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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

Affidavit of Support: The Lifetime Alimony Duty of U.S. Citizens Married to Non-U.S. Citizens

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Illinois family law attorney, Illinois divorce attorney, immigration law,When you decide to marry a non-U.S. citizen and reside in the United States, there are significant bureaucratic obstacles that must be satisfied before you and your soon-to-be spouse can reside happily ever after. The one thing that many mixed-citizen couples do not take into consideration is the fact that once they have tied the knot, they are bound together for life, even if they decide to divorce.

Affidavit of Support

The United States, when permitting non-U.S. citizens to reside in the United States with their U.S. citizen spouses, requires that the U.S. citizen spouses sign an affidavit of support, which is an affidavit that the petitioner (usually the U.S. citizen) signs to declare that they will accept the financial burden and responsibility for the non-U.S. citizen so that the non-U.S. citizen does not become a ward of the state. In other words, by signing the affidavit of support, the U.S. citizen is agreeing to a legally enforceable agreement that he or she will provide lifetime alimony to their non-U.S. citizen spouse.

Affidavit of Support and its Relationship to Spousal Maintenance

This lifetime alimony is in addition to whatever spousal support the court might require pursuant to the divorce decree after the equitable distribution of the assets, and the creation of the spousal maintenance documents, go into effect. The difference is that lifetime alimony is not dictated by the marital status of the non-U.S. citizen, meaning the spouse, post-divorce, could marry another person and still receive the lifetime alimony, according to the terms of the affidavit of support.

Requirements of the  Affidavit of Support

The good thing for the U.S. spouse, however, is that the affidavit of support does not provide lifetime alimony without limitation. The affidavit of support requires that the U.S. spouse provide the non-U.S. spouse with enough financial support that the non-U.S. spouse’s household income meets 125 percent or higher of the U.S. poverty level. In other words, if the non-U.S. spouse has some earning capacity, and/or receives financial assistance because of the spousal maintenance that they received in the divorce, as long as the household income meets this 125 percent threshold, then the U.S. citizen has satisfied their duty under the affidavit of support.

“Means-Tested Public Benefits”: U.S. Citizen Must Repay

Remember, the purpose of the affidavit of support is to ensure that if a U.S. citizen brings a non-U.S. citizen into the country, they ensure that the non-U.S. citizen does not become a ward of the state. Therefore, if the non-U.S. citizen is receiving any type of “means-tested public benefits” like food stamps, the U.S. citizen, pursuant to the affidavit of support, must repay the cost attributed to those benefits.

When the Affidavit of Support Duty Is Discharged

Another limitation of the affidavit of support is that it only applies when the non-U.S. citizen is still not a U.S. citizen. Once the non-citizen has applied and been accepted as a citizen of the United States, the duty of the sponsor has been discharged. The sponsor’s duty is discharged also when the non-U.S. citizen works 40 quarters of work, permanently leaves the United States, or dies.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County
Deciding to marry a non-U.S. citizen has many obstacles and plenty of considerations for the U.S. citizen deciding to sponsor the soon-to-be spouse. It is important to speak with experienced family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC who can advise you of any legal issues that may arise as a result of your multinational marriage. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

Supreme Court Considers Broadening Hearsay Exceptions to Child Testimony

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Illinois family lawyer, Illinois divorce attorney, domestic abuse, In the United States, defendants who have been accused of domestic abuse are provided with the benefits of the law, regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent. Most times, victims of domestic abuse are not able to easily prove that they have been the subject of abuse by their perpetrator, either because they are scared of the abusers, they love the abusers (regardless of the treatment that they are receiving), and/or there is very little evidence that could be shown to the police. It becomes a he-said, she-said situation, which our criminal justice system has a hard time assessing and evaluating.

Hearsay Evidence Rules

In court, when oral or written statements are brought in as evidence, the law of “hearsay” governs the admissibility of the statements. Hearsay is any out-of-court oral or written statement that is brought in to assert the truth of the matter that is at issue. Except for some outlined exceptions, hearsay is generally not admissible as truth, but could be brought in for another purpose, such as showing that the person had a bias or had received notice, regardless of whether the information held within the statement is true or not.

