Family Law FAQ

Why Should I Choose G. Edward Murphy and Murphy & Dunn, P.C.?

Simple. We are great at what we do and all we do is divorce, custody and family law cases. We have 8 attorneys, seven paralegals and three office locations to serve your family law needs. Our attorneys are Managing Partner G. Edward Murphy, Partner Jeffrey M. Dunn, and Associate Attorneys Christopher N. Nelson and Candice M. Thomason. Our paralegals are Case manager Dina C. James, Senior Paralegal Lori L. Peters, Senior Paralegal Mary Beth Guy, Nathan Paquet, and Brooke Sandoval. We also have Business Manager Brandi L. Hogan, Legal Assistant and Receptionist Julie C. Beagle, and Pension and Retirement Coordinator Teri L. Dunn. Attorney G. Edward Murphy has been rated one of the top family law attorneys in Illinois, a distinction given to only the top 6% in Illinois.

This ratio of paralegals and attorneys working as teams on your case solely in the custody, divorce and family law arena is unheard of in Central Illinois. All three offices in Peoria and Bloomington are open with teams of attorneys and paralegals working together as a team to get your case done properly so you can with your case. That allows Attorney G. Edward Murphy and the teams of attorneys and paralegals on each case to work side by side with you to gather the necessary date and file the proper pleadings to negotiate or litigate your case to a positive and favorable conclusion. This team approach frees up the attorneys time to handle the important daily trial work, settlement negotiations, and quality one on one time needed to meet with each client, and allows the paralegals substantial frequent contact with the client to complete all of the necessary paperwork required to be filed and necessary to win your case. This also saves you, as the client, substantial amounts in fees because the paralegal time is billed at substantially less than that of the attorney time on your case. It is both time efficient and cost efficient for you and our office. Together with the rest of the attorneys and staff, you will find no better law firm in Central Illinois to handle your divorce, custody or family law case.


What is the Mission of the law firm of Murphy & Dunn, P.C.?

The Mission of Attorney G. Edward Murphy and the teams of attorneys and paralegals at Murphy & Dunn, P.C. is to provide top quality and unsurpassed legal services in the areas of family law, custody and divorce to individual clients in an environment where the client and their children's needs and legal interests are considered first and foremost, while at the same time adhering to the highest ethical and moral principles in bringing the case to a favorable conclusion.


How Does the Case Begin Once I Set an Appointment?

First, you need to call us, email us or complete the Contact Us intake sheet for us to set you up for a free initial consultation. Then you would be given a free 1/2 hour initial consultation with Attorney G. Edward Murphy or one of the other Attorneys at the office to discuss your potential case. At that meeting, we would  review all of the facts and circumstances of your case and discuss the basics of divorce law, custody or any other applicable family law issues that would be involved in your case. The divorce process would be reviewed with you and a decision would be made as to the attorney fees to be charged to you on the case. There is no charge for this initial 30 minute consultation at our firm. These free initial consultation would take place at any of our three office locations in Peoria, Bloomington, Illinois.

Once a decision is made to accept your case, a retainer fee would be quoted to you for both attorney fees and costs. This initial retainer fee and costs would be due and owing when you hire the office. Everything in our office is completed in writing. Both you and our office would review a legal services contract setting forth exactly what you are hiring us for, the amount of the fees and the costs, and the hourly charges for all staff. All of your questions would be answered in full prior to your hiring the office and paying the fees and costs. Once the contract is signed and the fees and costs paid, we would be in a representative capacity for you and begin the necessary paperwork to begin your case. Each month, you would receive an itemized bill as to the work performed and the amount of time spent on your case, itemized down to 1/10th of an hour.


What Happens When I Start the Case?

