Recognizing that engagements with family law often find people at their most vulnerable, our firm offers a compassionate environment from which to navigate the issues at hand. Our clear goals: protecting parents’ relationships with their children and ensuring the financial security of our clients.

Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona has helped men and women navigate this difficult territory for many years and over the course of many successful resolutions, so we intimately understand the key role of communication in minimizing expensive, unnecessary litigation. We support our clients in these communications, assisting them to make the personal decisions that should be made by parents–not an impartial judge who’s unfamiliar with the intricacies of the family’s relationships. We recognize that traditional custody arrangements are not always appropriate; that parenting agreements–much like parenting itself–necessitate creativity and flexibility.

When communication fails, however, our firm is exceptionally prepared to litigate our clients’ positions. Our clients conclude their transition with the financial support necessary to create new lives.

Our core team is eminently experienced in family law. Five of our lawyers serve to represent family law clients. Three of our lawyers are certified in collaborative divorce. The head of our Family Law Department–Lynn Weisberg–is on a court-approved list of child’s representatives, frequently appointed by judges to represent the interests of children in cases involving contentious custody and parenting time litigation. She is also judge-appointed as a guardian ad litum.

Our family law clients come from a full range of backgrounds: multi-millionaire business owners; salaried employees; stay-at-home parents; hourly wage earners. Wide-ranging circumstances require wide-ranging services, so our family law lawyers work with highly competent real estate appraisers and brokers, actuaries, financial planners, psychiatrists and psychologists, and mediators in order to meet our clients’ needs both in and out of the courtroom. Our attorneys have more than a collective century of legal experience helping affluent couples value and divide business interests and complex financial investments when marriages end.

If you are facing a difficult transition in family structure, we invite you to review the Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona blog, where we offer a look at our most recent successes. Contact Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona for a free case consultation.

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Since our establishment in 1992, Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona has brought a sophisticated, well-knit mosaic of expertise to bear in several practice areas. We are aggressive, ethical advisers who get things done.

To arrange a consultation with one of our experienced and knowledgeable staff, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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Explore our focus areas within our family law practice.

DIVORCE

VISITATION, PARENTING TIME, & COMPLICATED CHILD CUSTODY

CHILD SUPPORT, ALLOCATION OF PARENTAL DUTIES & CHILD EXPENSES

ALIMONY/MAINTENANCE

PROPERTY DIVISION

ASSISTANCE IN RESOLVING LEGAL ISSUES BEFORE DIVORCE & POST-NUPTUAL AGREEMENTS

ORDERS OF PROTECTION

PRE-NUPTIAL AGREEMENTS & PRE-MARITAL LEGAL COUNSELING

LEGAL SEPARATION

GUARDIANSHIP & ADOPTION

DIVORCE

While collaboration and cooperation are certainly preferable when a marriage dissolves, divorces are often adversarial. Unless you have an attorney with the experience and capacity to be your strong advocate, your interests will not be protected in this often-traumatic transition.

At Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona, our client’s best interests always come first–from divorce petitions to post-decree modifications. Over many years, our firm has developed a reputation for strong advocacy in the courtroom and at the negotiation table, never compromising simply to smooth the way. Our role is to aggressively assert our client’s claims–whether to marital property or for more time with his or her children.

We take the most active position in ensuring that the divorce award or settlement meets our client’s needs, and we adeptly unearth assets kept hidden by the other spouse.

Many clients are referred by other lawyers to Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona when it becomes clear that they need an effective strategy for a contentious divorce. We welcome these referrals and fight tirelessly for their interests.

Visitation, Parenting Time,
& Complicated Child Custody

Visitation & Parenting Time

Our family law practice at GKWW is particularly attuned to issues surrounding children. Partner Lynn Weisberg, for instance, is frequently appointed as a child representative by judges, and has undergone specialized training for this position.

Our firm attempts to facilitate mutually agreeable custody and parenting time agreements. If such an agreement cannot be reached between divorcing spouses, we will fight for the appropriate custody and parenting time arrangements for our client.

In divorce court, the judge will ultimately decide custody and parenting time issues. However, before a judge makes that decision, he or she may appoint a guardian ad litem (or a child’s representative) for the purpose of representing the interests of the child and advocating for the child in court. If the recommendation of the guardian at litem (or the child’s representative) proves inconsistent with our client’s best interests, we will seek to have a psychologist or psychiatrist conduct an evaluation and make a recommendation regarding custody and parenting time. In some cases, the mental condition or addictions of a parent may require that contact with the children should be supervised or restricted. We work exclusively with the finest professionals for these evaluations.

