No one gets married with the intention that it will end in divorce. When it turns out that way, the prospect of initiating a legal action to dissolve a legal contract can seem a bit overwhelming. A road map to divorce can show you the basic steps to proceed.
Decide if divorce is the right step
If your marriage is broken, only you can decide if divorce is the right solution. You can seek advice from people you trust, but ultimately, the choice is yours. While a divorce attorney cannot help you with this very personal decision, he or she can advise you on how divorce could affect you financially and what it could mean for your living situation with your children.
Find a family law firm to represent you
Choosing your attorneys is a crucial step. Divorce can have consequences that significantly affect your parental rights and your finances. Look for divorce lawyers who:
- Have an excellent reputation in the community and the courts
- You feel comfortable talking to about the details of your marriage
- Are upfront and direct about the strengths and challenges of your case
- Take the time to help you understand the process and guide you carefully through every step
- Understand your priorities in the divorce
- Have the experience and skills to advocate effectively for terms that uphold your priorities
File for divorce in Chicago or the Chicagoland area
You will initiate your divorce by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Your divorce attorney will prepare the petition for your signature and file it in the proper court. If your spouse files for divorce first, your lawyer will assist you by preparing and filing an appearance and answer to your spouse’s petition.
Exchange financial disclosures with your spouse
This step involves completing a comprehensive financial disclosure form. This form, approved by the Illinois Supreme Court, is the Financial Affidavit used in all divorce cases. The purpose of the form is to provide financial information and documents to the other party and the court in cases involving child support or expenses, college tuition, spousal maintenance (alimony), and attorney’s fees. Financial documents attached to the affidavit may include:
- Tax returns
- Pay stubs or proof of income
- Bank statements
- Other financial or supporting documents
Work out parental issues with your spouse
If you and your spouse have minor children, you will need to address allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. These terms refer to the right to make important decisions for the child and to spend time with the child. The goal of family law courts is always to decide in the best interests of the child. Your divorce lawyer can assist you in reaching an agreement with your spouse or represent you in mediation.
Discovery — exchanging information with your spouse
Parties in a divorce request and exchange information with each other, often financial in nature. This process is known as discovery. The purpose is to provide both sides with complete information to facilitate the best decisions to move toward settlement or trial.
Reach a settlement or go to trial
If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all the principal issues in your divorce, you can present a settlement agreement to the court for approval. Issues to resolve include property division, spousal maintenance, and all parental matters. If you and your spouse cannot agree on any or all issues, your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will present arguments to the court in trial. The judge will rule on unresolved issues and include those rulings in your divorce decree.
At Beermann LLP in Chicago and the Chicagoland area, our divorce lawyers are known for achieving top-notch results for our clients. We are the law firm other attorneys go to for their divorce.