Divorce Articles

Answers to Frequently Asked Illinois Divorce Questions

Parties to a marriage never enter into said marriage with the expectation that it will end in a divorce. Unfortunately, though, if you find yourself facing a potential divorce in Illinois, or are in the process of becoming divorced, in this article we answer frequently asked questions by individuals in a similar situation. 

What grounds must be met to file for divorce in Illinois?

Illinois is considered a “no fault” jurisdiction for dissolution of marriage (divorce) matters. It is not necessary that the party petitioning the court prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent party has committed any form of wrongdoing (i.e., adultery, abandonment, physical abuse, financial abuse, etc.).

This also means that a divorce can be filed by the alleged wrongdoer party. For purposes of a divorce, and for the majority of family law/domestic relations matters (except for Orders of Protection), the designation as “Petitioner” and “Respondent” does not have a direct bearing on the party’s rights or obligations under the case.

How long does an Illinois divorce take?

When seeking a divorce, many litigants are concerns with the overall duration as they wish for the process to be over as soon as possible. This generally depends on whether the divorce is amicable (agreed) or contested. 

For amicable litigants, the process can be completed in as little as a few months. Once the case is filed, our attorneys will prepare the Marital Settlement Agreement and, where necessary, Allocation Judgment (Parenting Plan). These documents, if fully agreed and properly executed, can typically be presented to the assigned judge with only having to appear in court a couple times.

For contested litigants, the process can be much longer. Once the case is filed and the respondent party is served, there is a process called “discovery” where each party requests certain documents and responses from the opposing party. Through this process, the parties exchange financial information including affidavits, bank statements, and income information, which is then used by their respective attorneys in attempting to negotiate a property settlement.

If the matter is contested to the point that no agreement can be reached, the information exchanged during discovery can be used at a hearing whereby the parties present their arguments and the judge makes the final decision as to the underlying issue.

Will I have to pay (or will I be entitled to) maintenance?

Maintenance, which was formerly called “alimony,” is a form of spousal support which can be awarded to a party pursuant to the terms of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The act itself sets guidelines for both the amount of and duration that maintenance can be awarded. While the act sets these guidelines, if the parties come to an agreement for an amount that is greater or less than the guidelines, courts will generally accept the agreement so long as it is not unreasonable or unconscionable.

Maintenance is also not guaranteed under the statute. There are limits to the amount that can be awarded under the law, based on the parties’ incomes and needs, and the court considers a number of factors including the length of the marriage and the lifestyle the parties had grown accustomed to during the marriage.

What happens to the parties’ children during the divorce?

If the parties to the divorce have minor children, part of the divorce process will include the court entering an Allocation Judgment, which is also sometimes referred to as a Parenting Plan. The Allocation Judgment will set out the parties’ rights and obligations with respect to significant decision-making for the children, as well as regular parenting time, holiday parenting time and vacationing with the children.

If the parties cannot reach a full agreement on the parenting issues above, or if only a few certain issues cannot be resolved by the parties, the court can require the parties to attend mediation with a court-approved mediator or mediation service. If, after mediation, an agreement still cannot be reached, the court can, either on motion of the party or on its own motion, appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the minor child(ren) involved in the case. 

Additionally, in all family law matters, courts now require the parties to complete a parenting class. This course is required in both agreed and contested matters and our office can provide you additional information on your county’s specific requirements should you decide to retain us.

Will I have to pay (or will I be entitled to) child support?

Unlike maintenance, which can be waived by agreement of the parties, child support is a mandated obligation under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”). Similar to maintenance, the IMDMA sets guidelines for the parties’ respective child support obligations. The IMDMA, following revisions to the Act in 2017, now considers both parents’ incomes, as well as the parenting time schedule, in determining child support.

Prior to 2017, the payor parent simply paid a certain percentage of their income, based then on the number of minor children, to the recipient parent as and for child support. Again, like maintenance, if the parties are in agreement on a child support amount greater or less than the statutory guideline amount, the court will generally agree so long as it is not unreasonable or unconscionable.

What property needs to be divided between the parties?

The general rule of thumb is that all property acquired by the parties from the date of the marriage until the date the divorce is finalized is considered marital property which must be addressed in the parties’ divorce.

Certain assets which were acquired prior to the marriage may be considered non-marital and the rightful property of the party who brought said property into the marriage. However, depending on how that property was used during the marriage or what state the property is in at the time of divorce, the party may have arguments available to them as to why that should be considered marital property subject to the parties’ divorce judgment.

For more information on a pending or potential divorce, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your specific matter.

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