Do you want to know how to start an uncontested divorce in Illinois? If so, then you need to know a lot more than just how to start the process. As one of the leading uncontested divorce lawyers in Illinois, I’ve written this FAQ article about uncontested divorce in Illinois.
This FAQ is broken up into the following sections:
- General issues and court procedure
- The required documents
- A lawyer’s role in an uncontested divorce
General Issues and Court Procedure
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is a divorce where both parties agree to all issues, including but not limited to allocation of print or responsibilities, allocation of parenting time, division of all assets and debts, spousal maintenance, and child support.
A lot of people want an uncontested divorce because they know it is the fastest and most affordable way to get divorced in Illinois.
But it’s necessary to be realistic about getting an uncontested divorce. check out this article about what an uncontested divorce is impossible.
How long does an uncontested divorce take?
For the most part, an uncontested divorce takes one month from start to finish. That’s the average time.
However, the time come very based on a couple of factors, including the below:
- How long the client and the client’s spouse take to work out details
- How long the client and the client spouse take to properly sign documents
- The courts availability of dates to finalize the divorce
- The lawyer’s schedule
You might know an uncontested divorce is affordable, but it can also be fast.
While the length of time to get divorced can vary by county, and depends upon the course schedule, most people can get divorced in about 1 month. That means people generally get divorced one month after contacting a lawyer. It could be a bit faster, or a bit slower. In some counties, such as Will County and Kane County, it takes a bit longer to get divorced because it is harder to get a court dates.
The good thing about using a lawyer for your uncontested divorce is that it increases the chances that you can get divorced as fast as possible.
How much does an uncontested divorce cost?
For clients wanting an uncontested divorce, I offer a flat fee. That means that one fee covers all of my work, and the court costs for both people.
Court costs vary by county. For example, Cook County may ultimately cost more than Kendall County. But generally speaking, court costs total from $650 to $750. In Cook County and Lake County, not only is there a fee for both parties participating in the case, but there’s also a fee for the transcript that they force you to buy and that fee tends to be around $50.
Flat fees can vary. Some people have an uncontested divorce that’s very simple. some have a complex uncontested divorce that involves kids, real estate, and businesses.
Generally speaking, the vast majority of uncontested divorces have a flat fee of between $1,500 and $2,500.
How many times do I have to go to court for an uncontested divorce?
This one’s pretty easy.
Our process is designed so that our clients only have to go to court once for an uncontested divorce in Illinois.
On almost every occasion, that’s what happens. However, there are no guarantees. There are occasions where judge is uncomfortable with what people want to agree to, or is uncomfortable with something else about the divorce. In those situations, a judge can ask people to fix things and to come back another time.
But that’s rare. and using a lawyer greatly increases the chances that you will only need to come to court once. On the other hand, trying to handle a divorce on your own greatly increases the chances that you will have to come back to court more than one time, and possibly more than two times. I see It all the time in court.
Does my spouse have to go to court to get divorced?
Our process is designed so that only our client has to go to court. Our client is called a petitioner. In Illinois, if the respondent has signed certain documents properly, only the petitioner has to go to court.
That works out well because often the respondent does not want to come to court for one reason or another. It might be because the respondent doesn’t want to take time off work, or maybe the respondent lives outside of Illinois.
But again, there are no guarantees. Sometimes a judge can require a respondent to appear. That’s happened in less than 1% of the uncontested divorces I’ve handled.
Getting the required documents
What documents are needed to get an uncontested divorce in Illinois?
Here’s the good news. When you hire a flat fee lawyer for an uncontested divorce, you don’t have to worry about what’s required.
What I represent clients, I send them a couple documents they need to sign, they get it done, and we’re good to go.
Well it can vary by county, generally speaking, both parties needs to sign three to four documents.
Can I get my documents prepared online?
We could get your documents prepared online. And you could also cut your own head open and claim your brain surgeon.
