Whether to divorce may be the most significant decision in your life. While a divorce lawyer is unlikely to give you critical insight or guidance for certain personal aspects of such a decision, being informed about the process, law and possible outcomes should help you make the appropriate choice for you.
Basically I have a good marriage, but sometimes I think about a divorce. Is that unusual?
No. Anger and frustrations come to every marriage, so sometimes the fantasy of a divorce occurs. This is usual, but if the idea of a divorce persists after the anger and frustration are gone, you are looking at the possibility of a divorce.
What are the consequences of a divorce I should examine?
- The psychological impact on the children.
- The financial impact on you and the children.
- If you are on the paying end, how much of your income and property you will have after the divorce and whether a delay in bringing a divorce may hurt you financially.
- What emotional/mental health consequences will the divorce process have on me and should I receive mental health counseling?
Should I keep the marriage together for the sake of the children?
Ideally. Until recently my belief was that children pick up on a bad marriage and there is a negative learning experience from being exposed to a bad marriage, and therefore that there should be a divorce.
Judith Wallerstein is probably the world’s leading authority on the impact of a divorce on children. Her recent study shows that divorce causes a negative impact on children which is felt even after they grow up.
Wallerstein states that if the parents can continue to provide a tranquil and secure home for the children, despite losing their affection for each other, the children are best served. Many parents, however, are unwilling or unable to make this sacrifice, and sometimes the marriage is so intolerable that there must be a divorce.
I don’t want a divorce. Can I fight it?
You can fight for a divorce in the sense of urging counseling, trying to reconcile, etc. But commencing January 1, 2016, Illinois law only has one “grounds” for divorce – what most people refer to as “no fault” divorce — irreconcilable differences. And once the spouses have been separated for six months in Illinois, there is what is called an irrebutable presumption that no fault grounds exists. Basically, that means that if the parties are living separately for more than six months if one spouses insists upon obtaining a divorce, there is a right to get divorced.
Does counseling work to bring a couple together?
It can but the person who is actively seeking a divorce has to be somewhat open to the possibility that reconciliation may work.
Generally, the earlier that counseling is sought the better are the chances for success. I have found that when a divorcing couple goes into late-stage marriage counseling, they each go into it with their own game plan. One party will do it for the sake of preserving the marriage, while the other party will do it to pave the way for a divorce.
How can I determine if I can get along financially after the divorce?
For a quick answer I use the rule of safe harbor often used by mortgage houses: you need a net (spendable) income which is three times the amount of your cost of housing. For example, if your mortgage and real estate taxes are $1500 a month, you will need a spendable income of $4,500 a month. If you receive $1500 in child support and/or maintenance (alimony) you will need to earn a net of $2,000 per month. A far more accurate way of determining the amount of money you need is to make a budget.
I suspect my spouse of adultery. Should I hire a private investigator?
No, not usually. I usually advise my clients against hiring a private investigator since there is only one grounds for divorce commencing 2016 — no fault divorce.
Also keep in mind that the financial parts of a divorce, and allocation of parenting time / parenting responsibility are decided without regard to marital misconduct.
A private investigator should only be hired on the advice of your lawyer. In the few instances where I have authorized hiring a private investigator I have put a cap on the fees to be paid to the private investigator.
If I file for divorce does my spouse have to leave the house?
No, that would not be fair. What if your spouse filed for divorce against you? Would it be fair for you and the children to be required to leave the house? B
Will separation for a time help solve marital problems?
No, that has not been my experience. My experience is that to resolve problems a couple must communicate. If you separate you either do not communicate, or you significantly cut down on communications. Statements like, “I need my space,” or “I need to get my head together.” are usually malarkey. Usually the spouse wanting a “trial separation” is merely paving the way for a divorce.
Can’t I just leave the marital residence?
Yes. You do not lose your marital property interest in the house because you leave it. But if there is a potential issue regarding the parenting plan or allocation of parental responsibility (how major decisions are made) if you leave without the children in the primary care of your spouse, this may very well hurt you.