11 Frequently Asked Divorce Questions

Divorce is a complex subject in Illinois that produces many questions. Below are answers to 11 of the questions I hear most frequently from my clients.

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

You can be divorced in as little as three weeks if there are no children involved and everything has been agreed upon by the parties.

If children are involved, the parents must first complete a court-mandated parenting education class regarding divorce and its effects on children. This can usually be done in six to eight weeks.

However, the more issues that the two spouses dispute, the longer the divorce process will take. There are settlement strategies that we can discuss to help settle your case in a more timely manner. In the event that your case has to proceed to trial, it could easily be a year to a year and half before a divorce is granted.

How Much Will My Divorce Cost?

This depends upon how complicated and disputed your case is. My goal is to keep your costs down by seeking a settlement and only charging for work that you and I feel is necessary to obtain optimal results.

You can further reduce costs by organizing your documentation regarding bank accounts, credit card bills, health and life insurance, retirement assets, etc., and becoming more knowledgeable about your financial situation prior to meeting with me.

Can We Both Use The Same Attorney?

The short answer is no. It is a conflict of interest and a violation of the Illinois Code of Professional Conduct for an attorney to work with both spouses.

However, if one spouse signs a waiver acknowledging that he/she understands that I only represent the other spouse, then I can meet with both parties to amicably resolve your divorce. The unrepresented spouse will always have the opportunity to consult with his/her own attorney throughout the process.

Who Will Get Custody Of The Children?

As of January 1, 2016, Illinois adopted a new statute that essentially eliminated the concept of custody and visitation. The state switched to more family-friendly concepts of allocation of parenting time and parenting functions.

Regardless of the changes, the law presumes that both parents are fit and proper parents for the custody and control of their children. The standard the courts use to make a determination of custody is what is in the best interest of the children.

No divorce court would ever make a determination that a parent is "unfit." Additionally, the court is precluded from considering conduct that does not affect the parents' relationship with the child. Usually, the parent who is the primary caregiver for the child is awarded custody.

I advise my clients that if they feel custody will be a disputed issue, they need to begin to document everything they do for the children that would show them to be the children's primary caregiver. My experience has also shown that the ability of a parent to foster and encourage a relationship with the other parent is a strong factor the courts consider when awarding custody.

A child's preference is also a factor the courts consider. This becomes increasingly relevant as the child grows older. However, it is just one factor that the court considers in making a custody determination.

Custody disputes vary greatly depending on the specific circumstances of each case. It is very important that you discuss all particular facts and issues of your case with an attorney who has substantial experience in custody litigation.

How Often Will I See My Children?

A standard visitation schedule for a noncustodial parent is every other weekend, one day during the week, alternating holidays and vacation time during the summer. However, every family is different and has unique needs. Throughout the divorce process, parents are encouraged to be flexible and only use the visitation schedule as a backup in case there is a conflict.

What Is Joint Custody?

The concept of joint custody has been replaced with an allocation of parental responsibilities.

Joint custody essentially means joint decision-making about the important aspects of the child's life such as education, nonemergency health care, religious training, extracurricular activities and any other major decisions that parents need to make for the child. Even under a joint parenting agreement or current law, there is usually one parent that has the majority of time with the children.

How Much Will I Receive/Pay For Child Support?

As of July 1, 2017, Illinois eliminated child support based upon a percentage of net income earned by the payer. Illinois now uses the income share approach to child support used by most states. The income share approach takes into account the income of both parties as well as actual parenting time when calculating child support.

If I Have Sole Custody, Can I Move The Children Out Of The State?

A parent cannot move minor children out of the state of Illinois on a permanent basis without a court order. If the other parent opposes the move, the parent seeking removal must prove that the move would be in the best interest of the minor child. If you wish to move out of state with your children, you need to speak with an attorney.

Will I Be Able To Receive Alimony?

In Illinois, alimony is called maintenance. Whether a spouse is entitled to maintenance depends upon numerous factors set forth in Illinois law. Some of the factors include the duration of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, the needs of the parties and the present and future earning capacity of each party.

On January 1, 2015, the state of Illinois adopted maintenance guidelines for marriages where the combined income is under $500,000. Speaking in-depth with a family law attorney will help you determine your rights and/or obligations under the maintenance guidelines.

How Will Our Property And Assets Be Divided?

Illinois is an equitable distribution state. This means that the courts do not automatically divide the marital estate 50-50.

With very few exceptions, anything acquired during the marriage is marital property. Illinois law provides several factors as to the division of property. Some of the factors are the duration of the marriage, relevant economic circumstances of each spouse, custodial provisions for any children and the reasonable opportunity of each spouse to acquire additional income and assets in the future. You will have to review your marital estate with a family law attorney to determine your rights in the marital estate.

Can I Trust You?

There is an old journalism adage: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." The best way to check me out is to review my attorney registration and disciplinary commission of the Illinois Supreme Court.

I am authorized to practice law in the state of Illinois, that I carry malpractice insurance and that I have had no prior or pending disciplinary complaints.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation in more detail. Because I offer free, no-obligation initial reviews, there is nothing to lose by sitting down with me. Schedule an appointment today by calling 630-485-8012 or by sending my office an email.