Frequently Asked Questions

No two marriages are the same, and no two divorces will be the same. That being said, below are some of the more common questions that we have heard over the years with answers to help you begin to navigate the divorce process.

Please be aware that what follows is intended for informational purposes only and is not inteded to be legal advice. There is no substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney regarding your divorce.

Contemplating Divorce

Is it important to be the first one to file the divorce petition?

Yes. By filing first, you may prevent your spouse from trying to hide assets by having the element of surprise. You can get the process started without waiting on your spouse. You can file in the county you reside in the event that your spouse resides in a different county at the time of filing. Also, if your case does go to a settlement conference with the judge or a trial, your attorney will get to present your case first, which is an advantage.

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What is the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce?

Very few divorces are truly uncontested. Uncontested means that every single issue relating to your divorce has been agreed upon by you and your spouse. Uncontested does not mean that you both want a divorce and will not contest the divorce filing.

To be uncontested, you and your spouse must be in complete agreement on:

  • All money-related issues such as the payment or non-payment of maintenance and child support
  • The division of all assets, real and personal property, bank and investment accounts, retirement accounts, pension, etc.
  • Child custody and visitation issues
  • Division of all debts and liabilities
  • Any other issues specific to your case

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What should I do first if I’m thinking about a divorce or if I suspect my spouse is going to file for divorce?

If you think your marriage can be saved, I urge you to seek the help of a trained marriage counselor.

If you believe your marriage is over and divorce proceedings appear inevitable, you should consider taking the following steps to help protect yourself financially:

  • Open an individual bank account for an emergency fund of money that your spouse does not have access to. Remember that you will have to disclose the account and the activity in the account to your spouse during the divorce.
  • Make sure to keep all pre-marital assets and non-marital money separate from your joint accounts.
  • Make copies of all financial documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, and the like, to give to your attorney. Keep the originals in a safe place in case they are needed during the divorce proceeding.
  • Do not sign any contracts, agreements, promissory notes, deeds, mortgages, loan documents, or any other document that may affect you financially before consulting with an attorney. Doing so may negatively impact your case if ways you have not thought of.
  • Consider forwarding your mail to another location or PO Box to prevent your spouse’s interception.
  • Change the password on your private e-mail account and do not write the password anywhere your spouse can locate it. Consider opening a new e-mail account just to facilitate communications concerning your divorce.
  • Make a list of all questions and legal issues you have before consulting with an attorney.

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Paying for the Divorce

How much will this cost?

We can’t tell you exactly how much your divorce will cost because each case is unique and requires different services. Legal fees are largely dependent on how much agreement there is between the parties, the complexity of the issues, and the time needed to resolve the issues of your case.

We are very competitive. At present, we charge between $250 and $300 per hour for an attorney’s time and $90 per hour for paralegal time. We have the most competitive hourly rates for the level of experience and skill in the Chicago metropolitan area. As highly experienced attorneys, we won’t spend your money to learn how to litigate a divorce case.

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What is your retainer?

A retainer is similar to a deposit to be applied toward the payment of legal fees and costs. We do not have a set retainer amount. Our retainer fee is dependent on the type and complexity of the case as well as the assets and income available to a client to pay a retainer fee.

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My spouse controls all the money? What can I do?

If you are not employed and do not have any access to marital funds, you and your attorney can petition the court for temporary support and maintenance. However, it may take up to 90 days to begin receiving money from your spouse. You may need to obtain a credit card or borrow money from friends or family in the interim.

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Who pays for the divorce?

Generally, each party pays for his or her own attorney’s fees. However, one party can petition the court to have the other party pay part or all of his/her fees. The court has wide discretion in ordering one party to pay the other’s fees. Factors the court may consider include the income disparity between the parties and the availability of assets with which to pay.

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Divorce and Court Procedures

Will a prenuptial agreement speed up the divorce process?

Generally, if there is a proper, signed prenuptial agreement that is not being contested by either spouse, it will speed up the divorce process. If the agreement is being contested or there is a disagreement about what constitutes the marital vs. non-marital assets, the process may be longer.

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How are the divorce papers served on my spouse?

If you and your spouse have discussed divorce and have reached an understanding that the divorce process will be started without the need for papers to be officially served by the sheriff or a special process server, you can give the papers to your spouse directly with the understanding that he/she has a set amount of time to hire an attorney or to file a response.

In the alternative, the sheriff or a special process server will formally serve your spouse with the divorce papers. This process can take a few weeks. Once your spouse is served, he/she then has 30 days in which to file his/her answer to the petition with the court. If no Answer is filed, then proceedings will begin to have a default judgment entered.

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Does my spouse have to leave the house once the divorce papers are served?

Not usually. If you want your spouse to leave and he/she won’t, you need to file a motion and go to court to get exclusive possession of the home while the divorce is pending. There must be a proper reason, such as domestic violence or abuse, for filing a Petition for Exclusive Possession of the home.

