An uncontested divorce in Illinois can be quick and affordable!

Lake Michigan oil spill like divorce?

Today there was an oil spill in Lake Michigan. It struck me that an oil spill can be a lot like a divorce.

Bigger than they look

Both oils spills and divorces can be bigger than they first appear.

For example, in an oil spill, it can be hard to determine how much of the oil is visible on the surface area versus whatever might be dropping down into the water, broken up, and covering plans and wildlife.

In a divorce, small issues can be come immense. I’m not talking about an uncontested divorce in Illinois (which I also handle), but about a contested divorce with litigation.

Caused by idiots

Sure, accidents happen. But why did BP have a system that even allowed for the possibility of an oil spill into Lake Michigan? Someone there is an idiot, and caused a large problem.

That’s also kind of like divorce. It only takes one person to cause a giant problem. Sometimes, people are idiots.

Last longer than expected

BP’s last big spill – the one in the Gulf of Mexico, is still be cleaned up. And how many years has it been? I’m sure they’ll pretend the Lake Michigan disaster will be quickly remedied, but we know it won’t be. The impact of oil spills can last longer than people think.

Same for divorce. Potential clients ask me “Can’t we just go to court and tell the judge what happened?” My answer? No.

There are certain procedures that must be followed. And the courts are busy. So, like oil spills, divorces take longer to handle than people would like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can I fire my divorce lawyer?

It’s unusual for a lawyer to talk about how to fire your lawyer. That’s why I’m writing this article.

Should you fire your lawyer? I don’t know. That’s for you to decide. To assist you in deciding I discuss reasons for firing a lawyer before discussing how to do it.

Why fire a lawyer?

As an Illinois divorce lawyer, I don’t have any problem with a client knowing how to fire me. Think about it. Would you want a lawyer whose greatest fear is a client knowing how to fire a lawyer? If a client feels they need a different lawyer, I would wish him or her the best.

Family law is a very personal business.

Here are some reason to fire a lawyer:

  1. Personality conflicts: Your lawyer is not your best friend. Getting a lawyer that simply does whatever you want can be a recipe for disaster. However, if personality conflicts are seriously hampering your ability to deal with your lawyer, that’s a reason to seek other counsel.
  2. Lack of communication: I recently got a new client whose previous lawyer failed to communicate regarding just about every aspect of the case. If you feel you cannot communicate with your lawyer, or your lawyer is not keeping you informed, it’s time to look elsewhere.
  3. Switcharoo: Many times a client will hire a “law firm,” not a particular lawyer. That means that the firm can have anyone at the firm represent the client in court. One on hand, there is at times a need to have a different lawyer appear, and I often use co-counsel. But, on the other hand, some firms surprise clients by putting a very junior person on their case who seems not to know what’s going on.
  4. Robotic lawyering: One of my new clients hire me because her old lawyer seems to be simply going through the motions. When I reviewed the court file, I could see that the previous lawyer did not sufficiently address major areas of concern.
  5. Whacky billing: I recently reviewed a different lawyer’s invoice to my new client. That lawyer was billing himself out at $500 an hour, and was billing out paralegals at $175 an hour. I checked the lawyer’s website, and in the “About” section he lists himself, and about 7 paralegals and legal assistants – but not other lawyers. To me, that’s a guy getting cheap labor from paralegals and legal assistants, probably paying them $20 an hour, and marking up their time by about 700 percent.

How to fire a lawyer

Firing a lawyer is very easy. Contact that lawyer and tell him or her that you want that lawyer to either withdraw, or substitute for a another lawyer. If you are hiring a new lawyer, the new lawyer can often contact your old lawyer to handle the substitution. What you have to understand is that lawyers cannot simply stop going to court because that’s what you desire – the Court must allow them to get off the case. That’s done by an order to withdraw, or an order to substitute.

If a client of mine feels they desire different representation, I will work to expedite that transition.

Lawyer referring to other lawyer?

Find a divorce lawyer in Illinois can be challenging. I know that many people are referred to lawyers by their friends and family, and sometimes by other lawyers.

But one thing I’ve found – from hiring lawyers myself – is that some referrals aren’t worth anything at all. If you are referred to a lawyer, the person referring you might have a hidden agenda. For example, the person doing the referring might get compensated for doing so. Or, maybe the referral is a more honest one, but not useful. For example, a person may refer you to a lawyer because he or she hired that lawyer and was pleased with the outcome. But what if that case was nothing like yours? What if the judge was different than in your case? What if the lawyer in that other case was terribly incompetent?

