Family Law with Shana Vitek: Agruss Law Firm Video Podcast S1 E3

Michael Agruss:
Welcome to the Agruss Law Firm video podcast. We are a different kind of law firm and that's on purpose. At Agruss Law Firm, we see you as a person and not just a client and that makes us better at what we do. We're not just lawyers and you're not just a client, we're friends, neighbors and family.

Michael Agruss:
This is a show about all things legal-ish, that friends, neighbors and family want to know. This is Season one, Episode three and today we're talking family law.

Michael Agruss:
Today's guest is Shana Vitek, divorce and family law partner at Beermann LLP. Beermann LLP is a premier family law firm in Illinois, with over 40 attorneys handling every type of family law matter, including divorce, child custody and premarital agreements. Shana, how are you?

Shana Vitek:
I'm good. Thanks for having me.

Michael Agruss:
Of course. I'm glad you could join. So tell me a little bit more about Beermann.

Shana Vitek:
Beermann is, like you said, one of the biggest family law firms in Illinois and actually in the country. We have over 40 attorneys doing all family law all day. So divorces, premarital agreements, enforcement of judgments and that kind of thing. So we do it all. We've handled every type of divorce, easy, complicated, big, small. So we have someone at our office who can do pretty much everything.

Michael Agruss:
Speaking of your office, you have two offices, right?

Shana Vitek:
We do. Our main office is downtown, right across from the Daley Center. And then we have a North Shore office that is up in Bannockburn, which is by Deerfield. A lot of people don't know where Bannockburn is when I mention it, so it's up right by Deerfield.

Michael Agruss:
Okay. Do you practice all throughout Illinois or are there certain counties that you focus on? Tell me a little bit more about that.

Shana Vitek:
So mainly Cook and Lake, and some DuPage.

Michael Agruss:
Okay. When I was getting ready for this podcast, I was doing research trying to figure out, is the divorce rate going up, is it going down? Are fewer people getting married? And what's funny is, I couldn't find a specific ... I couldn't find anything that really seemed consistent. So what's your take on things? I don't know, in the last 10 years, 20 years, whatever it may be. Is the divorce rate going up or down? Is marriage rate going up or down? What's the deal?

Shana Vitek:
So a lot of people think the divorce rates 50/50 or 50% of marriages end in divorce. It's actually not, it's less than that. It's probably a third of marriages currently end in divorced. And since the seventies and eighties, when divorce really was at its peak ... Probably lot to do with gender roles changing and the household and things like that ... divorce has been going down slowly but steadily since that time. But it's at about a third, I would say right now. It's higher for subsequent marriages. So second marriage, the rate goes up maybe 10% or so. Third marriage goes up and so on.

Michael Agruss:
It's funny you say that because when I was doing my research, that was something that I found that was consistent. It seemed a little bit unclear about first marriages, but everyone was pretty clear about second marriages, third marriages, where the divorce rates continue to go up.

Shana Vitek:
Yep, exactly.

Michael Agruss:
Got it. What was the divorce rate in the seventies and eighties, when you said you sort of saw this shift of things starting to decline with the amount of people getting divorced?

Shana Vitek:
It was probably more at 40% at that point. That was really the peak and now it's kind of slowly gone down over time. But you mentioned marriage rate, that's gone down also. So a lot less people are getting married than used to get married. A lot of people are getting married later than they used to get married.

Shana Vitek:
So, some people attribute that to the divorce rates slowly going down, is that people are waiting longer to get married, they're living together before they get married. So a lot of people might move in together, realize, "This is a bad idea," and then they break up before they get married.

Shana Vitek:
Whereas before, a lot of people didn't really live together before they got married. So I think the living together is almost a bigger deal than the getting married, because it's like, once you're living together that's big. You're going to know then if you like each other.

Michael Agruss:
I'm just curious about statistics. Statistically, do people stay married and stay married longer if they live with each other first?

Shana Vitek:
That is unclear because I've seen statistics that say, living together first, they're more likely to get divorced. But I think that is probably skewed because it doesn't take into account the people who lived together and broke up. So I don't know. Who knows? But I personally think, live together first. You'll find out if it's going to work or not pretty quickly.

Michael Agruss:
Oh, that's awesome. That's great advice. As we wrap things up at the end of this podcast, I'm going to certainly ask you more questions about ... I'm sure you've seen it all. So give us some advice. So that's very helpful. What is the leading cause of divorce?

