Universal Professional License Reciprocity: New Arizona Law May Be the Start of Something Big

recip 2Qualifying for, obtaining, and maintaining a professional license can be a time-consuming, often frustrating, and burdensome endeavor – even if everything goes as smoothly as possible. Going through the process once is tough enough; the thought of going through it again simply because you want to move and practice your profession in a new state can be enough to make you stay put and lose out on lucrative opportunities.

That is the dilemma faced by contractors, dentists, cosmetologists, and scores of other professionals who must meet a whole new set of licensing requirements -such as education and testing – when they want to work in another state. While some states do have “reciprocity” for a very narrow group of professions and will grant a license based on an out-of-state license, not one state had universal license recognition – until now.

Arizona Passes Nation’s First Universal License Recognition Law

Recently, Arizona became the first state in the nation to pass a law allowing almost all professionals who have valid occupational licenses in other states to obtain a license to work in Arizona without having to meet the state’s education and testing requirements.

Under the new law, Arizona’s licensing boards will recognize out-of-state occupational licenses for people who have been licensed in their profession for at least one year, are in good standing in all states where they are licensed, pay applicable Arizona fees, and meet all residency and background check requirements. Licensed professionals will not be required to duplicate training and other requirements that often needlessly delay or prevent them from starting to work in their new home.

Limited Reciprocity in Illinois

While Arizona is the first state to bring reciprocity and license recognition to broad swaths of professions and occupations, Illinois and several other states do offer reciprocity for specific licenses. The most prominent of these is for real estate brokers. Individuals who hold an active broker’s license in any of the following states can obtain an Illinois license without having to meet the education and testing obligations that other applicants do:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Nebraska
  • Wisconsin

Individuals in a handful of other professions who hold a valid license in another state, including architects and registered nurses, can obtain an Illinois license under a process called “licensure by endorsement” if the licensure process in that other state was substantially equivalent to the process in Illinois at the time of licensure.

Will Other States Follow Suit?

Arizona’s bold move is a boon for any professional wanting to pick up and move to the Grand Canyon State. But what about the rest of the country? To date, no other state has advanced a bill along the lines of Arizona’s. But there is increasing business and political pressure to reduce licensing burdens generally so that qualified professionals can work without being deterred by costs, bureaucracy, and other hurdles. Universal license recognition certainly fits into that philosophy. I expect that other states will take a cautious approach initially, waiting to see how Arizona’s law works in practice before jumping on the universal licensing bandwagon. Nevertheless, this law is a great start.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about your professional license, or you learn that you are the subject of an IDFPR investigation or complain, please contact me immediately. As a former Chief Prosecuting Attorney and administrative law judge for IDFPR, I have seen the serious consequences that an adverse enforcement decision can have on professionals who suddenly find their future in disarray. I can work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will get you back to your clients and your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

JB + IDFPR = More Aggressive Licensing Enforcement?

JBIf it wasn’t already apparent, the recent conclusion of the spring legislative session in Springfield makes it abundantly clear that we’re not in the land of Bruce Rauner anymore. Legalized recreational pot and sports betting, constitutional amendments, tax overhauls, and additional protections for abortion rights – all of these are just the most high-profile changes about to be signed into law by Gov. J. B. Pritzker.

What remains less clear is the impact that the Pritzker administration and unified Democratic control of state government will have on professional licensing and the activities and priorities of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Pritzker has appointed a new IDFPR Secretary and Director of Real Estate, but these leadership decisions don’t provide much insight into how if at all the department will change. However, two recent initiatives and investigations may foretell a more aggressive approach to licensing enforcement and disciplinary action.

Bogus Stem Cell Therapies

Touted as a revolutionary advancement in the treatment of a range of maladies including bone and muscle injuries and pain relief, various iterations of stem cell therapy are being offered by doctors and clinics throughout Illinois. But, according to IDFPR, these treatments – which can cost thousands of dollars each – are unproven and ineffective at best, and a bogus scam at worst.

