The uncontested divorce requirements in Illinois dictate that both parties must agree on all issues, and the party who files must appear at the final hearing. At least one spouse must have lived in Illinois for 90 days prior to the divorce being finalized. Common issues in a divorce include marital property division, child custody, parenting schedules, marital debts, child support, spousal support, and custody of pets. A dispute in just one of these areas means that your divorce does not yet meet uncontested divorce requirements.
What Are the Uncontested Divorce Requirements in Illinois?
The parties to an uncontested divorce in Illinois submit a marital settlement agreement (MSA) to the court. Marital settlement agreements serve as proof that the parties agree on issues related to assets, debts, children, and other aspects of the divorce. As long as MSAs are not overtly unfair or unreasonable, the courts are likely to accept them. The state has a “selfish” interest in making sure both spouses are as self-sufficient as possible. It does not want one party to make away with everything while the party is destitute and must receive state aid to get by financially.
The residency requirement is another important mandate in Illinois. There is no waiting period for a divorce, but you or your spouse (or both) must have lived in the state for at least 90 days. That effectively creates a minimum 90-day waiting period.
Another necessary element of an uncontested divorce is that the person who filed (the petitioner, also called the plaintiff) appears at the final hearing. The other party can appear but is not required to, as long as he or she has signed all relevant MSA paperwork. Last but not least, there must not be another divorce case filed and pending elsewhere.
If you have filed for divorce, it might not be granted if your spouse is on active military service. Also, if you have minor children, but they have not lived in the state for at least six months, the court might not be able to approve a parenting plan.
Marital Settlement Agreements
Marital settlement agreements can cover a lot of ground, and some run up to 30 pages long. Common aspects of these settlements are your income and your spouse’s, joint marital property, non-marital property, assets, retirement accounts, personal property, debts, health insurance, child support obligations, spousal maintenance, college expenses, income tax filing, and sometimes even payment of divorce attorneys’ fees.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on the issues, or the petitioner files and the other spouse does not respond. That is a divorce uncontested by default. In that type of divorce, the judge makes decisions on the basis of what the petitioner says.
A contested divorce can become uncontested if the parties are able to work through their disagreements. The main thing is for the parties to have the willingness to work together. An uncontested divorce may be possible if the couple has minor children. The presence of children does, of course, add more layers to a case.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?
Uncontested divorces take about one to two months but occasionally can take longer. The benefits of an uncontested divorce are many. For example, uncontested divorces are easier, cheaper, and shorter. A contested divorce can take 18 months or even longer, depending on the level of contention and the issues involved.
The duration of divorce depends on how expeditious the parties are and whether the divorce was uncontested the entire time. Some contested divorces do become uncontested, especially when mediators or attorneys enter the picture. Divorce mediators and attorneys can keep both parties on track, minimize their stress, give them more control over their financial future, and sidestep the expenses of a protracted court battle.
Uncontested divorce truly does confer tangible and intangible benefits on both parties. It saves stress by reducing the time needed to wait for divorce finalization. It also cuts down on the strife and conflict involved. There’s no need to attend multiple court hearings, for instance.
Both parties save thousands of dollars (or even more) in litigation fees since contested divorces can be quite costly. An uncontested divorce can also preserve the relationship between both parties, which is especially important if they have children together or a business together.
The Uncontested Divorce Process
The typical uncontested divorce process involves these key steps.
- The petitioner (whether you or the other party) files the paperwork with the county court clerk.
- The petitioner serves the other party or the other party signs an entry of appearance.
- The court schedules the divorce hearing.
- The petitioner attends the hearing. The respondent (defendant) should attend but may not be required to show up.
- The judge signs the final dissolution judgment.
The same attorney cannot represent both parties in an uncontested divorce. Nor can one side’s attorney give legal advice to the other side. What often happens is that the petitioner’s attorneys draw up the MSA paperwork. The other party, whether with an attorney or not, reviews it and signs it.
Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
An alternative to an uncontested divorce is joint simplified divorce. Both parties must agree on the issues, and the forms are fewer and easier to fill out. Joint simplified divorces do carry extra requirements, such as the fact that the parties cannot have children together, the marriage must have lasted less than eight years, and neither person relies on the other for support. The parties also cannot own real estate or share retirement accounts. Their individual retirement accounts must hold a combined value of less than $10,000. Neither party can earn more than $30,000 a year.
The process for joint simplified divorces is similar to that for uncontested divorces. One party files the forms, and the court schedules the final hearing. The parties divide their property and debts according to the agreement they filed with the court. At the final hearing, the judge ensures the divisions actually proceeded as agreed upon. If they have, the judge issues the final judgment of dissolution.
Other Uncontested Divorce FAQs
It is common to have questions about uncontested divorce requirements in Illinois. Here are a few top queries and answers.
Are Lawyers Required?
Technically, lawyers or attorneys are not required for any type of Illinois divorce. Lawyers do help streamline and expedite the process. They also advocate for you and look out for your best interests. That is helpful in both contested and uncontested divorces.
In uncontested divorces, for example, one party may simply agree to all the terms out of guilt, a desire to avoid conflict, a misunderstanding of the issues, or a history of being abused by the other spouse. Lawyers help minimize the odds that one party is not unfairly disadvantaged. Judges won’t sign paperwork if it is obvious one party will be at a huge loss, but in reality, imbalances are not always evident to the court.
Am I Out of Luck and Bound by the MSA If My Financial Circumstances Change for the Worse After the Divorce?
You should be fine as long as the MSA includes provisions that acknowledge financial circumstances and obligations may change and provides you with the right to modify the terms of the MSA. If nothing else, the children’s expenses and maintenance needs will not always remain the same.
When Should I Contest a Divorce?
You may want an uncontested divorce and have bent over backward to make it happen. However, the pieces may not seem to fit together. It could be time for a contested divorce if your ex is plain unwilling to negotiate or compromise in good faith. Similarly, if your ex’s idea of an uncontested divorce is for you to get nothing, that is not fair. Contested divorces are appropriate in cases of domestic abuse and parental alienation as well.
I Want an Uncontested Divorce, but We Can’t Agree on Child Support Obligations. What Can We Do?
Seek the assistance of divorce attorneys or mediators. They can review the guidelines for child support and what the court considers “income.” If one or both parents are self-employed or have fluctuating incomes, attorneys can help figure out ways to fairly structure child support payments, too.
When Should I Discuss Uncontested Divorce With My Spouse?
There’s no right or wrong time to discuss uncontested divorce with your spouse. That said when the both of you agree to get a divorce could be a good time. You should already have an idea of where you both stand on issues, how complicated splitting up could be, how honest and transparent you both are, and how well you get along. Mention the fact that you would like an uncontested divorce because it is easier and less stressful for everyone.