Do I Need an Attorney When Getting Divorced?

A divorce is a major change, and speaking to a lawyer will help ensure your rights are protected in regards to your children, your income, and your assets. An attorney will also keep you informed on current Illinois laws concerning divorce, property dispersal, and parenting responsibilities.

What Are The Legal Grounds For Filing A Divorce?

Before you can get divorced, you need to understand the laws in your state. For example, the divorce laws in Illinois differ based on whether you go through a fault or no-fault divorce. Fault divorces involve a situation where one partner has committed adultery, physical or mental cruelty, or attempted murder. No-fault divorces are more commonly filed. They are useful for spouses who want to separate amicably for personal reasons, like irreconcilable differences or incompatibility.

Illinois is considered a “no-fault” state. This means anyone filing for divorce in Illinois must meet the following requirements:

•  You must have been a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days preceding the filing of the divorce.
•  You and your partner must have irreconcilable differences that have caused an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage.
•  You must have attempted reconciliation in the past.
•  It must be true that continuing reconciliation efforts would be impractical or not in the best interest of everyone involved.

How Do We Divide Property?

You and your spouse can usually divvy up your property however you choose to. However, you can also elect to involve a judge if you’re having trouble coming to an agreement.

Marital law varies by location, so depending on where you live, the laws may actually govern how you split up your belongings. Having a premarital agreement will also affect how your assets are divided.

How Do We Determine Parenting Time (Formerly “Child Custody”)?

Deciding on parenting time will depend on a number of factors, but in the end, what’s best for your child(ren) is most important. You and your spouse will be encouraged to enter into an agreement to determine how time with your child(ren) will be split up. Once something is agreed upon, your attorney will draft a formal parenting agreement that will be entered with the court. This will be referenced if any parenting issues arise.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on parenting time, you can elect to involve the court. The court has the power to send you and your spouse into mediation and/or appoint a Guardian Ad Litem. If mediation or a Guardian Ad Litem doesn’t solve the problem, the matter will be set for trial.

The law dictates that all of these factors should be considered when determining parenting time. This list is not exhaustive, but the most important items are:

•  The time each parent spent caring for the child in the last 24 months.
•  Any past agreements about caretaking in relation to the child
•  The relationship between the child and his or her parents and siblings
•  The distance between each residence
•  The cost and difficulty of transporting the child between residences
•  The parents’ and child’s daily schedule
•  The parents’ ability to come to an arrangement

In certain cases, the court may restrict parenting time for one of the spouses. This can happen if there’s a threat of physical violence against your child(ren) by the parent or someone in their household. Additionally if one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender, their parenting time may be limited. In most cases, the court will look at the nature of the offense and whether or not the offender has participated in any successful treatment.

While it’s important to consider all of these factors, it’s also important to involve the wishes of your child(ren), especially if they’re old enough to have an opinion on the matter.