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The new five-page Closing Disclosure makes home loans easier to understand and must be provided to borrowers at least 72 hours before their closing dates to allow them more time to review what they are signing. This new disclosure replaces the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. Previously, the HUD-1 Settlement Statement was provided to a buyer at closing.

Easy to Understand Format

The Closing Disclosure is a statement of the final loan terms and closing costs. The information on this disclosure should be compared with the Loan Estimate that the borrower received when applying for his or her mortgage. Each page of the document lays out the key terms and details of fees and other costs associated with finalizing the mortgage at closing.

Page One

The first page of the Disclosure displays information regarding the buyer and seller, loan information and closing date and location. The loan information includes information that should match what the borrower was offered while applying for the mortgage, including:

    • Loan amount
    • Agreed interest rate
    • Monthly principal and interest
    • Projected payments, including a breakdown of principal and interest, PMI if applicable, taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and escrow
    • Costs at closing
Page Two

The second page of the Disclosure gives a breakdown of all the closing costs associated with the mortgage loan. Costs include loan origination charges, services the borrower did not shop for, such as the bank’s appraisal fee, and services the borrower did shop for, like survey or inspection fees. Other costs refer to various expenses that may have been prepaid by the borrower or seller.

Page Three

The third page of the Disclosure provides the calculations that are used to calculate the cash needed to close and summaries of both the borrower’s and seller’s transactions. These summaries are a record of all charges, adjustments, and payments for both entities.

Pages Four and Five

The final two pages of the Disclosure provide additional information about the loan including late payment fees, escrow information, and loan calculations. All contact information for the lender, mortgage broker, real estate brokers for buyer and seller, and settlement agent are provided on the final page. The borrower signs the bottom of the last page to confirm they have received the Disclosure.

The post Understanding Your Closing Disclosure appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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Holiday stress and worries about finances take a toll on couples, contributing to a drastic increase in the number of divorce filings and an increase in business for divorce lawyers during the month of January.

Divorce Filings Increase by One Third in January

Internet searches increase by 50 percent for divorce and other related terms such as child custody and family law from December to January. Once the holidays have ended and a semblance of normalcy returns, many couples decide it is time to file for divorce. The month of January brings thoughts of new beginnings. Divorce can support a fresh start.

A noticeable increase in divorce filings begins with the phenomenon of “Divorce Monday,” which is the first Monday of the year, according to James McLaren, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Increases in the number of divorce filings of almost one-third above normal rates begin on that Monday. Filings continue at that rate through early March before they return to normal.

Main Reasons Why Couples File for Divorce in January

People commonly choose to file for divorce because of unmet expectations regarding such issues as:

    • Not meeting financial goals or personal goals
    • Lack of intimacy or companionship
    • Differences in parenting ideals

But there are multiple reasons why couples choose to wait until January to file for divorce, including worries about how their children will be affected by a divorce. Filing for the divorce is often put off until January so parents can give their children one last happy holiday as a family. For families without children, spouses may choose to wait until January so they do not upset their families during the holidays. In circumstances when only one spouse is petitioning for a divorce, waiting until after the holidays will help him or her save face instead of filing during the holiday season.

While there is no perfect time to file for a divorce, waiting until January has a more practical aspect logistically. Court availability is usually limited during the holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. The inability to get an expedient court date, especially in a contentious divorce, could lead to issues regarding parenting time and finances during the holidays.

The post Divorce Rates Increase in January. Here’s Why appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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Mental illness can significantly impact divorce and child custody in Chicago. When one spouse suffers from mental illness, the judge may make adjustments to the division of marital assets, the way parenting time and parental responsibilities are allocated, or spousal maintenance to better accommodate the person’s needs and the best interests of any minor children.

How Mental Illness Could Affect a Divorce

Mental illness issues may impact the division of marital assets. In some cases, the judge might make an adjustment to the split depending on each spouse’s health, employability, and income sources. Because a mentally ill spouse might have a limited capacity to work, the judge could give him or her a larger share of marital assets to compensate for future expenses. Spousal maintenance may also be significantly impacted especially when the couple has children that reside with the mentally ill spouse.

Custody proceedings are also impacted when a spouse suffers from a mental illness. The court will take the following factors into consideration to determine the best interests of the child(ren).

