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Attorney Marie Fahnert

Marie Fahnert is a divorce lawyer in Chicago, Illinois. She has devoted her career exclusively to family law and the associated financial and child-related issues of maintenance (spousal support), child-custody, child-support, division of property, valuation of businesses, and ante-nuptial agreements (prenups). Marie has been at the forefront of same-sex marriages and represented a client in what was likely the first dissolution of civil union in Illinois. She strives to be the best divorce lawyer possible.

Cover of book: Child-Custody Jurisdiction - The UCCJEA & PKPA

Marie is the author of Child-Custody Jurisdiction: The UCCJEA & PKPA which is scheduled for publication on December 2014 by the American Bar Association. This preeminent book is the authoritative guide for lawyers and judges on the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act.

Marie Fahnert rated by Super Lawyers Magazine


Fahnert, LLC
25 E. Washington St., Ste. 1237
Chicago, IL 60602

Contact Marie

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email marie@fahnertlaw.com
phone 312.235.2352

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I used to think that race and ethnicity would never affect the outcome of a Chicago divorce. I've changed my mind. The color of your skin or the perceived status of your culture could affect whether you get custody of your child. Find out what made me change my mind.

Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.

—Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

My experience as a divorce lawyer shows that people are sometimes happy with a bad divorce judgment. Science backs up my anecdotal findings. We have a strong tendency to prefer whatever bitter apple life hands us.

A Youtube video of a dancing parrot ("Dancing with myself"), a TED video by a Harvard psychology professor, and a Spanish love song ("Jodida pero contenta") explore our ability to synthesize happiness and its evolutionary meaning.

Gays can now marry in Illinois! It is now clear that sooner, rather than later, all states are going to follow. The Daily Show has stunt actors play a flamboyant same-sex couple in Mississippi and Louisiana to determine which state will be the last in the nation to fall.

In 1868 the New York Times published two hysterical posts on Chicago's divorce rate and what this meant for Chicago's future. I put Chicago's 1868 divorce rate in perspective by comparing it to Chicago's current divorce rate and with the divorce rate for countries around the world.

Time may pass, but people don't change. Check out the scandalous yet surprisingly modern Burch divorce from the 1860s. Things were not necessarily better or more proper back in the day.

Apart from the lurid accusations the spouses leveled against each other, the public's fascination is surpassingly modern.

Also of interest is the games the lawyers played in what took on the appearance of a circus. I can say, that I think lawyers have improved a little since the Burch divorce. At least now you don't have to worry about a judge representing your spouse in their divorce or about your spouse hiring all the lawyers in your town.

According to wikipedia, euphemisms are "used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant." Before we had divorcée (divorced woman), divorcé (divorced man), and divorcee (divorced man or woman), divorced people were referred to as there were "victims of divorces."

Read my post to learn the euphemisms used in the old days to refer to bad marital behavior. I also have a link to brand new euphemisms you can use to inform your relatives of the breakdown of a marriage.

I just discovered this social media aggregator called Tint. It basically gathers feeds and posts them together in a pretty way. So for example, it can mix-up all the feeds from your twitter, Facebook, and linked-in accounts into one single feed. You can then post this feed online to make it easier on your friends [...]

Post-divorce wedding etiquette

Polite grizzly bear. I always advise clients to be on their best behavior even after the divorce. My theory is that your focus should be on improving yourself and this can only be accomplished through good behavior. Miss Manner's had more practical advice for a woman who sought advice on how to behave at her [...]

Some people choose to escape their divorces. Former Chicago Board of Trade Chairman Patrick Arbor, who once bragged that his “record is impeccable and [he] has a good reputation”, has fled to Europe rather than deal with his divorce in Chicago. One of the issues that arose during the divorce proceeding was Mr. Arbor’s failure [...]

Never ask of money spent
Where the spender thinks it went.
Nobody was ever meant
To remember or invent
What he did with every cent.

(This was my first post for this blog in February 2008. I am dusting it off in honor of the passage of the marriage equality legislation in Illinois.) The Daily Show has a hilarious take on what same-sex marriage has done for Massachusetts. One year after same-sex marriage was legalized, Massachusetts ranks: 50th in illiteracy [...]

