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Do I Need to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?

Couples who have a functional relationship and are able to work together may be able to get an uncontested divorce. If you live in the state of Illinois, here’s what you need to know about whether or not you will need to attend court during this process. 

Going through a divorce is not easy; it can be a very emotional and stressful time for all involved. The prospect of having to attend court for hearings throughout the process can make it even more stressful and nerve-wracking. For most court appearances, both parties appear by the representation of their lawyers – meaning they do not have to be personally present.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

When one spouse challenges whether the couple should get a divorce or any other reason, you have a divorce dispute. This is referred to as a contested divorce and can take more than 18 months to be resolved. An uncontested divorce (referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” in our state of Illinois) means that both parties agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:

  • Dividing marital property.
  • Child custody and parenting time schedule.
  • Dividing marital debts.
  • Child support and medical insurance coverage for any minor children.
  • Spousal support (also called “alimony”).
  • Custody of pets.

While two divorces are the same, specific instances may require both spouses to appear at hearings throughout the divorce process. Here’s a look at some examples where both spouses do not have to attend court appearances and instances where both must be present. A lot of times this is determined by whether a divorce is uncontested or contested.

Spousal Attendance in an Uncontested Divorce

As mentioned, an uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on terms of the divorce by a marital settlement agreement. This includes matters such as property being divided up, whether any financial support will be granted to either spouse, and any child custody issues.

For an uncontested divorce to be finalized, the spouse who petitioned for divorce by filing with the county court must appear at the final hearing. The other spouse is not required to attend, as long as he or she has signed all the necessary documents regarding the marital settlement agreement.

The petitioner, or plaintiff, is required to testify as to the identity of both parties, as well as the terms of the settlement. The spouse’s lawyer may ask the spouse questions to acknowledge they fully understand the terms of the settlement. 

Spousal Attendance in a Contested Divorce

Unfortunately, marital settlement agreements aren’t always reached easily. When this matter arises, both spouses would need to be present at pre-trials along with their lawyers. These are usually informal in nature, and require both attorneys to present their client’s side of the argument.

A judge then provides both attorneys with a non-binding opinion on how to proceed, which is then reported back to the spouses. It’s important for both spouses to be present for this because a resolution on an issue could be made. 

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a final divorce hearing will be held, where both spouses must be present. A judge will hear all evidence and arguments, and will make a decision on all issues. Both parties must abide by the judge’s final decision.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Illinois?

There is no divorce waiting period for uncontested divorces in Illinois. However, you still must meet Illinois’ residency requirements before you can file for divorce in the state. You or your spouse has to live in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing for divorce.

If you want a fast divorce in Illinois, you’ll need to meet the residency requirements and find a way to settle things with your spouse. Contested divorces can take several months depending on the number of issues in your case and whether your case requires a lengthy trial. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/401(a).)

Conclusion

To answer the initial question: you may not have to attend court to get a divorce in Illinois. If you’re the one who petitioned for the divorce, you would have to appear at the final hearing. If the goal is a quick and efficient divorce in which you don’t have to attend court, the best approach is to agree on terms of a marital settlement agreement promptly and before the final hearing. 

At Masters Law Group our attorneys are here to guide you through your divorce every step of the way. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, call Masters Law Group. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support throughout the divorce process. 

Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Can Social Media Affect My Family Law Case?

Social media is a popular way to keep in touch and communicate with your loved ones, but it has also become an increasingly useful tactic to collect information for family law hearings. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now being submitted as evidence in family law cases.

When you are going through a divorce, child custody, or placement battle with your ex, what you post on social media networks could come back to haunt you.

While it is not unusual for character witnesses to be called in family law cases, social sites can sometimes be used in a similar manner. Negative comments, images, offensive posts, and hostile interactions can all be submitted as evidence in custody cases. Partners can much more easily keep tabs on one another – and collect evidence against one another – by using social media.

Social Media Evidence in Hearings

Social media is affecting relationships and being used as ammunition in hearings. Lawyers can effectively use or defend against social media evidence in cases. According to the National Law Review, 

  • 81% of attorneys discover social networking evidence worth presenting in court. 
  • 66% of cases involving divorce employ Facebook as one of their principal evidence sources. 
  • 1/3 of all legal action in divorces cases is precipitated by affairs conducted online.

Not all evidence can be used in a divorce case. For example, an opposing attorney cannot open a fake account to “friend” or “connect” with their client’s spouse to obtain evidence.

Generally, public posts that can be inspected by anyone are fair game and can be submitted as evidence in court. If a “friend” or “connection” on a spouse’s social media account shares a post or text and that secondary post is seen by the spouse’s ex, that too, can typically be legally used as evidence in a divorce case.

What’s Fair Game and What’s Not

It is important to note that you should not delete items from your social media for the purpose of “hiding” bad evidence if you have a reason to believe that litigation may be coming. This may be considered spoliation of evidence. 

In most cases, a spouse’s social media posts are admissible as evidence in the U.S. as long as you don’t obtain them illegally. An example of obtaining evidence illegally would be if your estranged husband or wife created a false account with the purpose of “following” you to collect damning evidence. It’s illegal for your ex to hack your accounts to try to gain evidence.

For many, using social media is second nature. However, it is worth discussing your situation with a family law attorney to determine the best way to deal with any social media evidence that may hurt your case.

Social Media Can Affect Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

Divorcing parents often have disagreements about child custody and visitation which is officially called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time“ in Illinois. There are several ways that social media posts can influence child custody matters. 

Imagine a scenario in which a husband and wife each want to have the majority of parenting time with the children. If the wife posts pictures of herself going out to bars several nights of the week when she is allegedly caring for the children, this could call into question her desire and ability to take on a large amount of parental responsibility. 

It is important to remember that even if you have your social media account set to private, there are still many ways that your social media activity could be used against you during divorce proceedings. The best way to avoid negative consequences from social media during divorce may be to simply take a break from social media websites until the divorce is finalized.

Final Thoughts

It is important to be very cautious when using social media during divorce or other family law hearings. Masters Law Group takes social media into account when dealing with family law cases. Each case is uniquely different and the attorneys at Masters Law Group have the experience to help you during difficult times. Learn more and set up a consultation with us here today.

5 Signs It’s Time to Consider Divorce

Divorce can be a draining, time consuming process when it comes to legally dissolving one’s marriage with their former spouse. It’s important to recognize warning signs that it may be time to consider the divorce process. In doing so, it will lessen the blow of preparing for this emotional journey.

Signs it’s time to get a divorce can be a confusing, especially when there are children involved. Therefore deciding whether you’re in a failing marriage that’s beyond repair is obviously not a choice that comes easily.

It’s not always as black and white as infidelity or financial problems, and while divorce is no one’s plan in life, these red flags could mean the end of your marriage.

1. Lack of Communication

Communication is a key ingredient to a healthy relationship.  Even when it leads to a disagreement — it is important for spouses to understand how the other is feeling. Some might think that avoidance of conversation to prevent arguments is preferable to fighting with a spouse.

When conversation breaks down completely – and neither of you are willing to put forth the effort to learn about what each other is feeling – is a clear indication that the relationship may no longer be worth the ongoing upset. 

2. Avoiding your Partner

You start to find ways to avoid any interactions with them, and would rather have no contact than negative confrontation. You find yourself wanting to spend more time with friends and family. This can be a sign that things have changed on your end in a big way.

3. Change in Values and Priorities

In good relationships couples value the same things. People can change over periods of time which is completely normal and healthy in a relationship, but what they once used to value no longer matters to them any more.

It could be as small or as big as a partner changing a couple things in their lifestyle which forces a new way of life upon their partner. For example, one partner wants to move somewhere for a job opportunity while the other would rather not. Unless both people can adapt to significant changes like this, it can be a tough one to surpass.

4. Indifference inside and outside the relationship 

If negative thoughts have begun to override the way you see your partner, things may be headed for divorce. Prolonged feelings of indifference toward your spouse is a major sign that something is off within your marriage. When you stop caring about what the other person thinks and feels, you’ve lost the ability to listen and connect—which is not as easy to fix.

5. Lack of Intimacy 

Feeling close to your partner goes far beyond the physicality of the relationship.  The deficiency of emotional intimacy is equally as big of a sign as the more apparent lack of physical intimacy. If you feel like you can’t connect with your spouse on a deeper level—or don’t want to—you’ve lost an important part of the marriage.

It’s always possible to seek out counseling to find out what’s not working. But if you’re past the point of feeling attracted to your partner, divorce may be the next step. 

Final Thoughts

Breaking up a marriage can be one of the hardest things to do — but thinking long term is the best way to go about these types of situations. Divorce can be frightening and overwhelming. But when you break it down into small, manageable steps, like those outlined above, it becomes somewhat “do-able” to leave a relationship that no longer benefits you and your family. 

It could mean setting time aside to sit down and openly talk to your partner about your feelings, going to counseling or maybe even starting the separation process. Living unhappily is not necessary and there is usually a light at the end of every tunnel —if you look hard enough. 

Read more

Managing Your Money After a Pandemic Divorce

As the world slowly begins its back-to-normal phase, the aftermath of the pandemic has left a lot of devastation in its wake. If your marriage didn’t survive quarantine, here’s how to get your finances back on solid ground after a divorce. Read more

First 5 Steps to Getting Divorced in Illinois.

After a lot of reflecting, you’re considering the major decision to get a divorce. Because each state’s laws vary, you need to know how to best protect yourself as you begin this extremely daunting journey.

In Illinois, a divorce is called a dissolution of marriage, which will always accomplish two things:

1: Severing the marital relationship.

2: Dividing assets and debts.

If one person is unable to be self-supporting post- divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are children involved, child custody, support and parenting time will need to be resolved.

Knowing how to get divorced isn’t something most of us know how to do until we absolutely have to do it. If you’re considering a split, knowledge is power. To that end, we’ve laid out the process of getting divorced in Illinois, one step at a time.

Step 1: Do you NEED to get a divorce?

The first step is to try everything else possible. Including couples counseling, therapy groups, mediation, even a getaway together to truly decide if the separation is what you both want. While everything in the heat of the moment seems unfixable, you should explore every other possible option before deciding on ending a marriage.

You may think that things have deteriorated too far in your marriage to be able to save it, and that a divorce is your only option. Asides for cases involving physical or emotional abuse, there could be hope.

Step 2: Educate Yourself

So, you’ve decided separation is the only option. Not only should you emotionally prepare for what is to come, a smart move is to get the right legal advice right away.

Choosing a knowledgeable end experienced family law attorney will help you determine the full scope of your marital estate, search for hidden assets, and develop your settlement strategy before you pull the trigger. Your attorney can also walk you through different settlement approaches.

Step 3: Choose a Separation Process

Many individuals considering divorce are not aware of the fact that there are different approaches or processes to obtaining a divorce.  In Illinois the main types of separation include:

  • Contested Divorce: The “contested divorce” is the type in which the spouses cannot arrive at an agreement on one or more key issues in order to conclusively terminate their marriage.
  • Uncontested Divorce: this is where both spouses agree on all issues concerning the divorce, including but not limited to the division of marital property and debts, (parental allocation) child custody, child support, and spousal support (“maintenance”).
  • Divorce Mediation: this is where you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party, the mediator, and with their help, you work through the issues you need to resolve so the two of you can end your marriage as amicably and cost effective as possible.
  • Legal separation: For individuals with religious concerns or insurance issues who may be discourage from seeking a formal divorce a legal separation could be the preferred course of action.

Step 4: Start Obtaining Paperwork

Divorce = paperwork. And a lot of it. At the same time, collecting, sorting, and organizing financial documents is nothing short of hell for most people. The sooner you can start collecting and organizing your financial paperwork, the more smoothly your divorce process is likely to go.

It’s also worth noting your ex-partner could begin hiding assets at this stage through bitterness and resentment. Therefore, obtaining all the information as quickly as possible is highly recommended.

Step 5: File the Paperwork

In order to file for dissolution of marriage in Illinois, either you or your spouse must be a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days. You and your spouse also need to have been separated for at least two years. You may file in the Circuit Court in the county where either of you live.

Work closely with your family law attorney during this stage. As well as the divorce filing, you may have to issue temporary orders such as temporary spousal and child support and custody orders. This will all depend on the facts of your case, as each case presents a unique set of facts for the court to consider.

Next Steps

After stages 1-5 are complete, your petition will either go to trial, or reach a settlement out of a court, depending on your individual case details and whether you and your ex were able to reach such an agreement.

Final Thoughts

Divorce is frightening and can be overwhelming. But when you break it down into small, manageable steps, like those outlined above, it becomes somewhat “do-able”.

Sometimes the length of the Illinois divorce process simply comes down to how well you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse communicate, but by knowing how divorce works – and what you’ll need to do first – can help you move forward with confidence.

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Divorce Services from Masters Law Group

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation and that our clients want to move on with their lives. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients assurance and wellbeing in mind.

Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

Divorce cases involving substantial assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge.  Masters Law Group is skilled at identifying and valuing assets and wealth, including real estate, securities, business interests, retirement funds, pension plans, tax shelters (domestic and foreign), overseas accounts, stock options, trusts and other actual or potential sources of wealth.

Contact us here today to set up a consultation.

 

 

 

What is Divorce Mediation?

Talking to your partner about the practicalities of separation or divorce can be extremely difficult. Divorce Mediators work with a couples involved in family break-ups to make arrangements, either to plan for a separation or divorce, or after the split has taken place.  

Mediation is one of the most frequently used methods of negotiating a divorce settlement. In mediation, you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party, the mediator, and with their help, you work through the issues you need to resolve so the two of you can end your marriage as amicably and cost effective as possible. Topics covered in Divorce Mediation include:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Property/Asset division
  • Retirement accounts
  • Taxes

While mediation sounds like an ideal solution for separating, there are pros and cons to consider first.

Pros of Divorce Mediation

There are several key benefits to using mediation for your divorce that have contributed to its growing popularity:

  • Speed: Because you do not need to wait for a court date, it is usually much faster to get divorced using mediation than by going to court. By getting you and your ex-partner in one place, it can also speed up communications between you.
  • Voluntary: Mediation is a voluntary process, so there is absolutely nothing forcing you to agree to anything that you find unacceptable during the mediation process. The fact that mediation is voluntary allows many divorcing spouses the sense of ownership and independence they need to feel comfortable making important compromises and decisions.
  • Control: Mediation allows you to keep control of your divorce, rather than leaving the final decision in the hands of a judge.
  • Privacy: When you go to court, the proceedings are held in public, meaning the details of your divorce, including any financial settlement will be made public. Mediation allows you to keep your divorce private, meaning the details will only be known to your and your spouse.
  • Cost: Mediation is generally much less expensive that court action because of the lower legal fees involved.

Cons of Divorce Mediation

Mediation is not the right answer for every divorcing couple, and there are some important elements of mediation that can be disadvantages:

  • Disputes: Mediation is not useful if the parties cannot engage in open dialogue with each other or if your spouse is more aggressive than you.
  • Hiding Assets: If your spouse is hiding assets, the mediator may not ever find out. If you have an attorney representing you, the attorney can use the discovery process and independent investigation to determine whether your spouse is hiding assets.
  • Fairness: Mediation does not guarantee a fair outcome.
  • Not for Complicated Matters: Mediation is not appropriate for certain cases, such as those involving domestic abuse and addictions.

Contact an Illinois Divorce Lawyer to Help with Your Mediation

Masters Law Group have many years of experience helping people to get divorced quickly, cost-effectively and with minimal conflict using mediation and other non-confrontational methods. With a sensitive but practical approach, we aim to make getting divorced as straightforward as possible.

Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. If you are looking to settle your family law matter without court intervention, contact Masters Law Group to schedule a mediation appointment.

We look forward to learning more about you and how we can assist as your Divorce Mediators.

Can a Divorce be Amicable?

An amicable – or uncontested – divorce may seem impossible with the emotions involved in dissolving one of the most important relationships you’ve committed to. However it is not unreachable. 

Divorce is probably one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. An amicable divorce almost always means an uncontested divorce, where both spouses agree to property division, spousal and child support, visitation and custody.  This does not mean to say both parties need to remain good friends after the fact, it simply means the spouses don’t fight and enter an agreement reasonably, without litigation.

Uncontested Divorces in Illinois

An uncontested divorce (referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” in Illinois) means that both spouses agree on all the key terms of the divorce.

Individuals can reach an agreement on their own or with a mediator’s help. The dissolution agreement should resolve all issues in the divorce and be signed by both spouses. If there are any areas where you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement, you’ll have to litigate those issues before a judge at trial. However, you can still settle your case at any time prior to the trial date.

Factors to consider with an uncontested divorce include:

  • Divisions of Property: In Illinois, property is divided equitably (fairly) in accordance with the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. In a contested divorce, the judge decides what is fair. In an uncontested divorce, the parties decide was is fair. For the most part, marital property is divided. Non-marital property is not divided.
  • Debt and other Assets: Pretty much the same as property. If debt is classified as marital and non-marital, then only the marital debt is divided.
  • Child Custody: In an uncontested divorce, the parties can agree on any custody arrangement they want, within reason. Technically, according the the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, there is no preference for joint legal custody. Visitation can be complicated, and there are sub-parts to any visitation schedule.
  • Child Support: Child support is paid according to statutory guidelines. However, particularly in an uncontested divorce, parents can agree to deviations on the statutory guidelines. In an uncontested divorce, parents can agree to handle support as the see fit, within reasonable limits.
  • Alimony: The term “alimony” is no longer technically correct. Court’s refer to it as spousal maintenance or spousal support. When it comes to spousal maintenance, any amount can be agreed upon, within reason.

Steps to a Peaceful Divorce

The thing you need to do when getting a divorce is pause and take a deep breath. No divorce is sweet and rarely is it as amicable as hoped for. However, there are some strategies that divorcing couples can learn in order to make their departure from the relationship as peaceful and stress-free as possible. Steps to take to achieve an amicable, respectful divorce from your spouse include:

  1. Eliminate blame: This can be extremely difficult depending on how the divorce came about. But blaming the other party will not help the uncontested divorce resolve sooner.
  2. Look ahead to the future: In order to move forward, you must only look forward to your future and your children’s future.  Wallowing in the past creates negative emotions and keeps you stuck in a victim state, which isn’t healthy for anyone.
  3. Negotiate in good faith: Don’t make agreements but in secret know you’ll withdraw them when the time comes to sign the agreement. Negotiating the terms of your divorce agreement in good faith will only help both parties move on fairly. 
  4. Put the children first: When you keep your kids’ best interest at heart, you often help find a way to do the right thing. Create a good parenting plan and be good co-parents once your divorce case is finalized.
  5. Listen to your attorney: Don’t try and be brave and go it alone. Instead, be sensible and invest in you and your future, and hire an attorney experienced in family law and divorce mediation. 

Divorce Mediation

Mediation can be enormously helpful when couples want to resolve issues amicably and thus avoid a court battle. When you mediate, both parties come to a neutral, often licensed mediator to help the couple ink out the final agreement for the court filings. The goal of this practice is to get couples to agree on as much, if not all, the terms of the divorce making it an amicable divorce. Among peaceful divorce solutions, mediation is at the top because it’s the only divorce method that enables both parties  to:

    • Negotiate the terms of your no-fault divorce or separation in good faith.
    • Focus on the big picture.
    • Put the needs of your children first and create a good foundation for co-parenting and life post-divorce.

At Masters Law Group, we provide divorce mediation services and also represent clients involved in mediation. If you are looking to settle your family law matter without court intervention, contact Masters Law Group to schedule a mediation appointment here.