Chicago Divorce Lawyer
The decision to separate is often difficult. Whether a spouse is initiating or responding to a divorce filing, it always represents the end of one period of life and the beginning of a new one. These times can be marked by emotional struggles, and sometimes even trauma. In the meantime, the division of assets and debts — issues that will go a long way towards shaping a person’s future — are being worked out. Attorney Nicole M. Scott, founded NMS Family Law Firm to fight for people during emotionally difficult times.
Call (708) 742-7334 or contact us online today. Payment plans are available.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce in Illinois?
The divorce process can start quickly, as the state of Illinois does not have a mandatory waiting period from the point of filing to the point when proceedings can begin. The only requirements are that one of the spouses needs to have been an Illinois resident for at least 90 days, and any minor children involved need to have lived in the state for six months.
The only grounds that Illinois law recognizes for a divorce are irreconcilable differences. These grounds mean that it is not necessary for one spouse to be faulted for the breakdown of the marriage, only that one of the spouses has deemed the marriage broken beyond repair.
Therefore, a divorce can be filed and the legal proceedings can be opened quickly. Does that mean the entire process will be quick? That’s going to depend on how much time it will take to resolve the outstanding issues, including the division of property.
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
Before property can be divided in a divorce settlement, it must be determined what is marital property (property belonging to both spouses) and what is separate property (that which belong exclusively to one spouse).
The criterion for making this determination is simple — if a spouse owned something prior to the marriage, it is their separate property. If ownership of an asset began after the wedding day, then it is marital property.
There are a number of underlying implications to this legal principle. One is that it does not matter whether one spouse used an asset exclusively. It does not matter if one spouse was the primary breadwinner, because all income earned during the marriage belongs jointly to the marriage. It doesn’t even matter if one spouse was against acquiring an asset — if that asset was acquired after the wedding day, it is marital property.
That’s simple enough in theory, but there are several scenarios that can make it complicated. Let’s say a spouse has been working for a company since they graduated college 12 years ago. Over that time period, they’ve put together 401(k) savings and have become eligible for vesting options in the firm. They got married six years ago, and now are going through a divorce.
Are those assets marital property or separate property? The answer will likely be a little bit of both. The portion of the 401(k) acquired prior to marriage will be their own property, whereas the accumulation that came after the wedding is separate property. A valuation expert may be required to help the court understand the most accurate way to divide the value of the account. The same goes for the value of vesting options. It’s imperative that spouses have a Chicago divorce attorney that is informed of all the details of the case — because what seems small in the moment can end up being quite significant.
Contact Attorney Nicole M. Scott by calling (708) 742-7334 or by filling out our online contact form.
Spouses will keep all of their separate property. Marital property will be subject to Illinois’ equitable distribution laws. This does not mean that marital property will be split 50/50. That may be the end result, and it is often a starting point, but it isn’t necessary under the law. What is necessary is that the final settlement is deemed equitable.
Who defines what equitable is? If the spouses are able to resolve the issue in negotiation or mediation, the answer is that they will. Judges hold final power of ratification, but it takes an extreme case for a judge to overturn an agreement that spouses and their attorneys have negotiated. But if the case goes to litigation, the judge will be the final arbiter of what is equitable.
In short, there’s some gray area. That can heighten the importance of what a lawyer does. When the final outcome isn’t specifically prescribed by law, the tenacity of an attorney in negotiation and their persuasiveness in litigation may be critical in how the final settlement looks.
A Chicago Divorce Lawyer You Can Relate To
At NMS Family Law Firm, we know our clients are going through a lot in their personal lives. We aim to provide legal counsel that is compassionate in our approach to clients, without compromising our ferocity in negotiations and in court.
Call (708) 742-7334 or contact us online to set up a consultation.