13 Things You Should Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer

One of the most important decisions you will make during your divorce happens early on, when you research, meet with, and retain a divorce lawyer. Your lawyer will be your ally, your advisor, and your advocate throughout the divorce and beyond. It is imperative that you know what to look for in a lawyer and that you make your choice wisely.

In order for your first meeting with your lawyer to be as productive as possible, you need to be completely candid and honest. Remember, everything you discuss is protected by the attorney-client privilege. Tell the lawyer your concerns and goals, and ask any and all questions you may have. Remember, when it comes to your divorce, nothing is unimportant if it is important to you.

Your lawyer is going to have questions for you as well. He or she will want to have a complete picture of your situation in order to offer you the best advice and develop the best strategy for helping you reach a resolution that protects your rights and achieves your objectives.

In order to help your attorney do this, you will want to gather information and documentation that will not only familiarize him or her with your circumstances but will probably bring you new or additional insight into your financial and other affairs as well.

Before your meeting with a divorce lawyer, try to have learned or assembled the following 13 categories of information:

  1. Several years of your tax returns;
  2. Checking and savings account statement;
  3. Records of all investment accounts and pensions;
  4. Mortgage statements;
  5. If you or your spouse operate a business, secure copies of the business records;
  6. Inventory of the contents of safe deposit boxes;
  7. Credit card bills and credit reports;
  8. Income of each spouse
  9. Expenses of each spouse
  10. Assets of the spouses (joint and separate), including such things as art, antiques, fine jewelry, cash, vehicles, real estate and furniture
  11. Liabilities of each spouse
  12. Pension plans, retirement accounts , 401(k)s, IRAs, and any other employee benefits
  13. Life, health, and disability insurance policies owned by each spouse

If your spouse handled the bills, taxes, and paperwork, you may have to do some digging. But having this information in advance will make your meeting with your attorney more effective, efficient, and productive.

Louis R. Fine – Trusted Chicago Divorce Attorney

If you are considering divorce and are looking for counsel, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. Together, we will turn the page so you can begin the next chapter of your life with clarity and confidence.

When It’s Business and It’s Personal: Small Business Ownership and Divorce in Illinois

If you own your own business, you know that it can be hard sometimes to not take things personally. With so much cash, sweat, and tears invested in your company, its successes or struggles will impact you in ways far beyond what is reflected on a balance sheet.

Just as your business can impact your personal life, your personal life can have a huge effect on your business, especially if you are going through a divorce.

The ownership, valuation, and division of small business interests in a divorce can be a major source of conflict. Whether you own your business by yourself or with other partners or members, it is important to understand how the end of your marriage will affect your business, your ownership interest, and your wallet.

In an Illinois divorce, property is divided into “marital” property and “non-marital” property. The former is property acquired during the marriage and will be equitably divided between the spouses. The latter is the property of the spouse who owned it prior to the marriage and will be awarded to that spouse.

As such, if one spouse owned a business prior to the marriage, it will generally remain their business after the divorce. But this is where things get complicated.

Businesses aren’t pieces of furniture; they don’t just sit there stagnantly. During the course of a marriage, businesses grow; businesses pay salaries and make distributions; businesses incur debt; businesses obtain capital and investments from the owners; businesses may add owners, including a spouse.

Much of what happens to the business while a couple is married means that both spouses may be entitled to an interest in the value of the business. For example, the following will be counted as marital property to be equitably divided:

  • Business ownership interest acquired during the marriage
  • The gain in value in the ownership interest of a business established before the marriage which accrued by personal effort of the owner spouse during the marriage
  • Discrete, distinguishable assets acquired by a non-marital business during marriage

Furthermore, a non-owner spouse may be entitled to a right of reimbursement for contributions made toward a non-marital business during the marriage.

When a business or an interest in a business is deemed to be marital property, the valuation of the business or ownership interest becomes a big issue. Each spouse may wind up retaining accountants or other experts to establish the value of the business such that the cash value can be allocated as part of the larger division of assets. Rather than force a divorcing couple to remain business partners, courts will often offset the value of the business interest by awarding other assets to the non-owner spouse.

Of course, a valid pre-nuptial agreement that addresses the issue of business ownership upon divorce can take all of this out of the court’s hands and bring clarity to both the divorce process as well as business operations going forward.

Louis R. Fine: Chicago Business Division and Valuation Attorney

Illinois business division and valuation issues are complicated and can have a long term impact on the financial well-being of both spouses. As an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer, I understand the complexities and challenges involved in dividing business interests as part of divorce. I work to ensure that every client receives what they are entitled to while minimizing conflict and acrimony throughout the process.

If you have questions or concerns about how your business may be impacted by your divorce, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. I look forward to assisting you.