The information in this article was last updated on February 18, 2022
Before we dive in: Are you looking for Cook County divorce forms? Two things:
- We suggest that you consult with an attorney before trying to file for divorce on your own. We get it, it’s a pain and an expense. But, divorce is complicated and it’s almost certainly in your best interest to have an advocate on your side.
- Ok, enough lecturing. You can find relevant Cook County divorce forms on the Cook County website.
If you are considering filing for divorce in Cook County, you are probably wondering where to begin.
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.
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Initiating Divorce Proceedings in Cook County
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 the 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 in a Cook County Divorce
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 in Cook County
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.
Determining What Qualifies as 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 in Cook County
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.
How Will a Cook County Divorce Attorney Help Me?
The best Chicago 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 a Cook County Divorce Lawyer for Guidance
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 773-938-4747 or contact us online. Tell us your story so we can help.