All posts by Jennifer Guimond-Quigley

Jennifer earned her law degree by attending law school part-time in the evenings while working full-time as an accountant during the day. Although juggling the rigors of a demanding job while completing an arduous academic curriculum was not an easy task, it taught her invaluable lessons about dedication, perseverance and most importantly, hard work. Prior to graduation, Jennifer found a passion for estate and disability planning while gaining real-world experience as a law clerk with an estate planning firm. After graduation and passage of the bar exam, Jennifer gained further invaluable experience and a penchant for family law practice while practicing with a non-profit legal services organization and a small law firm in Chicago. Jennifer’s background in business and accounting has also lent itself nicely to the various planning services she provides to her clients. Not only is she very comfortable with numbers, but Jennifer is also able to identify the financial and tax impact for her clients in the areas of estate planning and divorce. Her comfort level with these types of analysis allows her to easily explain their complexities in a very relatable way to her clientele. Jennifer resides in Chicago with her husband, Chris and their daughter. When she’s not practicing, she enjoys running, cooking, and donating her time to various charitable organizations.

Estate Planning 101: Wills vs. Living Trusts

Estate Planning might seem daunting at first, but it is absolutely essential to get something in place in order to ensure that your property and loved ones are taken care of in the event of your incapacity or death. As important as it is protect your assets and loved ones, it is equally important to understand the basics of estate planning. Wills and Living Trusts are two of the most common tools when it comes to estate planning, and many people don’t fully understand the difference between the two. Here is what you should know about these common estate planning devices.  

Wills

A Will is a document that outlines who will inherit your property at your death and appoints a legal representative to make sure that your wishes are carried out as stated. It goes into effect only after you have died, and covers any property that is in your individual name or jointly held with another as tenants in common. It does not cover property held in joint tenancy, tenants by the entirety, or in a trust. You are also able to name a guardian for minors, and creditors have to comply with a set date for bringing claims against your estate. Besides the relative ease in creating a Will, another advantage is that it is less expensive than setting up a trust. However, probate (which can be costly and slow) is typically necessary for the administration of your Will and subjects your Will to becoming part of a public record.

Living Trusts

A Living Trust is a pool of assets, such as cash, property or investments, that are managed by its creator (or a third party trustee) for the benefit of the person who establishes the trust and/or other third parties. Unlike a Will, a Living Trust goes into effect immediately upon its creation enabling its creator to use it for disability planning as well as death-related planning. Another main advantage of a Living Trust is the ability to delay distribution of trust assets to children if you pass away while they are still minors, which cannot be effectuated with a Will. With a fully-funded Living Trust, your estate can avoid the probate process and there is no requirement that your Living Trust be filed with any court upon death.  In sum, if a Living Trust is properly written and funded, its main advantages include the avoidance of probate, the ability to plan for your own incapacity, controlling what happens to your property while you are incapacitated and after you are gone, the ability to implement financial oversight of trust funds for the benefit of minor children, and the prevention of having your financial and family affairs become a matter of public record.  

Both planning tools have their advantages and disadvantages, and it is not easy to determine which may be the best fit for you.  Living Trusts are more flexible and offer more overall benefits than a Will, but those don’t come without a cost, and not all the options may be necessary for you and your family. You should work with a trusted attorney in order to determine which estate planning tools work best for you.

Changes to Child Support Law in Illinois Effective July 1, 2017

On July 1, Illinois will adopt a new model to calculate child support. For parents who already have a divorce or parentage case pending, or are simply contemplating separation or divorce from the child’s other parent, it is important to be informed about how the new law works. Here are a few main takeaways:

It will significantly change how child support is calculated in Illinois

Currently, child support is calculated by utilizing a formula that is based solely on the non-custodial parent’s income. The new law, however, takes on an “income shares” model which is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received if the parents remained together by utilizing a calculation that includes published data on child rearing costs and both parties’ incomes. The income shares approach to child support has gained momentum in the United States in the past few decades and in fact, a majority of states in the U.S. have already adopted this model.