Girl using communication device. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, the Wall Street Journal and the American Bar Association Journal reported on my divorcing client's Skype testimony. Last week, at Chicago's Daley Center, a judge ruled in my client's favor by granting an extension to a previous order of protection. The only witness at the hearing was my 72 [...]

Bibi and Poldi, two giant tortoises who have been together since their birth in 1897, called it quits on their relationship this year. The relationship had survived 115 years, a move from Switzerland to Austria, and 300 children (ages 16-85). Discovery News reports: … zoo staff are trying everything to save the marriage. They have given the [...]

My awesome paralegals

When I was fresh out of law school I had visions of providing clients with the highest quality of service regardless of their income. However, reality sunk in when I started my solo practice. No matter how hard I tried to keep my fees under control, no person of modest means could afford me. Between [...]

Attorney Marie in the news

Here are some of the recent family-law or legal articles that I authored or which quoted me: Illinois State Bar Journal: Substituting a Judge as of Right. (August 2010). In this article I review when (and how) you can use your right to substitute the judge in your case. Chicago Tribune: Finding Your Missing Piece. (March [...]

Oscar Wilde: Trust

Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony London is full of women who trust their husbands. One can always recognize them. They look so thoroughly unhappy. —Oscar Wilde

Recipe for a happy divorce

True cliche: Simple things bring happiness. Maintaining happiness (or some semblance of it) through your divorce might not be as difficult as you think. According to scientists, the following things make us happy: Virtues: Our sense of wisdom, justice, compassion for others, Gratitude: Appreciating what we have and expressing it to ourselves and others, Savoring: [...]

Chicago divorce: Online info

If you are divorcing in Chicago, you can find an amazing amount of crucial information about your divorce without lawyers or private investigators. Here are a few websites that you should know about: Your Divorce Docket (Cook County Clerk of Court): Here you can find an outline of your case. Although you cannot read the [...]

Awkward family photos

I just discovered a hilarious website called Awkward Family Photos. In it people (or their friends) post funny photos of their families.Many of the photos are sweet but awkward: There's the happy newlyweds, the proudly pregnant and proud new parents. My favorite photo shows a family unsuccessfully trying to pose for a photo shoot. The [...]

Quote: Picking the good…

From the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web… We must pick out what is good for us where we can find it. — Pablo Picasso via Quotewhore

Dalai Lama Quote

Quote from the Dalai Lama about keeping your cool during divorce.

My friend, Russell Knight, has opened up a solo general practice. He is both a divorce lawyer and criminal defense lawyer. In his blog Russell recommends doing a criminal background check on your spouse at the beginning of a divorce: By presenting this [evidence of a criminal record] to the judge, an attorney is able [...]

Quote: Douglas Adams

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be. — Douglas Adams via On Her Way

Quote: Starting today

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning but anyone can start today and make a new ending. — Maria Robinson

Helpful or stressful?

I just came across this video of a therapy game for children of divorce. I'm not sure what to think. I got really stressed out just by watching the video. It is certainly good to acquaint divorce lawyers with confusion and pain that some children of divorce feel. However, is this appropriate for children? Wouldn't [...]

The winning divorce

In law school we learned how to "frame" the facts to make a winning argument. This basically requires viewing things from a different point of view. The framing of facts, however, is not limited to the practice of law. In fact, how you frame (or view) "success" and  "failure" is an essential element in achieving [...]

Children without fathers?

An associate law professor at the Seattle University School of Law argues that reluctant fathers should not be considered the "fathers" of offspring conceived during a one night stand. The Professor believes that the men should be held financially responsible for their offspring. However, she sees no benefit in "roping" the man in as the [...]

Recession and divorce

Time.com has a an great article titled Will the Market Kill Your Marriage? that discusses why economic recessions increase divorce rates. Possible theories include: Lack of money exposes fundamental flaws in the marriage, Couples who had fundamental differences about money now have irreconcilable differences about it, and Financial worries cause stress, stress causes depression, and [...]

Divorce + Dancing + 1912 = NYT

On January 2, 1912, Viola Hudson — a Chicago native in Reno for a divorce — made the New York Times headlines for dancing the "bird trot" and "turkey trot" with an unrelated man. It seems extreme to make a scandalous New York Times appearance for dancing. On the other hand, if the dancing was [...]

