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Frequently Asked Questions About Illinois Family Law

If you’re facing a divorce, custody dispute or another family law issue, you likely have many questions. I am here to provide answers specific to your case. I focus exclusively on Illinois family law. I am also a certified mediator, guardian ad litem and licensed therapist. This well-rounded background means I understand the many facets of family law from multiple angles.

Read on for answers to common questions about family law cases, including divorce, child custody and mediation.

Do I have to be separated before I can file for divorce?

No. The statute requires a period of separation that does not require the parties to be physically separated in different houses. Rather, it uses a separation date of when the parties began living separate lives and no longer wished to be married. The parties can continue to cohabitate during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. Schedule a consultation to discuss the issue of separation and application time frame based on your individual circumstances.

Can I file for divorce if my spouse is not in agreement to get a divorce?

Yes. Each party is entitled to file for divorce despite one spouse’s wishes to remain married. In the event the spouse does not participate in the proceedings, there is an option to proceed by default. Schedule a consultation to discuss the process of divorce based on your individual circumstances.

What happens if my spouse earns all the money?

With a few exceptions, any income accumulated during the course of the marriage is considered marital, regardless of which accounts the funds are ultimately deposited into or who earned it. Meaning, if one spouse is a stay-at-home parent earning no income and the other spouse earns all of the income to financially support the household, neither spouse is any more entitled to the use of the marital funds for marital purposes. Schedule a consultation to discuss the implications of one spouse intentionally misusing marital funds for a nonmarital purpose.

What happens if my spouse is having an affair?

Illinois is considered a no-fault state, meaning the court does not consider who or what caused the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, the grounds for divorce are generally “irreconcilable differences” that have caused the irretrievable breakdown. This means the courts do not engage in a fact-finding mission as to who is to blame and to what extent, and instead the courts focus on how to equitably divide the marital estate. Schedule a consultation to discuss the implications of extramarital affairs from a financial perspective, or other factors that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage that may be factored into the final settlement agreement.

What is considered marital property?

With a few exceptions, marital property is any property that has been accumulated from the date of the marriage until the date of filing a petition for dissolution of marriage or legal separation. Schedule a consultation to discuss the issue of marital property based on your individual circumstances.

What happens if my spouse incurred debts that I knew nothing about?

The presumption is that, like marital property, any debts that have been incurred from the date of the marriage until the date of filing a petition for dissolution of marriage or legal separation are marital debts to be shared between the parties. However, the allocation of marital debts at the time of divorce does not necessarily mean that each party will be equally responsible; it means the debts will be split equitably. Schedule a consultation to discuss the issue of marital debts, what an equitable split may entail and how disproportionate incomes may be factored into the final settlement.

How long will the divorce take?

Every case is unique, so there is no blanket timeline as several factors contribute to how quickly (and costly) the case may be resolved. Some of these factors include the court’s availability, the cooperation of the parties and attorneys, the complexity of financial matters, whether there are children involved and any immediate safety concerns. Schedule a consultation to discuss a projected time frame based on your individual circumstances.

How much will the divorce cost?

Every case is unique, so there is no way of guaranteeing the total cost of the proceedings, and our firm does not offer a flat fee rate. Some factors that often increase the cost of the divorce include the complexity of the case, the extent of discovery requested and received, the frequency of communication with the client and attorneys, the duration of the proceedings, the cost of litigation if agreements are unsuccessful and the responsiveness of the client in providing information as requested. Our firm will request an initial retainer amount to initiate your proceedings but is in no way a guarantee that the cost of the divorce will not exceed that initial amount as the case unfolds. Schedule a consultation to discuss ways to help offset the cost of the proceedings, as well as the retainer amount to initiate your case based on your individual circumstances.

What is mediation?

Mediation is an opportunity for the parties to meet with a neutral third party to reach agreements without having a judge or guardian ad litem make decisions for them. The mediator is only there to help facilitate an agreement and has no role in deciding for the parties or in sharing their thoughts with the court. Some of the benefits of mediation include the ability to control what happens with your property, money and children; the cost-saving factor if agreements are reached without the need for further litigation; and the opportunity to feel heard in a controlled setting. In some cases, you may be required to attend mediation prior to filing anything with the courts to amend or enforce prior judgments or agreements. Schedule a consultation to discuss the cost, benefits, process and court-ordered mediation based on your individual circumstances.

What happens if my ex stops following the court order or the court order needs to be changed?

In most cases, when a court order has been entered, a party that is willfully violating the order may be subject to sanctions by the court. This process involves one party filing a petition asking the court to find the noncomplying party in contempt of court for violating the order. Another option is to modify an agreement that no longer applies or suites the needs of your family. This process involves one party filing a motion asking the court to modify a prior order or agreement, which may require the parties attend mediation prior to the filing of the same. Schedule a consultation to discuss the issue of post-decree modifications and compliance issues based on your individual circumstances.

Learn More About How I Can Help

To get answers to your specific questions, call my Joliet firm at 815-472-5100 or send me an email. I will address your concerns with skill and compassion.