Difficulty to Assert Domestic Violence Claims

Because of the difficulty of bringing in statements that are known as hearsay into a courtroom, it can be hard to assert a case against a perpetrator of domestic violence when the evidence is largely based on personal testimony that occurred outside the courtroom. The Supreme Court, however, is attempting to provide greater rights to victims of domestic violence by broadening the exceptions served by the hearsay law. Largely, these statements would serve to provide greater opportunities for children to be able to come to teachers and other reporters of domestic abuse and have their statements introduced as evidence in a criminal proceeding against their abuser.

The Confrontation Clause

The Confrontation Clause is part of the reason for having the hearsay rule in effect in evidence rules. It permits that, except for foul play or other enumerated exceptions, every defendant has the right to confront their accuser and question the validity of the statements that the accuser is charging against the defendant. Children are treated as a special class because they are less likely to be able to assert themselves, especially when they may not understand the harshness of the proceedings, and/or are scared of their abusers.

The Supreme Court Review

The Supreme Court has decided to take on this issue this season by determining the limits that can be imposed on the type of evidence that can be brought forth in child abuse cases. These limits would permit the introduction of children’s statements to their teachers, therapists, or school counselors, alleging any type of abuse, and would allow this to be used as evidence in charging the defendant.

The Pros/Cons of the Supreme Court Broadening Exception to Child Testimony

Many opponents of this change believe that children’s testimony should not be used to charge a defendant because children are not reliable as witnesses. They are easily swayed by suggestion, can be easily intimidated, and/or are not able to fully understand the extent of their testimony or criminal proceedings. Advocates, however, believe that even if these are possible outcomes, protecting children is a significant public interest and additional safeguards could be drafted to limit any misconduct or mistake.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Domestic violence is a serious issue affecting many families nationwide and around the world. The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help advise you on your rights if you or your children are victims of domestic violence. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

Transgender Rights in Family Law: Illinois Creates Right to Change Gender Markers on Important Legal Documents

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Illinois family lawyer, Illinois divorce attorney, LGBT community,In June 2014, Illinois welcomed the expansion of its Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act by incorporating provisions that offer same-sex marriage benefits to same-sex couples. This has not only opened the door to same-sex couples but also to help transgendered citizens to be able to enter into marriage regardless of whether they transitioned before or after entering into marriage. The movement in favor of creating a space for transgendered individuals has moved throughout the country and Illinois has been no exception.

The Importance of the New Shift Toward Gender Marker Changes

In the last two years, Illinois has provided members of the transgender community the legal ability to change their gender markers on various legal documents, including their Illinois birth certificates, as well as their Illinois government IDs. Part of what makes the change in law so integral to the rights of the transgender population is that no longer will transgender people be required to go through genital surgery to be able to change the gender marker. This has been transformative to the transgender community as it provides those within the community the right to change their gender markers to the identities that they identify with more closely without having to go under the knife, especially since sexual reassignment surgery may not be an option or a desired outcome for many.

Illinois’s New Policy

In the past, Illinois required that individuals not only have gender reassignment surgery, but that the surgery must be done by a physician licensed in the United States. Nowadays, with the passing of this new policy and with the change of the same-sex marriage laws, transgendered individuals no longer require a court order to change genders, though documentation is still required either through a medical report form, a psychiatric report form, a physician’s statement or any other type of legal or medical documentation asserting the change.

Published Guidelines to Protect Transgender Community

In January 2014, Illinois’s Secretary of State published new guidelines to help those in the community change their gender markers on important legal documents. Illinois sponsoring this type of information provision is extremely beneficial for the transgendered community, as it carves a space out in our society for them. Though in the past, changing the gender marker of the individual had a specific impact on such family rights like right to marriage, right to adopt, and other related rights that opposite-sex married individuals already enjoyed, making this change still has an effect on family law rights.

