Divorce ranks up there as one of life’s greatest stressors, and, unfortunately, almost 50 percent of marriages in the United States wind up in divorce court. At this turbulent time, when you are likely to be worried about your future, your finances, and the impact on your children, you need all the help you can get.
As trial lawyers, we understand the importance of thorough preparation and aggressive representation. Our DuPage divorce attorney is here for you and will walk you through the process and stand by your side.
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Trying to handle a divorce yourself could be a costly mistake. Even if you and your spouse agree and the divorce is friendly, this may change without warning as unexpected situations arise. Children have issues; spouses become jealous or spiteful over new relationships; or one may start perceiving that the other is coming out ahead financially. Having an attorney can protect your rights when a once-cooperative spouse turns sour. Remember, once your divorce is final, mistakes are almost impossible to undo; and not only can they cost you a significant amount of money, but you and your children can suffer effects that last a lifetime. It is wise to have an attorney involved to make sure you get it right the first time.
Here are some reasons to hire a DuPage divorce attorney:
Here are some things you should look for in selecting a good attorney:
A good divorce attorney …
Knowing when to hire a divorce lawyer can make the difference between an amicable split and a drawn-out battle, and a difference in your final settlement. It makes sense to contact an attorney immediately, even if you are just thinking of divorce, and certainly if you have been surprised by divorce papers from your spouse. Many attorneys offer a free consultation, and you should interview several before making your hiring decision to find the one that is the best fit for you.
An experienced divorce lawyer will give you emotional support right from the beginning, evaluate the specifics of your situation, and proceed in the best way to protect your assets and legal rights. Getting on the right path from the start will help prevent mistakes and ensure that the outcome of your divorce is as favorable as possible.
Preplanning before filling for divorce allows you to protect what you can before the courts get involved. Things you should do include:
1) Plan for post-divorce life. Think about how you are going to live your life after the divorce is filed and have an idea what you will need to survive financially. Will you be able to support yourself and your children, keep your house and furniture, get your own health and other insurance, and get your own credit cards?
2) Evaluate your assets. Gather information and paperwork about your finances and possessions, including your home, investment property, financial accounts, and valuables.
3) Evaluate debts. Know what you and your spouse owe in terms of credit card and business debts, mortgages and loans, and any judgments against you. Order a free credit report from one or more of the major agencies (Equifax, Transunion, or Experion).
4) Get a financial consultant. Consider hiring a financial consultant or lawyer to do a financial discovery if you have a high asset divorce.
5) Keep your non-marital property separate. Marital property consists of all assets you or your spouse acquired during the marriage and before your divorce judgment, and this is the property that will be divided by the courts. It also includes non-marital property that has been transferred into co-ownership and commingled.
Telling your spouse you want a divorce is bound to be difficult, so make sure divorce is really what you want. If you are, prepare ahead of time and consider working with a counselor to help you sort through your feelings. Consult with an attorney to make sure all is in order, do thorough preplanning, and gather all your paperwork before you tell your partner anything. Then:
Our seasoned attorneys know the intricacies of Illinois divorce law, and we handle divorce and related family law issues involving the following:
It is always better for divorcing partners to work out their differences rather than to submit to the final verdict of a family court judge. Mediation offers a chance for both spouses to resolve issues with the help of a neutral third party under conditions that are designed to minimize the possibility of conflict.
There are variations to the process of divorce mediation in Illinois, including the possibility of mediation through a phone conference.
Couples may decide to undergo mediation before filing a joint petition for divorce or at any time before their court date.
How you stand financially after divorce is of great concern for both parties, so our attorneys focus on the financial planning aspects of divorce. We are familiar with the common tax, benefits and retirement issues that normally arise, but will refer you to a financial advisor if you need expert help on issues such as the short- and long-term impact of dividing property, analyzing pension and retirement plans. We can help you create a realistic budget and future spending plan. We can also connect you with a bankruptcy lawyer if this is a consideration.
The more assets involved, the more you have to risk if your divorce is not handled properly. Our attorneys handle cases for individuals with high net worth and those involving family-owned businesses. We strive to protect your pre-marital, family, and business assets, and to make sure the distribution of marital assets is equitable and fair.
A normal divorce is bad enough, but when it degenerates into a high-conflict one, you need a skilled attorney on your side. Spouses undergoing high-conflict divorce often clash, fight, and show hostility in almost every situation. They frequently take each other to court and may take out restraining or no-contact orders and accuse their partner of domestic violence, physical abuse or sexual abuse.
Major areas for high conflict include:
An Illinois military divorce involves different laws than a civilian one, and we have the expertise to handle divorce for both service members and their spouses. Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 UCS section 521, there are military rules and regulations for serving papers on a soldier, and laws for maintenance, child and spousal support, and division of a military pension. Active duty spouses have legal protection to allow them to “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation,” through 60 days post active duty, so there are times it is necessary to postpone the filing of your divorce papers.
Prenuptial agreements can help prevent a lot of aggravation down the line, as they create a basis for agreement should divorce occur. Prenuptial agreements are best suited for people who have premarital funds and ventures they do not wish to blend with marital assets. Agreements also make sure money stays in the family in the event that the new prospective spouse passes away during marriage or in case of divorce.
However, if you don’t have a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement may be an option. It is similar to a prenuptial agreement except that it is entered into and signed after marriage. Our attorneys will create a unique and personalized prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that is tailored to meet your needs.
Illinois is an equitable distribution state — marital property is divided equitably, not necessarily equally. All property acquired after the marriage and before a judgment of dissolution of marriage is presumed to be marital property, and this is divided without regard to marital misconduct.
