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How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?

How long does an uncontested divorce take printed on a paper

How long an uncontested divorce takes in Illinois ranges from about two months to a year. Factors influencing the length of time it takes a divorce to finalize include how much progress the parties are making toward their settlement agreement, various planning matters, and the court’s calendar. Overall, an uncontested divorce requires much less time than a contested divorce.

How long does an uncontested divorce take printed on a paper

Factors That Can Impact a Divorce

Many factors have the potential to affect divorce and how long it takes. They include:

The Complexity of the Issues

Children (and the number/ages of children), businesses owned, pets, spousal support, and the amount and types of property, assets, and debts to divide can add layers of complexity to proceedings. Even if the parties end up agreeing on everything with no conflict, it takes time to go through all these issues and sign the relevant paperwork for settlement.

However, if a couple has gone through legal separation already, the actual divorce itself may be quick, even if the issues are complex.

Level of Conflict

Divorces with a high level of conflict tend to be contested and take longer. For example, when the parties cannot communicate effectively or are particularly hostile toward each other, they need more time to resolve disputes and agree on the terms of the divorce. The proceedings might even take a few years to resolve, especially if a trial is involved. 

High-conflict divorces are usually stressful and result in a tremendous emotional, mental, physical, and financial drain on the parties. They can occur for reasons such as stubbornness, a desire for revenge, confusion, or an unwillingness to work toward a goal such as putting the children’s best interests first.

Sometimes, one party just requires more time to get used to the idea of divorce, and the other party wants to rush everything through the courts as quickly as possible. Often, the parties can avoid a contentious divorce by working together collaboratively. However, as in some cases involving a history of abuse or manipulation, a high-conflict divorce may be inevitable.

Type of Divorce

An uncontested divorce takes less time and typically is less of a strain than a contested divorce. An uncontested divorce can come in several forms, such as a collaborative divorce.

Meanwhile, some contested divorces resolve fairly quickly within months, while others could take years. Approaches such as bringing in a mediator might shorten the timeline.

Compliance With Court Orders

One party or both parties failing to comply with court orders can significantly prolong the divorce process. The same idea applies to missing deadlines.

Divorce Attorney Involvement

The involvement of divorce attorneys has the potential to greatly speed up a divorce, even considering the attorneys’ schedules. For example, a marital settlement agreement lawyer can help couples avoid prolonged battles, unnecessary hassle, and missed deadlines in an uncontested divorce.

If the parties represent themselves, especially in a more complicated divorce, they risk filing missteps and missed deadlines. They do not have a professional advocate looking out for their best interests. That can add to the divorce timeline if they make different decisions right before the divorce is finalized or even attempt post-divorce decrees.

Court Backlog

A higher court backlog means a divorce case might not get heard as expeditiously as it would have been at another time. However, backlogs in Illinois should not add more than a couple of weeks, at most, to a case.

Jurisdiction

The specific state, county, or even court in which the petitioner files for divorce can impact the length of time it takes to finalize the divorce. In Illinois, at least one party must meet requirements such as having been a resident of the state for 90 days, and there must not be an active divorce case filed and pending elsewhere.

Potential complications relate to whether one of the spouses is on active military service, or if any minor children from the marriage have not lived in Illinois for at least six months.

Types of Divorce

The types of divorce can vary depending on jurisdiction, but generally fall into six camps: uncontested, joint simplified, mediated, collaborative, contested, and default judgment.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is the simplest and quickest way to dissolve a marriage. Both parties agree on all terms of the divorce, including property division, child custody, visitation, and spousal support. The process is relatively straightforward, and court appearances are minimal.

The parties sign a divorce settlement agreement, which a judge then approves to finalize the divorce. Subtypes of uncontested divorce include collaborative and even mediated.

Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

In Illinois, couples must meet requirements, such as income and asset limits and being married for less than eight years. The spouses should not own real estate or have children born or adopted during the relationship (nor should the wife have any children on the way).

A joint simplified dissolution is a type of uncontested divorce and can work well for lower-income people who meet other eligibility criteria.

Mediated Divorce

If you are learning how to make your divorce amicable, consider a mediated divorce. The presence of a neutral third party can inject different perspectives, a level head, and calmer emotions into an otherwise high-pressure situation.

Mediated divorces tend to occur when the parties hope for uncontested proceedings, but they can happen in contested divorces when judges order mediation.

Ideally, the mediator helps the parties communicate effectively and understand each other’s needs and interests. Mediation is often less expensive and less adversarial than a regular contested divorce.

Collaborative Divorce

A collaborative divorce is another type of uncontested divorce. The parties sign an agreement saying they won’t go to court and that the goal is to work in good faith toward a settlement. It is a way of formalizing the intent of having an uncontested divorce.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is the opposite of an uncontested divorce. The parties cannot agree on one or more issues, and the divorce goes to trial. A judge makes the final decision on the disputed issues, whether they are property division, child custody, spousal support, or something else.

A contested divorce is much more complex, time-consuming, and expensive than an uncontested divorce. It is more difficult to recover from emotionally and financially than an uncontested split.

Default Judgment

Default judgment in a divorce means the petitioner files for divorce but gets no response from the other party, nor does the party appear in court. The judge can, by default, give the petitioner what he or she asked for.

A default judgment can be a form of uncontested divorce, particularly when the parties plan it that way from the beginning. It does have serious potential downsides for the respondent, and you should consult with your divorce attorney if you are considering this route. You could give up critical rights.

The Filing Process for an Uncontested Divorce

A divorce can be uncontested regardless of who files for divorce first. The process typically does not take long and involves these steps, which do not necessarily have to be in order.

  • Consult with a lawyer: Talk with a divorce attorney, even if you anticipate a simple, uncontested divorce. Consultations tend to be free, and you can find out a lot of information about divorce before you even talk with your spouse about the possibility of splitting.
  • Discussions with your spouse: People are more likely to agree to (or want) an uncontested divorce if the divorce isn’t sprung on them or if they have adequate time to think through matters and process their emotions. Filing-wise, you and your spouse can decide if one of you prefers to be the petitioner.
  • Meet residency requirements and other requirements: For Illinois, you (or your spouse) must have lived in the state for at least 90 days before the divorce can be finalized.
  • Get the necessary forms: You can usually get the paperwork for an uncontested divorce from your local clerk of court (in person or online).
  • File the forms: You pay a filing fee (unless it is being waived) when you file the forms.

The divorce process continues after filing. For example, the respondent needs to be served with the divorce petition. Both of you need to sign the settlement agreement and may have to undergo mediation or lawyer discussions to iron out issues. 

The petitioner is required to attend the final (probably sole) hearing, called a prove-up. The respondent is typically not required to appear, but can be represented by his or her divorce attorney. The hearing is brief, and the judge reviews the settlement agreement to ensure it is fair and equitable. The judge might ask basic questions of the parties.

The judge then approves the settlement agreement and issues the final divorce decree. It may include provisions for child custody, child support, spousal support, and the division of property and debts.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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