Our family law firm.

Attorney Marie C. Fahnert

Our law firm focuses on helping fair-minded individuals reach fair outcomes in their divorce or child-custody case.

I founded Fahnert LLC after working as a divorce attorney at a public-interest legal clinic in Chicago. I realized that the private sector needed the same smart, honest and dedicated divorce lawyers who worked in the public-interest sector. Thus, I founded Fahnert LLC with the client-focused philosophy of doing good, putting clients first, and resolving issues as efficiently as possible. We strive to be the best divorce lawyers in Chicago.

Caring, listening, and working hard is an important part of reaching a fair outcome in a case. Clients often have a good sense of what they want, how to achieve it, and what is fair. Their opinions are very important.


I am also very involved in helping lawyers across the nation improve their skills and, ultimately, achieve fairer outcomes for their clients. I am the author of Child-Custody Jurisdiction: The UCCJEA & PKPA the leading legal book on the the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. This book guides lawyers and judges across the nation through one of the most complex areas of family law and explains in a simple and straight forward way how to apply the law and the potential constitutional pitfalls that await the unwary.


Before attending Northwestern School of Law, I worked as a computer programmer (Java), an English teacher in rural China (2 years), and a berry picker (!).

Contact us!

Phone: 312.235.2352
[email protected]
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Fahnert LLC
25 E. Washington St., Ste. 1237
Chicago, IL 60602

Directions to Fahnert LLC

Philosophy for success

I – and the attorneys that work with me at Fahnert LLC – believe the most important quality in a family law attorney is integrity. A reputation for integrity will make judges and the opposing party respect your position and listen to your arguments. The best way to gain a reputation for integrity is by being honest, smart, and hard-working.

Thus, in the courtroom – as well as outside of it – you will see us:

  • Obey and respect the judge,
  • Behave ethically and justly,
  • Strategize how best to solve your case, and
  • Diligently handle all relevant aspects of your case.

Our ethics and hard work help you reach better results by winning:

  • The respect of judges,
  • Credibility in negotiations, and
  • Leverage throughout the proceeding by following the initial strategy for your case.


  • Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, YLS hosts outreach event (2013),
  • Yahoo, Carnations? Again? Why post-Valentine’s day is a popular time for divorce (2013),
  • Wall Street Journal, Bedridden man uses Skype to testify against wife (2013),
  • Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Witness testifies via Skype at Daley Center proceeding (2013),
  • Fox Business, How states differ on divorce laws (2012),
  • Millionaire Corner, Breaking up is harder to do in a bad economy (2011),
  • Chicago Tribune, Finding your missing piece (2010), and
  • Illinois State Bar Journal, Substitution of judge as of right (2010).

Our only focus is family law

At Fahnert LLC our only focus is family law. Specifically, we focus on the following areas of family law:

Dissolution of Marriage (divorce). The first thing we assess when meeting our clients for the first time is whether their marriage can be saved. Once we have determined that the marriage cannot be saved, we develop a long-term strategy for reaching the goals that are necessary for a just and fair outcome.

There are three main questions that we try to answer when defining our strategy:

  1. What are our client’s long-term goals for himself or herself and the children?,
  2. What method of dispute resolution will work best for this particular couple (negotiation, mediation, or litigation)? Will this be an uncontested divorce?, and
  3. What information will we need to reach the resolution? Will experts such as business appraisers, forensic accountants, and child-custody evaluations be needed?

Antenuptial Agreements (also called prenups). We enjoy helping future spouses take control of their financial future by reaching an agreement on how the future spouses will handle their finances once they are married.

Enforcement of judgments. Many cases do not end with the judgment. The help of the court must be sought for enforcement. We have experience prosecuting and defending failures to comply with the divorce judgment including such as failure to pay child-support, failure to pay maintenance, and failure to turn over property.

Appeals from trial court judgments. If I were said to have one true passion, it would be appealing unfair domestic relations judgments. During law school I worked on death penalty appeals (including one U.S. Supreme Court Case, Oregon v. Sanchez-Llamas) with some of the smartest lawyers in the United States. Only three years after law school, I was lead attorney in a case where the Illinois Supreme Court was compelled to issue a rarely granted Supervisory Order in my client’s favor.

Ultimately, I enjoy the challenge of appeals because I cherish the opportunity to help clients obtain a truly fair outcome for my clients through the appellate process.

Get to know Marie C. Fahnert

Photo of Marie looking less spiffy than the first photo

Marie at the end of the day.

Why did you become a family law attorney?

I chose family law because I like the positive effect that I have on people’s lives. There is nothing more satisfying than helping a father maintain a relationship with his son, helping ensure a wife a comfortable retirement, or simply helping someone move on to a more rewarding, happier life.

