Pritzker Executive Order Gives Hospitals and Healthcare Workers Immunity From Civil Liability During COVID-19 Crisis

With Illinois hospitals and healthcare workers overwhelmed on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with freshly minted doctors and retired healthcare professionals being called into the fight, Gov. JB Pritzker signed an Executive Order providing them with immunity from civil liability for “rendering assistance” during the crisis.

Executive Order 2020-19, issued on April 1, 2020, directs “all Health Care Facilities, Health Care Professionals, and Health Care Volunteers, as defined in Section 1 of the order, to render assistance in support of the State’s response to” the COVID-19 disaster proclamation. It provides that all such facilities, professionals, and volunteers:

“shall be immune from civil liability for any injury or death alleged to have been caused by any act or omission… which injury or death occurred at a time when [the hospital, professional, or volunteer] was engaged in the course of rendering assistance to the State by providing health care services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, unless it is established that such injury or death was caused by gross negligence or willful misconduct”

As defined in the order, “health care facilities” include “any government-operated site providing health care services established for the purpose of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak,” such as the field hospital recently established at McCormick Place. The order also covers hospitals, skilled and intermediate care nursing facilities, skilled and intermediate facilities under the ID/DD Community Care Act, skilled mental health rehabilitation facilities, kidney disease treatment centers, emergency medical service providers, outpatient surgery centers, and institutions that provide major medical diagnostic equipment, among others.

Health care professionals for purposes of the order include “all licensed or certified health care or emergency medical services workers” providing services at a health care facility in response to the COVID-19 outbreak or “are working under the direction of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency or the Department of Public Health in response to the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations.”

Health care volunteers are defined as volunteers or unlicensed medical or nursing students who are working under IEMA or DPH in response to the governor’s disaster proclamation.

The order cites several statutory bases for the grant of immunity, including the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, the Good Samaritan Act, and the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.

The immunity provided through the governor’s order is just one of several steps that Illinois has taken to make it easier for desperately needed physicians and health care workers to participate in the COVID-19 battle, including expedited healthcare license reinstatement and streamlined out-of-state licensing.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

This is an unprecedented and challenging time for everyone, including licensed professionals. During this crisis, I remain committed to being a resource, counselor, and advocate for all Illinois licensees as they navigate the rapidly changing legal, regulatory, and practical landscape.

If you have questions or concerns about your professional license or how these variances and other COVID-19 changes affect you, please contact me immediately. Call (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

Task Force Recommends More Breaks, Shorter Shifts, and Fewer Responsibilities for Illinois Pharmacists

Pharmacists are highly trained and knowledgeable professionals. They handle and dispense powerful drugs to vulnerable patients who rely on them for guidance and for their careful filling and dispensing of prescriptions.

But pharmacists are also human. Their jobs come with business pressures, policies, and priorities that may impede their ability to fulfill their duties as they should. These pressures can have tragic consequences when pharmacists feel like they can’t spend the time needed to properly advise patients about their prescription. Overwhelmed and overworked pharmacists may also make any number of critical errors between the time they receive a prescription from a patient or their physician and the time they dispense the prescribed medication.

These problems manifested themselves in a 2016 Chicago Tribune investigation which found that pharmacists at 52% of 255 Chicagoland pharmacies failed to adequately warn customers about drug interactions that could result in adverse health consequences or death.

As a result of this shocking report, the state of Illinois formed a task force to examine and make recommendations on “how to further advance the practice of pharmacy in a manner that recognizes the needs of the healthcare system, patients, pharmacies, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians.” 

On October 11, 2019, the Illinois Collaborative Pharmaceutical Task Force released its final Report and Recommendations.

An Assembly-Line Process

The report found that pharmacists felt overwhelmed by an assembly-line process at busy pharmacies where they are expected to fill hundreds of prescriptions in a single shift. In turn, pharmacists routinely skipped breaks and meals and became easily distracted due to competing priorities and too many responsibilities relating to the management and operation of pharmacy practices.

