Chicago Lawyers for Women Answer Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce

If you are facing divorce, you likely have many questions during this difficult time. Here, we address some common concerns people have when they come to our conveniently located offices in Chicago (loop), Lake Forest and Lisle.

How long will my divorce take?

Unfortunately, the timeframe for a divorce is very difficult to determine―and you should be cautious of any attorney who claims to know the answer. Lawyers you speak with will only hear your side of the story, which may be 100% correct, but that doesn’t tell any lawyer what the other side is going to claim or do.  Generally, the length of a divorce depends on your particular situation as well as factors beyond your control, such as:

  • The degree to which you and your spouse agree on issues
  • The cooperation between you and your spouse
  • The court schedule in a particular county

In circumstances where both spouses agree on every issue, a divorce can usually be completed in a few weeks (this is called an "uncontested divorce"). However, if the parties cannot agree on custody, property division or other matters, a divorce can take at least a year or more. If there are issues involving concealed or hidden assets, a divorce can take as long as several years to complete.

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How much will my divorce cost?

Our firm takes pride in the quality of our work and in our ability to keep our fees reasonable and competitive in the Chicago metro area. Just as with the length of a divorce, no attorney can predict what a contested divorce will cost because we never know what the other side is going to do.  The cost is closely related to the time (as all law offices work on an hourly basis), but we work hard to be efficient and pragmatic in moving your case to a conclusion.  We do this by ensuring that each client is properly attended to and communicated with throughout the case.  This is the best way of ensuring the case stays within a budget is through personal attention and constant contact with our clients to make sure you are not just another file or number like many offices that operate “volume” practices. Rather, our experienced, compassionate, and (when needed) aggressive attorneys focus on the individual needs of each client. As a result, we will not be your least expensive option for a divorce lawyer nor will we be your most expensive. Instead, we strive to offer our clients exceptional legal service for the best value possible.

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How much will an uncontested divorce cost?

An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which both spouses agree on all terms of the divorce relating to property, child custody, child visitation, child support, alimony and debts, and do not require the court to divide property or make a determination regarding custody, visitation and support. In an uncontested divorce, your attorney's job is to take the terms of your verbal or written agreement and convert them into a legally binding document. We are not like most law firms that use a form, instead, we tailor each agreement to fit the specifics of each case while ensuring that your rights are protected. The cost of an uncontested divorce typically ranges depending on the complexity of your case.

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Do I have to pay all the attorneys' fees myself?

You may not have to pay for all the attorneys' fees arising from your divorce. Under limited circumstances, Illinois courts permit "fee shifting," a concept that allows a court to shift the payment of legal fees from one spouse to the other when one spouse is better able to pay for legal fees. For example, if you stayed home while your husband pursued his career for the last 10 years, a court may order your husband to pay some or all of your attorneys' fees. However, beware of any attorney that promises the other side will pay.  Making these types of promises (or other promises on things like costs or time) are a great way to get clients, but a poor way of keeping them.  As we focus on and the majority of our clients are women, we regularly investigate the feasibility of seeking a fees and costs from your spouse.  Each case is different so please contact one of our attorneys for additional information.

The Women's Divorce & Family Law Group by Haid & Teich is extremely sensitive to the financial disparities faced by women in divorce and custody cases. For this reason, we work hard to maintain very reasonable legal fees while providing the highest quality of legal representation.

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What if my spouse is hiding money, income or assets?

Unfortunately, we are all to familiar with this problem, and it is far more common than most people realize. If your spouse has concealed assets, we will work with you to find hidden money, income or property using all means legally available. We have the ability to send subpoenas to employers, businesses, banks and close friends or relatives of a spouse; and when appropriate, we will work with forensic accountants, private investigators and other professionals to help trace and locate the hidden money, income or assets. However, one must always keep costs into account and make a cost/benefit analysis when it comes to finding hidden funds.  For example, it does not make sense to spend $1000 to find $1000.  Your attorney will work with you to determine what degree of investigation is worthwhile in your particular case.

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Will I lose everything to my spouse?

No, you will not lose everything to your spouse. In Illinois, courts will attempt to divide the property of both spouses equitably―or fairly―looking at numerous factors such as the potential earning power of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and the assets each spouse brought into the marriage. Our lawyers are skilled at preparing and presenting the evidence for a favorable property division in a unique manner to ensure that you obtain your fair share of marital assets.

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Our largest asset is a business―who will get it when we divorce?

A number of our attorneys have experience in both business and divorce litigation. Many women facing divorce are concerned when the family's greatest or most valuable asset is a business. If a business is a marital asset in your case, we work to ensure this asset is properly accounted for when it comes to dividing property.  To accomplish this and protect your interests, we sometimes hire business appraisers, valuation experts, accountants, and other professionals to determine the true value of a business. You should never rely on your spouse's assertion of the value of a business until you have consulted your attorney and, often, obtain a valuation from a neutral professional.

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Will I receive maintenance (i.e. spousal support or alimony) during or after divorce?

This is one of our most frequently litigated issues and something our attorney are very familiar with.  In divorce cases, maintenance (also referred to as "spousal support" or "alimony") is generally an issue if one spouse earns substantially more than the other spouse. Illinois does not have any set formula for determining spousal support, and much of the information about this available online is incorrect.  Without a set rule, whether or not your spouse will be ordered to be pay alimony during or after divorce depends on several factors, including:

  • The income and property of each spouse
  • The needs of each spouse
  • The present and future earning capacity of the spouse seeking support
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage

Once we know the unique facts of your situation, we can provide you with a better assessment on the maintenance ("alimony") issue.

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Will an extramarital affair have an impact on my divorce?

For good or bad, Illinois is a "no-fault" divorce state, which means that Illinois courts will not consider whether a spouse is having an extramarital affair when it comes to the distribution of property. However, an affair can impact how child custody is determined. When an affair is part of the facts in a case, we work diligently with our clients to obtain child custody arrangements designed to protect the child's physical and psychological wellbeing.

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How does separation or divorce happen for non-traditional or alternative families?

Our firm is very familiar with non-traditional families, and are credited with filing (and completing) Illinois' first Same-Sex Divorce. However, separation and/or divorce for non-traditional or alternative families is sometimes more complicated than for traditional families because the law has not yet caught up to the unique challenges facing these families. When possible, advanced planning through prenuptial agreements and estate planning can reduce the strain of divorce and/or separation. However, when pre-planning isn’t possible, as with traditional families undergoing a divorce, we work to obtain your goals in a diligent and pragmatic manner.

As noted above, in 2011, our firm handled the first same-sex divorce case in Illinois. Since then, our attorneys are actively involved in advancing this area of law and consulting on the issue. Please contact us for further information and to discuss the legal options available to you.

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What is the effect of my divorce on my estate plan?

The impact will vary widely depending on the type of estate plan you have. We encourage all of our clients to address this issue immediately following (and sometimes during) the divorce process in order to protect themselves and their loved ones.

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Does your firm represent men also?

Yes, we represent anyone looking for personalized and efficient legal care. Although our practice is focused on representing women in family law matters, we also provide the same attention and service to men. In fact, about 25% of our clients are men, which we mostly obtain from referrals from other attorneys. Our firm was established to help reduce inequality experienced by gender differences, and we do not feel this goal would be properly promoted by limiting our practice solely to women.

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I read all the FAQs, and I have more questions―how can I learn more?

Do not hesitate to contact the Women's Divorce & Family Law Group with your questions and concerns. We understand how complex and confusing these issues are at times, and once we know your unique situation, we can help guide you to make sound decisions for yourself and your family.