On many occasions, the Christmas party is followed by the “divorce party”. In the United States, January is the peak time for divorce filings, giving the first month of the year the nickname Divorce Month. Divorce attorneys are inundated at the turn of the year with a surge of cases.
Spouses on the verge of a split are willing to keep the family together through the holidays, from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Especially when children are involved, keeping the family unit intact is important. Due to family concerns, divorce filings are at the lowest at the end of the year.
But for those in troubled marriages, the New Year is a time to make a fresh start. Online searches related to divorce terms spike in January. Waiting until the New Year to file makes financial sense to most couples. However, unhappy spouses may start planning prior to the New Year.
1. Qualify for Divorce
Illinois divorce laws require that one spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days in order to qualify for a divorce. Irreconcilable differences may push couples to live apart for six months or more. Illinois courts recognize the spouses cannot get along—and allow the divorce.
2. Anticipate Type of Divorce
A divorce in Illinois can be either contested or uncontested. As expected, an uncontested divorce resolves far more quickly. Agreements in settlement issues accelerate the divorce. Spouses who fail to agree will see their divorce costs rise and their divorce proceedings lengthen.
Even if a spouse files for divorce in January, a contested divorce can take more than 18 months to finalize. Disagreements may surround issues, such as spousal support, where the children should reside, amount of child support, property divisions and who is responsible for debts.
3. Assess Debts
In preparation for a divorce, organize a list of debts owed individually and jointly with a spouse. Run a credit report and check that the data matches those on the list of debts. Determine which spouse is responsible for each debt. In Illinois, ex-spouses are not responsible for post-divorce debt.
Look for discrepancies that may indicate errors or even fraud. A spouse, for instance, may have fraudulently obtained credit in the partner’s name. Such scenarios should receive immediate attention in divorce proceedings rather than be addressed in subsequent months or years.
4. Take Inventory
Create an inventory of all property, which includes tangible and intangible assets and marital and non-marital property. The list may contain real estate, money, investments, belongings and even pets. Illinois is a non-community property state, so marital property is divided equitably.
Certain possessions are not considered marital property. Assets owned before marriage, goods received as an inheritance or gift and items received after a legal separation are considered non-marital property. In Illinois divorce court, the judge divides the property fairly—not in a 50/50 split.
5. Gather Documents
Upon communicating the decision to divorce, a spouse may protest by destroying valuable documents. Prepare ahead of time by making copies of important paperwork, which may be provided to the other spouse at a later time. These documents will be necessary during divorce filings.
Examples of documents to assemble include mortgages and deeds, vehicle titles, tax returns at both the state and federal levels, marriage certificates, passport, pay stubs or other proof of income, records of investments and records from court cases, such as bankruptcy or parenting time.
6. Determine Spousal Support
Upon anticipating an uncontested divorce, financial support to the divorcing partner will be unnecessary. Spouses who are able to work will be required to support themselves. However, in some instances, temporary maintenance may be granted if the divorce prolongs for several months.
Illinois laws view maintenance to be equal for men and women. A judge will consider various factors when deciding to order maintenance: emotional and physical condition, earning potential, time needed to find a job, lifestyle during the union and length of the marriage.
If a judge orders maintenance, the length of the financial support will be based on how long the marriage lasted. Illinois courts follow a specified formula: In a marriage of less than five years, the actual married years are multiplied by 0.20, and in ten, multiplied by 0.40.
7. Gain Tax Advantage
Spouses who file for divorce in the new year benefit from the ability to file their taxes jointly for the prior year. A couple’s marital status on December 31 determines the marital status for the whole year. Individuals who file after New Year use their tax refund for divorce-related expenses.
Work with a Divorce Attorney
Filing for divorce is costly. Spouses who expect an uncontested divorce can represent themselves in divorce court. Married couples who are unable to agree on financial matters or who battle child support and custody issues greatly benefit from a qualified divorce lawyer from Allen Gabe Law, PC.
Illinois family and divorce laws are complex to navigate. The divorce attorneys at Allen Gabe Law, PC, bring over 30 years of legal experience to cases. Whether you anticipate an uncontested or contested divorce, skilled representation ensures the most favorable outcomes for you and your family.
The Allen Gabe Law, PC, firm of divorce and family lawyers have handled countless child custody and visitation issues with expertise, developing tailored custody and visitation plans that work for parents. We also negotiate fair spousal support based on our clients’ unique situations.
Given that Illinois courts divide property equitably instead of evenly, our team of family law attorneys help clients determine what is considered marital property, from homes to boats to bank accounts. We also prepare pre- and post-nuptial agreements to protect individuals in the event of divorce.
Allen Gabe Law, PC, is dedicated to serving clients in the communities surrounding Schaumburg, Illinois. If your New Year’s resolutions include filing for divorce, our divorce attorneys are prepared to represent your best interests in court. Start the divorce process with a confidential and free consultation.