Ask A Lawyer: Can I Be Forced To Divorce?


I am a Father of two children, age’s 1 and 2. My wife has filed for a divorce, with which I don’t agree with because I believe we need to work on our marriage. She say’s that she does not want joint custody, but she will allow me to see the girls whenever I want. I believe I am a good responsible parent with a job, and I would be fine having joint custody if we do have to get divorced.

As I do believe strongly against this divorce, can you give me as many details or advice as you can on what I can do to not lose my family?  My wife refuses to go through any counseling stating that "she is just done."  Thanks for your help.



While the timetable and procedural steps involved vary by state, if your wife wants a divorce she will be most likely be able to obtain the divorce over your objection.  You may wish to focus your efforts and resources on the custody issues instead of contesting her desire for a divorce.  A qualified domestic relations attorney in your area will advise you as to the procedural issues and options with regard to contesting the divorce itself.

The custody issues generally involve the decision making authority ("custody" or "legal custody") and the schedule with the children ("visitation", "parenting time", or "physical custody").  Again, the specifics vary by state and require consultation with an experienced counsel.  Your wife may be willing to "allow" you substantial parenting time or involvement, as long as she retains final authority over all issues. Under such circumstances, she can change the rules at any time and you may have limited legal options to challenge her decisions.  It is important for you to consult an attorney who is willing to pursue all aspects of the custody situation and not just assume you will have to accept her terms, and equally important that you are committed to the time and expense involved in undertaking that pursuit.

Fully pursuing custody issues can involve retaining experts, such as a psychologist, or developing documentary or witness testimony evidence, such as school or daycare information, to establish your strengths as a parent (or demonstrate her weaknesses) in order to support your claim for equal or sole parenting.  Conversely, your wife will be assembling her case as well.  It is usually not possible to predict the outcome of a custody case until all the evidence is compiled and substantial time and expense incurred in doing so. 

However, failure to fully develop the custody case in the first proceedings may limit or color any future efforts to modify the initial custody decision. It is advisable to fully pursue any custody issues in the initial custody proceeding and not rely upon being able to revisit the issues in the future proceeding where you may be precluded from presenting information or issues that could have been pursued previously.  



Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

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