How to Find a Chicago Divorce Attorney

Best Family Law Attorneys in Cook County

Richard J. Daley Center; 50 W Washington St. Chicago, IL 60602 Photo credit:

Selecting a Family Law Attorney in big cities and metropolitan areas, like Chicago and it’s surrounding suburbs, can be very difficult since there’s such a large selection of law firms to choose from.

Whether you’re in search of a family lawyer for a separation or divorce, a child custody or support issue, a domestic violence or restraining order, or even a prenuptial agreement, an experienced family law attorney will be able to assist you in one or all of these extremely emotional situations.

If you’re looking for a family law attorney, you’re probably going through an emotional time in your life which is why hiring an attorney that’s specialized in domestic relations (also known as family law), and is familiar with the ins and outs of the domestic relations court system in Cook County (located at the Richard J. Daley Center; 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602), will help you avoid costly errors that could unnecessarily cost you a lot of money during this emotional process.

Very difficult decisions need to be made during a divorce. These decisions are going to affect you, your spouse, your children, and even your animals, which means these cases will draw a lot of emotion from both sides and can bring the worst out of all parties involved. An experienced family lawyer can help you anticipate, prepare for, and avoid the common emotional and legal battles that will prolong the divorce process and run up your attorney’s billable hours.

How to Choose Divorce Lawyers in Chicago

The first way to find a family lawyer is also the most common and typically the most effective: Ask a family member or friend for a referral. A divorced friend is usually the best place to start but don’t forget that many of your happily married friends also have divorced family and friends that may have a family law attorney that they highly recommend.

One major benefit of getting a referral from a family member or friend is that you’ll be able to ask them about their experience, rather than having to rely on your first impression and online reviews. You’ll also get more information than usual about the firm’s overall process , as well as it’s billing process and costs.

To help decide if your friend’s attorney could work well for you, here are a few questions to consider asking:

  • Did the attorney discuss your goals with you and keep them in mind throughout the entire case?
  • Was the lawyer and their team easy to communicate with and get ahold of?
  • Did their team explain things clearly and respond in a timely manner?
  • What was their hourly billable rate? Did the firm use clerks or paralegals on more ministerial tasks to keep costs low?
  • Were there ever any disputes about hours or payments?
  • Did the attorney push for litigation (going to court) or also offer mediation or other less-costly alternatives?
  • If your case was litigated, how was your attorney in court?
  • Did the attorney keep the case on schedule?
  • Would you use this attorney again?

It’s important to mention that just because a friend liked or didn’t like their family attorney doesn’t mean that you’ll have the same experience. Each family law case is different and the processes and outcomes depend on the specifics of each case which is why a face-to-face meeting with each possible attorney will be very helpful before making your final choice.

The second most common way to find a divorce attorney is to use Google, Bing, or other search engine. Some of the most common searches are “Best Divorce Attorney in Chicago” and “Family Law Attorney in Chicago”. These searches will usually point you in the direction of a law group that specializes in family law and has ample experience.

Even if you get a referral from a friend or family member, it’s still a good idea to search for that attorney’s reputation online. You will probably find reviews for that attorney and those reviews will either reinforce or completely contradict your friend’s experience, giving you more insight into how that attorney, and their firm, handle their cases.

Choosing a divorce attorney that fits your needs

Each situation is different and your particular situation may not require the best family law attorney in the Chicago area. For example, if you have a large estate, young children, and are going to be going through a very heated and highly contested divorce with your ex-partner, then it may be in your best interest to invest in the best attorney in the city. However, if you don’t have any large assets and don’t have children or property to fight over, then it may not be wise for you to invest heavily in an attorney.

Free Consultation

If you, or your spouse, are even considering the possibility of a separation or divorce, it would be very beneficial for both of you to get a free consultation from an experienced family law firm so you both completely understand what you’ll have to go through to finalize the agreements and how much strain this could potentially put on you, your spouse, your children, and anyone else involved.

