Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in Chicago, Illinois
What are grounds for filing for divorce in Illinois?
Illinois is a no-fault State, meaning that there are no fault-based grounds for divorce such as adultery, mental cruelty, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, abandonment, and the like. In Illinois, if one spouse wants a divorce, they will get their divorce based on irreconcilable differences. The only requirement is that the parties must live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than six months immediately preceding the entry of judgment dissolving the marriage. This meets the irreconcilable differences requirement as grounds for the dissolution of marriage. Living separate and apart does not mean the parties must live in separate houses. As an example, spouses using separate bedrooms with no meaningful communication but sharing fundamental financial obligations are considered to be living separate and apart under the statute.
How is cost for a divorce determined? Who pays for it?
A divorce can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars or it can cost less than $10,000, depending on how reasonable the litigants are in terms of negotiating a deal. Most divorce attorneys in Chicago, Illinois bill hourly and require an initial retainer which is then offset against the time spent on the case. If there is a retainer amount remaining at the end of the case, it is refundable. If the retainer is exhausted and there are additional billings, we ask the client to simply pay their bill monthly. In the event of a trial, typically, we ask for a trial retainer in advance of trial. The retainer amount is based in part upon the complexity of the issues in the case. Typically, the money in the marital estate pays for both family law lawyers with a right of either litigant to ask that the payment be reallocated to the other spouse at the end of the case in what is called a contribution hearing. In the event there is a dispute between the parties after judgment for dissolution of marriage, there is no marital estate to pay the divorce attorneys’ fees so each party pays their own if they have the ability to pay. Each party reserves the right to ask the other party to pay their fees in this post-judgment circumstance.
There are many Chicago divorce attorneys ~ what makes your law firm stand out? Why should people choose you?
At Katz & Stefani, LLC Chicago family law lawyers have great experience, knowledge, tenacity, dedication and compassion for the client. We will insure that there will be the appropriate level of communication with the client. We are able to do so because we do not take on every potential client that consults with us. We purposely limit our caseload so that we are able to adequately service our clients and respond to their every request in a timely fashion. Many Chicago divorce attorneys are too busy to return phone calls on a timely basis, which is one of the most important functions as a family law lawyer. Obviously, we believe our knowledge of the law is superior to most divorce lawyers given our experience level and education of our attorneys. In fact, P. André Katz was the Chairman of the Illinois Family-Law Study Committee who was responsible for rewriting the divorce statute that became effective January 1, 2016. The number one reason why litigants change attorneys is that their prior counsel failed to be responsive in a timely manner. At Katz & Stefani, LLC, our experienced Chicago family law attorneys recognize that most divorce litigants are going through the toughest time in their life and the issues are very personal and when they need to communicate with their counsel, they need a timely response to feel comfortable and therefore minimize their anxiety going through the process of divorce.
What does “equitable distribution of property” mean?
Illinois is an equitable distribution State. That means that Courts when dividing the parties’ assets and liabilities should strive to make an equitable distribution to each party. Equitable does not mean equal. The statute provides thirteen factors that the Court should consider in deciding what an equitable distribution of property would look like in a divorce.
What are non-marital assets?
In Illinois, there are two classifications of assets ~ marital and non-marital assets. Generally speaking, non-marital assets are those owned by a spouse prior to the marriage, as well as those assets acquired by a spouse during the marriage through gift or inheritance. It also could be property acquired during the marriage in exchange for property acquired before the marriage. Of course, non-marital property could also be property that is defined as non-marital through a valid agreement of the parties, including a premarital agreement or a postnuptial agreement.
If one spouse was the sole income support of the family but after the divorce they leave the residence, who pays for the residence?
Typically, if the breadwinner during a divorce leaves the family residence, the Court will order that breadwinner to continue to pay for all of the expenses for the residence and the family through temporary family support. This support is designed to maintain the status quo that was established prior to the divorce. In certain circumstances, if there is not enough income to support two residences, the Court will set an appropriate amount for the core household expenses to be paid and then a discretionary amount for the payee spouse’s walking around money.
What is divorce mediation?
