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Chicago Divorce Attorneys

Illinois Divorce Overview

The Chicago divorce attorneys at Nottage and Ward, LLP, have more than a quarter century of experience in negotiating, litigating, and resolving complex family law issues. We work closely with every client to ensure that their needs are met and that the critical issues of their divorce are handled responsibly and effectively. We understand that every couple and every divorce case is different, that's why we focus on building a strong relationship of confidentiality and honesty with each client. We are dedicated to helping families overcome the legal, financial, and emotional hurdles of divorce. To learn more about what Nottage and Ward, LLP, can do for you, dial (312) 332-2915 for a comprehensive case evaluation.

Intimate relationships are built on passion, respect, and trust between two human beings. When any one of these foundations begins to crack, the entire relationship may be in danger of crumbling. Most couples make whole-hearted attempts to shore up the faults in their relationships. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they are not. When they are not successful, the time will come when dissolving or drastically modifying the relationship may be in the best interests of all parties involved - both spouses and their children. This is when seeking a divorce is best.

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"...I have the highest level of respect for your dedication to representing spouses in the most difficult time in their life and not allowing anyone to turn their children into pawns ..."
- Michael

Separation, Divorce, and Moving On

When a couple decides to divorce, the process is understandably fraught with strong emotions and difficult decisions. When dividing finances, assets, property, and childcare responsibilities, it is crucial to handle each decision calmly and rationally. Of course, doing so is easier said than done. That's why finding and working with a dependable Chicago family law attorney can make such a huge difference in the ultimate outcome of your divorce settlement. An experienced and compassionate lawyer can provide you with the insight and guidance you'll need to make informed decisions that will affect you and your children's future well-being and security.

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Preparing for Divorce

Every divorce is different and can be a short negotiation or a drawn-out legal battle. In either case, being prepared is the best way to ensure that you can protect your rights and protect what is important to you. The tough news is that divorce is a business transaction: you need solid legal and financial information to navigate the process. Emotions should not play a role in your ability to make decisions, so pay careful attention to the preparation of your case. Distribution of marital property, custodial agreements for your children, child support, and maintenance are all on the table. A successful Illinois divorce requires preparation on three levels: emotional, financial, and legal. Before you initiate a divorce:

  1. Get your documents in order. This means making copies of important financial documents and keeping them in a secure place (not in your house, car, or anywhere else your spouse has access). Both you and your spouse will need access to financial documents when your case is filed. Critical financial papers include tax returns, insurance policies, bank statements, investment accounts, salaries, and benefit or retirement program information. Keep your documents secure. Obtain a safe address for your personal mail.
  2. Track your expenses. Keep an accounting of all expenses, especially your children's expenses. There are simple computer bookkeeping programs that can assist you here. Save receipts. While still married and living together with your spouse, it is advisable to save all of the receipts for major purchases and prepare an inventory of all of the property and assets acquired during the marriage. Keep a current inventory of your safe deposit box.
  3. Review and establish credit. If you do not have it already, establish your own personal credit history (gasoline credit cards, department stores, and national credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, etc.). Review your credit report and your spouse’s credit history.
  4. Be prepared to open a bank account in your name. Choose a bank that is separate from where you hold a joint account or where your spouse does business.
  5. Do not commingle marital and non-marital property. Any property you or your spouse had before you got married, or property that you inherited or received as a gift during your marriage, is non-marital property. Keep all non-marital property separate from the marital estate. Do not put non-marital property into joint names with your spouse and do not use your non-marital money to pay for family expenses or purchases, or to pay down debts.
  6. Don't quit your job. Do not quit or leave your job if you are employed. It is important to maintain and secure your financial independence and earn enough to maintain assets such as your home.
  7. Don't sign any papers. Do not sign any documents, contracts, promissory notes, deeds, mortgages, etc., if your spouse requests you to do so. The consequences of signing any documents or papers may be irreparable and highly prejudicial to your legal and financial rights upon a divorce.

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What Can You Expect During a Divorce in Illinois?

Ultimately, divorce is a business transaction in which a spouse attempts to protect his/her financial and personal interests when dividing assets and property that were once shared. The process begins with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Illinois is a no-fault state, which means that there are simply “irreconcilable differences” that do not need to be examined in court.

Once the petition has been filed and served, the discovery phase will begin. Each party will evaluate the other's financial situation, including, debts, assets, investments, and other expenses. The case will then proceed to the settlement phase, which may or may not require a trial. Through every step of the process, it is in your best interests to have a reliable and tenacious legal team on your side to help you make sound legal and financial decisions. The Chicago complex divorce lawyers at Nottage and Ward, LLP, can provide the experience and objectivity you need to protect your future and get you the best divorce settlement possible.

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Are There Other Options for Ending a Marriage?

