How Long will my divorce take?

This, along with how much will my divorce cost, are the two most frequently asked questions by potential clients at an initial consultation. Unfortunately, they are both very hard to answer. Among other factors, the answers are dependent on 1) how agreeable (or disagreeable) you and your spouse are during the process; 2) the cooperation between the professionals retained and the parties; 3) willingness of each party to give information requested; and 4) the court schedule if the case is contested.

At The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC, clients should expect individual attention and follow through in an effort to move the process forward. We encourage clients to recognize when it is appropriate to agree to terms and when it is your best interest to contest others. Clients can help expedite the process by timely completing all tasks asked of you, such as completing financial forms and signing documents. You should be cautious of any attorney that guarantees a timeframe at the outset, as it is not predictable from the start of a case. Our goal is to get you the best results while keeping the case cost-effective and resolving it as quickly as possible.

How much will my divorce cost?

This is obviously one of your biggest concerns and one that we are very mindful of, always trying to help minimize. In almost all cases, you will need to pay a retainer at the start of your case, which varies based upon the complexity of your individual case. You are billed on an hourly basis against that retainer, will receive monthly statements itemizing the charges, and when it is used up, you will either need to pay an additional retainer or keep current on your monthly invoice.

We cannot predict the total cost of your case, as it is dependent on many factors, such as 1) how agreeable (or disagreeable) you and your spouse are during the process; 2) the cooperation between the professionals retained and the parties; 3) willingness of each party to give information requested; and 4) how many court appearances are necessary. You should be cautious of any attorney that guarantees a certain cost, as it is not predictable from the start of a case and you may not receive the level of attention your case deserves, in certain fee arrangement structures.

The best way of controlling the costs is to be responsive and engaged with your attorney, be considerate of their advice, and timely complete the tasks requested of you during the process. The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC prides itself in the individualized attention to each case while maintaining reasonable hourly rates, working hard to resolve cases with the best possible outcome for each client.

Do I Have to Pay all of my attorney's fees myself?

You may not have to pay for all the attorneys' fees arising from your divorce or family law case. Under limited circumstances, Illinois courts permit "fee shifting," where the court requires the other party to pay legal fees when they have the greater financial ability to do so. Fees may be awarded during or at the conclusion of a case, and they may come from your share of the marital estate or your spouse’s.  Fee awards are also possible in post-decree or non-divorce cases, if one has the inability to pay and the other side has the ability to pay fees, and in cases where one party did not follow a court order and there has been a finding of contempt of court.

Each case is different and The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC prides itself on aggressively pursuing fees when appropriate and candidly counseling clients when it may not be.  We caution you to beware of any attorney that promises the other side will pay - while this is a great way to attract clients, the guarantees cannot always be delivered. We instead set realistic goals and work hard to achieve the results that are important to you.

What is an uncontested divorce?

When there are few or no contested issues, then the matter becomes one of drafting and reviewing paperwork, filing the case, and appearing in court one time at the “prove up,” or the date of the divorce. Uncontested cases can take just a month or two, whereas a highly contested case can go on for up to two years or even more. Either one or both parties may have an attorney, but one attorney cannot represent both parties.  

For all cases, The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC tailors all legal documents to your individual case.  We also make sure that you are protected and identify issues that you and your spouse may not have considered, counseling you through the process while being mindful of maintaining the case as amicable as possible. We are here to guide you through the court process to make it simple and not overwhelming, and expedite a complete resolution for you.

How can I stay "sane" during my divorce?

There is no doubt this can be an extremely difficult time in your life, emotionally, financially, and physically. It is important to do your best to stay healthy. We recommend you eat right, exercise, and not make this case all-consuming. If your case is one that involves contested custody issues, your children will need you to be your best, so it is important to take care of yourself.

The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC has a great network of professionals that we can refer you to so that you are as healthy that you can be, while we focus on counseling you through amicable resolutions and strategic litigation.

How do I choose the right divorce attorney?

Choosing the right divorce attorney may seem overwhelming.  It is best to rely upon the advice of people you know and trust for referrals, and then meet with your potential attorney(s) to make sure you feel that your interests will be protected and you are comfortable talking candidly with that person, as you will be sharing confidential information and allowing them to guide you through what could be a difficult and emotional process.  The attorney should practice solely in family law, so they are experienced with issues similar to yours.