Once you have hired our office, if a case has not yet been filed, we would begin the process of drafting the necessary paperwork, called pleadings, to file with the Court. The initial pleading is called a "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" and is filed with the Court to begin the divorce process. Once filed, a summons is issued by the Court informing your spouse of the proceedings and setting forth time limits for him or her to respond. These documents are then served by hand by a private process server on your spouse at a time and place you designate to us. If you have children, certain requirements are made on parents to attends a "Children's First" class. This class helps parents through the divorce process and helps keep the children out of the divorce. Additionally, each party would be required to file a Financial Affidavit setting forth all of your income, assets, and debts for the Court. All of this paperwork would be provided to you by our office and prepared with both you and our office involved in the process.


How Long Does it Take to Obtain the Divorce?

There is no time limit to obtaining the divorce and resolving the issues in your case. If you have children, it is required in many counties that you attend the "Children's First" class before the court will grant the dissolution. However, the time it takes to get divorced depends totally on the issues involved, and the willingness of the parties to cooperate with each other and their attorneys in resolving the case. Obviously, if there are children involved and the parties are litigating over where the children are going to live, it will take longer than if custody (Allocation of Parental Responsibilities - both Decision-Making and Parenting Time)  is not in issue. If the parties choose to fight over every single issue, it will take longer and cost more than if the parties attempt a reasonable and rational settlement approach.

The bottom line is there are no real "winners" in a divorce case. Our job as your attorney is to help you get through the divorce process, obtain a favorable result for you, and keep your children out of the process as much as possible. It is our belief that two rational parents, with the help of quality attorneys representing them, will always make a better decision on how to resolve custody of their children and on all other issues, than one judge will. The basis for that statement is simple: You know your children and your life better than one judge could ever know it. Therefore, if you are acting rationally, you will make a better decision as to what is best for you and your children than will a judge who only hears a small portion of your life through testimony controlled by the attorneys who present the case. With the right attorneys, you can get through this process in one piece.


How Do I Start a Divorce Case in Illinois?

The most logical way to begin a dissolution of marriage action in Illinois is to contact a good divorce attorney, such as the attorneys in our office, who practice solely in the family law arena. You want to make sure the attorney you choose is well versed in the law and understands the intricacies of a family law case. You want to make sure that attorney understands your needs and the needs of your children, both emotionally and financially. Most importantly, you want an attorney who can provide superior legal advice in an environment that is non-threatening, and that takes into consideration all of your families' needs and financial requirements. Once you find that attorney, the case begins by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.


What is a Divorce?

A divorce is the termination of the marriage relationship between a husband and wife or two parties tha have been married under the laws of the State of Illinois. It dissolves the bonds of matrimony between a husband and wife or spouses and is called a "dissolution of marriage". The rule of law governing dissolution of marriage in the State of Illinois is called the "Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act."


Where Can I File For A Divorce?

A husband or wife or party may file for dissolution of their marriage in any county in the State of Illinois as long as one of them resides in that county. One or both of the parties must live in the county where the case is filed. The case can be filed in another county as well with certain requirements met by the parties in seeking approval for same.


How Old Do I Have To Be To Get Married In Illinois?

In Illinois, both the prospective bride and groom must be 18 years of age in order to obtain a marriage license. However, if either or both of them are under age 18 but at least 16 years of age, they can still obtain a marriage license if they have obtained consent from their parents, their guardian or a judge. A judge may order issue of the marriage license for a 16 or 17-year-old if the court finds that the underage party is capable of assuming the responsibilities of marriage and that the marriage will serve his or her best interests. Pregnancy alone does not establish that the best interest of the party will be served. Once the license to marry is issued by the county clerk, it is valid for marriage the next day after it is issued and expires in 60 days after it becomes effective.


When is Marriage Prohibited By Law in Illinois?

Under the statute, marriage is prohibited: (1) if you are still married to someone else and the prior marriage has not been dissolved; (2) between an ancestor and descendent, or between a brother and sister, whether by whole or half blood or by adoption; (3) between an uncle and niece or aunt and nephew, whether by half or whole blood; and (4) between cousins of the first degree unless both parties are age 50 or over, or unless one party is sterile. Further, if your marriage would be prohibited in Illinois and you leave the State simply to get married elsewhere and then return to reside in Illinois, your marriage is still considered invalid in Illinois.