There are three main characteristics of the “income shares” model

Basic Child Support Obligation – Under the new law, a court must “calculate child support based upon the parents’ combined adjusted net income estimated to have been allocated to the child if the parents and children were living in an intact household.”  Additionally, there are predetermined child support payment amounts to be utilized based upon the parties’ combined net incomes. A schedule reflecting average child-rearing expenditures will be published by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services for this purpose. In addition, IDHFS has published other helpful resources on its website including the Gross to Net Income Conversion Table and a Child Support Estimator.

Shared Parenting – The new law allows adjustments to child support for “shared parenting” situations, which means situations where each parent has the child for at least 146 overnights per year. For this situation, basic child support is multiplied by 1.5 to account for additional basic costs to care for the child, including but not limited to: additional transportation, housing and food between the two residences. Then, both parties’ net incomes and the parenting time allocated to each parent is taken into account before determining the final child support obligation.

Additional Expenses – These are considered “additional” support amounts on top of the basic child support obligation. These can include amounts to cover the costs of extracurricular activities expenses, medical/health care expenses, education expenses and child care costs. If the parties cannot agree on an allocation of these expenses, a court has the discretion to order one or both parties to contribute to these items.

Deviation may be warranted under the new law

There may be circumstances in a particular case that would warrant a deviation from the child support amount that is calculated under the new income shares model. This is where having a skilled litigator could mean a notable difference in the amount of support that is received or that is paid.

The new formula will be used to modify a child support order entered under the older law

For parents that already have a child support order in place, these rules may still be relevant if family or financial circumstances change and the child support order needs to modified. All child support modifications that occur after July 1, 2017 will be recalculated under the new formula if the court finds that a modification is warranted. A child support order under the old law cannot, however, be modified by only citing the new law as the reason for modification.

The new law goes into effect July 1

This is the first time in 30 years any major changes have been made regarding child support in Illinois. As the new law is vastly different than the old law and requires more steps and calculations to determine a child support obligation, it is important to be represented by an attorney who is well versed in the new law and comfortable with performing interrelated calculations.

 
Contact Jennifer Guimond-Quigley for a free consultation regarding how the new child support law in Illinois may affect you.

INCOME TAXES AND DIVORCE – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE APRIL 18TH

It can be confusing to know exactly what to do at tax time if you are contemplating divorce or actually in the process of divorcing. Below are some guidelines to keep in mind as tax time draws near.

Filing Status

IRS rules provide that if you are married on December 31st of the tax year, then you are still married for purposes of that year’s tax returns [Note – there is an exception to this rule where the spouses did not reside together for the last 6 months of the relevant tax year]. Similarly, if your divorce judgment is entered on the 31st of December, then you are considered single for that tax year and must file separate. Simply filing for divorce alone does not result in a change in your tax filing status.

Maintaining Status Quo or Taking an Alternate Course

The first question I ask my clients is “What have you done historically?” If the parties have always filed their taxes “Married Filing Jointly” then that very well may be the best way to continue to file taxes until the divorce is finalized.

However, the analysis doesn’t end there since the status quo may not necessarily result in the most tax savings possible. There may be instances where the parties get a better collective tax benefit by filing “Married Filing Separately.” In cases where it is uncertain which tax filing status nets the best overall benefit, I have my client request pro forma tax returns from his or her tax preparer under both filing statuses. The filing that nets the best benefit is then utilized.

Additionally, there may be circumstances where “Married Filing Jointly” nets the parties the best overall tax benefit, but I may still advise against it. Those scenarios are typically when there is a concern that the other spouse is not accurately and truthfully claiming all income. Because tax liability (tax, interest and any penalty) for an erroneously or fraudulently filed joint tax return can flow to both spouses, it is sometimes best for one spouse to forego any tax benefits from a joint filing to have peace of mind that no liability will be assessed to him or her personally for errors or omissions on the part of the other spouse.

Allocating Tax Liabilities and Refunds

The allocation of tax liabilities and refunds depends on many factors and is a case-by-case analysis. The final determination of what percentage of the refund is allocated to whom and who is liable for the tax bill (as well as the cost of preparation fees) is a result of negotiation or if the parties cannot agree, the order of the court. In short, a tax refund or liability is treated just like any other asset or liability of the marriage.

