Someone I care greatly about is a week away from their 25th anniversary. While they are lucky to have a great marriage, the reality is that around 50% of marriages do end in divorce. Here are 25 things you should know about Illinois divorce law.

  1. While there is technically a waiting period to get divorced, if you both want it to happen, it will happen. And if one of you doesn’t want it, the waiting period will be over by the time the case is ready for trial.
  2. Divorce is filed in the county you live in.
  3. If you just moved to Illinois, you have to be a resident here for 90 days before you are eligible to file for divorce here.
  4. An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse agree on EVERY issue there is to agree on.
  5. The total cost for a divorce depends on how long it lasts. The longer it takes, the more it costs. So if you can agree on things it will be much cheaper.
  6. If one spouse makes a lot more than the other, a petition can be filed to have the higher earner pay the lower earner’s lawyer fees. This is done so the wealthier person can’t abuse the court system.
  7. The county will charge a filing fee. It is around $500.
  8. It’s illegal for an attorney to handle a divorce on a contingency basis.
  9. There is no such thing as alimony in Illinois. We do have maintenance which is designed to help you maintain the lifestyle you’ve grown accustomed to. How long it lasts depends on the case facts.
  10. We highly recommend that you hire an attorney who almost exclusively handles family law cases. Attorneys who handle multiple areas of law tend not to do the best job, especially if the case gets complicated.
  11. A QDRO is a division of retirement benefits. You should make sure your lawyer handles that as part of the divorce. Too many fail to do it which can cause problems down the road.
  12. Things acquired during the marriage are considered marital assets. This includes any businesses started or joined. So if your spouse became a partner in a medical group for example, you’d have an interest in their financial share of that business.
  13. Judges generally do not care if your attorney is male or female. Most follow the facts and don’t have crazy biases.
  14. Custody can be part of a divorce. There is no such thing as “father’s rights.” That’s just a marketing term. Fathers and mothers have the same rights under IL law.
  15. If your spouse has a child with someone else and you did not adopt that child, you don’t have to legally support them.
  16. Legal separation means not living together as husband as wife. In other words, you aren’t sleeping together or having sexual relations.
  17. You can be legally separated but still live in the same house. That is way more common than you think.
  18. Just because a divorce is filed does not mean you have to go through with it. In some cases it’s a great way to get into marital counseling or work out issues that are causing strife in the marriage.
  19. If one parent refuses to participate in raising a child, they generally can’t be forced to. That won’t get them out of paying child support however.
  20. If your spouse is making you feel unsafe, you can file an order of protection against them which will usually result in them being barred from the marital home.
  21. Mediation is a great option to make the divorce quicker and cheaper if you are both interested in resolving any differences. Even doing that though, it’s wise to have an attorney in your corner to protect you and make sure you are thinking of everything you need to know. The mediator is a neutral and can’t give legal advice.
  22. A lawyer can’t represent both parties in a divorce. If your spouse says a certain lawyer will handle everything, know that your spouse has an attorney and you do not.
  23. The #1 thing you can do in the beginning of a divorce is meet with a lawyer and come up with a list of goals. That could be related to custody, support, property or a lot of other stuff. If you are goal focused that will help you achieve the best result possible.
  24. Nobody finishes a divorce and says “that was great,” but if you are goal focused, it’s our experience that you will be satisfied sooner.
  25. It’s the job of an attorney to take the emotion out of a situation. They aren’t there to provide emotional support and if they do, you are paying them a really high rate to listen to you and give sympathy. We highly recommend people go to therapy if they are (understandably) emotional while going through a divorce. A trained professional is way better for you than a divorce attorney who probably charges twice as much.

I hope that if you are possibly going through a divorce in Illinois that these tips help. And if you need assistance with a case, please call us for free any time at 312-346-5320.