As reported by CBS Chicago, Dr. Brian Zachariah, IDFPR’s medical coordinator, is taking a decidedly more skeptical approach to stem cell therapy than the department did under the previous administration. “People are being misled, oversold, overcharged on therapies that they are desperate to get,” he is quoted as saying. Dr. Zachariah indicated that the department would ramp up its investigation of patient complaints and increase disciplinary efforts. “We can and will discipline them ranging from a reprimand through fines, suspensions all the way to revoking their license,” he said.

Contractors Preying on Vulnerable Storm Victims

This spring has seen horrific weather throughout the state with torrential rains, tornadoes, and powerful storms wreaking havoc on homes and businesses. When that happens, unscrupulous “storm chasers” often descend on communities looking to exploit those who desperately need repairs because of storm-related damage.

While general contractors, oddly, are not required to be licensed by IDFPR, roofing contractors must have a license. Same goes for insurance adjusters. IDFPR, along with As reported in AdvantageNews, Attorney General Kwame Raoul have indicated that they will aggressively go after unlicensed roofers as well as licensed ones who attempt to scam victims in the wake of extreme weather.

These efforts relating to stem cell therapy and contracting scams may not seem particularly noteworthy; after all, shielding patients and consumers from fraud, misrepresentations, or incompetence is one of the foundational justifications for professional licensing regimes. But it would not be surprising to see Gov. Pritzker’s IDFPR continue with a robust consumer protection approach that will keep a keen eye on any actions by licensed professionals that could be seen as taking advantage of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about your professional license, or you learn that you are the subject of an IDFPR investigation or complain, please contact me immediately. As a former Chief Prosecuting Attorney and administrative law judge for IDFPR, I have seen the serious consequences that an adverse enforcement decision can have on professionals who suddenly find their future in disarray. I can work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will get you back to your clients and your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

What Is Included in “Gross Income” For Calculating Spousal Maintenance in Illinois?

gross“How much do you make?” While that may not be an appropriate or welcome question in casual conversation, it is the fundamental inquiry used to calculate the amount of spousal maintenance obligations awarded in an Illinois divorce. But for many divorcing couples, especially for those with high-net-worth, significant investments, or multiple sources of wealth, determining the actual amount of “income” which will be the foundation of these calculations involves a lot more than looking at pay stubs. Whether you are seeking a maintenance award or want to keep any such payments to a minimum, it is important to understand what constitutes “income” under Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the “Act”)

New Spousal Maintenance Guidelines  

In response to the 2017 federal tax overhaul that eliminated the tax deduction for spousal maintenance payments, Illinois lawmakers in 2018 changed the guidelines for determining how monthly payments are calculated.

As of 2018, these guidelines now apply to couples with a combined “gross income” of less than $500,000. For divorces finalized in 2019 or later, the award should be 33.3% of the payor’s net (not gross) income, minus 25% of the recipient’s net (not gross) income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is more than 40% of the combined net income of the parties.

Since net income is derived from gross income, defining the spouses’ “gross income” is the key to figuring out maintenance awards, both under the guidelines and for couples over the $500,000 threshold.

“Gross Income” Defined

Section 504 of the Act, which covers spousal maintenance, defines “gross income” as “all income from all sources,” and refers to the definition of gross income used in Section 505 of the Act regarding child support. Under that section, “gross income” means “the total of all income from all sources, except for:

  • Public assistance benefits
  • Benefits and income received by the parent for other children in the household.

Outside of those exceptions, almost every dollar, every appreciation in value, every dividend paid and every capital gain is included in gross income. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the definition of “income” under the Act mirrors that found in Webster’s Dictionary:

“As the word itself suggests, ‘income’ is simply ‘something that comes in as an increment or addition * * *: a gain or recurrent benefit that is usu[ually] measured in money * * *: the value of goods and services received by an individual in a given period of time.’”

