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Divorcing Couples With Children (Communication Is Paramount)

Communication Is The Key:

Lack of effective communication is a major reason why couples divorce.
When there are minor children involved, the communication becomes paramount.  Obtaining a divorce does not eliminate the need and importance of communication between the parties as it relates to minor children.  As the divorce mediator explains in the video below, divorced couples with minor children will in most cases know each other for the rest of their lives.  There has to be some level of communication to afford the children the best chance of normalcy after the parties have gone their separate way.

Divorce Forms For Pro Se Filers

Self-Help Divorce Forms

Although there are plenty of forms available for pro se filers, it may not be the best use of your precious time.  There simply is no comparison between a seasoned professional and an amateur.  You cannot expect to understand your way around a divorce case by handling it yourself for the first time.  The court does make the form available as well as sample pleadings that you can research at the law library and alter to make your own.  However, just having the forms is not the answer.  You really need the advice of a divorce or family law attorney who knows what is allowed under the law and the proper way of obtaining the desired relief.

Getting It Right

Add to the mix the necessity to file electronically and you can imaging the steep learning curve to even get a motion or pleading in front of the court at the right date, time and room.  Don’t forget that notice must be given to the other side and in some cases, courtesy copies to the judge.  Take the advice of others who have filed pro se using the available court forms and seek a competent divorce attorney in your local area.  The money that you pay for professional services will likely be worth the effort in the long run.

Mediation & Divorce

The video below touches upon the role and function of mediation in a divorce case.  Mediation is considered a settlement conference so the mediator cannot be issued a subpoena to divulge information that was obtained during mediation.  In many cases, mediation can be a tool to move the parties closer to a full settlement.  By having an independent person listen, explain and provide a pathway to resolution, some very difficult cases can be resolved.  However, each party must be fully engaged and willing to give the mediation a chance.  If one or both parties are unwilling to do so, then the mediation will likely result in no progress.

Appearance Form For Chicago Divorce Lawyers Filing In Cook County

When To File The Appearance

If you have been served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you or your attorney that you hire will need to file an appearance with the Clerk of Court.  This appearance (shown below) is the Respondent’s admission to the contest.  If no appearance is filed, then the Petitioner can proceed to a Judgment by default.  In that circumstance, the Petitioner will be granted the relief requested in the pleading or petition.

Appearance Filing Fee

When the appearance is filed, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County is going to assess a filing fee of $237.00.  The appearance will be filed electronically and served upon opposing counsel or the Petition directly if he or she is filing pro se.  The appearance fee is essentially the admission fee to defend the case.

How Is Child Custody Decided In A Divorce Case?

There are number of factors that go into deciding who is going to have legal custody of the minor child. The most important item and determining factor is the best interest of the child standard. The court will also utilize experts to evaluate the situation and to report back to the court. These individuals include guardians ad litem, child representatives, social workers, and psychologists.

The video below talks in general terms about how custody is decided in a contested matter.


When Discovery Is Not Forthcoming

What do you do in a divorce case when you propound discovery requests however opposing counsel has not complied? You can simply wait it out and not much will happen. Or, you can bring a motion to compel to bring the issue to the court’s attention. If you take the affirmative step in bringing a motion to compel, the court is going to set some form of timeframe for the respondent to reply. This may be the only thing that can get the respondent moving in the right direction. If you do nothing, the discovery time will close and you will not have an opportunity to obtain that discovery, cross examine that discovery, or otherwise use it to your benefit.

In a recent case, with a trial date soon approaching and a discovery close date not yet occurring, opposing counsel is failing to turn over discovery claiming that they do not have it completed yet. This involves evaluation of a business which should be done very early in the process. Without that discovery, the petitioner has no way of offsetting or attacking the valuation from the other side. If the petitioner simply waits, he will be prejudiced in that the respondent may bring out that information at the last minute without an opportunity to properly examine it.

The lesson here is simple. When you propound discovery, and it is not forthcoming, you need to take the appropriate action and bring a motion to compel. Otherwise, you run the risk of never receiving that discovery and potentially, maybe being accused of malpractice by your client.

