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How to File For Divorce: Illinois Divorce Process

Once it’s obvious a divorce is necessary, you may have questions about how long it might take and how much it will cost, along with knowing what is involved in dissolving your marriage.

Even if Illinois is a “no-fault divorce” state, it may not be clear what you need to do. Having an experienced divorce lawyer to explain how and what it takes to reach a divorce agreement that splits property, custody, and support equitably can save you time and money. The Evanston, IL divorce lawyers and financial professionals at O. Long Law are prepared to listen and do everything possible to safeguard your family’s future.


How to File for Divorce in Illinois

You’ll need to determine the type of divorce that works best for your situation. And while Illinois outlines a few options, a divorce attorney can assist you.

Types of Divorce in Illinois

  •  Uncontested Divorce:
    An uncontested divorce means you and your soon-to-be-ex agree on the divorce terms: you are in basic agreement about splitting any property or parental responsibilities.
  •  Joint and Simplified Divorce: If you meet certain requirements, you may be able to file for a simplified divorce. If there are no children from the marriage, with a marriage that lasted less than eight years, and you both earn less than $30,000 annually, you could qualify for a simplified divorce.
  • Contested Divorce: A contested divorce typically takes the most time and the most money of all the divorce options in Illinois. As the name implies, if you and your spouse can’t agree on property division, child custody or support, or even the need for divorce, you may need to take the matter in front of a judge or get outside help

What’s My First Step in an Illinois Divorce?

To get a divorce in Illinois, you need to file in the appropriate courthouse, whether it’s contested or uncontested. Generally, you’ll file in the county where you or your spouse reside.

What Documents Do I Need to Divorce?

After you’ve found the right courthouse, you need to file the appropriate Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Depending on your circumstances, you may need additional paperwork, like a parenting plan if you have children. The additional documents will vary based on the complexity of your situation. You may need to include financial documentation as well.

Serving Divorce Papers

Once a divorce is filed, you must provide notice to your spouse. You’ll be referred to as the “petitioner,” and they will be the “respondent.” Delivering news that you filed divorce paperwork is called serving.

  • Designated Server:
    You can use a “designated server,” either a sheriff’s deputy or a special process server.
  • By Appearance:
    If your spouse is aware of the divorce, they can waive service and file an Appearance to indicate they are participating in the case.

Answering the Summons

Once served, your spouse will have 30 days to file an Appearance form If they don’t respond before 30 days, you may receive a default divorce judgment, which means the divorce will be approved.

If your spouse files their appearance, dividing the household will begin.

If you cannot agree, you can choose to litigate, involving the court in making these decisions.

Divorce Negotiation & Settlement

The court encourages couples to attempt to reach a divorce agreement themselves. They can accomplish this with the assistance of family law attorneys, a mediator, or counselors. However, if they cannot reach an agreement, the matter will likely go to family court, and a judge will decide the finalized divorce.

Divorce Mediation

Mediation involves bringing a third party into divorce proceedings. It can start before filing if you’re seeking an uncontested divorce, or mediation can start once papers have been filed and an agreement cannot be reached.

The mediator is neutral and unbiased and will hear concerns involving property division, child support, child visitation, alimony, or other disputed matters. Local courts are required to have mediation programs. In Cook County, the court mediation program only assists with parenting matters.

A mediator can help the couple reach goals together or help the individuals decide what they want to pursue in the divorce.

Illinois Divorce Court

If the divorcing couple cannot agree on their own or with the assistance of a mediator, then the case will likely land in divorce court. This is an expensive option and can be lengthy should one party refuse to cooperate.

Divorce litigation includes a discovery phase, where evidence is shared. Both parties can make efforts to reach an agreement before a trial is necessary during pre-trial negotiations. There will likely be pre-trial motions as well. If both sides disagree, then a trial will be scheduled.

Both sides will argue for their end goals during a divorce trial, like having residential custody over any shared children or receiving alimony. Like other trials, witnesses and experts can testify for either party to support their case.

Divorce Rulings & Final Decrees

The presiding judge or magistrate will consider all evidence delivered and decide on any outstanding issues. Once a conclusion is reached, the divorce is finalized, and the marriage will be dissolved.

Divorce agreements can be appealed, and they can also be modified after the fact.

Illinois Divorce Timeline

Uncontested divorce cases or those that proceed by default don’t have a “waiting period” and can move forward as soon as your ex’s 30 days to respond have passed.

Contested divorces can take a lot longer based on the issues involved. Even working through mediation could take months, and if the matter must proceed to trial, there could be delays as one party tries to wear the other down.

A trial itself could last hours or days, depending on the evidence presented and any cross-examination that needs to happen.

Divorce Costs

Even though one may be necessary, a divorce will likely be costly. Unless you can agree on a settlement before filing papers, you’ll likely face costs for a mediator or court costs if the matter goes to trial. When couples cannot find common ground, that’s what makes a divorce last longer and more expensive.

Turn to an Evanston Family Lawyer

Working alone on divorce might seem like a way to save money, but it could cost you more in the end, mainly if your spouse retains an attorney. You should work with an Evanston family lawyer who can fight and negotiate for you to save time, stress, and money.

Our family lawyers believe in agreeing when you can, fighting when you must, but always fighting to win. With our skill in complex divorces involving business interests and significant assets, let us explain all the options.

Contact O. Long Law today at 847-556-8846 or contact us.