Tina Abramovitch, a family lawyer in Chicago, answers:
In December 2013, Illinois lawmakers approved legislation designed to remedy the underfunded pension system that has contributed to the State of Illinois’ debt problem. This new legislation is to take effect in June 2014, but pending lawsuits may delay the commencement. Multiple groups have filed class action lawsuits over the new legislation arguing that the new law violates the constitution of the State of Illinois that says pension benefits may not be diminished.
Many State retirees argue that they should not have to pay the price to solve a problem created by the State not funding the pension system appropriately, despite the workers having paid their requisite shares. Given that pensions acquired during a marriage are marital in nature, (meaning they could be part of the property of the marriage), this new legislation can have an impact on a person’s future financial security. If a person waives his or her right to a spousal pension, or accepts a lump-sum buyout, this new legislation may be detrimental to one or both parties given the current level of uncertainty. It is important that a person going through divorce proceedings in Illinois seek representation to ensure that his or her rights are protected – not just at the time of the divorce, but in the future as well.
If you’re currently going through a divorce, or have recently gone through a divorce, you should contact a lawyer who focuses their practice in the area of family law; you also want to make certain they are experts in the areas of understanding pensions, or that they work with professionals who are. There are many issues to consider when a person is facing divorce in Illinois that will impact his or her financial security, so it’s always best to seek professional help.