Shana Vitek:
People ask me that all the time, and my answer is that people change, people grow apart. And if you don't take the time to continue to keep getting to know each other, you will wake up one day and realize, "This is not the person I married." That's because all of the stuff that gets in the way.

Shana Vitek:
So the stress of just everyday life. Work, money, kids, all this stuff, as you grow up, that gets very stressful and the marriage usually gets left behind. So people don't take the time to reconnect, which is when you see somebody or both people looking elsewhere for kind of an escape.

Shana Vitek:
Maybe 10 years ago, we saw a lot of the Facebook divorce. So people would connect with someone maybe they knew growing up and it reminds them of a easier, less stressful time. And then they kind of escape doing that. Currently, we see a lot of what we call the CrossFit divorce.

Michael Agruss:
So we've got Facebook [crosstalk 00:06:38]

Shana Vitek:
Facebook divorce, yes.

Michael Agruss:
Facebook divorce and then what was this, CrossFit?

Shana Vitek:
Crossfit divorce. It's where somebody makes a life change for the better. They start with good intentions. "I'm going to get in better shape, I'm going to work out." They go and they start hanging out at CrossFit all the time.

Shana Vitek:
Their friends are then from CrossFit and they don't bring the spouse along for the ride. And so all of a sudden, they're living this different life and their spouse is not included in it. That causes a lot of issues.

Shana Vitek:
And to me it's all about, people change over time. I mean, I'm certainly not the same as I was 10 years ago, thank God. But if you don't continue to date your spouse basically, you can grow apart.

Michael Agruss:
Yeah. It's funny you say that. What I like about your answer is, when I was researching and preparing for today's podcast and if you go do Google searches ... We have a joke around the office here about, don't confuse your Google search with my law degree.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah.

Michael Agruss:
You're aware of that?

Shana Vitek:Yeah. It's a good mug.

Michael Agruss:
Totally. I sent it to someone as a joke, but not a client. So I was doing what I think non-lawyers are guilty of, but anyway, it was interesting. So when I was looking up biggest reasons why people get divorced, it actually would say money issues, infidelity and it gives percentages. So what I think is interesting about your answer is, it primarily focuses on everyone's going to change.

Michael Agruss:
You and I went to law school together 15 plus years ago, early 2000s.

Shana Vitek:
17.

Michael Agruss:
Yeah, something like that. I was trying to make us sound-

Shana Vitek:
Almost 20.

Michael Agruss:
I was trying to make us sound a little bit younger. I was an idiot in law school. I'm certainly different. Married, kids, things change, all of that stuff. So I totally appreciate your answer because some advice that I was given is, marriage is a full-time job.

Shana Vitek:
Yes. It is. Nobody tells you that before you get married, but it really is true.

Michael Agruss:
No. And what's so funny about this is, I think it's so important and someone gave me this advice really early on, that if you're not spending as much time on your marriage as you are at work and on your kids and all the other things that take away, it isn't going to work. And so yeah, I like your answer because I think it's accurate.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah. Those other things, they're just a result. So the reason there's infidelity, there's something behind that. It's typically not someone just decides, "Oh, I'm going to go out and have an affair today." It's a result of a lot of years of buildup. And they say that people who go to marriage counseling, go on average six years too late. So, by the time they're going, the problems are so far gone that it's difficult to fix.

Shana Vitek:
I see that a lot. Because most people who come in, who are ready to get divorced, have gone to marriage counseling, but it was after things had really unraveled. Whereas had they gone prior to that, it might've been different.

Michael Agruss:
Do you think everyone should go to marriage counseling?

Shana Vitek:
Oh, yeah.

Michael Agruss:
Right, no. My wife and I did it before we got married.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah.

Michael Agruss:
We talk to this day, that it was ... I mean, it was super enlightening. It's been incredible. So when do you recommend people do it?

Shana Vitek:
Before, during, and after. I mean, as much as you can because it's all about communication and it's easier to be honest and have clear communication when you have somebody kind of as the mediator. So it may be an argument at home, but you can discuss it in a different way at counseling, and kind of get some impartial advice as to how to see where the other person is coming from before you get into your reaction.

Michael Agruss:
Yeah. You mentioned something too. One of my neighbors, about a year ago, told me a funny joke. You just brought something up where you're like, it's important to date and have date night and do all of that stuff. One of my neighbors on my block, about a year ago, when I was talking to him about something, his response was, "Well, it's cheaper than a divorce."

