Timeline of Divorce Process
Interviewer: Let me ask you, how long could the process potentially last? What is the shortest amount of time and what is the longest amount of time that it could possibly take?
Mark Kezy: I have people come to me with agreements regarding the custody and visitation. In those types of situations, I can probably get the clients in and out of the process within about a month. In Illinois, there’s a Supreme Court rule that says that the custody cases have to either be resolved or go to trial within a certain amount of time. I believe it’s 16 months. In spite of that rule, sometimes custody battles, depending on how much is involved, can go beyond that time. I would say that on average, if a case involves the custody of children, you’re probably looking at 12 to 18 months for that to get resolved.
Interviewer: At what point of the divorce process does the custody aspect come in?
Mark Kezy: Generally, if there are children involved, that is usually the first issue that comes into play because, like I said, it’s the most time consuming. It’s the most expensive. A lot of times, we try to resolve that issue as quickly as possible and to get that done before we deal with the money and the property issues. We do that for a number of reasons. Number one, again, custody is the most time-consuming issue. Number two, we generally try not to mix discussions regarding custody and visitation of the children with property and support issues because even the best-intentioned people will start to ransom one for the other.
I hate to make a generalization, but you often see that if you try to deal with custody and property issues at the same time, a lot of times, men will be predisposed to ransoming custody and visitation for money, while women will be more likely to ransom the money for visitation. In order to avoid that, we generally try to resolve the custody and visitation issues before getting into the property or support issues.
To be honest with you, once you’ve resolved the custody issues, it becomes easier to deal with the money and property issues. At that point, it becomes really more of a business deal. It’s almost like two guys who have a business together, who have accumulated assets together, and who are now dissolving their business.
Interviewer: Does income play a part in the custody decision?
Mark Kezy: It does not.
Interviewer: As far as time sharing goes and who gets who for how long, is that determined separately after the custody?
Mark Kezy: No, that’s all part of the custody process.
Interviewer: When you meet with the client initially, are you able to make a determination of how the case will play out?
Mark Kezy: Yes. Again, and this is an important point, I try to tell people is that divorce attorneys are not creating any magic for them. What you’re paying for in a good experienced divorce attorney is to be able to walk in and, within 45 minutes to an hour, have that person give you an idea, based on your circumstance, about what’s going to happen in your case.
In reality, most very experienced divorce attorneys, after sitting down with you for 45 minutes or even half an hour, can tell you more or less where things are going to end up. I always tell people. “You can do it the hard way, or you can do it the easy way.” The easy way is to say, “Okay, I understand it. Get the case done.” The hard way is to say, “I’m going to fight about everything.” I always try to tell people that whether they do it the easy way or the hard way, they’re still going to end up pretty much in the same spot.
The question is how much time and how much money do they want to spend to get there. With regard to custody, again, years ago, it was much easier to sit down and say, “This is how things are going to wash out. This is where it’s going to be.” When I first started, there was usually one person who was clearly primarily responsible for the day-to-day needs of the children. Those lines have become blurred as more and more people are equally involved in taking care of the day-to-day operations of the household and the care of the children. Accordingly, custody issues are a little bit more difficult.