Learn more about Mediation Law in Chicago

Tips to Speed Up the Divorce Process

child crying during a lengthy divorce - Chicago, ILThere’s nothing worse than a long, drawn out divorce. Especially if it’s a highly emotional divorce where one or both parties are looking to drag it out and punish the other party. This type of case usually lasts way longer than necessary and only ends with one winner… the attorneys. It’s true, in most of these types of nasty divorces, the billable hours continue to add up while the two parties bash each other for months and months in court. At the end, both parties are still frustrated, haven’t found closure, and now have a large attorney bill to pay for. It’s not a great situation.

Below are some quick tips to avoid that type of divorce so you can get it done quickly and continue to move forward. Like most journeys in life, a plan will help you be ready for the things you’re about to go through. Here are some example questions to ask yourself when creating your strategy:

  • How much money do you plan to spend?
  • What assets are you willing to fight for?
  • What issues are you willing to concede on to show the other party you’re willing to compromise?

Fault or No Fault Divorce?

When filing for divorce, the person filing has to decide whether one of the parties is “At Fault” for the divorce – cheating, for example – or whether the divorce is a mutual agreement and no one is at fault. “We fell out of love” or “we just grew apart” is often the language we hear when someone is filing this type of divorce.

If the filer says the other party is at fault, these are the divorces that usually turn into drawn out battles that get very emotional.

What Are You Willing to Fight For?

This is pretty straight forward. If you have kids and believe you should have sole custody, then that will be a major part of you divorce strategy and you might want to prepare for the other party to fight back, especially if they believe that they should have sole custody.

Kids and money; be prepared for some heated negotiations if you have either.

What Will the Other Party Want Most and What Are You Willing to Negotiate On?

If you know that you and the other party are going to want the same item or asset – the kitchen table, for example – then it’s important to think about how you’re going to negotiate for it. Will you offer your spouse something that they really want, or is there something you want more than the table that you could offer the table for something else in return? Like most negotiations, if you can make the other party believe that they’re winning, you’ll usually find a way to get what you want without them knowing it.

More than just negotiating strategy, it’s also important to think ahead and try to visualize what the other party might try to do to upset you and hurt you (emotionally) in the process. You probably won’t be able to avoid the confrontation but you can prepare for how you’ll respond to the situation when it comes.

If you hire a divorce attorney, they’ll work hand-in-hand with you to be create a strategy and make sure they’re prepared for any of these issues that might come up, as well as offering you tips for dealing with it.

How Long Are You Willing to Let Divorce Proceedings Go?


A straight forward divorce with few assets and little negotiating can be over in about 3 months. However, if it’s a very contested divorce with many assets to argue over then this could drag on for years before it’s finalized. How long are you willing to let the process go before you give in to some of the demands of the other party?

Another important aspect is the attorney that you hire. If you hire a bad family law firm that’s desperate for billable hours, they may find excuses to run up the hours. Make sure you ask them to give you an estimate of how long they think the divorce will take and only approve billable hours up to an amount that you’re comfortable with. If you’re on the same page as the attorney or family law firm then, barring any unforeseen circumstances, there shouldn’t be future disputes over hours.

Try Your Best to Keep Your Emotions Out of It.

Emotions will prolong an otherwise fast divorce, cause many (MANY) more disagreements, and could create financial and personal problems for years to come. If it’s at all possible, do your very best to keep your emotions on the sideline for this divorce process. It’s easier said than done but, if you can, it will save you a lot of heartache.

Ideas & Tricks On Finding A Great Lawyer

You’re in search of an attorney who is experienced, educated about your type of case, reputable, and more. Are you saying you do not wish to toss a dart and see which name it lands on? Of course you don’t, so continue reading to discover how you can find the ideal attorney for your needs.

A great idea if you’re wanting to bring on a lawyer is to see to it you extensively examine whether a particular lawyer will be a great fit. It’s typically a great idea to go over a couple of different legal representatives at a time and compare them to each other.

