When it comes to planning to divorce in Illinois, many people ask what they should do to prepare for divorce, and those lists are a dime a dozen. In my experience as a Chicago divorce attorney, it is far more common for people to make mistakes and do things they should not have done, which can be very difficult to later rectify.
Here are the Top 7 Things You Should NOT Do If You are Planning to Divorce in Illinois:
1. Do not leave items accessible to your soon-to-be ex unless they are replaceable.
Perhaps you have family heirlooms in your home. Furniture, jewelry, old family photo albums or other
items that you cannot replace somehow become very susceptible to damage and/or disappearing once
one person tells the other that they are filing for divorce. The best way to protect these items is to
remove them from the other party’s access. Keep in mind, though, that in the event your spouse will
contest the marital versus non-marital nature of any of these items, you will want to hold on to them.
Do not sell them or if it is found they were marital, you may end up owing your soon to be ex-spouse for
half the value.
2. Do not tell your soon to be ex that you do not want to pay child support.
It is no secret that the cost of child support is very high. The cost of raising children is very high. Costs
seem to become even higher once you’re in a one-income household with the same bills you previously
had in a two-income household. Divorce means adjusting your spending, period. Child support becomes
the number one priority that must be paid each month or you could face jail time. Most people realize
this and will make the mistake of putting something in writing, via text message or email, or via
voicemail stating they will not or do not want to pay child support. This is almost always going to
backfire on you and evidence of this can be used to make you look bad later.
3. Do not stop paying the bills you are responsible for.
Who pays the bills in your marriage? If you always paid the mortgage, it is best that you continue to do so. If you always paid the car bill, continue to pay it. It is best to keep the status quo on all bills until you and your soon to be ex can go into court and enter a temporary order regarding who will pay which bills, or if a lump sum of temporary support should be paid. Otherwise, if you just stop paying, you are opening yourself up to a potential emergency motion to maintain the status quo and ensure important bills and upkeep of assets remain current and do not default.
4. Do not spend a bunch of money “revenge shopping”.
If you are about to file for divorce, heading to Michigan Avenue or Amazon.com to do some revenge shopping will backfire. Illinois has a law regarding dissipation, which is the misuse of marital funds. If you did not buy expensive designer purses regularly during the marriage, separation from your spouse is not a good time to start. You could be forced to reimburse your spouse for 50% of all purchases or monies spent for a non-marital purpose. This also includes purchases for a significant other (jewelry, vacations, etc.).
5. Do not try to “hide” your assets.
During a divorce, you will go through the discovery process which opens up your finances for the past three to five years, in most cases. So, closing all of your bank accounts the second someone files for divorce, or removing large sums of money from your accounts without being able to prove where it went or what happened to it will most certainly backfire. Taking cash and “hiding” it will be detected through the discovery process and you may have to pay a percentage of said “lost” cash to your spouse. Under Illinois’ dissipation laws, even if you “don’t have it anymore” on paper you will still be responsible for it.
6. Do not try to turn your children against the other parent or their family.
This one is huge.
Anytime a parent bad mouths the other parent or their family to their children, it almost always backfires against them. The children will end up angry at you in the end, even if your spouse cause the divorce or did you wrong because they will likely protect their other parent (and they’d likely do the same if the other parent bad mouthed you). The divorce is between the parents, not between the children and the parents, and everyone should act accordingly, to maintain what is in the children’s best interests. You should do this like a good parent anyway, however, if that is not enough motivation, know that Judges and Guardian Ad Litems despise this sort of behavior. More importantly, if the court finds that bad mouthing arises to the level of parental alienation, you could face your children moving in with your spouse.
7. Do not act as if you won’t have to see your soon to be ex ever again, especially if you have children.
This one never ceases to amaze me.
People think they can be nasty to one another during divorce proceedings because the other person is out of their life. If they have children, they couldn’t be more wrong. They will have joint recitals, graduations, holidays once the children are older and host their families, grandchildren, grandchildren’s events, and more. Once you have children with someone the odds that you will see them at milestone events and special occasions are great and life-long. Don’t do anything to make it even more uncomfortable than it already will be. It is highly doubtful your children will have the patience for you and your ex not getting along when they are adults and start having their own children and want to share holidays, and the like. Believe me, you will end up missing out if you cannot behave properly. Best to start this one early on.
If you are contemplating divorce or think your spouse is, it is important to make smart decisions and seek advice from experienced divorce attorneys. Contact our office today to schedule a confidential consultation about your family law matter or taking the right steps planning for divorce.