In re Marriage of Rodgers, 213 Ill. 2d 129 (2004)

Over the years, Illinois courts have made decisions about the specific forms of income to be included in gross income for purposes of spousal maintenance calculations. These include:

  • Monetary gifts
  • “Loans” in name only, such as those from a family member, a corporation, or a business the payor spouse has an ownership interest in when there is little or no expectation that the loan will be repaid or any evidence to support the claim that it is a loan rather than a gift -such as documentation, requests for repayment, or reporting the money as a loan on tax returns.
  • Salaries, bonuses, and commissions
  • Pension proceeds
  • Workers’ compensation benefits
  • Interest and appreciation of an IRA
  • Liquidation of an IRA
  • Distribution of stock sold pursuant to an employment bonus-based option

Spousal Maintenance Questions? Call Chicago Divorce Attorney Louis Fine Today

An experienced divorce attorney, working in concert with accounting and tax professionals, can ensure that the amounts used to calculate maintenance obligations include every appropriate income stream and exclude those carved out by the law so that any maintenance award is fair and equitable.

If you have questions or concerns regarding gross income or spousal maintenance generally, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation.

Spring Ahead With These Important Professional Licensing Updates and Developments

updateHappy Springtime. In the spirit of the season, we’ve put together a potpourri of recent stories, issues, and developments in the world of Illinois professional licensing. As a Chicago professional license defense law firm, we stay abreast of all matters involving the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and that impact licensed professionals throughout the state.

Here is the latest news on the Illinois professional licensing front:

Citizenship Not Required For Professional Licenses Under New Bill

A bill recently introduced in the Illinois Senate would allow otherwise qualified applicants for professional licenses to obtain a license regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

Senate Bill 1166, which passed the full Senate on March 21 and is now pending in the Illinois House of Representatives, provides that, except as otherwise provided by law, no department shall deny an occupational or professional license based solely on the applicant’s citizenship status or immigration status.

The bill’s author, Assistant Majority Leader Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), explained said that she drafted the legislation because, “If anyone in our state wants to contribute by working hard and paying taxes, they should not be denied because of where they were born.”

Extended IDFPR Delays Risks Exodus of Physician Assistants From Illinois

There is always a bit of a wait time between the date IDFPR receives a professional license application and the date it issues one. But every day that passes during that time is a day that the applicant can’t make a living and earn a paycheck working in their chosen profession.

For physician assistants (PAs), who are in one of the fastest-growing and most in-demand professions in the country, the problem with IDFPR delays is particularly acute. PAs are having to sit on their hands for months before they can begin to do their jobs helping patients.

The current processing time for Illinois Physician Assistant applications is 8 to 10 weeks, according to IDFPR, though some applicants report having to wait well-over three months before receiving their license. By way of contrast, the average wait time in neighboring Wisconsin is all of eight days.

The Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants (IAPA) places the blame on understaffing at IDFPR and its lack of “sufficient funding to tackle the backlog of applications.”

A report earlier this year by NBC 5 Chicago indicated that the difference in wait times is making a difference in where newly-minted PAs are choosing to practice, potentially leaving a shortage of PAs in Illinois at the same time their services are increasingly being utilized by more patients.

Hairstylists Now Need Domestic Violence Training

Hairstylists often become unofficial therapists and sounding boards for their clients. Now, they will officially need training so that they can spot signs of domestic violence or sexual assault and help those clients who are experiencing such trauma.

Under an Illinois law passed in 2016, all 84,000 beauty professionals in the state have until this September to complete the in-person or online classes. Cosmetologists, cosmetology teachers, estheticians, esthetic teachers, hair braiders, hair braiding teachers, nail technicians, and nail technology teachers will not be able to renew their professional licenses unless they do so.

The classes are one-hour and only one session is required, There are 20 approved sponsors across the state providing the needed training, including several locations in Chicago. IDFPR has a full list of all available class locations.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about your professional license, or you learn that you are the subject of an IDFPR investigation or complain, please contact me immediately. As a former Chief Prosecuting Attorney and administrative law judge for IDFPR, I have seen the serious consequences that an adverse enforcement decision can have on professionals who suddenly find their future in disarray. I can work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will get you back to your clients and your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

“It Ain’t Over `Til It’s Over”: Appeals of IDFPR Disciplinary Decisions

You, yourappeal professional license, your reputation, and your career have been put through the wringer. You fought the good fight before the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), but after a formal disciplinary hearing, the Department concluded that you should be sanctioned for your alleged acts or omissions. Perhaps the Director decided to suspend or revoke your license or imposed other penalties which could impact your ability to earn a living. Your worries about your future and righteous indignation at the unfairness of the decision may lead to you to ask whether there is anything you can do to change this outcome.

