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b2ap3_thumbnail_miranda-rights_640.jpgThe right to remain silent means that at any point you can invoke that right and refuse to answer questions from police officers, detectives, or other prosecutorial representatives.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, however, limited that right in the case of Berghuis v. Thompkins.  Van Chester Thompkins was convicted of murder but challenged the conviction, alleging that his confession should have been suppressed because his right to remain silent was violated. The Court, in a 5-4 decision ruled that by failing to specifically state that he did not wish to speak to police, or that he was invoking his right to remain silent, he had waived that right.  While many legal scholars disagreed with the rationale of this decision, what it means in practice is that knowing how and when to assert your rights is now even more important to protect them from being eroded.

But shouldn't I cooperate with the police?

Won't that show them I don't have anything to hide?  The answer to both questions is almost unequivocally, "no."  If police are questioning you, it means they likely suspect you have committed a crime.  If the police detained you, it usually means they already have enough evidence to justify your arrest.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_att-thomas.jpgPucci|Pirtle is excited to announce that the firm is expanding in order to meet the needs of our current and future clients, and with this expansion we are pleased to welcome Attorney Thomas Spencer IV to the firm!

Thomas Spencer earned his Bachelor of Arts from Truman State University in 2002, and graduated cum laude from Northern Illinois College of Law in 2006.  He then began his career practicing law as a prosecutor for several cities and villages in McHenry County, Illinois.  Since leaving prosecution in 2008, Attorney Spencer has concentrated his practice in the areas of criminal defense and family matters, including divorce, complex custody, matrimonial law, and domestic violence matters.

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If you follow Pucci Pirtle on Facebook, you know that Attorney Pucci spoke yesterday at the ISBA seminar on It's Not Just Family Law Anymore. Attorney Pucci is a natural public speaker and so knowledgeable on many of the areas of law that often intersect with family law. Attorney Pucci's topic yesterday was on geriatric dissolution issues. Below is a list of five things to take away from her presentation:

  1. Guardianship Proceedings:If an elderly person is incapable of handling their personal or financial estate, a guardian can be appointed to manage their affairs in a manner that is in that elderly person's best interest. Most don't know that a guardian can file for divorce on behalf of the ward (the elderly person) when they can prove to the probate court that dissolution would be in the ward's best interest.
  2. Social Security Benefits:This tip is helpful for everyone to know:many of us know that when you've been married to someone for more than 10 years and subsequently divorce, you are entitled to your former spouse's social security benefits. Most don't know that if you've been married to two different people for more than 10 years (and you're not currently married to anyone), you are entitled to receive the larger of the two ex-spouses' benefits. Also, if your ex-spouse is deceased, you may also be entitled to survivor benefits.
  3. Reverse Mortgages = probably a bad idea! In the world of family law, we tell our potential clients considering a legal separation that there are very few (if any) good reasons to get a legal separation over a divorce. An elder law attorney will tell you the same thing about reverse mortgages; they are costly and very rarely a good idea.
  4. Spousal Support and Retirement Benefits: When dealing with clients of advanced age who are living on retirement benefits, be mindful of the fact that dividing retirement benefits and ordering maintenance from the income received from those retirement benefits could result in double dipping.
  5. Estate Planning: When a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered, the divorcee's will or self-settled trust are automatically revoked as to any benefit to an ex-spouse. The will/trust will read as if the former spouse predeceased them. If you are recently divorced, now is the time to review and revise your estate plan!

As family law attorneys, we must constantly be mindful of the other areas of legal practice that intersect with family law. If you or someone you know is considering divorcing at an advance age, Pucci Pirtle can offer assistance in navigating the elder law world of divorce. Also, if you have a family member who you believe is incapable of handling their personal and financial affairs, call Pucci Pirtle today for a referral to an elder law attorney in your area.

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When you hire a divorce or family law attorney, you will be required to pay the firm a retainer fee.  A retainer is a fee that you pay to your attorney when you hire them to represent you. Pucci Pirtle, LLC only takes security retainers. A security retainer is an up-front amount paid at the commencement of our services and it remains the property of the client until our firm applies it to charges for services rendered. Every month you will receive a bill, and that bill will reflect the hours and charges spent on your case; the bill will show what funds remain in the trust account and what funds were earned.  Earned funds will be transferred from the trust account and will be then paid to the firm.  Any unearned funds remaining after the completion of our representation will be promptly refunded to the client.  If the retainer is expended and your case is still ongoing (full disclosure - it is rare for an initial retainer to cover your entire case), you will owe a replenishment retainer to the firm.  Pucci|Pirtle does not handle divorce or family law cases on a flat fee - I don't know any attorney who does, but we do handle real estate transactions and estate planning matters for flat fee retainers.

Our retainer agreement is longer than most firm's and explains all about how you will be charged, how you are expected to pay, and what is required of our firm in the course of our representation and what we expect of our clients.  Read the agreement (and anything!) before you sign and ask questions.

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Attorney Pirtle has been published in the August 2013 edition of the Illinois State Bar Association's Family Law Section Council, of which Attorney Pucci has been a member for two years. Her article addresses a very recent Illinois Supreme Court case that effectively clarified, and in many jurisdictions changed, the standard for visitation by a non-custodial parent in parentage actions. It is an important read and the text of her article is below:

Illinois Supreme Court puts burden on unmarried fathers to prove visitation is in their child's best interest

By Julie Pirtle

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Kane County Bar Association Illinois State Bar Association McHenry County Bar Association

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