What to expect in your Illinois divorce

Like each marriage, every Illinois divorce is unique. A couple brings to the table two individuals each with their strengths, weaknesses, needs and responsibilities. Spouses may or may not have children and those children also have real needs to be met by their parents. Every couple has its own financial situation, and may or may not have material wealth in the way of real estate and personal property. And each person in a marriage is at a different place professionally, often because of his or her previous role in the family as breadwinner or homemaker.

Along with the concerns that divorcing spouses have surrounding all of these important issues comes the emotional stress of separation and new, unknown lives, and each of the legal issues in an Illinois divorce needs to be resolved fairly and according to Illinois law.

Legal counsel crucial

If you face divorce in Illinois, you should seek the help of an experienced Illinois family lawyer as early in the process as possible. You need a legal professional with understanding of how divorce works and what Illinois law says about your rights and responsibilities - someone to educate you, advise you and provide the legal services you need to reach a resolution in your dissolution of marriage that gives you solid ground on which to move forward for you and your children.

Illinois divorce options

Illinois offers a simplified divorce option for many short, childless marriages with relatively little wealth and income. But most people will go through the traditional divorce process in state court, which could proceed a couple of different ways. First, the couple will either reach a negotiated settlement agreement that lays out their agreed-upon terms on each legal issue or if they cannot come to an agreement, the circuit court judge assigned to their case will decide the issues in a contested trial.

The advantage of an agreement is that each party will have at least some control over the outcomes, instead of having a judge who does not know them, their children or their situation decide such crucial issues. The spouses may negotiate informally through their attorneys, may engage a neutral mediator to help them sort out their differences or may choose a route called collaborative law.

In the collaborative law process, the parties commit to avoiding litigation and sit down together in conferences with both divorce lawyers to work through the issues and come to an agreement with the understanding that all will behave in good faith. In the collaborative process, neutral experts may be brought in to assist the parties like financial or tax experts, parenting consultants, divorce coaches, mental health professionals and any other type of advisor the parties need.

If the couple cannot come to agreement, the unresolved issues will be decided by the judge in divorce litigation.

Major divorce issues

The main issues that will need to be resolved in an Illinois divorce are:

  • Property division, including real estate, personal property, cash, investments, family business interests, retirement accounts and more.
  • Spousal maintenance, traditionally known as alimony or the payment of support from one ex-spouse to the other
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support

Your Illinois family law attorney can answer your questions about divorce and help you move forward through the process.