Do not play “Pin the Tail on the Lawyer” with the aid of the Yellow pages. When it pertains to legal representation, you have to treat your situation with respect by requiring time to research each lawyer you’re visualizing utilizing. Check that your lawyer has no past history of ethical offenses. Select a legal representative who is above reproach.

Don’t Always Trust Marketing

Don’t choose a lawyer simply because you saw their ad on television or on a billboard. Many huge companies that can afford this type of marketing use lawyers that are fresh out of school for the majority of their cases, however charge you for the experience held by its greatest legal representatives.

One great marketing channel to use are review websites like,, and other review sites and local directories that allow users to rate and review their experience with a particular attorney or law firm.

A great idea to bear in mind when working with an attorney is to keep an eye on all their expenses. You do not want to be caught off guard when it comes time to paying for everything. You can also consult with your lawyer if there’s something that doesn’t accumulate.

Hire Experienced and Specialized Lawyers

Try to find an attorney that is an expert in your type of case. Many legal representatives can deal with a large range of cases, but if you want the very best result possible, you really want a lawyer that deals entirely with cases of the very same nature as yours. The very best legal representative for you will have lots of cases like yours and knows the law the very best.

When employing a legal representative, ask them who exactly will be handling your case. Numerous times it will not be the huge name head of the firm, however rather someone below them who has a clearer schedule. If this does not appeal to you, select another law firm for your needs.

Finding a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

A good suggestion to keep in mind when looking to employ a lawyer is to make sure you discover a legal representative that has the required experience that you’re searching for. If you’re litigating quickly for a criminal case, it wouldn’t make sense to bring on a divorce lawyer, you’ll require a criminal attorney.

If you find a divorce lawyer and they seem very thrilled about making your ex “pay” for everything they have actually done to you, look for somebody else. While you might have vengeance in your heart, your attorney is expected to stay focused on the case at all times, not the money. Being prejudiced is not a great ethic, even if it is in your favor.

You can get reputable legal representative referrals from the chamber of commerce of your city. You might also get input from local non-profit companies that handle the situation that faces you. As an example, if you are a female trying to find an excellent divorce lawyer, you might ask local ladies’s groups for referrals. You might also get in touch with a law curator for an excellent lawyer referral.

Now you should feel like you can better manage the process of finding a lawyer that is going to best handle your case. Whether you’re looking for long-lasting choices or a one-case-deal, you’re prepared to find the right one. Time is crucial with winning cases, so begin today!

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Divorce and Child Support in Chicago

After a dissolution of marriage has been filed, and custody and a visitation schedule are in place, one of the parents will have to pay child support. Child support is statutory in Illinois, meaning it will always be discussed in the divorce or separation process, regardless of the financial status of the parents. It’s important to keep in mind that child support is not for the other parent, it’s for the child. Child support is ordered to maintain the child’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing and not deprive the child of things he/she would’ve enjoyed had the parents stayed together.

In Illinois, the minimum amount of child support owed is based on the number of children being supported. The number of children being supported correlates to a minimum percentage of income that must go to the kids. Here is the updated percentages as of 2014:

Number of Children Percent of Supporting Party's
Net Income
1 20%
2 28%
3 32%
4 40%
5 45%
6 or more 50%

The above table will usually be followed unless the evidence and best interest of the child requires something different. Some factors that go into that determination include, but aren’t limited to:

  • financial needs of the child
  • Mental, emotional, physical, and educational needs of the child
  • financial needs of the custodial parent
  • financial needs of the non-custodial parent
  • the standard of living the child would’ve had pre-divorce or separation

In addition to child support, the court may require one or both parents to support additional needs of the child that include, but aren’t limited to:

  • child care
  • medical needs
  • extracurricular activities
  • prior debts or obligations
  • foster care

If one parent refuses to follow the Child Support and Maintenance ordered by the court then the court may hold that parent in contempt, which can include imprisonment when not working. The state of Illinois can also withdraw child support directly from a parent’s paycheck to ensure the payments are made in full and in a timely manner.

