The Legal Guidance You Need & the Personal Attention You Deserve
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 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 serve all of Cook County and 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.
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 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.
Filing Fees and Costs of Divorce
In Illinois, the filing fee for a divorce case varies by county. For example, it costs $334 to file for a dissolution of marriage in Lake County and $388 to file in the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office. You will also need to pay someone to serve your spouse with divorce papers (this usually costs about $60), and your spouse will have to pay an appearance fee ($250 in Cook County).
During your divorce case, you may face other costs, as well. For example, you might have to pay for court-ordered mediation or parenting classes if the judge decides they are necessary.
If you have a lawyer, you will, of course, need to pay them, as well. In Illinois, the average cost of attorney fees is $10,000.
Ultimately, the cost of your divorce will depend on the specifics of your case. An uncontested divorce with no children, for instance, will be much more affordable than a contested divorce with bitter child custody disputes.
Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer in Illinois
During your initial consultation with your attorney, you should ask them several questions about how they will handle your case. These questions may include:
- How will we communicate throughout my case? – At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., we provide constant communication and excellent response times via phone calls, emails, in-person meetings, and videoconferencing services.
- How much will my divorce cost? – During your consultation, our attorneys can get to know your case and give you an estimate for how much your divorce will cost.
- Should I be talking to my spouse? – You may need to discuss your divorce case with your spouse, but you should not tell them what you have been discussing with your attorney. If you have a hard time communicating with your spouse, your lawyer can advise you of what is and is not appropriate to talk about and even facilitate difficult conversations.
- What do other clients have to say?– Ask about reviews and testimonials from other clients. Often, you can find these on your lawyer’s website.
- Will my spouse try to make things more difficult for me? – If your spouse does not want to get divorced, they may make the process longer, more expensive, and more difficult overall. Fortunately, if you have a skilled attorney, they can detect and help counter your spouse’s tactics and keep the length, costs, and stress levels of your divorce as low as possible.
The questions you ask your divorce lawyer will help you feel comfortable with them and determine whether you are on the same page about your case. The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. takes the time to fully understand your situation and offers personalized attention to help you achieve your goals.
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
- Malicious Parent Syndrome in Divorce
- How to Divorce a Foreign-Born Spouse
- Should You Spend Money While Divorcing?
- Annulment vs. Divorce
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!
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