Chicago Family Law Questions

Family Law and Divorce in Illinois - Frequently Asked Questions

What if we cannot agree on our child custody arrangement?

A: The court will decide for you. You should try to work it out. Negotiation is always better than imposition. If you leave it up to the court to decide, you are including the element of surprise. The judge will often appoint an attorney for the child and a psychological evaluator to make recommendations regarding custody and visitation. You can never tell what a judge may decide and you may discover that it is neither what you, your spouse, nor your child(ren) desire.

What is visitation and how does it work?

A: When one parent is granted primary custody of the child or children, that parent is termed the “custodial parent.” The “noncustodial parent” is granted visitation rights or parenting time (the terms are used interchangeably). Typically, visitation is one or two days a week, and alternating weekends, holidays, and school vacations. The actual visitation schedule depends on the age of the child, the distance the parents live from one another, and the parents’ schedules.

What do joint and sole custody mean?

A: Joint and sole custody relate almost solely to decision-making. Joint legal custody requires that parents work together, make decisions together, and communicate effectively. The primary decisions at issue relate to the education, health care and religion of the minor children. Whether a parent has sole custody or joint custody will not affect the visitation schedule for the other parent.

When can I change the beneficiaries on my pension, health insurance, life insurance or Will?

A: The law prefers that the status quo be maintained until after the divorce is final. You should not make changes to your pension, health insurance or life insurance while the divorce is pending. However, nothing precludes you from re-writing your Will prior to your divorce case being finalized.

After the divorce, can I make changes to the property division?

A: Generally, property division is not modifiable after the Judgment has been entered unless there was a misrepresentation made which rises to the level of a fraud or assets were concealed. Buyer’s remorse and hindsight are not enough of a reason for the court to revisit the property division.

Can Nottage and Ward, LLP help me if circumstances change after my divorce?

A: Yes. Disputes often arise in the areas of child custody and visitation and support. These disputes may require modification of the original terms of your divorce decree. In the event that your former spouse is not complying with the terms of your divorce decree, legal counsel will also be necessary.

What is maintenance? Who pays it and who gets it?

A: Maintenance used to be called alimony or spousal support. There is no set formula in Illinois regarding who gets maintenance or how much. The Court will look at factors such as the length of marriage, the amount of time a spouse has been out of the workforce, disparities in the parties’ abilities to earn income, and retraining required to enable a spouse to reenter the workforce. Maintenance can be temporary, rehabilitative, reviewable or permanent. Generally a spouse’s obligation to pay maintenance terminates at retirement age. The Court’s goal is to allow both parties to maintain a similar standard of living to that which they enjoyed during their marriage.

How is property of the marriage divided in Illinois?

A: Illinois is an equitable distribution state.  “Equitable” means “fair,” not “equal.” It may be more equitable, given the state of the marriage and the conditions of the spouses, for the majority of the property to go to the husband, instead of the wife, or vice versa.

Sometimes equitable distribution results in an equal division, or a very close approximation of an equal division. There are a number of factors, which play into determining what is equitable in each individual case. For example, the Court will look at whether one spouse will be receiving support from the other, the ability of each spouse to earn income and the ability of each spouse to accumulate assets in the future. There are other factors that the Court will consider as well.

Where do I get the funds to retain a lawyer and support myself during the divorce process?

A: If your spouse withholds financial support, it will place a financial burden on you until an application for temporary support and maintenance can be heard and decided by the court.

Will my case have to go to trial?

A: Our goal is to assist our clients in resolving issues amicably. Nonetheless, a fair result often requires aggressive litigation. We strive to find settlements that best enable our clients to put the past behind them and successfully move on with their lives. We are trial lawyers and prepare to take a case to trial if necessary to protect or advance our clients’ interests. Our partners are accomplished and celebrated litigators who combine many of the advantages of a large firm with the sensitivity and personal attention required to practice divorce law effectively.

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Chicago Family Law Lawyer Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case and do not represent a promise or guarantee. Please contact an attorney for a consultation on your particular divorce matter. This web site is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the state of Illinois.

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