Child support is a very difficult subject for many divorced parents. Be sure to discuss your options with your family law attorney so you can plan for what’s to come and not be surprised with the order. If you’d like additional information about what to expect from Illinois regarding child support, you can access the entire state statute number 750 ILCS 5/ here. You divorce lawyer will be very well versed on this statute and will be able to help you through the process of understanding and complying with the court’s order.

Learn 3 Tips for a Smooth Divorce Process in Chicago

Child Custody and Visitation in Chicago

Child custody is usually one of the most emotionally draining processes during a divorce, especially if you’re going through a difficult divorce. In most divorces, both you and your spouse will make your case for who should receive custody of your children and whether there will be sole or joint custody.

Unless you go through the mediation process instead of litigation, the court will help you determine what the best interests of your child are, especially if you and the other parent can’t agree on your own. The best case scenario is for both parents to have an agreement before entering court since the parents ultimately know what’s best for their children compared to a judge that’s never even met your children.

However, most parents aren’t able to agree on the best interests of your children, so the judge will ultimately decide for them. When making a decision, the judge will take into consideration many factors, including:

  • emotional
  • physical
  • educational
  • spiritual

This process often includes a thorough study of each parent’s house, neighborhood, facilities, and more before making a final determination on custody.

When preparing for the Child Custody trial, be prepared to provide certain documents to the court, as well being able to explain the best interests of your child. The best interest of the child can include location and events like school, school activities, other relatives they’re close to (grandparents, cousins, etc), doctor and other medical appointments, religious activities, the child’s expressed preference, and more.

Custody and visitation

Happy mother after child custody and visitation hearing in Chicago

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In Illinois, custody only refers to decision making. For example, joint custody means both parents have the authority to make important decisions for each child while sole custody means one parent has the sole authority to make important decisions for each child.

Most judges in Illinois, especially Cook County, won’t award sole custody unless the parents simply can’t get along. Judges don’t want to push one parent out of the decision making process which is why they’ll typically grant joint custody. However, if both parents request sole custody and make it very obvious that they can’t get along well enough to make important decisions about their children, together, then the judge will have to decide which parent is best equipped to have sole decision making authority.

It’s important to realize that in Illinois custody doesn’t address how much and how often you’ll see your children, only a visitation schedule can determine that. For example, a parent could have joint custody but only see their child once a week, if that’s what the visitation schedule orders. Another parent could not have custody at all – the other parent has sole custody – but sees their child many times per week, or even split visitation 50/50. Visitation schedules are typically determined right away while custody hearings may take longer to be determined. A visitation schedule will also determine which house will be the child’s primary residence.

Learn more about Divorce and Child Support in Chicago

Mediation Law in Cook County: An Alternative to Litigation

We’ve all heard divorce horror stories of spouses that despised each other and were willing to go broke and spend years fighting just to make sure the other person was miserable. Divorce is never easy and even the amicable divorces run into problems when trying to split assets, figure out visitation schedules, and child support. Rarely does a divorce process go perfect, it’s very difficult when emotions are running so high.

However, if you and your spouse can both be reasonable, and would like to avoid litigation, there is an alternative that will keep the judge from deciding your future. Mediation is a voluntary settlement process where you won’t have to set foot in a courtroom. Instead of dealing with a judge, you’ll be able to work with a mediator which is much less formal and give you and your spouse more flexibility.

Choosing mediation instead of litigation can save you a lot of money. You can save almost 90% by going through mediation instead of going through the traditional process in Domestic Relations Court.

Mediation works well because the process helps separating couples create fair agreements that both couples will be able to accept, and hopefully be happy with.