Filing income taxes incorrectly during a divorce proceeding can result in costly litigation and additional accountant’s fees to amend returns, which could result in any refund being quickly depleted. The best course is to have an initial conversation with both your attorney and accountant before filing so that the optimal path is chosen.

Digital Assets and Your Estate Plan

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In the absence of the ability to make the designation directly with the online account provider, Illinois now has a law that allows an individual to make the designation in his or her estate plan.

In today’s digital age, many of us have more online accounts than we can keep track of. The internet has undeniably made everything we do easier, quicker, and (mostly) cheaper. It’s no wonder our society has moved more towards managing our personal, business, and financial lives through a myriad of online accounts. These online accounts as well as any other electronic record in which a person has a right or interest comprise a person’s digital assets. And just like any other asset, these assets need to be accessed by an agent or personal representative in the event of the account owner’s disability or death.

How Access is Granted

Some online accounts will allow the owner to grant permission to another individual to access the account at the owner’s death for purposes of maintaining, updating, and/or closing the account. For example, Facebook has recently added a “Legacy Contact” for this precise purpose. Any designation directly made through the account administrator will trump any other designations made in an account owner’s estate plan.

In the absence of the ability to make the designation directly with the online account provider, Illinois now has a law that allows an individual to make the designation in his or her estate plan. The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, effective August 2016, covers the procedures and requirements for guardians, executors, agents, and trustees to access digital assets of disabled or deceased individuals.

An individual who is living but incapacitated can be assured that their online accounts will continue to be managed by having a power of attorney in place that appoints an agent to do so. If a guardian is appointed for a disabled person, that guardian is also granted access under the Act. Once a person dies, their Will or Trust will control who can access their online accounts.

Limiting Access

There may be reasons why a person may not want to grant full access to their accounts. For instance, if there are confidential communications due to a statutory or other privilege (such as attorney-client emails) or other sensitive information or photographs, a person can limit access by providing those limitations in the power of attorney, will or trust document. It’s also possible to name a separate trustee or executor just to deal with the digital assets if the initial fiduciary is not someone that you want accessing all of your digital assets.

Effectuating Digital Asset Access

Speaking with an estate planning attorney about the best way to plan for your digital assets is a great way to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of disability or death. Another key step is to make sure there is a list of digital assets kept with or near your estate plan. The information should include account names, logins and passwords, and answers to security questions. The list should also identify all computers, laptops, tablets, telephones, and other electronic devices and the requisite passwords to access same. Without this roadmap, there will inevitably be missed accounts or an inordinate amount of time spent tracking down accounts.

To hear more about Digital Asset planning and other estate planning topics relevant to today’s modern family, join Jennifer Guimond-Quigley on October 13, 2016 at Bennett Day School (Chicago Flagship campus) for an informative presentation in conjunction with Jessica Merino with Merino Wealth Management. Click here for event details.

More predictability for Maintenance Awards in Illinois starting January 1, 2015

Despite the new guidelines, a Judge may deviate from the payment amount and/or duration of the payments if he or she finds that there are compelling reasons to do so and makes specific findings regarding that deviation.
Despite the new guidelines, a Judge may deviate from the payment amount and/or duration of the payments if he or she finds that there are compelling reasons to do so and makes specific findings regarding that deviation.

There is a significant change to maintenance awards (formerly known as alimony) effective January 1, 2015 under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”).   Under the old statute, Judges were given very broad discretion to decide a maintenance award after weighing several factors.  The problem with the old statute was that a maintenance recipient with the same set of factors could be given a vastly different maintenance award among different Judges within the same courthouse and on a broader scale, between state counties.  The changes to the maintenance statute include new objective calculations to determine a maintenance amount and duration, thus giving both parties more predictability and hopefully ensuring more consistency among Judges and Counties.

The new law involves a two-step process. First, the court determines whether maintenance is appropriate, based on factors including but not limited to the length of the marriage, the employment and employability of the parties, and the financial needs of the parties.   Next, once the court determines that maintenance is appropriate, so long as the combined gross income of the parties is below $250,000 and no multiple family situation exists, it applies the guidelines to calculate a monthly payment amount, with a fixed term of years for the payments which is dependent on the length of the marriage.