 In the report, the task force made the following recommendations:

  • Increasing whistleblower protections for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who report violations of the Pharmacy Practice Act (the “Act”);
  • Adding new grounds for discipline of licensed pharmacists under the Act, including:
    • Failing to provide “adequate time for a pharmacist to complete professional duties and responsibilities”;
    • Failing to provide “sufficient personnel to prevent fatigue, distraction or other conditions that interfere with a pharmacist’s ability to practice with competency and safety or creates an environment that jeopardizes patient care”;
    • Failing to provide “appropriate opportunities for uninterrupted rest periods and meal breaks”;
  • Adding a new section to the Act entitled “Pharmacy Work Conditions,” which states that:
    • Employers “shall keep and maintain a complete and accurate record of the daily break periods of its pharmacists”;
    • Employers “shall not require a pharmacist, student pharmacist, or pharmacy technician to work longer than twelve (12) continuous hours per day, inclusive of the breaks”;
    • A pharmacist working longer than six continuous hours per day shall be allowed to take a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break and one 15-minute break, as well as one additional break if working 12 hours per day.
    • No pharmacist shall work longer than five hours per day without the opportunity to take an uninterrupted meal break.

A bill currently pending in the Illinois legislature would incorporate the task force’s recommendations into the Pharmacy Practice Act. The bill also includes new provisions for disciplinary action, including written warnings or fines against the pharmacy, pharmacist, and pharmacist-in-charge that would be posted online and could not be expunged, as well as possible license revocation for repeat violations. The bill is expected to become law during the current legislative session.

Louis R. Fine: Chicago Pharmacist License Defense Attorney

Throughout my career, I have been protecting the livelihoods and professional futures of pharmacists and other health care providers before the IDFPR, combining insight and experience with zealous and strategic advocacy.

The moment you are contacted by IDFPR or learn that you are under investigation is the moment that you should contact me. I will immediately begin communicating with IDFPR prosecutors and work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will protect your Illinois pharmacist’s license and get you back to your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

Telemedicine and Physician Licensing: How the 19th Century is Holding Back the 21st

teleAdvancements in technology almost always outpace efforts by legislators and regulators to address the new realities, issues, and concerns that arise from such innovations. Laws that made sense even a short ten years ago can quickly become anachronistic, if not counterproductive.

Such is the dilemma facing physicians and healthcare providers who see telemedicine as a key way to address a growing physician shortage, especially in rural and other underserved areas. That shortage is expected to grow to 120,000 doctors by 2030, according to a 2018 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

51 Different Licenses

The problem is that while the internet knows no borders, medical licenses do. Increasingly, the inability of physicians to provide remote care to patients in other states where they are not licensed is holding back telemedicine’s potential and unnecessarily denying patients access to quality healthcare.

Physicians must be licensed in each state where their current and future patients are located, so a doctor wanting to counsel patients through telemedicine would need to obtain and stay compliant with licensing requirements in up to 51 jurisdictions governed by 51 different medical boards imposing 51 different standards, conditions, and rules.

The current state-based medical licensing regime traces its roots back to the 19th Century, and the system is clearly showing its age. While effective and robust licensing is still essential in ensuring quality of care, the lack of license reciprocity and portability between states is now more of a hindrance to providing such care than a help.

That is why already active efforts to change medical licensing to facilitate telemedicine continue to gain steam. The most successful of these efforts to date has been the Federation of State Medical Licensing Board’s (FSMB) work establishing the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. Physicians in good standing can freely practice in any of the states participating in the compact so long as they possess a “full and unrestricted” license in their state of principal license (SPL). To date, only 24 states, including Illinois, have joined the compact.

A Uniform, Nationwide System

This still leaves too many doctors and too many patients locked out of telemedicine. As noted by the authors of a recent article in the American Journal of Managed Care, “The impact of restricting telemedicine falls hardest on poor patients, the uninsured, and those who rely on state Medicaid programs, many of whom lack access to reliable transportation and cannot travel across state lines to see specialists.”