Mediation in divorce is becoming very popular. The typical mediation involves a mediator, the parties and their divorce attorneys. Most mediators are former Judges. The negotiation is not binding on either party and typically involves several non-consecutive days of mediation. Mediation is totally confidential, so ultimately, if it fails, the Judge cannot hear any evidence regarding what happened in mediation. Resolving a Chicago divorce case in mediation is also a completely private process versus being in the public forum in open Court and part of the public record. Typically, resolving a divorce in mediation is also much less expensive than litigation. It is much less stressful and more efficient when the parties work collaboratively to understand the full nature and extent of the assets, income and expenses of the parties, and then work to negotiate a reasonable deal with a mediator.
Is there a difference between legal separation and divorce?
There is essentially no difference between legal separation and divorce, other than in divorce you are dissolving the bonds of marriage and in a legal separation you are still technically married. There were reasons to do this historically, including keeping the spouse as a dependent on health insurance. Most health insurance policies today have an exception and therefore, have closed the loophole.
If my spouse and I cannot agree on terms of the divorce, does that mean we have to go to Court?
If you and your spouse cannot agree to the terms of divorce, the Court is your only other option. You either resolve your case by agreement or a Judge decides. Even in Court, Judges typically do not hold a trial on any outstanding issues until they have at least one pretrial conference where the lawyers appear in the Judge’s Chambers and they present to the Judge their 15 minute sound-bite of the issues and the proposed resolution of them and the Judge then makes a non-binding recommendation. Typically, a lot of cases settle at that point.
Why would a person need a Chicago family law lawyer?
Divorcing parties should seek counsel of a Chicago divorce lawyer for resolution of their case. While the cost may be intimidating, it is worth it to make sure you get a fair and reasonable outcome, both financially and with respect to decision making for your minor children and parenting time.
Can a single Chicago family law attorney handle both sides of a divorce case?
In Illinois, it is unethical for a single Chicago family law lawyer to handle both sides of a case. Both parties can use one family law lawyer to draft their divorce papers, but technically, that lawyer has to represent one side or the other. In such situations, the non-represented spouse should at least consult with a reputable Chicago family law attorney to have them review the document before signing it.
At Katz & Stefani, LLC, our family law lawyers focus on the following practice areas:
- Child Support
- Cohabitation Agreements
- Collaborative Divorce
- Grandparents Rights
- Jewish Divorce
- Prenuptial Agreement
- Spousal Support
Why is a family law lawyer necessary if the couple isn’t going to Court?
Even if a couple has reached a settlement between themselves, it is necessary that a Chicago area family law attorney draft what is called a Marital Settlement Agreement and Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage and thereafter present the Agreement and Judgment to a Judge who must approve the Agreement as being not unconscionable. Only then can divorce litigants officially dissolve their bonds of marriage by entry of a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage.
What is a high net worth divorce or a high asset divorce?
Katz & Stefani, LLC limits its clients to mostly high net worth individuals. These individuals are typically defined to have at least $1 million in assets and a combined family income of over $250,000.
In a high net worth divorce, who else needs to be involved (example: financial expert)?
In a high net worth divorce with complex issues, there could potentially be several experts or consultants necessary to help navigate through the process. Specifically, there may be complex tracing issues where we would hire a forensic accountant. There are also other financial experts required in valuing closely held companies and other investments that are not readily valued. For real estate, we typically engage experts to value single family homes, commercial properties and the like. The family’s historic lifestyle is a typical issue for setting support and other ancillary issues. In that regard, Katz & Stefani, LLC hire experts to do a lifestyle analysis of the parties’ historic household and family living expenses. In terms of children’s issues, there are experts hired there to do a custody evaluation and render other opinions with respect to all parenting issues.
Can you give some examples of how you’ve helped one of your clients in a Chicago divorce case?
The Chicago family law attorneys at our law firm Katz & Stefani, LLC focus on not only helping our clients on legal issues but also the emotional and economic issues. Most people who go through a divorce are doing so at a low point in their lives and anything we can do to reduce the anxiety through this process and achieve a favorable result will be done. Our Chicago divorce attorneys do it ethically and with compassion, communication and dedication to our clients.