How Does This Affect Family Law Rights for Transgender People?

One of the ways in which being a transgender person could affect family law rights was the possibility that this identity change post-marriage could negatively impact your family. For example, one of the ways in which a marriage may be voided is if “fraud involving the essentials of marriage” has been indicated. Though a decision to change sex is not per se a “fraud,” if a wife enters into a marriage with a husband who post-marriage decides to transition to become a woman, the wife may have a claim that this is a type of fraud involving the essentials of marriage and that she did not enter into this relationship knowing that this change was a possibility.

Legal Vulnerabilities: How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

Transgender people or those considering gender reassignment are still, as seen in the example above, in a position of legal vulnerability. For a transgendered person to protect him or herself, certain documents should be executed that plan for any type of challenge to the validity of the marriage. The Human Rights Campaign advises that transgendered people should execute (for legal safety net purposes):

  • A last will and testament;
  • Financial and medical powers of attorney; and
  • An acknowledgement agreement from the non-transgender partner stating that he or she is aware of his or her spouse’s transgender status and that should help to void any later claims for fraud or deception.

These documents will ensure that even if later there are challenges to the validity of the marriage for one reason or another, the rights ordinarily enjoyed by married couples are extended to this couple no matter what the court decides.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help advise you on any complex family law matters that may arise. Contact our skilled DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

New Law Permits Gambling Facilities to Intercept Jackpot Winnings for Unpaid Child Support

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Illinois divorce attorney, DuPage County child support lawyer, Illinois family law attorney, Illinois has a significant backlog of unpaid child support payments due to delinquent non-custodial parents avoiding their child support debt. In August of 2013, the state had almost $3 billion in unpaid child support debt, and was attempting to find ways to garnish payments from known delinquent parents. One of the programs that Illinois has established in the last few years has had great success: the wage garnishment program, which provided that employers of delinquent parents were required to garnish a certain percentage of the delinquent employee’s income to offset the payments due every month.

The Gaming Intercept Program

Illinois took the program one step further and created the Gaming Intercept program in 2013, a joint venture between the Illinois Gaming Board and Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The joint venture provided that the Illinois Gaming Board was able to intercept the jackpot winnings of noncustodial delinquent players and turn in the money to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to pay back payments of child support.

How the New Program Works

The new law, which amended the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975, the Riverboat Gambling Act, and the Income Withholding for Support Act, and which was signed into effect in August 2013 by Governor Pat Quinn, provides casinos and horse tracks access to a state case registry of child support orders, and permits them to input winners’ names to determine if they are delinquent on their child support. If the gambler’s information is found on the list, then the casino or horse track will intercept the gambler’s jackpot winnings, and subsequently turn it into the Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services. The casinos and race tracks receive a certain percentage of the winnings as part of an administrative fee, creating an incentive for them to review each gambler who fits the bill.

The Scope of the New Program

The new amendment has a specified scope for application. First and foremost, not every winning will be intercepted. The Act applies only to gamblers who win just enough money at the casino that they are subject to file a Form W-2G, an IRS form that requires that certain gambling winnings must be disclosed to the IRS. The program dictates that the gambling facility may intercept on any winnings totaling $1,200 or more and through any type of currency, whether it be chips, tokens, vouchers, etc. The casino or horse track is required to post notices to their clientele notifying them of the right of the gambling facility to intercept on winnings that fit within the specifications.

The Success of the Program Since its Commencement

The amendment to the law has only been in effect for some months now, but as of January 2015, more than $120,000 in winnings from gambling facilities have been seized from deadbeat parents. When divided out, this totals more than 42 people and 56 jackpots that have been seized since the start of the program only months earlier. The first success of the program came the second day of the commencement of the program, when the delinquent payer won a $1,224.48 jackpot, which was then seized to go toward his $30,000 backlog of child support payments. One delinquent parent who had almost $21,000 due in child support had his winnings intercepted 11 times, and, as a result, fully paid off the support due. So far, the largest jackpot to be intercepted was $5,850.

