What can I expect to pay for a divorce and how long will it take?

Every divorce is unique. There are a wide variety of circumstances and issues that must be resolved in each case, including the positions of our clients on the issues involved in the case. Due to the highly individualized nature of divorce work, it is very hard to give anyone a "ballpark figure" for what their case may cost. Generally divorce cases cost $2,500 for a simple uncontested case, to $50,000 or more for cases involving difficult or complex issues. Cases generally take between 6 months and one year to complete. If your case is very complicated, or you and your spouse cannot agree on a settlement, a divorce case may take longer than that.

Should I consider mediation for some or all of the issues in my family law case?

Yes. In mediation a neutral, trained and experienced mediator will help you and your significant other reach fair and practical agreements resolving various issues between you. Mediation is generally successful even in cases where the parties have a high level of conflict. Mediation is less costly than litigating the issues and is far less destructive to the on-going parenting between the parties. If you and your significant other cannot agree on custody and visitation issues, the Court will order you into mediation, however we recommend that parties who have no children participate in mediation to reach a settlement on the other issues that can arise in a divorce (e.g. dividing property and debts).

How much should I expect to pay or receive in child support?

Illinois uses support guidelines to set child support in most cases. The non-custodial or non-residential parent generally pays the custodial or residential parent a set percentage of net income. The method for determining the person's net income and the percentage is established in the Dissolution of Marriage Act. In unusual cases, the Court may award child support above or below the guidelines if there are special circumstances.

How do we divide property and debt in a divorce?

You and your significant other can come to an agreement on how the property and debt will be shared out between you. If you are unable to work out a settlement, you may want to try going to mediation to see if the mediator can help you come to a settlement. If mediation fails, and an agreement still cannot be reached, then your case will go to trial. Both sides state their cases, and the Judge determines how the marital property and debts will be divided. Marital property is "any property that either party acquired during the marriage except as a gift or inheritance". The court has wide discretion in dividing the property and debts. There is a tendency to give equal shares where the parties have similar financial resources after the marriage. The allocation of debt does not affect the parties' relationship to their creditors. For example, if both parties are listed on a credit card account, even if the Judge orders one party to pay the entire bill, the credit card company can and will sue both parties if it is not paid.

What is joint and sole custody, and how is it determined who gets custody?

The different "types" of custody can be very confusing. The term "custody" can be applied to two issues in a divorce case. It refers to where the children live or spend the majority of their time, and it also refers to who gets to make "major" decisions for the children. Most parents enter into either a "Sole Custody" arrangement or a "Joint Custody" arrangement. In both types of custody arrangements, the children will spend the majority of their time at one parent's home. The children generally stay at one parent's home during the school week, and they will stay at the other parent's home over the weekend. Whoever has the children staying with them makes the day to day decisions regarding the children. Regardless of the custody arrangement, that parent gets to decide what the children eat, what they can watch on television, and what time the children go to bed.

"Sole Custody" refers to a custody arrangement where the parents are usually unable to communicate effectively with each other regarding "major" decisions for the children. In this case one parent is designated the "custodial parent" and only the custodial parent can make "major" decisions for the children. "Major" decisions include choosing a proper school for the children and what elective medical care the children will have. The children typically stay with the "custodial parent" during the school week.

"Joint Custody" refers to a custody arrangement where the parents are usually able to communicate effectively and work together to make "major" decisions for the children. The children typically stay with the "residential parent" during the school week.

If the parents cannot come to an agreement on custody issues, then the Court will determine what the custody arrangement will be, and who will be the residential or custodial parent. The Court takes into account a series of factors to make its determination based on the best interests of the children. Those factors include deciding who the children's primary care giver has been until the divorce, which parent will be able to take the best care of the children after the divorce, and what the children want. The Court may include other factors in its determination as well.

Can I get the court to order my significant other to leave the marital home?

The court may order one spouse to leave the home if that person has engaged in physical or serious verbal abuse of the other spouse or the children, or if the presence of that spouse endangers the other spouse or the children. For example, if the couple is engaged in continual loud and abusive arguments in front of the children, the court may order one of the parties to move out.

Does it make a difference who files for divorce?

Not at all. Once one party files their Petition for Dissolution and the other party files their Answer to the Petition, neither party has any special status in the eyes of the Court.

Does it matter if I do not want to get a divorce?

No. In Illinois, if one person in a marriage wants to get a divorce, the divorce will happen. If you and your significant other reconcile before a Judgment is entered in your case, then the case can be dismissed. However, both parties must agree to dismiss the case.

Does it make a difference if one of the parties has been unfaithful?

No. The law provides that the court will only take an affair into account if it affects another issue in the case. For example, if the mother or father is dating or living with someone who is dangerous to the children, that would affect custody and visitation. If one party is spending marital funds on a lover, that would affect the distribution of property.