Posts filed under ‘Attorneys’

How To Avoid Divorce Denial – It’s a Messy World: Here’s How to Avoid Getting Screwed

By Jeffery Leving

Deniers simply are unable to face the fact that their marriage is over, even when the signs are unmistakable: Their spouse is cheating, siphoning money out of their accounts or making plans to move out. Still, deniers hope their marriage can be saved. Jack and Ellen’s story is an excellent example of divorce denial and of the mistakes men make in divorce.

A Loyal Man

Jack refused to believe his wife Ellen was going to divorce him. They had been married for seven years, and though he knew their marriage had problems, he was certain they could work them out. Some of the problems were related to Ellen’s bipolar disorder, for which she was being treated.

Unfortunately, Ellen sometimes refused to take the prescribed medications that helped keep the condition under control. In her manic phase, she drove recklessly, and though she had never done so with their two young children in the car, Jack always worried about this possibility.

In her “down” phase, Ellen talked about “running away and starting over.” But Jack, loyal to mistakes men make in divorce, was certain that no matter how many arguments he and Ellen had, she would never file for divorce.

Sleeping in

He was wrong. Not only had she hired a lawyer and started the process, but she also had followed the lawyer’s instructions regarding her medical condition. Her lawyer, anticipating that Jack might use this condition to try to gain sole custody, had instructed Ellen to persuade Jack to sign a document attesting to her mental fitness; he helped Ellen create a cover story that she needed this document for health insurance purposes.

By the divorce, he was hopelessly behind. It took him weeks to find a lawyer, and even then he remained unconvinced that she was serious about sole custody; he insisted to his lawyer that this was just a negotiating ploy.

Jack, realizing he was falling victim to mistakes men make in divorce, finally emerged from his divorce denial.

Denial Signs To Be Aware Of

To prevent this from happening, be aware of the following signs that you’re in divorce denial:

  • Your spouse informs you she wants a divorce, but you insist to both her and yourself that she’s not serious.
  • The marriage is dead and your spouse moves out and makes a down payment on a new house, but you convince yourself that the separation is temporary.
  • You note that your spouse is taking money out of your joint accounts, that your relationship has experienced serious problems and that she is having an affair, but you refuse to put two and two together.
  • Your spouse has threatened to take the kids and leave, but even as you’re consulting your lawyer, you refuse to believe she would ever do such a thing.
  • When your spouse informs you that she’s filing for divorce, you refuse to hire an lawyer, convinced that things will work out if you avoid “playing her game.”
  • You tell your friends that your spouse is only using the possibility of divorce as a bargaining chip to buy a new house or change your bad habits, but that when push comes to shove, she’ll never follow through on the threat.
  • You hire a lawyer in response to your spouse filing for divorce, but you argue with him that your spouse has no intention of limiting your visitation, asking for sole custody, refusing to give you certain monies, or share property fairly; based on your certainty that your spouse would never treat you unfairly, you don’t follow your lawyer’s advice.

Done Deal

Divorce denial is dangerous, especially if you have children at risk. Recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to protect your rights and the rights of your children.



October 7, 2010 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

Reforms: Seeds Sown For Change in Illinois Family Courts

By Josh Hoff
Ideally, every child grows up in a home where the parents co-exist in harmony and provide fertile ground in which the children can thrive.  Often times, however, this is not the case.  When a marriage dissolves, children are frequently caught in the middle of an adversarial legal system.  Typically, these cases end up in family court, where children are subjected to the trauma inflicted by a prolonged trial.

In the state of Illinois, reforms have been established and are underway to mitigate the impact of trials on children.  The statewide reforms have three components:

In July 2006, all parents in custody and visitation cases will be required to undergo four hours of education involving how to lessen the impact of custody disputes on children.
Lawyers appointed to represent parents in custody cases will be required to attend continuing education programs.

Beginning January 1, 2007, all custody disputes must first go to mediation prior to a court hearing to attempt to resolve the dispute before it goes to court.

“The reforms are intended to focus the guardians and the court on the children,”
explains Madison County Associate Judge Barbara Crowder, who presides over the family court division for the Third Judicial Circuit in Illinois.

In past cases, disputes have sometimes taken up the majority of a child’s life.  As a result, the child becomes surrounded by chaos.  Sometimes, when children are interviewed by judges, they curl up in a fetal ball.  In some instances, they will cry about not wanting to see their mother or father.  In fact, judges observe an entire range of children, from the angry to the withdrawn.

Once the custody case reaches the actual courtroom, various members of the extended family are brought in, which frequently proves divisive and undermines the cohesiveness of a family unit.  The reforms are intended in part to lessen the trauma of such conflicts.

“Two attorneys might swear that two parties could never see eye to eye,” Judge Crowder elaborates, referring to the trial process.  “By the time that they go to mediation, they are able to get past some of the conflict.”

“People are more open to possibilities,” adds Judge Crowder. The seeds were sown for change when the Supreme Court of Illinois appointed a special committee and requested that members address matters relating to custody – more specifically, the court wanted to address the need for cases to be handled in an expeditious manner and in the best interest of children.

“We were asked to draft some rules for circuits that do not yet have mediation,” says Judge Elizabeth Robb, who serves on the Eleventh Circuit and is the chair of the conference of chief judges.

Ultimately, the primary objective of these reforms is to send a strong statement to parents, lawyers, and judges that Illinois’ courts put the needs and concerns of children first.  Otherwise, children are put underfoot in a messy legal proceeding.

