Family Law Attorney Serving Lake County & Cook County, Illinois
According to the World Population Review, Illinois has a divorce rate of 10 percent, meaning that 10 percent of the population is divorced. While this stands in contrast to Maine’s rate of 14 percent (the highest in the nation), a divorce in Illinois can still be draining and overwhelming for everyone involved. Whatever the reason, separation and divorce are times of great emotional stress and even anger, which can make it difficult for spouses to work matters out on their own.
If you’re contemplating or already pursuing divorce in Lake County or Cook County, Illinois, contact me at the Goldstein Law Office. I am a dedicated family law attorney who can guide you through the process of divorce and help you protect your interests—and your children’s interests— for the best possible outcome.
I also proudly serve clients in the neighboring communities of Antioch, Deerfield, Highland Park, Lake Forest, North Chicago, and Waukegan.
Planning Ahead: Prenuptial
& Postnuptial Agreements
The mainstream belief is that a prenuptial agreement—commonly referred to as a prenup—is something only movie stars and the rich and famous use to protect their assets. While it’s true that those with assets to protect often choose the prenuptial route, it’s not just a legal vehicle that only the extremely wealthy can utilize.
Prenups are gaining popularity for a variety of reasons. First, they protect the assets of both partners that exist before marriage. In addition, they clarify financial responsibilities moving forward, and they also protect one spouse’s pre-marriage property from debts run up by the other spouse. In Illinois, prenups are governed by the Illinois Uniform Premarital Agreement Act.
A postnuptial agreement, in contrast, is agreed to after marriage. For both prenups and postnuptial agreements, courts will look to see if one party has been coerced into signing it, or if the agreement is “unconscionable.” If the agreement passes muster, a judge in divorce proceedings will usually honor it when it comes to the division of property.
Divorce in Illinois
A divorce in Illinois—known as dissolution of marriage—is based on “irreconcilable differences,” which “caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” For example, if a couple lives apart for six months even in separate rooms in the same house, that is considered evidence enough that such differences exist. Otherwise, the couple must assert and convince a judge that there is a breakdown in the marriage and all efforts at reconciliation have failed.
A divorce can be either contested or uncontested. Contested means that you will take things to court. An uncontested divorce means to come to an agreement among yourselves regarding the division of property and debts, financial and parenting arrangements for the children, and any payment of alimony, which is known as maintenance in Illinois.
Though coming to an agreement jointly can be a difficult task since emotions and grievances may be running high, negotiations assisted by a divorce attorney can help facilitate the process. Keep in mind that avoiding court proceedings often saves both time and money.
Division of Property & Debts
Illinois is not a community property state, wherein all assets acquired during the time of marriage are considered equally owned. Instead, Illinois law aims for an equitable distribution of assets.
Anything acquired by either party during the marriage is considered marital property. Personal property is anything acquired by either spouse prior to marriage. Personal property will generally remain in the hands of the spouse who acquired it before tying the knot unless it has become commingled.
For instance, imagine that one spouse owns a rental property before marriage. Then, after marriage, he or she uses funds from a joint bank account to pay for repairs to the structure. Using funds that were contributed in part by the other spouse commingle the asset, so that it may no longer be the sole property of the original owner.
Exemptions to marital property are an inheritance or gift accruing solely to one spouse, or anything covered by a prenup or postnuptial agreement (subject to the judge’s acceptance of the agreement).
All debts acquired during the marriage are also considered marital debt subject to equitable distribution. Thus, the starting point for the division of debt is that of equal responsibility, but then the judge (if required to decide) will factor in considerations such as who ran up the most debt and whom it benefited most.
According to the Illinois State Bar Association, if a judge must rule on the division of assets, to determine “what is equitable, the financial or other contributions each party made to acquiring property is considered, along with each person’s financial circumstances and the likelihood that each party will acquire assets in the future.”
Children & Divorce
For family law courts in Illinois, when it comes to divorce and assigning parenting time responsibility for the children, the aim is always to do what is in the “best interests” of the children. The court begins with the assumption that both parents have an obligation to support the children. One parent may be awarded residential custody, and the other parent required to contribute through financial support, or there may be a joint custody arrangement.
Again, the best route to a mutually agreeable and workable child custody/parenting time arrangement is to work with a family law attorney who can help you move forward at every stage of the process.
Cohabitation Agreements in Illinois
Illinois does not allow what is called common-law marriage, though if a couple who met the requirement for common law marriage in another state relocates to Illinois, the state will recognize their marriage.
This is important because, in 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that unmarried couples have no legal right to each other’s property if they break up. As a result, unmarried couples have taken to executing a cohabitation agreement, similar to a prenuptial agreement, covering the ownership and division of assets.
Family Law Attorney Serving
Lake County & Cook County, Il
For all your family law concerns—from drafting prenups or cohabitation agreements to finalizing an uncontested or contested divorce—contact me at the Goldstein Law Office. I have been helping others with family law issues in and around Lake County and Cook County, Illinois, for more than four decades. I am known for aggressively and compassionately advancing my clients’ interests, whether in negotiations or in the courtroom. Contact me today for a consultation.