Divorce, what are the options?

The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C. offers the following services to assist clients contemplating divorce:

  • Mediation
  • Collaborative Divorce
  • Uncontested Divorce (i.e. content provider for legal documents)

What are the benefits of Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Practice is a private process that:

  • encourages mutual respect,
  • keeps the control of the process with the individuals,
  • is time and cost efficient,
  • emphasizes the needs of the children,
  • utilizes a problem-solving approach, and
  • identifies and addresses the interests and concerns of all.

Can we hire one (1) attorney?

Illinois prohibits using one (1) attorney for both parties as it is a conflict of interest.

A couple can chose to hire only one (1) attorney, however, that attorney must represent only one (1) person, the husband or the wife, but not both. The non-represented party would then file a pro-se (self represented) appearance and must understand that the attorney will not provide the non-represented party legal advice. Under this circumstance, the non-represented party should consult with an attorney prior to signing any documents, however, attorney review is not mandatory.

Collaborative Divorce requires that both parties be represented by a collaborative trained attorney and thus two attorneys will be hired. While this might appear to add costs, collaborative attorneys are trained to negotiate effectively and efficiently and therefore overall costs are lower than a traditional litigated divorce.

Can a divorce be stopped?

If a petition for dissolution of marriage has not been filed, the parties can agree to reconcile. Once a petition for dissolution of marriage has been filed, it is rare that the divorce can be stopped. Only the petitioner can decide to withdraw the petition. There are, however, very few circumstances, such as mental incompetency, that may prevent a case from being heard and determined.

How long does it take to get divorced or separated?

It is difficult to determine how long it can take to finalize a divorce or terms of separation. Timing depends on several factors such as complexity of case, litigation vs. settlement, date of separation, etc. Generally, the most time efficient cases result from an honest and amicable couple. Tactics and deception only prolong a case.

How much will my case cost?

It is difficult to determine how much a family law case will cost. Generally, litigation is most expensive due to discovery, court appearances, contested motions/pleadings, and civil procedure. Collaborative divorce is less expensive than litigation, and mediation is less expensive than collaborative divorce. Overall costs, however, depend on the issues to be resolved and the ability of the parties to effectively negotiate.

Clients receive an engagement agreement explaining the fees and costs associated with the case. In addition, clients receive a monthly detailed invoice that details all costs of service. Our clients are thoroughly informed about costs, fees and hourly rates.

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Will seeing a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc. be used against me?

It depends on the divorce process chosen. In litigation, mental health services may be used as an issue in custody cases. If something arguably effects the child/ren, it may be used in court.

In collaborative divorce and mediation, which is not subject to rules of evidence or made a public record, mental health services are often employed to help the couple and child/ren. If there is a true problem, the parties can craft an agreement that helps all involved.

Does a child have a say in the divorce?

In litigation cases, the judge may consider the child's opinion so long as the child is of a certain age, maturity, and competency. In collaborative law and mediation, the child's opinion is considered so long as the parties agree and/or the child specialist recommends that the child's opinion be considered.

What is the difference between sole & joint custody and an allocation of parental responsibilities?

Under the old statute: Joint custody is appropriate when parties agree on certain major issues that influence the upbringing and care for the child/ren. If the parties cannot agree on such issues, sole custody to one party is appropriate.

Under the new statute: Parents must settle on or a Court will decide how to allocate parenting time and decision making responsibilities for major decisions such as education and health care of a child. The terms “joint custody”, “sole custody” and “visitation” are no longer used.

Who pays child support and how much?

For most families, child support should be paid to the person that has the child/ren the majority of the time. Illinois has statutory guidelines for the amount of child support per child. In certain circumstances, there can be a deviation from the guidelines such that either more or less child support is paid.

For parents with equal parenting time or significant parenting time, such as 146 overnights or more per year, child support is calculated based upon an income sharing approach.

Maintenance – how much and for how long?

