A father has a significant role in a child’s life. It’s vital that dads have as much parenting time as they can with their kids because the kids need them. Beermann Divorce and Family Law Partners, Morgan L. Stogsdill and Heather J. Rosen, talk about the rights of a father after a divorce. Morgan and Heather share the importance of doing things preemptively to help a father navigate the divorce process and post-dissolution to protect his rights as a father. For Morgan and Heather, creating an arrangement that works is a must for children to maximize the time that they see both their parents.
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Our CMO, Sandra Napoli-D’Arco, asks questions that get the attorneys talking about everything they know and have experienced throughout their years of being divorce lawyers.
Morgan: I’m Morgan Stogsdill. I’m a partner at Beermann. I grew up in the Western Suburbs. I’m a product of divorce and actually unique divorce where my parents, although they had differences, were able to navigate it well and still remain friendly now. I’m a mother living downtown with my family. All of these play into my background and why I became a divorce lawyer. I have a unique perspective on how to help people going forward.
Heather: I’m Heather Rosen and I grew up in the Northwest Suburbs. I went to Stevenson High School, which is a large high school in Lincolnshire, Illinois. I then went off to Penn State and did my undergraduate degree there and then came back home for law school. I also reside here in Chicago with my husband and our two daughters. I also have divorced parents. A little bit opposite of Morgan because my parents didn’t go through such an amicable process, but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay and that the kids will end up okay so long as both parents are respectful to one another and to the process. It’s good to be here.
Let’s jump right into it because working dads are reading this and want to know what this means to them and their children. I’ve heard that laws are more favorable to women. Is that true?
Morgan: I think that was a stigma a while ago. It has been changing over the years, which is favorable to fathers. There’s a big movement for fathers and more time and that movement hasn’t completely been set in stone yet but people are taking notice. Judges are taking notice. I don’t think it’s accurate and fair to say that mothers, just because they’re a mother, automatically obtain more time with the children than the father.
If a father gets more time with the children, do they pay less to the mother?No court or judge is going to punish a dad for wanting to be a better dad. Click To Tweet
Heather: It used to be that no, they didn’t. We used to have laws in Illinois that a father would pay, assuming that the father was the non-primary parent. If he was the payor, he would pay based on a percentage of his net income, whatever that might have been. After July 1st, 2017 I believe, the laws have changed in that we look at both parenting time and the income that the non-primary parent earns in terms of determining what the child support award is. The quick answer to your question is if a father has more time, then they will pay less but the threshold for doing so is 40% of the overnight. If the dad has more or less than 40% of the overnights, he will either pay under one calculation or he’ll pay under another calculation. You see much lower child support awards if the dad has more time.
Morgan: I’ll follow up with what Heather said. The law has been changed significantly from what we all used to know and the bottom line is that sometimes the child support calculation is so low. I think you would agree with me that it’s so low that it doesn’t make sense. You cannot support a child with the child support calculation is coming out at. Either payor or payee has the ability to say this is above guideline, meaning we should go and increase the support or this is way too much support. It’s something that to keep in mind that if it comes out too low, it could be higher, depending on a judge’s recommendation or determination or vice versa.
When we talk about high or low, what exactly does that mean?
Morgan: It means essentially does the amount of child support, support the child within the legislature’s intent? Does it support the child in living expenses, their personal expenses? Child support is to mean somewhat of the housing expenses and transportation expenses. If it’s way too low to meet those expenses, there may be an argument to say we may need to look above the guideline of child support to make sure that the child is okay.
Heather: Back to the initial question I think that you had asked us which was does the amount of time that a father has with his children affect the child support? If you look at the statute, and I think what Morgan was trying to explain is that the court has discretion. Of course, the court has discretion in awarding more child support or less child support. Just the plain language of our statute is that if the father has more than 40% of the overnight parenting time, he will in fact pay less child support.
