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Hon. Karen G. Shields (Ret.)
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Hon. Karen G. Shields (Ret.)

General Biography
Practice Areas
Family Law
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Hon. Karen G. Shields (Ret.) has focused her practice on family law since 1991, first as an attorney in private practice and later as a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County Domestic Relations Division, where she was a member of the Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues and the Illinois Judicial Conference Study Committee on Juvenile Justice. 

Judge Shields has considerable expertise in all aspects of family law practice, including custody and parenting time, distribution of assets and debts, contributions between marital and non-marital estates, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, family support and maintenance, college contribution, and valuations of real estate, businesses and art. 

ADR Experience and Qualifications

Judge Shields has substantial litigation, judicial and settlement experience in all aspects of family law including:
  • Parenting Issues
    • Parenting allocation of decision making, time, and responsibilities (includes the former custody and visitation concepts)
    • Family Support & maintenance 
    • College contribution
  • Property
    • Marital vs. non-marital
    • Valuations including real estate businesses, art
    • Distribution of assets and debts
    • Contributions & reimbursements between marital and non-marital estates
    • Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
    • Mediation of property issues followed by binding arbitration of any issues unresolved by the parties (med-arb)

Representative Matters

  • Allocation of parenting matters (decision making, time with each parent, and responsibilities) in every sort of situation including where one or both parents have alcohol, drug or mental health concerns
  • Parenting time where one parent moved child within the state but far enough that it impinged on the other parent’s parenting time
  • Removal of child from state or to an area 25 miles from the other parent
  • Parenting time and responsibilities for children with special needs
  • Date of separation
  • Allocation of college expenses
  • Determination of school that a minor child will attend (and if private school, how it is paid)
  • Attorney’s fees dispute between parties
  • Child support where parents do not agree about work records and incomes and needs
  • Contribution by marital estate to non-marital estate and vice versa
  • Disagreement as to whether the money from a party’s parent during the marriage constitutes a gift or a loan and whether the gift or loan was to one party or to both
  • Distribution of assets and debts from small estates overwhelmed with debt to very large estates with many millions in assets
  • Division of estate where federal criminal charges are pending against one party
  • Maintenance in all types of situations:
    • One party works
    • Both parties work
    • No one works
    • One party is retired
    • Both parties are retired
    • All lengths of marriage from under one year to over 50 years
    • Party has special needs
    • Minor children of varying ages
    • Differing ability to support one self
  • Neutral evaluation for divorcing parties on a variety of related issues
  • Negotiation of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
  • Quieting title on property between husband, wife, and husband’s family
  • Stock option division (restricted, unrestricted, vested, unvested)
  • Tax issues in divorce
  • Use of expert relative to ability to work and the job market
  • Validity of prenuptial agreements
  • Valuations of:  medical practice; Subchapter S businesses including manufacturing and service businesses; artwork, residences, investment properties
  • Use of experts, whether neutral or hired by one party:
    • Real estate
    • Lifestyle of parties for determination of maintenance
    • Mental health
    • Children’s issues
    • Tracing income
    • Tracing accounts
  • Separations where there has been no marriage or civil union
  • Mediation of cases where family law attorney is accused of legal malpractice

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS. 