That is why the FSMB and other telemedicine advocates have advanced several proposals to enhance license portability and reduce regulatory barriers to telemedicine. They all are based around a mutual recognition scheme whereby states honor each other’s medical licenses based on models that have been successfully used in Europe and Australia and by the Veterans Health Administration, US military, and US Public Health Service.

Adoption of a nationwide licensing scheme would be facilitated by establishing consistent standards for using and regulating telemedicine services, the sharing of malpractice, medical error, and license cancellation or suspension information between states, and other federal and state-level reforms.

Any efforts that would streamline the physician licensing process while at the same time increasing access to healthcare for those who need it most should be encouraged.

Louis R. Fine: Chicago Physician License Defense Attorney

Throughout my career, I have been protecting the livelihoods and professional futures of physicians and other health care providers before the IDFPR, combining insight and experience with zealous and strategic advocacy.

The moment you are contacted by IDFPR or learn that you are under investigation is the moment that you should contact me. I will immediately begin communicating with IDFPR prosecutors and work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will protect your Illinois physician’s license and get you back to your patients and your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

Dogging It: Voluntarily Tanking Your Income Won’t Get You Out of Your Child Support Obligations

pocketsDivorce can bring out the worst in people. Underhanded actions and tricks designed to hurt the other spouse and gain an advantage in the proceedings are all too common. In many cases, a spouse will engage in devious tactics to try to reduce the amounts he or she must pay for child support.

Since support obligations are in part determined based on the assets and income of the parent from whom payments are sought, a less-than-honest spouse may try to make it appear that they have significantly less money than they actually do. This can involve concealing or transferring assets. Sometimes, however, a spouse will also intentionally reduce their income through “voluntary underemployment” or taking a job that pays less than they previously were earning, solely to stick it to the other parent or deny them the child support they deserve.

Luckily, Illinois law provides a way for parents who are intentionally tanking their income to be held to account.

“Potential Income” Used to Determine Child Support Obligations

In Illinois, the basic formula for arriving at a child support amount (subject to variations based on specific circumstances) involves:

  • calculating each parent’s net income, then
  • combining net incomes to determine Total Family Income, then
  • using the Illinois Child Support Estimator to determine the Basic Child Support Obligation, then
  • allocating the Basic Child Support Obligation proportionally based on net incomes.

Initial support obligations are calculated as part of the divorce proceedings but can later be modified at the request of one of the parents if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in the amount of one of the parent’s incomes. But if it can be shown that a reduction in a parent’s net income – such as quitting a job or taking a much lower paying job – was voluntary and done in bad faith, an Illinois court can base its support calculations on the parent’s “potential income” rather than their actual, reduced income.

Specifically, Section 505(a)(3)(F)(II)(3.2) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that If a parent is “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income.” A court will calculate that income by determining the parent’s employment potential and probable earnings level based on:

  • the parent’s work history
  • the parent’s occupational qualifications,
  • prevailing job opportunities
  • the ownership by a parent of a substantial non-income producing asset, and
  • earnings levels in the community.

If there is insufficient work history to determine employment potential and probable earnings level, there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s potential income is 75% of the most recent United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of one person.

Every one of us has our own unique career journey which can include ups and downs, setbacks and advancements. Whether a parent’s career choices will be held against them in terms of their child support obligations will depend on their unique facts and circumstances and whether or not those choices were made in good faith or were made solely to skirt their obligations under the law.

Louis R. Fine – Chicago Child Support Attorney

If you have questions about child support, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. I look forward to assisting you

“Potential Income” Used to Determine Child Support Obligations

In Illinois, the basic formula for arriving at a child support amount (subject to variations based on specific circumstances) involves:

  • calculating each parent’s net income, then
  • combining net incomes to determine Total Family Income, then
  • using the Illinois Child Support Estimator to determine the Basic Child Support Obligation, then
  • allocating the Basic Child Support Obligation proportionally based on net incomes.

