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Aurora Adoption Attorney Helps Family Adopt Bolivian Child

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It was a dream come true for a little girl in Bolivia: a family who wanted to adopt her. But more than three years later, the family from west suburban Aurora is still trying to bring 5-year-old Cecilia home. Attorney Brad Giglio of Mevorah Law Offices LLC says the feds have told him and his clients to be patient. Read more from CBS Chicago. Support Bringing Cecilia Home on Facebook.

Written by Staff Writer

March 22nd, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Social Media & Divorce Rates: The Divorce Contagion on Facebook

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divorce rates, DuPage County family law attorney, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, social media and divorce, social media and marriage, Facebook and divorceSocial media has entered our lives and has revolutionized the way we communicate and interact with each other. Though we tend to glorify the extent that social media has changed our lives, we sometimes forget to recognize the pitfalls of social media and its negative effect on the choices we make.

As consistent users of Facebook and other social media websites, we review our news feed and evaluate our lives in comparison to what others are doing. This effect has been analyzed and published in a recent study that discusses the effect of social media on marriage and divorce rates.

The study explores whether and how divorce may be spread through social media; the study ultimately finds that there is a correlation (not to be mistaken with causation) between social media and the divorce rates. The current rates of divorce show that 43 percent of marriages will be dissolved and the dissolution will occur within the first 15 years of the marriage.

The Reasoning Behind the Correlation between Social Media and Divorce

There are many reasons why social media may have the impact of “spreading” divorce to others. One factor discussed in the study is the publication of one’s divorce to others on social media, which provides onlookers the opportunity to view the ramifications. If the person is successful post-divorce and is financially and socially stronger than they were when originally wedded, it promises to those observing the divorce via social media that life after marriage may not be as terrible as they might have imagined. It breaks down the “scary monster in the closet” and provides them an insight into what the reality of a divorce may look like. Promotion of divorce may be one effect of social media.

However, social media may have the opposite effect by hindering the desire to divorce if posts are being published that show the negative side of divorce, such as the tension, the stress, and the emotional and financial carnage that may arise. Witnessing the personal agony of divorce on social media may have the effect of convincing observers that their unhappiness in the marriage is not as bad as the potentially more caustic lifestyle of a divorcee.

Association with Divorcees May Promote Divorce

The study results show that promotion of divorce may be stronger than its inhibiting effects. Participants of the study were 75 percent more likely to be divorced if a person that they are connected to via social media is also divorced. The association only goes to two degrees of separation: their immediate direct friends and the friends’ of their friends. This points to why social media leads to a “clustering” of divorce where divorce spreads through the social media friend groups.

The result: though more divorce spreads through groups of friends, those who are divorcing actually become less popular on the social media websites due largely to the loss of friends they knew through their spouses. It is also thought that newly separated divorcees are less popular because of the threat that they pose to married couples. This is known as “marital poaching.”

Gender and Children Do Not Affect the Divorce Rate

Finally, it is important to note that both gender and children had little to no effect on the divorce rate of the couple. Having children (and the number of children) did not greatly affect the numbers of divorced couples. Furthermore, social media had an equivalent effect on both men and women; both were prone to divorce after witnessing their divorced online friends.

Experienced Divorce Attorneys

If you feel that you have been bitten by the Facebook contagion, and are considering divorce, it is important that you realize that social media does not accurately depict what divorced life will be like for you. Consulting with an experienced DuPage County family law attorney at the Mevorah Law Offices LLC will you give you a more accurate picture of whether divorce is the right choice for your and your spouse. Please contact us today for a free consultation.

Victory for Survivors of Domestic Violence: A Stay of Deportation

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domestic violence, DuPage County family law attorneys, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, stay of deportation, intimate partner violence, domestic violence survivors, grounds for asylum, illegal immigrant, risk of abuseThe recent news coverage and controversy regarding Ray Rice has thrust domestic violence and intimate partner violence into the spotlight. The dialogue about domestic abuse and violence has been incited, and the media has watched as a riveting debate has been put into play about the way our society deals with domestic violence. In fact, the initial sentencing of Ray Rice is seen by many as a reflection of society’s attitude toward domestic violence: if you do not see it, it is not there or it is not as bad as you think.