In guideline maintenance cases under the new law, the math starts with taking the difference of 30% of the payor’s gross income and 20% of the payee’s gross income.  This is the maintenance award (with a built-in cap that allows the payee spouse to receive in total no more than 40% of the parties’ combined gross incomes).   To determine the length of the award, a multiplier is used taking into account the length of the marriage.  For marriages 20 years and more, the length of the maintenance could be the length of the marriage or it could be permanent.

Despite the new guidelines, a Judge may deviate from the payment amount and/or duration of the payments if he or she finds that there are compelling reasons to do so and makes specific findings regarding that deviation. 

Another unique change to the maintenance statute is that for marriages of less than 10 years, the court may now designate the termination date as a “permanent termination,” rather than allow the payee spouse to ask for additional maintenance at the end of the term, which appears to be implied for marriages which are greater than 10 years in length.[i]

The new maintenance rules should make it easier for divorcing parties to calculate maintenance awards in advance, and with that anticipated certainty, it may be easier to settle more divorce cases with less litigation, saving clients time and money.   In Illinois, maintenance can be awarded on a temporary basis at the beginning of a family law matter as well as at the conclusion of the case and may be reviewable at a set date or upon a substantial change of circumstances among the parties involved.

As a family law practitioner, one of the biggest issues with divorce cases involving a potential maintenance award is being able to predict what the outcome may be for the client.  The new statute and guidelines do offer more objective criteria so that is appealing.   However, the rigidity in the duration of the award can be concerning as I do not believe it provides incentive for the payee spouse to seek and obtain employment and become self-sufficient, which in many cases are the main goals of a maintenance award.   If the spouse knows that he or she is getting a fixed amount regardless of whether he or she goes back to work, then I can see situations where there will instead be a disincentive to make those efforts at becoming self-supporting.  Only time will tell whether the positive aspects of these changes outweigh the negative ones.

To learn more about Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley and the family law services Jennifer provides, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Jennifer frequently shares resources and tips for Chicago area families experiencing a variety of family-related concerns.

[i] 750 ILCS 5/504 (b-4.5) effective Jan 1, 2015.

REMOVING CHILDREN FROM THE STATE IN PARENTAGE AND DIVORCE CASES

When parents residing in Illinois disagree on one parenting moving out of state with the child(ren), the parent wishing to move must seek approval from an Illinois court.
When parents residing in Illinois disagree on one parenting moving out of state with the child(ren), the parent wishing to move must seek approval from an Illinois court.

Few people dispute that it is in the best interest of children to have both fit parents actively involved in their lives.  In an ideal world, that would involve co-parenting and parents sharing time and opportunities to be a consistent and supportive presence in their children’s lives.  Sometimes, however, situations arise for one of the parents that can lead to a change in the parenting arrangement.   A parent can be offered an opportunity to move out of state for employment or to accompany a new spouse for a new job or job reassignment.

When parents residing in Illinois disagree on one parenting moving out of state with the child(ren), the parent wishing to move must seek approval from an Illinois court.

In some cases, a mediator may help the parents find a solution that works for everyone.   However, the reality is that the parent remaining in Illinois will usually be left with much less parenting time or exercising parenting time will become much more costly and for these reasons, parents usually come to an impasse on the subject of removal.  If litigated, a judge will consider the totality of the situation, including but not limited to the age of children involved, their preference (if of sufficient age), the opportunities for the parent in the new state, the opportunities for the child(ren) in the new state, the effect on the current parenting schedule, the financial impact travel will have on the noncustodial parent, the presence of extended family in the new state, and any other factor that the Court determines is relevant to the best interest of the child.   The burden of proof that the move is in the best interest on the child(ren) is on the party wishing to move.

