Articles Posted in Family Law

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Tuke and Heroy married in 1980 and divorced in 2006. Heroy was ordered to pay $35,000 per month in permanent maintenance, based on a finding that the couple had enjoyed a lavish standard of living while married. The court found that Tuke could reasonably be expected to earn $40,000-$50,000 per year, based on her prior experience as a law librarian and publisher of a law bulletin. Months later, Heroy sought to terminate or modify the award. Tuke sought contribution to her attorney fees. In 2012, the court concluded that Heroy had proven that his income had decreased, justifying reduction of the maintenance award to $27,500 per month. The court concluded that Tuke had some ability to pay her attorney fees but that if she were required to pay all of the fees, her financial stability would be undermined, while Heroy was able to pay Tuke’s fees. The court instructed Heroy to pay $125,000. Heroy appealed; the court ordered Heroy to pay $35,000 in prospective attorney fees. The appellate court concluded the maintenance award should be $25,745 per month but reversed the attorney fee awards. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court holding. That court properly considered the factors in the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act; the record supports that Tuke’s financial stability would be undermined if she were required to pay all of her attorney fees. The court carefully considered the factors set forth in section 510(a-5) of the Act, including Tuke’s efforts at supporting herself. View "In re Marriage of Heroy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In 2010, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services petitioned for wardship of M.I., a minor, 705 ILCS 405/2-3, alleging that M.I.’s mother had neglected her and that M.I.’s father had an extensive criminal history. The juvenile court granted the petition, finding M.I. to be neglected. The court ordered father to obtain a drug and alcohol assessment, submit to random drug testing twice monthly, undergo a psychological examination, and complete a parenting class. Until he dropped out of high school, father was enrolled in special education courses for learning disabilities. He had been unemployed since 2007. Father had been incarcerated on eight different occasions for approximately 18-19 years in total but had not been incarcerated since 2005. He suffers from bipolar disorder and admitted to regular marijuana use, indicating that he had been clean for two months. Father is functionally illiterate, and possesses an IQ of 58. The state asserted that he did not attend drug testing or participate in a drug and alcohol evaluation and refused to provide an address to his caseworker. The court found both parents unfit. Thereafter, at five different permanency hearings, the juvenile court found that father had failed to make reasonable efforts to achieve the service plan and permanency goal. The court appointed DCFS as guardian. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the termination of father’s rights. The statute, 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b), does not contain a willfulness requirement. The juvenile court considered father’s intellectual disability and other circumstances, such as his sporadic attendance at visitation, when it found him unfit under subsection (b). View "In re M.I." on Justia Law

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The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) sought wardship of 9-and-10-year-old children, 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b). The minors then lived with their father, Larry, who had a criminal history. Larry entered into an agreed order of protection, allowing the minors to reside with their paternal grandparents. Larry subsequently disclosed the name of the mother, who filed an answer. No information concerning mother was presented at the hearing. The court found that the minors were neglected and that mother did not contribute to the injurious environment. A subsequent report stated that mother had stable housing and had obtained a certified nursing assistant certificate. She was not addicted to alcohol or illegal substances, had passed a random drug screening, and had never been arrested. She takes prescription medication for bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Mother completed a parenting class and a domestic violence class, had engaged in an intact family program and indicated a willingness to participate in services. The caseworker took no position as to who should be appointed guardian. The state and the guardian ad litem agreed that mother was fit, but argued that DCFS should be appointed guardian. Mother requested custody and guardianship. The court ordered DCFS appointed as guardian, found mother to be fit, and found that placement was necessary, “based on all that was presented in the materials for my review for this disposition and upon considering argument.” The appellate court concluded that the trial court violated 705 ILCS 405/2-27(1). The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed and remanded. The Act does not authorize placing a ward of the court with a third party absent a finding of parental unfitness, inability, or unwillingness to care for the minor. View "In re M.M." on Justia Law

