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What is Collaborative Divorce in Illinois and Do I Need a Lawyer?

Divorce can be one of the most emotional and financially taxing events in a person’s life. Not only must you make sense of a failed intimate relationship, but you may also be doing so under diminished capacity. You’re simply not yourself during a divorce. Before, you were confident, reasonable, fair-minded, and thoughtful. Now it may take everything you have just to get out of bed. In addition, you may be experiencing shame, confusion, uncertainty about the future, and anger. Unfortunately, the legal system and expectations of others frequently spur us to act in ways that are not in our long-term best interests. From the moment you place your first call to a divorce attorney, you are conditioned to think of divorce as a zero-sum game in which only one party can emerge victorious. As a result, divorcing parties frequently make shortsighted decisions based on emotions rather than reason. Consequently, contested divorces often serve no one, including your children.  In sum, divorces are expensive. They cause emotional scarring. And they frequently fail to provide for the future. As a solution, Illinois divorce law recognizes collaborative divorce as a viable alternative to going to war. What Is a Collaborative Divorce in Illinois? The Illinois Collaborative Process Act (ICPA) defines “collaborative process” as a “procedure intended to resolve a collaborative process matter without intervention by a court.” While the parties may have a serious conflict with each other, a collaborative divorce removes the matter from the traditional adversary system. There is no invasive discovery. There are no antagonistic depositions. More importantly, there is no unpredictable trial. In general, collaborative divorces have two distinguishing characteristics: Both parties agree to resolve all issues in a manner that is both respectful and amicable outside of the courtroom. The parties are each represented by a collaborative divorce attorney. Do I Need an Attorney to Get a Collaborative Divorce? No law prohibits you from representing yourself in a collaborative divorce. However, it is not advised. Unlike you, a collaborative attorney does not have a personal stake in your divorce. This means that their judgment will not be influenced by emotions. Furthermore, collaborative attorneys go through special training to become collaborative divorce lawyers. This is in addition to the general training required to become a lawyer. Collaborative divorce attorneys are well-versed in turning win-lose divorces into win-win settlements. Should you be uncomfortable with a certain term of your divorce, collaborative divorce lawyers will zealously advocate to change it for your benefit.  How Does the Collaborative Process Work? In general, the collaborative process consists of a series of meetings during which the parties’ attorneys cooperate to provide a structured, non-adversarial environment. This can help the parties see eye-to-eye on issues such as property division and parenting time.  Once the parties agree to attempt a collaborative divorce, they, along with their lawyers, sign a participation agreement. This agreement commits the parties to try to resolve all marital issues in accordance with collaborative principles. Rather than focus on each party’s respective rights and entitlements, the collaborative process focuses on each party’s specific needs and interests as well as the needs and interests of any children of the marriage. Once you reach an agreement, the collaborative lawyers draft the necessary paperwork and submit the written agreement to the court for approval and entry of judgment.  In addition to lawyers, parties going through a collaborative divorce frequently employ a team of professionals who are experts in a specific aspect of the divorce. These specialists often include divorce coaches, family specialists, and financial planners.   Divorce Coaches Divorce coaches help collaborating parties deal with the emotional aspects of divorce. They advise clients on how to set and achieve goals for the divorce. While neither a therapist nor social worker, a divorce coach instructs the parties on effective communication skills during negotiations as well as coping strategies. In addition, divorce coaches serve as go-betweens if communication breaks down during settlement negotiations.  Family Specialist Family specialists are common in collaborative divorces where the parties have minor children. They help the parties reach a fair agreement concerning issues like parenting time and the allocation of decision-making authority. In addition, family specialists work with the parties to develop the communication skills necessary for effective co-parenting. Financial Specialist Parties to a collaborative divorce commonly use financial specialists to assist with the identification, valuation, and division of marital property. The financial specialist takes into consideration the parties’ specific needs and interests to determine alternative ways to divide the assets. In addition, financial specialists assist in completing relevant court-mandated documentation, such as financial disclosure forms.  What Happens If the Parties Still Disagree on One or More Issues? In a collaborative divorce, the parties’ lawyers have an incentive to facilitate a compromise. In the event the parties and their attorneys fail to reach a settlement, the collaborative divorce process terminates, and the parties will have to go to court. In this event, the Illinois Collaborative Process Act requires both attorneys, and their respective law firms, to cease representation. Collaborative divorce attorneys are prohibited from representing the parties if the case goes to litigation. Is a Collaborative Divorce Right for Me? Collaborative divorce is not for everyone. Collaborative divorce may not be possible where the parties refuse to work together. In addition, the upfront costs are generally more than for a traditional divorce. This is because the parties must pay for the time of the various collaborative divorce experts. This typically includes retaining a divorce coach, financial specialist, and family specialist. In collaborative divorces involving significant assets, parties commonly pay even more to hire business valuation experts and estate planning attorneys. However, the cost of a collaborative divorce pales in comparison to the costs of litigation.   Contact an Experienced Collaborative Divorce Attorney Who Can Help You Understand Your Options Collaborative divorce helps you make good decisions during a bad time. If you can work together with your spouse, then a collaborative divorce can save you a lot of stress and heartache. Finding an effective attorney...

