Understanding the elements of divorce cases in Illinois

There is more to a divorce in Illinois than just deciding to split and signing the papers. Couples must have just cause and reach certain settlements.

For any number of reasons, couples in Kane County, and throughout Illinois, may decide to divorce. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were more than 33,000 divorces across the state in 2011, the last year for which statistics were available. While making the decision to split is often difficult enough, navigating the process may be even more challenging. As such, it may be beneficial for those who are facing the end of a marriage to understand the elements of Illinois divorce cases.

Cause for divorce in Illinois

Under state law, divorce is only granted in Illinois if it is shown that irreconcilable differences led to an irreparable breakdown of the marriage. To this end, couples must show their efforts at reconciliation have failed. Further, they must prove future endeavors to reconcile would not be in their family's best interests. These stipulations are presumed in situations when couples have lived separately for at least six months.

Dividing the marital property

One of the largest hurdles for divorcing couples is the division of their marital property. In the state of Illinois, marital assets are split using the principle of equitable distribution. Therefore, the property couples share is divided equitably, but not equally. In order to make this decision, the court will determine a number of factors, including the following:

• Each spouse's contributions to acquiring and preserving their property

• The length of the couple's marriage

• The economic circumstances of each spouse

• Any obligations or rights arising from prior marriages

• Each spouse's age, health, occupation and sources of income

• The tax consequences of the property division

Under state law, the court will not give any regard to any marital misconduct that might have occurred.

Deciding maintenance awards

Spousal maintenance is not awarded in every case. Instead, it is only awarded in situations when the court deems it appropriate. To make this decision, the court will consider factors such as the income and property of each spouse, their present and future earning capacities, the needs of each spouse and the standards of living that were established during the marriage.

The amount of spousal support awards is based on the income of the spouse who has been ordered to make payments. Spousal maintenance is not always permanently awarded. The length of time a person is ordered to make such payments is dependent on factors, including the length of the couple's marriage.

Obtaining legal representation

Facing the prospect of a divorce may be trying enough for people in Illinois, and elsewhere. In addition to the emotions that are at play, they often do not know what to expect or how to proceed. Thus, couples who are considering divorce may benefit from working with an attorney. A lawyer may explain their options, negotiate on their behalf and guide them through the legal process.