Initial support obligations are calculated as part of the divorce proceedings but can later be modified at the request of one of the parents if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in the amount of one of the parent’s incomes. But if it can be shown that a reduction in a parent’s net income – such as quitting a job or taking a much lower paying job – was voluntary and done in bad faith, an Illinois court can base its support calculations on the parent’s “potential income” rather than their actual, reduced income.

Specifically, Section 505(a)(3)(F)(II)(3.2) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that If a parent is “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income.” A court will calculate that income by determining the parent’s employment potential and probable earnings level based on:

  • the parent’s work history
  • the parent’s occupational qualifications,
  • prevailing job opportunities
  • the ownership by a parent of a substantial non-income producing asset, and
  • earnings levels in the community.

If there is insufficient work history to determine employment potential and probable earnings level, there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s potential income is 75% of the most recent United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of one person.

Every one of us has our own unique career journey which can include ups and downs, setbacks and advancements. Whether a parent’s career choices will be held against them in terms of their child support obligations will depend on their unique facts and circumstances and whether or not those choices were made in good faith or were made solely to skirt their obligations under the law.

Louis R. Fine – Chicago Child Support Attorney

If you have questions about child support, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. I look forward to assisting you

More Changes Coming to How Illinois Spousal Maintenance Breaks Down After a Marriage Does

maintOnce again, changes to Illinois law have and will alter how spousal maintenance awards are determined in divorce proceedings. Amendments to Sections 504 and 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, some of which became effective in 2018 and others which will be effective on January 1, 2019, come only three short years after legislators for the first time established specific formulas for calculating the amount and duration of spousal maintenance payments.

These changes tweak the calculation guidelines that were set in the last round of amendments. The 2018 changes altered the threshold for applying the guidelines and the percentages used in determining how long a spouse will be required to make maintenance payments. The 2019 changes as to how maintenance amounts will be calculated were a direct reaction to changes in federal tax law that eliminated the tax deduction for alimony payments.

Increase in Gross Income Level for Application of Guidelines

The guidelines established in 2015 only applied when the combined gross income of the parties was less than $250,000 and no multiple family situation existed. As of 2018, this formula now applies to couples with a combined gross income of less than $500,000, significantly increasing the number of divorces which will involve its use when maintenance is deemed appropriate.

Amount of Maintenance Payments

For divorces finalized on or before December 31, 2018, all amounts paid for spousal maintenance or alimony reduce the payor’s taxable income by the same sum. For most folks paying maintenance, this deduction represents a significant tax savings that can ease the burden of supporting an ex.

But the GOP tax plan passed a year ago eliminated that tax deduction for divorces finalized after the end of this year. Maintenance will no longer be deductible for the spouse who pays maintenance while the recipient can no longer include maintenance payments as taxable income. It is important to note that the deduction will still apply going forward for divorces entered this year or earlier.

In response to this significant change, Illinois modified the formula used to calculate maintenance awards. The current statutory formula provides that a maintenance award should equal 30 percent of the payor’s gross income, minus 20 percent of the payee’s gross income.

Example:

  • Husband’s annual gross income = $100,000 (30% = $30,000)
  • Wife’s annual gross income = $45,000 (20% = $9,000)
  • $30,000 – $9,000 = $21,000 in annual spousal maintenance to wife.

The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is more than 40% of the combined gross income of the parties.

For divorces finalized in 2019 or later, those guidelines are now as follows:

  • The award should be 33.3% of the payor’s net (not gross) income, minus 25% of the recipient’s net (not gross) income.
  • There will still be a 40% cap, but it will now be calculated using the combined net income of the parties rather than gross income.

Duration of Maintenance Payments

Under both the old and new laws, how long a spouse is required to pay maintenance is based on the length of the marriage. Before 2018, judges were to use the following formula in determining how long payments must continue:

  • Married 0 – 5 years = 20% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 5 – 10 years = 40% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 10 – 15 years = 60% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 15 – 20 years = 80% of the duration of the marriage
  • 20 or more years = court has the discretion to order either permanent maintenance or maintenance equal to the length of the marriage.