“The overall effect of mandatory mediation, parent education, and continuing legal education will be to emphasize that everyone in this process must do everything possible to minimize the emotional damage to children that accompanies child custody disputes,” Judge Crowder said in a written statement.

March 4, 2009 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

Dad’s Talk with Jeffery Leving

American Society has declared war on crime. All wars generate collateral damage and, in this case, the damage consists of families of those who bear the burden of the public’s wrath with crime. This is particularly true of the most vulnerable and defenseless members of society – the children of imprisoned men. These children, through not fault of their own, are often denied spiritual and emotional nurture by their fathers. Never forget: incarcerated fathers are parents, too. Fathers are not “social accidents” as many people have been incorrectly taught due to negative male-stereotyping.

As an advocate for fathers’ rights for over two decades, I’ve long understood that positive father involvement is vital to the stability of our society because fatherless children pose a high risk for addiction and crime, as documented in my book “Fathers’ Rights.” Children are the future of our society, and this is no less true of the children of incarcerated men. Children of incarcerated parents should not be abondoned. Their positive parental relationships require support to break the cycle of criminality caused by father absence. The most reliable predictor of crime is neither poverty nor race, but growing up fatherless.

Several years ago I represented an incarcerated father I will call Bob. Bob became embroiled in a divorce and visitation dispute that was as bitter as it was high-profile. Yet I was able to reunite him with his children and keep him connected to them while incarcerated. This required aggressive and strategic litigation on my part, but it was worth it. I pursued visitation for Bob and did not give up until he had it. The court even ordered specific dates and times for phone visitation. Upon release, he was reunited with his family.

Obviously, visitation is more difficult for incarcerated fathers. However, it is possible. Often a letter from a law office motivates reluctant caregivers to let fathers back into their children’s lives so bitter legal battles can be avoided. But, sometimes they are necessary. My goal is never to use the law to make mothers’ lives miserable, but to maximize positive father contact for the child. In Bob’s case, I had to fight hard. Successful litigation kept this father connected with his kids and he lives with them now.

A critical reason for maintaining visitation, even if only by phone, is to attempt to prevent the possible termination of parental rights. One possible problem for incarcerated fathers is the threat of court-ordered termination of parental rights in an adoption. Failure to write, telephone or otherwise communicate or take an interest in his children can constitute a basis to attempt to terminate those rights. This sets the stage for adoption of his children.

If you feel your parental rights may be threatened, familiarize yourself with the laws of your state and, if it becomes necessary, find a family law attorney in your state to protect those rights. More importantly, make sure you educate yourself in the art and craft of parenthood. The law can be hard on incarcerated dads; it’s harder on those who give up.

I believe many incarcerated men are ready, willing and able to contribute to their children’s lives. There is a significant social cost to a narrowly punitive policy, which may not take account of the needs of the children of incarcerated fathers. If we recognize and change this policy, we may achieve a reduction of crime without requiring new taxes by simply promoting positive father-child involvement.

And in a similar vein, incarcerated fathers need to understand and protect their parental legal rights. Incarcerated fathers are parents, too.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of this country’s leading family law attorneys and the co-author of the Illinois Joint Custody Law. His book, “Father’s Rights” on which these columns are based, is regarded as a definitive work on this important subject.

March 3, 2009 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

KEEP HOPE ALIVE: Stories of Fathers & Attorneys Who Have Beaten the Odds in Family Court

By: Timothy E. Rogus, J.D.

Young Father Keeps Son Close to Him

Last year, I was retained by a client whose ex-wife was trying to move their 7-year-old son with her new fiancé from Illinois to Massachusetts. So the mother petitioned the court for the required order, saying that the benefits of removing the child far from dad outweighed the advantages of the child remaining in Illinois in the present custody arrangement.

 As we began to aggressively prepare for the case, I was shocked to see how quickly the court had fast-tracked the hearing. We filed for a continuance, on the ground that more time was needed for proper discovery, but this motion was denied by the court. The week leading up to the trial was filled with countless hours of preparation. My client and I spent the entire pre-trial weekend in the office preparing and interviewing witnesses, reviewing exhibits and formulating strategy.

At trial, I strategically presented many witnesses and evidence, showing that my client was a very vital part of his son’s life. He was not just an unnecessary and disposable part of his son’s life, but was a full-time dad. Moreover, the father had a large extended family in Illinois who had always been a large part of the life of his young son.

 After three days of trial, the trial judge, after careful deliberation, could not look past our evidence and our witnesses. It was clearly evident that my client was an extremely loving father and that he played a major role in the life of his son. The trial judge denied the mother permission to remove the child from Illinois. The mother has since married her fiancé and they have remained in Illinois where my client is still a very active and very happy father.  

Publishers Note:
As someone who has spent more than 20 years as a domestic relations attorney, fighting in the trenches for fathers, I have seen how too often society has failed in their duty to protect the family unit and instead seeks out punitive measures against men.

Some would say there is an unwritten, “anti-male” bias that exists in many of today’s family law courts, especially in child custody cases. Too often in our current system husbands and fathers are viewed as biological necessities, but social accidents.

But even in the face of bias, fathers must never give up when it comes to protecting their children. So in an effort to help give fathers some hope, each edition we will spotlight a case in which a father has beaten the odds in family court and gained extended custody or related rights with his children.

March 2, 2009 at 10:26 pm Leave a comment