An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which both parties agree on all the terms of the divorce, including property division, debt payoffs, and parenting time. Uncontested divorces tend to be quick and efficient, sometimes taking as little as one month. A divorce can be uncontested from the beginning or start contested and shift to uncontested.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, both parties, or spouses, agree on the outcome of the divorce. They must agree on all areas; disagreeing on just one issue, no matter how minor, means a divorce is not yet uncontested.
The process of an uncontested divorce mostly involves paperwork and negotiations. Lawyers can serve as effective advocates for a minimal expense (especially compared with the costs of a contested divorce), but the same lawyer cannot serve both parties.
Of course, each uncontested divorce looks a little different. Some proceedings are incredibly simple and uncontested from beginning to end. This could happen in situations where, for example, the parties grew apart long ago, are no longer connected or living together, and do not own property together or have children.
However, uncontested divorces can occur even in the most painful situations. Part of whether a divorce can be uncontested has to do with the parties’ abilities to remain open-minded, respectful, and committed to a fair outcome.
Timing plays a role, too. An uncontested divorce may not be possible right after one party informs the other of the desire for divorce. Emotions may be running too high then.
People can have an uncontested divorce with or without lawyers. Lawyers are helpful because of all the emotions involved in a divorce. Guilt, for example, is just one of the emotions that sometimes cause people to act contrary to their interests or their children’s best interests.
A lawyer can serve as a sort of checks and balances to minimize the chances of people making decisions they regret, whether immediately or down the road. Lawyers are also negotiators, and many contested divorces that aspire to become uncontested involve intricate talks.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
To understand uncontested divorce, it helps to look at contested divorce. In a contested divorce, the spouses disagree on at least one issue. The disagreement could be just in that one area, many areas, or somewhere in between with a few areas of contention.
Child custody and division of marital assets are two common areas that pose difficulty. If you or your ex disagree on anything, whether it is child custody, pet custody, marital debts, or spousal support, no matter how minor the disagreement, you have a contested divorce.
In some cases, it does not take much to move from a contested divorce to an uncontested proceeding. That said, it can require a bit of putting egos aside and trying to see issues from the other party’s perspective.
Pros and Cons of an Uncontested Divorce
Uncontested divorces are popular because of their many advantages, including:
- A streamlined, quicker process
- Uncontested divorce empowers spouses to make decisions, versus a judge making decisions that may not seem logical or fair to anyone
- The marriage ends on more cordial and collaborative terms, which can help to co-parent immensely
- Uncontested divorce saves money compared to a contested divorce
- It allows for more dignity and is more private
- There are quicker recovery times
To expand on the latter point, divorce is stressful. That is true even for amicable divorces. Contested divorces, with their conflicts and a higher level of financial involvement, take more of a mental, emotional, and physical toll. Coming back from these rifts is not always easy.
An uncontested divorce can have disadvantages, of course. For example, if a history of domestic violence, abuse, manipulation, or power disparity is present, one spouse is in a tough position and may not be able to advocate fairly for himself or herself.
Uncontested divorce might not be feasible if the spouses cannot communicate without fighting, or if one or both spouses have their minds made up on particular issues. Emotions can run high in divorce and may have subsided enough in a few months to make uncontested divorce more realistic.
Some people try to go through uncontested divorces without an attorney’s help, and that is their right. However, attorneys can help ensure agreements serve their purpose, which is particularly tricky with the potential emotions involved in a divorce. Someone who feels guilty about being a self-described “absent” parent, for example, might make decisions under pressure that do not serve the parent’s or children’s interests well. Some people regret the decisions they made during divorce, and it is not always easy or possible to revisit these decisions.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?
The Illinois divorce process does not involve a waiting period, but it does have a residency requirement. At least one of the parties must have been an Illinois resident for at least 90 days prior to finalizing the divorce papers. Other than that, if the divorce is relatively simple with few issues to consider, both parties agree on everything, and court scheduling goes well, it could take two months or even less. Some uncontested divorces go through in one month.
More-complicated uncontested divorces may need a few extra weeks or months. Even if the parties agree on everything right away, a judge may need more time to review the filings since they are more complex. The judge needs to check for possible areas of disparity and ensure both parties do agree.
It is unlikely for both parties to agree on all the areas instantly, though. They may need a few days or weeks to discuss the issues with each other or through mediators or lawyers.
Under Illinois divorce laws, one alternative to a regular uncontested divorce is called a joint simplified dissolution. It comes with a host of requirements but can mean the divorce process takes a week to a month. Among the requirements, you must have been married less than eight years, don’t have children with your spouse (nor expect any), and neither spouse earns more than $30,000 a year. The requirements are extensive, and you must meet each.
The Uncontested Divorce Process in Illinois
The uncontested divorce requirements in Illinois mandate that the party filing for divorce must appear at the final hearing. Both parties have to agree on all issues, and at least one of the spouses needs to have lived in Illinois for 90 days before the divorce is finalized.
Marital settlement agreements are important pieces of paperwork involved in an uncontested divorce. They cover grounds such as spouses’ incomes, joint and non-marital property, assets, health insurance, calculating child support, spousal maintenance, college expenses, and more.
To start the Illinois divorce process from a technical perspective, you or the other party files the required paperwork with the county’s clerk of courts. The other party is served or signs an Entry of Appearance.
However, an uncontested divorce starts before that, when the parties agree between themselves to a divorce and agree that it should be uncontested. They begin either informal or formal talks (or a mix of both) to arrive at their agreements. They either enlist lawyers (or one of the parties does), or attempt to navigate the process themselves.
When one spouse files and the other does not reply with an Appearance and Answer filing, the divorce is uncontested. The case proceeds without the other spouse, and the judge makes decisions based on what the first spouse says. This is an uncontested divorce by default.
In a typical case (not a divorce by default), the judge schedules a court hearing for an uncontested divorce. The petitioner, who is the person who filed, must appear. The other spouse’s attendance is optional.
The judge and the petitioner’s lawyer may direct a few questions to the petitioner (and to the other spouse if he or she appears). Questions could verify Illinois residence, clarify property or child custody issues, and touch on annual income and expenses. Unless an obvious area of conflict or contention appears in the paperwork, a judge will sign the divorce order. This decree finalizes the divorce.
Under Illinois divorce laws, it is possible for a proceeding to be suspended or halted if one of the parties suddenly objects to an uncontested divorce. Such occurrences are rare, however. The parties have had weeks or months to consider the divorce and the many issues involved.
Of course, if you feel you have been unfairly treated or have needed time to come to terms with the issues involved and want to revisit the agreement, that is your right. As long as the judge has not finalized the divorce, you have the same ability to negotiate and make changes that you have had all along.