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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US Supreme Court Upholds Adoption Rights

As an adoptive parent, I could not have been more pleased to read the outcome of the case of V.L.86889541_thumbnail2 v. E.L., announced by the United States Supreme Court on March 7, 2016.  In this case, the Court upheld a woman’s adoption of three children born to her same sex partner.  The opinion, which addresses jurisdiction and full faith and credit issues, provides comfort to adoptive parents that their parental rights should not be diminished.

Two women, E.L. and V.L., were involved in a 16 year relationship from 1995-2011.  They lived in Alabama.  Using assisted reproductive technology, E.L. gave birth to a child in 2002 and twins in 2004.  The two women raised the children together from birth.  During the relationship, they rented a house in Georgia and used the more favorable Georgia adoption laws to have V.L. legally adopt the children while E.L. (the biological mom) retained her rights as well.  This is often referred to as “second parent adoption.”  The adoption was completed in Georgia.

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For Better or For Worse

Spouses contemplating divorce often factor into their decision as to whether or not they should end

I hope they will work it out. Sad little girl leaning at the table and holding head in hand while her parents shouting at each other in the background

their marriage the potential harm a divorce may cause to their children.  Some parents feel that by staying married they are honoring a commitment or setting a good example for children.   Other parents, however, do not necessarily focus on the impact of divorce on their children but instead view divorce through the lens of their own concerns which may include infidelity, loss of interest, growing apart, finances or a better quality of life.

The question of whether it is in the children’s best interest to stay together is complex and there is no simple answer.  In most cases, the decision is more personal than legal.

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In a Divorce, Illinois Courts Have No Authority to Order Pet “Visitation”

Americans love their pets.  Recent studies estimate that roughly 78 million dogs and 86 million cats

French bulldog with two hands divorce isolated

are owned in the United States.  In other words, pets reside in nearly 65% of all households.

It is not surprising, therefore, that when parties decide to dissolve their marriage, an increasingly contentious issue is what – if any – post-divorce rights they have to spend time with the pets which have become part of their family?

In the first case of its kind in Illinois to address this issue, our Appellate Court has ruled that courts have no authority to enter an order requiring that a soon-to-be ex-spouse have “visitation” rights with Fido or Fluffy.

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It’s So Simple. How Long Can It Possibly Take and How Much Can It Possibly Cost?

There are two questions that every family law attorney is asked by most clients.iStock_000000490979_Medium

The first question:  “How long will this divorce take? A ballpark estimate is fine, I know you can’t give me an exact answer”.

The second question: “How much will this cost? A ballpark estimate is fine, I know you can’t give me an exact answer.”

To both of these questions, the honest answer almost always is, “I don’t know” and the answer should not be any different whether you have  the most seasoned, efficient, fast-talking, get-down-to-brass-tacks lawyer in all of Illinois.  The answer also should not change much if you are the most reasonable, realistic, fair-minded, ready-for-closure client in all of Illinois. Regardless, this does not mean that these are not good questions that should go unasked, especially since potential clients deserve to understand why estimating how long it will take and how much it will cost is hard to do in a divorce case (or even a post-divorce case on a limited issue).   When possible, potential clients also deserve to know what a potential range is for a case like theirs (even if that range is broad, and often it is).

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Divorcing Parties’ Guide to Recent Changes to IMDMA regarding College Expenses

Governor Rauner has signed P.A. 99-90, rewriting the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of MarriageHiRes Act (IMDMA), 750 ILCS 5/101 effective January 1, 2016. There are several revisions that will affect those divorcing this year and in years to come. For parties with children, an important rewritten provision to consider is section 513, which addresses contribution to children’s college expenses.  Currently, under section 513 of the IMDMA, there are no requirements for requesting financial aid, there is no mandated payment of college entrance exams and prep courses, there are no limitations or caps on the cost of where a child can attend college, there is no statutorily mandated definition of college expenses and a child was not required to maintain a certain grade point average.  Under the rewritten provision, however, the following changes will now be in effect:

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Where has all the litigation gone?

As I sit in a mediation seminar and consider the wide variety of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Midsection of male judge writing on paper at desk against black background

options, I wonder where has all the litigation gone. Don’t get me wrong, Alternative Dispute Resolution is great for many cases. Not only does it save significant legal fees and costs, it typically is a shorter, less destructive process that allows for creative solutions that both parties can feel they had input into. However, sometimes compromising or splitting the difference is not the right solution.

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The Financial Cost of Infidelity in Divorce

Earlier this month, the Ashley Madison customer list hack story unfolded like a compelling summer

A wedding ring sits on a laptop keyboard

beach novel.  The imagined made-for-TV aftermath is equally fascinating to people sitting on the sidelines–wronged wives calling their divorce lawyers and demanding compensation and punitive property settlements for the suffering and humiliation caused by their cheating husbands!

Reality, however, is not as dramatic, at least in not in Illinois.  Here, financial outcomes in divorce cases are not determined by moral imperatives.  Simply put, bad conduct like infidelity by one spouse does not legally entitle the wronged spouse to a larger property settlement or additional financial support.

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The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants….Or Does It?

Illinois recently passed a law that eliminates lawsuits called “Heart Balm Actions” which are lawsuits

Broken heart hanging on rope

people file to try to be made whole for the events that break hearts such as alienation of affections, breaches of promises to marry, and criminal conversation (lawyer speak for a claim for money based on adultery).  Beginning January 1, 2016, Illinois will no longer have these actions.  Even before this law was passed, recovery in these kinds of actions was rare in Illinois.  However, the change in Illinois law act does make one think about what people can do to prevent the loss of money, if not the loss of love, that these kinds of turns of events cause in people’s lives.

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