Being a mother is already hard enough. A working mother going through divorce makes motherhood so much harder, especially when the working mother’s rights are not explained well. Beermann Divorce and Family Law Partners, Morgan L. Stogsdill and Heather J. Rosen, go over the rights of a working mother and the right things to be done to protect a working mom. Considering how being a working mom affects a mom’s parenting time in a divorce, Morgan and Heather advise their clients not to change anything and just find a way to work around their schedule and what was working for their family. They also take up how maintenance and child support come into play into the process.
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Rights Of The Working Mother
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.
We are here with divorce and family law partners Morgan Stogsdill and Heather Rosen. We are talking about the rights of the working mother. It’s a very interesting topic. I can’t wait to jump right into it. Before we do that, Morgan and Heather will tell us a little bit about themselves. Morgan?
Morgan: Thanks, Sandra. I grew up in the Western suburbs of Chicago. I’ve been at this firm for several years and most importantly I’m a mother, so I think it’s poignant for our discussion. I’ve been dealing with a lot of mothers lately who have a lot of questions.
Heather: Thanks for having me. I’m Heather Rosen. I grew up in the Northwest suburbs, in Lincolnshire. I went to Stevenson High School and I did my undergraduate degree at Penn State and then I went on to law school at Chicago-Kent, which is here in Chicago. I’m also a working mother. I just had a baby. I have a three-and-a-half-month-old at home and I also have a two-year-old. I’m excited to be here and talk about these very important issues.
Let’s start with how being a working mom affects a mom’s parenting time in a divorce.
Morgan: To start out, what the court will do is they will want to know exactly what we’ve been doing before you started this divorce. I always say to any client, “Don’t change anything. Whatever was working for you before should work for you now. We need to work around your schedule and what was working for your family.” I get a lot of people that come in the door and they’re freaked out about the divorce and they want to change up their work schedule. They want to change up their travel schedule. Maybe some tweaks will work, but overall, we should keep it status quo.
When you say they want to change things, is that because they want more parenting time and they feel if they cut back at work that they’ll be able to have more time with their children?
Morgan: Potentially or they think if they change their schedule, then that would give them more time in the future and that’s what they’re really concerned about.Just because you're the mother doesn't mean that you necessarily get to stay home and be a stay-at-home mom. Click To Tweet
What about maintenance, Heather?
Heather: Here in Illinois, under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which is the statute that governs divorce cases, maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is determined based on both party’s incomes. A working mom has an income and her income will play a part in what she does receive at the end of the day. If she’s earning money, then she probably is going to require less money from the other spouse. What worked during the marriage is probably going to continue to work post-dissolution. Certainly, the statute section 504 does take into account both parties incomes when determining what she might be entitled to.
If I understand you correctly, the law looks at it, and it’s pretty black and white depending on what you make and what your spouse makes?
Heather: Yes. It depends on the total household income and whether or not the family actually falls within the purview of the statute, depending on whether the court has more or less discretion in awarding maintenance and how much maintenance. Certainly, both numbers do come into play. The wife and the husband’s numbers in terms of how much they’re earning will determine how much she or he might be entitled to.
What about child support? Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Heather: It’s the same thing. In Illinois, it was July 1st of 2017, we changed our child support laws. We used to be a straight percentage state, which means that the payee, the person that was owed support, was paid based on a percentage of the payor’s income, which would be the person that was paid. We’ve revamped our laws here in Illinois and we do what’s called an income share, which means that both party’s incomes are taken into consideration. It will be determined what, if anything, somebody might be entitled to for child support. It takes into consideration all the financials and also parenting time. Parenting time plays a direct effect on how much somebody might receive and support. If the non-primary parent had more than 40% of the overnight parenting time, they’re going to pay less money in child support than if they had less than 40% of the overnight parenting time.
How can the system fail working moms?
Morgan: In my opinion, the system can fail working moms when a mother is working at a part-time job that maybe isn’t making enough money to justify that job or they are working at a full-time job where the money is not enough to justify. Specifically, if you think about a working mom and let’s talk about in the Chicago land area. The costs of raising children are very high. If you’re working at a part-time job or even a full-time job where you’re not making enough money to justify the childcare costs, let’s talk about your schooling cost, maybe a nanny, a babysitter or caretakers in general. It may not even out so it may not make sense for the mom to be working because essentially every dollar that she may be making may be going towards this childcare.
Let’s talk hypothetically here, does it make sense for the mom to work or not to work if she hasn’t done so in the past?
Morgan: I think it’s always case-dependent, always fact-dependent. One of the concerns that moms have and it’s a valid concern if there’s been a mom who’s been out of the workforce for some time, it may be difficult for her to get back into the workforce. That’s a consideration. Another consideration is if they’re working part-time and not making much money, is it because they’re trying to keep their foot in the door for potentially post-divorce to get maybe that full-time job. If they leave their part-time job or they’re out of the workforce and they’re no longer relevant. Their skills have been diminished. These are all factors that when a client comes to us, we need to delve into and we need to talk about what could happen or the next step. It’s really important that a client or potential client come in and tell us exactly everything that’s happened in their background work-wise and what they see in their future.