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How To Get a Divorce in Illinois

Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. In addition to losing a cherished relationship, one must navigate a complex and uncertain legal process. For short marriages with no children and minimal assets, the State of Illinois provides guidance documents to assist in getting the process started. Divorce with children or shared significant assets is a different matter. If you wish to learn more about divorce in Illinois, the following should help you establish a basic understanding of what the process looks like, and what you should do next. What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Illinois? Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), fault-based divorce has been eliminated. In a divorce in Illinois, there is only one ground for dissolution: Petitioners must allege that irreconcilable differences have caused the breakdown of the marriage. This applies whether the divorce is contested by the other party or not. What is Uncontested Divorce in Illinois? When the parties can remain amicable and work together, they may be able to get an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties agree to all aspects of the property division and, if they have children, agree to all aspects of the custody order, parenting plan, and child support schedule. An uncontested divorce can save both parties significant time, stress, and financial resources. Moreover, in Illinois, there is no waiting period for an uncontested divorce. If the parties agree on everything, they can move on with their lives once the court signs off on the property and/or childcare matters. Note that Illinois residency requirements still apply. One or both of the parties must have lived in the state for at least 90 days before filing. Looking for guidance on getting a divorce in IL? You’re in the right place. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   What is Contested Divorce in Illinois? Once a spouse receives the divorce papers, they have 30 days to respond. If they choose not to respond, the court will likely adopt the other spouse’s proposed property division and parenting plan. If their response is timely and the parties disagree as to the division of marital property or matters involving the child, they will have to go to court. The court will most likely order the parties to mediation to see if they can negotiate an agreement. If no agreement is reached, the parties will have to have a hearing, and the court will decide. Under Illinois law, a court must enter its judgment of dissolution of marriage within 60 days of the close of the hearing. The Basics of Division of Marital Assets and Debts in Illinois Divorce One of the most important matters addressed in divorce is property division. Sometimes this process is governed by a prenuptial agreement signed by the parties before marriage. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, the spouses can agree as to how to divide up their property in a written settlement agreement. Should the division of property become contested, a court will have to decide through a process called “equitable division.” This means an Illinois court will divide assets and debts based on what is fair, not necessarily what is equal. In a divorce in Illinois, courts do not take fault into consideration when dividing marital property.  What Is Marital Property? Only property classified as “marital property” is subject to equitable division. Marital property includes nearly all assets and debts acquired from the date of marriage. This includes income, retirement accounts, houses, cars, appreciation of assets, and credit card debt. What Is Separate Property?  Under Illinois divorce laws, the following typically constitute separate property: Property acquired after a judgment of legal separation; Property excluded by valid agreement; Property acquired before the marriage; and  Property acquired through inheritance or gift. Separate property is not subject to equitable division. However, a court may take a party’s separate property into account when deciding how to equitably divide the marital property.  Determining Parental Responsibilities in Illinois Divorce Upon filing for divorce, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) requires the court to determine the “parental responsibilities” of the parents. This includes allocating significant decision-making responsibility and parenting time. Significant Decision-Making Responsibility  “Significant decision-making responsibility” refers to the legal authority of parents in Illinois to make major decisions impacting the child’s life. When allocating significant decision-making responsibility, Illinois divorce courts consider a list of factors to help determine whether a particular allocation is in “the best interest of the child.” These factors include: The wishes of the child (assuming the child is of sufficient age and maturity to share a reasoned and independent preference);  The child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community; The mental health and physical health of the child and parents;   The parents’ willingness to cooperate in the day-to-day decision-making for the child; Each parents’ history of making significant decisions that impact the child; Past conduct or agreement of the parents relating to decision-making for the child; The preferences of the parents; The child’s needs; The distance between the parents’ homes, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, and everyone’s day-to-day schedule;  Whether a parent has engaged in behavior that seriously endangered the child; The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and other parent; Whether either parent has made threats of violence to the child;  The presence of abuse to the child or another member of the child’s family.  Whether a parent is a sex offender; and Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant. Courts typically award significant decision-making responsibility to both parents unless such an award is not in the child’s best interest. An example would be if one parent has endangered the child in any way. Courts award significant decision-making responsibility in four general categories: extracurricular activities, health, religion, and education.  Parenting Time Parenting time refers to the amount of day-to-day and overnight time each parent has...

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| Read Time: 9 minutes | Divorce