One lawyer that I would refer my friends and family to is divorce lawyer Rhonda Stuart. Why would I recommend her?

  1. Value: She has the skill of attorneys that charge in excess of $400 per hour and hang original artwork on the walls of their Loop offices
  2. Experience: She has taken numerous cases to trial – and not just in family law. Sometimes, it’s good to have an attorney that can go the distance
  3. Principled: I see invoices from many law firms. One I recently saw showed that paralegal was billing at $175 per hour. The paralegal probably takes home a max of $30 per hour. So you can see that some lawyers can make a lot of money of billing out their paralegals. If they are not principled, that can be an unfortunately large expense, and unnecessary.
  4. Strategic: Some attorneys may pursue cases in a robotic fashion. Divorce lawyer Rhonda Stuart will have strategic discussions with her clients. I’ve personally witness her strategies score major wins for her clients.

I have this website in the hopes that potential clients will choose me to represent them. But if you don’t choose me, family law attorney Rhonda Stuart would be a great choice. She practice in Chicago, Skokie, Evanston and the Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Lake, and Will.

Uncontested Divorce: Top 5 Myths

If you are thinking about an uncontested divorce in Illinois, you may have talked to family and friends who have been divorced. Getting support from your family and friends is important. But the problem is they can spread the Top 5 Myths about getting an uncontested divorce.

I’d like to help dispel those myths.

Myth 1: A lawyer should represent both spouses

Many people call me and say “So you can represent both of us, right?” My answer is “I could, but I won’t.”

A lawyer should NEVER represent both parties in a dispute. Imagine this scenario:

Two spouses are getting along at the beginning of the divorce. They’re almost done with it, then they come to a disagreement. They both want advice from the lawyer. Houston – we’ve got a problem.

A lawyer could never give legal advice to two opposing parties. Most of the uncontested divorces I handle have only one lawyer – me. But the spouse of my client can get a lawyer anytime he or she wants – even if it is just to review the documents I prepare.

Myth 2: If a spouse cheated an uncontested divorce won’t work

An uncontested divorce is about making past problems “water under the bridge” and moving ahead with life. However, infidelity is an emotion issue.

I wrote an article titled “Cheating and adultery: relevant to divorce in Illinois?” The gist of that article is that judges don’t want to hear about your personal problems – to put it bluntly. I also wrote the article titled “Dating during divorce: Dissipation, alimony, custody;” that article explains that adultery/cheating/dating are only relevant to the extent that children are harmed or one spouse is wasting marital money on an extra-marital paramour.

Long story short, people who have been committed adultery or who have been cheated on can still get an uncontested divorce in Illinois.

Myth 3: We need to live separately for 2 years to get divorce

It is true that in Illinois there is a “waiting period” for getting divorced with “irreconcilable differences” as the grounds (the basis) for the divorce. However, that 2 year period can be waived by both parties so that the waiting period can be 6 months instead of 2 years.

Also, spouse can be considered to live “separate and apart” while still living in the same residence. That is, people can live in the same residence and still get divorced while they are doing so. Instead of living in separate residences, the court requires that both parties cease living as a married couple to satisfy the requirement that they live “separate and apart” for the required waiting period. Long story short: if you are sharing a residence with your spouse and want a divorce, live as “roomates” for 6 months and the waiting period will be satisfied (so long as you both agree to reduce the 2 year waiting period to 6 months).

Myth 4: Kids prevent an uncontested divorce

I’m not sure where this myth is coming from, but I’ve been hearing it a lot lately. Let me say this clearly: Parents can still get an uncontested divorce; in fact, they are amog those that judges  REALLY want to get an uncontested divorce.

The courts are busy. Fighting over kids can get ugly, expensive, and clog the courts more. So people with kids should also try to get uncontested divorces. Judges like that.

That being said, some things are worth fighting for, especially kids. But people can greatly benefit from working things out in an uncontested divorce in Illinois.

Myth 5: Owning a house prevents a divorce

These days many people have houses that are underwater, in foreclosure, or that they are trying to sell. People seem to often think that if they have to sell their house before getting divorce. That’s a fine way to do it – but not necessary.

