It’s Valentine’s Day and while you hopefully are in a happy marriage, days like today cause many to take an honest evaluation of their relationship and for some they realize that they’d be happier if they were divorced. With that in mind, here are 12 things everyone should know about getting divorced in Illinois.
- There is no set time limit for how long a case takes. If you and your spouse agree on everything you can be divorced within 30 days. If not, the case could take months or even years. In general, when kids are involved or you are fighting over property or a business it will cause the case to drag on.
- The cost of a divorce if you hire a lawyer depends on how much the lawyer charges and how long the case takes. In general you will be billed for everything an attorney does whether it’s appear in court, talk to you on the phone, draft a motion, talk to the other lawyer, etc.
- The best thing you can do for your case is to set a list of goals, both short term (what are you concerned about for the next six months) and long term (where do you want to live in five years) and work with your lawyer to make sure you are thinking about everything that you should think about. Prioritize your goals. The more you can achieve the more that settling makes sense. The less you can achieve indicates you should go to trial.
- Beware of lawyers who over charge. Ask for itemized bills every month. There is one divorce law firm in Chicago that is famous for billing for “research” on basic issues. There is no research being done, they are just stealing from their clients. I’ve seen other cases where the attorney for one spouse charged five times as much as the lawyer for the other spouse. It shouldn’t cost $100,000.00 to get divorced unless you have a difficult case. In most cases it should be less than $10,000 and in many in can be under $5,000.
- Joint custody refers to parenting decisions. That is different than the amount of time you spend with the kids. If spending a lot of time with the kids is important to you, document all of the things you do from driving to practices, helping with homework, playing with them, changing diapers, etc.
- As of July of 2017 there is a new formula for calculating child support in Illinois that is based on how many over nights each parent has with the child as well as joint income. It can get tricky when one spouse doesn’t work or another either doesn’t report or hides income.
- Beware of law firms that market themselves in ways that makes you think they are special by saying things like “father’s rights.” It’s a gimmick. A good lawyer fights for their client, communicates, doesn’t over bill and does whatever they can to get the best result possible.
- Nobody is excited about getting a divorce. It’s not fun. What we’ve seen is that the process, since it’s rarely amicable, can wear on attorneys. Many formerly great Illinois family lawyers become jaded or burned out. You don’t want one of them in your corner because they won’t be in your corner. If you see red flags like failure to return phone calls, yelling at you or having no idea what is happening on your case, switch firms before they ruin your life.
- You typically want a lawyer who has these qualities: 1. Just about 100% of what their practice is involves family law. 2. They’ve been practicing for at least ten years. 3.They do a lot of work in the county where you are getting divorced and know the Judges. That usually means they are local.
- Don’t worry about the grounds of divorce. Also don’t freak out if your soon to be ex sends a divorce petition that asks for the moon and contains nothing that the two of you talked about. That’s often a lawyer’s “strategy” that gives themselves room to negotiate even though their actions make the case drag on, creates bad feelings and costs everyone more money.
- If you don’t have a lawyer, don’t ever skip a court date. Even if the attorney for your spouse says they will do something, don’t take their word for it.
- One lawyer can’t legally represent two people in the same divorce.
Bonus tip. I have a lot of good friends who have gotten divorced. They all have been miserable at first, plowed forward and come out on the other side happier and in better relationships. Getting divorced isn’t ideal, but it can be the first step toward making you happy.
If you have questions or would like help with a case, call us at (312) 346-5320 for a free consultation.