Complicated Child Custody

In our increasingly mobile society, parents often travel extensively–or are required by their employer to move. This complicates issues of custody and parenting time, but we are knowledgeable in the law in these areas and demonstrate exceptional skill in protecting our clients’ interests when such issues exist.

Child custody is further complicated when parents reside in different countries. We have extensive experience with such situations and know the law well.

Child Support, Allocation of Parental Duties and Child Expenses

Parents are obligated to support their children. For the custodial parent, that support comprises the responsibility to provide a home for the child and to pay everyday expenses. The non-custodial parent, then, has an obligation to pay child support to the custodial parent.

State guidelines apply in the vast majority of cases, but our firm has successfully reduced child support payments as a percentage of income for business owners and high-income parents.

College Expenses

Parents have an obligation to contribute to a child’s education–his clearest path to success. In many dissolving marriages, however, disagreements regarding post-secondary education are used as a tool by one spouse against another: for example, when one parent wants to send the child to an Ivy League school and the other favors community college.

We are adroit in facilitating resolutions of college disputes, and in presenting these disputes to judges when no agreement can be reached.

Adult Children

Increasingly, parents support adult children in transition. These children may be unable obtain work; perhaps, they are pursuing internships that will position them in better stead for the future. Although parents do not have a legal obligation to provide support for such children, we can assist in including such support in a marital settlement agreement. We can also establish trusts to provide such support.

Special Needs Children

Special needs children, of course, require us to fashion solutions to fit the particular disability–and may have a significant impact on parents’ child support obligations. Special needs trusts can be established for such children, allowing them to take advantage of public programs.

Alimony/Maintenance

The establishment of fair alimony (also known as “maintenance”) is one of tne of the key factors in determining realistic obligations and responsibilities between the spouses. When we’re engaged in these matters, we argue for the best interests of our client and carefully consider the financial needs of the parties involved. Much like child support/allocation of parental duties, there are state guidelines that apply to many situations involving maintenance. (Things have changed since the 1950’s. Maintenance is now a two-way street–and husbands can get maintenance, too.)

Property Division

Business Interests During Divorce

One of the biggest concerns of business owners when getting divorced is the impact that the divorce will have on the business. As outside general counsel to over 180 businesses, our firm is expert at addressing these issues for business owners–from dealing with the divorce’s impact upon the board of directors and the public, shareholders’ agreement provisions, transition of a spouse out of a working role with the business, etc. Our practice is to plan for all issues and handling them so that the owner or officer of the company can run the business while we minimize the personal distractions.

401(k) Plans & Retirement Investments

Retirement planning often takes a dramatic turn when a marriage dissolves, so a clearheaded review of the proper allocation of retirement funds becomes essential.

Tax implications for both current and future disbursements must be considered. (For example: a Roth IRA would likely have a higher present value than a traditional IRA.)

The variety of retirement vehicles–with many persons involved in multiple plans–adds a level of complexity that requires thorough analysis of cash flows, tax implications, timing and actuarial issues. In evaluating a marital estate, we attempt to structure asset distributions to meet our clients’ goals: such as trading current assets to preserve retirement funds, where such a goal is indicated.

Investments, Securities & Stock Valuation

If securities investment and stock option valuation is mishandled during a divorce, your portfolio (and your future) will show the scars. At GKWW, our attorneys are experienced in the division of complex securities holdings (including stocks, bonds, stock options, managed funds, hedge funds, and other investments).

After analyzing your portfolio, we’ll work with qualified financial experts to achieve your specific goals while protecting the value of your assets and optimizing the tax landscape. We are skilled at recognizing the issues surrounding stock option valuation, we will ensure that you are not shortchanged in the division of these important material assets. You can expect us to be eminently efficient and effective in the process.

Complicated Property Division

Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona offers experienced and highly skilled representation to divorce clients whose property division issues are large and complex. For such clients, asset protection, legacy desires and taxability are often the key issues.

Under Illinois law, family court judges are required to make a “just distribution” of marital assets between the spouses during the marriage. What constitutes a “just distribution” of property is left largely to the court’s discretion, subject to a list of factors that the judge is required to consider. In divorces involving couples with high net worth, family business assets or executive compensation packages, several problems must be addressed and resolved:

  • Can either spouse claim a particular asset as separate, non-marital property not subject to just distribution?

  • What is a particular asset actually worth?

  • Have both spouses fully and accurately disclosed their income and assets?