Who is Affected by Domestic Violence? 

The increased dialogue, however, has motivated lawmakers to begin to crack down on abusers and provide support to survivors of intimate partner violence. First and foremost, it is important to understand the picture of survivors of domestic violence. In a study done by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 85 percent of survivors were women; this is approximately 1.3 million women nationwide annually. This number, however, is a conservative estimate as many survivors of domestic violence do not come forward and report their spouse.

In an article published in Time, the studies pointed to a showing that African-American women were more likely to be survivors of domestic violence than their white counterparts. Black women, as reported, were three times more likely to be killed during a domestic violent incident than white women, and domestic violence was found to be the leading cause of death in black women between the ages of 15 and 35. The reasoning behind these disparate statistics is due in large part to racism, which affects African Americans’ access to jobs and financially stability.

Board of Immigration Appeals Permits “Domestic Violence” as Grounds for Asylum

In the last week, as reported by the The New York Times, immigrant survivors of domestic violence helped change the conversation with an important new ruling: the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest immigration court in the United States, made “domestic violence” an eligible ground for asylum in the U.S. This ruling permits a woman who is an illegal immigrant living in the U.S. to remain if she can show that there is a serious risk of abuse, serious injury, or death by her domestic partner if she is forced to return to her country of origin. Finally the dialogue of domestic violence is being discussed, especially by the courts, in terms of a type of persecution rather than a personal issue that must be hidden behind the walls of the home.

Types of Protection in Illinois

In Illinois, there are different ways in which a spouse may protect herself from her abuser.

For short term relief:

  • Emergency Order: A protective order that can be approved by a judge based solely on your testimony. It can be granted without giving notice to your abuser, and will last between 14 and 21 days until a full hearing is ordered; and

  • Interim Order: Lasts up to 30 days and does not require a court hearing; however, the abuser is required to have made an appearance in court and receive notification of the court hearing for the interim order.

For long-term relief:

  • Plenary Order of Protection: May last for up to two years (and can be renewed continually and limitlessly) but the order is only issued after there has been a full court hearing and all evidence brought by you and your abuser has been reviewed.

Advocates on Behalf of Survivors of Domestic Violence

Survivors of domestic violence have a voice and an advocate with Mevorah Law Offices LLC. If you or a loved one is living in a domestic abusive relationship and are looking for help to leave the violent partnership, please contact one of our DuPage County family law attorneys who will provide you with the support and guidance in peacefully terminating a violent relationship.

Rise in Military Marital Strife: Divorce in the Military

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Lombard family law attorney, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, military divorce, marital strife, marital property, military retirement pay, military pensionsMarital strife, separation, and divorce can affect all types of families, and a study shows divorces within military families have been on the rise in the last few years. In fact, the study reflects high divorce rates among families that in the past have been found to be more stable. Length of deployment was considered a major factor in most of these military divorces. Post-traumatic stress disorder and other health issues were also cited factors.

The reasoning behind the increased divorce rate is linked to the continual withdrawal of troops from the conflict areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. Families who have been apart for many years are now being brought back together and is therefore creating an adjustment period and causing marital strife rather than marital unity.

The Divorce Rate Throughout the Military

The divorce rate on average, throughout all branches of the military, was 3.7 percent in 2011. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated a divorce rate of 3.5 percent, showing an increase within the last few years. Specific divisions of the military reflect different percentages and are as follows:

  • Army divorce rate: 3.7 percent;

  • Navy divorce rate: 3.6 percent;

  • Air Force divorce rate: 3.9 percent; and

  • Marine Corps divorce rate: 3.8 percent.

Military Marriages vs. Civilian Marriages

Though war is an easy scapegoat for the reasoning behind military divorces, military divorces in comparison to civilian divorces are much lower and less likely to occur. In a study published by the Journal of Family Issues, and comparing military marriages and civilian marriages, the data reflected that military personnel were more likely than civilians to get married, and they were less likely to be divorced.

The study shows that although military life can be more difficult and less predictable than civilian life, the United States military has made attempts to be more family-friendly in an attempt to continue enlisting service members and retaining them. The economic benefits of health insurance, child-care, and housing provide incentive to service members to wed.

