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Posted on in Divorce

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It is all too common for heated arguments to turn ugly and for parents to say and do things in the course of a divorce proceeding that they wouldn't want made known in Court.  In a prior post, Don't Do Something Permanently Stupid Because You Are Temporarily Mad, we shared some advice as how to handle the inevitable emotions that clients experience while going through the divorce process. We warned against doing things out of anger that you can never take back.  Specifically, we advised that clients never put anything in writing that they would not want attached to a court motion and put in front of the judge.

Dealing with a spouse that won't communicate in writing during divorce:

If your spouse has received advice to not communicate in writing but is still or becoming verbally abusive it is generally not advisable to blindly record them for the record.

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Posted on in News

b2ap3_thumbnail_miranda-rights_640.jpgThe right to remain silent means that at any point you can invoke that right and refuse to answer questions from police officers, detectives, or other prosecutorial representatives.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, however, limited that right in the case of Berghuis v. Thompkins.  Van Chester Thompkins was convicted of murder but challenged the conviction, alleging that his confession should have been suppressed because his right to remain silent was violated. The Court, in a 5-4 decision ruled that by failing to specifically state that he did not wish to speak to police, or that he was invoking his right to remain silent, he had waived that right.  While many legal scholars disagreed with the rationale of this decision, what it means in practice is that knowing how and when to assert your rights is now even more important to protect them from being eroded.

But shouldn't I cooperate with the police?

Won't that show them I don't have anything to hide?  The answer to both questions is almost unequivocally, "no."  If police are questioning you, it means they likely suspect you have committed a crime.  If the police detained you, it usually means they already have enough evidence to justify your arrest.

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In a divorce proceeding, absent agreement of the parties, it is the Court's job to make an equitable division of the parties' marital property.  Often, disputes that arise during the course of divorce proceedings center upon what is "equitable," but before a Court can determine how to fairly divide the parties' property between them it must first know what property the parties possess.  There are a number of processes by which attorneys attempt to gather information and evidence about what property is owned by the parties.  The results often show automobiles, real estate, and less tangible property such as bank accounts, mutual funds, or other investment-related assets.  The tangibility of the assets does not affect the Court's ability to divide them, but what happens when the parties no longer possesses those assets?  If a party has given property away or has sold it for less than market value it may lead to claims of dissipation of assets, but sometimes neither party is the one who has given the property away.  Bank or other investment accounts can be presumed "abandoned", at which time the law requires the business holding the account to turn over that property to the Illinois State Treasurer.  The presumption arises after a period of inactivity by the account holder, the length of which varies depending on the type of property but generally is about five years.  So if the parties haven't touched an old bank account in years, those funds may no longer be where everyone thinks they are.  Luckily, one can easily check online to determine if the State of Illinois may be holding his or her abandoned property by going to the web address icash.illinois.gov.  If a claim is filed by either party and the State approves the return of the property, the "unclaimed" account or property can be added back into the marital estate and is then subjec

Posted on in News

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_att-thomas.jpgPucci|Pirtle is excited to announce that the firm is expanding in order to meet the needs of our current and future clients, and with this expansion we are pleased to welcome Attorney Thomas Spencer IV to the firm!

Thomas Spencer earned his Bachelor of Arts from Truman State University in 2002, and graduated cum laude from Northern Illinois College of Law in 2006.  He then began his career practicing law as a prosecutor for several cities and villages in McHenry County, Illinois.  Since leaving prosecution in 2008, Attorney Spencer has concentrated his practice in the areas of criminal defense and family matters, including divorce, complex custody, matrimonial law, and domestic violence matters.

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Effective July 1, 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court Rules and the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to permit lawyers to provide what is called "limited scope representation" to clients in civil proceedings. This means that lawyers can now provide "cafeteria divorce services" to their clients; this is the term we often use, because "limited scope representation" means that an attorney can represent a client for a specific purpose, rather than before, when an attorney who filed an Appearance in a case representing a client was in the case for all matters, all court appearances, depositions, and communications. Limited scope Appearances can be entered for specific court dates, or only a deposition limited scope Appearances can be entered even for the drafting of certain documents.

These types of Appearances are attractive to clients who are looking for legal assistance in their cases, but who want to limit their financial exposure, and are also helpful in cases where a client may want to hire co-counsel for certain issues, and have different attorneys handle differing aspects of his or her case.

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Posted on in Divorce

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In this day and age, it is unlikely that a potential client is going to pull out the phone book when starting to contact divorce lawyers. In fact, in this day and age, who keeps a phone book around anyway? I know my recycling bin gets a new friend the same day that bundle arrives on my doorstep.

So you need a divorce lawyer - I assume you have followed advice we've given in the past and you first ask close friends and family. Or, if your situation is private (and a lot of family law situations are!) you may not feel comfortable asking those you know. Instead, you go online, and you head to your favorite search engine. You google it! Once you've compiled a list of names, you should visit the websites of each attorney. Websites will put a face to a name and give you more information about who you might be contacting. Some potential clients go further and look the attorney up on google plus, bing, yelp, avvo the list goes on. Why? Well, to check out online reviews. Here's where it gets sticky.