Under this formula, for example, a 5-year marriage would result in a 1-year maintenance obligation, while a 10-year marriage would result in 4 years of maintenance payments.

The new formulas are broken down in more detail such that the percentages that apply to an 11-year marriage, for example, are now different than they are for a 14-year one. Specifically, the duration of maintenance obligations are now as follows:

  • less than 5 years (.20)
  • 5 years or more but less than 6 years (.24)
  • 6 years or more but less than 7 years (.28)
  • 7 years or more but less than 8 years (.32)
  • 8 years or more but less than 9 years (.36)
  • 9 years or more but less than 10 years (.40)
  • 10 years or more but less than 11 years (.44)
  • 11 years or more but less than 12 years (.48)
  • 12 years or more but less than 13 years (.52)
  • 13 years or more but less than 14 years (.56)
  • 14 years or more but less than 15 years (.60)
  • 15 years or more but less than 16 years (.64)
  • 16 years or more but less than 17 years (.68)
  • 17 years or more but less than 18 years (.72)
  • 18 years or more but less than 19 years (.76)
  • 19 years or more but less than 20 years (.80)

For a marriage of 20 or more years, a judge has the discretion to order maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage or for an indefinite term.

Judge May Deviate From Guidelines But Must Explain Why

While a judge is not required to follow the new guidelines, if they deviate from them they must explicitly state in their findings the amount of maintenance or duration that would have been required under the guidelines and the reasoning for any variance from the guidelines.

If you have questions or concerns regarding these changes or spousal maintenance generally, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation.

What’s in Fido’s Best Interest? Pets Treated More Like Kids Under Changes to Illinois Divorce Law

fidoYour dog or cat may spend a lot of time lying around your house like a piece of furniture. Up until this year, a piece of furniture was an apt description of how Illinois law treated pets when their owners got divorced. Pets were considered items of personal property, subject to division under equitable distribution principles. But Illinois legislators finally recognized that our pets are much more than personal property, no matter how much they lay around. They are friends, companions, and family members.

That is why, as of January 1st, Illinois law allows judges to consider the post-divorce fate of pets much in the same way they do with children – by considering what is in the pet’s best interests or, to use the language of the new law, the pet’s “well-being.”

Public Act 100-0422 provides that spouses can enter into an agreement, or a judge can enter an order, “allocating the sole or joint ownership of or responsibility for a companion animal.” With the exception of service animals, which are excluded from this provision since they are critical to one of the two spouses, a “companion animal” under the new law could be any animal, not just dogs and cats. There are no doubt couples who have become very attached to their pet ferrets, potbellied pigs, and iguanas, and they too can avail themselves of the new law’s benefits.

While pets are no longer considered personal property, they must be considered a “marital asset” in order for a judge to allocate ownership and responsibilities between the spouses. As a practical matter, this means that only those pets acquired during the marriage are subject to the new law.

The issue of “pet custody” predates this change in the law, and the often-contentious nature of disagreements about pets during divorce was one of the reasons behind the new statute. What makes this law interesting is how judges may look at a pet’s “well-being.” For example, will a judge look at the relationship between each spouse and the pet, including who is responsible for their care and feeding, who takes it to the vet, or who walks it more? The law leaves “well-being” undefined.

As with all other matters involved in divorce, it is almost always better for a couple to reach a negotiated agreement about the care of their pet going forward. You can develop a “parenting plan” similar in many respects to the one parents must prepare. It can allocate time and responsibilities between the spouses, allowing them both to enjoy the companionship of their furry (or scaly) friend.

If you do decide to draft a shared “custody” agreement, don’t forget to include important details about which party will bear the costs of maintaining the animal. Include language that specifies who is responsible for veterinarian visits, grooming, food, and end-of-life decisions. You would be surprised how often people disagree on caring for terminally ill or ailing animals. Address these issues now before emotions take over.

If you have questions or concerns regarding this change in Illinois law, your pets, or any other issues relating to divorce, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a free initial consultation.