Quote: Second chances

While you can’t leave it behind, you can look at the events of your past from a new point of view. Turn them around. See all the angles. Consider it your second chance. Second chances do come your way. Like trains, they arrive and depart regularly. Recognizing the ones that matter is the trick. —Jill [...]

Getting sole custody

PART 1 OF 2 What Matters A custody dispute can result in the most bitter of divorce battles. If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, a judge will decide for you. The Judge will consider “the best interests of the child.” In making her determination, the main issues judge will consider are [...]

Many of my readers are Chicago residents who are looking into divorcing without a lawyer. Often they will call asking for advice. Although there are some situtations in which I think people definitely need a divorce lawyer, I think there are some situations in which a family lawyer is not necessary. For example, did you [...]

Joint legal custody & divorce

Joint legal custody is only awarded to parents who can communicate well with each other. An amicable divorce is considered a basic element of this. A judge will be reluctant to award joint legal custody to a couple who is not able to come to an agreement on their own. Thus, you should try to [...]

Generally, Illinois family law judges do not award parents joint residential (physical) custody. It is assumed that children benefit from the stability of living in only one place. In the old days, it was much more common for parents to be awarded joint residential custody. This was often overwhelming for the child. Every week (or [...]

Alimony for men

We have come a long way since the 50's. Women have entered the work force. Spouses are now expected to share the household chores and the rearing of the children. Nearly everyone now agrees that gender bias is wrong. Yet, there is one area where it appears we haven't evolved at all: alimony for men. [...]

Do not hire this guy. A public defender recently posted on her blog a horrifying video of what I believe to be a legitimate divorce lawyer advertisement. I’m not posting the video here because I do not want to be associated with the video. The ad showcases some of the signs of a bad family lawyer. [...]

I just finished reading a post from a fellow lawyer blogger on the joys of collaborating with other lawyers when drafting a premarital agreement. In the post, he talks about how wonderful it is to use the diverse expertise of each lawyer to draft the best possible premarital agreement. He concludes: This is one of the [...]

Children and divorce

PART 1 OF 3 Is divorce the problem? As a divorce lawyer, I often worry about the effect the divorce will have on the children of the marriage. Obviously many parents worry too. These parents cite statistics showing that children of divorce are more likely to commit crimes, get pregnant young and become underachievers. Other [...]

If you have children and are getting divorced, you will need a Parenting Agreement before your divorce is finalized. You and your lawyer should make sure that the Parenting Agreement states: Which parent has residential custody of the child; Whether parents will share legal custody of the child and, if not, which parent gets sole [...]

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion… I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. — Kurt Vonnegut Via On Her Way

I just came across this Boston Globe article by a man who has seen too many divorces in his life: When I was born, my dad's mom was already remarried to a divorced man, who became my grandpa. And my dad's dad married a new woman - already divorced twice from the same man - who [...]

Marriage, men & genius

A fellow lawyer blogger has a blog post on a study that shows that brilliant scientist's achievements waned after they got married: Within five years of making their nuptial vows, nearly a quarter of married scientists had made their last significant contribution to history's hall of fame. "Scientists rather quickly desist (from their careers) after [...]

A fellow blogger has a post called If You Owe Back Support, Don't Expect Your Stimulus Check. Well worth reading…

Poem = Marriage + Divorce

A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.  -- Robert Frost

Bitter custody battles over children are relatively common in Chicago. Parents, lawyers and judges worry about the poor children caught in the middle of the battle. Yet, viewed from another point of view, these children are so lucky. They have two parents fighting for the honor of raising them and taking care of them. Some [...]

Many people believe that you should never apologize if there is any chance of a legal action against you. The belief is that apologizing might be an admission of guilt and this could work against you in a trial. Maybe there is some truth to this as far as a trial is concerned. However, many times [...]

Family Lore  recently posted on a French court annulling a marriage between because the wife was not a virgin.Could this happen in Chicago?I am not sure. For any contract (marriage, real estate...etc) to be valid both parties need to know what they are agreeing to. If there is an essential part of the contract that one [...]

You wouldn’t worry so much about what people really thought of you if you knew just how seldom they actually do. —Unknown Via On Her Way

Children, divorce & custody

Divorce lawyers often have to explain child custody because many parents in Chicago say they want custody without knowing exactly what it is. For simplicity’s sake, child custody can be separated into four categories: Sole residential custody - the child lives with only one parent. Joint residential custody - the child lives at both parent's [...]

