The start of the new year is a time when many people file for divorce. They’ve gotten through the holidays, their kids are back in school, and they can finally shift some of their focus to starting the divorce process.

If you are ready to start the divorce process in 2024, what do you need to know? Here are some key facts from Illinois divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen:

Illinois is a “No Fault” Divorce State

Illinois has been a “no-fault” divorce state since 2016. What this means is that either spouse can file for divorce at any time. While it’s true that Illinois law requires that spouses live separate and apart for six months before getting divorced, this does not mean that they need to live in different residences. If you and your spouse have been sleeping in different rooms or are no longer physically intimate, this can qualify as living “separate and apart” for purposes of filing for divorce as well.

When you file for divorce, you will file based on “irreconcilable differences” that have caused an irreversible breakdown of your marriage. There is not a specific test for determining when irreconcilable differences exist. As long as you work with an experienced lawyer to prepare your divorce petition, you should be able to satisfy Illinois’s filing requirements.

Illinois is an “Equitable Distribution” State

One of the most important aspects of the divorce process for any couple is dividing their marital property. In Illinois, the division of divorcing spouses’ marital assets is governed by the principles of “equitable distribution.” Here is a quick summary of the most important aspects of Illinois’s equitable distribution law:

  • Equitable doesn’t always mean equal. It’s fairly common for spouses not to divide their marital assets evenly during the divorce process. Determining what is equitable involves a case-by-case analysis of factors such as the duration of the marriage, the spouses’ respective financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage, and their respective economic circumstances post-divorce.
  • Equitable distribution only applies to marital property. For divorce purposes, assets can fall into one of two categories: marital or separate. While marital assets are subject to equitable distribution, separate assets are not.
  • Separate assets are generally those acquired before the marriage or through gift. Assets acquired before the date of marriage and gifts to one spouse are two of the most common examples of separate assets. But, there are other ways that assets can qualify as “separate” as well, and assets that would normally be separate can become “marital” in some circumstances.

Alimony is Common, But Not Required

While alimony is common, it isn’t required under Illinois law. There are several types of alimony in Illinois, and determining which type is appropriate (if any) requires a careful assessment of the spouse’s current and future economic circumstances. In some cases, multiple types of alimony may be warranted. For example, if one spouse relies entirely on the other for financial support, temporary alimony during the divorce process and reviewable or permanent alimony post-divorce may both be justified under the circumstances at hand.

Child Support is Required if You Have Minor Children from Your Marriage

While alimony isn’t required, child support is required when divorcing parents have minor children from their marriage. Divorcing parents must determine their financial responsibility following Illinois’s Child Support Guidelines in most cases. While there are exceptions (i.e., in high-income divorces), most divorcing parents will use the Child Support Guidelines to determine how much they have to pay (or how much they are entitled to receive) after their divorce.

Child Custody is Among the Most Regulated Aspects of the Divorce Process

Along with child support, child custody is one of the most regulated aspects of the divorce process in Illinois. While divorcing spouses have several options when it comes to developing a mutually agreeable parenting plan, all child custody decisions must ultimately reflect the best interests of the children involved.

To determine what is in your children’s best interests, you and your spouse will need to apply Illinois’s “best interests” factors. Applying these factors also needs to be done on a case-by-case basis, and what works for one set of parents won’t necessarily work for another.

With that said, in the vast majority of cases, divorcing parents who are willing to work together will be able to come up with a mutually agreeable parenting plan that satisfies the “best interests” factors. Even when applying these factors, divorcing parents will usually have enough flexibility to come up with a plan that works for both of them.

There Are Lots of Issues that You Need to Be Careful Not to Overlook

Along with these issues, there are lots of other issues that divorcing spouses must be careful not to overlook during the divorce process. Overlooking these issues during your divorce can lead to unnecessary costs and challenges down the line. Some examples of commonly overlooked issues include:

  • Pets
  • Retirement accounts
  • Digital albums and libraries
  • Cryptocurrencies
  • Holiday-specific parenting time

Again, these are just examples. Like the other issues discussed above, these issues require careful consideration with a long-term perspective. When preparing to go through a divorce, it is critical to think about not only your present circumstances but your future circumstances as well. What works for you and your children today might not work five or ten years from now—and this is important to consider. By thinking about what the future has in store (or may have in store), you can be confident that you are making informed decisions, and you can ensure that you are pursuing an outcome that will serve you and your children’s best interests for years to come.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with Illinois Divorce Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen

Are you thinking about filing for divorce in Illinois in 2024? If so, we invite you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To schedule an appointment with Illinois divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen, call 847-623-4002 today.