To determine what is equitable, both spouses are required to provide a complete disclosure of their financial information. You will have to provide pay stubs, income tax returns, and bank statements supporting the information listed in the affidavits.
If you have a business, our attorneys will help you protect it in divorce, as well as your retirement accounts and any pre-owned property. In some circumstances, such as if a spouse was employed by or helped run the company, the spouse may be entitled to as much as 50 percent of the business in a divorce, so we work to ensure that you don’t do anything to put your business at risk.
In addition, partnership, shareholder and/or operating agreements should have provisions to protect the interests of the other owners if one gets divorced.
As of January 1, 2015, Illinois spousal support laws have changed. The new law sets out formulas that would apply in most cases to determine the proper amount of support and the number of years the maintenance award shall continue. (See 750 ILCS5/504.) Our experienced lawyers are there to help establish support payments and explain the types of support that you may be entitled to or must pay.
When hiring a divorce attorney, it makes sense to start by asking for recommendations from friends and family members who have gone through the process. Another good source is doing research online and examining the websites of attorneys who handle your type of divorce situation. It may be helpful to consult a local finding service that provides quality-assured lawyer directories and can connect you to an experienced lawyer in your area.
Once you have come up with several choices, take advantage of the free consultations offered and interview these attorneys to see if you feel comfortable with them. Have questions ready to ask so you can determine whether the attorney has the experience, objectivity, and knowledge to represent you during the divorce proceedings, shares your divorce philosophies, is affordable, and is a good fit for you.
When you meet with your attorney, bring up any concerns and questions you may have about issues such as:
The time a divorce takes depends on the issues involved. If the divorce is simple and uncontested, it can take as little as two months. If it is contested and the spouses are fighting over issues such as property division, child support and custody, and spousal maintenance, divorces can, in some cases, take several years.
To file for divorce in Illinois, the parties need to reside in the state for at least 90 days prior to the date of filing. The divorce process begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The filing party is the “Petitioner” and the responding party is referred to as the “Respondent.”
The divorce process can be divided into three phases:
Temporary Relief may include:
In Illinois, you may file for divorce in the Circuit Court in the county where either spouse lives.
There is much to consider when undergoing a divorce, as the rest of your life is at stake. Illinois is an equitable distribution state. This means marital property and debts need not be divided 50/50, but according to what the courts decide is “equitable.” The court’s property division decision is guided by twelve factors set out in the law, and it does not consider “marital misconduct” in dividing the property and debts.
The factors include:
Divorce is a major life-changer for children, who are bound to be affected emotionally and have fears and insecurities about their future. Will they get to see both their parents; will they have to leave their home, school and friends; will there be enough money for them to meet their needs?
In any divorce settlement, Illinois courts make the needs of the children a priority. Parents must come up with a parenting plan that that outlines how both parents will continue to care for and provide for their children after separating.
In making your plan, you should include all elements that are essential to cover your children’s physical, emotional and social needs, plus the needs and considerations of both parents. Basic plan essentials should include:
Men have specific issues in divorce and should hire a DuPage County divorce attorney who has experience with and understands these issues, including:
While our society has made strides toward gender equality, wives still do the bulk of the housework and childcare, and many hold a job as well. Since women often earn less and many have stayed home to raise children or have supported their husband’s career, they are often worse off financially when on their own.
While the courts are striving to be more gender neutral, your attorney should be familiar with the laws and understand the unique issues affecting women and their children in the areas of property division, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance. For example, under the tax law that goes into effect January 1, 2019, the spouse receiving alimony will receive it tax free, the same as money paid for child support. However, since the alimony recipient earns less than the paying spouse, the paying spouse hit by increased taxes will try to negotiate lower payments, so alimony recipients may wind up losing 10% to 15% of what they would get under the old law. Since usually women earn less than their spouses, the new law will hurt them – and their children — the most.
Same-sex marriages or civil unions terminate the same way as a traditional marriage, with the divorce governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Divorcing same-sex couples need to deal with the usual issues of property division, spousal maintenance, child custody and child support.
In dividing property, the courts consider whether property or assets were acquired before marriage or whether the assets are marital property, was obtained during the marriage. As in a traditional marriage, spousal support will depend on factors such as the length of the marriage, the income and property owned by parties, and whether one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent.
There are several alternatives to traditional litigation that are available to those considering divorce. These include:
Spouses and their attorneys sign a contract called a Participation Agreement, stating their commitment to resolving issues according to collaborative principals and guidelines. Settlement is reached through a series of meetings where the couple is guided through the process by their attorneys in a structured, non-adversarial way. Once everyone agrees, documents are prepared and presented to the judge for approval and entry of judgment. Collaborative attorneys may not continue to represent their clients if the process breaks down and goes to litigation.
Illinois divorce law is complicated and changing, and the facts and circumstances of each case are different, so it makes sense to seek legal counsel to represent your interests. The skilled DuPage divorce lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., can advise and guide you through every step in the process.
For your initial consultation with an experienced and compassionate DuPage County divorce lawyer, contact us online or call 630-305-0222 or 312-388-7882. We handle cases throughout Illinois and can make consultation appointments at our office.
During trial four experts all testified against our client the Judge found it was in the best interest of the child that our client be awarded custody. We have successfully represented clients in numerous child custody cases.
We recently analyzed a case whereby the opposing side was seeking a substantial award of maintenance against our client. After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances and several hearings, our client’s obligation to pay maintenance was limited to two years at half of what his former spouse was seeking.
After our client voluntarily changed employment we were able to obtain a substantial reduction in child support payments. We have also stopped such reductions when representing clients receiving child support.