Because of recent changes to Illinois law, we are currently in the process of updating this page. Please check back as we will be adding additional information. 12/21/17
Divorce can be very stressful on all members of the family. You will be better off emotionally and financially if you take the time to plan carefully. This section suggests some measures to protect yourself and your family financially. If you suspect your spouse may be considering filing for divorce, then you should also take the following planning steps.
Start an Emergency Fund.
Begin by setting money aside that you may need in case your spouse refuses to pay expenses or empties your joint accounts.
Open an individual bank account at a bank where your spouse does not do business. Keep your emergency fund in this separate account. Be prepared, however, to make full disclosure to your spouse of this account and all transactions during the divorce proceeding.
Keep your separate assets separate. If you have pre-marital or non-marital assets (i.e. inheritances, gifts, etc.) do not comingle your property with joint marital money. Keep these separate assets in separate accounts. Comingling your assets may result in your pre-marital or non-marital assets being declared marital and subject to division with your spouse.
Obtain and Make Copies of Important Financial Documents:
Tax returns - both individual and business returns
Account statements - bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts etc.
Financial statements for any businesses
Stock Certificates, car titles, deeds to real property and bonds
Real Estate Appraisals
Personal Property Appraisals (e.g. those made for insurance purposes)
Wills and/or Trust Documents
Credit Card Records
Safe Deposit Boxes:
Inventory and create a list of the contents of any safe deposit box to which you or your spouse have access.
Obtain a separate safe deposit box for your own use. Store important documents and records, including those listed above, in the box.
Inventory of Property
Make a list of any valuable property that your spouse might hide or move. Take pictures if possible.
Make a list of any mail received from brokerage firms, banks, insurance companies, and credit card companies so you know what assets you and your spouse own and where those assets are located.
DO NOT sign any contracts, promissory notes, deeds, mortgages, or other similar documents before consulting with an attorney.
Consider forwarding your mail to another location or a PO Box to prevent your spouse's interception.
Consider Lifestyle Changes. It is important to think about how your divorce may change your lifestyle and that of your children. Some common changes that may occur during and after divorce include:
Changing where you live.
Changing your children's school.
Relationships with mutual friends and family may change.
You may see your children less often and will need to learn to co-parent.
You may need to change your budget and/or spending habits because there may be less income available and fewer assets to draw upon.
If you were not involved in the family's finances, you will need to educate yourself about your family's income and expenses to be able to plan for the future.
Obtain Emotional Support.
Recognize that the divorce process can be lengthy and emotionally draining. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a strong circle of friends and family will help you approach your case more effectively.
Don't be afraid to ask for professional help. Should you need professional assistance, we can assist you in locating a trained therapist, doctor, or other professional best suited to your issues.
Understanding the divorce process and requirements will help you prepare for your divorce. This is a brief synopsis of some of the more common elements to a divorce. However, every family and every situation is different. Therefore, you should consult with an attorney personally for a more tailored assessment of what your case may entail.
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This is the first pleading filed in a divorce case. This document formally sets out the basic facts in the case and asks the Court to grant you a divorce. If you and your spouse have children, this document will also contain basic information regarding your children. If you have been served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you should contact an attorney immediately about protecting your rights to your children and property. You have a limited amount of time to answer the Petition from the date you were served, and it takes time to hire an attorney have the Answer prepared and filed with the Court.
Answer and Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Answer and Counter-Petition for Dissolution may be filed by you if your spouse has filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Answer portion of this pleading sets forth your answers to each of your spouse's allegations in his or her Petition for Dissolution. A Counter-Petition for Dissolution may also be filed at this time. The Counter-Petition sets forth your allegations relating to the divorce.
Mandatory Parenting Classes. All parents of minor children involved in a divorce or post-decree proceeding for any modification involving parenting time and rights or relocation of a child from Illinois must complete a court-authorized parent education program, except for good cause shown. Each county has its own parenting class parents must complete. For more information on the parenting class requirements for DuPage, Will and Cook Counties, click the links below:
Mandatory Mediation to Determine Parenting Time and Rights. For parents who cannot agree for the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as custody and visitation), relocation and other non-child support issues related to their children, the Illinois Supreme Court mandates parents attend Mediation. The Mediation process is designed to help parents solve issues that may arise during the divorce process.