Clearly, the program has had quite a bit of success in its first few months of operation. Other states around the country are implementing their own version of the Gaming Intercept program into law, and hopefully will be seeing similar success.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Being delinquent on your child support payments can have serious financial and legal ramifications. The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help advise you if you or your ex-spouse has been delinquent on child support payments. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

Corporal Punishment: The Thin Line between Child Discipline and Child Abuse

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Illinois family law attorney, Illinois child custody lawyer, parental rights,The corporal punishment/child abuse debate was re-sparked in the last six months due to the widespread coverage one football player received with regards to injuries he perpetrated against his son while inflicting corporal punishment.The authorities found, however, that he had crossed the line, that he went beyond providing punishment to his child, but inflicted serious physical harm against him. The line drawn between corporal punishment and child abuse is a very thin one, and many states are reviewing their current laws to see whether it is possible to make the line more pronounced and more likely to protect the rights of children and the rights of parents to be free of government intervention in how to raise a family.

Corporal Punishment and Abuse Defined in Illinois

In Illinois, corporal punishment is not defined as it is in other states. The statute states that parents are prohibited from inflicting “excessive” corporal punishment, but without little more definition to help parents decipher between “excessive and “acceptable.” In the child abuse statute, child abuse was defined as inflicting even minor physical injury (other than by accidental means), which causes any sort of disfigurement, physical or emotional impairment, loss of a body function as a result, or which causes death. But even in the statute, it seems that there is little guidance: it either is child abuse or it isn’t.

With the law being difficult to decipher, it begs the question, why do people even bother to toe the line? Does corporal punishment work on children (when not inflicted at the levels of child abuse)? Who are the parents that are promoting corporal punishment?

The Statistics of Corporal Punishment

In the United States as a whole, a study supported that about 77 percent of the Americans agreed that children should be physically disciplined and that sometimes corporal punishment is necessary; this is a massive movement against spanking since 1986 where 84 percent of the population believed that spanking was necessary.

Another study published by the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey (GSS) evaluated Americans from all ethnicities, religions, party, and region to determine who and where corporal punishment has received the most support.

  • The study found that born-again Christians are more likely (by a significant degree) to believe in spanking over not born-again Christians.
  • With regards to race, it was shows that African Americans were more likely to favor corporal punishment (by 11 percentage points) than Whites (including Hispanics), and non-whites and non-blacks were even less likely supporting the use of physical discipline.
  • Regionally, U.S. residents living in the south were about 17 percentage points more likely to spank people than the northeast (which approved least of spanking); though the south was more pro-spanking than other regions, mid-westerners and westerners followed closely.
  • Finally, Republicans are more likely (by a wide margin) to be pro-spanking than Democrats.

The Science Behind Corporal Punishment

With many Americans in support of corporal punishment, the next consideration is whether it works to actually discipline a child? In a study put forth by Psychologist Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff, it was demonstrated the following:

  • Children more frequently spanked were more aggressive than less-spanked children.
  • Physical punishment does not deter bad behavior in the long run; it can make it worse.
  • Children who are physically punished are more likely to use physical abuse as an answer to their problems.
  • Physically punished Children might have alterations in their brain as a result of the abuse. These children’s’ brains showed less gray matter in their prefrontal cortex, which could make them more inclined to be depressed, addictive, or have mental health disorders. There was also a link between corporal punishment and a child’s decrease in cognitive ability.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Abuse within the household is not okay and it is important to know you and your family’s options. The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help advise you on your courses of action and the consequences of any action you might take. Contact our skilled DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

Written by Staff Writer

March 20th, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Postnuptial Agreements: The Business of Going into Business with Your Spouse

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Illinois family law attorney, Illinois divorce lawyer, marital assets,U.S. residents are known for being extremely entrepreneurial and innovative. Now, more than ever, the concept of start-ups and crowdfunding/sourcing are becoming increasingly popular as this allows for everyday people to take an idea and, with very little investment, turn it into a business venture with the opportunity for growth.

