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Is It Worth Contesting a Divorce?

A frustrated couple in front of a divorce papers with therir couple ring.

Contesting a divorce is usually not worth it, since contested divorces are much more expensive than uncontested proceedings and put a lot of strain on both parties and their children. A few exceptions do apply, though. One exception is when a spouse refuses to try mediation or fails to approach alternative dispute resolution with an open mind. Divorcing an abusive spouse may also require filing a contested divorce.

A frustrated couple in front of a divorce papers with therir couple ring.

Issues That Need to Be Addressed in Divorce

The divorce in Illinois process typically includes addressing issues such as division of assets and debts, child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support. 

Disagreements over any one of these elements could lead to a contested divorce. However, the hope is for the spouses to be able to work out the issues between themselves or with the assistance of third parties. A marital settlement agreement lawyer can help.

Division of Assets and Debts

Both spouses must decide how to divide property, as there are many strategies for dividing assets in divorce, investments, and debts accumulated during the marriage. The process requires the parties or a neutral third party to evaluate the value of assets to ensure a fair distribution.

Property one spouse got before the marriage or after the marriage, such as through an inheritance or gift, might remain separate. This can depend on whether the spouses lived together before getting married and if these inheritances or gifts were mixed with joint accounts and used by both spouses.

Illinois follows the principle of equitable division of property (as compared to community property). Equitable division calls for property to be distributed based on each spouse’s contribution and situation.

Child Custody and Visitation

Child custody and visitation issues require the parties to establish arrangements for the care and custody of minor children. The spouses must discuss visitation schedules and parental rights and responsibilities. They have to address any concerns related to the child’s best interests, including their education, health care, and overall well-being.

Child Support

Divorce in Illinois covers child support issues, too. Child support ensures that basic needs such as shelter, food, and clothing are covered. The spouses may agree to pay for above-and-beyond costs related to extracurriculars, private school tuition, and the like, or a judge can order that in a contested divorce. Child support amounts are calculated based on factors such as income, custody arrangements, and medical expenses.

Spousal Support

One spouse may claim he or she is entitled to receive financial support from the other spouse. The other spouse might agree, but maybe not on the exact amounts or duration of payments. Alternatively, the other spouse might not agree that spousal support is needed at all.

Spousal support considers factors such as the length of the marriage, any income disparity, and each spouse’s financial needs. It also factors in how long it would take the recipient spouse to become financially self-sufficient.

What Is the Marital Settlement Agreement?

A marital settlement agreement outlines the financial aspects of a divorce. It’s an essential part of any Illinois uncontested divorce. Absent glaring errors, a judge is likely to approve an agreement that the parties work out between themselves.

It is worth learning about how to modify a marital settlement agreement after a divorce. You may need to do that if the other party concealed assets, for example, or lost his or her job.

Like a divorce can be contested or uncontested, so can the modification of a marital settlement agreement. In a collaborative modification, the parties work out the changes and submit the new agreement to the court for approval. Otherwise, one party’s lawyer files a motion in court to try to get a post-judgment modification.

Steps in a Contested Divorce in Oakbrook Terrace

Contesting a divorce in Illinois involves steps such as filing the divorce petition, performing discovery, negotiating a settlement agreement, and going to trial.

The Petition

One party files a petition with the appropriate court to initiate the divorce process. The petition outlines the grounds for divorce and indicates the disputed issues requiring resolution.


In this step, the parties gather and exchange relevant information and documents related to the disputed issues. Interrogatories, depositions, and requests for documents help build a comprehensive understanding of each spouse’s financial and personal circumstances.

Negotiation and Mediation

During a contested divorce, it is common for the parties to try to reach a settlement. The parties may use negotiation or alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation.

Attorneys or mediators work to facilitate productive discussions and find mutually agreeable solutions. If the parties cannot find solutions, the contested divorce continues.

Pretrial and Trial

Judges decide on the issues of contention in a contested divorce. Before the trial, the attorneys and the judge meet for a pretrial conference to discuss the matters that need to be settled. The judge may suggest ideas for how to settle these issues. 

In general, pretrial and trial involve the parties preparing and presenting evidence, arguments, and witnesses to support each person’s position. The parties attend court hearings and trial proceedings and must abide by any decisions a judge makes.

How Are Disputed Issues Determined in a Contested Divorce?

A judge decides the disputed issues in a contested divorce. This type of judicial evaluation involves the judge assessing the evidence, arguments, and testimonies during the trial. The judge applies relevant laws and legal precedents to make decisions.

Regarding child custody and child support issues, the court prioritizes the best interests of the child. Judges weigh factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s stability, and the parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs.

For issues related to property division and spousal support, judges strive for a fair and equitable outcome. They consider factors such as the length of the marriage, contributions made by each spouse, earning capacities, and future financial needs. Equitable distribution is not necessarily a 50/50 division, although it can be, depending on the circumstances.

What Are the Merits of Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce?

Contesting a divorce can be expensive and draining. It can also damage parents’ relationships with their children, and fails to set the stage for a productive co-parenting relationship after the divorce. However, a contested divorce might be necessary if one party refuses to budge, if the marriage has a history of abuse or manipulation, or if one party seems to be lying and hiding assets.

In these situations, a contested divorce can help one spouse avoid a one-sided, unfair settlement. The process may be longer and more expensive, but is necessary to achieve equitable terms.

In most cases, an Illinois uncontested divorce is preferable to a contested one. But, what are the benefits of an uncontested divorce?

They include:

  • Less expensive and less stressful
  • Less damage to the relationship between the parties, which could be important for co-parenting
  • Saving time by not having to attend many court appearances to testify
  • Much faster completion

An uncontested divorce tends to be many thousands of dollars cheaper than a contested divorce, and can be finished in a few weeks.

Can You Make a Contested Divorce Uncontested?

Most divorce cases finish uncontested. It can be possible to steer a contested divorce out of choppy waters.

If you are interested in an uncontested divorce, but are struggling to find common ground, take a step back and look at the situation. Is the reality of divorce still new to the other party? Is your spouse still processing everything?

Sometimes, one party believes for years that the marriage is over and has reconciled himself or herself to that fact. Meanwhile, the other party is unaware and may be surprised when the other person chooses to file for divorce. Someone who is emotional and struggling may need a few months to come to terms with things before considering an uncontested divorce.

If you want an uncontested divorce, listen to your lawyer’s advice. He or she may advise you to refrain from pressuring the other party and from trying to rush things. You may have to compromise more than you hoped to be fair, but in many cases, this is preferable to giving a judge the power to make decisions you could have made with the other party.

To turn a contested divorce into an uncontested one, try to work with the other party toward an overarching goal. For instance, you could aim to focus the split on the children’s best interests or on equitable distribution. 

Divorce is rarely easy. Parents may be faced with the prospect of having their children every other week instead of all the time, for example. Child experts can help you and the other party understand general facts, such as children being better off getting significant time with both parents.

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