However, service members involved in the the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are a part of a significantly different military than when the all-volunteer military initially was created. The service members in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing significantly longer deployments and more significant exposure to combat than their counterparts from 20 years ago.

Issues and Considerations when Deciding to Divorce Your Spouse

If you are considering a divorce and you are a spouse in a military marriage, there are some considerations to keep in mind in regards to asset division and benefits provided. For example:

  • Military retirement pay and military pensions are considered marital property and may be divided by state courts;

  • Military retirement pay may only be divided by state courts if state courts have jurisdiction over the service member because the state was his/her residence, domicile, or he/she gave consent to the state court to have jurisdiction; and

  • Military retirement pay and pensions are only considered marital property, however, when the couple has been married for 10 years and the military spouse’s service period is during the time the couple was married.

Divorce Advocates Available for Consultation 

These are just some of the important considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to file for divorce, regardless of coming from a military marriage or civilian marriage. The experienced Lombard family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are well versed in the separation and divorce procedures and will be able to guide you through this difficult time. Please contact Mevorah Law Offices LLC for further information and a consultation.

The Leading Causes behind Divorce

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divorce grounds, DuPage County family law attorney, Illinois grounds for divorce, irrational behavior, irreconcilable differences, leading causes behind divorce, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, no fault divorce, unreasonable behaviorIn a past study, findings showed that married women who had a stronger educational background than their husbands would be more likely to experience divorce. The statistics were based largely on the gendered stereotypes, which in the past led to marital unrest where traditional gender roles were being tossed aside. However, a new study published in July 2014 suggests that the previous research may be the exception and not the rule.

The study suggests that due to the increase in the egalitarian nature of male and female relationships, educational disparities are no longer associated with a higher possibility of dissolution. The study also finds that couples who have similar educational backgrounds are now more likely to succeed then they were in the past. The numbers found in current demographics suggest that women serving as breadwinners and with the same educational background (or higher) than their spouses has become the new normal. A Pew Research Center study estimates that four out of 10 households has women as the chief moneymakers. Therefore, the question now asked is, what are the factors that lead to divorce these days?

Irrational Behavior Leads to More Divorces than Adultery

One factor analyzed in a study republished by The Guardian found that irrational or bad behavior had a greater impact on the stability of a marriage than did adultery. In the past, infidelity was considered to be most likely the reason for the dissolution of a marriage. Unreasonable or irrational behavior, these days, is the reason given to most divorce attorneys for the split.

Examples of unreasonable or irrational behavior may include:

  • One anti-social partner makes the more social partner feel guilty for wanting to participate in social events;

  • Cross-dressing or sex changes of one of the spouses; and/or

  • Irrational spending of the family’s finances.

 Grounds for Divorce in Illinois

In Illinois, spouses who are interested in getting a divorce may choose to file for a fault or a no-fault divorce. No-fault divorce permits the couple to file for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences and is more likely to make the divorce more amicable, since fault is not being placed on either party. Fault divorce may include such grounds as:

  • Impotency at the time of or during the marriage;

  • Bigamy;

  • Adultery during the marriage;

  • Abandonment of one spouse by another for the duration of one year;

  • The addiction and overuse of alcohol or drugs for two years;

  • Attempted murder by one spouse to another;

  • Extreme mental or physical cruelty;

  • The transmission of one to the other of a sexually transmitted disease; and

  • Incarceration for a felony.

Proving Elements of Fault 

If you are interested in applying for a fault divorce based on one of the many grounds available, then it will be helpful to collect the following requisite proof to state your claim:

  • Proof of any event of mental or physical cruelty through the use of medical records or medical history;

  • Proof of addiction or abuse of alcohol or drugs, through medical records, jail time associated with drugs or alcohol, or affidavits from others who could attest to the drug or alcohol abuse; or

  • Photographs or other incriminating evidence of your spouse’s affair and/or an affidavit attesting to the affair by the spouse or the “other” person.

Family Law Advocates during Divorce Proceedings

If you are considering a divorce and are not sure what the procedure is and whether you would like to file for a no-fault or fault divorce, it is important to speak with an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. The experienced attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC will provide you with legal guidance and counsel through this difficult time and help you assess whether a divorce is right for you and your spouse.