What Can Be Appealed?

IDFPR, like many Illinois administrative agencies, uses Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to make decisions that affect the legal rights, duties or privileges of individuals over whom they have jurisdiction. Once a formal disciplinary proceeding concludes, the ALJ presents his or her findings, conclusions, and recommendations to the Director of Professional Regulation. Based on these findings, the Director will make the final decision as to sanctions.

You have the right to appeal – or more accurately, seek “administrative review” of – the Director’s final order in the circuit court of the county in which you reside.

You can, however, lose any right to seek relief from the decision unless you file your petition for administrative review within 35 days after the decision was mailed to you. This deadline is strict and unwavering, and a judge will dismiss your appeal if you miss it.

Administrative Review is Not a “Do-Over”

As with appeals of decisions made by a trial court, many people are under the mistaken impression that an appeal of an administrative decision is essentially a second bite at the apple; a “do-over.” They may think that they’ll have the opportunity to reargue their case and present their evidence and testimony in front of a judge who they hope will make the “right” decision this time.

This is simply not the case. “It is not a court’s function on administrative review to reweigh evidence or to make an independent determination of the facts.” Cook County Republican Party v. Illinois State Board of Elections,  232 Ill. 2d 231, 244 (2009). In fact, Illinois’ Administrative Review Law specifically says that: “No new or additional evidence in support of or in opposition to any finding, order, determination or decision of the administrative agency shall be heard by the court.”

Instead, the court will presume that the findings and conclusions of the ALJ as to questions of fact are true and correct.

Questions of Law

The circuit court will only review a decision to determine whether the correct rules, procedures, and law were applied during the course of the proceeding and when the ALJ made his or her determination. These are “questions of law,” and the reviewing court will only reverse the Department’s decision if it was “clearly erroneous” or the ALJ “abused their discretion” regarding the conduct of the hearing and the introduction of evidence, and that abuse caused “demonstrable prejudice to the party.”

Simply put, you won’t be able to challenge an ALJ’s decision to believe the testimony one witness and not believe another, but you could challenge the ALJ’s decision to allow such testimony at all if it should have been deemed inadmissible under the applicable rules of evidence.

If You Were Sanctioned by IDFPR, Speak With an Experienced Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney Immediately

As noted, whether you have a viable basis for administrative review of an IDFPR decision imposing sanctions against you will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. But you have an extremely limited time to decide whether to pursue an appeal, so it is critical to contact an experienced professional license defense lawyer as soon as possible after you receive a final decision.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

Top 5 Tips For Avoiding Professional License Complaints

complaintYou can’t please everyone. No matter your profession or career, if you have clients, customers, or patients, one of them at some point is going to be unhappy with you and your services. Whether their displeasure is justified or not, whether or not you’ve done everything right and are without fault for anything, whether they are straight-up making up facts and allegations, that disgruntled person can become a major thorn in your side.

If they file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), you will have to deal with it. At minimum, it will make you angry, frustrated, or indignant and you will need to spend your valuable time responding to the claims against you. If you fail to address the complaint effectively or if the Department finds merit in the allegations, the potential damage to your reputation and risk to your livelihood become exponentially greater.

In a perfect world, your professionalism, ethics, and competence would prevent any license complaints against you. But as we see every day, our world is anything but perfect. That said, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of complaints and position yourself for a positive outcome if a complaint is filed.