Low-Cost Lawyer for Uncontested Divorce in Chicago

Yes, There Are Good Options for Hiring a Low-Cost Divorce Lawyer in Chicago Let’s face it—divorce can be a complicated topic.  Nobody goes into a marriage thinking it will result in divorce later on. Nevertheless, couples choose to end their marriages for a variety of different reasons.  Regardless of their reasons, parties often want to keep divorce proceedings as quick and cost-effective as possible. Hiring an attorney for your divorce can actually be one of the best ways to achieve these goals. Are you considering an uncontested divorce in Chicago or looking for affordable divorce lawyers in Chicago? If so, contact Vantage Group Legal today. Our team of professionals can help connect you with divorce attorneys in the area for one low monthly fee. Give us a call today to learn more about our unique services. We’ll provide you with a free divorce consultation to discuss how we can help you save both time and money. Low-Cost Options for Divorce in Chicago, Illinois As with any other legal process, a divorce has the potential to be expensive and time-consuming. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. In fact, there are a few options in which a low-cost divorce might not be outside the realm of possibility.  File for Divorce Without the Assistance of an Attorney Of course, one way to achieve a cheap divorce in Chicago is to attempt to navigate the process on your own without the assistance of a divorce lawyer. However, this is generally not recommended.  The fact remains that a divorce is a legal process with specific requirements and deadlines. If you are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the process, you can miss key steps.  This could lead to the other party obtaining a more favorable outcome. And if the other party to divorce has an attorney, while you do not, this can make matters even more difficult.  Ultimately, proceeding without an attorney could result in a more costly divorce in the long run. Hire a Cheap Divorce Lawyer in Chicago Another low-cost divorce option is to hire a cheap divorce attorney to assist with your case.  This might be a better option than proceeding with a divorce without the assistance of an attorney whatsoever. However, be wary as you make your selection.  Don’t just select the first option that comes up after a quick internet search for “cheap divorce lawyers in Illinois.” By doing so, you may risk sacrificing valuable experience and quality, both of which are crucial in a divorce proceeding. So don’t limit yourself to only the cheapest divorce lawyers in the area—make sure to carefully vet your potential candidates first and select the best divorce attorney for you – someone that has the skills and resources necessary to take on your case.  Use an Affordable Divorce Lawyer in Chicago to Help you File for an Uncontested Divorce Another great option to keep your divorce affordable is to file for an uncontested divorce in Chicago. In situations where there is little to no animosity between the parties, an uncontested divorce might be a way to keep your divorce costs relatively low. If the parties agree on how to handle all aspects of the divorce, this can make the filing process much simpler and can reduce the amount of time and money required to finalize the divorce.  Of course, uncontested divorce in Chicago may not be a viable option in all cases. Speak with a divorce attorney today to discuss your options and see if an uncontested divorce might be right for you and your situation.  Uncontested Divorce in Chicago Sometimes, couples simply grow apart for one reason or another. And while the parties may agree that staying married is not the best decision moving forward, they may not have any animosity toward each other.  In these situations, an uncontested divorce in Chicago can be a great low-cost option. What Is Uncontested Divorce?  So what exactly is an “uncontested” divorce in Chicago?  The ultimate goal of an uncontested divorce is to finalize the entire divorce through a settlement that both parties agree to. However, it is important to note that in an uncontested divorce, the parties must agree on all aspects of the divorce. This means that the parties must agree on:  – Child custody,– Where the child(ren) will live,– Child support,– Division of assets and debts, and – Alimony, or “spousal maintenance.” If both parties can’t agree on how to resolve all aspects of the divorce, an uncontested divorce might not be attainable. If they can, however, this can be a great way to keep costs, and tensions, low.  How Uncontested Divorce in Chicago Might Also Mean a Cheap Divorce in Chicago The ultimate outcome in an uncontested divorce in Chicago is that the parties finalize their divorce without the need for a trial or all the various filings and litigiousness that can be required in a traditional contested divorce.  By avoiding these extra steps, the parties are able to terminate the marriage without the need for the additional time and expense that litigation frequently requires. Thus, parties to an uncontested divorce are more easily able to afford an attorney.  If no trial or trial preparation is necessary, the attorney need only focus on advising their client throughout the process and filing the requisite paperwork to effectuate the divorce. This makes having an attorney for your divorce a much more viable option. Do Chicago Family Law Lawyers Give Free Consultations? If you’re searching for a Chicago attorney to represent you in divorce and/or child custody matters, you’re probably wondering whether you’ll get a free consultation. The answer is, it depends on the lawyer. The most common scenario is for family law attorneys to charge you for the initial consultation, and then simply apply that cost towards your retainer, if you indeed hire them. For example, if a Chicago divorce attorney provides you with a 1-hour consultation, and their hourly rate is $250, you could expect to be billed $250. However, that amount would then be deducted from the attorney’s...

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Illinois Child Custody Laws

If you have children, you know that what happens to your kids is the main concern when there are significant changes to your family. Whether you have a child with someone to whom you are not married, or you’re going through a divorce with children, understanding Illinois child custody laws can help you make the best plans for raising your child. Are you looking for information on Illinois custody laws for unmarried parents? Click here. Facing a child custody dispute in Illinois? You’re in the right place. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747 How Is Child Custody Determined Under Illinois Law? New custody laws in Illinois have changed the terminology we use when discussing child custody. We currently say “decision-making responsibility” instead of “legal custody” and we say “parenting time” instead of “visitation.” Together, these parental rights are called parental responsibilities, and custody determinations are called an allocation of parental responsibilities.  Whether determining parenting time or decision-making responsibilities, Illinois judges make their custody determinations based on what is in the best interests of your child.  Determining Parenting Time Under Illinois law, parenting time means the time during which a parent is responsible for taking care of the child, and for making non-significant decisions for the child. When the court determines parenting time based on the best interests of the child it considers many factors including: The wishes of each parent; The wishes of the child; The amount of parenting time each parent had in the 24 months before a custody petition was filed; Prior arrangements between the parents; Prior courses of conduct from both parents; The child’s interactions with each parent, sibling, and other significant people; The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; The mental and physical health of everyone involved; The child’s needs; The distance between the parents’ residences; The child’s schedule; The parents’ ability to cooperate; The sex offender status of the parent and anyone in their home, including the status of related treatments; The terms of military family-care plans a parent must complete before deployment; and Any other relevant factor. The court does not normally restrict parenting time unless you can prove that it is more likely than not that parenting time would seriously endanger your child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.  Not every parent who receives parenting time has the right to make significant decisions for their child, but each parent has the sole responsibility to make routine and emergency healthcare decisions for the child during their parenting time. Determining Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities Whichever parent has significant decision-making responsibilities makes decisions for the child regarding matters such as:  Education (including choice of teachers and schools); Healthcare (including mental healthcare); Religion; and  Extracurricular activities. The courts prefer that co-parents work together to reach child-rearing decisions. But if you cannot or will not work together to come to an express or implied agreement regarding your child’s upbringing, the judge will be forced to make many decisions for you. However, if you do not have evidence for the judge regarding an agreement as to your child’s religious upbringing, a judge cannot allocate decision-making responsibilities to either parent regarding religion.  When a judge allocates decision-making to one or both parents, they base their decision on the best interests of the child, considering the following factors: The wishes of the child; The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; The mental and physical health of everyone involved; The ability of each parent to cooperate; The level of each parent’s decision-making participation; Prior agreements between the parents; Prior courses of conduct by the parents; The wishes of the parents; The needs of the child; The distance between the parents’ residences; The child’s schedule; The appropriateness of restricting decision-making responsibilities; The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage and foster the child’s relationship with the other parent;  Threats of violence or actual violence against the child;  Abuse against the child or a member of the child’s household; The sex offender status of a parent and any related treatments; and Any other relevant factor. When determining parenting time and significant decision-making responsibilities, the court cannot consider the conduct of a parent unless that conduct affects the child. There are many factors that come into play in custody determinations, and an experienced family lawyer can help make child custody proceedings as smooth and just as possible.   When Illinois Law Determines the Custody of a Child Illinois law allows married and unmarried parents to petition the court for the allocation of parental responsibilities. You can initiate proceedings to make this determination by filing for dissolution of a marriage (married parents) or by filing a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities (unmarried parents).  Proceedings Under Illinois Child Custody Laws for Divorcing Parents If you are a parent going through a divorce, you initiate proceedings to allocate parental responsibilities when you or your spouse files a petition to dissolve the marriage. You and your spouse have 120 days from the date of filing the petition to file a proposed parenting plan. You can file this plan jointly or separately, and it must include decisions regarding: Allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities; Living arrangements; Parenting time; A mediation provision for any proposed reallocations of parenting time; A mediation provision regarding the terms of allocation of parental responsibilities; Rights to access healthcare records; school records, extracurricular records, reports, and schedules; Designation of the parent with majority parenting time; The child’s residential address for school enrollment purposes; The residential address, phone number, and employment information for each parent; A requirement for 60 days’ notice for changes of address; Provisions for notifying the other parent about emergencies, healthcare, travel plans, and other significant child-related matters; Provisions for communicating with the child during the other parent’s time; Provisions to address future relocations; Provisions for future modifications of the parenting plan when specific events happen; Provisions for a parent’s right of first refusal; and Any other provisions regarding the best interests of the child or fostering cooperation between the parents....