  • Honors
    • 10 Best Attorneys, American Institute of Family Law Attorneys, 2017-19
    • Leading Lawyer in Family Law Alternative Dispute Resolution, 2013-18
    • Best Lawyers in America, 2014
    • Recognized as one of the Lawdragon 500 leading judges in America
  • Memberships & Professional Activities
    • Member, Schiller, DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center Advisory Board, DePaul University College of Law, 2018-Present
    • Member, Executive Committee and Board of Resolution Systems Institute, 2008-2015
    • Co-Teacher, Rules of Contempt, New Judges School, 2002-2015
    • Member, ADR Exploratory Committee for Cook County Domestic Relations Division, 2012-1
      • This committee created the local rule allowing judges to order parties to financial mediation and to set procedures and rules.  The committee also published Committee Comments to help judges, attorneys, and litigants navigate the rule.
    • Member, Judicial Education Faculty which developed and updated the Illinois Bench Book on Family Law & Procedure, 2007-2012
    • Member, Chicago Council of Lawyers, Chicago Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, Illinois State Bar Association
    • Member, Illinois Judges Association and Association of Family & Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
    • Member, California and Illinois Bar
    • Member, Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues, 2004-06
      • Created the 900 Series of Supreme Court Rules which emphasized the importance of the courts’ responsibility for children’s care and custody.
    • Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy, DePaul University College of Law, 2000-2003
    • Volunteer teacher of Trial Advocacy, University of Chicago Law School, 1993-2002
    • Taught trial technique at training program for new assistant public defenders, 1987-1992
    • Member, Judicial Education Writing Faculty, which developed and updates the Illinois Bench Book on Family Law & Procedure, 2007-2012
  • Selected Publications
    • Interview, The Mediation Toolbox, Chicago Lawyer, Sept. 2016
    • Author, Divorce with Less Damage, Chicago Magazine, Feb. 2012
    • Contributor, “Child Custody Litigation Chapter,” Child Custody Litigation, IICLE, 2009-2010
    • Author, "Resolving Family Matters in an Economic Crisis," The Matrimonial Strategist, Law Journal Newsletter, Vol. 22, Number 11, November 2009
    • Author, “Top Tips-Domestic Relations Division,” CBA Record, Vol. 22, No. 1, January 2008
    • Author, "Supplement to Child Custody Litigation Chapter,” Child Custody Litigation, IICLE, 2006
  • Selected Speaking Engagements
    • Presenter, Mediation Training, AAML, 2019, 2016
    • Speaker, Project Venus Divorce Symposium, Jan. 2019
    • Panelist, Family Law Symposium—The Effects of Substance Abuse & Domestic Violence on Children of Addicted Parents, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center, DePaul University College of Law, Oct. 2018
    • Panelist, Lawyer Assisted Mediation—It Does Work….Just Not Always, AAML-IL Annual Columbus Day Seminar for Experienced Matrimonial Lawyers, Oct. 2018
    • Presenter, The Basics of Family Law Mediation, The Diversity Scholarship Foundation, April 2018
    • Panelist, “Complex Asset Issues in Divorce,” Divorce Network, 2017
    • Presenter, “Dollars and Sense:  Special Valuation Issues in Family Law Disputes,” 2017
    • Speaker, “Preparing Clients for Mediation,” CBA Domestic Relations Committee Meeting, 2017
    • Panelist, “Financial Mediation: Try It, You’ll Like It,” AAML and AFCC joint seminar, 2015
    • Panelist, “Navigating the New Mediation Rule,” Cook County Circuit Court Domestic Relations Division, 2014
    • Panelist, “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Hague Convention, UCCJEA & PKPA,” Domestic Relations Division Child Rep Seminar
    • Panelist, “Low-Income Access Challenges: The Implementation of the 2006 Mediation Mandate in Illinois,” Association of Family & Conciliation Courts Conference
    • Frequent faculty lecturer at New Judge School, Illinois Judicial Conference seminars, CBA, and IICLE seminars
  • ADR Profile

Background and Education

  • Mediator, JAMS Chicago, 2008-Present
  • DePaul University, Family & Divorce Mediation Certification, 2009
  • Judge, Domestic Relations Division, Cook County Circuit Court, Chicago, Illinois, 1997-2008, 1995-1996
    • Member and Co-Chair, Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues
    • Member, Illinois Judicial Conference Study Committee on Juvenile Justice
  • The John Paul Jones Group for the Cook County Circuit Court Comprehensive Mediation Certification, 2007
  • Partner, Nadler, Pritikin, Mirabelli & Shields, 1997
  • Private Practice, focusing on domestic relations and criminal defense, 1991-1995
  • Assistant Public Defender, Cook County, Chicago, Illinois, 1982-1991
  • Master of Liberal Arts, University of Chicago, 2007
  • J.D., DePaul University College of Law, 1980
  • B.A., with honors and distinction, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1977


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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