New Law Strengthens Child Protective Services

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child mental illness, child protective services, DuPage County family law attorneys, Illinois child protective services, mental health treatment, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, parental rights, terminate parental rightsThis August, Governor Pat Quinn signed and put into effect Senate Bill 2909 and House Bill 5598, with the purpose of strengthening Illinois child protective services and providing more help to parents who have children suffering from serious mental health issues. The new bills amend the Children and Family Services Act, and permit parents to seek the services of the State when dealing with children who have serious mental illnesses or emotional disturbances, without having to terminate their parental rights in the absence of any type of abuse or neglect. The new law allows parents, who may no longer be able to care for their child because of a mental illness or emotional disturbance, to relinquish their child to the Department of Children and Family Services so that the child may receive the utmost care that his or her parent is unable to provide.

Purpose of the Amendment 

The purpose of the Bill is two-fold: one, it is a constitutional right of the parent to maintain legal custody of his or her children, and the State has a substantial burden to prove that the parent’s parental rights should be terminated. Secondly, the State wants to limit the number of children who become wards of the State due to the incredible costs associated with the care of the children within the welfare system. If a child requires treatment for his or her developmental disabilities or mental health illness it should have no bearing on the ability of the parent to adequately care for his or her child. It is not within the child’s best interest to be relinquished by his or her parents just because the parents cannot afford proper mental health treatment.

The Bill, itself, provides a financial remedy for parents whose private insurance does not cover the costs of mental health treatment and for parents who do not qualify for Medicaid.

Provisions of the Amendment

The Bill outlines the terms of the new amendments to the Act, and permits the parent or legal guardian to transfer temporary physical custody of the child to the Department so that he or she can undergo necessary treatment. Also, the Department, pursuant to the new amendment, would not be able to request or require that legal custody of the child be transferred permanently to the Department. In addition, the Department would not be permitted to terminate parental rights if there was no evidence to conclude that abuse or neglect was present.

For the child to remain out of the home and in the care of the Department for more than 180 days, the Bill requires a juvenile court to make a finding that treatment, lasting beyond 180 days, is in the best interests of the child and should thus remain within the care of the Department.

Protection of Children with Mental Health Illnesses in Illinois 

The need for this type of Bill is obvious when reviewing the number of children (and adults) who suffer from mental health issues and require treatment in Illinois. In fact, according to the Chicago Tribune, there has been an increase in the number of children and adults who are requiring mental health services and treatment. In Lake County, for example, more than 4,700 adults and children in 2013 received treatment and care for mental health illness and emotional disturbances. Between 2010 and 2011, approximately 1,210 children used the Lake County Health Department’s crisis services. More than 1,500 children used the services in 2012.

Protection of Your Parental Rights

Parental rights are constitutionally protected and may not be terminated with great cause. If you are involved in a legal situation where your parental rights may be compromised, please contact the experienced DuPage County family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC for guidance and information on how to protect your family and access to your children.

To Procreate or to Not Procreate: Whose Right is Most Valid?

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co-parent agreement, DuPage County family law attorneys, frozen embryos, legal controversy, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, procreate, right to procreate, sperm donor, assisted reproductive technologyIn recent years, assisted reproductive technology has progressed rapidly and has provided women and men the opportunity to become parents. In 1985, through this new reproductive technology, 260 babies were born to parents who otherwise would not have been able to conceive. As of 2010, more than 61,000 children were born as a result of the newest technology. However, with the amazing results that have occurred from the utilization of this reproductive technology, also comes legal controversies in regards to the rights of the donors. Is the right to not procreate outweighed by the right to procreate?

Illinois’s Stand on the Right to Not Procreate

This legal controversy has been pushed in the direction of the right to procreate with a recent ruling by the Cook County court in Illinois. The Court awarded custody of the frozen embryos that were prepared prior to the woman’s chemotherapy treatment for her lymphoma. The chemotherapy had the effect of destroying the woman’s chance to conceive otherwise. Her now-ex boyfriend had originally agreed to provide his sperm for the embryos and later objected to the use of the embryos after the couple had split. The ex-boyfriend cited privacy issues, stating that the use of his genetic material could have a negative impact in regards to his future with other women.

