Q: Can one attorney represent both of the parties to a divorce?
A: No. At least in Illinois, it is an impermissible conflict of interest to represent both the husband and the wife in the same divorce.
Q: What are the guidelines for child support in Illinois?
A: 20% of the payor's net income for one child, 28% for two children and 32% for three children. Determining a payor's net income can be relatively simple, such as in the case of a W-2 employee who has no outside income. In other instances, such as when the child support payor is self-employed, is also paying maintenance, has income that varies substantially from year to year or owns a business that pays some of his or her personal expenses, determining net income can be complex.
Q: What information should I bring to an initial interview?
A: The three most recent federal income tax returns are a good place to start. They can help to provide your attorney with a snapshot of the income side of your case while also providing some insight as to your family's assets and liabilities as well. If you have a balance sheet of your family's assets and liabilities or a Quicken or Microsoft Money report of your household budget and/or expenses, that too can be helpful.
Q: If we are going to participate in mediation, do we still need our own attorneys?
A: Yes, you should still have your own attorneys even if you mutually agree to attempt to resolve the issues raised by your divorce through the mediation process. A mediator is a neutral party who will attempt to help you and your spouse (or ex-spouse in the case of post-decree mediation) reach a consensus on the issues you are facing. Your attorney, on the other hand, is your advocate, who can advise you in relation to potential agreements, finalize your agreements as court orders and ensure that your settlement agreement is thorough and comprehensive.
Q: How long will my divorce take?
A: There is no clear-cut answer to this question. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act requires parties to live separate and apart for six months before a divorce judgment can be entered, presuming that the parties are proceeding on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. In certain situations, it may be possible for parties to be considered to be living separate and apart even though they are both living in the same home. The duration of a divorce depends on a variety of factors including the number and complexity of the issues involved, the degree of hostility involved and the ease or difficulty in acquiring necessary records and information. Many cases in Lake County are completed between nine and fifteen months after the date they are filed. Three elements which often lead to lengthy divorces are a) business valuation issues, b) child custody litigation or c) bankruptcy.
Q: What happens to my child support obligation if I change jobs or lose my job?
A: It is important to understand that child support and maintenance obligations continue on as-is until the court enters an order modifying these obligations. Many child support payors do not realize that their child support obligations are not modified by the fact that they have become unemployed. Many Illinois residents have built up thousands of dollars in back due child support or maintenance because they never informed the court of the change in their circumstances. It is important to file a motion seeking relief from the court immediately when one becomes unemployed.
Q: What will my divorce cost?
A: This varies from case to case depending, again, on the complexity of the issues involved, the degree of hostility and the access of both parties to the relevant financial information. Most divorce attorneys in Illinois will request a refundable retainer at the outset of the case and will charge for work done based upon an hourly rate. Some attorneys charge a higher rate for court time than for office time. Also, be sure to ask your prospective attorney about whether he or she charges for faxes, photocopies and the like.