For many spouses, divorce is a long and drawn out process, but it does not have to be. Over 90% of spouses seeking divorce eventually settle their differences out of court. Even so, normal contested divorces take time. Beginning your divorce as an uncontested divorce has the benefit of speeding up the court process and reducing costs.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Illinois uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Illinois Defined
Like many states, Illinois has adopted a simplified joint simplified dissolution of marriage process1. Under this simplified process a husband an wife can seek a simplified uncontested divorce under specific circumstances. Specifically, the spouses must not have had any children and certain property requirements must be met.
Unfortunately, not everyone may qualify for the simplified Illinois divorce process. For those who do not meet the requirements, an uncontested divorce is still possible. To file for a more traditional uncontested divorce, the spouses must file for a normal divorce and then present a joint agreement to the court setting the terms for the divorce. Where two spouses agree on all of the terms of a divorce, Illinois courts will consider the divorce uncontested and allow for a speedy divorce resolution process.
Requirements for Seeking a Illinois Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Illinois, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Illinois divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement that the spouses must meet before seeking a divorce under Illinois law is the Illinois divorce residence requirement.2 Like almost every state, Illinois does not want non-citizens traveling to the state simply to get an easy divorce. Therefore, no one can get a divorce under Illinois law unless either spouse has been a resident of the state of Illinois for at least 90 days.
Second, the spouses must allege that the proper grounds for seeking a divorce exist. Like many states, Illinois is a no-fault divorce state.3 That means that neither party is required to have done anything wrong for a divorce to occur; the marriage simply must have broken down for some reason. Spouses who have already been living separate or apart for at least six months will not need to prove that irreconcilable differences exist. If the spouses have been living apart for less than that period of time, the court may want to hear evidence about the couple’s situation before granting divorce.
Third and finally, the parties must agree on each issue in the divorce for a true uncontested divorce to occur. This agreement is usually codified in a written, legally binding contract known as a marital settlement agreement, which is discussed in more detail below. Under Illinois law, the Court must approve the allocation of parental responsibilities between the spouses, child support, spousal support (also known as alimony), and the disposition of any property (for example, who keeps the house and the vehicles?).4 Disagreement on any of these issues will cause the court to rule on the issue, which could result in your divorce becoming categorized as contested.
On Spousal Support and Marital Settlement Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal marital settlement agreement. A marital settlement agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A marital settlement agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed marital settlement agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any marital settlement agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois
Once you and your spouse have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- If you and your spouse decide to file for divorce on your own without legal representation, you will first need to fill out the appropriate divorce paperwork. Fortunately, the Illinois Supreme Court has pre-approved a series of divorce forms for use across the state which makes filing easy. You can find the pre-approved forms at the Illinois Courts’ website.5
- Next, you and your spouse will want to sit down together and draft a marital settlement agreement that is agreeable to both of you. Remember: the judge will need to approve your settlement for your divorce to be considered uncontested, so make sure that you resolve all of your issues prior to filing for divorce.
- You and your spouse will then need to determine which Illinois court is the proper court for filing. The dissolution petition must be filed in the Illinois court sitting in the county in which you meet the residency requirements.
- The specific required contents of the dissolution petition can be found in the Illinois statutes.6
- Next, you and your spouse need to file the divorce paperwork. The filing spouse will need to submit the petition for dissolution and a divorce summons. The responding spouse must then be served with the divorce paperwork in accordance with Illinois rules for service of process. The responding spouse should then file a response with the court admitting the petition’s allegations and agreeing to the marital settlement agreement.
- In a divorce involving minor children, the Court may require the parties to take a brief four-hour long educational course on the effects of divorce on children.
- At your final divorce hearing, the judge will then sign off on your certificate of dissolution of marriage if everything has been properly completed.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- 750 ILCS 5/451 et seq.
- 750 ILCS 5/401.
- 750 ILCS 5/401.
- 750 ILCS 5/401.
- Approved Statewide Forms - Divorce Forms, ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT, http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Forms/approved/divorce/divorce.asp.
- 750 ILCS 5/452.