What is an Annulment of Marriage?

The law in Illinois provides certain very specific grounds to have your marriage declared invalid. This declaration of invalidity of marriage was formerly termed "annulment". To have your marriage declared invalid, you must prove one of the following: (1) that one of the parties lacked consent to the marriage at the time because of either mental incapacity, drugs or other incapacitating substances; (2) that a party was induced to enter into the marriage by force or duress, or by fraud involving the essentials of the marriage; (3) that a party lacks the physical capacity to consummate the marriage and the other party did not know of that incapacity at the time of the marriage; (4) that a party was age 16 or 17 and did not have proper consent or judicial approval; and (5) that the marriage was a prohibited marriage. Annulments are very rarely seen or used in Illinois.


How Long Do I Need to Live in Illinois to Obtain a Divorce?

A court in Illinois will grant a dissolution of marriage to the parties as long as one of the parties was a resident of the State of Illinois at the time the action was commenced and that residency has been maintained for 90 days at the time the case was filed or at the time the court makes the finding of residency. Therefore, you must be a resident for at least 90 days to obtain the divorce in Illinois.


What Grounds Do I Need to Obtain A Divorce in Illinois?

Effective January 1, 2016, grounds have essentially been thrown out and all divorces will be based on irreconcilable differences. This is basically no-fault divorce. The new divorce statute has essentially stated that if you want a divorce the Courts will not stand in the way of getting one. As a result, anyone will be able to get a divorce if they want one and the other party will not be able to hold up the divorce to gain an advantage in the case.

Prior to January 1, 2016, there were many grounds for the court to grant the parties a dissolution of marriage. The most common was extreme and repeated mental cruelty. However, a party could also claim impotency, bigamy, adultery, desertion, habitual drunkenness, addictive drug usage, attempted murder of the spouse, physical cruelty, felony conviction, or the fact that the spouse infected the other with a sexually transmitted disease as a basis for the grounds for divorce. Each of these grounds had specific factors that must be proven in detail and many had time limits on the actions that occurred. Additionally, the Court could still back then also grant the parties a divorce on the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences if certain conditions had been met regarding living separate and apart and these differences had caused an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.


What is a Legal Separation?

Rather than obtain a divorce, parties may seek to obtain a legal separation in Illinois. A legal separation requires the parties be living separate and apart from each other and allows for the Court to order reasonable support and maintenance for each party while they live apart. A legal separation must be filed in the county where the respondent resides or where the parties last resided together as husband and wife. Further, just because one party files for a legal separation does not bar either party from filing for a divorce. Legal separations are used very rarely in Illinois any more because there is very little relief that the Court can give a party and there is generally no reason to file for a legal separation instead of a divorce


What is a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage?

A Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is the actual divorce Order of the Court dissolving your marriage and resolving all of the issues attendant to a divorce case. These issues include custody and decision-making of your children (called Allocation of Parental Responsibilities - Decision-Making after January 1, 2016), visitation and physical care/parenting time (called Allocation of Parental Responsibilities - Parenting Time after january 1, 2016), child support, college expenses, tax exemptions, daycare expenses, medical and health care insurance and expenses, life insurance, attorney fees, maintenance and alimony, distribution of your assets such as real estate, motor vehicles, financial accounts and investments, pensions and retirement accounts, and any other assets you may own or have an interest in, division of your debts such as mortgages, car loans, credit cards and any other amounts owed, and all other issues that are part of a divorce. Once these issues have been resolved either by agreement or through a Court hearing with a judge deciding the issues, the resolution of these issues is placed in the Order termed "Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage".


How is Property Distributed as Part of the Divorce?

Property is determined by the Court to be either "marital" or "non-marital" property. Generally speaking, property that was acquired during the marriage (from the date of marriage through the date of divorce) is considered marital property, to be equitably divided between the parties. Generally, equitable division usually means an equal division, but that is not required to be so by the statute. In fact, numerous cases specifically spell out that equitable distribution does not always mean equal distribution. Non-marital property is that property that a spouse had prior to the marriage, property acquired through gift or inheritance, or property exchanged during the marriage from property that a spouse had prior to the marriage. This is a very simple overview of property definitions and there are many exceptions and issues too numerous to deal with here.