Most family law firms in Chicago will have a trained and experienced divorce mediator on staff. Mediators are trained professionals that will create a safe, non-combative environment and guide you and your former partner through the process of discussing and structuring your divorce agreement.

The goal is to encourage open and honest conversation. They’ll start by helping you and your ex-partner identify the issues that you both agree on and then build from there, focusing on cooperative problem solving to approach and settle your major disagreements. The mediator is impartial and will balance power to make sure one person doesn’t get taken advantage of or insist on being unreasonable.

Not sure if mediation is right for your divorce? Here are some serious questions that a mediation can help solve, without a judge or the time and cost of a typical litigation:

  • Who will be the residential parent?
  • How much visitation will the non-residential parent receive?
  • What will the visitation schedule look like?
  • How will our assets and liabilities be divided?
  • and much more…

The mediator isn’t there to answer these questions and won’t make decisions for you both, but they’re trained to listen to the arguments of both parties, keep everyone focused on the end goal of creating a Marital Settlement Agreement that both parties can agree to, and guide the discussion towards successfully preparing that agreement. This agreement is the basis of the divorce decree.

Don’t get too excited, the agreement won’t get created after one decision. Most mediations will last around five sessions and can be longer or shorter depending on the assets you both have.

Learn more about Child Custody and Visitation in Chicago

3 Tips for a Smooth Divorce Process in Chicago

If you’re going through a divorce or separation, it’s likely that it’s your first time and you’re not sure what to expect. Although this will be a very emotional journey for you, there are things that you can do to make sure that additional stress isn’t added, especially when it comes to working with your divorce attorney.

Be Organized

Like anything in life, being organized will save you a lot of time and money during the divorce or separation process. In order to be prepared for the judge, your attorney will need many documents from you. One of the most important documents that will be requested will be an inventory of all your assets and liabilities. This will include bank and credit card statements, receipts for cash purchases, tax returns, pension statements, 401K plans, IRA statements, investments, and other financial records. Rather than handing your attorney a box of crumpled receipts and coffee-stained bank statements, print and organize these records for your attorney. This will save them hours of work and will save you hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars. This will also give you a better understanding of what assets you have so you can easily answer any questions your lawyers have and avoid prolonged and unnecessary discovery time.

Have Priorities

Priorities are an important part of a divorce or separation because identifying what’s important to you – from the beginning – will help keep you focused on the outcome you’re pursuing, even if the process gets long or overly confrontational. Before going into the Daly Center for your first hearing, work with your attorney to make sure your priorities are realistic. Avoid getting carried away with thoughts that you’ll be able to keep everything because that’s not going to happen, all of your assets are going to split up between you and your spouse. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to begin identifying your priorities:

  • Do you want to keep the house?
  • Are there any material possessions that you want or don’t want your spouse to have?
  • Do you want your kids to be involved or have a say in the divorce/separation process?
  • Do you want full or joint custody of your children?
  • Do you have a visitation schedule in mind?

Answer these questions and spend some more time thinking about what’s most important to you in this divorce. Then, read the third tip below and apply it to your priorities to make sure you’re not getting carried away.

Be Reasonable

Divorces can get nasty but litigating for years and years will drain bot of your bank accounts and possibly have a negative impact on both of your lives and the happiness of your children. Which is why you also need to think about what’s important to your spouse when outlining your priorities. Sure, you can hate your spouse but you’ll both need to agree at some point and fighting for his prize possession “just because” isn’t going to speed up your divorce or save you money. Remember that this isn’t a contest so be willing to make a sacrifice here and there to get what you really want in the end.

Follow these three tips and you’ll have a smoother and less expensive divorce. Remember, if you aren’t organized, haven’t set priorities, and aren’t being reasonable then the only winner at the end of your divorce will be your attorney, and the attorney of your spouse, because most family law firms in Chicago and Cook County will charge you per billable hour, which means the longer and more heated your case gets, the more money your attorney makes. If you’d like more information, read this quick divorce guide from the American Bar Association.

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