The case, though the Illinois Supreme Court decided not to review the appeal, provides a direction in reproduction law that the Court would like Illinois to follow. In the face of any objection to procreate, the Court has determined through this ruling that the right to procreate outweighs the objection. Other states have had mixed rulings surrounding the rights of donors and the custody of frozen embryos once a couple has split.

The determinative factor in this case was based largely on the fact that the woman was unable to reproduce as a result of her cancer treatment and that the couple had orally agreed to the conception, even though they had not signed a co-parent agreement determining control of the embryos.

Creation of a Donor/Co-Parent Agreement

Though Illinois courts have shown themselves to be pro-reproduction rights, it is important if you are considering having a child with a non-marital partner or an acquaintance as a donor through assisted reproductive technology that an agreement be written. The agreement should state and define the terms of the custody and control of the embryos and the relationship that the donor or non-marital partner will have once the child is born.

When writing your agreement consider the following:

  1. To what extent may the donor or non-marital partner decide when and where the embryos will be implanted?

  2. Will the donor be known to the child once the child has been born?

  3. Will the donor have any type of visitation rights with the child?

  4. Will the donor be required to help the child in the case of a medical emergency and/or the donor’s medical history might be needed?

  5. If the donor remains in the child’s life as a paternal figure, will the child be able to receive financial support from the donor?

Legal issues surrounding assisted reproductive technology are extremely complex, and it is important to consult an experienced family law attorney who will be able to provide guidance and advice with regards to your decision to conceive a child with a non-marital partner or an acquaintance as a donor. Ironing out the details and terms of the relationship is crucial to ensuring that you bring a child into this world without any legal battles or controversy surrounding his or her birth. Please contact the experienced DuPage County family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC for more information.

How Often is Domestic Violence Occurring?

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domestic violence, DuPage County family law attorneys, harassment, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, order of protection, physical abuse, protective orders, willful deprivationIn just the first three months of 2014, it happened over 36,000 times. In 2013, it happened over 177,000 times. What are these statistics referring to? Domestic violence.

Illinois takes domestic violence seriously, and the Illinois Domestic Violence Act gave victims a tool to help combat abuse and separate from their spouse. Orders of protection can make an abuser take (or not take) a number of actions that will help ensure the safety of the victim, their loved ones, and their property.

Who Can Get an Order of Protection?

There are two basic requirements that must be met before a person can obtain an order of protection. First, the person must have been abused. Second, his or her abuser must be a member of the family or household.

Abuse can take many different forms. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act recognizes five acts of aggression as “abuse.” These acts include physical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty, and willful deprivation. The following provides a description of each of these terms:

  • “Physical abuse” includes assault, battery, and sexual violence, as well as knowingly engaging in conduct that could cause physical harm;

  • “Harassment” is intentional conduct that is unnecessary, that could cause emotional distress to the victim, and that does cause emotional distress to the victim. An example of this might be disturbing the victim at work or threatening the safety of the victim’s child;

  • “Intimidation of a dependent” occurs when the abuser forces the victim to engage in (or watch) acts of violence against another;

  • “Interference with personal liberty” means threatening a person with harm so that that person either undertakes conduct they do not want to, or refrains from engaging in conduct that they are legally entitled to undertake; and

  • “Willful deprivation” occurs when the abuser intentionally withholds a necessity (such as food or medicine) from their victim so that the victim’s well-being is put in jeopardy.

The definition of “family or household member” is actually quite broad. It refers not only to current and former spouses, but also to children, siblings, other blood relatives, people who live together or did live together, couples who are or were dating, couples with a common child, and the relationship between a disabled person and their caregiver. The gender of the parties has no effect on whether they qualify as “family or household members.”

Types of Orders

There are three basic types of protection orders in Illinois: emergency, interim and plenary.

Emergency orders are issued only in exigent circumstances, such as when there is an imminent threat of harm to the petitioner or their family. The abuser does not need to be present for the order to be issued, and the orders can last for 14-21 days.

Interim orders may be granted after both the accuser and the abuser have been before the judge. They are often granted during the lapse of time between the expiration of an emergency order and the hearing for a plenary order. They may last for up to 30 days.

