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 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 many factors to determine if it should award spousal maintenance. The amount and duration of maintenance are based on what is just. When determining rights to spousal maintenance, the court considers the following:
- The income and property of each spouse;
- Each spouse’s needs;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The spouse’s resources;
- Tax consequences;
- Agreements between the spouses;
- The health, status, skills, occupation, estate, and liabilities of each spouse;
- The spouse’s earning capacity; and
- Impairments of the spouse’s earning capacity due to domestic or parental responsibilities.
If you are looking to fight for or against spousal maintenance, you must consider many factors and be prepared for pushback from your spouse and the court. An experienced divorce attorney knows what to expect and what to look for in these situations.
Contact an Attorney for Guidance and Peace of Mind
The attorneys at Vantage Group Legal Services can simplify and expedite your family law case to bring you a just result quickly. We make you a priority and guide you through the whole family law process. If you need help in your divorce case or answers to your questions, we are here for you. Call us at 773-232-6892 or contact us online. Tell us your story so we can help.