The well-known adage is that personal relationships and business never mix. But more and more, power couples are surfacing and becoming successful specifically because they are functioning as a marital unit. More likely than not, having your spouse be your business partner creates a situation where any profit or loss is shared with the person who you trust the most. As many couples who run profitable businesses will attest, it is all about communication, creating ground rules, and sometimes a postnuptial agreement for more complex decisions for the marriage and business.

Illinois Prenuptial and PostNuptial Agreements: Their Use in Business

In Illinois, most people are aware of the existence of prenuptial agreements, which are legal agreements outlining the financials and sometimes lifestyle choices of couples. Usually the prenuptial agreements dictate who will get what when in the event of a divorce. But many times the agreement can determine what happens to the couple in the event of infidelity, the number of kids, how to separate holidays between in-laws, and other family obligations.

Postnuptial Agreements

Postnuptial agreements can be add-ons to the original prenuptial or be set aside on their own merit. Using a postnuptial agreement can help in cases where circumstances in the marriage have changed such as one of the spouses leaving the “stay-at-home” parent role or in the event that the couple starts a business.

What to Put into Your Postnuptial Agreement

The key to creating a postnuptial agreement for couples that are starting a business is to not delineate every aspect of the roles and duties of the business; instead, that is the purpose of the business documents, articles of incorporation and the like. The postnuptial agreement is to determine how the business will affect the marriage or how the marriage will affect the business, in the case of a marital strife or divorce. For example, having a postnuptial agreement during a divorce may help to determine whether the couple will keep running the business together regardless of their marital status, or if one spouse needs to cash out and walk away.

Considerations for Entrepreneurial Couples

Regardless of whether you decide to protect your marriage and your business with a postnuptial agreement, it is important that the following is considered before your start-up has hit the stage.

Short-Term/Long-Term Shared Vision

Ensure that you both share the same short-term and long-term vision for the business. Analyze what each of you believes is the mission and objective of the business and make sure that they are in line or at least complement each other. Knowing the signposts for when you both are willing to pursue the tough times or get out of business is important.

Spheres of Influence

Delineate the roles and responsibilities. Having one of the spouses only dealing with the finances and the marketing, and the other dealing with the day-to-day responsibilities, for example, will make it understood when a decision falls under the purview of one spouse or another. Making a decision may not always be easy, but knowing who is responsible which decision will help.

Work/Home Separations

If you can, get office space outside the home for the business. The more physically and emotionally distinct the business and the home are, the more likely that issues from the business will stay out of the home and vice-versa. Even if you are still mad about your spouse not washing the dishes, you still must be professional and work together. Silent treatments hinder productivity. On the other side, learn when to shut off when you are at home and be in family mode.

Money/Conflict Resolution Strategies

Money and finances collectively act as the number one cause of marital strife. Going into business makes that statement even more profound. Make sure that all spending/saving strategies are discussed and have a conflict resolution strategy regarding issues (financial and otherwise) where you disagree.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are extremely helpful in determining how to resolve complex marital issues. The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help advise you on matters to consider before going into business with your spouse and how to protect your marriage. Contact our skilled DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

Child Vaccination Debate: Should Parents Be Held Liable for Not Vaccinating Their Children?

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Illinois family law attorney, Illinois divorce attorney, parental rights,As a parent, you make decisions for your child on a daily basis. Whether you are the sole custodian of your child, or share joint custody, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made with regards to your child’s education, upbringing, health, etc. But what happens when your decisions regarding your child’s upbringing and health have a negative impact on others? This is the question at the center of the child vaccination debate, especially in light of the measles outbreak at Disneyland where 52 cases of infection originated.

One Parent’s Decision Can Pose a Threat to the Rest

At the center of this epidemic is the debate of whether there should be criminal or civil charges for not vaccinating your child, and for the child infecting another child who later dies as a result. The reasoning behind criminal and/or civil liability attaching to these parents is that their decision for raising their child poses a significant threat to the public as a whole.