Michael Agruss:
I think it's funny because when my wife and I have time to go out for dinner or we go away for a weekend, we always joke where we try to do things big. Our joke is like, "Oh, let's totally do this. Of course let's do it. We're going to have fun. We're going to spend time with each other and it's cheaper than a divorce." Right? So anyway, that reminded me of it.

Michael Agruss:
In your practice, do you represent more men than women or is it about equal or is-

Shana Vitek:
It's always been about equal.

Michael Agruss:
Okay. Tell me what the process, procedurally, of a divorce from start to finish. Because I know I like to say that I feel like family law and criminal law are sort of procedurally their own animal. Where if you do litigation, whether it's personal injury, insurance defense, commercial lit, I feel like that procedure has a lot of overlap. Whereas family law and criminal are different. So procedurally, walk me through what a ... I almost said typical. I'm sure there was not a typical divorce, but procedurally walk me through how that works.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah, that's the tough thing, is that every situation is different. I mean, we have some, where we never even go to court till the day that people get divorced. So the more cooperative people can be, the quicker, cheaper, easier it will be.

Shana Vitek:
So if people come in and they've kind of agreed on everything, maybe we need a little bit of back and forth. I've got people divorced in three weeks.

Shana Vitek:
The process is, you have to file the petition for dissolution of marriage. The other person has to file their appearance. Either you serve them or most people just do it by agreement and then you decide, are you going to do a litigated divorce? Which in that case, you issue discovery and produce every single bank statement from your whole life and go through all of those things. And it really just depends on the issues.

Shana Vitek:
We try to do. If there's kids involved, the kids issues first, because that's the most important obviously. So, we'll do a parenting agreement. Most people can agree on the parenting agreement. If you can't, then you have to get other people involved. Attorneys, counselors and that kind of thing, to try to figure out what's in the best interest of the kids. But we start with the kids.

Michael Agruss:
Got it. When you say parenting agreement, are you referring to custody?

Shana Vitek:
Yeah, so actually that term does not exist anymore. They did away, in the past couple years, with the word custody and the word visitation. So custody, it was confusing to people because people thought custody meant who physically had the kids and it actually meant decision-making. So, who's making the decisions on what school the kids go to, what activities they're in, what doctors they go to, what religion? So people got confused with that.

Shana Vitek:
People would say, "I want custody." I'm like, "Well, do you know what that means?" And most people didn't. They thought it meant the primary residential parent. So, they did away with that and now it's called allocation of parental responsibilities.

Michael Agruss:
Wow.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah. Which we usually just use the word custody still, to be honest, but it at least describes what it actually is. So the court can or the parties can agree on ... Most people make all those decisions jointly, but sometimes where there's bad communication between the parents, they'll either divide it up or give the decision making on all of those areas to one of the parents.

Michael Agruss:
I think you briefly ... or we've talked about a couple of these terms and I'd like to know the difference because it seems to be ... This is just based on my limited knowledge, where it seems like things are trending in a different direction.

Michael Agruss:
If we go back to seventies, eighties, I remember my parents got divorced when I was super young and it just seems to be a much different world now. Like, I was reading on your bio and what your firm does, where it seemed like 30, 40 years ago, things were super contentious, dragged out forever.

Michael Agruss:
I'm sure you have examples of that today. But for example, mediation, collaborative divorce, I feel like these are things that are more recent as opposed to something that was happening 30, 40 years ago. So what is collaborative divorce, what is mediation and how is that different than a litigated divorce or going to trial?

Shana Vitek:
Mediation can be part of a litigated divorce or it can be for everything. What mediation is, is two people, either with or without their attorneys, go to ... It's usually a lawyer who specializes in family law, and will sit down and see how much they can agree on.

Shana Vitek:
They'll start with the kids issues. And a lot of people think, "Oh, I want to go to mediation," and the mediator's like a judge, that they'll give their opinion. They'll say, "Oh, yeah. You're being much more reasonable than he is," and that's not what their job is. Their job is to facilitate the parents, the parties to come to an agreement on their own because the research shows that, if parties have agreed on something, kids and financial, they're more likely to stick with it for the long term.

Michael Agruss:
Got it. What's the difference between legal separation and divorce?

Shana Vitek:
Legal separation, a lot of people ask about it. We don't really do it. I've probably done between five and 10 ever. We used to do them for insurance reasons, because then you could stay legally married and stay on your spouses insurance. But a legal separation is pretty much everything you would do in a divorce except be legally divorced.