For doctors, accountants, appraisers, hairstylists, or any of the scores of professions regulated by IDFPR, here are five tips for avoiding professional license complaints:

  1. Know your professional obligations. Specific laws, rules, and regulations govern your profession. Baseline standards of care, continuing education requirements, and other obligations must be complied with for you to stay on the right side of regulators and These requirements are numerous and can change without notice. Make sure that you keep up with your obligations and audit yourself every year to confirm that you are in compliance.
  2. Educate your staff. If you employ others in your practice or profession, you are responsible for everything they do in the course of their employment. Their misconduct, malfeasance, or negligence can directly threaten your license. You need to supervise, train, and educate your staff to ensure that they understand their professional obligations and are following all applicable rules. Put in place policies and protocols that can minimize deviations and quickly correct them if they occur.
  3. To sue or not to sue? You have every right to get paid for services you provide, and when a client or customer skips out on a bill, you have every right to pursue them in a collection lawsuit. While some folks may fail to pay because they are simply avoiding their obligations, others may claim that the services you provided were substandard, improper, or not what you promised. If that’s the case, you’ll want to try to resolve these disputes before filing suit. Even if you can’t do so, you’ll be well-positioned if they respond with a license complaint, as sued clients often do.
  4. Document everything. Whether in a civil lawsuit or an IDFPR disciplinary proceeding, the more documentation and evidence you have to support your position, the better your chances of a positive outcome. Be sure to document any problems that occur and the steps that you took to correct them. If any staff was involved, have them document their version of events as well.
  5. Communicate. What we have here with so many professional license complaints is a failure to communicate. Inadequate client communication can lead to misunderstandings or feelings of neglect and insufficient care, increasing client dissatisfaction and the likelihood of claims. Be accessible and responsive, and make sure your staff is too.

As noted, you will likely face a professional license complaint at some point in your career, and when you do so, the most important tip is to contact an experienced Chicago professional license defense attorney as soon as possible. Seasoned and knowledgeable counsel can be the key to resolving IDFPR matters early and cost-effectively so you can focus on your career instead of complaints.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

The moment IDFPR contacts you or you learn that you are under investigation is the moment that you should contact me. Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

Do Liability and Professional License Troubles Mean Never Being Able to Say You’re Sorry?

sorryWith the possible exception of “free donuts,” there are no two words in the English language more powerful and more impactful than “I’m sorry.” Owning up to a mistake and sincerely apologizing to the person impacted by your error can resolve disputes and mend fences. It can increase understanding and trust and reset a damaged relationship.

For physicians and other professionals, a sincere mea culpa for a mistake and an expression of sympathy for a less-than-ideal outcome can also reduce the likelihood of lawsuits and professional license complaints. But will that apology come back and haunt you if your patient or client decides that it’s not good enough? Will “I’m sorry” translate into “I’m liable” before a jury or the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR)?

How Apologies Can Benefit All Parties

So many professional license complaints and lawsuits, whether against doctors, accountants, lawyers, brokers, and other professionals, arise not because of actual misconduct or mistake but rather due to a failure of communication. Professionals may be loathe to admit a mistake and apologize for the error for reasons of ego, but more often it is because they are worried that an apology will be seen as an admission that they did something wrong and that admission will be used against them.

In the practice of medicine in particular, this silence and defensiveness can increase distrust and frustration and come across as cold, unfeeling, and unsympathetic to the patient’s plight, especially when no mistake or allegation has been made. If a patient passes away, medical error or not, a doctor who delivers the news without an expression of sympathy for the loss won’t look cautious, he or she will look like a heartless jerk.  In turn, those feelings increase the likelihood that an aggrieved patient will take action against the doctor or other professional who they believe did them wrong.

Study after study has shown that honest, open, and apologetic communication after an alleged error or bad result can significantly decrease claims for malpractice and related consequences. For example, a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management found that hospital staff and doctors willing to discuss, apologize for and resolve adverse medical events through a “collaborative communication resolution program” experienced a significant reduction in the filing of legal claims, defense costs, liability costs and time required to close cases.

“Apology Laws”

For these reasons, and because of the emotional and psychological benefits to patients that come with apologies, dozens of states have enacted so-called “apology laws” specifically to allow physicians to apologize, express regret or offer remediation without worrying that such statements will be admissible in malpractice or other actions.

