Divorce is a daunting prospect for anyone.  As much as a wedding takes months of preparation before the event planner is even hired or the wedding hall is booked, a divorce takes preparation before the hiring of a divorce lawyer and the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage. There are several items to consider and steps to take when preparing for a Chicago, Illinois divorce.

If you have children, the first thing you need to consider is what scheduled and decision-making power you will want to have in regards to the children.

A Chicago, Illinois divorce court will always look to the past to determine the future of a divorced couple and their children.  So, your current schedule with the children and the decisions you are making for the children will inform the court of how the children are both cared for and should be cared for.

If it is your goal to have a certain schedule with the children, you should start exercising that schedule now.  For example, if you want every weekend with the children, you should be spending every weekend with the children now in order to prove the “status quo” which an Illinois divorce court would likely order be continued.

Similarly, if you want to make health care decisions for your children, you should be taking your children to the doctor and be 100% familiar with their current health care.  A simple question like “who is the children’s pediatrician?” which you are unable to answer will result in you being disqualified as a parent capable to make those types of decisions.

If you cannot agree on something with your soon-to-be-ex, then you will have to prove the facts and argue your position to a judge.  For financial matters, this means showing documents proving debts, assets and income.

While contemplating divorce, you need to be gathering and collecting any possible relevant financial document.  Every single document such as a bank statement or credit card statement includes details such as money going into that account and money flowing out.  The documents usually also describe exactly where the money is coming from and where it’s going. Just a few documents such as these can allow you to successfully search through all of your finances to find out what your spouse’s true financial situation is.

Simply printing off these documents from your accounts is usually sufficient.  If there are accounts which your spouse has access to but you do not, you may simply take a picture and use that picture as a basis to request those documents at a later date.

The importance in proving assets, debts or income is that it is the duty of both spouses in a Chicago, Illinois divorce to prove that any asset, debt or income is non-marital.  Otherwise, assets, debts and income are presumed to be marital and thus divisible by an Illinois divorce court.

There is one special kind of expense that you must search for at least a little bit of evidence to support an accusation of dissipation of marital assets.

If you can allege that your soon-to-be-ex spent money on a non-marital purpose, then you can get 50% of that money back at the end of the divorce.

You’ll notice that I said “allege” and not “prove.”  That is because, in an Illinois divorce, the mere allegation of a dissipation of assets is sufficient to require the other spouse to definitively prove that they did not spend the money on drugs, alcohol, gambling or girlfriends/boyfriends.  This proof requires written, not oral evidence to be sufficient in a Chicago, Illinois divorce court.

Finally, you should do a cursory search to find out which divorce lawyer is the best fit for your upcoming divorce.

An internet search will allow you to see which lawyers have a philosophy that accommodates your divorce strategy.  Testimonials and reviews will bolster or shatter whatever the Chicago divorce lawyer is purporting on his or her website.

A quick phone or in-person interview can help you further ratify if the Chicago divorce lawyer is, in fact, the right person to guide you down the path of divorce process.

No matter what happens, divorce is a difficult process with a definite ending, the actual divorce. So, the sooner you start working towards that judgment of dissolution of marriage, the sooner this painful process will be over.

The author, Russell Knight is a divorce lawyer in Chicago, Illinois.

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