Divorce is a moment in your life when everything is going to change, and that change will be painful and confusing. Even when you’ve been in an unhappy marriage, ending that relationship is complicated. A divorce impacts your entire life – your family, your finances, your ability to support yourself and provide for your children, and your ability to keep those things that matter to you. Worse, it brings out just about every emotion in the human experience. We understand that. We also know that now, more than any other time, you need someone who knows how to help you, and how to protect what is important to you. This is your entire life.
Although a divorce impacts every aspect of your life, as far as the legal process goes, it is fairly straight-forward. From a strictly legal standpoint, marriage is a contract deal, where two separate parties agree that from the date of the marriage going forward, they shall no longer be considered individuals, but will be united as a single unit in the eyes of the law. That marital unit – the combination of two people – can have legal duties, legal obligations, and can own property. Children born in a marriage are not in the custody of either parent, but instead, equally “belong to” both parents without any distinction between the two as to who has any greater legal right to possess the children or make important decisions about them. Property purchased by one of the spouses belongs to the marriage, not just the spouse who purchased the item. The same is true of debts of the parties. One spouse can run up a bunch of debts, and those debts, too, belong to both spouses. When that singular marital unit is to be dissolved, the two spouses become individuals again, and all the items that were marital must now be sorted between the two spouses as individuals.
It is somewhat simplistic to define divorce this way, but in essence, a divorce is this sorting through of all the items that arose during the marriage, and is the “undoing” of the marriage contract. Because the contract is “undone,” we say that the marriage is “dissolved.” A divorce is called the “dissolution” of the marriage contract. This is why another legal term for a divorce is the “dissolution of marriage,” and in Illinois, the statutes concerning divorce are found mostly under the “Illinois Dissolution of Marriage Act.” According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a divorce is defined as, “the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court. — Also termed marital dissolution; dissolution of marriage. DIVORCE, Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009). In sum, the best way to think of a divorce is to consider it a failed contract, where the parties must go to the courts for the court to undo that contract with another official document – a judgment of dissolution.
Once you understand the divorce process as a dissolution of the marriage contract, the next step is to address all of the issues that are a part of that marriage contract. All of those issues can be classified as belonging to one of two categories – financial issues and child-related issues.
Financial issues are those that relate to any asset or debt of the marriage unit. Asset issues include the disposition of real estate, interests in property, automobiles, art and jewelry, household contents, and other tangible items of personal property. Every single item you and your spouse own must be divided one way or the other. Financial issues also include the allocation and award of marital assets such as cash, retirement accounts, business interests, stocks and bonds, and sums in checking or savings accounts. Financial issues also encompass debt, such as mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, student loans, personal loans, and other obligations. Nearly all married couples have financial matters that must be settled in a divorce.
Most married couples have children, and thus, must also settle what will happen to their children during and after the divorce. Child-related issues involve decisions as to how the children of a marriage will be cared for after the divorce. This means that the divorce process must conclude in a way that decides where the children will live, how the two parents will make decisions about the children, what kind of decisions require both parents’ input, how the children will be supported, and how the parents will communicate about their children.
A great divorce attorney is someone who will fight for you and what is important to you, in the way your unique situation requires. That may involve keeping the divorce friendly, without any drama or courtroom theatrics. Alternatively, your situation may require that your attorney be an experienced litigator who is not afraid to go to trial to fight for what you want. Whatever your needs are, your attorney should make you feel that you are being listened to and your concerns are being heard and in turn you are receiving sound advice from a professional who is there to help you get the best results available to you.
Every divorce is different. When you meet with one of our attorneys, we will ask you questions about the history of your marriage and about your family. We will ask about your finances, monthly expenses, assets and debts. We will need to know about all of your property. We need to know what are your immediate concerns, and if we need to get into court right away to fix any urgent problems. Most importantly, we will ask you what are your objectives – or in other words, what you want and expect when the divorce is all over. These questions help us determine what work you need and how we can get you the best possible results. No two cases are the same, so part of our initial work is to determine what you need, and how we can help you.
Our initial consultation is free. Contact us to set up an in-person meeting, Skype or Facetime meeting, or a teleconference.