Illinois Man Flees to Europe to Get Out of Paying His Ex-Wife

MoneyA former Chicago Board of Trade Chairman would rather leave the country than pay his ex-wife $18 million stemming from a ruling by the judge who presided over the couple’s divorce case.

Patrick Arbor, 76, is thought to have flown in Europe in lieu of making the payments to his ex-wife, Antoinette Vigilante. Arbor has been less than cooperative throughout the divorce proceedings, as he has repeatedly ignored the judge’s orders. The Cook County judge issued a bench warrant that calls for Arbor to be jailed until he pays nearly $300,000 to his ex wife stemming from a separate ruling.

Arbor was chairman of the Chicago Board of Trade from 1993 to 1999. His ex-wife filed for divorce last year, and the final judgment was issued Tuesday.

Reuters reached Arbor on his cellphone over the weekend, but he declined to speak to his exact whereabouts.

“I can’t talk about [the ruling],” he said. “I’m in Europe. I’m an Italian citizen.”

Sean Sullivan comments

I have handled numerous family law cases, and it typically takes a lot for a domestic relations judge to order someone to jail for contempt. However, they certainly have the power to do so. It typically only occurs in cases where one party to the lawsuit has consistently refused to abide by any rulings or orders of the judge.

My guess is there is more to this story than is being reported here. That said, jail is a possibility even in civil cases. I would never advise any of my clients to willfully disobey a judge’s order and risk infuriating the judge to the point that they would hold you in contempt, wherein the penalty could very well be jail.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Jury Returns Verdict in “50 Shades of Grey” Case

CC image Wikipedia.orgA federal jury has ruled in favor of an ex-husband who was accused of forcing his wife into a sadomasochistic relationship in which he allegedly sexually abused her.

In a story we documented earlier this month, a jury of four men and four women ruled that Kimberly O’Brien, 52, should not receive any monetary damages from the suit that claimed she was abused by her then-husband throughout their marriage.

After listening to testimony from both sides over a nine-day trial, the jury deliberated for four and a half hours before returning their verdict. The ruling closes the book on a lawsuit that has been pending for seven years.

“Here it would seem like the jury believed the husband’s claims that O’Brien was a willing participant in the activities and her suit against him was simply about the money,” said Family Law Attorney Sean Sullivan.

Looking Back at the Case

In her suit, O’Brien alleged that her then-husband Kenneth Anderson tied her up and sexually abused her while the pair was on their honeymoon. The claim also stated that Anderson forced her to walk around the home naked, sleep on the floor next to the bed, and address him as “master”.

Anderson said the sexually submissive relationship was O’Brien’s idea. He also stated that the couple had a safe word in case things went too far, but O’Brien never used the word.

Anderson also testified that O’Brien went behind his back and had an abortion. He said she later told him she’d lost the baby in a miscarriage, but O’Brien told the court Anderson forced her to have an abortion.

The case took seven years to reach a conclusion because Anderson was a successful business owner that had millions of dollars in assets. Sullivan said the case could have been settled much quicker if the couple had opted to draft a prenuptial agreement.

“This case would have been simplified if the parties had decided to create a thorough pre-martial agreement before they wed,” said Sullivan. “The case would not have been litigated for seven years, and the parties could have avoided wasting time and money on a drawn out legal process.”

Sides Differ on Ruling

Ultimately the case came down to a “he said, she-said” type of argument. Perhaps the most damaging evidence against O’Brien’s version of events were photographs of her on the honeymoon. She was seen smiling in the pictures, and there was little evidence of being forcibly constrained earlier on the trip. Dean Dickie, who represented O’Brien at trial, said they were disheartened with the ruling.

“We’re disappointed with the verdict,” said Dickie. “This has been a very difficult ordeal for her.”

Anderson’s attorney Charles Cole said he was confident the jury was able to accurately separate fact from fiction.

“This is not a vulnerable woman under anyone’s control, locked up in some dungeon,” said Cole. “This story just doesn’t hold water.”

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Lengthy Legal Battle Ahead for “Fifty Shades of Grey” Divorce Case

CC image Wikipedia.orgA marriage that began in 2005 has ended with a lawsuit alleging sexual assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the federal case that was heard this week.

Kimberley O’Brien took the stand Tuesday to testify against her husband Kevin Anderson, from whom she filed for divorce from in 2006.  Astonishingly, the federal civil case had been litigated for seven years before O’Brien had the ability to take the stand in her defense.

In her suit, O’Brien claims that she and Anderson lived a luxurious lifestyle that included trips to Switzerland and Italy, but their marriage took a turn shortly after they exchanged vows.