Why Parents Choose Not to Vaccinate

Those parents who decide not to vaccinate their children do so largely for two reasons: one, it is against their religious beliefs, and/or two, they believe that immunizations are harmful to their child and could be the culprit behind their child being autistic. (The connection between immunizations and autism has been disproven in the last couple years; the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has put forth a statement that immunizations do not cause autism.)

However, the way vaccinations work, about 95 percent of vaccinations are effective in children; five percent of all children that receive an immunization will contract the disease. When the population is largely immunized, the disease can be kept in check; this is known as herd immunization. But when fewer children are vaccinated, then easily communicable diseases may run rampant throughout the population.

Vaccination Rates in Illinois

Vaccination rates are considerably low for children in Chicago, according to an article published by NBC Chicago. In the report’s statistics, it was found that 369 public and private schools boasted rates of more than 10 percent of the student population not having been vaccinated for any one of the serious communicable diseases required. In some of these schools, almost 76 percent of the children were not vaccinated for one or more of these diseases. The report also suggests that there has been little to no enforcement that schools report their vaccination numbers to show compliance with the state laws. (Schools, in order to receive funding, must report their vaccination rates to show that they are enforcing vaccinations within the school.)

Illinois Laws about Vaccination in Schools

In Illinois, the school systems require that children are immunized before they can attend school. There are only a couple of exceptions that the state will be acknowledge: if the child is allergic to the vaccine or if the parent has a religious objection to the immunization. Illinois does not permit as an exemption parents who are simply opposed to vaccines for no justifiable reason, though 19 states recognize a parent’s right to object just because they prefer to opt out of the vaccinations. The big problem noted is that many times, though a parent may state there is a religious belief for not vaccinating his/her child, there is no further investigation into the claim; this makes it easy for parents to suggest a “religious belief” without actually holding this conviction.

Could Criminal or Civil Penalties Work?

Though criminal or civil penalties could have the effect of increasing the vaccination rate, even among the most anti-vaccination parents, it could still be very difficult to prove that the parents are civilly or criminally liable for the danger that their unvaccinated child poses for himself or for others. To prove that the parents were tortiously negligent for civil damages, the injured party would have to prove that the parents owed a legal duty to the injured party (and other injured parties), the parents breached that duty with their actions, that the breach of this duty was a direct cause or proximate cause of the harm suffered, and the injured party suffered as a result.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Your child’s health is of the utmost importance and as a parent (or co-parent), you have a duty to protect, care for, and educate your child. The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help advise you on the myriad of issues surrounding the upbringing of your child.  Contact our dedicated DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

Same-Sex Marriage: What is the Law and Religious Exemptions?

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same-sex marriage, DuPage County family law attorneysOn February 21, 2014, Illinois became the 16th state in the United States to start offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples after passing the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (RFMFA). This provided same-sex couples the opportunity to finally be able to enjoy the privileges and rights allotted to married couples within the state, which extended to all facets of life such as tax benefits, inheritance rights, and other estate planning matters.

For many, this freedom to marry offered a considerable change to their current life. Before the passing of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, and before the destruction of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), only civil unions were offered to same-sex couples, which provided acknowledgement of the union but little to no legal benefits. With marriage equality now becoming a legal standard, same-sex couples are curious as to their newfound rights and privileges.

Right to Marry Under Illinois Law

Now under Illinois law, all persons are eligible to marry except if:

  • They are blood relatives;
  • They are legally married to another person; or
  • They are younger than 18 years old, barring certain parental exceptions.

Also under Illinois law, couples must acquire a marriage license, which is valid the day after the day of issue to 60 days after its issuance.

How Does this Apply to Same-Sex Civil Unions?

It is important to note for couples everywhere that civil unions are still offered and legally valid within Illinois. The passing of the RFMFA does not invalidate a civil union, but couples who were originally united under a civil union may convert it into a marriage by applying for a marriage license. If a couple came together under a civil union during the period of June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015 and would like it to be converted into a marriage, the marriage will be acknowledged as effective from the date of the original civil union. This provides couples the opportunity to easily convert the civil union into a marriage without any additional steps.