Judges and bitterness

There are few things more detrimental to a divorce proceeding than a very bitter spouse. Judges are experts at picking up the bitterness. Any motion or demand made by the bitter party will be viewed with distrust. Thus, it is very important in a divorce to have control of your emotions - if only to [...]

Speak when you are angry — and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret. —Laurence J. Peter (1919 - 1988)

Divorce Solicitor blogs from England about our unrealistic expectations for our husbands or wives: The behaviour we expect of others in a relationship is often unrealistic. For example, my ex husband (a Man Utd fan) rang me at midnight on Wednesday to tell me that Man Utd had won. If he had done that whilst [...]

Some people might expect a divorce book written by a judge to stress the importance of the judicial system in helping couples reach a just outcome in their divorce. If this is you, then you might be surprised at the advice offered by Judge Robert Duncan in this book. Judge Duncan tells it like it [...]

Victoria Holt: Regret

Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience Source: On Her Way

A fellow blogger has had 5 parental kidnapping cases this past year alone (!). She blogs on a new GPS tracking "wristwatch" that you can put on your child if you fear kidnapping. This wristwatch has an alarm that goes off if anybody tries to remove it. If you live in Chicago, Illinois, there could [...]

Robin Williams: Divorce

I think a lot of times divorce can be like circumcision with a weed whacker.

…you might want to compare yourself to this poor Saudi Arabian husband whose wife is asking for a divorce because he tried to peek at her face after 30 years of marriage: One night last month... the husband was finally overcome by curiosity and tried to lift his wife's veil as she slept to take [...]

Parental Alienation

There is a lot of controversy about Parental Alienation Syndrome. This is when one parent tries to turn the children against another parent. Some experts claim PAS does not exist. Others claim it is a mental illness. Although I am unsure that PAS is such a specific ailment that it should be considered a mental [...]

Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon SaronyThe more one analyzes people, the more all reasons for analysis disappear. Sooner or later one comes to that dreadful universal thing called human nature.—Oscar Wilde

Decide for yourselves.

At the beginning of a divorce many people do not see themselves negotiating anything with their spouses. They feel that only a judge can justly resolve the issues arising out of the divorce. This is often not the case. A judge does not know you. He does not know the dynamics of your marriage. Were [...]

While your family and friends can give you support in a divorce, they may not be able to give you the insight you need to solve a difficult conflict with your spouse. The help of a therapist can be very useful in these situations. For example, let€™s say your spouse is making clearly unreasonable demands [...]

The first Mother's Day after a divorce can be awkward. In Chicago most Parenting Agreements include a clause that the children will spend Mother's Day with their mother. Apart from this, however, few parent's give Mother's Day much thought until the day arrives. Here are some tips from Divorce 360 on how parents can get [...]

Robert Frost: Reluctance

Robert Frost, circa 1910 Out through the fields and the woods    And over the walls I have wended; I have climbed the hills of view    And looked at the world, and descended; I have come by the highway home,    And lo, it is ended. The leaves are all dead on the ground, [...]

Yesterday a commenter named Beverly admonished me for my failure to note the family law consequences of naming your child Test. Here is an excerpt from the comment: "The more important question is--Who would name their kid Test? …a parent who would name their child Test may not be taking parenthood too seriously … in [...]

Professor Test Dummy no longer has a job at Berkley's Law School. We know this because he is no longer listed in the faculty profile webpage. At the end of April, the Professor was listed under "D" in Boalt Hall's faculty profile page: Now, however, after a blogger did an exposé on him, Professor Dummy [...]

This month's Illinois Bar Journal has a very good article on recent developments in grandparent visitation law. Below is a really short explanation for non-lawyers: You have probably heard that child custody decisions are made with the "best interests of the child" in mind. This rule generally only applies for parents. For example, the court [...]

Housman: One-and-Twenty

When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say, 'Give crowns and pounds and guineas But not your heart away; Give pearls away and rubies But keep your fancy free.' But I was one-and-twenty, No use to talk to me. When one-and-twenty I heard him say again, 'The heart out of the bosom Was [...]