If you use a website, whoever owns that website has it zero accountability and really doesn’t care if your divorce goes smoothly. The worst that can happen to them is that they send your money back. That’s not a big loss for them, because it didn’t really cost them anything to generate the garbage documents they produced for you.
Here are the problems with obtaining documents from a divorce website:
- You become vulnerable to identity fraud. Many of the websites are owned by foreign companies, and you have no idea who really owns the companies.
- The websites produce documents that aren’t actually used in Illinois.
- The substantive agreements that contain all the terms are garbage. They put you at risk for being responsible for your spouse’s debts, and they don’t protect you properly. They don’t come close to properly handing real estate or retirement issues – and that’s just for starters.
People often contact me and want me to review documents that were prepared online. They pay me a small fee to do that.
But here’s the weird thing. When they call me and want me to do That, I tried to convince them not to hire me. Even though I only charge a small fee, I don’t want to charge people for things that aren’t useful. I explain to them that after I review the online divorce documents, I’m probably going to tell them that the settlement agreement that contains all the substantive terms is a piece of junk. I’m probably going to tell them the documents are missing. I’m probably going to tell them that what they’ve received from the divorce website puts them at risk. I also tell them that the online divorce documents probably don’t contain elements that are required by law. Despite all that, they still want to hire me to review the documents. And after it goes how I tell them, they hire me to complete an uncontested divorce for a flat fee.
Here’s what you’ve got to understand: a divorce can affect the rest of your life. It could be very dangerous to rely on some foreign-owned website. For a bit more about that, check out this article.
Will there be any problems if we agree on everything?
Judge’s aren’t required to let every divorce proceed on the terms in the settlement agreement. Consider the below standards for review the two types of settlement agreements for an illinois divorce.
Marital settlement agreement: The judge has to find that the marital settlement agreement (MSA) is “not unconscionable.” That basically means the judge needs to feel that the terms in the MSA would not offend society’s notion of what is fair. An Illinois divorce lawyer can help people draft settlement agreements that have a great likelihood of being found “not unconscionable.” Additionally, an MSA is required to contain certain terms, and if it fails to do so, the judge might reject the MSA. If that happens, the divorce will not proceed until the problem is corrected.
Judgment for allocation of parental responsibilities: The judge must find that all the terms for allocation of parenting responsibilities (custody) and parenting time (visitation) are in the “best interest” of the children. If the judge believes an agreement is not in the best interest of a child, the divorce will not conclude until the problems have been remedied.
What happens when we go to court?
Some people are stressed out about going to court. But really, there’s no need to be.
Going to court to finalize and I can test a divorce generally involves the following:
- Speaking to your lawyer a few minutes before going into the courtroom
- Waiting for your name to be called
- Stepping up to the bench where the judge is
- Getting sworn in by the clerk
- Answering questions that your lawyer asks you
- Listen to the judge give a largely pre-rehearsed statement about the law and your divorce
- Getting a copy of your judgment for dissolution, and leaving
There’s really nothing to stress out about for an uncontested divorce in Illinois. and even if there was something little to worry about, worrying about it will not do anything. Don’t worry about it.
Is there a waiting period for an uncontested divorce?
People read all kinds of stuff on the internet. One thing people are often worried about is the waiting for a divorce in Illinois.
Here’s the good news: for an uncontested divorce, there is no waiting period.
But the law does mention the 6-month waiting period. Section 401(a-5) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the “IMDMA”) states the following about the 6-month waiting period:
If the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months immediately preceding the entry of the judgment dissolving the marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met.750 ILCS 5/401(a-5)
To get divorced in Illinois, the judge must find that the spouse’s marriage suffered “irreconcilable differences” that could not be repaired. And, as you can see from the above quote, one way to prove that irrebuttably is to show that the spouses lived separate and apart for 6 months.
But there are other ways to prove a marriage has suffered irreconcilable differences, and the best way is for both spouses to state it in their marital settlement agreement.