What could be done to protect a working mom’s rights?
Heather: I think that the best piece of advice, as a working mom myself, that I have for another working mom is to talk to a professional, i.e. a divorce attorney, as early as you possibly can. A lot of times, our clients come in and they’ve already changed their employment or they’re in the process of making a change. We, as experts in our field, are able to guide them into what decisions might be best and what decisions might be worst for a divorce case that is going to commence. We certainly don’t want somebody who had a good job to leave their job thinking that that’s going to give them the upper hand in these proceedings. Oftentimes the court might say, “You were working at this rate and you have the ability to do that, so you should go back and find another job.” Just because you’re the mother, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily get to stay home and be a stay-at-home mom. If that’s not what you did and that’s not the status quo of your family, then the court’s not going to consider that to be a fair resolution in your case.
If both mom and dad have jobs that require lots of traveling, how does this play into the process?
Morgan: Lots of traveling requires more logistics. It required it before a divorce and after a divorce. A lot of times, what we do is we build-in what’s called the right of first refusal. Let’s say dad is working and he’s traveling and not going to be home overnight with the children. He would call mom and offer the children to them or to mom before getting a babysitter, calling his parents or whatever. The one thing I do want to clarify is that every family is so different and Heather and I are not here advocating that moms get more rights because they’re moms, or dads get more rights because they’re dads. It is so fact-dependent. We are not pro-mom or pro-dad one way or the other. The unique thing that’s happened in the last several years is that we see a lot more moms going back into the workforce or a lot more moms being working moms. The dynamics have shifted slightly. Now we have a lot of families that have two people that are working and trying to juggle children. The working mom subject has become more relevant in the last few years.The unique thing that's happened in the last several years is that we see a lot more moms going back into the workforce. Click To Tweet
I think as three working moms and you could agree or disagree, but in my household the mom picks up a lot of the softer responsibilities, the logistical planning of who’s driving who and scheduling, and things that don’t cost money but cost time. If a couple is going through a divorce, and mom traditionally did all of that, I’m sure she’s not going to be happy to continue to do that after a divorce. How does that play into the divorce? How do judges see that?
Morgan: Are you talking about the household secretary?
Yeah, the house manager.
Morgan: What would happen if that person left? The whole house would implode. I’ll let Heather answer that.
Heather: I think that’s interesting because in my personal opinion and also in my professional opinion, that’s the part of the working mom that doesn’t necessarily get seen by the court and by the judge as often as it should. It’s not the tangibles of a mom who’s a working mom. It’s the intangible things that we do on a day-to-day basis that aren’t necessarily quantifiable that get put aside when you’re trying to determine what should the parenting schedule be or where should the child live? In my opinion, it’s a really important emotional aspect of caring for your child. A dad could say, “I want the children. I want to have them overnight as much as I possibly can,” but still, a lot of the stuff that falls on the mom that the dad simply didn’t do historically, that you have to determine, “Is this person going to do that on an ongoing basis?” We have to look and see, “Are the children’s needs actually going to be met at the same rate that they were met when mom was responsible for all of those little things that add up to big things in the household?”
Morgan: To dovetail on that, sometimes what we do is we divide up these responsibilities going forward and sometimes it works. Other times we know, depending on the parties, it’s not going to work whether it is moms scheduling or dads scheduling. Someone just doesn’t have the capacity to handle it. We’d have to figure out what’s best for the kids. Does it mean potentially in some cases that mom has to, for lack of a better term, suck it up and continue the scheduling so that the child doesn’t suffer? Potentially, those are all issues that we hear and we want to work through because it makes the transition from married to divorce for the children that much better and the children are our number one focus here.
Anything else that you think would be important for moms to know?
Heather: We’re here. We understand in more ways than one. We understand what we do professionally, but we also understand how hard these things are really because we do it ourselves. We wake up every day. We have to get kids ready for daycare and for school. We also come to work and we work our asses off at work and then we’d go home and we take care of our house. We understand all aspects of how that is and we’re here to help answer questions and do whatever we can.
Morgan: In my opinion, the working mom has a lot of duties and that’s not lost on us. We don’t just talk about, “What the future look likes with child-related parenting time?” We actually delve deeper and say, “How does it work with scheduling? How does it work with parenting time? Who’s making the appointments for the children and who are going to those appointments?” We really want to know everything so that we see your big picture and help you navigate forward.
Thank you. This has been really interesting and hopefully very insightful for everyone who’s reading. If you’d like to learn more about Heather and Morgan, please go onto our website www.BeermannLaw.com. Please also follow us and like us on Facebook and LinkedIn. Thank you.
Heather: Thank you very much.
Morgan: Thanks for having us.
- Morgan Stogsdill
- Heather Rosen
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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.
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.
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