If dad traditionally has not been involved 100% because mom took on a greater role in the parental responsibilities, but now that the parents are divorcing, he wants more time. He wants to spend overnights with the kids, he wants to have dinner with the kids but he hasn’t done that in the past. How does he boost his time? How does he prove to the court that indeed he is entitled to this?
Morgan: I think there are a few things that he could try to start doing maybe that they haven’t done in the past. The number one is making doctor’s appointments of the children. If historically dad hasn’t been going because maybe he’s working or busy with his job, he should trsy to make those a priority. Making activities after work, doing things with the child or children that maybe he has not been able to do in the past. Taking them places that academically help them or even just fun places that maybe mom always did that, so he let mom do it but now it’s time to step up a little more and show that he can handle more time with the children.
Heather: I would add that. The court does consider the period of time, the two years before the divorce in terms of who did these primary caretaking responsibilities and who did take the kids to the doctor and who did make these decisions and what time each parent spent with the children. The court also knows that once the family is divided and once the mom and the dad are in different households, the dad’s going to get parenting time. Even if dad was the type of father that went to work and came home and maybe he did bedtime routine or something of that sort, he’s still going to be entitled to overnight parenting time and to take the kids to school and to do these things just because he didn’t always do them on a regular basis. The judge understands and the court should understand that the family dynamic is going to be different going forward and we’re going to have to allot the father, the opportunity at least to step up and to do these types of everyday, maybe traditional mom-type roles and jobs.
Morgan: That’s the thing that we would advocate for. I don’t think any court or judge is going to punish a dad for wanting to be a better dad. What they would punish is a dad saying, “I do want to be a better dad. Give me the time and then I’m not going to take it or not going to come through.” That’s what’s not looked at favorably. If a dad truly wants to step up and be a better dad than maybe he was able to be before, everyone is going to give the congratulations to that and give the green light. That is wonderful because that’s in the kids’ best interests.
Let’s take a step back because for the dads that are reading and saying, “I definitely want to make a concerted effort to be with my children 50% of the time, but the fact of the matter is dad travels. He may be traveling three or four times a month. How does the court look at that? He is making that effort and he wants to be involved as much as he possibly can. How does the court look at those situations and does it hinder his ability to get a 50/50 schedule?
Heather: If dad’s not physically present, then a judge is not going to have that many options in terms of what to do because if dad’s not there, then mom should be the one that is first responsible for the children before a caregiver of some sort. On the other hand, in this day and age, the court and the judges and even us as attorneys, we get creative in making sure that whatever the family dynamic is, mom travels, dad travels, we’re able to create an arrangement that works so that the children can maximize the time that they see both their parents.
Morgan: One thing that we want to make sure too, and Heather and I do this on a daily basis, is to make sure that the children maintain a stable schedule. For instance, if dad’s schedule is, “I travel Monday and Tuesday every week four weeks in a month,” then we’ll work around it. If that schedule is, “I have four nights, and I don’t know my schedule until maybe a month before or the week before,” that’s where you have to get a little bit even more creative with provisions and things like that to make sure are the kids living a stable life with this parenting schedule?
Let’s talk about stay-at-home moms because of dad’s schedule or because it worked for the best interest of their family. Mom was a stay-at-home mom and dad was the financial provider. They’re getting divorced and dad legitimately wants 50% of the time, wants to pay 50%. Dad wants to still provide for his children, but he may not necessarily think he needs to provide for his wife. How does the court look at that type of situation?
