When going through a divorce in Chicago, Illinois, it is important to make sound decisions based on reliable information. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and it is easy to get confused if you aren’t sure what is a myth and what is a reality.
From dividing your marital assets to establishing child custody and visitation, every step in the divorce process involves a number of legal, financial, and practical considerations. There are a number of common myths about each step in the process as well. While this list is certainly not comprehensive, here are the realities behind six common myths about getting divorced in Illinois:
#1 You Need to Have a Specific Reason to Get Divorced.
Reality: In Illinois, Your Only Option is to File on “No-Fault” Grounds.
While filing for divorce on fault-based grounds used to be an option in Illinois, today, all divorces must be filed on “no-fault” grounds. This is what most people know of as “irreconcilable differences.” If you have decided that it is time to end your marriage, this alone is enough to support a divorce filing under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA).
What if your spouse does not want to get a divorce? From a legal perspective, this just further confirms the existence of irreconcilable differences. So, in Illinois, you do not have to have a specific reason (such as adultery) to file for divorce, and you do not need your spouse to be on the same page.
#2 Your Spouse’s Adultery is Irrelevant to Your Divorce in Illinois.
Reality: While Illinois is a Purely “No-Fault” Divorce State, One Spouse’s Adultery Can Still Impact the Divorce Process.
Even though Illinois is now purely a “no-fault” divorce state, if your spouse cheated on you, this is still something that you should discuss with your divorce attorney. Under certain circumstances, one spouse’s adultery can potentially impact the financial aspects of a divorce and the determination of child custody.
#3 You Can File for Divorce Online.
Reality: You Cannot File for Divorce Online in Illinois, and Preparing Your Own Divorce Documents Using Online Forms Can Be Risky.
Unfortunately, this myth is largely perpetuated by companies that attempt to sell spouses divorce document “packages” without telling them that: (i) there are many issues that require the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer, and (ii) it is not legally possible to file for divorce online in Illinois. The only way to get divorced in Illinois is to file the appropriate forms with the court and get a judge to issue an order formally dissolving your marriage.
Additionally, while many companies claim that it is “easy” to get divorced using their forms, the reality is that it is even easier to make costly mistakes. From distinguishing between your “separate” and “marital” assets to determining whether an award of alimony is appropriate, and from accurately calculating child support to determining what is in your children’s “best interests” with regard to custody, mistakes and oversights can have drastic and long-term consequences.
#4 All of Your Assets Will Be on the Table in Your Divorce.
Reality: Only “Marital” Assets are Subject to Distribution in Illinois.
Illinois is an “equitable distribution” state when it comes to dividing spouses’ assets in a divorce. Among other things, this means that the law recognizes a distinction between “separate” and “marital” assets. While “marital” assets are subject to distribution, “separate” assets are not.
As a baseline, assets that either spouse acquired prior to the date of marriage are “separate” (and his or hers to keep), while assets acquired during the marriage are “marital” assets that are subject to distribution. However, there are various exceptions to this rule; and, in some cases, assets may be partially separate and partially subject to distribution. For example, if you started a retirement account before you got married and continued to make contributions to the account during your marriage, then you may need to determine what portion of your account is on the table in your divorce. Privately-owned businesses, homes that have been substantially renovated, and various other types of assets can create tricky issues with regard to the distribution of property in a divorce as well.
#5 In a Divorce, the Spouses’ Marital Assets Will Be Divided 50/50.
Reality: “Equitable” Does Not Necessarily Mean “Equal.”
Illinois law requires an “equitable” distribution of marital assets. It does not require an “equal” distribution; and, for various reasons, what is equitable will often be something other than a 50/50 split. Once you have identified your marital assets, you then need to determine what constitutes an equitable distribution of those assets. Then you can begin the process of dividing your marital assets during your divorce.
#6 If Your Divorce is Uncontested, You Do Not Need an Attorney.
Reality: From Ensuring an Equitable Distribution to Filing in the Correct Court, there are Several Reasons to Hire an Attorney Even if You and Your Spouse are on the Same Page.
If you and your spouse agree that it is time to split and you have worked through dividing your marital assets and the time each of you will spend with your children, then you may be eyeing an uncontested divorce. While an uncontested divorce can save time and money, it can also lull spouses into a false sense of security. In order to avoid overlooking key issues, even if you and your spouse are on the same page, it is worth speaking with an attorney to make sure you have covered everything appropriately.
Schedule a Free Initial Divorce Consultation in Chicago, IL
If you would like more information about what to expect during your divorce and how you can start preparing, we invite you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with Lake County, IL divorce attorney Deanna J. Bowen in confidence, please call 847-623-4002 or request an appointment online today.