Frankly the way the law is written is confusing. Many judges still ask people if they have been living separate and apart for at least 6 months before the divorce was filed – even though the law does not require it. But there is good news. The term “separate and apart” doesn’t require people to live in separate households, it just means that people need to cease living as a married couple (use your imagination) for at least 6 months prior to the divorce – even if in the same household.
A lawyer’s role in an uncontested divorce
What does an uncontested divorce lawyer do?
When I handle an uncontested divorce in Illinois, I try to make it easy for my clients. That means I give my clients a few things to do, and I take care of the rest.
The basic task that I take care of are as follows:
- Get information from my clients
- Create every document needed in an uncontested divorce, including the marital settlement agreement and judgment for allocation of parental responsibilities
- Give the client and the client’s spouse instructions for completing all the documents
- Direct clients to the proper parenting class that will be accepted by the court
- File all the court documents
- Obtain a court date to finalize the divorce
- Go to court on the date to finalize the divorce
I’d say the most important step listed above is number two. Creating the necessary settlement agreements is where a lawyer is perhaps the most useful. Online divorce websites Don’t give any advice, and they don’t really know anything.
Many of them are owned by shell companies, that are then owned by foreign companies. they make ridiculous promises like guaranteeing that every document they generate will be accepted by the court, and they offer your money back if that turns out not to be the case.
But what websites can’t do is analyze your situation and give you advice. many times people tell me what they have agreed to with their spouse, and it turns out to be a very bad idea. Sometimes clients don’t realize all the legal ramifications of what they want to do, because they are not lawyers. furthermore, it is very common for people to think they have agreed to everything, when they have not actually covered all the bases.
As a lawyer who handles uncontested divorces and litigates complex divorces, I’ve been around the block and I know what problems people run into.
I also take pride in my work.
Does my spouse need a lawyer?
Most of the time, the my client’s spouse does not have a lawyer.
While there is no statutory requirement that a person have a lawyer, the judge can require a person to have a lawyer. For example, if the judge thinks the other party doesn’t know what he or she is doing, then the judge can order that person to consult a lawyer.
Can me and my spouse use the same lawyer?
People on opposite sides of a case cannot use the same lawyer. You really should read this article if you think it might be a good idea to use the same lawyer as your spouse.
People get advice from their lawyers. There is a clear conflict if a lawyer is giving advice to both sides of a case.
Getting your spouse to agree
What if my spouse won’t agree?
Remember, in uncontested divorce is a divorce that is by agreement from the very beginning and one in which both parties agree to all terms necessary to conclude the divorce.
People sometimes use wishful thinking and want there to be a way for a lawyer to force someone to agree. There’s not.
If you think your spouse is not in agreement, then I suggest you try to determine some way to get your spouse to agree. If you are an agreement about all the terms of your divorce from the very beginning, you can get an uncontested divorce.
Otherwise, you have to file a case, and litigate the case. While most cases do settle without going all the way to trial, the question is how long it takes for case to settle. And uncontested divorce is one where people agree from the very beginning, not one where they litigate for a while and then agree sometime later.
What if I’m not in contact with my spouse and don’t know where my spouse is living?
Agreement requires communication. If you don’t communicate with your spouse at all, then you cannot get an uncontested divorce.
You might hate your spouse. But unless you also hate your money, you should try to get in touch with your spouse. If you do not, your divorce could take a lot longer and be a lot more expensive. If you do get in touch with your spouse, then you might be able to reach an agreement to get a fast and affordable uncontested divorce in Illinois.
You can still get divorced even if your spouse will not agree, or cannot be found after a diligent search. If your spouse simply refuses to participate, that is generally the next best to an uncontested divorce; in those circumstances, your spouse would be found in “default,” and the case would move on and conclude in a relatively short amount of time (compared to a litigated case).
How do we handle the children?
Many people have the idea that if they have children they cannot get in uncontested divorce.
But that’s not true.
In fact, if you have children, that’s even more reason to get an uncontested divorce. When you can agree on everything, that’s less stress for everybody, including your kids.
If you have kids and you want an uncontested divorce in Illinois, you have to agree on everything necessary in regards to the kids, just like everything else in your divorce.
