When going through a divorce, you need to make lots of decisions. These decisions can have long-term implications for you and your children, so it is important that you devote the necessary time and attention to making these decisions with your (and your children’s) best interests in mind.
Here are 20 Issues to Consider as You Prepare for Your Divorce
While everyone’s circumstances are unique, most divorces involve the same overarching legal, financial, and family issues. If you are contemplating a divorce, here are 20 of the key issues you will likely need to consider as you move forward:
1. Illinois’s Equitable Distribution Law
Illinois is among the growing number of states that have adopted equitable distribution laws. Under these laws, divorcing spouses must divide their assets based on what is fair under the circumstances. In some cases this will mean a 50-50 split, and in some cases it will not.
2. Identification of Marital and Separate Property
Under Illinois’s equitable distribution law, only “marital” assets are subject to distribution. This typically includes most assets acquired during the marriage, and it typically excludes most assets owned prior to the marriage. But, there are exceptions on both sides, so it is important that divorcing spouses carefully identify their marital and separate property.
3. Identification of Marital and Separate Debts
In addition to dividing their marital assets, divorcing spouses must also divide their marital debts. The same principles that govern the identification of marital and separate assets apply to debts as well.
4. Valuation of Significant Assets
When dividing marital assets in a divorce, it will often be necessary to obtain valuations. For example, real estate, retirement accounts, investment accounts, and collectibles are all items that may need to be valued for divorce purposes.
5. Prioritizing Your Marital Assets (and Your Spouse’s Priorities)
Given that neither spouse gets everything in a divorce, you will need to decide which marital assets matter most. When planning for your divorce, you will want to consider your spouse’s likely priorities as well.
6. Options for Effecting an Equitable Distribution
Divorcing spouses have several options when it comes to making an equitable distribution of their marital assets. Spouses can sell assets and pay off debts, they can agree to give up rights to certain assets in exchange for exclusive ownership of others, and they can explore other creative solutions that allow them to reach an amicable distribution of property.
7. Options for Resolving Disagreements During Your Divorce
When planning for a divorce, it is a good idea to plan for the possibility of reaching an impasse. Mediation and collaborative law both provide options for resolving differences without going to court.
8. Your Wishes Regarding Child Custody (and Your Spouse’s Wishes)
When it comes to child custody, your wishes matter—and so do your spouse’s. As you prepare, you will need to think carefully about what you and your spouse both want from the outcome of your divorce.
9. Your Children’s Wishes Regarding Child Custody
Illinois law also requires consideration of the children’s wishes regarding custody, “taking into account [each] child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to decision-making.” This is a delicate subject, and parents must approach it carefully with help from their divorce lawyers.
10. Illinois’s Other “Best Interests” Factors for Child Custody Determinations
In addition to the parents’ and children’s wishes, Illinois law also requires consideration of several other factors. These “best interests” factors guide child custody determinations in all Illinois divorces.
11. Contemporary Options for Post-Divorce Custody
If your parents got divorced when you were a child, you might be familiar with the traditional every-other-weekend custody and visitation schedule. Today, there are more contemporary options available, and divorcing spouses can choose an option that works for both of them.
12. Your Desire (or Your Spouse’s Desire) to Relocate
If you or your spouse has a desire to relocate after your divorce, this could have a significant impact on your child custody arrangement. This is definitely a key consideration you will want to discuss with your divorce attorney.
13. Your Current Income (and Your Spouse’s Income)
Shifting gears to financial matters, you will need to have a clear picture of your income and your spouse’s income to make informed decisions during your divorce. You will both have an obligation to voluntarily disclose all income sources at the outset of the divorce process.
14. Illinois’s Child Support Guidelines
One area where divorcing spouses’ income comes into play is child support. Both parents will be required to support their children post-divorce, and income is a central factor under Illinois’s Child Support Guidelines.
15. Saving for College
One major expense that child support typically doesn’t cover is college savings. Divorcing parents must separately address college savings during the divorce process.
16. Your Current Standard of Living
When it comes to spousal support, a key factor along with the spouses’ respective incomes is the spouses’ standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
17. Your Post-Divorce Finances
If you will need to rely on spousal support, it will be extremely important to have a clear picture of your post-divorce finances as you navigate the divorce process. The same is true if you expect to pay spousal support—to ensure that you do not unnecessarily agree to pay too much.
18. The Four Types of Alimony in Illinois
Many spouses are surprised to learn that there are four different types of alimony in Illinois—all of which are available under different circumstances.
19. The Restrictions on Post-Divorce Modifications in Illinois
Once your divorce is over, the options you will have for modifying the terms of your divorce will be limited. This makes it extremely important to make sure you give due consideration to all relevant issues before finalizing your divorce settlement.
20. Your Long-Term Best Interests
Ultimately, as we said in the introduction, you need to make informed decisions with your long-term best interests (and your children’s long-term best interests) in mind. If you take your time, explore your options, and take a stand when it makes sense to do so, you should be happy with the outcome of your divorce.
This list is by no means exhaustive. From prenuptial and postnuptial agreements to making copies of digital photo libraries, divorcing spouses may need to consider a host of other issues as well. To make sure you don’t overlook anything during your divorce, it will be important for you to work closely with an experienced Illinois divorce attorney.
Schedule a Free Initial Divorce Consultation in Gurnee, IL
If you would like to speak with a divorce attorney in confidence, we encourage you to get in touch. Call our Gurnee, IL family law offices at 847-623-4002 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.