There are websites and organizations claiming that divorcing spouses do not need to hire an Illinois divorce attorney. Instead, these sources claim, any individual can learn everything they need to know about Illinois divorce laws in a relatively short amount of time. Are these sources correct: can divorcing couples really learn all they need to know about Illinois divorce law from a book or website? Here are some truths to consider:
Truth: The principles that guide a court during a divorce are simple to learn. The basic principles that a court will use to determine child custody and visitation and property division, for example, are relatively simple to grasp (in most every divorce, a court is looking to promote the “best interest of the child” and treat the parties equitably when it comes to dividing the marital assets).
Truth: Parties who truly have an “uncontested divorce” may be able to represent themselves effectively. An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties have agreed as to all the decisions that must be made as part of the divorce: division of assets and debts, child custody and visitation, spousal support, and other issues. It is rare, however, for the parties to agree completely on every divorce-related issue.
Truth: You can waive important rights if you do not properly exercise them. Once a divorce is finalized, it is difficult to have orders modified (especially when it comes to property division). Child custody and visitation orders are also difficult to modify immediately after a court has entered such orders. If you do not properly present your case to the court, you may find that the court enters orders adverse to your interests that could have been avoided had you had experienced legal counsel on your side.
Truth: Neither the court nor the other party’s attorney can help you. If you choose to represent yourself during your divorce, neither the court nor any other attorney involved can help you if you do not know what to do. Most courts will impute knowledge to you; that is, most courts will treat you as if you have a legal background and understanding. If you miss a deadline to file a responsive pleading or do not know how to submit a motion for spousal support, for example, the court is unable to advise you on what to do.
Truth: It Makes Sense to at Least Consult with an Attorney
With your financial future and relationship with your children at stake, it makes sense to at least consult with a divorce attorney and learn what he or she can do for you. The assistance of an attorney may be able to help your divorce be finalized more quickly, may assist you in retaining residential custody of your children, or may help you emerge from your divorce in a better financial situation. Contact us to learn how an experienced DuPage County divorce lawyer can help you.