How the process unfolds . . . From the beginning
The first step is a detailed telephone conversation--an initial consultation, if you will, between you and me, Geoffrey C. Miller (the only person with whom you will ever speak from the start of your case until its completion).
This initial conversation will take place either because you have telephoned me or because you have requested, by-e-mail or voicemail that I telephone you.
I will not ask you to complete any forms, provide any detailed information or take any other steps to arrange this "free consultation." All I want is for you to call me so that we can talk! I am committed to personal engagement and I only want you to let me know that you have a problem, and that you want me to tell you if and how I can be of assistance to you.
At the outset, you should know that you will be under absolutely no obligation--financial or otherwise--as the result of your initiation of or participation in this consultation.
At the beginning of the consultation, I will ask you a series of questions--questions to learn about you and about the particulars of your case.
The purpose of these questions and your answers to them is to enable me to assess your situation and to determine just what you will require me to do for you, and will permit me to quote a firm cost to complete your case.
Once we have completed the early portion of your "free consultation," I will be able to determine just what you will need: an "uncontested" divorce, a "publication" divorce, a or a "contested" divorce.
An "uncontested" divorce
If we--you and I--determine that you can qualify for an "uncontested" divorce, we will have determined that you and your spouse have reached a complete agreement--not just that you each want to be divorced, but that the two of you have discussed and have agreed upon all of the issues and points which will be involved.
Having gained the facts required to assess your case, I will tell you exactly how much you will have to pay to achieve your desired result. I will quote to you a "flat" fee for my legal services, and will have informed you as to the amount of the court and other costs required to complete your case.
If you express your desire to use our professional services, I will send you some preliminary documents--all of which will be described to you and discussed by us in our telephone conversation. If you have access to e-mail, and if you have the ability to print documents which you receive by e-mail, we will send these preliminary documents to you immediately. If you do not have e-mail access, we will send you the documents by U.S. Mail.
Of course detailed instructions for you to follow will be included in this initial e-mail. If you have any questions concerning these preliminary documents, we want you to telephone us again with any and all of your questions, and we will answer them to your satisfaction.
Once more, at this point, you still will have absolutely no financial obligation to this office!
In addition to the instructions, the preliminary documents consist of two forms: (1) a four page Confidential Divorce and Family Law Questionnaire, and (2) an “Engagement Agreement”--a document which sets forth, in detail, what I will do for you and what you will do for me, to move your case forward.
To establish an attorney/client relationship--to hire me to help you--you will have to (a) complete the Questionnaire, (b) sign the “Engagement Agreement” and mail the two documents, and your initial payment, to this office.
Promptly upon my receipt of the completed preliminary documents and your initial payment, I will prepare the actual documents required to file and to complete your divorce case. After receiving your Questionnaire, if I have any additional questions, I will contact you immediately.
Upon completing the actual divorce documents, I will e-mail (or U.S. Mail) them to you for your signature and for the signature of your spouse. Once the documents have been fully signed, you will mail them back to this office with your final payment.
Once I receive this second set of documents, I will promptly file your case with the court, process the documents and will schedule a final court date. Once this has been completed, I will notify you of the date, time and place of the final court date.
On the final court date, you will meet me in the courtroom. When your case is called, we will stand before the judge, I will ask you a series of simple questions and, in almost every case, the judge will approve the documents and will sign the "divorce decree"--your case will be over, and your marriage will be dissolved.
In most cases, the time period from my receipt of the second set of documents and the final payment until the final court date is approximately five weeks or less.
A "publication" divorce
In all divorce cases, the Court must have jurisdiction (the power to hear the case) over your spouse.
In an "uncontested" case, your spouse must sign a court form, called a "Pro Se Appearance," and, by so doing, he or she submits to the jurisdiction of the Court.
What if your spouse cannot be found? What if, after you have made an intense and thorough effort to find him or her, you still cannot locate your spouse?
If he or she cannot be found, of course, you will not have reached a complete agreement) or any kind of agreement at all) and, therefore, a "Pro Se Appearance" form will not be filed which will grant jurisdiction to the Court.
IN SUCH AN EVENT, YOU CAN STILL OBTAIN THE DISSOLUTION OF YOUR MARRIAGE!
You will have to file your case and utilize "service by publication." You will have to provide me with (a) a description of all of the unsuccessful efforts you have made to locate your spouse and (b) the last address at which your spouse lived (the last address you know of).
Since we do not know the current address of your spouse, we must publish a Legal Notice in a newspaper.
After the passage of a certain period of time--usually six to eight weeks or so--if your spouse has not received the notice and, thereafter, filed an Appearance form, he or she will be found to be in "default," and the dissolution of your marriage will be granted without the signature or other participation of your spouse.
A "contested" divorce
While it is relatively easy to define and to explain an "uncontested" divorce, it is literally impossible to define a "contested" divorce. Thus, the only thing which may be said is: "If your case is not "uncontested," it is "contested."
In other words, if you and your spouse have agreed upon most, but not on all matters, your case is a "contested" case.
Once we have completed our initial consultation, and when we have determined that your case is "contested," we will refer you to another attorney in our office, a lawyer who has decades of experience in representing clients in all manners of "contested" cases, is a member of The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and who has been designated as one of Illinois's "SUPER LAWYERS" for many years running.
You should be aware that a "contested" divorce case is radically different from an "uncontested" case. A "contested" case is substantially more costly and, generally, takes substantially longer to resolve.