Four Score and Four

H. Joseph Gitlin

H. Joseph Gitlin

November 6, 1932 – December 2, 2016

H. Joseph Gitlin loved music, art, literature, writing, reading, and had a passion for the wit and wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. Joe wore bow ties, colorful silk pocket squares and linen handkerchiefs, which became his trademarks, whether in court or in his law office. Joe regularly traded jokes and humorous stories with those fortunate enough to have his confidence and friendship.

H. Joseph Gitlin practiced law in Woodstock, Illinois since 1959, where he served as Mayor of Woodstock, from 1973 to 1977, and contributed to the restoration of the Woodstock Opera House.

He retired from the practice of matrimonial law in 2016.  In retirement he remained active, writing about aspects of the law and other issues.

One of the Best Lawyers in America

Joe was nationally recognized as one of the top 43 divorce lawyers by the National Law Journal and was listed in the “Best Lawyers in America.”

Exemplary Legal Career Award

Joe was a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which honored him in 2006 with the Berger Award in recognition of his exemplary legal career.


Joe was active in the American Bar Association, serving as Chair of the Adoption Committee.

Founder and Chair of the Surrogacy Committee, Joe chaired the American Bar Association’s Surrogacy Committee during the time of the famous “Baby M” case.

Founder and Chair of the Genetics and Human Reproduction Committee.

He was also a Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a Diplomat of the American College of Family Trial Lawyers, and a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

He served as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Illinois State Bar Association in 1970.

More recently he was Founder and Chair of the Genetics and Human Reproduction Task Force.

Gitlin appeared on national and local television and radio shows, and was frequently quoted in the media.

Laureate of the Illinois State Bar Association

Joe was named a Laureate of the Illinois State Bar Association, a designation given to lawyers “who have established and maintained the highest principles of the profession.”

The Dirty 30

Joe was also a member of “The Dirty 30,” a distinguished group of lawyers who met annually to discuss unique areas of family law.

Panel 1

H. Joseph Gitlin – Author

As an author,  Joe Gitlin literally wrote the book on divorce law in Illinois. He published articles for national law journals and Illinois law journals.

Gitlin on Divorce – A Guide to Illinois Matrimonial Law

Joe’s name became synonymous with divorce upon the publication of his book, Gitlin on Divorce, A Guide to Illinois Matrimonial Law, an authoritative book on divorce first published in 1990. Updated every year since 1991, it is in its fourth edition, and the book is frequently cited by Illinois courts.

Adoption: An Attorney’s Guide to Helping Adoptive Parents

Gitlin also authored Illinois’ first continuing legal education work on adoption, and a book, Adoption: An Attorney’s Guide to Helping Adoptive Parents.

Gitlin’s Illinois Annotated Family Practice Desktop Code

He also edited Gitlin’s Illinois Annotated Family Practice Desktop Code every year.

Publications and Reports

Joe was a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, and was published in the Illinois Bar Journal.

Gitlin on Divorce Reports

Joe wrote, edited, and published his own periodical, the “Gitlin on Divorce Reports,” a bimonthly publication which offered candid and insightful commentary on the opinions rendered by the Illinois Appellate Courts and the Illinois Supreme Court.

Panel 2

Honored by Peers

Listed in The Best Lawyers in America for 33 years

H. Joseph Gitlin, by vote of his peers, has been listed since 1983 in the book, The Best Lawyers in America®.

Inclusion is based entirely on extensive peer-review evaluations of the quality of legal services within the same geographical and legal practice area. It is regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Joe Gitlin represented divorce and family law clients in Illinois for more than 50 years.

Panel 3

Community Service

Joe’s civic work included service as member of the Woodstock School Board, Councilman and later Mayor for the City of Woodstock, President of the Mental Health Center for McHenry County, and founder of the McHenry County Family Services Agency.

Joe served on the Board of the Mount Hope Methodist Church in Johnsburg and served as Chair of the Board of the First United Methodist Church of Woodstock.

Joe was a Delegate to the 1980 Republican National Convention.

Before his legal practice, Gitlin served in the United States Army from 1954 to 1956 as a Psychiatric Social Worker during the Korean War.

He also served as a group worker in a Chicago settlement house, Association House, and as a community worker for the Institute for Juvenile Research in Chicago, coordinating a study of juvenile gangs in Chicago’s near west side.