Burying the wedding ring

I was just surfing the web and came across a post from Darn Divorce about a wedding ring coffin. Apparently, an entrepreneur has successfully tapped into people's need to bury the bad memories. My feeling is that if you want to bury the past, go ahead, but a matchbox will do the trick just as [...]

Divorce can be an overwhelming experience. Fathers' Rights is about empowerment. It teaches you how you can control the divorce process in the way that is most beneficial to you (as opposed to handing the control over to your spouse, lawyer or judge). Fathers' Rights is a great book written by someone who is not [...]

Fathers’ Rights is written for fathers who are having legal disputes over their children. The book offers a realistic, non confrontational approach to making things work. It does not tell you what you want to hear. Instead, it provides you with the information you need to obtain the best resolution to your problem. For example, [...]

I have always had a deep suspicion of divorce lawyers who claim to focus on a certain gender. These lawyers claim that the court system is biased against men or women. Although I have never been up against one of these “gender lawyers,” they have always struck me as unnecessarily adversarial. Also, from my point [...]

Quote: Nietzsche

Nietzsche in c. 1872. The same affects in man and woman are yet different in tempo: therefore man and woman do not cease to misunderstand each other.—Nietzsche

Long life and divorce

Alarmists cite the increasing divorce rate as a sign that we don't take things seriously anymore. But - I wonder - could our increased life-spans be the cause of our high divorce rate? Although I am no historian, it seems that the “unto death do us part” made sense in the old days when people [...]

Oscar Wilde: Unfaithful

Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon SaronyThose who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies. —Oscar Wilde

Infidelity and divorce

Divorce360 reports that a study indicates that infidelity is “estimated to be present in up to 90% of divorces...the betrayed partner experiences post-traumatic-like stress symptoms that if left untreated can escalate into major problems… therapy can result in a more favorable outcome for the couple…” Note: If you are interested in learning more about how [...]

Nietzsche c. 1872. When we have to change our mind about someone, we hold the inconvenience he has caused us very much against him.—Nietzsche

Divorce in China

Both the economy and divorces are booming in China. The Washington Post explores: Washington Post article

Letting go of your marriage

It often baffles me how people whose marriage has no hope of surviving still refuse to let go. Common scenarios are where a wife drags out the signing of the divorce agreement or where a divorcing husband who has moved out of his wife’s home leaves a change of clothes behind. According to yesterday’s New [...]

A recent study shows that hostility and depression – two emotions found in most divorcing couples – can lead to heart problems:“There are of course mental health reasons to treat depression and hostility. Now we know there is a physical health reason – the link to cardiovascular diseases,” Dr. Stewart said.

Men and mourning

A recent study shows that men mourn divorce differently from women. Men’s grieving often starts later than women, they miss their home and children the most (rather than their spouse) and they are less likely to verbalize their pain.

Blake: A Poison Tree

William Blake by Thomas Phillips (1708) I was angry with my friend; I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I waterd it in fears, Night & morning with my tears: And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft [...]

The poisonous blog

The New York Times reports that an angry Vermont man going through a divorce has been posting a “fictional” blog portraying his wife in a negative light. The judge has ordered him to stop “any and all Internet postings.” The case has attracted mainstream media because of the issue it raises on free speech. As [...]

The billionaire divorce

Money doesn't always make everything better. In divorce, money sometimes makes things more bitter. Vanity Fair has a great article A Vast Right-Wing Hypocrisy that illustrates my point. If you just want an overview, here's a Washington Post video on the Richard Mellon Scaife divorce.

The passion test

The New York Times has a "passion test" that you can use to determine whether the romance is gone. Results range from "extremely passionate" to "extremely cool". There are many reasons to stay in a marriage once the passion is gone. Thus – even if this were a scientific test – I would not recommend [...]

An amicable divorce

Times Online has a great article titled The Path to an Amicable Divorce. Here are some highlights: Whether a couple can raise their children successfully depends to a large extent on their ability to form a good post-divorce relationship, Couples who have separated with dignity remain not only closer to their children, but civilized in [...]

Mimicking leads to cooperation

The New York Times reports that scientists have found that "mimicking"  the posture of strangers often induces automatic cooperation: Any amiable conversation provides ample evidence of this subconscious social waltz. Smiles are contagious. So is nodding, in an amiable conversation. Negotiation books and classes often focus on seeing the other person's point of view. These [...]