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How Much Is a Divorce in Illinois?

Divorce in Illinois is expensive. At Vantage Group Legal, we can help you do get it done for less. Worrying about how much a divorce costs in Illinois adds to that emotion and stress. While no one may know what your divorce will ultimately cost, carefully considering the following factors may provide guidance. Understanding where to place your priorities and what fees may be unavoidable in the process minimizes the risk of surprises and assists in managing your expectations.  What are the Costs Involved With Divorce in Illinois? Initial Fees for an Illinois Divorce Even if you and your ex-spouse mutually agree to end your marriage based on irreconcilable differences, unavoidable fees make up part of the average divorce cost in Illinois.  You must file your petition for divorce in the county where you reside. The average cost to file for divorce in Illinois varies from county to county. For example, in Cook County, parties are responsible for paying the following costs for processing a divorce: $337 to open a case and file for divorce, $206 to respond if your ex-spouse files for divorce first,  $60 to have the sheriff serve your spouse with a copy of filings, and  $50 to attend FOCUS on children, court-ordered parenting classes.  These fees may seem minimal, but they typically make up only a portion of the divorce cost in Illinois.  Looking to keep your Illinois divorce costs down? You’re in the right place. Call us 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   Divorce Attorney Retainer Many attorneys require clients to pay a retainer payment. A retainer payment is an advance deposit paid initially to hire the attorney. While the average retainer payment varies from attorney to attorney, retainer payments increase how much it costs to file for divorce in Illinois. Most attorneys require retainer payments to pay for court fees, attorney fees, and other expenses arising in your case. Retainer payments rarely constitute the total divorce costs in Illinois.  Divorce Attorney Hourly Rate  The hourly rate of any potential attorney you hire affects how much a divorce costs in Illinois. For example, even simple issues increase the average cost of your divorce in Illinois if your attorney charges a high hourly rate. Suppose the complexity of your dissolution requires multiple court hearings, trials, and conferences with the attorney representing your ex-spouse. This can increase your divorce costs in Illinois exponentially.  When your potential divorce cost in Illinois represents a significant concern, it’s essential to utilize your attorney’s assistance strategically. You do not want to call your attorney for every little thing, but only legal matters for which you require help and advice.  Other Factors That Affect the Cost of Divorce in Illinois Multiple factors significantly increase the divorce cost in Illinois. Determining whether these factors may come into play in your dissolution process may prepare you for potential costs to consider. Trial When unable to resolve issues, your attorney must represent your interest at trial. A trial requires significant preparation by your attorney and can be expensive. Children When the parties have minor children, the cost of divorce in Illinois often skyrockets. Disputes often arise due to disagreements over child support, child custody, and visitation. Parties may save on the average cost of divorce in Illinois if they agree on issues about the children.  Property When parties own property or multiple pieces of property, divorce costs in Illinois increase. Parties unable to reach an agreement regarding property division must rely on the court to determine who gets what—reaching an agreement as to property division out of court assists in reducing the cost of divorce in Illinois.  Mediation may be an option for parties unable to reach an agreement on multiple issues about their divorce. To save on the divorce cost in Illinois, a skilled mediator may provide solutions to disagreements between parties.  What are the Grounds for Divorce in Illinois?  The type of divorce you pursue can affect the divorce cost in Illinois. The degree to which you are able to cooperate with your spouse will help determine how much a divorce costs in Illinois.  No-Fault Dissolution Formerly, Illinois permitted a spouse to file for dissolution of marriage on fault-based grounds. The grounds for fault-based dissolution included infidelity, cruelty, abandonment, and many others. However, as of January 1, 2016, Illinois legislation eliminated fault-based dissolution and now permits parties to file for divorce under irreconcilable differences. Therefore, a party may file for dissolution of the marriage simply by representing that the marriage is an irretrievably broken union with no hope for reconciliation between the parties. The court then must find that the reconciliation efforts by the parties failed and future attempts to reconcile are impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.  Proving irreconcilable differences requires a showing that the parties have lived apart for at least six months. Once parties establish the six-month separation, the court presumes satisfaction of the irreconcilability requirement. Additionally, you may receive a divorce decree with no waiting period if both parties agree to irreconcilable differences. When both parties agree to irreconcilable differences, this may substantially reduce the cost of your divorce in Illinois. However, even if your spouse disagrees, you may still receive a divorce decree after the six months have passed.  Collaborative Divorce  Collaborative divorce provides another option for cost-sensitive parties and operates similarly to mediation. Attorneys work to resolve differences between parties. Upon resolution, the attorneys draft an agreement reflecting the resolution reached by the parties. Collaborative divorce significantly decreases the average cost of divorce in Illinois by reducing court involvement. How Can Vantage Group Legal Help You?  Vantage Group Legal understands the stress and emotions associated with divorce. We help clients find the best divorce attorney for them! Call our office to discuss your case either in person or virtually with one of our in-house attorneys. In this initial consultation, you advise us of your goals and any concerns you may have regarding divorce costs in Illinois. We then provide a clear plan...