At The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC, clients can expect to be given our full attention, be responded to timely, and work hard in a cost-effective manner.  We give honest, personalized advice, sets reasonable expectations, and provide successful solutions to your goals. We are experienced in all aspects of family law cases, which include divorce, custody/parenting issues (now known as allocation of decision-making and parenting time), child support and maintenance, domestic violence and prenuptial agreements. Erin has a reputation for being kind when appropriate, and aggressive when necessary, while making every effort to achieve an amicable and fair settlement out-of-court through creative approaches and skillful advocacy. We also have connections with other professionals, including financial and mental health experts, and will give you referrals when necessary, or we are happy to work with the teams you already have in place.

What is the difference between Divorce and legal separation in Illinois

The ending of a marriage is a “dissolution of marriage” and is commonly referred to as a divorce. While a divorce ends a marriage and allows the parties to marry again; a legal separation does not. In both divorce and legal separation cases, the parties may request orders for child and/or spousal support, custody and visitation, domestic violence restraining orders, etc. Legal separation may be preferable for couples to live apart and not decide all the issues in their case. Legal separation is very uncommon and typically is used to allow one spouse to stay on the other’s insurance, or in certain religious communities.

The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC counsels clients through the legal benefits and concerns of divorce and separation.

What are the grounds for divorce in Illinois?

Illinois has eliminated all grounds for divorce except for “irreconcilable differences.” Irreconcilable differences are sincere, permanent differences between the spouses that have led to an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage. Spouses to do not have agree to get divorced, one spouse can decide that the marriage is over, and the divorce will move forward.  This can be hard for the other spouse if he or she is not emotionally ready to be divorced. Also in Illinois, divorces are “no-fault.” No one spouse can be financially punished for the breakdown of the marriage. However, one parties’ misuse of marital funds after its irretrievable breakdown will be considered in the disposition or allocation of the marital estate.

At The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC, we counsel you through the entire divorce process, including discussing when your marriage broke down, if attempts at reconciliation may be possible, referring you to the appropriate mental health professional, and analyzing the financial impact to divorce.

What will I owe or receive in maintenance or spousal support/alimony?

The award of any maintenance in Illinois is now typically subject to statutory guidelines, which gives more predictability to the amount and time period of what may be paid (provided you fit within the income parameters of the guidelines themselves, i.e. couples with a combined income of less than $500,000 and no multiple family situation). However, courts can still deviate from this formula based upon various factors and a court first has to make a determination if your case is one that even warrants the payment of maintenance.  

As of 2019, maintenance is no longer deductible by the payor and includible in the recipient's income. Calculations are based upon net income, by taking 33 ⅓ percent of the payor’s net annual income minus 25 percent of the payee’s net annual income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of 40 percent of the combined gross income of the parties. If a party is paying maintenance, that is a statutory deduction when calculating child support.

Each case is unique and at The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC, we analyze all facets of maintenance, as well as calculate the various scenarios. We are also experienced in analyzing income, including when one spouse is attempting to hide income and when it is appropriate to impute income when it is not actually being earned.  We find creative solutions to amicably settle maintenance issues when possible, and aggressively pursue or defend against maintenance when necessary.

How is Marital Property divided in Illinois?

Courts take into consideration many factors when dividing the marital estate, in the absence of a written pre or post nuptial agreement. Illinois is an “equitable” division state, which does not always, but typically means equal division. Some estates are divided on a disproportionate basis, when considering factors such as if a party has substantial non-marital estate, the award of maintenance, and the parties’ ages, health and income.

At The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC, we work with our clients on an individualized basis, to determine what the best outcome for them will be, such as whether you should attempt to retain your marital home, the allocation of various assets and debts, how to divide retirement accounts, how to value the assets, and which are marital and non-marital. We are also happy to work with your financial advisors so you feel most comfortable with an amicable resolution or preparing for contested litigation pursuing all of your rights and protecting your interests.

What if my spouse is hiding income or assets, or if I do not have access to the financial information?