    • Who is best equipped to make legal decisions regarding the child(ren) and appropriate parenting time
    • Previous, current and potential future relationships between the child(ren) and mentally ill parent
    • The child(ren)’s safety, emotional well-being, and adjustment to home, school, and community
    • The wishes of the child, depending on age and maturity level
    • Whether a parent has committed child abuse, domestic violence, or made a fraudulent attempt to report the other parent for child abuse or neglect
Illinois is a No-Fault Divorce State

Even when a spouse’s mental illness has caused the breakdown of a marriage, it is no longer grounds for divorce under Illinois law. Since 2016, Illinois has been a no-fault divorce state. The only grounds for divorce under the law is irreconcilable differences. Other previous grounds for divorce, such as mental illness, including drug addiction or alcoholism, mental cruelty, or adultery can no longer be claimed.

One of the reasons for this change is to eliminate the need to determine whether a spouse is innocent or guilty of the reason/grounds for the divorce. When establishing the grounds for irreconcilable differences, both parties need only show that those differences have led to the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage and any attempts to reconcile would not be in the best interest of either party or any children of the marriage.

The post Divorcing Someone with a Mental Illness appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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The court may consider a child’s opinion regarding which parent he or she will reside with in some situations when parents cannot agree. However, the court must consider the child’s overall well-being before making a determination. The child’s preference will be weighed against other factors, including if any history of domestic violence exists between the parents, possible alienation toward the other parent and relationships with siblings.

Factors the Court Must Consider

The ultimate goal of the court when parents are engaged in a custody battle is the well-being of the child(ren). While the court may consider a child’s preference in deciding custody, they must also examine the child’s:

  • Age and level of maturity
  • Life and school history
  • Relationships with friends, siblings, and both parents
  • Emotional, psychological and financial influences
Examining the Child’s Preference

When the parents disagree over the child’s living arrangements, the court will typically consider an older, more mature child’s wishes and analyze the reasons for the child’s preference. If there are negative emotions against the non-preferred parent, the judge will look for signs of parental alienation. This is done to rule out that the child has been coached, bribed or threatened by a parent. It could be possible the child is experiencing guilt or other negative emotions which are clouding his or her decision. When these conditions are present, the court may deny the child’s request and award custody to the non-offending parent.

Because a divorce causes upheaval in the lives of family members, it could be possible that one parent is seen as a victim by the child. He or she might want to take the side of that parent. Or if one parent decides to move away, the child may want to stay in the same place instead of changing schools, getting taken away from established activities or becoming separated from his or her friends.

In some instances, parents might reach an agreement regarding the child’s living arrangements without the need for a court decision. However, if court proceedings have begun, the judge will consider the wishes of the family and issue a custody order based on the family’s agreement.

The post When a Child’s Opinion Counts in a Custody Case appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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Home inspectors are liable if they miss problems that should have been caught before a buyer purchases a home. They have a duty to perform their work according to industry standards. If they fail in their duty, their customers can sue them with the help of a real estate lawyer. Home buyers need to beware of contract clauses that might limit the inspector’s liability to the cost of his inspection in case he makes a mistake.

What Does a Home Inspector Do?

The job of a real estate home inspector is to uncover any problems that sellers might not disclose or be aware of with the home they are selling. The inspector will look for exterior problems with the home, including roof, foundation, drainage, gutter, or crawl space problems. Inside the home, the inspector looks for problems with:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Attic
  • Basement
  • Heating and air conditioning
  • Appliances like water heaters, ovens or dishwashers

The inspector will give the person who hired him a list of all items that have been inspected, noting whether they are in working order, need repair or will need to be replaced soon. When problems are identified, the home buyer can request that repairs be made or back out of the sales contract.

What Happens When a Mistake is Made?

There is always the risk of a home inspector making a mistake. And that can be costly to the buyer when problems with the home are found after the sale has been finalized. Having to replace a heating and cooling system, roof or have mold remediation is costly. It is also an expense that the buyer would not have had if the home inspector has performed his duties correctly.

When hiring a home inspector, the home buyer should avoid hiring one that limits his liability to the cost of the inspection. If the buyer requests that the inspector reimburses him for the expenses incurred by the mistake, the home inspector can legally refuse.

It is advisable to always ask if the inspector is covered with general liability insurance and professional liability insurance, aka errors and omissions insurance. This insurance covers the inspector if he is sued for the mistake. And instead of dealing directly with the inspector, the home buyer or his real estate lawyer will work with an insurance adjuster.

The post Did Your Property Inspector Miss Something? appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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Roger Stelk by Roger Stelk - 2M ago

Settling custody out of court could be the best option for divorcing couples. Going through a custody battle in court is costly and runs the risk of the judge deciding the outcome based on limited facts within a short period of time.