Plenary orders are put in place after there has been a full hearing on the facts of the case. If the judge agrees that the victim needs continued protection, the order may be granted. These orders can last for up to two years and may be renewed indefinitely.

What Can an Order of Protection Do?

Protective orders are flexible creations that are easily adapted to the facts of a case. Emergency orders can require the abuser to stay away from the victim and their children; to leave the victim’s house; to not take any of the victim’s personal property; and to yield their firearms. Interim and plenary orders can do all of same; plenary orders can also award legal fees, decide child custody and visitation and more.

Contact an Illinois Divorce Attorney 

There is help for people trying to escape abusive relationships. Orders of protection are powerful tools, especially for domestic violence victims who are seeking a divorce against their abusers. If you are trying to leave your abuser and have questions about orders of protection, contact the experienced DuPage County family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC. Let us help you work toward your future.

If it’s a Boy, We Get Married? Babies, Gender Preference and Divorce

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DuPage County family law attorney, gender and divorce, gender preference, parents prefer boys, baby gender, demand for sons, divorce-prone relationship, first-born daughters, child custodyA married couple finds themselves constantly fighting. They are unhappy with each other and unhappy with their relationship. Though they have considered a divorce, the wife is pregnant and the couple wants to try to stay together for the sake of their unborn child.  Just a few months later, the child is born. Will the gender of the baby have an impact on whether the couple stays together?

Just a few months ago, the answer might have been yes. In 2003, researchers found that parents of girls were more likely to divorce than parents of boys. The findings set off a firestorm, igniting debate about whether parents prefer boys and why a parent might choose to stay in a relationship for one child and not another. But recently, more data has come to light that seems to suggest that the gender of a baby does not cause a divorce­—the stress of an unhappy marriage causes the gender of the child born to the marriage.

“The Demand for Sons”

In 2003, economists Gordon Dahl and Enrico Moretti released a ground-breaking study, “The Demand for Sons.” The researchers analyzed Census data from 1960-2000 and found that:

  • Fathers are less likely to live with their child if that child is a girl;

  • Women whose first-born child is a girl are less likely to ever marry than women whose first-born child is a boy;

  • Unwed parents are less likely to end up marrying if they discover that their unborn child is a girl;

  • The parents of first-born girls are more likely to divorce than the parents of boys; and

  • Mothers are more likely than fathers to have custody of their children, but when fathers do have custody, it is more likely to be of a son than a daughter.

Furthermore, Dahl and Moretti found that the more daughters a couple had, the more likely they were to divorce. While parents with one daughter were 5 percent more likely to divorce than parents with a son, parents with three daughters were 10 percent more likely to divorce.

Understandably, the research set off a debate. Do Americans have a gender preference? Are male children still seen as preferable to female children? Do fathers love their girl children less, or do mothers love their girl children more?

Girl Power?

Over the past decade, few answers to these questions have been forthcoming, but many scholars insisted that the correlation held true: female children were detrimental to a parents’ relationship. That idea changed in mid-July, when an economist and a sociologist set out to find a new explanation.

The two researchers noted that when it is a question of survival of the fittest, it is usually women who survive. Women seem to be biologically heartier than men, and that aptitude for survival begins in the womb. Because a stressful relationship (such as an unhappy marriage) can affect an embryo’s chances, female children are more likely to be carried to term and born to an already in-conflict couple than male children. Thus, female children may be the result of a divorce-prone relationship, not the cause of it.

Contact an Illinois Family Law Attorney

The new study shines a light on the issue of whether a child’s gender affects their parents’ marriage, but ultimately, it leaves just as many unanswered questions as the first study. Why are fathers more likely to have custody of a son than a daughter? Why do mothers of first-born daughters tend to remain unwed?

This study, and the questions that it raises, could have a huge impact on family law. If you are considering  divorce but are concerned about how it could affect your children, contact a compassionate DuPage County family law attorney at Mevorah Law Offices LLC. Get the divorce and child custody answers that you need.

Pet Custody: A Bone of Contention

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Chicago family law attorney, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, pet custody, pet custody case, petimonyCarol Streams couple has been trying to divorce for two years. What is holding them up? It is not a dispute over who gets the house or whether spousal support should be paid. No, this dispute is all about their black Labrador, and who gets custody of him.

