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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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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