  • Does a prenuptial agreement restrict either spouse’s rights to marital property?

  • Should a particular asset–say, vested stock options held by a Section 10(b)(5) controlling person–be treated as income for maintenance and support purposes, or be regarded instead as marital property subject to division between the spouses?

The law does not provide a clear answer to all of these questions–so proper counsel proves absolutely vital. Our experience with the valuation, negotiation, and litigation of property division issue in complex divorce cases of all kinds can represent a clear advantage for our clients, both in settlement negotiations and at trial. We are always careful to consider the tax implications of any property settlement agreement.

Our ability to identify the tax consequences of our clients’ property settlements will, in many cases, maximize the size of the distribution to our clients. Whether the divorce involves the valuation of family business assets, the appraisal or liquidation of art collections or even the discovery of assets fraudulently concealed by a spouse, GKWW boasts a proven record of protecting and advancing your interests.

Secondary Homes

For many, secondary (and even tertiary) homes are not merely assets–they are emotionally important properties that have been passed from one generation to the next. Holiday homes often crystallize vital family traditions–and often become even more important after a divorce.

Our firm helps clients anticipating or proceeding with divorce to address issues involving real estate. First, we evaluate the title to determine if the real estate is a marital asset subject to division. If it is, we work with experts with the goal of minimizing taxes. If we determine that the desired goal is to sell, then we will often advise conducting a sale before the divorce is final–which maximizes the large capital gains exclusion to marital couples.

Complicated Real Estate Situations

Many potential scenarios complicate the appropriate division of real estate. We have experience in all of these. For example: When the subject real estate was purchased before marriage with inherited or gifted funds; when it was purchased by the couple before marriage with unequal contributions to the purchase; when the homestead was purchased before marriage, but the house was built after; when the purchase was made by one spouse before marriage, but the mortgage was paid with marital funds during the marriage; when a business entity is involved. GKWW helps our clients successfully navigate these special circumstances to achieve the very best possible outcome.

When evaluating real estate during a divorce, a long list of factors must be taken into account. It becomes essential to determine the market value of a property, its anticipated time on the market, and the mortgages and other liens against the property.

In highly leveraged situations, short sales may be required. At GKWW, we work closely with our clients in short sale circumstances in an attempt to eliminate or minimize future liabilities.

Assistance In Resolving Legal Issues Before Divorce & Post-nuptual Agreements

Before a divorce is granted, four core issues typically must be resolved: child custody (including parenting time and parenting time), property and debt division, child support and alimony/maintenance. If the spouses can reach agreement on these issues, then the divorce is uncontested. If however, the spouses cannot agree, the divorce is contested. The spouses may find it necessary to go to trial to resolve the issues–which usually means that a family court judge will make the final decisions.

While a judge must approve final divorce decrees, the parties can reach agreement through mediation or through a collaborative process. This is often, especially for high-net-worth families, a very strategic move.

Meditation

During the course of the mediation process, the couple works with a trained mediator to reach agreement on contested issues. Mediation provides an alternative to litigation that can be less expensive and less stressful for divorcing couples and their children.

Arbitration

Arbitration operates more like court than mediation; however, it can still be quicker and less expensive. Instead of using a judge to decide the outcome, both parties agree to use an arbitrator. A separate attorney represents each spouse’s interests.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce is a relatively new divorce process that requires an up-front commitment to resolving disputes by negotiation, compromise and agreement. Click here to learn more about collaborative divorce.

Post-Nuptial Agreements

Post-nuptial agreements may be prepared in the effort to save a marriage. For example: the parties may set forth the terms of a divorce if certain conditions are not met. In this way, the terms of the divorce may be set forth in relative calm with the parties actively seek to preserve the marriage.

A post-nuptial agreement is a similar contract to a pre-nup, with the distinct difference being that it is entered into after marriage. In addition to the topics typically addressed in pre-nuptial agreements, a post-nuptial agreement may also address problem conduct in the marriage, delineating custody and property arrangements if divorce were to occur (limiting, for example, alimony or maintenance). Also: because commingling of assets between spouses can turn marital property into non-marital property, a post-nuptial agreement can prevent inadvertent changes.

Any issue contemplated or experienced in a marriage may be the subject of a post-nuptial agreement. The contract must be entered into in good faith, reasonable in its terms, and consistent with the public policy of the State of Illinois. In the event of divorce, the judge will determine the fairness of the agreement. The best interest of the children will be determined by the judge before determining custody/allocation of parental duties.

