Spoliation of Social Media Evidence: Think Before You Delete

iStock_000020318351XSmall02We have all heard the warning, “Be careful of what you post on the Internet!” However, all of us find ourselves in a situation where we wish we had been more cautious and could take back what we posted on social media. Typically in these situations we go back and delete our posts. However, what if the mere act of deleting content from your social media account could be used as evidence against you in court?

Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 219(c) and the common law theory of negligence, a party can be sanctioned for deleting content from their social media account. In family law matters, clients should be aware of this potential risk regarding the management of their respective social media accounts to avoid potential litigation over spoliation of evidence.

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Blumenthal v Brewer: What Can Go Wrong If Couples Do Not Marry

Divorce section of the property by legal means.

Women and men who do not marry each other, even in decades-long relationships, have no right to maintenance (formerly called alimony) if the relationship ends.  These unmarried women and men also have no right to their former partner’s property, such as a profitable business and retirement benefits, even if they contributed time and money to the acquisition of the property.  On August 18, 2016, in the case of Blumenthal v Brewer, the Illinois Supreme Court stated that this was also true for same sex couples who end their relationship.  While the morality and fairness of this outcome are debatable, what is undeniable is that there can be disastrous economic consequences from not marrying.

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New Study Finds Seasonal Increases in Divorce

The transition from the summer to fall season usually brings to mind students returning to school,

four seasons collage, several images of beautiful natural landscapes at different time of the year - winter spring, summer, autumn, planet earth life cycle concept

the kickoff of the football matchups and the leaves changing colors.  A recent study conducted by sociologists at the University of Washington has revealed another fall seasonal occurrence: an increase in filings for divorce.

This report, presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, analyzed the timing of divorce filings in Washington state for a 14-year period, between 2001 and 2015.  This evidence showed that, over the course of a calendar year, filings for divorce consistently increased in both March and in August.  As these two time periods follow the winter and summer holiday seasons, the researchers concluded that the timing of filing for divorce appears to be tied to a “domestic ritual” calendar of societal and family behavior.

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Divorce and Public Pensions

The news has not been good lately for U.S public pensions. Long term returns for U.S public

pension on business document folder

pensions are expected to drop to the lowest levels ever recorded, as cities across the nation are faced with massive pension deficits. There is a real possibility that retirees won’t be paid what they thought, as government entities see their budgets drown in pension obligations, necessitating deep and unpopular cuts elsewhere.

In fact, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article the “two pension bellwethers reported their worst results since the 2008-09 financial crisis; as both the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and California State Teachers’ Retirement System dropped their 20-year returns below 7.5% investment targets, to 7.03% and 7.1%, respectively.”

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Medical Decisions, Immunizations and the Start of School

The month of August is known as National Immunization Awareness Month.  Children will be

Nurse makes vaccination in the shoulder of patient in a clinic

preparing to go back to school and although by now its likely decisions regarding which schools your children will attend have already been made, there are other decisions which still need to be made, many of which can be complicated when parents are divorced or divorcing.

When parents are divorced, or are divorcing, there is an allocation of responsibility for parenting decisions.  One of those decisions includes medical decisions for your children, and when pertaining to school, includes physicals, eye exams, dental exams, and vaccinations.  Over the past few years, the issues of vaccinations and their potential side effects in particular have been subject to some debate, especially with the influence of celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy. To highlight some of the problems that can arise regarding this responsibility, let’s take a look at the topic of vaccinations.

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Brexit and the Impact on International Family Law, More Questions Than Answers

On June 22, 2016, the UK voted to exit the European Union, a development commonly known as

European flag jigsaw piece with British flag missing piece

the “Brexit.” This surprising turn of events left the global markets in decline, and the volatility has continued ever since. The question on many people’s mind is will Brexit cause a recession in the United States or globally? The biggest impact thus far has been on the pound, which has continued to decline, especially against the US dollar, falling to $1.32, its lowest level since the 1980’s. Moreover, pension values abroad and in the US may well drop, and it could take time for them to recover.

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Domestic Violence

Recently, the news and social media outlets have been inundated with domestic violence headlines

Stop domestic violence!

including allegations against Johnny Depp, the arrest of Sacramento Kings basketball player, Darren Collison, and the conviction of television actor, Michael Jace.  From athletes and entertainers to the “average Joe,” domestic violence (including physical, emotional or sexual abuse) impacts thousands of families each year, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.  While the protection for victims has not changed, the following information bears repeating as a reminder that help is available:

In Illinois, domestic violence is a crime.  Any person who hits, chokes, kicks, threatens, harasses, or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member, has broken Illinois’ domestic violence law.  Under Illinois law, “family” or “household members” are defined as: family members related by blood, people who are married or used to be married, people who share or used to share a residence (i.e. home, apartment or other common dwelling), people who have a child in common, people who are dating and people with disabilities including their personal assistants.  See, 750 ILCS 60/101 et. al.

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Should We Sell the House?

In the event of divorce, issues often arise with regard to the marital residence.  In many cases, one

Conceptual image - division of property at divorce

spouse wants to keep the marital residence and must buy out the other, which can be accomplished by refinancing the existing mortgage and placing the new mortgage in the sole name of the spouse who is keeping the home.   In other cases, the parties must sell the property either because neither spouse wants to stay in the home or because the cost of maintaining two homes is impracticable.

In both of these instances, issues will likely arise.  For example, what happens if the house won’t sell?   Absent an agreement between the parties, the court may ultimately force and oversee the sale of the property, regardless of the parties’ wishes, or a court could order that the house be put up for auction. In either scenario, the homeowners may take a big hit on the sale price.  In instances when a party tries to refinance the home in order to buy the other party out, it may be difficult to get the bank to allow the mortgage refinance, particularly when one party is not working or there is not sufficient equity in the house to justify the refinance.

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