With offices in downtown Chicago and Wheaton, for cases throughout Cook and DuPage Counties, I counsel and represent individuals who are going through a divorce. I understand that divorce is trying for all parties. As a result, I emphasize mediation and attempting to settle the case, but always with an eye toward litigation to protect my client's interests in the event that settlement fails.
Whether you are going through dissolution of marriage or civil union, or legal separation, my goal is to help you to get through your case with the minimal amount of stress and best possible results. I represent clients in all matters of custody, child support, visitation, domestic violence and paternity. My experience in these related matters means you get well-rounded representation capable of handling all facets of your case.
A divorce (I use this term for both, a dissolution of marriage and civil union) is a method of terminating a marriage/civil union contract between two individuals. From a legal standpoint, your divorce will give each person the legal right to marry someone else, it will legally divide your assets and debts, and determine the care and custody of your children. Each state addresses these issues differently, but there are some relatively uniform standards. Each state, including Illinois, does have some type of "no fault" divorce laws that can significantly simplify the divorce process.
A "fault" divorce is one in which one party blames the other for the failure of the marriage by citing a legal wrong. Grounds for fault can include adultery, physical or mental cruelty, desertion, alcohol or drug abuse, insanity, impotence or infecting the other spouse with a venereal disease.
It is impossible to provide a definitive time, however, there are some general timelines. Following service of the Petition for Dissolution, the Defendant has 30 days to respond to the Petition. Each party has 28 days to respond to discovery requests, but in some cases parties waive discovery and in others parties drag their feet and must be compelled to respond. Throughout the process, there may be court appearances and/or negotiation attempts. How long that takes is a function of the ability of the parties to negotiate and agree upon issues of custody, visitation, support, asset and debt distribution. Mediation with a neutral third party (a mediator) often facilitates and shortens the process. The shortest divorce in my experience took about a month and the longest about four years.
Custody is determined by agreement or based upon the "best interest of the child" standard. Both parents can be fit and proper persons to “joint legal custody” (decision making), while one parent can be granted “primary residential custodian” (actual residence of the child). The parties may also share residential custody, though this is less common. Joint legal custody is generally preferred, but where parents cannot work together to continue to parent their children, sole custody may be awarded.
In Illinois, there are 3 different estates to consider in a divorce proceeding: (1) the marital property, primarily acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name it is in; (2) and (3), the non-marital estate of the each spouse. Property belonging to either Wife or Husband prior to the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance and kept separate throughout the marriage is nonmarital. Each party is entitled to their non-marital estate and to an equitable share of the marital estate without regard to fault on the part of either party. "Equitable" does not mean "equal" . The courts generally start with an equal division and then look to various factors which will change the percentages, i.e., unequal earning power, responsibility for children, disabilities, share of non-marital property and various needs of the parties.
Traditionally, divorce was granted on the basis of some marital misconduct such as adultery or physical abuse. In these cases the "guilty" spouse was punished by getting a smaller share of the couple's property or being denied custody of their children while the "innocent" spouse was rewarded for being faithful to the vows of marriage. In a no fault divorce, however, both parties agree that there is no "fault" involved in the grounds for divorce. In fact, any misconduct is irrelevant to the divorce proceedings. A marriage can be terminated simply because the couple agrees that it is no longer salvageable.
In Illinois most parties divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences (no fault). Illinois law requires that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of (a) two years or (b) six months and that they waive in writing the two year period of separation.
Like the length of a divorce, the cost of a divorce is impossible to generalize. The cost is a direct result of the ability of the parties to reach agreement. Of course, the parties are influenced by many factors, some within and some out of their control. For example, circumstances, such as prior abuse, and medical and psychological conditions, may make settlement impracticable. At times, other individuals, significant others, family members, attorneys, etc., may make negotiations difficult. Most attorneys charge by the hour and the more hours spent on discovery, negotiations and arguments involving your attorneys the more the divorce will cost. Mediation can be used to minimize costs, but both parties must be open to mediation for it to be successful. I have had divorce cases completed within $1,000 and ones that cost in excess of $50,000.
Child support is paid by the non-custodial/non-residential parent. Child support is a right each child has and the parent cannot waive that right for the child, but child support may be reserved for determination at a later date under certain circumstances. Typically, the following statutory minimums will be used to establish the support amount.
Pension or retirement benefits, earned during the marriage are subject to division. Generally, the marital portion of each account is divided equally between the parties.
Spousal support is known as "maintenance" and varies with each case. It is dependent upon many factors including, your ability to support yourself, your spouse's ability to support him/herself and you and the lifestyle established during the marriage.
I have offices in downtown Chicago and DuPage County. I am always available, providing you my mobile number and responding to calls and e-mails same day whenever possible. I do not accept cases I do not intend on handling attentively and well. My aim is to do the worrying for you so you can go on with your life. Please contact me to learn more. It would also be helpful if you complete and submit the Family Law Questionnaire.