the father, is a member of the United Methodist Church, and she's a Presbyterian.

The father, according to court records, thought the children should be baptized when they are older and better able to understand the significance of the baptismal ceremony. The couple, according to court records, had even consulted a minister when they were married because they couldn't agree what age was best for the kids to be baptized. Records show the children will be 5 and 7 next month.

"Obviously she knew that the father did not want the children baptized at that age and she did that without telling him," Memphis attorney Any Amundsen, who is not involved in the case, said of the mother. "She violated the court order."

The Court of Appeals decision sides with the father, who had asked that his ex-wife be convicted of criminal contempt after discovering that she baptized the kids against his wishes.

A lower court has already found the mother in contempt of court. The appellate court decision overturned that decision and said criminal contempt proceedings are more appropriate because the mother can't undo the baptisms.

Legal experts disagree on whether the appellate court decision is treading into the forbidden territory of deciding spiritual doctrine or is just upholding the law when a parent is accused of flagrantly violating a court order.

The parents could not be reached for comment. Their attorneys did not return calls to The Associated Press.

Court records show that the mother argued that it was wrong for the lower court to find her in contempt it was tantamount to preferring the father's religious views on baptism over hers.

But the Court of Appeals disagreed.

"Mother is correct that courts `must maintain strict neutrality in cases involving religious disputes between divorced parents' and they may not `prefer the religious views of one parent over another unless one parent's religious beliefs and practices threaten the health and well-being of the child," Judge Alan E. Highers wrote. "However, simply put, this is not a religious dispute." Highers said the court is only being asked to determine whether the mother can be found in contempt for failing to follow the court order.

Nashville attorney Helen Rogers says the courts ought to stay away from these kinds of decisions.

"How would a court decide between baptizing a Presbyterian and a Methodist or a Catholic," Rogers asked. She wondered whether a court could step in and order the child of a Muslim and a Jew to attend a synagogue or a mosque. The problem, she said, is that the standard parenting plan in Tennessee orders many parents to mediation if they can't jointly decide on major decisions involving religious upbringing. If they can't agree even after mediation, she said, it ultimately means that a court has to decide.

"The bigger kind of global look at this is should religious decision-making be a private matter or should it be something that a court orders to begin with," Rogers asked.

However, Amundsen said the courts are only following state law, which says the courts have to consider religious upbringing when it comes to parental decision making.

Both attorneys said it's not unusual for parents to disagree on religious upbringing.

If the mother is convicted, she could face up to 20 days in jail and a $100 fine.

Jon D. McLaughlin -- Bloomington Illinois Divorce Attorney
Allison & Mosby-Scott
(309) 319-6206

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Seat Belt Law

Whether you are driving in Bloomington, or anywhere else in Illinois, you should be aware of this new law: 

December 28, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- There are several new laws going into effect with the new year. One of them will require backseat passengers to wear a seat belt.

This law is not only meant to protect them, but people riding in the front seat.

Illinois State Police say backseat passengers can be projectiles. Fatalities have been caused to front seat passengers who were hit by rear passengers not wearing seat belts.

While the law is viewed as a safety measure by some, others say it is another unnecessary government mandate.

Comprehensive list to learn what other laws may affect your day-to-day life.

Beginning January 1, passengers sitting the back seat of vehicle will face a $25 fine if caught without wearing a seatbelt.

Safety is the motivation behind the law. State police say, not only are backseat passengers at risk of being ejected from the car in an accident, but rear passengers without seat belts can be a danger to those in the front seat.

"Backseat passengers can be projectiles. They can be thrown around, and unfortunately if they hit a front passenger, they can kill them," said Illinois State Police Trooper Lorraine Ishida.

That is exactly what happened to Paula Doren's husband. Six years ago, Larry Doren was killed in an accident when he was struck by the passenger in the backseat.

"The passenger in the backseat was thrown forward into the backs of the front seats of the car, pushing the driver and the front seat passenger forward," said Doren.

Doren was instrumental in getting the new law passed. It wasn't easy. There were dozens of lawmakers who voted against it. State Representative Monique D. Davis was one of them.

"Twenty-five bucks if they catch you. I'd rather for the police to catch criminals, catch those who are shooting our babies, catch people who are shooting these guns. Don't catch people in the backseat of a car without a seatbelt on," said Davis.

The new law specifically reads that all rear seat passengers 16 and older be buckled up or risk a ticket. Current law calls for kids ages 8-15 to wear seatbelts, and children under the age of 7 must be in a car or booster seat.

The new law does exempt buses, emergency vehicles and taxicabs.

Jon D. McLaughlin
(309) 319-6206

Friday, January 6, 2012

Post Divorce in Bloomington Illinois: Some Financial Mistakes to Avoid

Going through a divorce in Illinois is hard enough, but picking up the pieces and getting on with your life afterward can be a major challenge as well. One thing that can't be ignored are your finances. This can be a big hurdle, because usually one or the other spouse was the "accountant" in the relationship. Still, even savvy domestic money manages can use some advice.

Working here in Bloomington as a family law and divorce attorney, I am frequently asked by clients what their strategy should be regarding the financial side of a divorce settlement. Knowing your money situation and other household finances is a big part of this. Also, understanding the tax implications of certain payments will make your life that much easier in the long run. Below are some typical mistakes that people going through divorce tend to make.

Number One: Hanging on to the house at all costs
This is not necessarily the best option. According to financial experts, more attention should be given to which person can afford to maintain the property -- including paying the mortgage and managing the taxes. However, don't think that getting spousal support to help with the mortgage payments will keep you on easy street. Large unexpected costs, such as a new furnace or other large-scale maintenance usually happen sometime or another, which can make home ownership more of a burden and less of a luxury.

Number Two: Failing to make a clean financial break with your ex-spouse
Cleanly separating each of your debts and assets, especially if you have been married for a long time, can be a difficult task, but a very necessary one. Most any financial counselor will tell you this is absolutely necessary, and the consequences of not doing so can be devastating. It may seem overwhelming, but the alternative is many times worse. You don't want to have your ex racking up debt and ruining your personal credit score.

Number Three: Counting on your ex to comply with his financial obligations
While both parties in a divorce are beholden to the court-ordered divorce agreement, creditors do not fall under that arrangement. If your ex is supposed to pay the mortgage but fails to do so, the lender is apt to sue you both. And any missed payments or a default on a mortgage will hurt you next time you apply for a loan.

Number Four: Not reviewing your estate plan following your divorce
Wills and trusts can both be seriously impacted by divorce proceedings. If a divorced spouse waits too long to change the beneficiary on a will or life insurance policy, the money could end up going to the wrong person, and your new spouse may get nothing. It seems incredible, but there have been instances where an ex-spouse inherits money from a former wife or husband.

Number Five: Not understanding the different tax treatments for alimony and child support
As a last note, you should always be aware of which amount of money in your divorce settlement goes for alimony, and which goes for child support. Whereas child support payments are exempt from tax by the recipient, alimony payments are usually taxable. Also, remember that there are limits to how long a person can receive these payments. For instance, child support payments typically end when the child is emancipated, and spousal support typically ceases once that person gets remarried.

Jon D. McLaughlin
(309) 319-6206