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Illinois Ratifies ERA, But Gender Equality Already Exists in DivorceIllinois' Congress recently ratified the federal Equal Rights Amendment, making Illinois the 37th state to do so. The deadline for states to approve the amendment expired decades ago, but ERA advocates believe that reaching the 38-state requirement now would still allow the amendment to be enacted. ERA opponents have long argued that the amendment would allow federal overreach into state laws and diminish women’s rights in certain areas, including divorce and family law. However, Illinois divorce laws already include gender neutrality in their language.

ERA and Family Law

The ERA that the U.S. Congress approved is comprised of three sections, that state:

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property-divisionBig changes have come to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, effective January 1, 2016. These changes include new rules regarding child custody, property division, grounds for divorce, and the period of time a couple must be separated from each other before they may file for divorce. 

Property Will be Valued by its Market Value Standard

Under the changes to the law, the court will determine the value of a couple's property by applying the fair market value standard. This means that a couple's property will be appraised according to its worth on the date that the court handles the couple's property division, rather than by considering factors like the property's cost and potential for depreciation. If necessary, the court can bring in an outside financial expert to appraise a couple's property. The divorcing couple may be held responsible for the cost of the professional appraiser.

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Posted on in Pet Custody

b2ap3_thumbnail_pet-custody.jpgFor thousands couples throughout the United States, pets are members of the family. For these couples, the pet's custody can be a prominent issue during their divorce.

In Illinois, pets are considered to be personal property. This means that they are divided among divorcing couples in the same way that property such as cars, household decor, and recreational items are divided – according to their monetary value. In Illinois, each partner receives a portion of the couple's shared property according to his or her contribution to the marriage's shared property value and his or her economic needs following the divorce. This is known as equitable distribution and is outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. If one spouse owned the pet before the marriage began, the pet may be considered to be singly-held property and thus not subject to property division rules.

If you have an amicable relationship with your former spouse, the best option for you is to work out a pet custody plan among yourselves. Determine which household is better suited to keep the animal – maybe only one of you has adequate yard space for a dog, or one of you lives in an apartment that does not allow pets. Another solution might be to take turns caring for the pet or keep the pet on the same custody schedule as your child, having the pet go to each household during the parent's scheduled custodial time. In some cases, the custodial parent is also awarded custody of the family pet.

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