Shana Vitek:
You can do a parenting agreement, you can do support, division of assets. So, it's a little bit also like a postnuptial agreement, kind of. And usually we'll say, "Okay, then if someone files for divorce, we'll incorporate this agreement into the divorce, so you don't have to do the whole thing again."

Michael Agruss:
That was something I wanted to talk to you about as well, prenups and postnups. This is something my wife and I joke about all the time and her response is always, "Do you have any money I'm not aware of?" And I always say, "No, I want to give you my loans."

Shana Vitek:
Yeah, I wish.

Michael Agruss:
That's legally, right? What's a prenup, what's a postnup? When do you recommend it? Give me the rundown.

Shana Vitek:
I do a lot of prenups, not a lot of postnups, because usually one person is not going to agree to do the postnup. The postnup is an agreement that's a contract done after the marriage, similar to a prenup, but it's just governed by contract law. It's not under the Premarital Agreement Act.

Shana Vitek:
That may be, people are thinking about getting divorced, they're not sure. And so they do that as kind of ... to buy them more time, so they don't have to worry about those things. They can just focus on seeing if they can work out the marriage.

Shana Vitek:
A prenup is something people do before they get married. Usually people, in my experience, wait way too long to get it done. And then we're doing it the week before their wedding, because people don't want to think about that. I mean, you're happy, you just got engaged and who wants to talk about that?

Shana Vitek:
So people who would like one, oftentimes will wait and wait and wait. And then at the last minute will say, "How quickly can you do this?" So that could be frustrating, but we can still do it. Under the Premarital Agreement Act, it's really hard to invalidate a prenup. So if you get one, expect that it will be enforced down the line if you need it.

Michael Agruss:
Should everyone have a prenup?

Shana Vitek:
It's an individual choice. I mean, most people that we do prenups for either ... A lot of second marriages we do them, because people have learned their lesson and don't want to go through another contentious divorce. So, that's one we do a lot.

Shana Vitek:
If one person has a lot of non-marital money, from either they're working or their family or whatever it is, and they'll want to protect that, that's a common one. Or both people have a lot of money and they just ... They want to get married, but they really ... they're both financially independent and they just want to keep it that way, unless they decide they want to buy something together.

Shana Vitek:
The ones we don't really see are people who are getting married, they're just starting out. They don't really have anything, so everything they accumulate is really going to be marital. You don't see people in that situation getting prenup. I didn't do one, because back then, we didn't have anything.

Michael Agruss:
Just debt? Law school debt?

Shana Vitek:
Just law school debt, so there was really no need to. But yeah, usually it's second marriages or when one person has significantly more coming into the marriage.

Michael Agruss:
Right. Or if someone has a family money, a big trust or something where it's almost generational, where they just want to make sure it's protected.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah, there's definitely families who have their premarital agreements, that they require anyone coming into the family to sign, but we make sure we represent the other side also. You have to advise people, if they're signing it, what they're signing on for. Because like I said, it's probably going to be enforced. So if you are signing on for something, you have to be careful.

Shana Vitek:
What if it's a woman who's signing on and the husband has all the money and then they have kids, she decides to stay home and not really work, then they get divorced? And the premarital agreement says, "Yeah, you don't really get anything," so out of luck.

Michael Agruss:
Yeah. So, that's a problem.

Shana Vitek:
Yes. Both sides really need to have good lawyers, have a divorce lawyer look at it and advise you on it before you sign it, because it's a big deal.

Michael Agruss:
If someone is going to get a prenup, you had mentioned not doing it a week before the wedding. What would you recommend if someone's going to do it?

Shana Vitek:
Just as soon as possible, get it out of the way. You can throw it in your basement and not think about it.

Michael Agruss:
Okay. We were just talking about the example you gave, talking about dividing a property or a situation where people get married, have kids, the woman stays home. Illinois is a marital property state, is that right?

Shana Vitek:
Yes, equitable distribution. So it's not automatic 50/50. Community property, there's maybe nine states now that still have it. And that's presumed anything acquired during the marriage is owned 50/50 by each party.

Shana Vitek:
Here you can make argument, although in reality it's usually 50/50 that it ends up being divided. But if for example, let's say this person has a $20 million trust and the other spouse doesn't have any non-marital money, there's a good argument then to give that spouse greater than 50% of the marital money. So it's not an automatic 50/50, although in practice it's usually close to 50/50, unless you have some kind of unique scenario like that.