A Crash Course in College Costs Under Illinois’ New Divorce Law: What Parents Need to Know

college costs 2016High school seniors in Illinois and across the country are anxiously awaiting the delivery of college acceptance (or rejection letters). At the same time, their parents are anxiously trying to figure out how they’re going to pay the astronomical costs of tuition and related expenses.

For divorced parents, however, this anxiety can be compounded with uncertainty or conflict about who if anyone has to pay for their child’s college costs and what the extent of those obligations are.

The sweeping changes to Illinois divorce law that became effective on January 1st include extensive and detailed provisions that attempt to bring clarity to college expense obligations in the event that the parties can’t otherwise agree. Here’s what you need to know if college is in your child’s future:

“Educational Expenses” Defined

As was the case under the old version of Illinois’ divorce law, either parent can petition the court to require the other parent to contribute to “educational expenses,” both before and after a child becomes a legal adult.

Section 513(d) of the revised Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act defines what are and are not “educational expenses” that a parent can be obligated to pay. Importantly, the extent of many of the obligations are pegged to the costs incurred for attending the University of Illinois, though the child can attend college anywhere.

“Education expenses” include:

  • the actual cost of the child’s post-secondary expenses, including tuition and fees, provided that the cost for tuition and fees does not exceed the amount of tuition and fees paid by a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year;
  • the actual costs of the child’s housing expenses, whether on-campus or off-campus, provided that the housing expenses do not exceed the cost for the same academic year of a double-occupancy student room, with a standard meal plan, in a residence hall operated by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
  • the actual costs of the child’s medical expenses, including medical insurance, and dental expenses;
  • the reasonable living expenses of the child during the academic year and periods of recess under certain circumstances; and
  • the cost of books and other supplies necessary to attend college.

College Doesn’t Last Forever

Under Section 513(a) of the new law, any contributions sought in a petition must be for expenses “incurred no later than the student’s 23rd birthday, except for good cause shown, but in no event later than the child’s 25th birthday” unless otherwise agreed to by the parties. If your 35-year-old daughter wants to go back to school to get her MBA, she is on her own.

A child is also on their own if they don’t keep their grades up. Any previously ordered obligation to pay for college costs terminates if the child fails to maintain a cumulative “C” grade point average, except in the event of illness or other good cause shown. Payment obligations also terminate when the student receives a baccalaureate degree or marries.

Financial Aid

Section 513(b) provides that a court may require both parties and the child to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other financial aid forms and to submit any form of that type prior to the designated submission deadline for the form.

Admissions Tests and Applications

College costs money well before your student sets foot on campus. Even if the court doesn’t order any other contributions, Section 513(b) provides that the court can require either or both parties to provide funds for the child so as to pay for:

  • the cost of up to 5 college applications
  • the cost of 2 standardized college entrance examinations, and
  • the cost of one standardized college entrance examination preparatory course.

Too often, parents delay filing a petition for college expenses until the bill for tuition and fees is upon them. If you wait until your child is packing up for the first day of school, you could get stuck with the bill for the first semester.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s college costs after a divorce, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation.

It’ll Take More Than Regret to Get Out of an Illinois Prenuptial Agreement

prenupAs the new year approaches, you may find yourself taking stock of the past twelve months – tallying your triumphs or setbacks, good fortune or regrets.

If one of your regrets over the past twelve months – or 12 years – was signing a prenuptial agreement that you no longer want to abide by, you’ll need more than just buyer’s remorse to get out of it.

Many couples, prior to their wedding day, decide to execute a prenuptial agreement to govern property division, spousal support, financial obligations, and other matters in the event that their marriage ends.

In a 2013 survey of 1,600 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 63% of the responding attorneys reported an increase in prenups over the previous three years.

But when happily ever after fails to materialize and divorce is on the horizon, one party to the prenuptial agreement may no longer find the agreement to their liking and attempt to get around the agreements they made years or decades ago.

Unless they had been forced to sign the agreement or were misled as to their spouse’s financial condition and assets, avoiding the terms of a prenuptial agreement in Illinois is not an easy proposition.