There are a few alternatives in the state of Illinois. Ending a marriage does not necessarily mean going to trial anymore; particularly, because spouses are required to attend mediation for child allocation-related issues and concerns, and may be ordered to try mediation to resolve the equitable division of assets. Below are some options for ending a marriage without litigation. Nottage and Ward, LLP, can help you examine each option and decide what's best for you and your family:

  • Mediation: Couples may choose mediation to negotiate various issues and come to an agreement in a non-adversarial way. Mediation involves spouses meeting with a neutral mediator to sort out any disputes involving division of assets, finances, and child allocation and parenting time rights. Mediation can be conducted with, or without, the participation of the attorneys.
  • Collaborative Divorce: If a couple can reach an agreement on most divorce-related issues, but still need help negotiating other matters, the spouses can bring in their attorneys to arrange the final details of the divorce settlement. This option also requires that each spouse agree that the case will not go to court and that each party will cooperate and make a sincere effort to negotiate in good faith.
  • Legal Separation: Unlike traditional divorce, a legal separation will allow the spouses to address the same legal issues, such as division of assets and child allocation, but remain legally married. The couple will have the opportunity to live apart and divide responsibilities without officially ending the relationship. However, neither spouse can remarry after a legal separation. For either spouse to remarry, they have to legally divorce.

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Financial Concerns of Divorce

The discovery process is used to help establish an equitable divorce settlement. It includes requests for financial records so that income, expenses, assets, and liabilities can be reviewed before marital property is divided. It’s important to think about how the following issues can impact the financial situation of both parties before coming to a final agreement:

  • Debt/bankruptcy: Debts accrued during the marriage are typically the responsibility of both spouses, which means they will be factored into the marital estate and divided "equitably." When the burden is too much to bear, filing bankruptcy is an option. This will complicate things and you should definitely speak to an attorney before filing anything.
  • Maintenance or alimony: When awarding spousal support, the court will take into consideration a number of factors to determine the amount, including the length of the marriage, the financial needs of each spouse, the standard of living established during the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and both parties’ income and property. In some cases, the court will see no reason to award alimony if both spouses are capable of supporting themselves.

Discovery is especially necessary when one partner is unaware of the full details or extent of the other’s financial life. There is the possibility that one partner could have hidden assets that he or she is trying to keep out of the divorce proceedings, especially in high-asset divorces.

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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Contested divorces occur when one or both spouses have unresolved issues that will require a third party to settle. Typically, these issues include allocation of parenting time, child and spousal support, and the division of property. If an agreement cannot be reached between the two parties, the case will proceed to trial to be heard in front of a judge.

In an effort to simplify the divorce process, Illinois lawmakers have changed the state’s guidelines regarding fault. They have adopted a no-fault approach and eliminated the need for spouses to provide at-fault grounds for divorce. Moving forward, the only ground applicable for ending a marriage is irreconcilable differences, which refers to the irreparable breakdown of a marriage. If the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of no less than six months immediately preceding the entry of the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met.

Uncontested divorces are a much quicker and less expensive way to end a marriage. They require both spouses to come to an agreement on all relevant issues. A judgment and other necessary documents must be drawn up so they can be officially filed with the court.

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Post-Decree Modifications

Even after a divorce is finalized, there is potential for the process to continue. Because life circumstances and needs often change, it might be necessary to seek a post-decree modification to a divorce settlement. This usually happens when one party encounters a significant increase or decrease to his or her income, which could be the result of a remarriage, job loss, job promotion, or medical condition. It is also common when one of the parents is requesting child relocation, a change in allocation of parental responsibility, or an adjustment to the current parenting time.

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Successful Chicago Divorce Lawyers

A successful divorce settlement requires a great deal of preparation, consideration, knowledge, and determination to reasonably satisfy all parties involved. The final decisions a couple makes will have a long-lasting effect on nearly every aspect of the future lives of both spouses and the children. You deserve to have a strong legal representative at your side throughout every step of this frustrating process.

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

A successful divorce settlement requires a great deal of preparation, consideration, knowledge, and determination to reasonably satisfy all parties involved. You deserve to have a strong legal representative at your side throughout every step of this frustrating process.

The divorce attorneys at Nottage and Ward, LLP, in Chicago's Loop have the experience and resources to help you handle the challenges of ending your marriage and moving on with your life. Whether negotiating the distribution of marital property, or fighting on your behalf for an acceptable child allocation settlement, our legal team will work tirelessly to achieve the settlement you need and deserve. Get in touch with us to discuss your situation during a comprehensive consultation at our firm. Simply fill out a contact form online or give us a call at (312) 332-2915 to schedule a meeting with one of our skilled and reliable divorce attorneys.

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Divorce FAQs

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Client Reviews

Five Stars5 Leslie has been the strongest representation I could ask for

Leslie has been the strongest representation I could ask for in a very complicated, emotional matter. She has continuously looked out for my best interest and the best interest of my son. She is always prompt in getting back to me and in keeping me well informed about my case.

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Avvo Top Contributor Family Law - Jeffrey Knipmeyer
Avvo Top Contributor Divorce Law - Jeffrey Knipmeyer