Michael Agruss:
Right. I'm licensed in California too and they're a community property state. And in preparation for this podcast with you, I was looking at the difference between community property, marital property or however you described it. I know it where I could spit out the rule, but practically speaking, it seems like there's not that much of a difference or is there?

Shana Vitek:
Not having practiced in California, I couldn't say how ... I know they can deviate it in certain circumstances. So, I don't know if they're the same circumstances as here. They have the ability to do it too. I just don't know under what circumstances they would. But like what I talked about, where one person is getting more non-marital money, that might be a situation to say, "Okay, I want 60 or 70% of the marital assets," depending on how much the other person has.

Michael Agruss:
Got it. Let's talk about costs. I'm sure I'm going to ask you a question that you get asked all the time and I'm sure-
Shana Vitek:
That I can't answer it.

Michael Agruss:
Totally. Should I move on to my next question? Just kidding. Let me ask anyway.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah.

Michael Agruss: Maybe the first question you'll ... I'm sure you get asked all the time and you can't answer it. But I think the second question is what I'm more ... it's tied in and that's what I think is a little bit more interesting. Anyway, what's a divorce cost? That's the question. But who pays for it?

Shana Vitek:
Both of them. It comes out of the marital estate. It's supposed to be an advance against each party's share of the estate. So at the end, when you split up everything, if one person had spent more, then you're supposed to even it out. That usually doesn't happen, unless there's a huge discrepancy. But typically the money is paid out of marital assets.

Michael Agruss:
We talked about this before we started shooting. I watched last night also ... I was trying to do my homework in preparation for this. I watched last night ... I watched half of it. I couldn't sit through Marriage Stories.

Shana Vitek:
You're good. Yeah, I fell asleep also and had to watch the rest of it the next day.

Michael Agruss:
I thought it was a little bit slow, a little bit boring maybe. And then I also found it a little bit ... I don't know. Like I said, I grew up, my folks got divorced super young. I don't even think I was a year old. That literally lasted 20 years and so I had an ... Maybe I just found it a little bit more irritating because it resonated with me. But anyway, I thought something ... You've seen it, right?

Shana Vitek:
Yes.

Michael Agruss:
Do you like it? Do you think it's an accurate portrayal, not, bits and pieces?

Shana Vitek:
That's, I think, why it won so many awards. I think it is accurate, although it was too ... It's depressing to watch, but I think that's because it's real. And in my experience, a lot of what I saw, even though it was like a lot of cringe-worthy ... Did you see that part where the child representative comes in and sits with him and his son?

Michael Agruss:
No, I'm sorry. I turn it off after like an hour. First of all, my wife was like, "I don't want to watch this. This'll be terribly depressing."

Shana Vitek:
It is depressing, yeah.

Michael Agruss:
I explained Shanna's coming in and I'm like, "Everyone's talking about this. It was up for awards."

Shana Vitek:
Yeah. Yeah, well there's a part where this woman comes in and it's to observe the father with his son. It's in his very plain, boring apartment. The dad is trying to impress this woman and she just sits there very awkwardly, observing them and it's very uncomfortable.

Shana Vitek:
I have started representing kids in that role and it ... I mean, I don't just sit there like this woman did, but it's very uncomfortable to have to open your home and expose your life to someone who doesn't even know you or let a judge decide, who doesn't even know your family. That's why we encourage people, especially with the kids issues, to come to an agreement because you don't want somebody who doesn't even know you making decisions for your family.

Michael Agruss:
Yeah, totally. I want to talk to you about that in one second. But one of the things ... When I was saying how much does a divorce cost and who pays for it, I remember in the movie last night, they were telling the guy, saying "Yeah and you're going to pay for her divorce attorney too." I guess-

Shana Vitek:
People always say that.

Michael Agruss:
Not true?

Shana Vitek:
No. Not unless one person has all of this non-marital money and the other person doesn't, then maybe. Or you can make an argument at the end of the case, if one person was being unreasonable, didn't follow the court order, caused all the litigation, then you could argue that they should have to pay it. But like I said, that is less common than the money just coming out of the marital estate.

Michael Agruss:
So basically throughout the divorce process, whether you said it lasts three weeks or three years, each party's just paying their own attorney's bills as the case progresses?

