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5 Tips: Preparing to Start Divorce in Illinois

If you think you need to prepare to start a divorce in Illinois, you’re probably right. As a divorce lawyer in Illinois, I know that people are often curious about preparing to start a divorce. Unless is your divorce is one by agreement, then preparing in advance can be a good idea. You might be able to gain a strategic advantage if you prepare for your divorce before your spouse knows you’ve talked to a lawyer.

If you need to talk to a lawyer know, you can call our office at 312-554-5433. Or, check out this article about how to prepare for a divorce in Illinois. We represent clients in the counties of Cook, DuPage, and Lake, among others.

Tip 1: Investigate your debt

Debt is an often overlooked aspect of divorce – particularly in the beginning stages.

As an Illinois divorce lawyer, I often find out that people are surprised about the debt their spouse has acquired. Here are some examples of debt that people might be surprised to discover:

  1. Business debt
  2. Debt associated with previously unknown credit cards
  3. Known mortgages (payments may be delinquent)
  4. Secret mortgages
  5. Judgments against the spouse

So how should you investigate your debt? Certainly, when a divorce gets started you can demand various documents and information from your spouse. I wrote about that type of “financial discovery” in this article. But this article is about getting  prepared before the divorce is started.

Before a divorce case is filed, you can started to investigate debt the following ways:

  1. Credit report: Order a credit report
  2. Review debt accounts: Review all known debt accounts, including your mortgage
  3. Look around the house: Look around your house to determine if there is evidence of any debt account

You need to make sure that you following the law when you are investigating debt. For example, it would be against the law to “hack” into your spouse’s email account.

Tip 2: Take stock of your assets

Part of a divorce is about dividing assets – similar to the division of debt. And just like debt, sometimes there are assets about which one spouse does not have much knowledge. Preparing for a divorce can involve gathering information on assets.

Here are some examples of assets about which you might gather information:

  1. Your home: Estimating the value of your home can be a good start in determining what you will walk away with after the divorce.
  2. Rental property: Sometimes, one spouse manages the investment property without much input from the other. Leases, rental receipts and bank statements can help determine both the value of the rental property, and the cash flow.
  3. Financial accounts: Financial account statements are often good evidence, as is any evidence of any “hidden” account.
  4. Collectibles/Jewelry/Precious metals: Sometimes people own gold coins, expensive jewelry, etc. The funny thing is that when one spouse moves out, sometimes those items go “missing.” Of course, if the items are insured, they should exist or there should be a police report filed.

Tip 3: Gather evidence

Above I’ve discussed some of the types of evidence to gather. But evidence must also be organized.

As an Illinois divorce lawyer, I can tell you that gathering evidence can be one of the most frustrating aspects of a divorce – for both the lawyer, and client. When evidence is well-organized, cases usually go a lot more smoothly.

When someone hires me prior to filing a divorce, I can consult them on the proper way to gather and organize evidence, and that can lead to a strategic advantage in a case.

Tip 4: Make a plan

It is hard to plan the direction of a divorce case because it is impossible to tell how the other person will react to everything, and judges can be unpredictable.

But what can sometimes be planned is how you are going to live your life after the divorce is filed. Here are some of the questions to ask:

  1. Will I be able to live in the same house as my spouse?
  2. Is it likely to be very hostile?
  3. How will I support myself?
  4. Do I have all the health insurance information I need?
  5. If I’m moving out, do I have everything I need?
  6. If I’m moving out, how do I secure a residence without my spouse knowing?

Tip 5: Meet with a divorce lawyer

People often call me for a consultation. Many request a “free divorce consultation.” I have a couple opinions about free consultations; you can read this article about that. Long story short, if you are seriously thinking about starting a divorce in Illinois, a free consultation won’t have much value.

Meeting with and retaining an Illinois divorce lawyer is, in my opinion, the only way to adequately plan for a divorce. When I meet with clients to plan starting a divorce in Illinois, I give the specific advice suited to their situations. That’s normally much better than the snippets of advice they get from friends, and generic bits of wisdom gleaned from questionable websites.

I can’t give legal advice in this article – if you need that, please, hire an Illinois divorce lawyer.

About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).