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I have been served with divorce papers. What do I do now, and how long do I have to do it?

You should contact an attorney as soon as possible. You have 30 days in which to file a responsive pleading, known as an Answer, with the court. You should gather any financial documentation you have and make sure you have access to money if your spouse controls the household finances.

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What happens if I don’t respond to the divorce petition?

The divorce will happen. A default judgment will be entered and the result for you will likely be terrible. It will be extremely difficult and very expensive to attempt to try to vacate the judgment.

Do not ignore the divorce petition. It will not go away.

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Property Division Issues

Can I get a better division of property if I can prove my spouse committed adultery?

No. In Illinois, property division is a separate issue from grounds. Marital misconduct is not generally relevant to the allocation of marital property.

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Do we each have to make full financial disclosure?

Yes. The law in Illinois states that both parties must make full financial disclosure before a divorce can be finalized.

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I think my spouse is hiding assets. Can you find hidden assets?

Yes. Through the use of the discovery process, subpoenas and investigators, we have successfully been able to find money and other assets that a spouse has attempted to hide. We are very skilled in complex financial matters.

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What is the difference between marital and non-marital property?

Marital property is property acquired during the marriage with the following exceptions:

  • Property received through gift or inheritance
  • Property acquired prior to the marriage
  • Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property received through gift or inheritance
  • Property excluded by a valid pre- or post-nuptial agreement of the parties.

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I have a business that was started after my marriage. Is my business an asset of the marriage that will need to be split?

If your business is marital property, it is an asset that will be factored into your divorce. A business is a complicated asset that usually needs to be valued to be able to divide properly. There are many factors that determine how much each spouse is entitled to. When determining the business’s worth, a business valuator will take into account the business’s reputation; how much that reputation is dependent upon each spouse’s contributions to the business; the value of any equipment, inventory, real estate; the accounts receivable; if there are partners or other owners involved; as well as other issues specific to your business or industry.

Having a business is a very important reason to seek an attorney qualified to handle complex financial matters as there are many ways to divide a business with significant business and tax implications.

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Maintenance/Alimony Issues

What determines the payment of maintenance (formerly alimony)?

The recent changes to the law regarding payment of maintenace are effective January 1, 2016. As this law is so new, please consult with one of our attorneys as to its implications for your specific case.

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Can maintenance payments be modified or terminated?

Unless the Judgment for Dissolution provides to the contrary, maintenance payments can be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances. Such changes may include:

  • An involuntary job loss
  • Severe illness or injury that prohibits employment
  • The payee-spouse living with another person
  • The payee-spouse’s ability to support herself/himself.

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My spouse wants permanent maintenance. What does that mean?

Permanent maintenance means the payments to your spouse for support will continue until there is a terminating event as defined under the law or a terminating event that is issued by the judge or agreed to in a settlement agreement. (Examples include:  death, co-habitation of the payee-spouse with another person, the payee-spouse’s remarriage, retirement, etc.) Permanent maintenance is usually only appropriate in long-term marriages where one spouse is either not employable or only employable at a low income compared to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Permanent maintenance awards are most commonly given to spouses who have been married for more than 20 years with little or no college education and little or no work experience who have spent their lives as a homemaker and raising children.

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Child Support and Children’s Issues

How is child support calculated in Illinois?

In Illinois, child support is calculated from net income. Net income is defined as total gross income minus:

  • Federal and State Income Tax properly calculated
  • Social Security Tax Payments
  • Union Dues
  • Mandatory Retirement Contributions made as required by law or a condition of employment
  • Individual and dependent health and hospitalization premiums
  • Prior obligations of support or maintenance actually paid pursuant to Court Order
  • Expenditures for repayment of debts that represent reasonable and necessary expenses for the production of income, medical expenses necessary to preserve life or health, reasonable expenditures for the benefit of the child(ren) and other parent and exclusive gifts

The number of children determines the percentage deduction:

No. of ChildrenIncome %

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I am already paying child support. Do I have to pay more for my child’s expenses?

Generally, yes. Child support is not expected to cover the school, extra-curricular, day-care, medical/dental and other health-related expenses. However, this may vary depending upon the facts of each case.

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Can I refuse to pay child support if my spouse isn’t letting me see my children?

No. You should not refuse to pay child support because your spouse is not letting you see the children. You will need to file a Petition for Contempt against your spouse or a Petition for a Change of Custody.

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What is the difference between joint legal and sole custody?

Joint custody means both the parents have an equal right to make decisions affecting their child. In joint custody, both parents have access to the child’s school records, health records, etc. All major decisions concerning the child’s education, religious training, health care and major expenditures are made and approved by both parents.

Sole custody means only one parent has the right to make all major decisions.

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Can a judge order me to pay for my child’s college costs?

Yes. The court can and does frequently order parents to contribute to their children’s higher education based upon a variety of financial and other factors.

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