Illinois Divorce FAQ

Six Things Clients Do Not Know

provided by J. Richard Kulerski, Esq.

Adultery And Fault

The sad fact is that our law doesn’t care if your spouse cheated on you. Spousal fault and misconduct means nothing in a courtroom. It just hurts the chances of settling the case peacefully. See the page entitled Cheating Spouses.

Legal Separation And Common Law Marriage

Even after more than 38 years of meeting new divorce clients, it never ceases to amaze me that only those who have studied the law know what a legal separation or what a common law marriage is. One would think that, by now, the real scoop on legal separation and common law marriage would have leaked out and become generally known to the public at large. That has not been the case. See those sections of this web site relating to these topics.

Desertion And Abandonment

I have seen many clients intentionally opt to not take certain actions that they should have taken (prior to the filing of a case) because they felt that to do so would be deemed to be either desertion or abandonment on their part. These items are also explained fully in other sections of this web site.

Property In The Name Of Only One Spouse

Prior to the change of our divorce law in 1977, if one spouse owned property in his or her own name (even if that property was acquired during the marriage) that property would invariably be awarded to that party. Since 1977, however, property acquired during a marriage is marital property and subject to fair division by the court no matter how title or ownership to that item is held. If an IRA, 401K, auto, or pension or any other asset is acquired during the marriage, both parties have an interest in that asset even though title to it is held by only one spouse. Please see the section of this web page dealing with Marital and non-Marital property.

The Fallacy Of Joint Custody

Joint Custody probably is not what you think it is. Please see the section in this web site dealing with this topic.

How Much Does A Divorce Cost And
How Long Does It Take?

These questions must be answered together because it is the facts of a case, and its happenings, as they unfold, that will ultimately determine how long a case will take and how much the legal fees will be.

Except in very rare instances, it is next to impossible for an attorney to be exact when he or she provides a fee quote at the beginning of a case. The initial office conference really gives the attorney only a general idea of how much legal work will be needed.

Every case is different and the personality and emotional makeup of every spouse is also different. Some cases settle quicker than other cases and some have to go trial. Often, we cannot tell which way a case will go until some time has passed. Each case has a life of its own and many factors can come into play which will determine how long a case will take and how much it will cost.

The value of a lawyer’s services is determine d by the client and not by the lawyer. Therefore, a lawyer (who expects repeat business or referrals from his clients) has to make every effort to give the client what he or she wants. Surveys show that clients hope to receive prompt legal services at a reasonable price from an attorney who cares about their cause. A lawyer who is a smart businessman will always try to give the client more than what is paid for. It is the lawyer’s job to communicate with the client at every step of the way regarding the twists and turns of the case. If the client is kept properly advised, he or she will understand why additional legal work is necessary and will generally approve additional attorneys fees as the case progresses.

Many clients call and ask for information regarding how much a divorce case will cost. In a way, that is like calling an interior decorator and asking how much it will cost to have the inside of your house painted and wallpapered. In that case, the customer understands that it is only reasonable for the decorator to ask how big the house is. A mansion requires more rolls of wallpaper than does a modest bungalow. If one were to call a Chevrolet dealer and ask how much a Chevrolet is, it would not be deemed unreasonable for the sales person to inquire about what model the customer is interested in and what options the customer wants put on the car.

If I want an ABC Company's vacuum cleaner, model #M87, I can call many retailers and get their prices for that model and then make my own decision about where I want to travel to buy the vacuum cleaner. The practice of law is a service and is not a tangible object like a vacuum cleaner. We know that particular model of Hoover vacuum cleaner will be the same at every retailer. The product you receive from the legal community may vary significantly from lawyer to lawyer.

Many cases that start out to be peaceful turn out to be difficult and time consuming and the opposite is also true.

Divorce attorneys, during initial office conferences with prospective clients, learn the facts of the client’s case and they also try to get a sense of the personalities involved. This is to give the attorney an idea of how much work may be needed. The attorney will then ask for a retainer fee to cover the cost of the work that is anticipated. Divorce attorneys charge by the hour. A retainer fee is an advance payment for work to be performed.

As is true with the rest of society, litigants can be non-confrontational by nature, or they may be tenacious, vindictive, greedy, or may have any number of other traits that can have a bearing on a case. The more difficult one or both litigants is means the case will be more difficult and will necessarily cause additional legal work to be performed and a longer period of time will be required.