Jonathan Merel

Divorce in a Nutshell

While every divorce is different based on the parties, in general divorce law can be boiled down to 5 main areas:

  • Child custody
  • Visitation or Parenting Time
  • Child Support
  • Maintenance or Alimony
  • Property Division

Child Custody

What many people tend to misunderstanding about child custody is that it actually is NOT the time spent with your children.  Rather custodyinvolves having the decision making authority to be able to decide the so-called “big decisions” that involve the upbringing of your children.  The three decision-making areas that the law focuses on are religion, medical care, and education.  Parents must be able to agree on these three areas in order to be eligible for joint custody.  Elsewise sole custody is generally sought and a custody battle ensues.

Visitation or Parenting Time

This is the area of divorce that focus on the amount of time parents will spend with their kids.  Currently, there is no guideline for the amount that should be awarded to either parent.  The goal is for parents and their lawyers to work out a schedule based on what will accommodate their family the best.  Factors that should be considered when deciding what will work best for your family include how far away you and your spouse live from each other, the amount of stability you think your child may need, if one parent has a busy work schedule, how the child’s school, sports, or activities schedule may be affected, so on and so forth.

Child Support

Child support is determined based on guidelines set out in the Illinois statute.  It is calculated based on NET income, which is the amount after all mandatory deductions are taken out of one’s paycheck.  The percentage of a parent’s net income that will be paid in child support is based on the number of children that parent has.  For example, having 1 child would mean that the paying parent will pay 20% of their net income to the other parent in child support.

Maintenance or Alimony

Maintenance, or what was prior known as alimony, is the area of divorce that has one spouse paying a monthly stipend to his or her spouse during or after a divorce.  The goal is to ensure that both parties are able to bounce back from the divorce financially.  Maintenance is typically only awarded when there is a large discrepancy in incomes between the parties during their marriage.  Guidelines regarding determination of spousal maintenance will go into effect in Illinois January 1, 2015.

Property Division

Property division involves dividing the parties’ assets.  Illinois is an equitable division state which means that courts divide a divorcing couple’s assets based on what they believe to be fair.  This could mean a 50/50 split, 60/40, or even 0/100 if circumstances call for such.  Most of the time, parties are able to work out the property division with their family law attorneys and opt for a split somewhere in the 50/50 or 60/40 range.  However only assets that are marital property are divided.  This means only the assets that were acquired during the marriage are subject to division.  Non-marital property (anything acquired before the marriage) remains the title-holding party’s sole and separate property.  Property division can get tricky if non-marital property and marital property somehow get mixed together.  For example, if one party owned a house prior to the marriage, but the other party has used their annual bonus check to help pay down the mortgage, the house would now be a comingled asset.  Such situations require the knowledge and skill of a family law attorney in order to figure out how to divide these types of assets appropriately.

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