Heather: First and foremost, I would say that the earlier that the dad or the father or the payor, the person that’s going to be supporting the family, can come to see Morgan or myself, the better. There are a lot of things that we can do pre-emptively in these types of cases to help a father navigate the divorce process and post-dissolution before it even begins. If you wait too long in these proceedings to see an attorney, then you’re going to set yourself up for failure. I would say the first thing to do would be to come to talk to Morgan or myself. In terms of the court and a judge, there are realities here and if dad was always out of the home working and mom was always in the home working, and depending on the age of the children of course, if mom’s alleging she’s a stay-at-home mom and you have two children who are almost off to college, then the judge might say, “You need to go get a job, mom.”A father is a very important role in a kid's life. Click To Tweet
If you still have young kids at home and dad was the one that was the breadwinner and mom was historically a stay-at-home mom, then for everyone’s best interest, it’s probably going to continue on some facet as it had been. There are definitely certain ways that we can divorce plan and help these dads, fathers, men that are in situations where they think, “I’m going to lose half of everything that I have by virtue of getting a divorce.” We’re here to protect and to help and to assure that does not happen.
I’ve heard the term “Disney Dad.” What does that mean?
Morgan: Disney Dad is a term that sometimes is used in these situations where it’s a dad who hasn’t been super involved and then all of a sudden, the divorce proceeding starts and dad wants 50% or 100% of the time because they think they can handle it. When they get time, what do they do? Disney Dad takes them to Disney World. That’s an extreme situation but it’s all fun. Dad gets time on the weekends. What does he do? He runs from museum to museum to play place to play place, and so the child is having a great time but there’s really no structure. There’s no real homework. That’s a Disney Dad. That’s what people are talking about.
Heather: Everybody wants a Disney Dad, but are they really making the decisions? Should they have all that parenting time if they’re not getting the homework done? These are the types of things that we need to consider when you have a Disney Dad or a Disney Mom.
I was just going to say that. It can work both ways.
Morgan: Following up with what Heather said, if you come to us early enough and we’ve talked to you, we’re going to hear those kinds of things coming out of the client’s work performance and say, “If we go forward, this is what would come out and people would say about you. Let’s try to work backwards and figure out a way when we need this. We won’t have to have it in court and mediation with your ex.” We can help our clients come up with a plan before we even enter into the divorce.
Let’s talk about that. You mentioned that a couple of times. How can the dad best plan for his divorce?
Heather: It’s a broad question because there are financials and then there are parenting issues, then there’s everything in between. First and foremost, we need to make sure that we can get a balance sheet together, determine exactly what it is that’s at stake when we’re talking about the financials. We’re able to know these are the accounts that we have to divide, this is the amount of money that we have in the household. This is historically who was making the money and now we have the parenting issues. We can ask dad to put together a schedule. What did your calendar look like as a house for the 30 days or the 45 days or the 60 days preceding you even coming in to talk to one of us?
What was happening and how can we re-jigger that calendar to make it so that maybe it’s that you need to spend more quality time with your children and you need to be less of a Disney Dad, so that the court knows that you are fit to make these types of important decisions that you’re going to have to make on behalf of your children. That in fact if you do have your children overnight, you understand the bedtime routine, you can get them off to school on time, that you actually can do this stuff, even if you historically didn’t do it. Let’s look at what you did and let’s make it even better and then potentially down the road we can talk about the divorce.
Any other final information you’d like to provide dads as it relates to parenting time and some things that they should think about?
Morgan: Heather pretty much hit it all, but the one thing that I think we can help with is a lot of fathers are traveling for work now that we see. What we want to do is have them come in, bring their work schedule, talk to us about where the flexibility may be if any. Then let us work out different child care plans for them so that they can wrap their head around, “This is what I may be looking at in the future. This is how I can manipulate my travel schedule to make it work best for my children.” As Heather and I have discussed, children are number one. We want to make sure that they’re stable, they’re happy and they’re supported. The quicker we can talk to any dad about this and how to make that plan, the better.
Heather: I would say that a father is a very important role in a kid’s life. We value that here at Beermann. We represent many men and women. It’s important that we make sure that dads have as much parenting time as they can with their kids because the kids need them.
This has been really interesting. If you’d like to learn more about Morgan or Heather, please visit their bios at www.BeermannLaw.com. Feel free to reach out to them directly or any of the attorneys at Beermann. If you like this show, please subscribe and like us on Facebook and LinkedIn where we are constantly updating and providing divorce news. Thank you.