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Hiring a Cook County Divorce Lawyer

There are many life-altering factors to consider when filing for divorce. Where do you live? Who takes care of the kids? How do you adjust to a single-income household that depends solely on you? These are questions you should not have to answer alone, and you should not have to fight for your rights to property, parenting time, and support by yourself. The experienced network attorneys at Vantage Group Legal Services can answer your questions and fight for your rights in Cook County divorce proceedings.  What Happens During a Divorce in Cook County? Some spouses enter an agreement to split assets and parenting time after a divorce. If an agreement between spouses is not unconscionable, the court approves the agreement, and the agreement becomes enforceable. If the spouses cannot come to a reasonable agreement, or cannot come to an agreement at all regarding support, the division of assets, and parenting time, the court holds a hearing on the matters and decides each party’s rights and obligations.  In divorce proceedings, the court makes decisions about rights affecting many different areas of your life, including: Your rights to marital property such as housing, bank accounts, retirement funds, and other property acquired during the marriage; Your obligations to pay debts incurred during the marriage; Your rights to make significant decisions for your children, such as child custody, healthcare, schooling, religion, and extracurricular activities; Your rights to have parenting time with your children; Your rights to receive child support; Your obligations to pay child support; and Your right to receive spousal maintenance based on your economic and personal circumstances. Whether you have an agreement with your spouse or you submit your case to the courts, inviting the legal process into your personal life is daunting.  Each of your family law rights depends on your economic circumstances, your needs, your spouse’s needs, your child’s needs, the nature of your relationships before filing for divorce, and the personal characteristics of you, your spouse, and your family. The court looks at these factors to decide whether awards of support and property are just. The court also looks at these factors to determine if allocations of parental responsibilities are in your children’s best interests.  How Can a Cook County Attorney Help Me in a Divorce? The best divorce lawyer for you will help you in multiple ways including: Protecting your rights and holding your spouse accountable in initial divorce proceedings and agreement negotiations; Arguing to enforce the rights you received in an agreement or judgment of dissolution of marriage; and  Arguing to modify your rights and obligations in a divorce judgment when circumstances change.  A Cook County divorce attorney knows what information to gather and how to present your case to your spouse and the court to maximize your rights in a divorce.  Protecting Your Rights in an Initial Divorce Judgment Winning the appropriate rights in an initial divorce judgment is very important because some rights are hard to change after the fact. If you enter an agreement with your spouse regarding parenting and property rights and the court approves your agreement, you cannot modify the portions of the agreement regarding the division of property. In many cases, you cannot modify an order allocating significant decision-making responsibilities for your child until two years have passed. Cook county divorce lawyers can review your case and determine what you need in the long term and how to get it before the court enters its judgment. Enforcing Your Rights in a Divorce Judgment In a divorce, you must prove that irreconcilable differences caused an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage and efforts at reconciliation have failed or wouldn’t be in the family’s best interest. If you and your spouse are at this point, there’s a good chance you have a hard time communicating and cooperating with each other. Unfortunately, the lack of communication and cooperation may continue after your divorce is final. Your spouse may not comply with their obligations to pay support or let you have your parenting time. If your spouse fails to fulfill their obligations in a divorce judgment, an attorney can help you enforce those obligations.  Modifying Your Rights and Obligations in a Divorce Judgment If your circumstances change and you cannot comply with the obligations or terms of your divorce judgment, you have options. Do not suffer in silence or risk sanctions from the court for noncompliance. An experienced family law attorney can ask the court to modify the terms in your divorce judgment. Contact an Attorney Today The family law attorneys at Vantage Group Legal Services are experienced, affordable, and eager to help you through every step of your divorce case. We understand that divorces are hard and complicated. We simplify the divorce process as much as possible and work to get you the best results in these life-altering proceedings. Contact us online or call us at 773-232-6892 for a free consultation.

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Getting a Divorce in Cook County, IL

