The divorce process is never simple and is seldom pleasant. Divorce proceedings begin when one party (the Petitioner) files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Illinois is not a no-fault state, so most petitions cite “mental cruelty” as their reason for seeking divorce. One notable exception occurs if the parties have lived separately for over two years.
Once divorce proceedings are initiated, there are issues that need to be resolved by the parties. These issues include division of property, division of debts, custody, visitation and support of children, and spousal support.
There are two ways to reach a property settlement agreement: prior to court, by agreement of both parties, or court-determined division of property. If the court determines property division, apportionment will be based upon equitable monetary value. On the other hand, a mutual agreement can include items of sentimental value and collectibles or hobby equipment of undetermined monetary value.
Division of debts by the court will also be determined in an “equitable” manner. It is important to include all marital debts in order to resolve them in the final divorce decree.
Custody of children is determined by the best interests of the child. Support amounts are calculated by established legal guidelines. In some jurisdictions, visitation is outlined in a parenting plan. Denying visitation in retaliation for late or missing child support can have serious legal consequences.
Spousal support may be ordered by the court in order to help a spouse transition to self-support, and may be continued for a fixed period of months or years.
As the divorce progresses, there may a need for clarification, enforcement, or modification of orders. It’s usually quicker and easier for the parties’ attorneys to confer than to schedule a hearing. However, if the attorneys are unable to resolve the situation, a hearing can be scheduled so the conflict can be resolved by court order.
Consulting a knowledgeable attorney early in the divorce process can help you to understand what to expect and determine your best course of action.
Even if you can’t afford an attorney, you can request that the other party pay your attorney fees. The most effective way to get through a divorce is to base decisions on “business” factors, not emotion.