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Blumenthal jointly owned her Chicago home with Brewer, her domestic partner since 1981. In 2010 Blumenthal sought partition of the residence when the relationship ended. Brewer counterclaimed for common-law remedies, including an interest in Blumenthal’s ownership share in a medical group so that their overall assets would be equalized. Blumenthal moved to dismiss the counterclaim under the Illinois Supreme Court’s 1979 Hewitt decision, which rejected a woman’s suit to divide assets she accumulated with a man during a long-term relationship in which they lived together, had children together, but never married. Brewer argued that it was “particularly irrational” to apply this principle to her because she and Blumenthal could not marry at the time their relationship ended because same-sex marriage was not recognized in Illinois. The counterclaim was dismissed; the partition action proceeded to final judgment. The appellate court vacated the dismissal, calling Hewitt “outmoded and ill-considered.” The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court decision. The legislature intended marriage to be the only legally protected family relationship under Illinois law. Permitting unmarried partners to enforce mutual property rights might “encourage formation of such relationships and weaken marriage as the foundation of our family-based society.” Marriage is a legal relationship that all individuals may or may not enter into, Illinois does not act irrationally or discriminatorily in refusing to grant benefits and protections under the Marriage and Dissolution Act to those who do not participate in that institution. View "Blumenthal v. Brewer" on Justia Law

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The guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minor, A.A., petitioned the circuit court to vacate a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (VAP) signed by respondents Matthew A. and Caitlin S. with regard to A.A. The appellate court affirmed and held that after DNA testing established that Matthew was not the biological father of A.A., the trial court was not required to make a “best interests of the child” determination prior to granting the petition. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re A.A." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Goossens, a police sergeant, was convicted of intimidation, a Class 3 felony (720 ILCS 5/12-6(a)(6)), after he threatened not to respond to 911 calls from a local auto racetrack as long as two former police officers were employed at the facility. He was sentenced to a term of two years’ probation. The probation order contained numerous conditions, one of which required that Gossens “shall become current in his child support in case number 2002 D 528.” He appealed, arguing the trial court lacked the authority under section 5-6-3(b) of the Unified Code of Corrections to include the payment of child support as a condition of probation, 730 ILCS - 2 - 5/5-6-3(b). The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The defense’s attempted construction contradicted prior interpretation of the plain language of the Code, which says, “[t]he Court may ... require that the person ... support his dependents.” View "People v. Goossens" on Justia Law

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Shelley and Christopher married in 1992. Shelley works in the private sector and has Social Security tax withheld from her pay; she expects to receive full benefits in 2033 at age 67. Christopher works for the police department and does not have Social Security tax withheld. He contributes to the Police Pension Fund and can retire with full benefits in 2017 at age 50. In their 2012 divorce, Christopher computed the estimated present value of his pension benefits, using a “Windfall Elimination Provision” to determine what part of those benefits were in lieu of Social Security, which is exempt from equitable distribution. Using Christopher’s wages, as if covered by Social Security, predicted that his Social Security benefit at age 67 would be $1,778 per month; using his wages for those years in which he contributed to Social Security, predicted that his benefit at age 67 would be $230 per month. The difference of $1,548 was posited as “in lieu of Social Security.” The difference between that amount and the pension amount was $2,479 per month, with an estimated present value of $639,720.74. The court determined that the proposed valuation would violate federal law as interpreted by Illinois Supreme Court precedent. Christopher recalculated the present value of his pension, without the offset, as $991,830. The court adopted that figure, and awarded Shelley about 35%. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that Social Security benefits cannot be calculated until the participant collects them. Decreasing Shelley’s share of Christopher’s pension based on the present value of hypothetical Social Security benefits that, even if he had participated in that program, he might never receive is illogical and inequitable. Failing to consider Social Security may paint an unrealistic picture of their future finances, but Congress intended to keep those benefits out of divorce cases. View "In re Marriage of Mueller" on Justia Law