Illinois provides statutory guidelines for removal cases and case law has provided additional clarification in interpreting the statute.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) states in pertinent part as follows:

“The court may grant leave, before or after judgment, to any party having custody of any minor child or children to remove such child or children from Illinois whenever such approval is in the best interests of such child or children. The burden of proving that such removal is in the best interests of such child or children is on the party seeking the removal. When such removal is permitted, the court may require the party removing such child or children from Illinois to give reasonable security guaranteeing the return of such children.” 750 ILCS 5/609(a)

The factors the court will consider in deciding permanent removal cases are as follows[i]:

  • The likelihood for enhancing the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and the children;
  • The motives of the custodial parent in seeking the move to determine whether the removal is merely a ruse intended to defeat or frustrate visitation;
  • The motives of the noncustodial parent in resisting the removal;
  • The best interests of a child to have a healthy and close relationship with both parents, as well as other family members; and
  • Whether a realistic and reasonable visitation schedule can be reached if the move is allowed.

For more information about temporary or permanent requests to modify a parenting agreement to allow for the removal of a child from Illinois, please contact Jennifer Guimond-Quigley.

To learn more, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites.

[i] In re Marriage of Eckert, 518 NE 2d 1041, 119 Ill. 2d 316 (1988)

Illinois women are protected by a new law: The Pregnancy Accommodation Act

The Illinois Human Rights Act will cover pregnant women and those who recently gave birth.
The Illinois Human Rights Act will cover pregnant women and those who recently gave birth.

Many challenges face women who are pregnant or recently gave birth.  I know from firsthand experience that the stress and anticipation of a pregnancy and new baby are compelling.  The last thing an expecting or new mother needs is a workplace or state that fails to recognize and accommodate their unique needs.  Illinois became a state that requires employers to observe the needs and requests of mothers when Governor Quinn signed into law, the Pregnancy Accommodation Act, (HB0008) also known as “The Pregnancy Fairness Bill” this August 25, 2014.

The Illinois Human Rights Act covers pregnant women and those who recently gave birth.

The new law amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to include pregnancy as a protected class for purposes of safeguarding current and recently pregnant women from unlawful discrimination by employers. Under the new law, pregnancy is added to the list of protected class designations including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, order of protection status, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, sexual orientation and unfavorable discharge from military service.

The Pregnancy Fairness Bill established a process through which expecting or recently delivering mothers may request special accommodations. This is different from the federal law that prevents employers from treating pregnant employees differently, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978; “Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color , religion, sex, or national origin…amended  to include ‘because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions’.[i]

Women who make a request for accommodations have new protections under the new law.

The federal law, while protecting women from being hired, fired, or discriminated against, does not address any special accommodations for the health and wellness of a pregnant mother. The Pregnancy Accommodation Act, a state law, protects Illinois women who make a request for pregnancy accommodations in accordance with Illinois law. The new law protects women who are pregnant or recently gave birth as follows[ii]:

  1. Failing to make requested reasonable accommodations that pose no undue hardship to the employer;
  2. Denying employment to pregnant applicants;
  3. Taking adverse action based on the need to create reasonable accommodations;
  4. Forcing pregnant women to accept unrequested accommodations;
  5. Forcing leave if reasonable accommodations can be provided for; and
  6. Failing to reinstate the employee to an original or equivalent position, pay, seniority, and benefits.

Many childbearing aged women in Illinois and their families should benefit from the new law.

The number of women making up the Illinois workforce is significant. Many of the jobs requiring standing, lifting and movement generally (such as sales, food service and delivery) will hopefully now be safer for women who are expecting and raising newborn children.   Additionally, women who take leave to care for their newborns will hopefully worry less about their jobs being gone when they are ready to come back to work.   Lastly, women who choose to breastfeed should expect that reasonable accommodations will be made for them to pump or otherwise express breastmilk while at work.  These changes are not difficult and the vast majority of employers see the utility in making these accommodations and do so voluntarily.    Too often, however, I hear stories from mothers of the small percentage of them that don’t and now there will be some identifiable recourse for those individuals.

Jennifer Guimond-Quigley is an attorney and most importantly, a mom.  Jennifer is passionate about empowering the community by communicating about legislation that affects and benefits families.  To learn more, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites.

[i] Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)(K).

[ii] Illinois HB0008, Illinois Pregnancy Accommodation Act – proposed in 98th General Assembly