Options for Out of Court Custody Negotiations

When divorcing parents have a non-adversarial relationship, it may be possible to draft an agreement by themselves that states who has physical custody, how visitations will be scheduled and how holidays, birthdays and other family occasions will be handled. However, if reaching agreement on their own on some issues is not possible, some points of contention can be resolved through Alternative Dispute Resolution. The most common ADR options are Child Custody Mediation or Collaborative Family Law.

Custody mediation is a non-adversarial process where both parents meet with a mediator that assists with settling custody issues. Mediation helps avoid the nastiness of a litigating a custody dispute. The common goal of mediation is to arrive at an agreement as to what is in the child(ren)’s best interest. A mediator does not have the power to make decisions but instead guides the parents to arrive at an agreement on their own.

Collaborative family law is a process that works to reduce legal costs and animosity between both parents while trying to work out the terms of a custody agreement. Its focus is on an absolute commitment to reach a settlement while reducing stress on both sides and family relationships. Each side can seek legal advice and advocacy from their respective attorneys. Unlike mediation, there is no neutral third-party directing the negotiations. During negotiations, outside assistance may be needed that requires the hiring of counselors or financial experts.

Finalizing an Out-of-Court Custody Agreement

Once both parents agree to their custody agreement, it will need to be finalized through the court. The judge will need to review the parenting plan and other stipulations to determine if meets the best interests of the children. If the judge accepts the agreement, it will become a court order that must be followed by both parents. It will remain that way and cannot be unilaterally modified by either parent without the other’s consent. If a disagreement arises in the future, a petition for modifying the order will need to be made to the court.

The post Settling Custody Out of Court appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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When buying a home in a competitive real estate market, using tricks of the trade will help homebuyers reduce stress and increase their chances for success.

Getting Pre-approved

Before shopping for a home, it is always a good idea for homebuyers to have gone through the pre-approval process with a mortgage lender. Having a mortgage approval letter in hand shows that homebuyers have had their credit examined and the lender has determined how much of a mortgage they can afford. It also shows that the homebuyer is financially able to close the deal sooner than a buyer who has not been pre-approved.

Making a Strong First Offer

A lowball offer will be ignored in a competitive real estate market. Even making an offer at list price may not be enough to secure a home in a hot market. Agents could set the list price below the market price to generate buzz for the home. Once enough people have shown interest, agents often request highest and best offers be brought to the table. Holding back or letting the initial asking price be the guide could cost homebuyers their dream homes.

Adding an Escalation Clause

Some realtors have begun using escalation clauses. If the seller receives a higher offer than one that has already been received, the original buyer could have an escalation clause that automatically increases his or her offer by set increments until it exceeds the competing offer.

Cash Speaks Loudly

There has been an increase of homebuyers making all-cash offers. There are numerous benefits of making an offer in cash. Since no appraisal is required and parties avoid the risk of a mortgage getting turned down by a lender after the buying process has begun, cash buyers have a significant advantage in a competitive market.

Home Inspections

In a competitive market, a seller may accept a buyer’s offer, but only if he or she waives the home inspection to speed up the process. Buyers should never waive the inspection because there could be hidden problems with the home that only a trained home inspector would be able to find. Homebuyers are at risk of losing their escrow, getting stuck with high repair bills, or receiving expensive fines from their municipality when issues are found in the home.

The post Tricks of the Trade in a Competitive Real Estate Market appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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Not knowing where the other spouse lives can make getting a divorce difficult, but still possible. The court will require the petitioning spouse to take extra steps before granting the divorce. Once those steps have been completed, the court may grant the divorce even in cases where the other spouse cannot be found.

Normal Progression for Filing for Divorce

The process of filing for a divorce normally begins with one spouse filing the necessary paperwork with his or her county clerk, often with the assistance of a family law attorney. The next step is to serve the other spouse with the divorce petition and a summons for court. This is usually done by a process server or other third party. But the process will hit a roadblock if the spouse cannot be found.

Working to Remove the Roadblock

The courts will require the filing spouse to exercise his or her due diligence by making a good faith effort to try and track down the missing spouse. In doing this, it is recommended to begin with the most obvious places, including:

  • Last known residence
  • Previous place of employment
  • Contact his or her family members
  • Using Google and other online tools, including phone listings to track
  • Court records
  • Criminal databases

A family law attorney working on the case may employ trade secrets to attempt to find the missing spouse. It may be recommended that a private investigator is hired to assist with the search. The search process should be documented because this will serve as evidence that all attempts have been made in trying to locate the spouse.