Parties that earn substantially the same income likely will not be granted maintenance. In the alternative, a long-term marriage where one party did not earn a substantial income throughout the marriage may be considered a case where permanent maintenance is appropriate. Couples that earn over $250,000.00 per year will determine maintenance support to one spouse based upon certain statutory factors such as education, age, standard of living. For couples earning less than $250,000.00 per year, new statutory guidelines will likely be applied to calculate both the amount and duration of a maintenance obligation.

Can you change attorneys (hire a new attorney)?

A party can change attorneys at any time, except when a judge denies such a request in a litigation case. In most cases, including a collaborative divorce, a party can fire and hire an attorney at any time that person believes there is a breakdown in the attorney/client relationship. Please know that an attorney can also terminate the attorney/client relationship.

Alcohol/Drugs have hurt our marriage, how is that considered?

In litigation, alcohol and drug use can be made a contested and public issue especially if children are involved. The court will react to past or current alcohol/drug conduct, and only after an incident occurs will it address future conduct. One must consider the repercussions of making alcohol/drug use public. It can, and often times does, effect employment which in turn affects child support and/or maintenance.

In collaborative divorce and mediation, the parties can be proactive and structure an agreement to help the future and current situation of the person and family members suffering from the effects of alcohol/drug use. A professional may be retained to help the family address the issue privately.

Can I move out of Illinois with the children?

In Illinois, parents subject to the court system (through a divorce or parentage case) need the approval of the other parent, which can be reached through mediation or collaborative law, or the consent of a judge to remove a child from the state of Illinois.

Consent and court approval is also necessary for moving a child within Illinois but beyond a certain mileage from the other parent.

Ex spouse fails to have our kid/s ready on time, what do I do?

Please read your parenting agreement, you likely need to attend mediation to address the issue before filing a petition in court. Mediation often resolves this issue without the need and expense of litigation.

In a post-decree collaborative case (meaning issues that arise after the divorce), the parties can meet with their respective attorneys to resolve the issue and modify the parenting agreement if necessary.

Ex spouse is not following our parenting agreement, what do I do?

Please read your parenting agreement, you likely need to attend mediation to address the issue before filing a petition in court. Mediation may resolve the issue without the need and expense of litigation.

In a post-decree collaborative case (meaning issues that arise after the divorce), the parties can meet with their respective attorneys to resolve the issue and modify the parenting agreement if necessary.

If you are contemplating a divorce or separation, please read our services offered and contact us for a planning session.

Recent Posts

Recent Case Results

  • In the face of financial turmoil due to her husband's gambling addiction, a young mother sought to relocate with her children for family support. With strategic negotiation, a divorce attorney secured their move while preserving father-child bonds, all while keeping costs low and achieving client satisfaction. Read On

  • Our attorney, Erin Birt, recently represented a wife, we will call Jaime, during her DuPage County uncontested divorce proceedings. In this case, both parties were in complete agreement regarding the divorce, and they, like many of our past clients, had no children or shared property. This similarity positions our firm well to streamline the process and minimize any potential stress or complications for our uncontested divorce clients with no children. Read On

  • Let's call our client John, a hardworking man in his 50s, who, after years of dedicated service to his family, found himself facing the complexities of a divorce. His wife, let's call her Sarah, had taken measures to conceal a significant portion of her income and retirement benefits, and to complicate matters further, she had entered into a new relationship. Read On

Our Attorneys

  • Erin Birt

    Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on pa...

  • Tyler Birt

    Since 2007, Tyler Birt has been a legal assistant and bookkeeper fo...

  • Karen Hansel

    As Administrative Assistant at Birt Law, Karen’s involvement in dai...

Family Centered Divorce ∙ Mediation ∙ Co-Parenting

Birt Family Law is the family centered law and mediation practice with a focus on restorative divorce; offering creative and supportive legal and mediation solutions with one goal: keeping the separating family out of court and working together towards a peaceful resolution.

We offer multiple options to achieve this goal including mediation, coaching, co-parenting strategies, and restorative divorce services. 

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Birt Family Law is committed to answering your questions about Family Law and Mediation. We'll gladly discuss your situation with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule a free 15 min call.