According to O’Brien, she was sexually assaulted on her honeymoon in California.  O’Brien claims Anderson struck her in the back of the head, tied her up and sexually violated her.  She also states that Anderson left her bound overnight.

“You will never tell anyone about this and if you are a good slave this will never happen again,” Anderson allegedly told O’Brien the next morning.

O’Brien also claims that Anderson made her walk around their house naked and told her to refer to him as “master”.

“It was the biggest mistake of my life ever being with this man,” O’Brien said in court.

Husband Claims Mutual Relationship

Anderson said the relationship was nothing more than two consenting adults living out their fantasies. According to him, it was O’Brien who brought the sadomasochist fantasies into the bedroom, and she wanted to be tied up on their honeymoon.

She said, “This is our last night here – let’s go big,” according to Anderson’s attorney Chris Cole.  Anderson’s attorney also states that the couple decided on a safe word, but O’Brien never used it during their sexual romp.

Millions of Dollars at Stake

The case has received national attention because of the amount of money at stake.  O’Brien is seeking $10 million in damages for her pain and suffering.  Anderson’s camp believes O’Brien is simply trying to seek a quick payday.

“This is a case largely driven by revenge and greed,” said Cole.

One of the biggest reasons this case has taken so long is because the couple seemed more interested in a “master-slave” contract than a prenuptial agreement.  Family Law Attorney Sean Sullivan said finances and property holdings should always be examined before a couple gets married, especially when a vast amount is involved.

What strikes me most is that this case has been litigated for 7 years.  The main reason for this is because there is a marital estate that reaches into the millions. With an estate that large, both sides would have been better served entering into a pre-marital agreement. They could have avoided such prolonged litigation and saved thousands in legal fees by agreeing before this marriage even occurred that there would be an equitable division of the marital estate in the event the marriage broke down.

If two parties are contemplating marriage and the marital estate in question has significant financial resources, then the parties are much better off entering into a pre-marital agreement. Some people feel these are not romantic and it means the marriage is doomed from the start. I look at them in much more of a practical light. I hope the parties live happily ever after and any pre-marital agreement drafted never has to be enacted. But if things do not work out, then a carefully drafted pre-marital agreement can save both parties time and money lost arguing in court.

This will no doubt be a difficult case for jurors to decide on. They are tasked with deciding if these acts that occurred were the result of abuse and coercion or choices made by consenting adults. What is interesting is that this case was brought as a civil case and not a criminal case. If these acts were forced on her as the wife claims, then the husband’s conduct amounts to criminal action. However, if this was indeed shared sexual interests and the parties entered into the acts voluntarily, then the root of this case is decidedly something else entirely.  

Related source:  Chicago Tribune

Spousal Support in Illinois

CC image from 401(K) 2013 on FlickrIt is very rare in divorce proceedings that both parties have the capacity for equal finances after the divorce. One party is almost always going to have the ability to earn more money than the other party. The courts address this through a distribution of assets of the marital property or by awarding spousal support. Most people traditionally refer to this as “alimony”. Alimony is the age old traditional term for spousal support that really is not in use anymore. Nowadays, Illinois courts use the term “maintenance”.

What is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance awards can be either temporary or permanent. Temporary awards are ordered by the court to preserve the status quo of the parties’ finances while the divorce is proceeding through the courts. Permanent awards are typically what the parties agree to in the marital settlement agreement at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings, which will govern the future finances of each party once the divorce is final.

Maintenance can be waived, but only upon a showing that the party waiving it is doing so freely and voluntarily. However it is most important to note that once maintenance is waived, it is forever waived. The party that waives it cannot not go back and change their mind and ask the court to award it at a later date.

Maintenance is calculated by looking at several different factors viewed by the court as a whole. No one factor is the sole determining factor that triggers the court to award maintenance. Typically the court considers the earning power of each party, the lifestyle during the marriage, the education level of each party, and if either party forsaken educational opportunities to support the family while the spouse has sought more schooling.

If you are contemplating divorce, you should consult an attorney to discuss your options and how to best protect yourself and your rights going forward.

4 Reasons to Hire a Divorce Lawyer

Chicago Divorce LawyerDivorce can be an expensive and stressful and process, and it can become even more complicated if you try to mediate your divorce without help from an experienced legal team.

The main objective for a divorce attorney is to ensure you receive what you are entitled to in a divorce.  The majority of people going through a divorce are doing it for the first time, so it’s beneficial to have legal expertise on your side that can explain the process and help save you money.  Although it may seem cheaper to try to settle your divorce without paying for legal services, it can actually be more costly if things are done incorrectly.  Illinois Divorce Attorney Sean Sullivan provides commentary on the benefits of hiring a divorce attorney.

