Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in Illinois

iStock_000021325411XSmall-02Attitudes toward recreational marijuana use are continuing to evolve, with the idea becoming more and more acceptable to more and more people.  In fact, the push to legalize marijuana on a recreational level continues in Illinois.  On Wednesday, March 22, 2017, two state lawmakers from the City of Chicago’s North Side, Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Heather Steans, introduced legislation that they are sponsoring (Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353) which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Illinois.  (The House Bill has since gained seven additional sponsors, and the Senate Bill has gained an additional six sponsors).  This legislation would be known as the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act.

The goals of the legislation would be to allow law enforcement to “focus on violent and property crimes,” as well as “generating revenue for education and other public purposes, and individual freedom.”  The bill suggests that Cannabis ought to be “regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.”  If that truly is the intent, it will be interesting to see how judges hearing divorce cases will treat it when it comes to parenting issues.

Continue reading

Same Sex Marriage and the Possible Correlation with Decreases in Teen Suicide Rates

Tie The Knot With Rings Gay MarriageIn 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. Obergefell provides a date in which same-sex married couples residing in states that had not previously allowed same-sex marriage may now use as an applicable official date of marriage. Post-Obergefell, all states must grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.

For many couples across the United States, the Obergefell decision was a victory for marriage equality. What may have been suspected, but no one knew definitively at the time, was exactly how much of an emotional benefit legalizing same sex marriage would have on our nation’s youth. In fact, since the Obergefell decision, research conducted by Julia Raifman, a post-doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, has come to light showing a significant decrease in teen suicide attempts in the U.S. post Obergefell, with the biggest impact amongst gay, lesbian and bisexual kids. This is noteworthy because according to the Trevor Project, an organization that works to prevent suicide among LGBT youth, “Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the second for people aged 10 to 24, with queer teens statistically are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers.”

Continue reading

Five Tax Considerations When Divorcing

tax form with calculator, money and pen

Whether you are in the process of getting divorced or are considering filing for divorce, there are a five (5) tax considerations you should be aware of as you move forward.  As we are in the midst of tax season it is the perfect time to consider these tax issues to avoid potential pitfalls.

1.  Hidden Taxes and Property Settlements: The transfer of assets between spouses incident to a divorce generally results in no tax consequences to either party. However, depending on the basis you/your spouse have in certain assets, there may be hidden tax consequences associated with the sale of assets such as real estate, investment holdings and business interests. These tax consequences may ultimately reduce the actual value of an asset that otherwise appears to be worth more at first glance.

Continue reading

Navigating Health Care Costs in Divorce

Health insurance form and dollars on the table.

If you are wondering what will happen to your health insurance coverage upon divorce, you are not alone.  It is no secret that the cost of individual coverage is rising, and uncertainty about the continuation of the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” post-election has left many people concerned, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

The latest estimates, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, are that Illinois rates will increase by an average of 44 percent for the lowest-priced individual bronze plans, 45 percent for the lowest-priced silver plans and 55 percent for the lowest-priced gold plans.  Higher-level plans, such as gold plans, typically have higher monthly costs and lower out-of-pocket costs than lower-level plans.

Continue reading

Domestic Violence: A Necessary Recap of the Basics

Purple ribbon campaign for Stop Domestic Violence campaign made from word illustration isolated on white background

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.   In spite of the help and information available to victims of domestic violence, and the increased awareness by law enforcement about what abuse looks like and how to address it, domestic violence has not disappeared.  It therefore bears repeating what many already know about this topic and some of the legal remedies available to victims.  If this information causes even one victim to seek a way out of an abusive relationship, then the repetition is invaluable.

Domestic violence does not always look the way that one might think, and its victims do not either.  Family law attorneys see abuse in all forms, physical, emotional and financial, and in victims from every race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic group.  At its core, domestic violence is an abuse of power in an intimate relationship.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading