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Filing for a Divorce in Illinois

If a breakup is in your future, you’re probably wondering where to start when it comes to divorce proceedings. You may also be worried about legalities, how much time it will take, and whether you’re making the right move. 

No one enters into a marriage expecting it to fail. Still, more than 20 percent of first marriages end in divorce within five years, and 48 percent of marriages dissolve by the 20-year mark, according to data from the government’s National Survey of Family Growth.

If you’re contemplating divorce in Illinois, you’ll need to follow certain procedures to start your case. You can file for divorce on your own or with the recommended help of a family law attorney. Here, Masters Law Group outlines the process of divorcing and some helpful information to assist you along the way.

*Each state in America has its own laws regarding terminating a marriage. The following steps will help you get a head start on your divorce proceedings in the state of Illinois.

Getting Started

Asides from contacting your Illinois-based family law attorney, as soon as one or both parties decide that divorce is absolutely the only answer, the first step is filing the paperwork with your local court clerk. The forms you complete may vary from county to county, so it is important that you do some research based on where you live. Wherever you live, however, you will need to file what is called a “petition for dissolution of marriage.” The forms are a bit different if you have children. For example, you will need to file a joint parenting agreement, uniform order of support, and visitation forms if you have children. You can also find other required forms on the Illinois court website.

Historically, the state offered two types of divorce: fault-based and no-fault divorces. Today, irreconcilable differences are the only grounds for divorce in Illinois, meaning Illinois is a no-fault divorce only state.

You must meet certain requirements before you can be granted a divorce in Illinois. These are:

  • Your divorce must be due to “irreconcilable differences;” and
  • You or your spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days prior to starting your divorce proceedings.

There is a “separate and apart” waiting period intended to allow the parties to cool down and reconsider the decision to divorce. In Illinois, this is a period of six months. You can waive this waiting period by written agreement.

Although the law specifically prohibits judges from analyzing fault when dividing property in a divorce, judges may evaluate whether or not one spouse dissipated marital assets during the marriage.

Contested Divorces

A contested divorce happens when both spouses want a divorce but can’t agree on some of the terms of the divorce, like custody and spousal support. It can also occur if the spouse does not respond to the divorce petition.

In contested divorces, the judge may order you to go through additional steps like divorce mediation. The mediation can result in an agreed settlement between the parties.

If mediation doesn’t work, your case will go to trial, and the judge will make the final determination on specific issues you and your spouse couldn’t agree on.

Alternative Procedures

If you and your spouse don’t have any children, have little money, and agree on everything, Illinois courts may allow you to have what is called a joint and simplified divorce.

You and your spouse can file a Joint Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage if:

  • no spousal support (alimony) will be paid
  • no-fault grounds are used
  • there are no children and the wife is not pregnant
  • you have not been married more than 8 years
  • neither of you have any real property
  • the total equity in your marital property is less than $10,000
  • the combined annual income of you and your spouse is less than $35,000
  • neither of you earn more than $20,000 annually
  • you both disclosed your assets and tax returns for the years you were married, and
  • you and your spouse have a written agreement dividing all of your property in excess of $100 in value, and allocating who will be responsible for each debt owed.

If you don’t meet the requirements for the Simplified procedure, but you and your spouse are in agreement on all matters, you may still file an uncontested divorce using the standard procedure.

Legal Separation

Illinois is one of the states that recognize legal separation. Legal separation does not permanently end the marriage. However, a judge must approve the separation agreement, which defines the spouses’ legal rights and obligations.

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.  With a legal separation, many of the same issues determined in a divorce can be adjudicated, but without the finality of a legal divorce being granted.

This is a good option if you don’t want a divorce but want to live separately and want legal clarification on matters concerning child custody, child support, child custody, and property division.

Civil Union Divorce

Civil unions allow two adults, of either the same or opposite sex, to enter into a legally recognized relationship. Several unique issues can arise during the process of establishing or dissolving a civil union, so it is vital to have a knowledgeable lawyer to guide you through every step.

Dissolving a civil union is nearly the same as dissolving a marriage. Any couple who wishes to dissolve a civil union will be able to do so in the State of Illinois. To receive a certified copy of a Dissolution of Civil Union records, an interested couple will need to go to the county circuit court clerk where the civil union was granted.

Getting the Help You Need with Masters Law Group

Even a no-fault divorce is a complicated legal process, particularly when children or high assets are involved.

Whether you are facing a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or a civil union divorce, the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

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.

If you are seeking answers to questions regarding divorce, separation, child support and other matters, contact Chicago’s premier family law group here today to schedule a consultation.

Making a Parenting Plan for Thanksgiving

If this is your first Thanksgiving as a divorced or separated parent, there could be a lot of confusion wondering how to create a fair parenting plan. If the holiday periods haven’t been defined in the custodial arrangements yet, make sure that you are creating a plan that is fair and takes the best interest of the children into consideration.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday November 26th. A time designed for family gatherings, it’s a tough spot for many recently-divorced or separated parents.

Because Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend are times when both parents want to be with the child or children, you want to make solid arrangements for this holiday in your holiday schedule. The obvious answer is to divide up the holidays, but it’s often hard to imagine how the holidays could be split in a way that feels fair to everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the options for splitting custody for Thanksgiving and other important holidays.

Alternating Holidays

For many parents, it makes sense to take an odd/even approach to the holiday season. For example, one parent could have the child/children for Thanksgiving on odd years, but Christmas for even years. The other parent would have the children for Thanksgiving on odd years and Christmas on even years. This way, each parent has their children for some of the big holidays every year, and they never go more than one year without their child for any given holiday.

Fixed Holidays

An an alternative choice by parents during the holidays is a fixed holiday schedule. This takes a more simple approach of assigning a certain holiday, every year, to a certain parent. While this could cause some form of conflict for those to want to alternate the holidays, it works well for separated couples with different religions. For example, if one parent is Jewish, they will have the child(ren) over Hanukkah, and if the other parent Christian, they will have the child(ren) over the Christmas holidays. However, this does leave holidays like Thanksgiving up for debate where individuals of almost every religion celebrate throughout the United States.

Split Holidays

Split holidays are a great idea if both parents live close together as the child(ren) can spend Thanksgiving (or any holiday) with BOTH parents at different locations. The only thing to decide upon is the time. For example, one parent can have custody the day prior and the first half of Thanksgiving day, then the other parent has custody the second half of the Thanksgiving and the following day. For obvious reasons, if the parents’ homes or holiday celebrations are too far apart, it can get more complicated.

Double Holidays

Finally, some parents may choose to run “double holidays” where they both have a day of celebrations, just on different days. Parents can simply let the custody schedule play out as is, letting whichever parent would normally have the child on the official holiday date celebrate that day, and the other parent can celebrate with the child on their next scheduled visit. Alternatively, parents can designate a date for the second holiday – one parent celebrates Thanksgiving on the 26th and the other celebrates on the 30th. In this scenario, parents could alternate years so that they each get the official holiday every other year.

Final Thoughts

The prospect of formulating a custody calendar is a daunting task for many recently divorced or separated parents.  Working directly with your co-parent to create your joint custody schedule and holiday custody plan is a great way to keep the peace. Your schedule will be unique to your family dynamic and must be sensitive to each of your personal schedules, but most importantly, putting the welfare of the children should always come first and foremost.

Parenting Time Rights with Masters Law Group

From allocation of parental responsibilities to legal separation matters and parenting time rights, Masters Law Group focuses on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children.

We understand parenting time of your child is a very emotional law topic, especially during the holidays. Masters Law Group represents individuals in both their initial quest to set a parenting time schedule, as well as parents looking to modify a previously determined schedule. Are you facing a family law issue involving the children? Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.