Division of Pension Benefits and Divorce

Pension and other retirement benefits earned during the marriage are marital property subject to division by the court. This video depicts a certain situation where the parties were together for 20 years however only married for six. Only the value of the pension earned during the six years of marriage are subject to division. The prior 14 years where the parties were living together yet not married, are not subject to division as those are considered pre-marital assets.

It’s important to note that many people think that their pension and profit sharing benefits are going to remain separate simply because they were individually earned. This is not how the state of Illinois views these assets. The state of Illinois takes a broad approach whereby any asset incurred during the marriage is considered marital property unless the court orders otherwise. Keep this in mind as it relates to just about any other piece of property earned during the marriage by either party. Those assets, much like the retirement benefit are subject to an equitable division.

How much do I owe for my child’s school tuition in Divorce?

In a divorce case, child support is awarded to the custodial parent pursuant to the state of Illinois statutory guidelines for support. That support typically terminates upon emancipation of the minor child. However, there is a provision in the Illinois marriage and dissolution of marriage act, section 513, which talks about post high school educational expenses. This video talks about how those costs and expenses are allocated between parents who have gone through the divorce process. The court will certainly look at the parties assets and ability to pay going forward.

Attorney Jesse Barrientes tackles this tough question which often involves litigation. With the increasing cost of college, the percentage that one pays can mean a big difference in the total out-of-pocket expenditure. Multiply this by the fact that there may be multiple children in college at the same time, you can see where the importance of getting a fair award as to who pays what and how much is critical.

Divorce by Publication

Case Facts

This is the divorce case for Mr. Davis, who resides in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. This is a divorce case by publication since Mr. Davis does not know the whereabouts of his spouse. Here are the facts as we know them: the parties were married on May 28, 2008 in Buffalo New York. The parties separated shortly thereafter in the beginning of 2009. Thus, they have been apart for a period in excess of two years which is what is needed to prove up the grounds of irreconcilable differences. We could also use the grounds of desertion since Mrs. Davis has been gone for more than one year without any information as to her whereabouts and her departure was not caused by Mr. Davis.

Since this is a divorce by publication, the court will merely grant the divorce and nothing else. This means that all other issues concerning the parties, property, debt, retirement benefits and all other issues are going to be held in reserve. These issues can be litigated at a future date provided there is personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction over the respondent. However, in 99% of all publication divorce cases, the respondent is never found or heard from again. Thus, those issues that remain reserved likely will remain reserved forever.

The Process

The process to complete the case is as follows: we file a petition for dissolution of marriage on behalf of Mr. Davis and against Mrs. Davis. We allege the grounds of irreconcilable differences since the parties have been living separate and apart for a period in excess of two years. We serve the respondent by posting this in a publication for three consecutive weeks and by sending a copy to the last known address that we have for her. She has approximately 30 to 45 days to respond to the court and file what’s known as an appearance. If she does not do so within that timeframe, we are able to set a motion for default and prove up the case against the respondent. It is at that time, that I and Mr. Davis will appear before the court to present our case. I will ask a series of yes and no questions to Mr. Davis and the court might have some additional questions. If the court is satisfied with the documents that were filed as well as the answers to the questions presented to Mr. Davis, the judge will typically enter the judgment for dissolution of marriage instanter, which means immediately.

Divorce by publication only applies if you do not have the ability to locate your spouse and provided you have made reasonable efforts to investigate and attempt to locate your spouse. Due process requires that people be served with a summons and a petition if they can be located. Publication divorce cases are reserved for those cases in which the respondent cannot be located after a diligent inquiry and investigation.

For more information about divorce by publication and how such a case may apply to you, you can contact the office directly.

Will Divorce Affect My Immigration Status?

A divorce case will typically not affect one’s immigration status in general. However, there are occasions where divorce in combination with additional circumstances can affect someone’s immigration status. Typically, if there is no fraud involved, then the fact of divorce should not affect one’s immigration status. If, on the other hand, the marriage was based on fraud, then a party might make a referral to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

For detailed information about immigration, I would recommend that you contact an attorney that specializes in immigration law. For purposes of divorce and immigration, there typically is no change in immigration status as a result of the parties dissolving their marriage.