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If you follow Pucci Pirtle on Facebook, you know that Attorney Pucci spoke yesterday at the ISBA seminar on It's Not Just Family Law Anymore. Attorney Pucci is a natural public speaker and so knowledgeable on many of the areas of law that often intersect with family law. Attorney Pucci's topic yesterday was on geriatric dissolution issues. Below is a list of five things to take away from her presentation:

  1. Guardianship Proceedings:If an elderly person is incapable of handling their personal or financial estate, a guardian can be appointed to manage their affairs in a manner that is in that elderly person's best interest. Most don't know that a guardian can file for divorce on behalf of the ward (the elderly person) when they can prove to the probate court that dissolution would be in the ward's best interest.
  2. Social Security Benefits:This tip is helpful for everyone to know:many of us know that when you've been married to someone for more than 10 years and subsequently divorce, you are entitled to your former spouse's social security benefits. Most don't know that if you've been married to two different people for more than 10 years (and you're not currently married to anyone), you are entitled to receive the larger of the two ex-spouses' benefits. Also, if your ex-spouse is deceased, you may also be entitled to survivor benefits.
  3. Reverse Mortgages = probably a bad idea! In the world of family law, we tell our potential clients considering a legal separation that there are very few (if any) good reasons to get a legal separation over a divorce. An elder law attorney will tell you the same thing about reverse mortgages; they are costly and very rarely a good idea.
  4. Spousal Support and Retirement Benefits: When dealing with clients of advanced age who are living on retirement benefits, be mindful of the fact that dividing retirement benefits and ordering maintenance from the income received from those retirement benefits could result in double dipping.
  5. Estate Planning: When a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered, the divorcee's will or self-settled trust are automatically revoked as to any benefit to an ex-spouse. The will/trust will read as if the former spouse predeceased them. If you are recently divorced, now is the time to review and revise your estate plan!

As family law attorneys, we must constantly be mindful of the other areas of legal practice that intersect with family law. If you or someone you know is considering divorcing at an advance age, Pucci Pirtle can offer assistance in navigating the elder law world of divorce. Also, if you have a family member who you believe is incapable of handling their personal and financial affairs, call Pucci Pirtle today for a referral to an elder law attorney in your area.

Posted on in News

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When you hire a divorce or family law attorney, you will be required to pay the firm a retainer fee.  A retainer is a fee that you pay to your attorney when you hire them to represent you. Pucci Pirtle, LLC only takes security retainers. A security retainer is an up-front amount paid at the commencement of our services and it remains the property of the client until our firm applies it to charges for services rendered. Every month you will receive a bill, and that bill will reflect the hours and charges spent on your case; the bill will show what funds remain in the trust account and what funds were earned.  Earned funds will be transferred from the trust account and will be then paid to the firm.  Any unearned funds remaining after the completion of our representation will be promptly refunded to the client.  If the retainer is expended and your case is still ongoing (full disclosure - it is rare for an initial retainer to cover your entire case), you will owe a replenishment retainer to the firm.  Pucci|Pirtle does not handle divorce or family law cases on a flat fee - I don't know any attorney who does, but we do handle real estate transactions and estate planning matters for flat fee retainers.

Our retainer agreement is longer than most firm's and explains all about how you will be charged, how you are expected to pay, and what is required of our firm in the course of our representation and what we expect of our clients.  Read the agreement (and anything!) before you sign and ask questions.

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Don't Do Something Permanently Stupid Because You Are Temporarily Mad

I heard a random quote on the radio the other day and it made me think of several of my former clients and cases.  The host said, "don't do something permanently stupid because you are temporarily mad." Divorce is one of the most emotionally charged areas of legal practice. It is the only area of the law where the people who are litigating have slept in the same bed, shared the deepest of connections and often share the bond of creating a new life. Because of those emotions, in almost every case the judgment of otherwise reasonable people is clouded.  These reasonable people may say and do things that they can never, ever take back.

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Posted on in High Asset Divorce

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Time to talk about one of the most despised aspects of a family law matter - the financial discovery. When family law attorneys talk about "discovery," they are referencing the request of financial documentation (and the list of financial questions) to be answered by the opposing side during the process of a divorce, parentage, or other family law matter that involves financials. Basically, during these cases a duty exists to find out ("discover") what the other side has by way of assets and debts; if an attorney does not diligently complete discovery, there may be consequences.

So when your attorney sends you the financial affidavit, do it. I know it is a daunting task (I have done one for myself for use as a budget) but there are certain local court rules that require it's completion in a timely manner. And if you want to ask for support or fees from the other side, any petition that is filed asking for that type of relief must attach a financial affidavit (in Kane County, it is called a "Comprehensive Financial Statement," in McHenry and Lake Counties it is called an "11.02 Financial Affidavit," in DuPage County it is called a "Financial Disclosure Statement, and in Cook County it is called a "13.3 Disclosure Statement." When you complete this, attach tax returns, three paystubs and the documents you used in completing the document (utility bills and statements for all accounts) at a minimum.

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