Does the Title to Property Matter?

Yes and No. Title to property is not the sole question for the Court to look at in determining whether property is marital or non-marital, but it is a consideration. If you buy a house during the marriage with marital funds, and the house is titled in only one spouse's name, it will still likely be considered marital property. If you take a non-marital asset in one parties name and transfer title to both parties, you may have made a gift of that non-marital asset to the marital estate. These property questions are very complex and require close scrutiny by your attorney before a determination can be made as to whether it is marital or non-marital property. You need the expertise of a qualified attorney such as G. Edward Murphy and the teams of attorneys at Murphy & Dunn, P.C. to navigate through these waters. It can mean thousands of dollars in your pocket depending on just the answer to whether an asset is considered marital or non-marital.


What is Maintenance?

Maintenance is what used to be termed alimony. It is support paid by one spouse to the other for their support to allow the lesser earning spouse to live a similar standard of living as that held during the marriage. There are numerous factors the Court looks at in determining whether maintenance is appropriate, including the length of the parties marriage, the present and future earnings and income of each party, the financial needs of each party, the standard of living established during the marriage, the age and physical condition of each party, and several other factors.

Effective january 1, 2015, a new maintenance law went into effect making maintenance a formula for the Court to follow. The Court must first determine if maintenance is even proper under various guidelines and factors as set forth above. If the Court finds that it is a maintenance case, then the new maintenance formula is initially applied. That formula provides that the Court shall take 30% of the gross income of the higher wage earner minus 20% of the gross income of the lesser wage earner to first determine the amount of yearly maintenance. The new formula also only applies of the divorcing parties have combined gross income of less than $250,000.00 per year and the total maintenance to be paid combined with the lesser earning spouses' income cannot exceed 40% of the total combined gross income.

For duration, the length of time maintenance is to be paid is based on the length of the marriage. I call it the "rule of fives". It is 20% of the length of the marriage if the marriage is less than five years, 40% of the length of the marriage if the marriage is between 5 and 10 years, 60% of the length of the marriage if the marriage is between 10 and 15 years, 80% of the length of the marriage if the marriage is between 15 and 20 years, and permanent or for the actual length of the marriage if the marriage is over 20 years.

This is one area where a qualified attorney such as G. Edward Murphy and his team of attorneys is mandatory to properly review the facts and circumstances of your case. The Court can deviate and there are many issues involved in this complex area of the law. Please see our Maintenance Page for more specific information.


What is Mediation and Should I Consider It?

Mediation is the process of attempting to resolve your dissolution of marriage issues outside of court through a qualified mediator. However, mediation is not undertaken by your divorce attorney, but through a qualified third party mediator. At Murphy & Dunn, P.C., besides being just divorce attorneys, Attorney G. Edward Murphy is also a certified Family Law Mediator able to undertake joint or individual mediation cases. Obviously, if we take the case for mediation, that would mean that neither G. Edward Murphy nor any other attorney with Murphy & Dunn, P.C. could act as the attorney for either spouse.

Mediation is completed by the spouses initially over a three hour time period, with both parties and the mediators working together to resolve all or a portion of the divorce case. The initial cost for mediation is $600.00 ($200.00 per hour for 3 hours of time). Each party would be responsible for paying ½ of the retainer at the first appointment. Historically, mediation has proven successful in reducing the overall costs of the divorce process, eliminating or reducing the issues in dispute, and allowed the parties a quicker resolution of the issues involved. However, both parties must be motivated to want to resolve the case in order for it to be completely effective. Further, under new Supreme Court Rules, mediation is now required for all disputed custody and visitation cases.


For A Free Initial Attorney Consultation

For further information, please email us at, call us at (866) 681-5405, or fill out our Client Intake Sheet on the Contact Us page.