Chicago Divorce Lawyer QuestionsWhat Do You Need To Know Before You Call A Divorce Attorney?

Being prepared for a conversation with an attorney, especially an initial conversation, is probably very helpful to both the potential client as well as the attorney. The attorneys will want to be focused on facts and issues that will be relevant in the case. As a general rule, an attorney doesn’t need the entire history of a party’s life or marriage, , this is especially true for marriages that span 10-20 years or more.


The kinds of issues in a particular case will be the driving force of what an attorney is interested in. Obviously, an attorney must be able to listen and allow people to express some of their feelings and work through it, especially if it’s the client’s first time contacting an attorney. If it’s a potential client’s first time calling a lawyer, they often need to tell their story. I like letting people talk about their situation before I  focus them on what I need to know.


In cases where there are no children or the children are grown, the important points will involve money. Although there could be a lot of different money issues, but the two big ones will be, how to divide up the assets and whether one spouse is entitled to support, which most clients would know as alimony. The facts regarding those issues are necessary. Useful information includes each spouse’s income over the last three years, a general idea of household expense outflows, and a general idea of what the assets and liabilities are.


A lot of times, the person calling doesn’t know the family’s financial situation, or they don’t know about their spouse’s finances. That’s okay, too; I can still help because we have tools to get information. If possible, it does if a client has the last three years of tax returns, bank statements, brokerage statements, and retirement statements.  Lawyers are also interested in knowing what assets each spouse had before they  married and if there is a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement


When children are involved, we will need the parenting history – what was the status quo with respect to raising the children. For example, who’s been making significant decisions for children? In Illinois, significant decisions are education, health care, religion, and extracurricular activities.  Inquiring about a client’s optimal parenting schedule, where the children are going to lay their heads down each night, is important.


A client should provide background about the family’s past practices. For example, an attorney will benefit by knowing that every July fourth the family spends the holiday at the father’s family lake house. Before meeting with a prospective attorney, one should organize and write down their thoughts and gather records that support their goals before the meeting.

What Should I Bring With Me For An Initial Consultation With A Divorce Attorney?

Every case is different, and different divorce lawyers have different requests. As a general rule, I don’t ask clients to bring a lot of papers or documents. I don’t want to spend too much time looking through a stack of papers I prefer clients have a knowledge of their finances and parenting concerns. At this beginning point, I am more interested in listening to a potential client’s story and trying to determine their needs.


After that first meeting is when I would ask a client to supply me all records, which I will often review privately and follow up with the client about any questions. 


Initial client conferences have multiple purposes. One is for a lawyer to learn about the case and the people involved in it. The client’s perspective is equally important. Potential clients are looking for an idea of what type of outcome to expect. Plus, both attorney and client want to get a sense of whether we can work well together. A significant portion of my practice is devoted to clients that are in their 50s or 60s with long-term marriages.


As these marriages have many different aspects and often involve people at the heights of their carries with wealth accumulated over decades, a trusted relationship is essential.,   The divorce deal is often the biggest deal they’re going to make in their life, if you look at it from more of a business perspective, so it’s important to the right divorce lawyer.


Divorce cases often take a long time, requiring clients to invest a lot of their time, energy, and trust in somebody. You really need a good fit, you need confidence in the lawyer you’re choosing. And the lawyer, for the most part, wants to have a client that they can work well with too. From my perspective, I want to find out about the case, I want to find out what’s important to my client, what they’re trying to achieve, and if those expectations are realistic.


Sometimes, clients have unrealistic expectations. I found that people like honesty from their attorneys. They prefer knowing what you think, and if a goal is likely not going to be achieved, clients want to factor that into their decision process.

What Are Some Of The Basic Requirements For Getting A Divorce In Illinois?

There are basic requirements for a divorce. One important thing to understand is that divorce is governed by state law. Thus, every state has its own particular laws with respect to divorce. In a lot of states, they may look the same or similar. However, every state does have different requirements.  Illinois’ requirements are fairly straightforward.


In order to file for divorce in Illinois, one spouse needs to be a resident of the state at the time they file or before the divorce is finalized. It could be either party. There are no grounds required for a divorce in Illinois, other than irreconcilable differences, which just means nobody is at fault.


