The spotlight on efforts to combat domestic violence continues to shine on groundbreaking changes in policy and procedure developed by a Chicago citywide task force formed last year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The task force – which is a collaboration between the Mayor’s office, the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the office of the Cook County State’s Attorney, the city Department of Family and Support Services and the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network – has formulated new training protocols for first-responding officers to increase sensitivity to the psychological and emotional aspects of domestic situations, enhance coordination between the police, the prosecutors and service providers to keep victims safe, and to improve evidence collection techniques to assist in prosecution and conviction of offenders.
Against a backdrop in which the CPD annually responds to more than 200,000 domestic- related calls, Mayor Emanuel explained the need for this coordinated response by pointing to the 31 domestic violence-related murders in Chicago in 2013, and the fact that many of these victims contacted the police at least once before they were killed. Believing that “[i]f we handled it right the first time, we could [have] prevent[ed]” these deaths, Emanuel charged the group with improving the system. To that end, focus was placed on the pivotal role police officers play as the first contact abused women have with the justice system when they decide to seek help and leave their abusers.
There appears to be good news for state employees. On Friday, November 21, 2014, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz found that “without question” the pension reform law is unconstitutional since the Illinois Constitution contains a provision that a public worker pension cannot be “diminished or impaired”. In reaching his decision, Judge Belz stated that “the state of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits… Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the state of Illinois cannot break this promise.”
The pension reforms found to be unconstitutional include reducing and suspending cost-of-living increases for pensions, raising retirement ages and limiting salaries on which pensions are based. Accordingly, per this recent decision, the pension benefits of individuals in the Teachers Retirement System (“TRS”), State Universities Retirement System of Illinois (“SURS”) and State Employees Retirement System of Illinois (“SERS”), will not be affected and the benefits they are presently earning will not be changed. While pension recipients may feel a sigh of relief, they should be aware that this may not be the final word since Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has promised to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
November is a delightful month when we begin the holiday season that everyone is aware of (ie: Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas). In October, however, we celebrated many holidays and events, some of which not everyone is aware of, such as Columbus Day, Halloween, Bosses Day, Sweetest Day, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Oktoberfest National Pizza Month and National Save for Retirement Week which was October 19th – 25th, 2014.
People going through a divorce sometimes have a hard time thinking about saving for retirement due to the extra costs of setting up a second household and the costs of the divorce itself. However, as you are working through the financial issues in your case, it is important to look to your future and make sure that the retirement assets are divided so that both parties have funds tucked away to use for retirement, especially if you are older when you divorce. Some people going through a divorce are so fixated on keeping their home, that they are tempted to trade off retirement assets. It is important to keep in mind that while real estate may appreciate or depreciate in value over the years, and often requires investment of funds for maintenance and upkeep, a retirement plan will continue to obtain market gains (or losses) and compound interest returns. They are also then in a form that can be spent tax deferred at retirement.
How much money do you need to live? Or, is the question really, how much money should you be entitled to receive, regardless of what it costs you to live? That is the practical question presented when billionaires divorce, as most recently illustrated by the divorce of Oklahoma energy magnate Harold Hamm and his ex-wife Sue Ann.
In that case, it appears that a divorce court awarded Harold about $2 billion and Sue Ann received $995 million, which is approximately 33% of the alleged marital estate. Sue Ann is appealing this ruling, claiming that the estate is really worth $18 billion and therefore, the property award she received is less than 6% of their net worth.
In March of last year, I authored a blog post, The Illinois Supreme Court Allows Guardians to File Petitions for Dissolution of Marriage on Behalf of Wards in Karbin v. Karbin, which commented on the then-recent landmark decision handed down by the Illinois Supreme Court in Karbin v. Karbin, 2012 IL 112815. In Karbin, our State’s highest tribunal overruled case law which had controlled for nearly three decades and which prohibited a guardian from filing a petition for dissolution of marriage on behalf of an incompetent ward. That rule applied even where the guardian believed that the filing of a dissolution petition was in the ward’s best interests to protect him or her from physical or emotional abuse, financial exploitation and/or neglect by the ward’s competent spouse.
