If you are beyond the point of making the marriage work, you should immediately see a lawyer. Do not hesitate.
If there are joint accounts, it is suggested that you transfer the joint account funds to an account in your name only.
Obtain the original or copies of all proof of assets and debts of the marriage; for instance, the house deed and mortgage, the utility bills, the car payment documents, the credit card bills, your spouse’s paychecks and your spouse’s retirement account documents, copies of all tax returns filed in the last three years, whether they have been filed jointly or separately, etc.
Also, importantly, put aside as much money as you can for living expenses and attorney fees.
In Illinois the divorce process starts with a petition for dissolution of marriage. The only grounds for divorce in Illinois are irreconcilable differences. The respondent has to be served with the petition and respond within 28 days of service. Thereafter, the parties must produce evidence of all assets and liabilities held jointly or separately.
Once this discovery process is completed, an agreement can be reached by the parties, although what usually happens is that the attorneys meet with the judge, who recommends a settlement of all the issues. If the parties do not agree with the judge’s recommendations for settlement, they proceed to trial, which is very expensive.
Retainers to the attorney vary, but the usual retainer is between $3,500 and $4,500, depending on the experience and qualifications of the attorney. Divorce Attorney's hourly rates also vary between $250 per hour and $375 per hour, again, depending on the experience and qualifications of the attorney.
The retainer is placed in a client fund account and is the client’s money. The attorney takes the court costs and fees from the retainer. If the divorce is completed before the retainer has been exhausted, the amount left in the retainer is given back to the client. If the retainer is depleted during the divorce, the client must pay another retainer amount to the attorney.
Often, the party with the larger income is ordered by the Judge to pay the court costs and attorney fees incurred by the party with the smaller income.
It is difficult to determine how long a divorce will last. If the parties are in agreement with most issues, a divorce can be concluded in about three months.
If the parties are in a fighting mood, the divorce could last years.
An uncontested divorce can be completed in a matter of weeks and often, only one attorney is used for both parties. It all depends on the parties and their attorneys.
Obviously, if there are children, the biggest factors are parental responsibility, parental allocation and who has the children for the most overnights.
Child custody is no longer a factor in Illinois. Where the children reside is the important issue. However, the child support factor is based on 146 overnights. If the children reside with a parent for more than 146 nights a year, the other parent must pay child support. The amount of child support is determined by a child support formula. This formula is based on the parties’ income, the number of children, and the number of overnight visits each party obtains and other factors.
There is no longer a set amount of child support. Several factors determine the amount of child support to be paid. These factors are usually included in the parental allocation judgment, which is a separate agreement. This agreement is to be reached through either the agreement of the parties, through mediation, upon the advice of a guardian ad litem or at trial.
Child support usually lasts until a child turns eighteen years old or is graduated from high school, whichever is later.
The second important factor in a divorce is maintenance, previously referred to as alimony. The party earning the most income usually pays maintenance to the other party. The maintenance amount is determined by subtracting twenty per cent of the payee’s gross income from thirty percent of the payor’s gross income.
The maintenance statute will contain a table of how long the maintenance payments will last, depending on the length of the marriage. If a marriage lasts one year, maintenance payments last 2.4 months. For a marriage of twenty of more years, the court, in its discretion, shall order maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage or for an indefinite term.
There are many other factors to be considered in an Illinois divorce, e.g., dissipation of assets, exclusive possession of the martial residence, restraining orders, etc. So we are back to my original statement that if you decide to seek a divorce, you should see a lawyer immediately. I have twenty-three years of experience in divorce cases, primarily in DuPage County, with several cases in Cook County. My MBA allows me to understand and deal with complex divorce issues that may arise in complicated divorce cases. For cases that are not complicated, I can expedite the divorce process as a matter of course.
If you are seeking a divorce in either DuPage or Cook County, call me today at 630.467.0400, or email me at email Ted for a consultation. I am here to help you get through this emotional time. Your case will be handled professionally and your best interests will be protected.