Make a Motion to Serve by Publication

If the spouse cannot be located, the next step is to go to court and file a Motion to Serve by Publication. Once the motion has been granted by the court, the divorce filer can serve the other spouse by posting a public notice in a local newspaper or by posting a public notice in a designated area of the courthouse.

Filing a Motion for Default

If the spouse is not found, the petitioner may move forward with the divorce by filing a Motion for Default. By doing so, divorce proceedings can continue, and the filing party might be granted what was originally requested in the initial filing.

The post How to Get Divorced When You Don’t Know Where Your Spouse Is appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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Failing to read and understand the fine print in real estate documents can result in disastrous and costly consequences. Home buyers and sellers should not allow themselves to feel pressured by realtors to quickly sign documents. Realtors cannot provide legal advice, so many people choose to consult with a real estate lawyer when reviewing real estate contracts.

What Happens Once Real Estate Documents Are Signed

Selling or buying a home involves lots of paperwork from listing agreement to the final closing documents. Once both parties sign those documents, whether it is the home seller and realtor or the home buyer and realtor, they become legally binding.

For example, a listing agreement would include the effective date that a house would be listed for sale and an expiration date in the event the house did not sell within a certain time frame. The agreement would also list any fees and commissions that will be paid to the listing agent. If the listing agent agreed verbally to cut their commission from six percent to five percent to get a listing from a seller that would be great. However, if they list six percent on the contract, the seller is legally bound to paying that amount of commission.

Commercial Real Estate Fine Print

Business owners need to be particularly careful with reading the fine print in their real estate leasing agreements, even if they are experienced with such agreements. It is rare for commercial lease agreements to stick to a standard-type form. They are often uniquely crafted with provisions for each property and are often designed with bargaining in mind.

It is important to pay attention to such fine print items as:

  • Providing notice to renew or terminate. The lease should include provisions and time limits for renewing the lease or giving notice that the lease will be terminated.
  • Indemnity and Defense. This is a provision where one party may be required to defend, indemnify and/or hold the other party harmless if he or she breaches the contract.
  • Surrender Clauses. If alterations have been made to the leased property, the lease agreement may specify that space must be returned to its original conditions.

If disagreements occur after signing a commercial lease, the result could be costly to the business. Litigation could be involved, and the lessee may need legal assistance from a real estate lawyer to resolve the disagreements.

The post Never Overlook the Fine Print in Real Estate Documents appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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Disabled parents are often unfairly judged and denied the right to raise their children without the interference of child protective services or child welfare agencies. Parents who have a disability are more likely to have their parental rights terminated than non-disabled parents. Two-thirds of state child welfare laws consider a parent’s disability in considering whether to terminate parental rights. Family law attorneys are fighting to change state laws and end this discriminating practice to ensure the rights of parents with disabilities.

Minorities at a-Doubled Risk of Losing Their Children

A study conducted by the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children found that parents of certain racial and ethnic populations represent a disproportionate number of those who have lost custody. A parent who is African American, Native American, low-income, or a member of the LGBTQ community in addition to having a disability is almost twice as likely to lose their child(ren) to the system. Once a child is removed from his parents and enters the child welfare system, it can be almost impossible to meet the requirements of a court-ordered case plan.

Fighting Back Against Discrimination

Discrimination exists toward parents who have all types of disability, including psychiatric, intellectual, physical and sensory. There appears to be a preconceived notion that disabled people are incapable of properly caring for their children. But for many, this notion is unjustified.

Through the Looking Glass, a non-profit organization that serves families with disabilities has estimated that only 6.2 percent of parents in the United States have a disability. Meanwhile, a disproportionate 19 percent of children in foster care have a disabled parent.

Parents and family law attorneys are fighting back against what has become a national phenomenon. Legislation and lawsuits have been introduced throughout the United States in states like Colorado and New York to fight back against this discrimination.

Scholars have identified how children benefit from having a disabled parent and keeping families intact. Children exhibit increased empathy and stronger family bonds are created that lead to a greater quality of life.

Disabled adults have the right to raise their own families without being subjected to the fear of losing custody of their children. The first step is to work toward changing state laws that unfairly promote bias against disabled adults and certain minority groups.

The post Will Your Disability Cost You Your Kids? appeared first on The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk.

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