When divorcing with kids, your divorce will have to cover the following issues:
- Allocation of parental responsibilities, formerly known as legal custody
- Allocation of parenting time, formerly known as visitation
- Child support and other child related expenses
- How the kids will receive health insurance
- Where the kids will have their primary residence for purpose of the school code
Matters with kids can be complicated, but an uncontested divorce lawyer can help make it simple.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will have to take a parent in class. You may think you already know how to be a parent. Maybe you are already great parents, even though you’re getting divorced. All that might be true, but the legislature has decided to force everyone to take a parenting class.
The class is 4 hours. Luckily, many counties offer an online class. If you want to know more about parenting classes, you should check out this FAQ article about parenting classes for an Illinois uncontested divorce.
How do we agree on issues with the kids?
As with all issues, coming to agreement on child related issues requires communication.
You’re going to have to basically make a list of everything you want to talk about, and come to an agreement on it.
You’re going to have to agree to allocation of parental responsibilities, formerly known as child custody. There are four areas of significant decisions for which parents have to determine how they want to share decision-making. Both parents can share a decision making for each area of significant decisions, or they can split them up. The areas of significant decisions are as follows:
- Extracurricular activities
Dividing Assets & Debts, child support, and spousal maintenance
Isn’t simple if we don’t have anything together?
Many people call me and tell me their divorce should be simple because they don’t have anything shared with their spouses.
But that’s almost never the case.
In fact, with few exceptions (such as gifts and inheritances) anything acquired during the marriage is marital property which is divided in a divorce. For example, suppose during your marriage you earn money from your job, and you put that money into a bank account that is titled only in your name. Even though the account holding the money is titled only in your name, the money you earned is marital property, and therefore, will be divided in a divorce.
Put simply, and with few exceptions, all the assets and debts acquired during the marriage are put into one pot, and divided.
Do we have to divide everything 50/50?
There is not requirement that marital property is divided 50/50. Many people choose to do it that way, but it is not required. In fact, if a case is litigated, a judge might divide property 44/45, 40/60, or some other way.
In Illinois, property must be divided equitably in a divorce. That means fairly, not necessarily 50/50.
Can wealthy people get an uncontested divorce?
Even wealthy people can get in our contestant divorce in Illinois. Check out this article I wrote about the topic. What’s interesting is that wealthy people think they need to hire expensive lawyers, like their neighbors did. If you are wealthy, then most likely, you don’t want to be like your neighbors. You don’t want to waste tens of thousands of dollars on your divorce. You can get an uncontested divorce for flat fee, and it can be over in less time than it took your neighbors to get their first invoice from their expensive downtown lawyers
How much should the child support be?
There are statutory guidelines for child support. Generally speaking, judges want people to follow the statutory guidelines.
However, parents can agree to deviate from statutory guidelines If certain conditions are met. As an attorney, part of my job is to help make sure people meet the required conditions if they want to deviate from the child support guideline. If people try to deviate from guidelines, but are trying to do so inappropriately, then they might go to court and not be able to finalize their divorce when they expect to. It’s best to try to avoid that type of situation.
In order to determine the statutory guidelines support for any given couple, I just need a couple bits of information including how many kids there are, and the incomes of both parents.
How much should the spousal maintenance be?
There is also a statutory formula for spousal maintenance, formerly known as alimony.
Similar to child support, people can agree to deviate from the statutory guidelines for spousal maintenance. But when people want to do this, there are certain things that need to be in their marital settlement agreement.
Many people are under the impression that so long as both spouses agree, the judge will finalize the divorce on whatever terms are in front of the court.
But that’s not the case.
And that’s just one of the reasons to use a lawyer for an uncontested divorce in Illinois.
What do we do if we own a house together?
Dealing with a house is important, but it’s not impossible. You can get an uncontested divorce in Illinois even if you own a house. An experienced uncontested divorce lawyer knows how to deal with real estate.
You might want to read this article I wrote about selling a house in an uncontested divorce.