Your divorce lawyer will help you navigate through the divorce process. The majority of cases are settled without the necessity of court intervention, and the terms reached between the parties and their lawyers are then incorporated into a document called a Marital Settlement Agreement. That Agreement specifies, in detail, the terms of the settlement, as well as anticipating issues in your case which may arise in the future, and incorporating mechanisms allowing you and your spouse to resolve them yourselves. Some examples of those issues are listed below:
- Attorney’s fees—Who is responsible for the payment of attorneys’ fees? what expenses?
- Property—Who is receives the house? Who is obligated to pay the mortgage? How is the equity in the house divided if it is sold? How is a business and other assets valued? How is the property divided between the parties?
- Personal property—Who gets the Black Hawk tickets, the oriental rug, etc.?
- Retirement—How are retirement benefits divided between the parties? Are they divided in kind? Is someone “bought out”?
- Debts—Who pays which outstanding debts? Should the debts be paid from the marital estate before the property is divided between the parties? Should the house be refinanced or assets sold to pay the debt?
- Maintenance—How much and for how long? There is no entitlement to maintenance in Illinois. The award of maintenance is made on a case by case basis.
- Allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time— Who will make major decisions regarding the children’s health, education, and the like. Are you and your spouse able to cooperate and to make those decisions together? How should the parenting time with the children be divided?
- Child support—How much? Who carries the health insurance for the children? Who is responsible for the payment of medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance? Who claims the children as income tax deductions? How is the cost of extracurricular activities and child care divided? How are college education expenses allocated? Will a child attend private school and, if so, how will the tuition be paid?
- Life insurance— Who is insured? Who is the beneficiary? Term or cash value? How much?
- Health insurance— Who is covered? In most cases, an employee’s spouse can be covered up to thirty-six (36) months after the divorce. This is called COBRA coverage. Is the cost of the COBRA policy more or less than obtaining new individual coverage with another insurance carrier? A child may be covered under a parent’s health insurance policy, under certain circumstances, up to age 26.
- Other—Security for obligations for child support and other child related expenses; college education; maintenance; and other things. How will income taxes be paid?
- Post-Decree proceedings–What happens if a spouse does not follow the terms of the Agreement? What are the remedies? Does a Court need to be involved?
Each divorce proceeding consists of two (2) parts: the “grounds” and then all other issues arising as a result of the marriage. A Judge hears the “grounds” before proceeding to the other issues.
Illinois now has only one ground for divorce, “Irreconcilable differences”. The grounds of mental cruelty, adultery, desertion, and the like have been abolished. If the parties have been living separate and apart for 6 months, there is a presumption that the grounds for irreconcilable differences has been met.
“Irreconcilable differences” is defined as:
“Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at conciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interest of the family.”
Divorce is a difficult enough time. If you find yourself facing a divorce, even if you and your spouse are willing and able to “work things out”, it is always recommended that you hire a divorce attorney to review the decisions you make together and that your documents are written properly so that the understandings you come to do not fall apart at a later date.
Hiring a divorce attorney does not mean the divorce proceedings need to be filled with angst and undue stress.
Each person contemplating a divorce has different needs and expectations. The divorce process can be intimidating and frightening.
When deciding upon a divorce attorney, your goal should be to retain someone who:
- has a proven history of being knowledgeable in the area of divorce law.
- who listens to your needs and the results you hope to achieve.
- who you can ask questions of, without feeling uncomfortable.
- who will include you in all decision making.
- who will keep you informed on a regular basis.
It is reasonable to expect your divorce attorney to give you personal attention and prompt responses to your inquiries.
Because you want to obtain the best result possible, you should look for someone who is pragmatic and able to creatively problem solve.
It is important that you interview the attorney in person and determine whether you will be working directly with that person or with another attorney from that firm.
It is also important for you to ascertain the attorney’s approach to a divorce case. A personal interview will allow you to decide, at the outset, whether you are comfortable with the attorney’s philosophy.
Some questions you may want answered during the interview process could be:
Does this attorney understand complex financial situations?
What kind of experience does this attorney have?
How will this attorney insure my interests are looked out for?