With 91 percent of pet-owning Americans agreeing that their animals are members of the family, it should come as no surprise that a bone of contention for some divorcing couples will be who gets the family pet. Unfortunately for animal lovers, family law courts do not seem to have the same feelings about Fido. Therefore, pet parents need to understand how the courts view pet custody, and must also learn what they can do to prepare themselves for a dispute.

How the Courts View “Petimony”

In the eyes of most courts, animals are not family members—they are pieces of personal property that should be equitably distributed along with the rest of the marital estate. Because personal property (like a toaster) does not have feelings and courts do not order visitation for this type of property, many judges have traditionally ruled the same way when it comes to pets.

This view of animals as personal property was enshrined by the 1995 Florida case Bennett v. Bennett. The appellate court found that “While a dog may be considered by many to be a member of the family, under Florida law, animals are considered to be personal property.” Noting that the trial court had “no authority” to grant visitation rights for chattel, the justices also recognized that “Our courts are overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of our children. We cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals.”

What to Do if You Are Involved in a “Petimony” Dispute

The Bennett view of pet custody is slowly changing. Some courts are now recognizing the bonds between animals and humans, so it is possible for pet owners to convince a judge to determine custody or visitation of an animal.

To begin this process it is important to first recall who bought or adopted the animal. There is still a preference for treating animals as personal property, so the person who is the “owner” of the pet stands a good chance of maintaining custody.

Whether you are the owner of the animal or not, be prepared to show the judge that you are its primary caregiver and so that it is in the animal’s best interests to remain with you. Gather evidence—receipts for food, grooming, daycare—that shows you are the one who provides for the animal’s needs. Get support from friends and neighbors who can state that you are the one who walks your pet and plays with it. If possible, present evidence of any distress the animal may have suffered when you were away from it for a significant amount of time.

Finally, it is very important to show the court that you are not seeking custody for revenge or to prolong the divorce proceedings. If you never showed any interest in the animal until divorce proceedings began, do not start now. Prove to the judge that you are motivated by a genuine concern for your pet, not a genuine desire to get revenge on your ex.

Talk to an Illinois Family Law Attorney 

Petimony is a new and developing area of law, but a Chicago family law attorney will be in the best possible position to guide you through your case. If you are engaged in a pet custody case, contact the Mevorah Law Offices LLC to get the help you need.

Think before You Post: Social Media Can Impact Family Law Cases

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Chicago divorce attorney, social media can impact family, children’s best interests, Mevorah Law Offices LLC, social media and divorceWith the advent of social media, people have become comfortably used to sharing the intimate details of their lives. However, many forget that what gets posted online does not always stay online. Hence, there is a good chance that what a person says on Facebook could come back to haunt them in the courtroom. Below are examples of ways social media use may impact family law cases

Hidden Assets? Not Any More

Hypothetically, a husband decides he does not want to pay his soon-to-be-ex spouse a significant amount of spousal support. Thus, he decides to hide some of his assets during the acrimonious divorce. He sells stocks, stashes money in offshore accounts, and downsizes his house and car. The judge believes his riches-to-rags story, and his now ex-wife gets a far smaller support order than she had anticipated.

In celebration, the now ex-husband takes his new girlfriend on a vacation, and the girlfriend posts pictures of their lavish trip. However, if the ex-wife discovers the pictures, she can take them to court as evidence that the ex-husband is worth more than he claimed and she can ask the judge to modify the support order. In fact, the ex-husband may end up paying more than he had hoped to, and will likely find himself in serious trouble for lying to the court.

Character Evidence

Another example is when a husband and wife are engaged in a bitter fight over the custody of their children. Life is stressful, and the wife does not have a lot of patience with the children right now. She posts messages on social media about how frustrated she is, how she would like to take the kids and run so that husband cannot get custody, or how she would like to severely discipline the children. If the husband sees these posts, this information may be admissible to show that the wife is an unfit parent and that it is not in the children’s best interests to remain with her.

Contact a Family Law Attorney

Social media can impact family law cases significantly. If you live in Illinois and are going through a divorce or dealing with support or custody matters, contact an experienced Chicago divorce attorney at the Mevorah Law Offices LLC to make sure that social media is being used on your behalf, and not against you.

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