Divorces are unfortunate and raise lots of questions and concerns. If you are thinking of filing for divorce in Cook County, you are probably asking, What happens next?  When you file for a divorce, you, your spouse, and the court must make decisions about what happens to your assets, finances, and children after you part ways. Illinois law has very specific ways of determining where the assets go and who has what responsibilities for the children. These determinations take into account the many unique details of your life. An experienced Cook County divorce attorney can help you highlight the important details to achieve the best outcome for you and your family in a Cook County divorce.  How to File for Divorce in Cook County Before filing for divorce in Cook County, you must determine if Illinois has jurisdiction to make a decision about your divorce. Illinois has jurisdiction to enter judgment on your divorce if you have been a resident of the state or stationed in the state by the military for at least 90 days. You can then file for divorce in Cook County if you or your spouse are residents of the county.  Initiating Divorce Proceedings Once you establish proper jurisdiction and the proper county for filing, you commence divorce proceedings by filing a demand for summons regarding the divorce and paying filing fees. You can file your petition for dissolution of marriage with your demand, but if you do not, you have to file your petition within six months of filing your demand for summons.  Within two days of filing your petition, you have to have your spouse served with a copy of the petition. Normally, the sheriff in your county serves your spouse with your petition and summons, but you can have your spouse served by publication in special circumstances. Service is how you give your spouse notice of your filing.  Dissolution Without Trial If you and your spouse can agree on all matters regarding the disposition of your property, spousal support, child support, parental responsibilities, and responsibilities for any pets, you can submit your written agreement to the court. Your agreement binds the court on all divorce matters (except for parental responsibilities) unless the court finds that the agreement is unconscionable because of the parties’ circumstances and evidence. If the judge signs off on your agreement, it is enforceable just like a contract. Hereafter, you or your spouse can be held in contempt of court for not following the agreement. If the court finds your agreement unconscionable, it may allow you and your spouse to revise the agreement, or the court may enter its own decisions after holding a hearing. If you and your spouse choose to enter an agreement, remember that while agreement terms on child support are modifiable, property dispositions are not.   Dissolution with Trial If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to resolve all divorce matters, your case goes to trial and the judge makes the determinations. After an evidentiary hearing, the court normally enters a judgment on the dissolution of the marriage within 60 to 90 days.  How the Court Divides Assets When dividing assets in a divorce, the court allows each party to keep their non-marital property and divides marital property according to what it thinks is just.  Division of Marital Property Marital property is all property and other obligations that either spouse acquires during the marriage. Marital property includes debt. When determining who gets what marital property, the court considers the following: Each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, increase in value, or decrease in value of the property; Each spouse’s dissipation of the property; The value of the property assigned to each spouse; The duration of the marriage; The economic circumstances of each spouse; Which spouse has the primary residence of the child (significant when awarding the family home);  Any obligations and rights from prior marriages; Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements; The status of each spouse, including age, health, station, occupation, income, resources, skills, employability, liabilities, and needs; Child custody; Spousal maintenance received; Future financial opportunities; and Tax consequences. The court values the marital property using its fair market value as of the date of trial, a date you agree on with your spouse, or a date the court determines at its discretion. Non-Marital Property Non-marital property is generally property you acquired before your marriage or property you received during your marriage by gift, legacy, or descent. If you commingle your non-marital property with marital property, your non-marital property might become marital and subject to division. There are many more nuances to determining whether your property is marital or non-marital in a divorce. A divorce lawyer can help you apply those nuances so you can put your best foot forward in court.   How the Court Determines Child Custody and Child Support Child custody has two components under Illinois law: parenting time, and significant decision-making responsibilities. Together, these two components are called “parental responsibilities.” If you are divorcing and have children with your spouse, the court allocates parental responsibilities between you and your spouse. The court determines parental responsibilities based on what is in the best interests of your child.  There are many factors that determine what is in the best interests of your child. The court may consider your child’s wishes, your child’s needs, your needs and characteristics, your spouse’s needs and characteristics, and the relationships you and your spouse have with your child when determining which parent receives what responsibilities. You and your spouse can enter a written, signed agreement regarding child custody. The court approves your agreement if it is in the best interests of your child.  The court determines child support based on an “income shares” model. This model determines support by looking at the typical cost of raising a child in a family with the same combined income and amount of children. Who Has a Right to Spousal Maintenance? Spousal maintenance (or “alimony”) is not automatic in a divorce. The court looks to...