Shana Vitek:
Yes, kind of. If one person has access to most of the money, we may have to go to court and ask for what's called interim attorney's fees, where they will then have to write us a check, but it's still marital money because they're still married. So it's just like they're getting an advance of their own money.

Michael Agruss:
I'm sure no divorce is easy, but is it easier when there aren't kids in the picture?

Shana Vitek:
Not necessarily.

Michael Agruss:
No?

Shana Vitek:
No.

Michael Agruss:
Why? Are people fighting over dogs then, or what are people fighting over?

Shana Vitek:
Oh yeah, I've done dog custody. I'm a huge dog fan so I can appreciate dog custody. Three years ago, I think, they enacted that statute. Because prior to that, dogs were just property, so the court could only say, "I'm giving it to you," or, "I'm giving it to you." That's it. Now, it's the best interest of the pet. So similar to kids, the court can say, "All right, I think it's in the best interest of Snoopy that he spend one week with you and then one week with you."

Michael Agruss:
So this is real, what you're talking about?

Shana Vitek:
Oh, yeah.

Michael Agruss:
That's wild.

Shana Vitek:
Don't you have a dog?

Michael Agruss:
I've got a dog now. We had two dogs. One of our dogs we had to put down about a month ago. But yeah, I would say before kids, maybe my wife and I would have had that fight. But after kids, the joke is like, before kids our dogs were our kids. After kids, our dogs ... I love them, but they're just dogs now. Does that break your heart?

Shana Vitek:
A little.

Michael Agruss:
If I got divorced would that ... my one dog now would not be in the best interest of being with me based on what I just said?

Shana Vitek:
Clearly not.

Michael Agruss:
Maybe we'll delete that portion of the podcast. I was looking at your bio this morning and I think this is awesome. I read this years ago and I think it's really cool. I was going to read something from your law firm bio.

Shana Vitek:
All right.

Michael Agruss:
Yeah.

Shana Vitek:
Sure.

Michael Agruss:
You looked nervous there for a second. But it says here, and this is the quote from you, it says, "I strongly believe that division of a family is not synonymous with destruction of a family and a court should always be a last resort."

Michael Agruss:I think that's awesome. I think it's great. I give that advice to my clients, whether it's a personal injury client, a consumer rights client. So I think it's awesome. And like I said, I grew up in a house where the attorneys, at least certainly handling my mom's divorce, it was the polar opposite of this. I mean, was brutal.

Michael Agruss:
So I love the quote and I wanted to read it. My question's this, is there ever a time ... Give me an example of when going to court is the only option. Or not the only option, but I'm sure you see cases where you're like, "I know we can do this collaboratively in mediation." Is there ever a time where someone walks in and you're like, "Yeah, this is going to go to trial."

Shana Vitek:
Most cases we settle. I really try to settle every case, but we still have cases that have to go to trial. The ones that go to trial is when one person is so unreasonable that we cannot do any worse in court. They're offering us our worst case scenario or worse than that. And at that point, you really have no choice. You have to go to court and let the judge decide.

Shana Vitek:
That doesn't happen a lot. A lot of times you'll get all the way up to trial and then the person will say, "All right, fine," and then they'll do something more reasonable. Or the judge will give a recommendation in the pretrial and then you realize, "Okay, I'm not going anywhere with this," and then that helps to settle the case.

Michael Agruss:
Got it. You just brought something up that I'm curious about. Family law or divorce trials, they're bench trials, right? So no jury.

Shana Vitek:
Correct.

Michael Agruss:
Is there ever a jury involved?

Shana Vitek:
No.

Michael Agruss:
Okay. Interesting. I saw something else you had on your bio here, talking about articles that you've written or presentations and this one caught my attention. The Ethics of Representing Athletes and Entertainers in Family Law. What are the ethical issues with entertainers or sports people?

Shana Vitek:
It's interesting. We've represented a good number of celebrities, athletes and we are very cautious about not giving out any information, not even that we're representing them or that they're going through a divorce. Rarely give out any kind of quote or anything like that. We will make sure that we keep documents out of court whenever possible. The final divorce agreement will never be in the court file, so nobody will actually ever know.

Shana Vitek:
I mean, we've had cases where people say, "Oh, yeah. So-and-so got this much in the divorce," and they have no way of knowing that and it's not true. Because nobody besides us and the other lawyers know and there's a confidentiality agreement in there. So, even the people who do know can't talk about it. So that's one thing that people really appreciate, as far as our office, they know that we're not going to go out and try to make money off of the fact that we represented them.