Illinois, unfortunately, is one of the minority of states which does not have a clear apology statute for physicians. Illinois law does, however, protect healthcare providers who offer to pay for or perform services or procedures in an effort to fix an alleged mistake by declaring that testimony, writings, records, reports or information regarding such offers “shall not be admissible in evidence as an admission of any liability in any action of any kind in any court or before any commission, administrative agency, or other tribunal in this State.”

These laws not only help patients and doctors better resolve allegations of error, but they also help doctors comport with their ethical responsibilities. The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, for example, says that:

“It is a fundamental ethical requirement that a physician should at all times deal honestly and openly with patients. … Concern regarding legal liability which might result following truthful disclosure should not affect the physician’s honesty with a patient.”

What to say to an aggrieved patient remains a matter of competing legal and ethical interests. The desire to be of comfort and help, to fix what’s wrong, is countered by concerns of self-preservation and risk management. Physicians and other professionals thus need to tread cautiously and with the advice of counsel or the guidance of their organizations before saying those two important words lest they compound their regret even further.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

The moment IDFPR contacts you is the moment that you should contact me. I will immediately begin communicating with IDFPR prosecutors and work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

Dogging It: Voluntarily Tanking Your Income Won’t Get You Out of Your Child Support Obligations

pocketsDivorce can bring out the worst in people. Underhanded actions and tricks designed to hurt the other spouse and gain an advantage in the proceedings are all too common. In many cases, a spouse will engage in devious tactics to try to reduce the amounts he or she must pay for child support.

Since support obligations are in part determined based on the assets and income of the parent from whom payments are sought, a less-than-honest spouse may try to make it appear that they have significantly less money than they actually do. This can involve concealing or transferring assets. Sometimes, however, a spouse will also intentionally reduce their income through “voluntary underemployment” or taking a job that pays less than they previously were earning, solely to stick it to the other parent or deny them the child support they deserve.

Luckily, Illinois law provides a way for parents who are intentionally tanking their income to be held to account.

“Potential Income” Used to Determine Child Support Obligations

In Illinois, the basic formula for arriving at a child support amount (subject to variations based on specific circumstances) involves:

  • calculating each parent’s net income, then
  • combining net incomes to determine Total Family Income, then
  • using the Illinois Child Support Estimator to determine the Basic Child Support Obligation, then
  • allocating the Basic Child Support Obligation proportionally based on net incomes.

Initial support obligations are calculated as part of the divorce proceedings but can later be modified at the request of one of the parents if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in the amount of one of the parent’s incomes. But if it can be shown that a reduction in a parent’s net income – such as quitting a job or taking a much lower paying job – was voluntary and done in bad faith, an Illinois court can base its support calculations on the parent’s “potential income” rather than their actual, reduced income.

Specifically, Section 505(a)(3)(F)(II)(3.2) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that If a parent is “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income.” A court will calculate that income by determining the parent’s employment potential and probable earnings level based on:

  • the parent’s work history
  • the parent’s occupational qualifications,
  • prevailing job opportunities
  • the ownership by a parent of a substantial non-income producing asset, and
  • earnings levels in the community.

If there is insufficient work history to determine employment potential and probable earnings level, there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s potential income is 75% of the most recent United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of one person.

Every one of us has our own unique career journey which can include ups and downs, setbacks and advancements. Whether a parent’s career choices will be held against them in terms of their child support obligations will depend on their unique facts and circumstances and whether or not those choices were made in good faith or were made solely to skirt their obligations under the law.

Louis R. Fine – Chicago Child Support Attorney

If you have questions about child support, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. I look forward to assisting you

“Potential Income” Used to Determine Child Support Obligations

In Illinois, the basic formula for arriving at a child support amount (subject to variations based on specific circumstances) involves:

  • calculating each parent’s net income, then
  • combining net incomes to determine Total Family Income, then
  • using the Illinois Child Support Estimator to determine the Basic Child Support Obligation, then
  • allocating the Basic Child Support Obligation proportionally based on net incomes.