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Divorce

How to Find the Best Divorce Lawyer in Chicago

If you are facing divorce, you know you need competent representation. Here, we’ll give advice on how to find the best Chicago divorce lawyer for you. When facing divorce, it’s common for folks to head over to Google and search something like “best divorce lawyer” or “top divorce attorneys”. This is not a bad place to start your search. However, it’s important to understand that there is really no objective measure of who the “best” Chicago divorce lawyers are. The truth is, there are lots of highly qualified attorneys who would do a great job representing you. The best thing you can do as you choose bring the process of finding a divorce lawyer is to consider what traits and qualities would make a given attorney the best one for you. Below we provided the top things to consider when searching for a divorce attorney in Chicago, as well as the qualities common in the top attorneys. Looking for a personal referral for a divorce lawyer? That’s exactly what we provide. Call 24/7 for a free consultation: (773) 938-4747   Things to Consider When Looking for a Divorce Lawyer There are several factors to consider when determining how to find the best divorce attorney in Chicago. Many have misconceptions about the divorce process and may feel apprehensive about hiring an attorney. Finding one of the top-rated divorce attorneys in Chicago may sound difficult; however, narrowing down your options based on the following criteria ensures you find the right fit for you.  Research  Start with a search of attorneys in your area and locate attorneys serving the Cook County area. Narrow your choices of top divorce lawyers in Chicago to those with a focused portion of their practice dedicated to family law. You may research through typical internet search engines, social media, and even local Chicago magazines. Additionally, discussions with friends and colleagues may offer insight into their own experiences with specific firms. Often others provide quality advice regarding the top divorce lawyers in Chicago.  Vantage Group Legal does all the research for you! When you subscribe to Vantage Group Legal, we get to work for you. Vantage Group Legal matches you with an in-area attorney best-suited for your legal needs through our extensive attorney network with a minimum of seven years of experience in their designated field. Rest assured that Vantage Legal Group finds you one of the top divorce attorneys in Chicago.    Be Realistic  Top divorce attorneys in Chicago lay out the reality of the dissolution process in Illinois. Your assigned attorney will review all necessary information regarding your dissolution. Our network attorneys understand the stress and emotion related to divorce. Our top-rated divorce attorneys in Chicago also work to carefully set expectations to ensure you don’t experience negative surprises throughout the process.   Budget  When determining the best divorce attorney in Chicago, it’s also essential to deal with your budgetary limitations. Even if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse get along well, issues may arise through the divorce process to create tension and disagreements. The inability of you and your ex-spouse to resolve your problems efficiently may result in higher legal fees. Vantage Group Legal works to address these concerns through our unique service. Our potential client meets with our in-house counsel to discuss the facts of their case. When you decide to subscribe to our service, our in-house lawyers study your case to match you with a specialized network attorney. We provide one simple monthly payment to include your lawyer, support fees, and more.  Goals Vantage Group Legal provides clients with a free consultation to discuss your goals throughout your dissolution process and how we can best serve those goals. If you and your ex-spouse have no children and relatively simple finances, you may wish to explore a more simple dissolution process. Illinois provides two options for parties wanting to dissolve their marriage: fault-based and no-fault. No-Fault Dissolution In no-fault dissolutions, there exists no requirement to prove that your ex-spouse caused the breakdown of the marriage. Many may opt for a no-fault dissolution if they amicably decide to end their marriage. When you speak to a top divorce attorney in Chicago, they may advise this as a cost-saving option. When both parties agree regarding all aspects of the dissolution, both save substantial sums of money otherwise spent in court.  When one party files for no-fault dissolution in Illinois, they must prove that they have been living separately for at least two years. If both parties agree to a no-fault divorce, Illinois laws require proof of living separately for only six months.  The term “separate” implies the parties must live apart. However, any of the top divorce attorneys in Chicago know that parties can satisfy the separation requirement even if they live together if they behave more like roommates than spouses.  Fault-Based Dissolution As of January 1, 2016, the State of Illinois eliminated fault-based dissolutions. Previously, filing for a fault-based dissolution required one party to claim a ground for divorce. Despite the elimination of fault-based dissolutions, one may still file under the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Once you establish a six-month separation from your ex-spouse, the presumption of irreconcilable differences is proven. Additionally, if you and your spouse agree to have irreconcilable differences, Illinois law eliminates the six-month waiting period. Contact a top divorce attorney in Chicago to determine whether the facts of your case may speed up your dissolution process through agreement of irreconcilable differences. What Qualities Should I Look for in a Divorce Lawyer?  When you meet with your potential divorce lawyer, consider the qualities you hope for in a divorce lawyer. Going through a divorce constitutes an emotionally and financially taxing process. The best divorce lawyer in Chicago will prioritize your goals, understand your budget, and focus on the most critical issues.  Communication Clear and easy communication with your attorney is vital to resolving matters related to your divorce. The top divorce attorneys in Chicago communicate all aspects of your case to you while providing you with realistic...

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| Read Time: 6 minutes | Divorce

What Happens When You File for Divorce First?

When you file for divorce first, you become the plaintiff in the case. This means that you may have a bit more control over the case. For example, the plaintiff can drop the case as long as they do so before the defendant’s spouse files an answer. Timing Advantages of Filing First Assuming that your spouse is not also rushing to file for divorce, filing first can let you choose the timing of the divorce. If you want to contact a lawyer before you file, filing first can allow you to set up legal representation before the divorce proceeding is initiated. Hiring a lawyer before filing can prevent your spouse from using the tactic of “conflicting out.” This occurs when one spouse meets with several divorce lawyers about the divorce proceeding, creating a conflict of interest that prevents those lawyers from representing you. Obviously, this is a spiteful tactic, and it is not a common part of a divorce case. In addition, if you live in a major city, it is just not possible for your spouse to meet with enough attorneys to significantly limit your options for representation.  Hiring a lawyer before filing still has advantages. You will not feel rushed during the hiring process if a case has not yet been filed. This will allow you to take your time, ask your potential attorney questions, and find out if you really want them to represent you. Choosing Your Jurisdiction Filing for divorce before your spouse may give you some control over the jurisdiction of your divorce. While there are rules determining where you can file, if you and your spouse live in different states or if you have a secondary residence, you may have some options. Each state has its own divorce law, so there could be an advantage to choosing one state over another. For example, there are three different formulas that states use to determine the amount of child support payments. These different formulas can result in different sums of monthly child support. If you want to make sure your child receives the maximum possible financial support, you may want to file for divorce in a state that uses one particular formula. As mentioned, you will not have a full range of choices available for a filing jurisdiction. You or your spouse must have some sort of residential connection to a state to file for divorce in that state. Talking to a divorce attorney can help you choose the best available jurisdiction. An experienced lawyer will be able to tell you how the law of a particular state can affect your divorce case. An attorney will discuss the pros and cons of each jurisdiction with you and help you make an informed decision. Automatic Temporary Restraining Order In some jurisdictions, when you file for divorce, an automatic temporary restraining order (ATRO) takes effect. The ATRO prevents both parties from engaging in certain actions during the divorce proceeding. Each state is different, but there are several common types of actions that are prohibited under an ATRO. Property Transfers Neither spouse can sell or otherwise dispose of any property once an ATRO is in place. This applies to both property that each spouse owns separately and marital property that is owned in common. If you think that your spouse might try to empty your shared bank account before filing for divorce, you should consider filing first. The ATRO requires both spouses to agree in writing before any such property transfers occur. If your spouse transfers property in violation of the ATRO, there are legal consequences. Penalties can include a fine or imprisonment. Filing for divorce first is an important step toward protecting your assets if your spouse might try to pull a fast one. Child Custody The ATRO will prevent either spouse from removing any children from the state in which the divorce is pending. Only an agreement in writing between the spouses will allow one parent to move with the children. This prevents one parent from moving the children to a different jurisdiction to try to avoid a custody decision. Policy Coverage In some states, an ATRO prevents either party from changing the beneficiary on any insurance. This includes health insurance. If you rely on your spouse’s health insurance for coverage, an ATRO will make sure you remain a beneficiary while the divorce is pending. Filing first can make sure the ATRO is in place before your spouse can change the beneficiaries on any policies. Plaintiff Advantages When you file for divorce first, you become the plaintiff in the divorce proceeding. Being the plaintiff can be advantageous for a few reasons. Default Judgment Once you file for divorce, your spouse will be served with divorce papers. They then have a certain amount of time to file their answer. If they do not file within the specified time, you may be awarded a default divorce. In a default divorce, the divorce terms that you included in your original filing are more likely to be the legally binding terms of the divorce. It is important to note that default divorces are often overturned. Even if your spouse does not file a reply within the provided window, they have a set period of time to contest the default divorce. If your spouse gives a good reason for their failure to respond in time, the court will overturn the default judgment. This essentially starts the case over as if you had just filed your divorce papers.  Some people filing for divorce may calculate their filing so their spouse has a difficult time filing an answer in time. Tactics like filing while a spouse is on vacation and similar strategies are not common, but they do occur. It is not advisable to use one of these strategies because it is more likely that your spouse will be able to get a default judgment overturned if you filed your divorce papers in bad faith. First to Present Your Case As the plaintiff, if...

