Life Insurance and Child Support
For litigants in divorce and paternity proceedings where child support is a consideration, life insurance should also be an important consideration. In the event a parent who is contributing support passes away before his/her obligations of child support and college contributions conclude, life insurance proceeds can continue to provide for the financial support of the children. Life insurance beneficiary designations, as well as such designations on other assets such as financial instruments and retirement accounts, may need modification to best protect the asset(s) for the benefit of the children. Many parents consider designating their children as beneficiaries instead of their ex-spouse, other parent or relative. Doing so more effectively assures the proceeds are allocated for the intended recipients. If minors are designated as beneficiaries, a custodian will be required to oversee the proceeds until the time the children are emancipated. Such a designation is regularly accomplished through insurance company forms. The custodian receives the proceeds from the life insurance policy upon the death of the insured, but the custodian has a legal duty to use the funds for the only the welfare of the beneficiaries. A trust is another estate planning option. If utilized, the trust can be designated as the beneficiary of the life insurance, and the terms of the trust can provide how the proceeds are to be distributed for the benefit of designated survivors. Consultations with experienced divorce and estate planning attorneys can offer the best direction for each person’s particular circumstances.
Once a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed, the responding party must be made a party to the proceedings in order for the Court to obtain jurisdiction over that party. Jurisdiction is the authority of the Court to hear and render decisions in a pending case. If the responding party, or an attorney on his or her behalf, does not voluntarily file an appearance in the case, the usual practice is for the petitioning party to have a Summons issued by the Clerk of the Court where the divorce is pending and to place the Petition for Dissolution and Summons for service with the sheriff’s department in the county where the responding party resides or with a private process server. If service of process is accomplished on an out-of-state resident, additional requirements must be met.
When the responding party receives valid personal service, the Court obtains both: 1) the authority to adjudicate the status of matters, for instance: dissolving the marriage, adjudicating allocation of parental responsibilities (parenting time, parental decision-making authority), and assigning interests to property assets located in Illinois (characterized as in rem jurisdiction), as well as, 2) the authority to enter orders regarding the conduct of the parties, for instance: the payment of child support or maintenance, and the allocation of attorney fees and marital debt (characterized as in personam jurisdiction).
If a spouse cannot be located after diligent inquiry, rendering personal service unattainable, upon motion to the Court, service by publication of a notice of the proceedings in the local newspaper where the case is pending may offer an alternative means of service, although, service by such means only confers in rem jurisdiction, such that matters requiring in personam jurisdiction must be reserved until the responding party is either personally served or agrees to file an appearance with the Court.
Parenting Class and Education Programs
Illinois Supreme Court Rules require that each county or circuit court establish an approved parenting education program. Such programs encourage parents to develop ways to relate to each other that keep their children out of conflict, motivate parents to focus on the best interests of their children, and emphasize the need for parents to set aside personal differences in order to provide the healthiest environment possible for their children.
Such programs are generally four hours in length and cover the subjects of parenting time, allocation of parental responsibilities and the impact of divorce and separation on children. Attendance and completion of such programs is mandatory for all parents of minor children who are participating in divorce or paternity cases, unless the requirement is excused by the court for good cause shown. Such programs generally should be completed as soon as possible after commencement of the court case, but not later than sixty days after an initial case management conference, which conference generally takes place about ninety days into the proceeding.
Some counties offer programs that are available online as well in person seminars, and most programs cost in the range of $50.00-$100.00 per parent, although reduced costs are available in some cases, especially to litigants with limited resources. Parents are encouraged to attend different sessions. Courts may impose sanctions on any party willfully failing to complete the parent education program approved in that county, including findings of contempt, and in some cases, denial of parenting time