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In 1999, Maria and Jim began living together. During a 2003 trip to Slovakia to visit family, Maria met Scarlett, an orphan born in 1999. Under Slovakian law, Jim was not permitted to adopt Scarlett because he was neither a Slovakian national nor married to Maria. Maria commenced the year-long adoption process and lived in Slovakia during that time. Jim financially supported the process, traveled there five times, and participated in a psychological evaluation. In 2004, Maria adopted Scarlett under Slovakian law, and the three returned to Elmhurst, Illinois. Scarlett used the hyphenated form of their last names. Scarlett referred to Jim as “daddy.” Jim’s name appears in Scarlett’s school records as Scarlett’s father. Jim paid all family expenses; he established a $500,000 irrevocable trust for Scarlett. In 2008, Maria moved out of Jim’s home, taking Scarlett. Jim sought a declaration of parental rights. Jim also alleged common law contract claims. The circuit court dismissed Jim’s common law claims and concluded that Jim lacked standing and was not subject to paying child support. The appellate court reversed, holding that the equitable adoption doctrine might present a potentially viable theory of standing , but affirmed the dismissal of Jim’s contract claims. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the doctrine of equitable adoption, previously recognized in a will contest, does not apply to child custody proceedings. View "In re Parentage of Scarlett Z.-D." on Justia Law

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A brief relationship between mother, a Missouri resident, and father, an Illinois resident, resulted in a child, L.M., born in Missouri in 2009. In 2010, father sought to establish the existence of a father-child relationship and to obtain joint custody under the Illinois Parentage Act (750 ILCS 45/1), which allows parentage actions to be brought in the county in which any party resides. Mother filed an appearance. Both attended the hearing and stated that they had entered into a joint parenting agreement. The court entered its judgment, incorporating the agreement, in which they submitted themselves to the court's jurisdiction. Father began a military tour of duty. Upon leaving the service in 2012, he was able to visit L.M. frequently in Missouri. In November 2012, mother moved to Las Vegas, taking L.M. Father sought custody. Mother filed suit in Nevada, asserting that the Illinois judgment was void due to lack of Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (750 ILCS 36/101] subject matter jurisdiction. At her request, the Champaign County circuit court vacated its 2010 order and dismissed father’s complaint. The appellate court vacated, holding that compliance with the statute was not a prerequisite to jurisdiction. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. As used in the statute, “jurisdiction” is a procedural limit on when the court may hear initial custody matters, not a precondition to the exercise of its inherent authority. Determination of who should have custody of L.M. presented a justiciable matter that fell within the subject matter jurisdiction of the court. Once a court has subject matter jurisdiction, its judgment will not be rendered void merely because of an error in its determination of the facts or application of the law. View "McCormick v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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Husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage, seeking joint custody of the couple’s three children. The circuit court appointed attorney Rosenberg to represent the children, under 750 ILCS 5/506(a)(3). Husband sought to set a temporary parenting schedule, stating that he and wife were unable to reach agreement. At the hearing, Rosenberg stated that the parties had agreed on a schedule, but had failed to agree on conditions of visitation. Rosenberg presented a proposed order. Wife objected on the basis that it infringed on her right to parent and communicate with her children. The court entered the order, which “enjoin[ed]” the parties from: striking, threatening or interfering with the personal liberty of the children; discussing any aspect of the pending litigation in the presence of the children; discussing with the children their preferences as to custody or visitation; questioning, discussing, or coaching the children with regard to testimony or interviews; questioning the children with regard to the conduct or expenditures of the other party; engaging in all forms of recording or electronic surveillance of the other party or of the children; using alcohol or nonprescription drugs in the presence of the children; allowing an unrelated member of the opposite sex to reside overnight in a residence while the children are present; disparaging either party; and removing the children from the state without consent. The appellate court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Illinois Supreme Court dismissed an appeal as moot because the divorce had been granted, so the order was no longer in effect. View "In re Marriage of Eckersall" on Justia Law