  • Divorce attorneys have a wealth of knowledge – Although no two divorces are exactly the same, divorce attorneys have been through the process hundreds of times and know how to put your needs first.  There are a variety of motions that need to be filed with the court, and you won’t need to worry about missing a deadline or failing to file a motion if you hire a divorce attorney to take care of the paperwork for you.

“Some people think that they cannot afford to hire an attorney to handle their divorce, but the question may very well be, ‘can you afford not to?’”

  • In cases of custody or abuse – Divorces become even more complicated when issues of custody or alleged abuse arise.  If you are determined to earn full or partial custody of your children, it’s best to hire an attorney to assist in the process.  Trying to tackle this matter by on your own can lead to added emotional stress and convey the wrong message during the custody process.  If you are accusing your spouse of verbal or physical abuse, an attorney can help protect your rights and safety.

“Emotional issues can be very painful during a divorce if you don’t have someone to lean on for support.  Always hire your own divorce lawyer and let them handle it from the beginning.”

  • It can save you money – There is a common perception that going through a divorce without a lawyer will save you money in legal fees and court costs, but that is not always the case.  For example, if you fill out forms incorrectly or neglect to prepare for court, it can be more expensive to fix your mistakes.  Also, by not hiring an attorney you may be forced to miss work for court sessions.  Although you aren’t paying for an attorney, you miss out on earned income or may be forced to burn valuable personal days.

“Oftentimes it is more expensive to fix things that are done wrong than it is to pay for them to be done correctly in the first place.”

  • They’ll make sure you don’t get swindled – One of the biggest reasons why you should hire a divorce attorney is because your soon-to-be-ex has hired one.  As mentioned above, the main goal of a divorce attorney is to get you everything you’re entitled to.  If one side is backed by legal expertise while the other is armed with only their “best guesses”, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see who is going to come out on top in the courtroom.

If you simply rely on the advice or go with whatever your soon-to-be-ex’s lawyer suggests, you could end up paying more in legal fees in the long run.”

Top 5 Illinois Family Law Terms

  1. “GAL” – Guardian Ad Litem. This term refers to a court appointed attorney. This is a third attorney appointed by the Judge who represents the interests of the children in the divorce. This attorney is separate and independent of any attorney either of the parents have on retainer.
  2. “MSA”- Marital Settlement Agreement. This is a legal document that sets out the agreed upon terms of a divorce. It is a legally binding contract that governs all the issues that affect the parties after the divorce such as marital property, child support, custody, etc.
  3. “JPA”- Joint Parenting Agreement. This is the written agreement that deals with the interests of the children. It is often included as a separate agreement that is adopted and incorporated as part of the MSA. It governs everything related to the children: who gains custody, when is visitation, how much is child support, who gets the kids for what holidays, etc.
  4. “Maintenance.” The legally correct term for “alimony” in Illinois. This is the amount of money that one party pays to the other party to support them after the divorce. In Illinois the party that typically earns the higher income is the party that pays “maintenance” to the other party. Regardless of whether that party is the husband or wife. There is no hard and fast rule on what amount of maintenance the courts may award a party. Rather the courts look at the levels of income, the Parties’ standard of living, all of the marital assets, and then determine it on a case by case basis.
  5. “Residential Custody.” This term relates to the parent with whom the children reside. The other parent still has “custody” over the children in that they still have a say in how to raise the children, and visitation rights. But the parent with residential custody is the parent with whom the child lives on a general day-today basis.

Illinois Supreme Court Lifts Ban on Divorce for Mentally Disabled

illinois supreme courtThis month the Supreme Court of Illinois released the long held ban on the ability for mentally disabled people to file for divorce.

For many years, Illinois state law stated that mentally disabled couples and/or their guardians could not file for divorce. This included people in the following categories:

  • Those with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Those with severe brain damage
  • Those with mental illness

Those who fought to lift the ban argued that many of these people were able to articulate their wishes, despite their mental condition.

The Supreme Court suspended this ban earlier this month. The Court will now make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“This is an important decision for people with mental disabilities,” says Illinois Family Law Attorney, Miriam Szatrowski. “Under the old law, people with mental disabilities who were married could be stuck in abusive or exploitative marriages with no recourse unless their spouse filed for divorce. This could result in a physically dangerous power imbalance, or allow an unscrupulous spouse to drain their partner financially. This decision will allow the family courts to treat people with mental disabilities as individuals by giving them and their guardians the ability to file for divorce, and then present their side at a hearing to see if the divorce is in their best interest.”


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