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The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C.
You've come to the right place for an experienced, respected, and aggressive divorce attorney in Chicago, IL. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., our team has a solid reputation for being some of the best divorce lawyers in Chicago.
What Makes Us Top-Rated Divorce Lawyers?
Are you looking for the best divorce attorneys in Chicago? Come to the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. for some of the top divorce and family lawyers in Illinois. But don't take our word for it – our accolades speak for themselves:
- Best Lawyers® – Recognized
- Three Best Rated© – Top 3 Divorce Lawyers in Chicago
- Expertise.com – Best Family Lawyers in Chicago
- Avvo – 10.0 Top Attorney
- BBB® – A+ Accredited Business
- Leading Lawyers℠ – Peer Selected
- NADC – Nation's Top One Percent
Get to Know Our Chicago Divorce Attorneys
- Jonathan Merel - Founding Attorney
- Melissa Caballero - Managing Partner
- Aurelija Fitzpatric - Partner
- David Zwaska - Partner
- Bradley R. Kaye - Partner
Schedule a consultation with a Chicago divorce attorney you can trust! Call (312) 487-2795 today or fill out our simple contact form. Our firm can help you understand your options. We have offices in Chicago, Highland Park, and Skokie.
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 an aggressive 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.
How to File for Divorce in Illinois
There are four basic steps you must follow to start the process of filing for divorce in IL:
- 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.
RICHARD J. DALEY CENTER
50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
Domestic Relations Division (8th Floor)
The Daley Center is the most likely place where you will file for divorce in central Chicago, but you may also file for divorce at any suburban municipal district courthouse if it is closer to your home address.
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 divorce 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 in Chicago?
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.
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.
In Illinois divorces, "marital misconduct" boils down to any behavior that undermines the marital relationship, such as cheating or abuse, which could also be considered reason or "grounds" for divorce in Chicago.
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 Is Property Divided in an Illinois Divorce?
When a marriage ends and a couple begins the divorce process, they will have to split their marital assets in a process called property division. Illinois is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing marital property, which means the court will divided your marital asses "equitably" rather than splitting them 50/50.
Property distribution is often one of the areas of divorce that generate the most disputes, especially when a couple has a complex financial portfolio. Make sure you have an experienced and relentless divorce attorney on your side to protect your separate assets and ensure you get your fair share of the assets in a divorce.
Chicago Divorce Resources
- Circuit Court of Cook County - Court Locations
- Circuit Court of Cook County - Filing and Answering a Petition for Dissolution or Civil Union
- Court Forms - Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union (PDF)
- Court Forms - All Forms (Domestic Relations Division)
- Richard J. Daley Center - Directory
Contact a Divorce Attorney in Chicago, IL – (312) 487-2795
Ready to speak to a top divorce lawyer near you? No matter what your Illinois divorce entails, you can rest assured that our Chicago divorce firm has the knowledge and skill to represent you. We focus exclusively on divorce and family law and are prepared to provide the tailored representation and counsel that you need to get the best possible results. Set up your consultation today!
“Melissa was such a positive, supportive lawyer who gave me strength to move forward”- Previous Client
“Brings crystal clarity and bold solutions to complicated matters.”- HW
“I would highly recommend Jonathan for legal representation.”- Charlie
Founder and Managing Principal
Bradley R. Kaye
Mitchell J. Dean