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Posted on in Divorce

chicago divorce lawyerBeginning the divorce process can be a daunting task. After all, most people have little experience dealing with legal issues prior to their divorce case. If you are like many people ending a marriage, you may have never stepped foot in a courthouse before. Understandably, you may feel confused and intimidated by the process. You may be unsure of what to expect. While each divorce case is different, most cases follow the same basic structure and involve similar concerns.

How Do You File for Divorce in Illinois?  

Every divorce begins with the divorce petition, technically called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Illinois. One spouse, called the petitioner, files the paperwork with the court and the other spouse, the respondent, is expected to “respond” to the divorce petition. The respondent may choose to do nothing. In this case, the judge will make a “default judgment” which means that the divorce concludes without the respondent’s input on issues like the division of assets and debts, child custody, and child support. If you live in the Chicago area or have children, you may also need to file additional forms.

How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced?

Divorce cases vary considerably in length. If you do not have children or own significant assets, your divorce may be over in a matter of a few months. However, if you and your spouse disagree on how to divide property, share custody of your kids, or handle other divorce-related issues, the case may take longer to resolve.

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Will County divorce lawyerKnowing when a marriage relationship is truly over can be nearly impossible. Many spouses waver between calling it quits and pursuing reconciliation for months or years before filing divorce paperwork. If your marriage is on rocky ground, you may be researching your options. Legal separation does not end a marriage, but it can offer important legal and financial protections. Read on to learn about the difference between divorce and legal separation and the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Divorce Versus Legal Separation

When a married couple divorces, their marriage is terminated and spouses are free to remarry. Legal separation, on the other hand, preserves the marriage relationship. Legal separation is more than being physically separated or living apart. When a couple is legally separated, the marriage still exists, but the spouses are subject to binding court orders regarding divorce issues like property division and child support. This makes legal separation an attractive option for spouses who are not ready to divorce but still want to address these issues. (Property division in a legal separation differs from property division in a divorce in that the court only divides property if the spouses agree. Otherwise, asset division is reserved by default.)

You may also decide to file for legal separation instead of divorce if you have religious or personal beliefs that prohibit divorce. Some spouses seek separation instead of divorce so that they can continue to stay on the other spouse’s health insurance plan. Being separated but still legally married may also preserve your access to your spouse’s Social Security or pension benefits.

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Joliet divorce lawyerIn a marriage, “yours” and “mine” become “ours.” Unfortunately, undoing this financial entanglement during divorce is one of the most complicated parts of the divorce process. Property held by the marital estate, or marital property, is jointly held by both spouses. Marital property must be properly valued and divided between the spouses in a divorce. Separate property, on the other hand, belongs only to one spouse. Typically, property either spouse acquires during the marriage is marital property and property a spouse owned prior to the marriage is separate property. However, differentiating between marital property and separate property is not so straightforward when assets have been commingled or mixed.

Property Rights During a Marriage

Illinois divorce cases are subject to the rules of equitable distribution. Spouses are entitled to a fair share of the marital estate. Spouses may negotiate a property division agreement, or, if they are unable to agree, the court will determine how the marital property should be divided.

Separate or non-marital property is property that:

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Joliet divorce lawyerFor married couples who own a home, figuring out who, if anyone, gets to keep it is often one of the most difficult parts of the divorce process. However, it is important not to overlook the challenges for divorcing couples who rent a home or apartment together. If you and your spouse are renters, you may not have to deal with the complexities of dividing real estate property, but you may still face conflict when it comes to deciding who will stay in the apartment and who will be responsible for paying rent as your divorce proceeds.

Rental Leases in Divorce

If you have decided to get a divorce, there is a good chance that you and your spouse want to start living separately. However, a rental lease can make this complicated. In many cases, the names of both spouses will be on the lease, which means that you both have a claim to stay there until the lease ends, and you both are obligated to continue paying rent.

If you and your spouse are on relatively good terms, you may be able to address these issues by reaching an agreement. For example, you could consider whether one of you has another viable place to stay, like with a friend or family member. If you have children, you might consider an arrangement in which the parent with primary childcare responsibilities will stay in your rental home so as to better maintain the children’s routine.

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Markham IL divorce lawyerThe financial aspects of divorce can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you do not have much experience managing your own money. If you are uninformed about your finances, you can be left at a significant disadvantage when it comes time to divide your marital assets. The more you can educate yourself about your finances, the more prepared you will be to negotiate or argue for a beneficial outcome to your divorce, and to begin your post-divorce life with a plan to maintain your financial stability and find opportunities for growth.

Gather Information

When you know that a divorce is in your future, you should make a thorough effort to collect all available information about your personal and marital finances. Start with information about your assets, including statements from individually and jointly held bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investment accounts, as well as titles to any real estate, vehicles, and other valuable properties you may own. You should also review your credit report to understand any outstanding debts, including mortgages, vehicle loans, student loans, or credit card accounts.

Information about your assets and debts can help you identify your priorities during the division of marital property and better understand what a fair resolution would look like. Your recent tax filings, pay stubs, and other income statements can also provide valuable information to help you manage your finances after your divorce.

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