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About Morgan L. Stogsdill
Morgan L. Stogsdill focuses her practice primarily in the areas of Matrimonial Law and Family Law and counsels clients on the various aspects of dissolution of marriage and paternity proceedings, including child custody, support, visitation, property division, financial issues related to divorce, post-dissolution matters, prenuptial agreements and civil litigation related to orders of protection. Ms. Stogsdill focuses her practice on complex matters and counsels high profile clients that require the utmost attention and confidentiality.
Ms. Stogsdill has litigated over 45 jury trials and has settled hundreds of cases. While Ms. Stogsdill’s trial record speaks for itself, when costly litigation can be avoided, her approach to matters includes mediation to settle cases efficiently and expeditiously. Ms. Stogsdill tailors a specific strategy for each of her clients, on a case by case basis.
Ms. Stogsdill was named one of the “Most Influential Women Lawyers in Chicago” by Crains Chicago Business in 2017. In 2016, Ms. Stogsdill was selected for the prestigious award of one of the 40 Under Forty Attorneys to Watch in Illinois by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.” Click here to view the official announcement video. Additionally, she has been named a Rising Star in the area of Family Law by Super Lawyers Magazine, a designation reserved for the top 2.5% of all Illinois attorneys under 40 and named an Emerging Lawyer by Leading Lawyers, a designation given to fewer than 2% of the attorneys in Illinois. She has also been featured in Chicago Lawyer, “Lawyers with Style.” In 2006-2007, the Jury Verdict Reporter listed and published Morgan L. Stogsdill as an individual attorney who had the third most jury verdicts or jury trials in all of Cook County, including, Chicago, IL.
Ms. Stogsdill has been a guest lecturer on many issues related to Family Law and she has written articles on the topic of family law that have been featured in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. In 2018, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin featured an article written by Ms. Stogsdill titled “Has Domestic Relations Gone to the Dogs?” and in 2015, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin featured an article written by Ms. Stogsdill titled “Parental Alienation- the new elephant in the courtroom during child custody cases.”
Ms. Stogsdill has served on the Auxiliary Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Illinois Eye Bank and was a mentor for the program, Metro for Girls. Currently, Ms. Stogsdill is donating her time giving back to at-risk children by serving as a board member of the Lawyers Lend a Hand to Youth organization. In 2018 & 2017, Ms. Stogsdill co-chaired the awards dinner for the entire organization at the Four Seasons Hotel. The event brought in thousands of dollars to the charity, which directly benefits at-risk children.
About Heather J. Rosen
Heather J. Rosen focuses her practice in the area of Family Law. Ms. Rosen handles all types of cases from non-contested divorces to complicated high-profile disputes involving multi-million dollar estates. Ms. Rosen is capable of assisting clients on all types of family law issues including, but not limited to, pre-nuptial agreements, divorce or dissolution, paternity proceedings, child custody proceedings, parenting time, support, property division, financial issues related to divorce, retirement division, enforcement and post-divorce talk.
Ms. Rosen has been practicing in the area of Family Law since graduating from law school and is experienced in the field. Ms. Rosen’s superb communication skills allow her to connect effectively with both her clients and opposing attorneys. Ms. Rosen is compassionate and patient while also tough and capable. Ms. Rosen is a trained litigator and is in the courtroom daily but her primary focus is on settling disputes outside of court.
Ms. Rosen has been named a Rising Star in the area of Family Law by Super Lawyers Magazine, a designation reserved for the top 2.5% of all Illinois attorneys under 40, and named an Emerging Lawyer by Leading Lawyers, a designation given to fewer than 2% of the attorneys in Illinois.
Ms. Rosen received her Juris Doctorate from Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she was named to the dean’s honor list. Ms. Rosen received her Bachelor Degree from The Pennsylvania State University where she became a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society.
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