Force, Fairness, and Failure to Disclose

The Illinois Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (IUPAA) governs prenups in the state and sets forth very specific and narrow bases for voiding such agreements.

As a preliminary matter, it should be noted if both spouses want to tear up or modify the agreement any time after execution, they are free to do so as long as the revocation or amendment is in writing and signed by both parties. (750 ILCS 10/6)

Absent an agreed upon revocation, however, the Section 7 of the IUPPA (750 ILCS 10/7) provides that a premarital agreement is not enforceable only if the party who wishes to avoid its terms proves that:

  • they did not execute the agreement voluntarily; or
  • the agreement was unconscionable when it was executed and, before execution of the agreement, that party:
  • was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party;
  • did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided; and
  • did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

All of the foregoing relates back to the circumstances at the time the agreement was entered into, not today. Only if, at that time, one party was forced to sign the agreement under duress (“sign or else I won’t marry you” doesn’t count as “duress”), or the other party hid the ball and did not provide accurate information or “fair and reasonable disclosure” in regards to assets, debts, income, pensions, or other financial or personal matters that the other party did not or could not have known about on their own – and they did not waive the right to disclosure of those facts – may a judge refuse to enforce the agreement.

For that lack of disclosure to void the agreement, however, the agreement must be “unconscionable,” that is, excessively oppressive to one party in the context of all of the facts at issue. Whether a given prenuptial agreement is unconscionable is an issue decided by the court on a case by case basis.

Spousal Support Provisions May be Modified for “Undue Hardship”

One exception to the hard and fast rules set forth above relates to spousal support. If a premarital agreement modifies or eliminates spousal support and that modification or elimination causes one party to the agreement “undue hardship in light of circumstances not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the execution of the agreement,” a court may require the other party to provide support to the extent necessary to avoid such hardship. (750 ILCS 10/7(b)).

As the changes to Illinois divorce law that take effect January 1 eliminate all grounds for divorce other than “irreconcilable differences, your regret is enough to get you out of your marriage. But it’s not enough to get you out of your prenup.

If you have questions or concerns regarding any issues relating to divorce, including the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement you’ve signed, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a free initial consultation.

Doctors Without Borders: Illinois Becomes 11th State to Streamline Multi-State Physician Licensure

License mapIllinois physicians seeking to practice in other states as well as out-of-state physicians looking to practice in Illinois will have an easier time doing so now that Illinois has joined 10 other states in enacting the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act (the “Act”).

Simplified Licensure Process

Signed into law on July 20th by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Act allows physicians who wish to practice in any of the states participating in the Compact to obtain multiple state licenses without going through the process of submitting a formal application or providing the same materials to each participating state medical board.

An “Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission,” which will be formed now that a sufficient number of states have joined the Compact, will collect applicable fees and transmit the physician’s information and licensure fees to the additional states in which the physician seeks to practice.  Those states would then make the licensure decision.

Promoting Telemedicine

The driving force behind the Compact is the increasing use of telehealth technology by doctors and other health care professionals who are generally prohibited from delivering health care services through telemedicine to patients in states in which they are not licensed. By streamlining the licensing process and decreasing redundancy, the Compact aims to remove barriers to the use of telehealth in patient care.

11 States and Counting

In addition to Illinois, the other states that are currently members of the Compact are:

  • Alabama
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

The number of states participating in this arrangement is only expected to grow, as legislation is currently pending in Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin and Vermont that would bring those states into the Compact’s fold.

Louis Fine: Your Chicago Physician and Health Care Licensure Attorney

As a former chief prosecuting attorney and administrative law judge for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), and with experience both prosecuting and defending doctors and other health care professionals before IDFPR, I understand how the Department handles licensure matters, why it decides to pursue investigations, how it approaches negotiations, and how to handle formal proceedings in a way that gives my clients the best possible chance of a positive outcome.

If you are a physician or health care profession and have questions or concerns about a licensure matter, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.