Divorce Case Study

Divorce Case Study

Family Details

This is the divorce case study for the family name Ralls, which is being changed to protect the confidential nature of the consultation. The family resides in Great Lakes, Lake County, Illinois and they are here to consult with regard to a divorce. The couple was married on April 16, 2006 and the marriage was registered in Las Vegas, Nevada. The couple has two children, a seven-year-old son and a six-year-old son. In terms of grounds, the couple is citing irreconcilable differences. They have been living separate and apart, not functioning properly as husband and wife for a period in excess of six months, since March 1, 2014.


The couple does not own any real estate as they are currently renting. In terms of vehicles, the couple possesses a 2011 Jeep Wrangler which has a monthly payment of $541. The couple also has a 2006 Kia which is paid in full. Wife would like to keep the 2011 Jeep and make the monthly payments and wife is going to transfer title to the Kia to husband. The parties own very little in the way of personal property and each party will pay the debt in his or her own name.


In terms of custody of the two children, wife will have sole legal custody. This means that she will have exclusive decision-making over the health, education, religion and extracurricular activities of the children. Father will have reasonable visitation which will include summer vacation as well as other times agreed upon by the parties.


In terms of child support, since wife is going to be the custodial parent, she is entitled to child support. Based on the state of Illinois statutory guideline, 28% of the obligor’s net for two minor children, wife shall receive approximately $987 per month through the state disbursement unit. This means that the child support obligation will be deducted directly out of husband’s pay. In terms of tax deduction issues, the mother will claim both children as dependents for income tax purposes every year. In terms of medical insurance, father will provide medical insurance through his employer. Any amount not covered by insurance will be allocated with husband paying 75% and wife paying 25%. In terms of life insurance both parties will maintain a life insurance policy in the amount of $300,000 for as long as they have a duty to support the minor children.


In terms of maintenance, wife is seeking two years of maintenance, reviewable thereafter. The approximate dollar amount for maintenance would be $800. In terms of the division of pension and retirement accounts, husband’s retirement benefits will be divided through the use of a qualified domestic relations order with wife receiving 50% of whatever was earned during the marriage.
If the couple can agree to all these facts, terms and conditions, we can proceed as an uncontested case. If not, then the case will have to be filed the traditional way, with summons served and time given to respond. Should the case proceed to a contested matter, the couple should plan on being in litigation for the next one to three years. Obviously, is more desirable if the parties can agree on the terms and complete the case as an uncontested matter.


Illinois Divorces:

In essence what this new law will do, once it becomes effective (January 1, 2015) is that it creates a formulaic, uniform, method for divorce Judges and attorneys to calculate spousal maintenance, formerly alimony, (where the parties combined Gross income does not exceed $250,000.00 per year) if and when maintenance is deemed appropriate. A brief synopsis of this formula as pertaining to a prototypical case, where the Breadwinner’s/Payor’s income is higher than that of the Other-Spouse/Payee and the Other-Spouse is seeking maintenance then maintenance could be calculated as follows:

Maintenance EQUALS 30% of Breadwinner’s Gross income MINUS 20% of Other-Spouse’s Gross income. This is subject to an EXCEPTION that the calculated Maintenance amount PLUS Other-Spouse’s Gross income CANNOT exceed 40% of the Combined Gross income of Breadwinner and Other-Spouse.


Reducing Child Support Obligations

When Circumstances Change

If you owe child support and you lose your job (or your monthly income is reduced due to a loss of hours at work or involuntary furloughs or other reasons) it is important that you immediately bring this matter to the Court’s attention so that your child support payments can be reduced appropriately by Court order. If you fail to bring this to the Court’s attention you will still be liable for child support payments as they were under the initial court order and you may not be able to afford both your child support payment and your regular monthly living expenses.

Take Action

By bringing this information to the Court’s attention via appropriate motions you have the opportunity to satisfy your child support obligations as well as maintain your standard of living. If you fail to bring this matter to the court’s attention and do not modify your child support in a timely manner, you may end up accruing significant child support arrears, judgment interest at 9% in the state of Illinois as well as potential attorney’s fees for the attorney representing the person to whom your support (all of which would be non-dischargeable in bankruptcy). Please note that the only proper way to reduce your Court ordered child support is through the Court; an agreement between the parties may not be sufficient in the eyes of the Courts.