So you’re thinking about divorce. I’m sure that you have a bunch of questions, some anxiety, and maybe some fear. Unless you’ve been down this road already, the process of divorce is probably a foreign concept. You might be imagining that you and your husband sign a one page document and you go your own way, or you might be imagining that a judge is going to decide every single detail of who gets what and who gets the kids. You might also be thinking that only couples who don’t get along should get attorneys.
The form your divorce takes depends on the complexity of your situation and how well you and your spouse are able to communicate and compromise.
The main thing that all of forms of divorce have in common is that they are controlled by Illinois divorce law. In order to understand how the law works, let’s start at the end and work to where you are now.
About 95% of divorces end by negotiated agreement. This agreement takes the form of what’s called a Judgment and Marital Settlement Agreement. The Judgment is signed by the judge, which makes it law. The Marital Settlement Agreement is signed by the parties and effectively becomes a contract between the parties.
Every negotiated agreement is different and depends on the unique circumstances of the parties. Before any negotiation takes place, however, the parties have the right to a full investigation of the relevant facts of the case.
In some cases, an in depth investigation is essential to making sure that our client is on a level (or advantageous) playing field when beginning negotiations. In other cases, the parties are forthright with their disclosure of information and a comprehensive investigation isn’t needed.
Prior to, and during, the investigation process, we may also be dealing with temporary issues that need to be resolved before the divorce is finalized. For example, we may ask that your spouse pay temporary child support, or we may defend you from your spouse asking for temporary maintenance. Maybe you and your spouse decide to sell the house. We will make sure that any equity in the house is divided equitably between the parties, and in accordance with the law.
Before resolving any issues in court, the case must be officially initiated. To start the divorce process, we file what is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. After filing this document, it must either be served on your (i.e. given to) spouse in person, or your spouse must file an appearance in court voluntarily. Without these steps, the court will not have proper jurisdiction to decide, or approve agreements, regarding any amount of property or support.
Now, of course, there are many more intricacies and nuances that go into resolving the oft-emotional process of divorce. We regularly educate our clients on, and employ different methods of resolving each case. Most commonly, these methods include mediation and other collaborative divorce law techniques.