Can an Officiant Refuse to Perform Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies?

With same-sex couples marrying in Illinois, there is a controversy with regards to whether an officiant may refuse to perform same-sex marriages. This debate is currently under review throughout the United States determining which has more power, the right of freedom of religion or the law of discrimination.

The Religious Exemption to Religious Officiants

Under Illinois’s RFMFA, there is a religious exemption extended to religious officials to decide that performing a same-sex marriage is against their religious beliefs, therefore allowing them to refuse to perform the ceremony. This exemption only applies to religious organizations as defined in the statute, which primarily include churches, mosques, temples, nondenominational ministries, mission organizations, or any other faith-based associations whose principal business is the advancement of religious faith. In addition, this exemption only applies to premises whose primary use is largely by the organization and the members of the congregation.

The Debate Surrounding the “Right to Refuse”— Can This Apply to Everyone?

Recent cases tackled the scope of the religious exemption and what applies. As stated above, the exemption is only for religious association and premises that are used primarily and exclusively by the religious organization. If, for example, the organization has facilities that it rents out to the public for its use, it may not refuse to rent out the facility to the same-sex couple. This is significant as it ensures that the religious organization cannot offer a blanket policy against same-sex couples, especially when the premises are open to the general public who are not members of the congregation.

Finally, it should be stated that private clubs and private entities that are not strictly religious and are defined as above may not apply the exemption and must provide the facilities and services to same-sex couples.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Same-sex marriage is an incredible leap in equal rights in Illinois. What affects opposite-sex couples affects same-sex couples as well, and it is important to know what laws apply in same-sex marriage. The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help advise you on you and your spouse’s new legal status as a married couple and help navigate any issues surrounding your union. Contact our DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

Underage Drinking and Parental Liability

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parental liability, DuPage County family law attorneysParents have a defined duty to care for and provide their children with food, clothing, education, and a hospitable environment to live. A parent must also protect his or her children from harm by teaching them about the importance of following laws and regulations that are created for the purpose of child protection.

One of the laws that seems to be most flouted by minors is the National Minimum Drinking Age Act which, in 1984, set the minimum drinking age at a person’s 21st birthday. This is a federal law which states comply with and make it illegal to allow persons under 21 the ability to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages (except in the cases of religious observance).

Underage Drinking Statistics

In 2013, it was estimated that nine million minors, between the ages of 12 and 20, reported to have consumed alcohol in a 30-day period. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentage of alcohol consumption increases with age, finding that between the ages of 12 and 16, the percentage of alcohol consumption increased by 18 percent. Between 16 years old and 20 years old, the percentage of alcohol consumption increased by 52 percent.

Clearly, alcohol consumption becomes more prominent with minors the older they get.

Illinois’ Social Host Liability Law

The ability of minors to obtain alcohol usually comes from another source. The trend seen is that parents buy their children alcohol for their parties, thinking that if their children are going to drink, they would prefer that they do the drinking at home under their supervision and not in an unknown, uncontrolled environment.

Illinois has a significant number of minor consumption and possession of alcohol laws. On January 1, 2013, Illinois passed the social host liability law, which now imputes liability on parents for any injury or damage that occurs as a result of providing alcohol to their children and/or their children’s friends.

Social Host Liability Law: Parents Can be Both Civilly and Criminally Liable

According to Illinois’s social host liability law, parents can be held both civilly and criminally liable for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result of their producing alcohol to or permitting their children (and/or the children’s friends) to drink in the home as part of a social gathering.

For liability to be imposed on a parent(s), it must be determined that the parent(s) knew, or had reason to know, that the children were drinking in the residence, or in a hotel/motel that was purchased for the children.

Consequences of the Social Host Liability Law: Class A Misdemeanor

If a parent is found to be liable under the social host liability law, he or she will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and may be fined up to $500 for permitting or authorizing their children to drink in the home; it does not necessarily need to be the home, but could be extended to a hotel or motel room if the parent(s) got the room so that the children could drink within.

