One of the Top Divorce Attorneys in Chicago
The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. is one of the premiere divorce and family law firms in Chicago. But don't take our word for it – our awards say it all!
- Best Lawyers® – Recognized (Jonathan Merel)
- Three Best Rated© – Top 3 Divorce Lawyers in Chicago
- Expertise.com – Best Family Lawyers in Chicago
- Leading Lawyers℠ – Peer Selected (Jonathan Merel)
- Avvo – 10.0 Top Attorney (Jonathan Merel)
- NADC – Nation's Top One Percent
- BBB® – A+ Accredited Business
- Attorney and Practice Magazine – 2020 Top 10 Family Law Attorneys
Our Chicago Family Law Lawyers Are Your Trusted Advocates
Led by Chicago family law attorney Jonathan Merel, our family law firm has been serving the Chicagoland area since 2009. We are strong problem-solvers who can implement effective solutions to help you reach your goals.
Whether you are filing for divorce, negotiating a child custody arrangement, or seeking to establish paternity, we know that your case is delicate and emotional. With your family’s future at stake, you deserve to work with a divorce attorney in Chicago who is ready to fight for you while remaining compassionate of your situation.
You will find this caliber of legal representation at the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. Regardless of the circumstances of your relationship with your spouse or partner, our family law office is ready and able to help. We have handled it all, from simple and straightforward divorces resolved outside of court to extremely contentious divorces that require strategic litigation.
When to Hire a Family Lawyer in Chicago
Family law matters involve any legal dispute related to marriage and family. Since they involve people you love, it is important to get the advocacy of a family lawyer right away – one who understands the personal nature of your situation and treats your case with the care and urgency it deserves.
Are you looking to get a divorce? Do you need to fight for custody of your children? Do you need legal representation in a child or spousal support case? All of these issues and more will require the representation of a Chicago family lawyer. Call the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. today to speak with a family law attorney about your options.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Illinois?
There are two primary categories to establish grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences and fault grounds.
Irreconcilable differences are essentially “no fault” divorce cases where both parties agree that all resources have been exhausted in their attempts to amend the marriage but to no avail. The union cannot be reconciled and it is impractical and not in the best interest of the family unit to continue the relationship.
When couples state irreconcilable differences as the grounds for divorce they must live separate and apart for two years before the case will be finalized. However, if both parties want the divorce, and it is a non-contested case, the couple may sign a “Stipulation and Waiver of Two Year Waiting Period,” stipulating that both parties have lived a minimum of six months apart before finalizing the divorce. It is important to note that even though the law states, ‘living separate and apart’ it does not necessarily mean physically apart.
Fault grounds for divorce are a bit more specific in the criteria and must be proven in the court of law. Even if fault grounds are proven, a judge cannot consider the marital misconduct of a spouse when dividing up marital property or award maintenance.
Illinois identifies 10 main “fault” grounds for divorce:
- Infection of a sexually transmitted disease
- Extreme and repeated physical or mental cruelty
- Alcohol/drug addiction
- Felony conviction
- Willful desertion
- An attempt to kill the other spouse by poison or other means showing malice
When a party alleges any of the aforementioned fault grounds for divorce, they must prove to the court his or her spouse is guilty of the allegation. When an individual files for divorce and alleges fault grounds for divorce, the two year waiting period does not apply.
How to File for Divorce in Illinois
- Meet the Residential Requirements & Waiting Period – For a divorce in Illinois citing "irreconcilable differences," there is a required two year separation period. However, there is an exception to the rule: if both parties agree that the divorce is uncontested, then they can both sign a waiver to proceed after being separated for at least six (6) months.
- File a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” – This is the legal document that is initially filed, putting the court on notice that you are seeking to dissolve your marriage. This document and the documents related to it are often referred to as divorce papers. In the Petition, you must detail the grounds for divorce. In Illinois, grounds for divorce include either at fault grounds and no-fault grounds, which are commonly known as irreconcilable differences.
- Serve the Divorce Papers to the Other Party – The Respondent (or non-filing party) must be served with the Petition for Dissolution and corresponding documents.
- Get a Response – After being served divorce papers, the Respondent must then file a response.
I Was Served Divorce Papers. Now What?
In order to be officially served divorce papers a legally authorized individual in Illinois must serve them upon you; this is called service of process. Typically a county sheriff or an authorized private individual (special process server) will serve individuals with divorce papers (Petition for Dissolution of Marriage) along with a court Summons by simply handing the papers to you (or a member of your household).
It's important to know that time is of the essence. As the Respondent (the party served with the divorce papers) in an Illinois divorce, you will have 30 days to file an Answer to the petition and file your Appearance.
Upon being served divorce papers, it's in your best interests to hire an experienced Chicago family law attorney. Your lawyer will handle all of the court filings, communication with the opposing counsel, collecting and presenting your financial information and advising you on the appropriate steps to take as your case proceeds.
What Happens After You File for Divorce?
After the petition and response, both partners may retain their own attorney to represent them through divorce proceedings. Much of the time, once a case gets going and both parties are actively participating, the discovery process will begin. Discovery is generally described as the process of exchanging information relevant to the divorce proceedings, such as income and expense affidavits, alo documentation supporting those financial affidavits.
It is also important to note that child custody, visitation, child support and alimony can also be negotiated at this phase. If the parties cannot resolve their differences through negotiations with their attorneys (or among themselves), they may next attempt to continue negotiations with the assistance of the court. If resolution cannot be reached through negotiations, the case would be set for trial and the relevant final decisions would be made by a judge.
Our Chicago divorce attorneys are also experienced in:
How Long Does Divorce Take?
Unfortunately, there is not a clear and concise answer. Divorce can be over and done in a week, or it can go on for many years. It all depends on the situation at hand, because every case is different. What we can tell you is that there are numerous factors that will impact the time your divorce will take.
The following factors can affect how long divorce takes:
- Child custody issues
- Business valuation
- An unreasonable lawyer or other involved party
- Complex finances
The above reasons are just a few of the factors in determining how long divorce takes. Every case is different. At the end of the day, if a couple approaches the divorce process with logic and the ability to look at the “big picture” their case will typically take a reasonable amount of time, leaving both parties satisfied at the end.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Divorce in Chicago?
It is possible to represent yourself; however, divorce is not a simple legal process. Having a divorce lawyer on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. It is in your best interests to hire a divorce attorney in Chicago due to the complex nature of divorces in general.
This is especially true if your spouse hires a divorce lawyer, because the success rate of pro se litigants (individuals representing themselves) against an attorney is very low. The average divorce requires the drafting of numerous legal documents which, if not completed properly, can be devastating to the litigant.
Once they find an attorney you are comfortable with, many litigants feel like a weight has been lifted from their shoulders, since they have an experienced professional to advocate on their behalf.
No matter what type of divorce you are seeking, rest assured that our family law firm has the knowledge and skill to represent you. Get in touch with our team!