Nobody goes in to a marriage wanting to get a divorce.  Most people don’t come out of a divorce saying that it was a great experience.  The best result is usually knowing that you are now on to the next chapter of your life.

If you are thinking about getting a divorce in Illinois, and it’s surely popular right now after everything that has gone on this year, we recommend you try and get a game plan together.  Every divorce is different, but here are some basic things to think about. You should create your own check list from talking to an attorney. If you would like a free consultation with us, call us any time at 312-346-5320.

1. Is your spouse wanting a divorce too? – If you are going to spring this on them, you want to do it in a way that is safe.  You don’t have to do it until you are ready. Often that means you’ve already talked to an attorney. If you are worried about abuse or an emotional response, you might want to plan for somewhere else to stay for a night or two.

2. What are your goals related to the kids? –If you have kids you will be thinking about child support, a primary residence, custody and visitation.  What decisions do you want to make as a couple (e.g. religion, healthcare, education) and what do you want to be able to make on your own.

3. Do either of you own a business? – If you do and the business has value and was started during the marriage then it’s a marital asset.  Whether you are a part of the business or not you have a right to some of it.  It’s important to speak with a lawyer who understands forensic accounting so you are protected.  Even if you want nothing to do with the business, it is a negotiable issue that may help you with other items.  Often the books get cooked so to speak so to the extent you can, document what the actual revenue and expenses are.

4. Where do you want to live? – You might want to stay in the marital home.  If you can afford it you might want to move out.  Generally speaking you can move anywhere in Illinois that you want. If you want to take the kids out of state though you may need the permission of the court. Don’t just think about where you want to live now, think about where you want to be in a year, five years and ten years.

5. Get your own bank account – If your money is in a joint account, while technically you can take it, we don’t suggest in most cases that you take more than half.  But if you have a paycheck deposited in to that account or other money coming in, you can and likely should set up a new account.  Eventually you will want to close out all joint accounts, but might not want to do that when you are in the planning stages.

6. Personal items – It might not be #1 on the list, but if you’ve been married a while, you’ve likely acquired some property together. Which car is yours?  Is just your name on the title? How about jewelry, furniture, TV’s?  Make a list of these items as they will need to be discussed.

7. Is it amicable? – I always suggest that you at least consult with an attorney, but the best divorce is an amicable one. If that’s your situation and you are educated on your rights, mediation might be a quicker and cheaper way to resolve everything.

8. Retirement accounts- Usually handled by a process called a qualified domestic relief order or QDRO, if there is a 401k, pension or other account for retirement, the part accumulated during the marriage is a marital asset.  I’m blown away by how many lawyers don’t handle this issue which forces their clients to hire a new lawyer when the divorce is done.  Before you hire a lawyer, make sure that they will real with these accounts.  It’s really surprising how many don’t.

9. Make a list of debts- Just like any assets that are acquired in the marriage, marital debts have to be dealt with.  Make a list of your credit cards, mortgage payments and other expenses so they can be divided up.

10. Open up a credit card in your name only – It’s good for building your credit and if somehow you get cut off financially due to a vengeful spouse, it can get you by until you can get a court order that gives you access to funds.

Hopefully that list is a good start for you.  Some bonus tips would be to make sure to take some personal time for yourself and not to hash out your grievances on social media.  If you pick the right lawyer they will get you on the right path and make sure you are thinking about what is important based on the unique case you are going through.