In a recent post, we discussed six common myths about getting divorced in Illinois. We also discussed the truth behind these popular misconceptions, explaining why many spouses’ beliefs about the divorce process in Illinois are misguided.
In addition to dispelling those myths, we wanted to offer our insights into some of the realities of getting divorced in Illinois as well. If you are thinking about ending your marriage, here are some important facts for you to know:
Reality #1 You Need to Prepare for What is to Come.
Getting divorced is a process, and the more you do to prepare in advance, the smoother the process will go. Preparing for a divorce involves gathering records, creating lists, examining your finances, and thinking critically about what you want for your post-divorce life. We have developed a checklist you can use to begin thinking about questions such as:
- Will you need financial support (i.e. alimony) after your divorce?
- How much will you have to pay in alimony or child support?
- Which of your assets are subject to equitable distribution?
- Should you consider seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem?
- What custody rights do you want once your divorce is final?
Reality #2 Resolving Your Divorce Without Court Intervention Requires Compromise.
In most cases, it will be in both spouses’ interests to reach an amicable resolution to their divorce. Arriving at an amicable resolution (or agreed divorce) saves time and money, reduces stress, and ensures that you will have a say in the final outcome of the process.
Negotiating an agreed divorce inherently involves a significant amount of compromise. Neither spouse will get everything, and both spouses are likely to have different ideas about the fairest (or most “equitable”) solution for dividing their assets and divvying up their parenting time. In order to reach an agreement, both spouses need to be willing to approach their divorce with an open mind, and they must be willing to accept that a fair outcome may not (in fact, it almost certainly will not) reflect their ideal scenario.
Reality #3 Some Aspects of Your Divorce Will be More Complex than They Seem Initially.
Initially, certain aspects of your divorce may seem fairly straightforward. For example, it may seem simple enough to divide your assets – especially if you and your spouse have already had some discussions and you seem to generally be on the same page. However, even for couples with fairly small estates, unexpected issues can quickly add a significant amount of complexity to the process. This includes issues such as:
- Valuing your assets. How much is your home worth today? How do you value future distributions from a retirement account or pension? What if, once you begin looking into these types of questions, you and your spouse cannot agree on a reasonable valuation?
- Identifying separate assets. As a general rule, assets that one spouse owned prior to the date of marriage are not subject to distribution in a divorce. Do you have receipts, credit card statements, checking account statements, or other records to prove that certain of your possessions should not be on the table in your divorce? What if your spouse claims that an asset is “separate” but you believe that it is subject to distribution?
- Dealing with commingled, appreciated, and renovated assets. In many cases, assets will have both separate and marital property components. Examples include: (i) retirement accounts established prior to the marriage and to which contributions were made during the marriage; (ii) privately-held businesses that were started prior to the marriage and that grew during the marriage; and, (iii) real estate owned prior to the marriage and renovated during the marriage. What portion of these types of “mixed” assets qualify as separate? How do you divide an asset that has both separate and marital property components?
Failing to address these types of issues during your divorce can lead to undesirable consequences, and may even foster disputes between you and your former spouse down the line. As a result, it is critical to make sure you have a clear understanding of all of the legal and practical issues that are relevant to your divorce.
Reality #4 You and Your Spouse are Going to Have Differences to Resolve.
As more of these types of issues come to light, the chances increase that you and your spouse are going to have differences to resolve. Even if you and your spouse seem to be on the same page initially, as you both continue to think through what the divorce process means for life after your divorce, you may both come to realize that you have more differences than you previously realized. It is important to understand that this part of the process is completely normal, and each spouse should be understanding when the other has strong feelings about his or her post-divorce needs.
Reality #5 The Divorce Process Will be Emotionally Taxing for You and Your Children.
It is equally understandable if the divorce process ends up being more emotionally taxing than you originally anticipated. While we work hard to make the process as straightforward and stress-free for our clients as possible, we also know that it takes a lot to get through a divorce. This is true not only for the spouses but for their children as well.
Reality #6 You Only Get One Chance to Do it Correctly.
Despite the significant and long-term implications of getting divorced, you only get one chance to do it correctly. You should generally expect the outcome of your divorce to be considered final, as the Illinois courts will only grant modifications to divorce decrees for limited purposes and under limited circumstances. This fact underscores the importance of preparing for your divorce as thoroughly as possible, making sure you have your priorities in line and being willing to stand up for yourself when you need to seek a particular result.
Contact Us for a Free Initial Consultation in Gurnee & Lake County, IL
Are you contemplating a divorce in Illinois? If so, as a Lake County, IL divorce attorney we invite you to contact us for a free initial consultation. To learn more about how to prepare for your divorce and what you can expect along the way, call us at 847-623-4002 or request an appointment online today.