I often write fairly complicated clauses regarding how to handle the marital home. For example, it can be handled this way:

  1. One spouse can take the home and not sell it
  2. One spouse can live in the home, the other move out, and the home can be sold
  3. Both spouses can live in the home until it is sold, after the divorce
  4. Both spouses can move out and then the home can be sold

How to get started with an uncontested divorce

Uncontested divorces are very popular because they are relatively affordable, and quick. That’s why I devoted an entire website to it, called “UncontestedDivorceinIllinois.com.”

You can contact me if you need an uncontested divorce, and I will try to make the process efficient, quick, and affordable.  And please, don’t use a shady “online divorce” website to try to get your “divorce papers.” Learn more about that at my article “Online divorce = risky business.”

Dating during divorce: Dissipation, alimony, custody

Many people wonder if they can date while getting divorced. Others contact me and complain that their spouses are cheating on them.

That begs the question, does dating while getting divorce have any effect on the divorce?

If you want some insight into that, read this article, and one about adultery titled “Cheating and adultery: relevant to divorce in Illinois?

Finances: Is your spouse wasting money on a lover?

The judge does not want to hear about your broken heart, or what a jerk your spouse is for lying to you and having sex with someone else. That might make good fodder for TV court, but TV court is not realistic.

However, that doesn’t mean that your spouse’s love life is totally irrelevant. That’s because he or she may be “dissipating” marital funds.

Dissipation occurs when, during and after the “breakdown” of the parties’ marriage, one spouse spends money for purposes other than marital purposes. What does that mean? I think examples might be in order.

Did your spouse buy the same amount of food at the grocery store as was done in the past? That’s probably not dissipation.

Did your spouse take an extra-marital lover to eat at a gourmet restaurant 5 times last month? That’s probably dissipation.

It get’s a bit more complicated than that, but I think you get the idea.

Alimony

Sometimes “alimony” is an issue. Alimony is now called spousal maintenance in Illinois.

Spousal maintenance often comes into play where one spouse is a high-earner and the other is not. There are many factors that go into how much spousal maintenance will be paid, and whether or not it will be awarded at all.

What can prevent a person from getting spousal maintenance? Many things. But one of them is if the person who wants maintenance moves in with a lover who is providing financial support. In that case, the person who wants the support is being supported by someone else, and may no longer need support from the soon-to-be ex.

Custody & Visitation

Just ask judges don’t want to hear about your broken heart, they also don’t want a bunch of jealous crazies clogging up the court complaining about how their spouse’s new lover is going to destroy their children.

Judges want people to move on with live. That makes the courts less crowded. One aspect of moving on with life – for many people – is to date someone else. And if the divorcing couple has kids, it is obvious the kids will meet the new paramour.

That being said, judges do care about exposing children to a rotating cast of short-term paramours. They also don’t want the children to come to any harm.

Long story short, if you or your spouse is dating someone, that’s probably not a big deal unless that person is creating a danger for the kids.

But the judge makes the ultimate call.

New “Right of First Refusal” statute: shame on the legislature

Many people have heard about a new “right of first refusal” provision that is taking effect on January 14, 2014. As an Illinois child custody lawyer, I find parents are often concerned about this issue. Too bad the new right of first refusal provision is a failure.

I wrote this article to provide a basic explanation of the law, and some commentary.

Long story short: the statute has no teeth and doesn’t go far enough in creating and protecting the right of first refusal in child custody and visitation situations. [click to continue…]

No-fault divorce in Illinois: what is it?

As a divorce lawyer, many people contact me asking for help with a “no-fault divorce.” Most of those people are actually looking for an “uncontested divorce,” also known as a “amicable divorce” or a “divorce by agreement.”

I wrote this article to help people understand the term “no-fault” and why that’s not the same as an uncontested divorce. Check it out, or contact me at 312-554-5433 or online.

Grounds for divorce in Illinois [click to continue…]

The best Illinois divorce lawyer? Tech matters

It seems like a lot of people want to know how to save money with a lawyer. If you are involved in a family dispute, or a divorce in Illinois, you probably want to know how to decrease the costs of litigation.

Whether you have one of the best divorce lawyers in Illinois, very expensive divorce lawyer, or a relatively affordable divorce lawyer, you probably want to know how to spend less money on your lawyer about getting the same result in your case.

Hiring an Illinois family law attorney is no easy task. Obviously, you want to hire an attorney that is best for you. To address that I wrote the article “Who is the best divorce attorney in Chicago?

But there are other things you can do to make better use of your financial resources.