Orders of Protection

Divorce can be the most turbulent emotional time in a person’s lifetime. Different people react very differently to the stresses of this difficult transition.

In some instances, a spouse who has been subject to physical and mental abuse for many years without reporting the misconduct may finally engage the serious issues at hand. In other situations, one spouse may “push the buttons” of the other spouse such that he or she becomes physically violent. In others, he or she may create allegations of abuse out of thin air.

When claims of spousal abuse are legitimate, the first priority is to protect the abused party–and the children–from further trauma. Orders of protection often do just that–as do criminal changes, where necessary. In such cases, custody and parenting time must also be addressed. GKWW can build a protective structure, expertly shielding vulnerable family members from a dangerous situation.

These actions, when fraudulent, have calamitous consequences. If an arrest is made, reports–and mug shots–may appear in the local media, and rumors may circulate out of control. For high-profile persons, there can be no greater harm, both personally and from a business standpoint. At GKWW, we are experienced at protecting our clients from criminal cases brought by a vengeful spouse.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements & Pre-marital Legal Counseling

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract between persons who plan to marry. This document governs many aspects of the legal relationship: especially, ownership of property and earned funds during marriage and distribution of assets and income in the event of a divorce.

Prospective spouses should consider whether such an agreement would be appropriate for them. Although engaging the idea of a pre-nuptial agreement may be awkward, these agreements actually assist the parties to the marriage, because they provide a full asset disclosure and preemptively avoid disputes.

Any issue contemplated or experienced in a marriage may be the subject of a pre-nuptial agreement. The contract must be entered into in good faith, reasonable in its terms, and consistent with the public policy of the State of Illinois. When one party owns a family business, such an agreement can protect the family business from being entangled in a divorce proceeding. When one party owns real estate, we may recommend the use of limited liability companies with fractional shares to obtain minority and market discounts. In the case of second marriages, a pre-nuptial agreement may provide comfort to children that they will receive their inheritances in the event of divorce.

Pre-Marital Counseling

When couples embark on the path to marriage, they are often surprised by the complicated nature of commingling their legal lives. As there is no common-law marriage in Illinois, the couple are legal strangers to each other. As a result, if the couple breaks apart, then the property is divided based upon the way it is titled. If one spouse raised kids at home and did not work, that spouse would not receive any maintenance or other funds to let her get back on his/her feet. Consult with us to determine the most intelligent plan in order to proactively address issues that might present a rough road down the line.

Legal separation allows a person to avoid obtaining a divorce while preserving many of the legal protections afforded to persons who do so.

In a legal separation, a court order is entered pertaining to property, child custody, child parenting time and maintenance–however, it allows a spouse to remain faithful to the marital vows and, often, to satisfy religious requirements. Legal separation may also allow for an extended “cooling off” period in times of severe turbulence. In the case of a spouse who is suffering from severe medical problems, legal separation may allow the sick spouse to continue to be covered under the insurance policy of the other spouse, even if the couple no longer wish to live together.

Guardianship & Adoption

Guardianship

Guardianship isn’t limited to the caretaking of the elderly or of minors, though GKWW is uniquely experienced in both: Susan Rogers is often appointed by the Court as a guardian for elderly persons, and Lynn Weisberg is often appointed as a child’s representative (to determine the best interests of a child in divorce or custody proceedings). Guardians may also be appointed for persons with disabilities–or persons who have received funds as a result of a settlement (or verdict) in an injury or medical malpractice area.

Our firm has experience in establishing guardianships for a wide variety of persons, in an extensive number of situations. We also challenge those guardians who do not engage their responsibilities appropriately.

Guardianship may also be appropriate for the children of parents who do not properly care for them. Our firm has experience in representing persons–often, other family members or grandparents–who seek to obtain guardianship for children who must be removed from the care of uncaring, drug-addicted, alcohol-dependent, or mentally infirm parents.

Adoption

Adoption can provide wonderful family relationships for children. Before it may take place, however, the petitioner must meet a set of strict statutory requirements. As with all issues involving children, the judge must make his or her decision based upon the best interest of the child.

Because the law presumes that a parent wants to maintain a relationship with his or her child, the person seeking adoption must give notice to each parent of the adoption proceeding. If a parent has been involved in the life of a child and objects to adoption, it is unlikely that the court will grant the adoption. On the other hand, if a parent has played no part in the life of the child–or, worse, has engaged in conduct detrimental to the child–the judge is likely to grant the adoption.

GKWW demonstrates significant expertise in navigating adoption issues. We stand uniquely prepared to help your family in the joyful task of welcoming another member.