In reversing course, the Illinois Supreme Court surveyed cases which it admitted revealed its own inconsistent interpretation of the Probate Act regarding the scope of powers possessed by a guardian. Id., ¶ 29. For example, although a guardian had no standing to file a dissolution petition on the ward’s behalf, the guardian was nevertheless authorized to act on behalf of the ward with respect to a number of other deeply personal decisions, including whether life-sustaining measures should be discontinued. Bringing Illinois in line with a growing number of states, Karbin held that a guardian “may seek court permission to bring a dissolution action on behalf of a ward where not expressly barred or allowed by statute.” Id., ¶ 51.
The statistics are extremely troubling, and here are only a few. Nationally, every 9 seconds a woman in the United States is beaten, and it is estimated that 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners every day in the United States, and one in five teens in a serious relationship reports having been hit, pushed or slapped by a partner.
Locally, the Chicago Police Department annually responds to more than 200,000 domestic-related calls, which averages to more than 500 calls each day. On any given day, in excess of 12,000 active orders of protection exist in Cook County.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity for our community to address this serious issue and work on ways to put an end to this scourge. The problem of domestic violence has taken on heightened visibility this year due to the spotlighting of recent incidents involving NFL players such as Ray Rice, who was caught on video abusing his now-wife.
Before you choose the proper lawyer for yourself, you need to look at how one defines a successful divorce. Many people think success is limited to the bottom line outcome. Sadly, however, those people often fail to understand that the “costs” of divorce do not necessarily end when the court enters the final divorce judgment.
Nearly every divorce involves a “transactional divorce” and an “emotional divorce”. In choosing a lawyer, both aspects of divorce should be addressed, preferably at the same time. Otherwise, the expense of your divorce may last far beyond the split, especially when children are involved.
Going through a divorce is difficult anytime, but especially when there are contested custody and parenting time issues. In an ideal world, most parents want their children to go through the divorce process with as little disruption to their lives as possible under the circumstances. As you navigate through the divorce process, one way to help provide your children with stability is to plan ahead.
As September comes to an end we are reminded that the upcoming holiday season (including breaks from school) is upon us. Have you and your spouse worked out how to share holiday and school break parenting time for your children? If not, now is the time to both start thinking and acting on it to allow sufficient time to resolve any disputes prior to the start of the holidays and school breaks.
Effective, amicable communication with your ex-spouse about your children’s needs is always the goal, but achieving it can be a tall order in times of stress—and the beginning of the school year can be one of the most stressful. Follow these tips to reduce conflict with your ex and ease your children’s transition back-to-school:
- Meet before the school year starts. A neutral setting is best. The agenda might include bus schedules, extra-curricular activities that may affect pick-up times, late start days, and who is responsible for school supplies. This meeting can diminish confusion at the start of the school year and foster a spirit of cooperation. A shared online calendar can help you both stay on top of the schedule throughout the year.
- Make sure both parents are listed as emergency contacts and that both are on the school’s distribution lists for notifications and report cards. Never use children as go-betweens to convey important information to the other parent; contact each other directly.
- Confirm children have everything they need to complete their homework when they are going to their other parent’s house for the evening or weekend.
- Inform your child’s school and teachers that you are divorced so they will be sensitive to, and can alert you to, any emotional struggles your child may be experiencing.
- Share any concerns you may have about a child’s development with your co-parent. Both parents have a right to know about any difficulties a child is experiencing. If conflict arises, seek out a counselor or mediator for these important discussions.
- Don’t allow back-to-school to become a battlefield or occasion to prove that you are the better parent. Keep your focus on your child’s school experience and development. All children need and want the love and involvement of both parents.
This article originally appeared in West Suburban Living Magazine.
Most people would like to believe that custody laws in Illinois are gender neutral. While earlier case law favored mothers of young children under “the tender years doctrine”, in an effort to be more gender neutral, the custody laws were rewritten in the 1970’s and 1980’s so that they now clearly indicate that it is the children’s “best interest” that is the overriding consideration for custody awards, without regard to gender. In reality, however, it seems that most judges still award primary residential custody to the spouse who is or was in the recent past the primary caregiver, i.e. the-stay-at-home-parent and, despite many more working mothers now, this more often is the mom than the dad. Much of this thinking appears to be based on the idea that if it is not broken, why fix it?
What about situations when a dad truly does or has stayed at home with the children? When a dad has been present, available and a competent parent. “All things being equal”, Dad should be awarded primary residential custody. Is there still a lingering bias that the mother would do a better job parenting? While the answer may still be yes, that is much less so now than it was 20 or 30 years ago.