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Illinois Divorce Lawyer

With offices in Carol Stream, St. Charles and Chicago, the family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt, P.C. handle divorces throughout the suburban Chicago area, helping individuals through the marriage dissolution process while protecting their rights and interests in child custody and other important issues.

The Divorce Process

Either spouse may file for dissolution of marriage in Illinois if that spouse has resided in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing. The divorce must be filed in the county where either of the spouses resides.

In 2016, the legislature has made obtaining a divorce easier. Grounds such as adultery or mental cruelty are no longer to be alleged or proven. Illinois law, like so many other states, recognizes the no-fault ground based upon irreconcilable differences between the spouses. The only requirement for obtaining a divorce is that the spouses live apart [separate lifestyles] for at least six months preceding the issuance of the divorce decree. This means that for a recently separated couple, the divorce process could take at least 6 months to be finalized, but if there are contested issues related to custody, support, or property division, it could take even longer.

Property Division

Illinois is an equitable distribution state, which means that the marital property will be divided by the court as equally as possible, but in a manner the court deems is fair. The court considers a number of factors in determining what is fair, including the length of the marriage; the income, health, and needs of each spouse; and the contribution each spouse made to the value of the marital estate.

Marital property includes basically all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, with certain exceptions for gifts, inheritances, and certain other property. Considering the wide discretion given to the judge in distributing marital property, it is very important that every asset be properly characterized as marital or non-marital (separate) property and accurately valued. Characterization and valuation can be quite complicated in large estates or with certain assets such as one spouse’s interest in a pension plan or share in business ownership.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, also known as maintenance, is not awarded in every case. Support may be ordered to be paid by either spouse, and the award may be temporary or permanent. In making an award, the court looks at many factors, including the income and needs of each spouse, each spouse’s present and future earning capacity, the time it will take the receiving spouse to become self-supporting, and whether one spouse contributed to the education, training, or career potential of the other spouse.

On January 1, 2016, the Illinois legislature enacted a new maintenance statute on guidelines for use in divorce cases where the parties’ combined gross annual incomes are less than $250,000. The maintenance guidelines were established to provide for consistency and predictability in calculating maintenance awards. Previously, maintenance awards were very discretionary and subjective from courtroom to courtroom. The maintenance guidelines utilize a formula similar to what Illinois courts have been utilizing for years in determining child support.

According to the new guidelines, the maintenance award would equate to 30% of the payor spouse’s gross income, minus 20% of the recipient’s gross income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of recipient, may not result in the recipient receiving an amount that exceeds 40% of the parties’ combined gross incomes.

By way of example, let’s assume the soon-to-be-ex-husband grosses $50,000 annually, and his wife earns $30,000. Thirty percent of $50,000 is $15,000, and 20% of $30,000 is $6,000. Subtracting $6,000 from $15,000, meaning the husband owes the wife $9,000 a year in maintenance. However, the $9,000 maintenance payment would cause the wife to receive an amount [$39,000] exceeding the 40-percent of the combined-income limit. [Add $50,000 plus $30,000, you get $80,000; 40% of which is $32,000. The $32,000 represents the maximum limit of the wife’s total income with maintenance included.] Thus, the wife would only be awarded $2,000 per year of maintenance under the formula.

A separate formula based on the length of the marriage establishes the duration of the maintenance award. Every 5-year-period of the marriage uses an escalating 20% multiplier to calculate the length of maintenance. For example, a marriage that last 5 years, the maintenance award would continue for 20% of that span, or 1 year. For a marriage of 10 years in length, the maintenance award would continue for 40% of that span, or 4 years. On the other end of the continuum, maintenance could be permanent or last the length of the marriage for a couple that has been married 20 years or more.

It is important to note that the court may still deviate from the applicable guidelines based on specific findings, as well as varying from the duration guidelines for maintenance.

Child Custody

The Illinois Courts now use the term ‘Allocation of Parental Responsibility’ when considering custody matters. Both parents will be required to submit a detailed parenting agreement to the family court judge within 120 days of the divorce filing, in order to keep the divorce action itself from causing even greater disruption to the children. The proposed agreements must create a comprehensive outline regarding how time and decision-making, among other legally-required topics, will be handled by each parents. If the parties do not reach an accord on a parenting agreement/plan, the judge will elect one of the plans or impose his own plan which could contain various provisions from each of the parent’s plans. The agreement/plan will allocate parenting time, along with one of the parent’s addresses for school registration and medical purposes. The purpose of the new statute is to avoid giving either party the sense that they have ‘won or lost’ the fight for custody.

Child Support

Commencing July 1, 2017, a new Income Sharing Statute will be enacted for the family law courts to utilize. The percentage guidelines used for calculating child support for the past couple of decades is considered out dated because it does not take into account the custodial parent’s income, nor the cost of raising children. In fact, Illinois is only one of 17 states currently not utilizing Income Sharing for calculating child support. The new statute will take into account the respective parents’ net incomes, give credit for repayment of student loans and consider a pre-determined schedule for child rearing expenses in the parents’ geographic location. The child rearing expenses will be determined by the Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services {HFS} in the next several months. Government benefits, such as SNAPS and SSI benefits, will not be included in the parent’s net income for purposes of calculating child support. The law offices of Johnson Westra Broecker Whittaker & Newitt PC will be reporting on the newly determined child rearing expenses as they are released.

Why Quality Legal Representation is Essential

As noted above, in every matter to be decided in a divorce, the family law judge has discretion and authority to decide the matter as he or she sees fit. Making sure that your interests are fairly represented means having an attorney on your side who not only understands the law and how to argue persuasively in court, but who takes the time to learn and understand the issues in your particular case, including your interests and desires. You can find that attorney at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt, P.C., where our goal is to provide the highest level of quality and personal service with integrity and compassion. Contact our office for professional legal advice or representation in your divorce or family law matter.

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Phone: 630-665-9600

Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt, P.C. is located in Carol Stream, St. Charles and Chicago, IL and serves clients in and around Wood Dale, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Addison, Lombard, Warrenville, Downers Grove, Aurora, Villa Park, Oak Brook, Naperville, Westmont, Hinsdale, Woodridge, Clarendon Hills, Elmhurst, Darien, Eola, Lemont, Stone Park, Franklin Park, Mooseheart, North Aurora, Melrose Park, Streamwood, Robbins, Romeoville, Schiller Park, Bartlett, River Grove, Plainfield, Elmwood Park, Bolingbrook, Elk Grove Village, Batavia, Rolling Meadows, Boone County, Cook County, De Kalb County, Du Page County, Grundy County, Kane County, Kankakee County, Kendall County, Lake County, Lee County, Mchenry County, Ogle County and Will County.

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