Illinois does not require the parties to be separated in order to file for or get a divorce. However, if you are not separated for six months, then you might have to prove that your marriage is irretrievably broken down. But, if you are separated for six months or more, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed. Once you’re separated for six months, there’s no challenge that your marriage is irretrievably broken.


For purposes of proving an irretrievable breakdown, separation doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be physically separated. It simply means that you have ceased conducting yourself as husband and wife and you could be deemed separated while still living in the same house.


However, different states have different requirements. Some have long residency requirements while others have short ones.

How Is An Annulment Different From Divorce And Who Would Most Benefit From One?

A  lot of people ask me whether they can get an annulment. Usually, they’re asking because they’ve only been married a short time. However, annulments are very rare, and the law allows them in very limited circumstances. Further, although where circumstances may allow for an annulment, failure to request one within the allowable time frame will result in the request being barred.


One valid reason that allows for an annulment is when your marriage is prohibited by. Examples include being too young to marry, or marrying your first cousin.. Another basis for requesting an annulment occurs when one party forces or coerces another into marriage or commits an act of fraud concerning an essential of marriage.


A lot of people think if they never consummate the marriage, they can invalidate it. But failure to consummate a marriage serves as grounds for an annulment in limited cases. If you knew that the person you are marrying was incapable of consummating the marriage, then grounds do not exist. Your spouse must be physically incapable of the act and the other person must not have known that.


Although these cases are rare, the facts are often interesting. My first case involving an annulment issue was about 30 years ago.  It was an adoption case, which requires submitting information about your client’s prior marriages. One of the adopting parents said to me, separate from his wife, “I wasn’t divorced at the time we got married, is that going to be a problem? Although his marriage would have been prohibited at the time he remarried, the fact he later divorced his first wife resolved the problem.

What Are Some Of The Most Important Issues To Deal With In A Divorce?

This topic could be a separate Q&Q  in and of itself; therefore I’ll just highlight the big-ticket items that cover what a lot of people go through in a divorce. of the major issues dealing with children and money.


With the children, there are both parenting and money issues. Regarding parenting, the parents must decide how they allocate the right to make significant decisions concerning the upbringing of their children. Those significant decisions, as I mentioned before, are education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. It needs to be determined if one parent makes those decisions, or both parents, or will the right be split up.


Splitting it up could mean that one parent is going to decide on education and the other parent is going to make a decision on religion. And the parents will share equally the right to make the other two or any permutation or combination of those. Although this area is often the source of some of the most litigious, time-consuming, and expensive cases, in my experience, most people end up coming to an agreement.


In Illinois, we used to call that the custody part of the case. When the law was updated, the word custody was removed from Illinois law. The law now refers to allocating these significant decisions rather than custody. Also, the term “visitation” was eliminated and replaced with the concept of parenting time.


Parenting time must be allocated amongst the parents.  Parenting time includes a regular weekday and weekend schedule, holidays, and vacations. Again, parenting time is often something that is resolved by agreement; but; it is often very important to both parents and therefore a lot of time can be required to address all concerns.


Money issues regarding the children include child support plus what I call add-on expenses. Add-ons include things like who will provide health insurance for the kids, and who is paying insurance premiums,  and uncovered health care costs. Other kinds of expenses you incur raising children, both curricular expenses such as school tuition or registration fees, and extracurricular expenses like soccer and camps must be considered too.


If you have college-aged children, there may be an issue of who’s responsible to pay for college? It is interesting to look at the law on contribution to college expenses because it varies from state to state. In some states, a parent does not have the right to ask another parent to contribute to college expenses. In Illinois, one parent may ask the other parent to contribute to college expenses, but only if you have a child in college or preparing to go.


A court is not going to litigate and make a decision about something that is not ripe to be resolved because the facts and circumstances may change, or assumptions made do not materialize. Before a court can decide how much each parent will pay towards college, it needs to know what college your kid attends, as costs vary greatly between a junior college, public university, and private school.


Also, the court must know your current financial situation and cannot rely on what it will be. Parents of young children are free to agree on how to handle future college expenses, but absent an agreement a court will only decide it when the various factors are known and not assumed.


If you are considering getting a divorce in Chicago or the surrounding area or have other family law issues such as child custody or child support call Michael Craven at (312) 621-5234.

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