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I Need a Divorce Lawyer and Have No Money

Many people need a divorce lawyer but cannot afford to pay expensive legal fees. Fortunately, you may be able to find representation through a local legal aid society or volunteer lawyers organization. Many of these organizations provide low-cost or even free legal services to qualifying individuals. These organizations also offer additional resources that may help you with your divorce. Will I Be Appointed a Lawyer? It is required by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that if you are facing criminal charges, the court must appoint you a lawyer if you cannot afford one. However, this does not usually apply in the divorce context. In custody cases involving minor children, some states will appoint a lawyer on behalf of your children. A judge will usually appoint a lawyer for a child if neither parent is representing the child’s best interests. Unfortunately, there are usually no state-funded, court-appointed attorneys for divorce cases. However, this does not mean that you cannot find free or affordable legal representation elsewhere. Courts in some states will appoint a lawyer to represent a parent in certain child custody cases. For example, if your parental rights are at stake, you may be appointed a lawyer under state law.  Where Should I Look for Help? Everyone knows that getting divorced can be expensive. There are court fees you must pay, and you may need to pay a professional custody evaluator or a mediator. The biggest expense by far is hiring a divorce lawyer. Luckily, various options exist if you are worried about your ability to pay for a divorce attorney. The availability of low cost legal services varies by state. All fifty states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico offer some form of legal assistance to people who are not able to afford to pay a lawyer.  Legal Aid Call the legal aid society in your local area to ask about the kinds of services they offer. Different organizations have different requirements. You may have to earn below a certain income threshold to qualify for services. Additionally, the need for free legal services is often much greater than what the local legal aid society can handle. There may be a waiting list for receiving pro bono legal services from your local legal aid organization. Local Bar Association Each state has a bar association that oversees the certification and qualifications of attorneys practicing in that state. Your state’s bar association may be able to suggest options for free or low-cost representation in your divorce.  Some bar associations can offer you a discounted consultation with an attorney. If your divorce case is relatively simple, this consultation may be all the legal advice you need. Not every divorce requires a lawyer to handle every step of the case. If you and your spouse agree on most of the divorce issues, a consultation may be all you need. However, a divorce with one or more contested issues and any divorce with contested child custody can get complicated. A consultation can still help. The consulting lawyer can help you weigh the pros and cons of representing yourself versus continuing to look for free representation. Once you know what the stakes are, you will be able to make an informed decision. Self-Help Tools Even if you do not qualify for free legal representation through a legal aid society, the organization may still be able to help you. Some legal aid organizations offer self-help tools for people facing legal issues. Self-help tools can include programs designed to help you fill out the forms that the court requires for your divorce. Legal forms in their standard format can be extremely confusing, especially if you don’t have prior experience dealing with the court system. Self-help programs offer a question and answer format to guide you through the process. You will answer the questions the program asks to the best of your ability, and the program will use your answers to fill out the forms.  Before you sit down to fill out your paperwork, take some time to get organized. You will need to know some basic information and some more detailed information about you and your spouse’s assets to complete the paperwork. Set aside some time to review your financial records such as bank statements and mortgage documents. This can help you take stock of the property that you and your spouse own, as well as which property you own jointly versus separately. Once you have gathered all the documentation you think you will need, you are ready to begin the process of filling out your forms. Low-Cost Legal Services Getting legal advice does not always have to involve an expensive law firm. Vantage Group Legal offers a subscription service that you can tailor to your needs. After an initial free consultation, you can opt to subscribe to Vantage Group Legal’s services. An attorney who is experienced in divorce law or other relevant matters will be assigned to your case. Vantage Group Legal offers a low-cost alternative to traditional law firms. What Are Some Other Options? If your spouse is easily able to afford an attorney and you are not, you may be able to petition the court to require your spouse to pay your legal fees. In many states, you can file a petition for interim attorney fees or order for counsel fees against your spouse. It is not a sure thing that the court will grant your motion. Your spouse can oppose the motion and respond with reasons why they should not have to pay your legal fees. Ultimately a judge will rule on the most equitable outcome. Some attorneys will want you to pay them for the time they spend filing and defending the motion for attorney fees. If they win the motion, they will then continue to represent you and will be paid directly by your spouse. Another somewhat unpopular option for paying an attorney is taking out a loan. Loans are risky and can leave you in a more difficult financial...

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