Parental Liability When Someone is Seriously Injured or Killed

If someone is injured seriously or dies as a result of the underage drinking, then the parent(s) may be found guilty of a Class 4 felony. The application of the Class 4 felony extends to parents if their children and/or someone else’s child dies as a result of their underage drinking and in the situation where their child or someone else’s child kills another (i.e. drunk driving accident) as a result of their intoxication. The parent(s) may have a defense against these charges if the parent(s) did not know nor had reason to know of the underage alcohol consumption, or took reasonable steps to prevent the underage drinking from happening in the first place.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Parental liability for the actions of children can be difficult to understand as it may be hard to decipher where child liability ends and parental liability starts. Moreover, if you suspect your underage child’s other parent is providing him or her with alcohol while in their custody, the family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help. Contact our DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

The Newest Factors that Can Affect Child Custody in Court

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child custody in court, DuPage County family law attorneysLegal and physical child custody generally hinges on the decisions of a court. A court will listen to both parents and the relationship that each has with his or her child in question, and will additionally balance a variety of family factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child.

The Best Interest of the Child in Illinois

The following are several factors that a court will weigh and assess in determining what type of custody arrangement is in the best interest of a child:

  • The ideal arrangement for each parent;
  • The ideal arrangement based on a child’s wishes;
  • The relationship and interaction between and among a child, his/her siblings, each individual parent, and any other relative who interacts with the child;
  • The extent in which the custody arrangement will alter a child’s daily routine or lifestyle;
  • The extent in which the custody arrangement may impact the mental and physical health of a child;
  • If there is any past abuse or misconduct (or threat of abuse or misconduct) between a child and a custodial/non-custodial parent.

Joint Child Custody

Joint child custody is considered, in the eyes of the state, the gold standard. If both parents can be involved, that is usually in the best interests of a child. Before granting joint child custody, a court does take into consideration the following factors:

  • The ability of each parent to cooperate and agree on the best parenting plan for each child;
  • The residential and financial lifestyle of each parent; and
  • If there is any history of past abuse or misconduct which would make it dangerous for a child to be in contact with either parent or an acquaintance of either parent.

The Effect that Social Media Sites Have on Custody Arrangements

With the increased use of technology and social media, courts have been taking into consideration other factors: each parent’s presence and behavior on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.

Recently, there have been quite a few cases where misconduct and certain behavior that a parent has exhibited on social media websites has seriously impacted the legal and physical custody arrangement previously made.

In one case, a parent tricked his ex-spouse into exchanging lewd and lascivious videos on Facebook (the eight-year-old child served as cameraman of the videos) and introduced the videos as evidence of neglect and abuse of the child. Ultimately, the endangering of the child on both the part of the ex-wife who requested her child to tape the videos, and the ex-husband who had tricked the wife into taping the videos in the first place, forced the court to revoke custody of the child from both the ex-spouses and place the child in custody with a third party.

In another case, one parent who had posted terrible things about her child on Facebook had that post used as evidence to revoke her custody rights. Clearly, social media is having a significantly negative impact on custody rights and the best interest of the child.

The Other New Factor: How Much of a “Helicopter-Parent” Are You?

So what has been found to help your custody case? Ultimately, showing evidence of being a “helicopter-parent” is extremely useful.

A “helicopter-parent” is a coined term for a parent who intensely hovers around his or her children and smothers his or her children with surveillance. A recent study has shown that judges are more likely to grant custody to parents who can show evidence of them being “obsessive, helicopter-parents.”

The following are qualities of a “helicopter-parent” in the eyes of the court:

  • Parents who know the name of their child’s teachers or friends;
  • Parents who attend classes with their child; and
  • Parents who coach their child’s sport team.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

These are just some of the newest factors taken into consideration in child custody cases. Child custody and the best interest of the child analysis is one that can be highly subjective and determined by a court. It is important to not only put your best evidence (and foot) forward, but also to have an experienced family law attorney by your side. The family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help guide you through the child custody negotiations. Contact our DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

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