Michael Agruss:
Okay. What's the difference in spousal support, alimony, child support? What are those?

Shana Vitek:
Spousal support, alimony, maintenance, all the same thing. That is support that's paid from one spouse to the other depending on all kinds of factors, including the parties' age, the length of the marriage, ability to work, whether someone stayed home, whether there's kids, how much money is in the estate.

Shana Vitek:
If maintenance is appropriate, there is now ... There wasn't several years ago. Definitely not when I first started practicing, there was no formula. Now, there is a formula and a formula for the duration of the payment.

Shana Vitek:
So the amount is determined by taking the person who has more income, subtract a percentage of the other person's income, and then they pay support for an amount of time that's determined by the length of the marriage. And if the length of the marriage is over 20 years, it's presumed to be indefinite, which used to be permanent, but that word freaked people out. And so that just means, you pay it until something changes.

Michael Agruss:
Got it. You've probably seen hundreds of divorce cases, right? Based on all your experience going through cases, whether it's resolved in three weeks or three years, super contentious, whatever, what would be ... what's some practical advice you'd give to people who, let's say are in a longterm relationship and considering getting engaged or they've been engaged and they're going to get married? What's some sort of practical advice you would give based on everything that you've seen?

Shana Vitek:
Like I said, I'm a fan of the living together before and just the counseling and discussing stuff ahead of time, so that there's no surprises. There's still going to be surprises, but as much as you can talk about ahead of time and be on the same page that, I mean, that's huge and you have to keep doing that indefinitely.

Michael Agruss:
Go it. What was that? Not permanently?

Shana Vitek:
Not permanently, indefinitely.

Michael Agruss:
No permanently, just indefinitely?

Shana Vitek:
Until something changes.

Michael Agruss:
Perfect. I like that. What's the best way for people to get in touch with you? We'll put this information up at the bottom of the video.

Shana Vitek:
To call, email. Our office number, and we have a bunch of them, my direct line is 312-621-1263. And then my email is [email protected] and Beermann has two Ns at the end. People forget the second N.

Michael Agruss:
Perfect. All right. Before we wrap this up, I've got a couple of rapid fire questions. And I know when we were talking before the camera started rolling, you were going to look for a second, but I like it when these are more candid answers.

Shana Vitek:
All right. What do you got?

Michael Agruss:
Favorite animal. What's your favorite animal?

Shana Vitek:
Polar bear.

Michael Agruss:
Polar bear?

Shana Vitek:
Yeah.

Michael Agruss:
What app do you use the most?

Shana Vitek:
Probably Facebook. I keep meaning to delete it.

Michael Agruss:
Is there an app you'd rather use? I'm on Facebook all the time too, so it's like a ... whatever.

Shana Vitek:
Yes. Something more like CNN or something more respectable.

Michael Agruss:
Fair enough. What's your favorite food?

Shana Vitek:
Sushi.

Michael Agruss:
What would be your perfect vacation?

Shana Vitek:
Galapagos.

Michael Agruss:
Finish this sentence. Weekends are for ...

Shana Vitek:
Relaxing.

Michael Agruss:
Good. That's on my bio on my website. That's my answer too. Last one. If you are not a lawyer, what would you be?

Shana Vitek:
Psychologist.

Michael Agruss:
Ah. I'm going to go with, there's a lot of psychology involved with divorce.

Shana Vitek:
Yes. That's what I was going to be. So now I'm kind of both.

Michael Agruss:
Got it. Was that your major in-

Shana Vitek:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Speaker 3:
School?

Shana Vitek:
Yeah.

Michael Agruss:
Okay. Awesome. I really appreciate you coming on. This was awesome. It's insightful.

Shana Vitek:
Thanks for having me.

Michael Agruss:
Yeah, totally. And like I said, I've been thinking ... We just started doing this video podcast. You're the third guest, so thank you, thank you. And when I was thinking of doing it, I knew in the back of my mind of people who I wanted to have on early on. And certainly family law, I think is such a huge deal. Even if you never go through a divorce, if you're married, in a relationship, it affects everyone.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah. Everyone knows someone.

Michael Agruss:
Totally. Totally. So this was awesome. Thank you very much.

Shana Vitek:
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Michael Agruss:
I appreciate it.

Shana Vitek:
It was good to see you after all these years.

Michael Agruss:
I know, I know. Stay tuned for our next podcast.

We are listening.

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