Initial support obligations are calculated as part of the divorce proceedings but can later be modified at the request of one of the parents if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in the amount of one of the parent’s incomes. But if it can be shown that a reduction in a parent’s net income – such as quitting a job or taking a much lower paying job – was voluntary and done in bad faith, an Illinois court can base its support calculations on the parent’s “potential income” rather than their actual, reduced income.

Specifically, Section 505(a)(3)(F)(II)(3.2) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that If a parent is “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income.” A court will calculate that income by determining the parent’s employment potential and probable earnings level based on:

  • the parent’s work history
  • the parent’s occupational qualifications,
  • prevailing job opportunities
  • the ownership by a parent of a substantial non-income producing asset, and
  • earnings levels in the community.

If there is insufficient work history to determine employment potential and probable earnings level, there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s potential income is 75% of the most recent United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of one person.

Every one of us has our own unique career journey which can include ups and downs, setbacks and advancements. Whether a parent’s career choices will be held against them in terms of their child support obligations will depend on their unique facts and circumstances and whether or not those choices were made in good faith or were made solely to skirt their obligations under the law.

Louis R. Fine – Chicago Child Support Attorney

If you have questions about child support, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. I look forward to assisting you

More Changes Coming to How Illinois Spousal Maintenance Breaks Down After a Marriage Does

maintOnce again, changes to Illinois law have and will alter how spousal maintenance awards are determined in divorce proceedings. Amendments to Sections 504 and 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, some of which became effective in 2018 and others which will be effective on January 1, 2019, come only three short years after legislators for the first time established specific formulas for calculating the amount and duration of spousal maintenance payments.

These changes tweak the calculation guidelines that were set in the last round of amendments. The 2018 changes altered the threshold for applying the guidelines and the percentages used in determining how long a spouse will be required to make maintenance payments. The 2019 changes as to how maintenance amounts will be calculated were a direct reaction to changes in federal tax law that eliminated the tax deduction for alimony payments.

Increase in Gross Income Level for Application of Guidelines

The guidelines established in 2015 only applied when the combined gross income of the parties was less than $250,000 and no multiple family situation existed. As of 2018, this formula now applies to couples with a combined gross income of less than $500,000, significantly increasing the number of divorces which will involve its use when maintenance is deemed appropriate.

Amount of Maintenance Payments

For divorces finalized on or before December 31, 2018, all amounts paid for spousal maintenance or alimony reduce the payor’s taxable income by the same sum. For most folks paying maintenance, this deduction represents a significant tax savings that can ease the burden of supporting an ex.

But the GOP tax plan passed a year ago eliminated that tax deduction for divorces finalized after the end of this year. Maintenance will no longer be deductible for the spouse who pays maintenance while the recipient can no longer include maintenance payments as taxable income. It is important to note that the deduction will still apply going forward for divorces entered this year or earlier.

In response to this significant change, Illinois modified the formula used to calculate maintenance awards. The current statutory formula provides that a maintenance award should equal 30 percent of the payor’s gross income, minus 20 percent of the payee’s gross income.

Example:

  • Husband’s annual gross income = $100,000 (30% = $30,000)
  • Wife’s annual gross income = $45,000 (20% = $9,000)
  • $30,000 – $9,000 = $21,000 in annual spousal maintenance to wife.

The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is more than 40% of the combined gross income of the parties.

For divorces finalized in 2019 or later, those guidelines are now as follows:

  • The award should be 33.3% of the payor’s net (not gross) income, minus 25% of the recipient’s net (not gross) income.
  • There will still be a 40% cap, but it will now be calculated using the combined net income of the parties rather than gross income.

Duration of Maintenance Payments

Under both the old and new laws, how long a spouse is required to pay maintenance is based on the length of the marriage. Before 2018, judges were to use the following formula in determining how long payments must continue:

  • Married 0 – 5 years = 20% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 5 – 10 years = 40% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 10 – 15 years = 60% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 15 – 20 years = 80% of the duration of the marriage
  • 20 or more years = court has the discretion to order either permanent maintenance or maintenance equal to the length of the marriage.