Does your life experience affect your work?

Photo taken of young pretty farm girls by Marie in China.

Photo taken by Marie in Sichuan, China, 2003.

Before becoming a lawyer, I lived and worked in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The exposure to different cultures made me more open minded, more sympathetic, and more accepting of all people.

This understanding of people (and their follies) helps me be a better lawyer because I truly believe that we should be as open minded about others as we would like others to be about us.

How do you like your job?

It’s a very challenging and stimulating environment. You either like it or you don’t. I like it. I experience the personal rewards of helping clients navigate through the most difficult time of their lives, and, because my clients are usually financially sound, I have the resources available to hire the experts needed to fight for my client and present my client’s position in the most favorable light.

Also, I am lucky that my professional success allows me to work against the best divorce lawyers in Chicago as well as work with the best local child-custody experts, forensic evaluators, and accountants. I like the intellectual stimulation and I believe that it helps me represent my clients better.

A tale of two lawyers …

One of the first things many clients ask me is whether I’m a “pit bull” lawyer. I usually respond that I like to think of myself as a chess player. Pit bulls attack randomly. They focus on injuring and instant gratification. Chess players are clear-headed and focus on the end result. What follows is a comparison of the two styles.

Realistic chess knight piece

Lawyers are not knights.


Husband goes to Pit Bull for a divorce. Husband is angry at Wife because he just found out she has been cheating on him. He wants sole custody of the children, all marital assets and anything else he can get. He also wants to lock Wife out of the house.

After listening to husband’s story, Pit Bull obeys Husband’s wishes by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) accusing Wife of infidelity. Pit Bull does not explain to Husband the consequences of taking a confrontational approach in this delicate matter.

After being served with the divorce papers at work, angry Wife goes home. She is locked out. A vicious argument between Husband and Wife ensues. There is pushing and screaming. The police is called. Husband is arrested and ends up with an Order of Protection against him. The Order of Protection requires Husband to move out of the house, pay Wife maintenance and child support. Wife is awarded sole custody of the children.

Now, it will be an uphill battle for Husband to get the reasonable divorce settlement he might have reached if he had not used such aggressive tactics.

End result:  An unnecessarily long, painful and expensive divorce.


The pen is mightier than the sword. — E. Bulwer-Lytton


Same as above, only Husband hires a lawyer named “Chess.”

Chess advises Husband that infidelity does not affect the distribution of marital property, child custody or maintenance. Also, Chess tells Husband he cannot lock wife out of the marital home.

Chess and Husband discuss Husband’s vision for his future. They discuss his career, life and financial goals. With these goals in mind Chess and Husband device a strategy for the divorce.

After the meeting with Chess, Husband goes home to Wife and tells her that he believes the marriage cannot be fixed. Wife and Husband reach an agreement as to who should move out of the marital home.

After Husband and Wife are no longer living together, Chess drafts a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage citing “Irreconcilable Differences.” Husband personally gives Wife the Petition. Wife is relieved that her indiscretions are not disclosed in the Petition.

When it comes time to decide the custody of the children and separation of marital assets, Husband and Wife sit down at the kitchen table. Wife is grateful that Husband has behaved so well despite her hurtful behavior. She is more generous toward Husband than necessary.

The agreement reached is fair to Husband, Wife and the children. Chess reviews the agreement and drafts it in legal format. Soon after, Wife and Husband go in front of a judge and get divorced.

By focusing on the end result, Husband achieved the best possible outcome for himself and the children. He has also avoided the unnecessary stress of a bitter divorce.

End Result: A quick, fair, and affordable divorce.

Client reviews

Cup with smiley foam coffee.

Our clients are happy.

Marie is a great listener with a very metered approach. She answered all my questions with patience and respect… She seems to be in the profession to help people. Bravo. — Very Happy
There is no glitz or attitude or pretense… Two particular areas of her practice deserve praise. She shines in her research, writing and preparation… I always had access to every document related to my case. Do not be dissuaded by the fact that she is a younger attorney. She has honed her courtroom presence… While her hourly rates are not cheap, I still felt her services were a true value. I couldn’t be more pleased with the partnership we created and the results of our efforts. I highly recommend her. — Also Happy
Finding Marie was a great piece of luck for me. Seriously, I was ready for the last rites when I found her and she turned it around. This is not an exaggeration and she can relate my case. Marie is smart, well versed, with a strong legal education and experience that has won a significant case before the Illinois Supreme Court. If you need someone to start your case or take over one that is not going the way you thin it should (as I did) then contact her. You will not be sorry! — Am Happy