Too often, when contemplating divorce, people believe some common divorce myths that are seemingly based on common sense. However, the facts are often different than what people think. It can be detrimental to your case if you enter into divorce proceedings without understanding the facts about Illinois divorce law and how the courts work. Below are five common myths about divorce and the corresponding facts that you should understand before filing for divorce in Illinois.
Myth 1: My spouse and I will use the same attorney for our divorce
Fact: One attorney cannot represent both spouses in a divorce. Illinois law holds that it is a conflict of interest for one attorney to advise or represent both divorcing spouses. An attorney can represent one spouse and the other spouse can chose to be unrepresented by counsel (“pro se”).
Myth 2: We’ve been married for 2 years so there will be no alimony
Fact: Illinois law provides for the possibility of spousal support, called “maintenance” in Illinois, even for short marriages. If a spouse asks for maintenance in a Chicago divorce and the parties do not agree, the judge makes a finding as to whether or not maintenance is appropriate. The judge considers all relevant factors including, but not limited to, the income, property and needs of each party and the age and health of each party. See Illinois Statute on Maintenance. However, a party may waive his or her claim to maintenance.
Myth 3: We kept our finances separate so there is nothing to divide
Fact: Some divorcing spouses may be surprised to learn that their separate bank accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, and more may be marital property. These assets may be marital property even if they are titled in the name of only one spouse or only one spouse earned income during the marriage. Generally, Illinois courts have ruled that property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be marital property, but there are exceptions. See Illinois Divorce Statute on Property.
Myth 4: I am entitled to a portion of my spouse’s inheritance
Fact: Usually, the law classifies inheritance as non-marital property. However, if the recipient has gifted the inheritance to the marriage or commingled the inheritance, it may have lost its non-marital status. It will depend upon the specific facts as to whether or not the inheritance has lost its non-marital status. Even if an inheritance has lost its non-marital status, in some cases the spouse may be able to recover all or some of the funds.
Myth 5: We talked about it and agree so our divorce is uncontested
Fact: For some spouses, speaking with each other about the terms of a divorce can be beneficial. For one thing, it may help you think through what you want and do not want in the divorce. But, in some cases, the spouses are both incorrect about the financial and legal ramifications of the terms that they have discussed. Often, the spouses have not discussed the terms in sufficient detail to make the agreement legally enforceable. This is why consulting with an Illinois divorce attorney is usually the best first step to take.