Use an attorney that leverages technology

While here are numerous factors that can make some one of the best attorney for you, one of it overlooks factor is the attorneys use of technology.

Let me explain to you how I use some technology. I use secure online storage to their clients can have easy access to the document. Then also enables them to easily send me documents. Further, I make extensive use of email, some attorneys do not. I use email extensively with communicating with my clients, and with opposing counsel. That saves a lot of money that would otherwise be wasted on the expense of postage and the time involved in mailing hard copy communication.

I ran across one attorney who did an excellent job leveraging technology for the benefit of her client. Chicago divorce lawyer Marie Fahnert received permission from a judge to conduct a hearing via Skype. In that case, the man was bed-ridden, and the attorney’s use of technology was key to the success of his case. While your case may not be that extreme, Attorney Fahnert’s case does illustrate the important role played by an attorney’s creative and effective use of technology.

Avoid unnecessary communication

One of the biggest wastes of time and money is creating unnecessary communication. Divorce and child custody disputes can be very stressful. But you should be careful not to use your lawyer as a therapist. First of all, lawyers do not tend to be good therapist.

You will also want to be careful not to flood an attorney with unnecessary communication about the facts of a case. In divorce and child custody cases, some facts are relevant to the proceeding, and some facts are not. Your lawyer should help you understand what facts are relevant. If you flood an attorney with too many irrelevant facts, you are likely to waste money and to distract from the more meaningful facts.

Organize your evidence

As an Illinois divorce lawyer, one of the most time-consuming aspects of my job is to organize my clients’ testimony and evidence. Here are a few tips you can use to keep your communication organized:

  1. Use email efficiently: Don’t send 10 emails a day, unless there is an emergency. It is much better to have one email with clearly delineated topics. Using bullet-points can help keep your emails organized.
  2. Label evidence effectively: I normally coach my clients how to keep their evidence organized. When clients send me their evidence in an organized fashion, that’s less time I have to spend organizing the client’s evidence. And that saves the client’s money.

Finding an Illinois family law attorney

If you need a lawyer, you can contact me at 312-554-5433 or online. One of my most important tasks as a lawyer is to help educate my clients about how to approach the process in an efficient manner.

I represent clients in Chicago, and elsewhere in Illinois including the counties of Cook, Lake, DuPage, Will, Kane, Kendall, and McHenry. I represent clients in uncontested and contested divorce.

 

Is property split 50-50 in Illinois Divorce?

“Is property divided 50-50 in an Illinois divorce?”

As an Illinois divorce, I get that question a lot. The answer? Yes. And no

I wrote this short FAQ on division of property in an Illinois divorce.

If you need a lawyer, you can contact me at 312-554-5433 or online.

How is property divided in an Illinois divorce?

Property is decided “equitably” in an Illinois divorce. Equitably is a fancy word for fair – it’s probably used just to make things seem more sophisticated. Lawyers like that. I’m just going to use the word “fair.”

A fair division of property might mean that you get 60 percent of the property, and your spouse gets 40 percent, or vice versa. Or perhaps the property will be split equally(50-50).

Who decides what is fair?

Judges decide what a fair division of property is, unless the parties can agree. If  spouses can settle a divorce without a trial, or get an uncontested divorce, then the sp0uses choose for themselves what they think is fair.

But what if spouses don’t agree?

Then the judge decides what is fair. If you go to trial, you may very well find out that your version of fair does not comport with the judge’s version. Who do you think will win?

What property is divided in a divorce?

Not all property the spouses own is subject to division upon divorce. Only marital property is divided. Marital property is property that is acquired during the marriage – with a few exceptions that are beyond the scope of this article.

By the way, it doesn’t usually matter much whose name is on the property, or who purchased it. For example, if both spouses have separately-titled bank accounts that were opened and funded during the marriage, they might be under the impression that they get to keep an account simply because only his or her name is on it. That would be wrong. The accounts would be marital property and could be divided upon divorce.

Property division misconceptions are one reason I answer “yes” when someone asked me “Do I need a lawyer for a divorce in Illinois?”

For a bit more about dividing property, you might want to checkout my articles “Dividing property in divorce: Overview,” and  ”Uncontested Divorce & Marital Settlement Agreements: The Home.”

Finding a lawyer to discuss property division in divorce

If you need a lawyer, you can contact me at 312-554-5433 or online. One of my most important tasks as a lawyer is to help educate my clients about the laws of property division.