- How to qualify for an uncontested divorce in Illinois
- How to get started
- What the uncontested divorce process is like
- How long it takes
Divorce is hard, no matter who you are. But when both spouses agree on all aspects of the split – who keeps the house and other marital assets, how much alimony should be paid, or XYZ, depending on the circumstances – an uncontested divorce is possible. And an uncontested divorce is a much smoother and more cost-effective solution.
In Illinois, uncontested divorce has increasingly become the preferred choice for couples who want to end their marriage amicably.
How to know if you can file for an uncontested divorce in Illinois
Uncontested divorce, while a more streamlined process, requires certain conditions to be met. Here are some key factors to consider.
Agreement on issues
A lot of major issues must be settled before a divorce can be granted: property division, child custody, spousal support, and debt allocation.
If there's any disagreement on the terms of the divorce, you might not qualify for an uncontested divorce.
At least one spouse must have lived in Illinois for a minimum of 90 days before filing for divorce. This residency requirement ensures the Illinois courts have jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings.
In Illinois, spouses must separate for at least six months prior to finalizing their divorce. However, this does not mean that one or both spouses need to move out of the marital home. It only means that you need to stop living as husband and wife.
The spouse who initiates the divorce process is known as the petitioner, while the other spouse is the respondent. In an uncontested divorce, the respondent needs to agree with all the terms set by the petitioner or both parties need to submit a joint petition.
Full financial disclosure from both spouses is typically required. This includes information about assets, debts, income, and expenses. While it's possible to waive these disclosures, it's generally not recommended unless the divorce is amicable and there's full trust between the parties.
Block: People tend to have a lot of questions about financial disclosures. Who gets to see them? Can you opt not to share this information? Get more answers in our article, What Are Financial Disclosures?
Grounds for divorce
To file for divorce, you must provide the court with your grounds – your reason for ending the marriage. Illinois is a no-fault state, which means the reason you give doesn’t have to reflect someone’s fault or failure.
In fact, in Illinois, the only ground for divorce is irreconcilable differences. The marriage simply broke down, attempts to reconcile have failed, and it no longer makes sense to keep trying.
How should you start?
The first step toward an uncontested divorce is negotiation. Both parties need to discuss and agree on the key issues we’ve mentioned – child custody, property division, spousal support, and debt allocation.
Even if you don't fully agree on all issues yet, you may still be able to get an uncontested divorce if you can negotiate and reach a compromise. Open communication and patience are crucial during this phase.
Joint simplified dissolution
For couples who can agree on all terms and meet certain requirements, Illinois offers a Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. To qualify, you must have been married for less than eight years. You must not have minor children or own real estate. Your combined gross income must be shy of $60,000. And, neither spouse can make more than $30,000 individually. And, the total value of your marital property must be less than $50,000.
These may seem like stringent requirements, but if you meet them, it can expedite the uncontested divorce process even further.
If you want to go the uncontested route but are struggling to agree on one or more issues, mediation may be the right solution.
What is mediation? It’s a process in which a couple works with a neutral third party (the mediator) to communicate and negotiate an agreement. In fact, some Illinois counties require mediation for disputed issues relating to children as part of the divorce process.
But people in many other situations use mediation, too, and if successful, you can enjoy the benefits of an uncontested divorce rather than paying more for divorce attorneys and possible litigation.
Hiring a lawyer
While hiring a divorce lawyer may not be necessary for an uncontested divorce, getting advice from such a legal expert is often beneficial. A lawyer can provide valuable guidance and ensure your rights are protected.
You might consider unbundled legal services, where you hire a lawyer to assist with specific parts of your case rather than representing you in full. This can be a cost-effective way to get legal coaching or advice without the expense of full representation.
What does the uncontested process look like in Illinois?
Understanding each step of the divorce process can make it feel less overwhelming. Here's a general overview of what the uncontested divorce process looks like in Illinois. (Please note that the process might differ if you have children.)
1. Fill out forms
The first step is to fill out the necessary paperwork. This includes the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and a Summons in a Dissolution of Marriage. If you and your spouse have agreed on all issues, you may also need to prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement and Joint Parenting Agreement (if applicable).
2. File your forms with the court
Once the divorce petition and other forms are filled out, you'll need to file them with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse live. Some counties in Illinois allow e-filing, so you may be able to submit your forms online.
3. Serve your divorce papers
After filing, you must formally notify your spouse of the divorce by serving them the divorce papers. This can be done through a sheriff, private process server, or certified mail. Your spouse will then have 30 days to respond.
4. Share financial information
Both parties should disclose their financial information, including assets, debts, income, and expenses. However, in an amicable uncontested divorce, you both may agree to waive this step.
5. Finish your divorce forms
Depending on your circumstances, there may be additional forms to complete. This may include a Financial Affidavit or a Certificate of Mailing.
6. File your paperwork
Once all required forms are completed and signed, they must be filed with the court. This can usually be done at the same courthouse where you filed your initial paperwork.
7. Wait for a response
After filing, there's typically a waiting period in which you give your spouse time to “answer” your petition. Some spouses answer with a counterpetition. Others simply agree with everything laid out in the petition. And still others don’t respond at all. If your spouse doesn’t respond at all, the court may proceed with the divorce process.
8. Prove-up hearing
Finally, you and your spouse will attend a prove-up hearing, where a judge reviews your agreement, asks some basic questions, and finalizes the divorce.
How long does it take?
While the timeline depends on the specifics of your case, it's important to note that Illinois does not have a mandatory waiting period for uncontested divorces. This means that theoretically if both parties agree 100% on the terms – and the paperwork is correctly done – the divorce could be finalized relatively quickly.
However, this doesn't necessarily mean the process will be instantaneous. Several factors could cause delays:
- Busy court schedules: The court's schedule can impact your divorce timeline. For instance, it might take time to get a date for your prove-up hearing, especially if the court's calendar is full.
- Paperwork processing time: The court needs time to process the paperwork you submit. Errors or omissions in your paperwork could result in delays, as you'd need to correct and resubmit them.
- Service of Process: Serving divorce papers on your spouse can take time, especially if you have trouble locating them or they're unresponsive.
- Response time: After being served, a spouse has 30 days to respond. If they take the full time to respond, this extends the process.
- Financial disclosures: If you choose not to waive financial disclosures, gathering and analyzing all necessary financial information can take some time.
On average, an uncontested divorce in Illinois may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It's helpful to remain patient and diligent throughout the process. Of course, if you’re going through a divorce, you’ve got a lot on your mind already. We understand, which is why we’re here in the first place.
If you’re thinking about getting an uncontested divorce in Illinois, know that you don’t have to do it alone. We provide step-by-step help – as much or as little guidance as you need. Let us help you ease through this transition so you can get to the other side ready to make the most of your next exciting chapter.
Learn more about Hello Divorce’s offerings in Illinois.