This is a common concern, especially by spouses who did not have access or control to the financial accounts or information during the marriage. However, income is hard to actually hide, even in a cash business, based upon a “lifestyle” analysis and review of the statements that do exist. That means even if your spouse is not reporting his or her income, we can analyze the expenses to show there is more income than what is being alleged. Also, we can review the claimed expenses, or deductions, on a tax return, as not all of those expenses are allowable for calculating support, even if completely legitimate on tax returns. Additionally, we will review all of the known assets, and trace the withdrawals and deposits, to see where the trail of money can be followed. In certain circumstances, we will work with forensic accountants, private investigators and other professionals to help trace and locate the hidden money, income or assets.

If you were not the spouse in control or even with access to the financial information, we will be able to obtain this information from the other side with mandatory discovery and if they are not cooperative or if you have concerns over the information tendered, we have the ability to send subpoenas to employers, businesses, banks and close friends, relatives, or significant others of a spouse.

At The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC, we have experience in all aspects of reviewing the financials of a marriage or an individual, including reviewing and analyzing tax returns and all other financial accounts. We will make spreadsheets and help trace the income and assets, to break down the information in a way that is understandable for each individual client.

What is Dissipation?

Dissipation is spending of marital funds on a purpose not related to the marriage after the marriage has broken down. Common examples include gambling, abusing alcohol, paying for pornography or prostitution, or spending monies on a girlfriend or boyfriend or lavish vacations. If dissipation is proven in your divorce matter, then you are entitled to a reimbursement from the party dissipating assets.

The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC looks at the financial accounts in each case to determine whether there has been dissipation, and if so, crafts ways to creatively resolve the issue if possible or aggressively pursue the matter in litigation when necessary.

What is the difference between decision making and parenting time? What happened to “custody”?

Under the former Illinois law, we used the terms sole and joint custody for decision making and residential custodian for where the child lived and visitation when the other parent saw the child(ren). Now, the terminology is different.  Decision-making can be allocated jointly or solely to a parent in the areas of education, health care, religion, and extra-curricular activities. This allows room to negotiate and to factor in how decisions were historically made in the family. There are many factors upon which the court basis the decision on how to allocate these rights, all within the purview of the legal standard of "the best interest of the child."

The allocation of parenting time is separate from decision-making rights.This is about where the child lives primarily, what the parenting time schedule is, whether there is an equal allocation of parenting time, and whether there need to be restrictions put in place to protect the child.   

If the parties cannot come to an agreement regarding decision-making or parenting time, mediation is a required first step, either through local county resources or privately.  If there is still no agreement, the court may appoint a child representative or Guardian ad Litem, which is an attorney on behalf of your child. That person is an additional cost but may be helpful in resolving the issues or presenting the positions or making recommendations to the court.  In addition, some cases require the appointment of a mental health expert to interview the parties, children, and others, and make recommendations to the court.

At The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC we have experience in all types of custody and parentage cases, ranging from when the parties share equal parenting time to when there are restrictions put in place to protect the child from serious endangerment. We can creatively craft settlement agreements where each party feels as it is in the child(ren)’s best interests or aggressively pursue our client’s position in court, including all the way through a contested trial.

Can I move out of state with my child?

You will need a court order or written agreement from the other parent to move any long distance away from your current residence, which is 25 miles in Cook and the surrounding counties and 50 miles in other areas of Illinois.  The actual state your are moving to now is not the determining factor. If this is contested, the burden is on the person moving to prove it is in the child’s best interest, after considering many factors.

Traveling out of state is not held to the same standard; though you must give notice to the other parent when doing so.

Relocation cases are typically some of the more difficult cases, emotionally and financially. At The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC, we try to find creative solutions to resolve these matters, but are prepared and counsel our clients in preparation for litigation.  We are experienced in relocation matters, and will work with you to best accomplish your goals, whether it be to accomplish or prevent a move

How Much is Child Support?

Illinois now uses the “Income Share Model.” Child support is calculated by looking at both parties’ annual incomes. If you have 146 overnights with the child, this will reduce the child support paid, and equal parenting time will further reduce the child support paid.  

Contribution toward out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical, educational, daycare and extra-curricular activities are paid separately from child support and both parties will be obligated to pay a portion of these expenses based upon your income levels.

If you currently have an order under the older percentage guidelines approach, you may or may not be entitled to a modification of your existing obligation. The new law itself is not a sufficient basis to modify support; there must be another substantial change in circumstances.

The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC is experienced in analyzing income, including when one spouse is attempting to hide income and when it is appropriate to impute income when it is not actually being earned, and discussing whether a modification is appropriate.