Financial Mediation. Using a mediator to help reach an agreement regarding financial issues increasingly popular in Illinois. Using an impartial mediator may be less stressful and reduce the amount of contentious litigation that surrounds financial issues. Financial Mediation is not mandatory in Illinois.
Temporary Hearings. If you and your spouse can agree about how your finances and children's issues are to be managed during the divorce process, temporary hearings may not be necessary. However, if you cannot agree, you can ask for and receive temporary court orders regarding your finances, children and home.
Discovery. Discovery is the legal process by which you discover the assets, liabilities, income and expenses of your spouse. In Illinois, each spouse has to complete a Financial Affidavit listing all income, expenses, assets and liabilities under oath. The discovery process may also include written discovery, subpoenas issued for documents or deposition testimony.
Settlement Negotiations. Once the discovery process has been completed and you and your attorney have an understanding of all of the issues, facts and figures in your case, settlement negotiations can begin. If you and your spouse agree on all issues, then you can finalize your divorce. If you cannot agree, then you go on to a Pre-Trial Settlement Conference with the judge and/or a trial.
Pre-Trial Settlement Conference. During a pre-trial settlement conference, the judge and the lawyers review the issues and evidence in the case. The judge will then make recommendations to encourage both parties to settle the case.
Trial. If no agreement can be reached, then a trial is scheduled. After the trial, the judge will issue a ruling dividing your assets and liabilities as well as your parenting rights and time.
Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. This is the court order signed by the judge granting you a divorce.
If your divorce includes a business, it is important to select an attorney who understands the financial complexities of business law and business valuation. Because we also represent businesses and handle business litigation, we are trained and experienced in reading business formation documents, tax returns, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, income statements, general ledgers as well as other corporate and financial documents.
Business valuation experts can use different methodologies, different dates of valuation, and apply different types of discounts and variables to inflate or deflate the value of a business. This makes understanding business valuations a crucial aspect of the divorce process. Our understanding of the art of business valuations enables us to not only explain valuation and methodology used to you, but to critique and explain these valuations as needed to the Court.
The courts have broad discretion to assign values to businesses during a divorce. Therefore, it is extremely important to determine an accurate valuation for a business or business interest. Closely held companies are often difficult to value which can cause their valuation to be a contentious issue during a divorce. The business, owner, spouse, or both can hire experts to value businesses belonging to one or both of the parties. We work regularly with valuation experts to ensure a competent valuation.
The use of a financial mediator in divorce proceedings is increasingly prevalent in Illinois. Using a financial mediator can provide an unbiased, in-depth analysis of the parties' financial portfolio often leading to a more equitable settlement that both parties understand and accept. The Financial Mediator will have access to both parties' Financial Affidavits, earnings histories, account statements, asset valuations and other pertinent financial information needed to help reach a settlement. Financial mediation is also generally more cost-effective and less acrimonious than contested divorce proceedings before a judge who often times does not have the time, resources, or financial background to understand the complexities of many couples' financial situation We have been appointed in numerous cases as Financial Mediators and have helped many parties achieve a settlement faster, more economically, and with less hostility than the traditional more litigious route.
Division of property in Illinois is on an "equitable" basis; meaning what is considered fair. In some cases, that may be a 50/50 split, a 60/40 split, or even a 95/5 split depending on the circumstances of the parties. So what is fair? The Court can take many factors into consideration when deciding a "fair" property distribution such as each party's contribution to the marital estate, including that of a homemaker, the duration of the marriage, any pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, the dissipation or wasting of assets by a party (i.e. gambling, spending money on a girlfriend or boyfriend), the economic circumstances of each spouse as well as many more. You should start considering if there are specific assets that you would prefer to receive in your divorce as well as assets that you would prefer to assign to your spouse.