Under this formula, for example, a 5-year marriage would result in a 1-year maintenance obligation, while a 10-year marriage would result in 4 years of maintenance payments.

The new formulas are broken down in more detail such that the percentages that apply to an 11-year marriage, for example, are now different than they are for a 14-year one. Specifically, the duration of maintenance obligations are now as follows:

  • less than 5 years (.20)
  • 5 years or more but less than 6 years (.24)
  • 6 years or more but less than 7 years (.28)
  • 7 years or more but less than 8 years (.32)
  • 8 years or more but less than 9 years (.36)
  • 9 years or more but less than 10 years (.40)
  • 10 years or more but less than 11 years (.44)
  • 11 years or more but less than 12 years (.48)
  • 12 years or more but less than 13 years (.52)
  • 13 years or more but less than 14 years (.56)
  • 14 years or more but less than 15 years (.60)
  • 15 years or more but less than 16 years (.64)
  • 16 years or more but less than 17 years (.68)
  • 17 years or more but less than 18 years (.72)
  • 18 years or more but less than 19 years (.76)
  • 19 years or more but less than 20 years (.80)

For a marriage of 20 or more years, a judge has the discretion to order maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage or for an indefinite term.

Judge May Deviate From Guidelines But Must Explain Why

While a judge is not required to follow the new guidelines, if they deviate from them they must explicitly state in their findings the amount of maintenance or duration that would have been required under the guidelines and the reasoning for any variance from the guidelines.

If you have questions or concerns regarding these changes or spousal maintenance generally, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation.

It Could Happen to You: Understanding IDFPR Sanctions

sanctionsIn recent posts, we’ve discussed the investigations and disciplinary proceedings which the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) conducts when a professional’s license comes under its scrutiny.

At various points in these processes, complaints may be dismissed or matters resolved without the imposition of any sanctions or other actions which could damage the licensee’s career or reputation. But in many cases, the IDFPR may conclude that disciplinary action is warranted. What that action may be, what it means, and how it may impact your life and livelihood can vary wildly. If you receive an IDFPR complaint or are facing administrative proceedings, it is crucial that you understand the potential consequences the IDFPR can impose if they find that your conduct merits it.

The following are some of the possible sanctions the IDFPR can levy on professional licensees:

  • Reprimand. While a reprimand will not limit your ability to work or practice, it may require monitoring and is an official public record of discipline.
  • Probation. If you are placed on probation, you will be able to continue working or practicing subject to specific conditions and limitations established by the Department. As with probation in the criminal justice system, a violation of any of the imposed terms will create further problems potentially involving further discipline. The probation term could be for a set period which will automatically expire providing all conditions were complied with or it could be for an indefinite time, requiring that the licensee petition the board to terminate the probation.
  • Suspension. If your license is suspended, you are prohibited from working in your profession during the suspension term. As with probation, the duration of suspension can be set or indefinite.
  • Summary or Temporary Suspension. If the Department determines that a licensee’s continuation in practice poses an imminent danger to the public, it can take immediate action by summarily or temporarily suspending a license. The license remains suspended pending a hearing on the case
  • Revocation. If the Department revokes your license, you cannot work or practice in your chosen profession until further notice. If no term is stated, you must wait a minimum of three years before you can file a Petition for Restoration.
  • Refusal to Renew. Licensees who are refused renewal are ineligible to renew their license and are prohibited from practice after the expiration of the date of their license, though they may file a Petition for Restoration.
  • Fines. A monetary penalty can be levied alone or in conjunction with any of the foregoing sanctions.

If the Department is seeking any of these sanctions against you or offers to resolve your matter through a consent order in which you agree to the imposition of a specific penalty, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Chicago professional license defense attorney if you haven’t done so already. You need to fully understand the implications of any possible sanctions so you can make an informed decision about how to proceed. Your future is at stake; it is no time to go it alone.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.