This information is an overview of the uncontested Illinois divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those “do it yourself divorce” filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Illinois. As always, it is strongly recommended to retain a Chicago divorce attorney or other representation in any divorce case, whether or not it is “uncontested.”
“The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act,” 750 ILCS 4/401 et Seq., guides the divorce process in Illinois.
In Illinois the term irreconcilable differences describes what other jurisdictions call No-Fault divorce. It means that ” … differences have caused an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage, that past efforts at reconciliation have failed, that future efforts at reconciliation would be impractical and not in the best interests of the family.”
In Illinois, the Petitioner (the party seeking the divorce) must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days before filing. The divorce may be filed in the county in the Circuit Court where he or she or the Respondent resides.
In Illinois, the e-filing procedure and the forms of the necessary paperwork may vary from county to county. However, at a minimum, the following steps must be taken:
- E-File a petition for divorce in the Circuit County Court. This is called the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
- Notify the respondent that he or she has been filed against. This is done with a Summons (or alternatives may be obtained through discussions with your attorney).
- Get a court date.
- Prepare forms needed for the court date.
- Attend the court date.
- Follow the judge’s order.
While this seems simple, it is not.
The divorce process, therefore, begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This must be served with a Summons by the sheriff or a private process server. When a divorce is uncontested, it may be finalized at a brief divorce hearing, which only the petitioner is required to attend. The fee for filing a divorce petition is different in each county.
Illinois requires the following information in the initial petition for divorce:
- The name, age, occupation, address and length of residence in Illinois of each spouse;
- The date and place of marriage;
- If another divorce is pending in another jurisdiction;
- That the spouses are residents of Illinois and meet the state’s jurisdictional requirements;
- That grounds for divorce do exist;
- If the wife is not now pregnant;
- Arrangements for the support, custody and visitation of any children;
- Arrangements for any spousal support;
- Relief requested (such as dissolution of marriage, approval of marital settlement form and/or approval of parenting agreement).
Notification takes the form of a Summons. The time for delivering the summons is determined by each county and is printed on a Service of Process form, which when signed proves that the papers were delivered and when returned becomes part of the record.
After the Summons, the Respondent may file an appearance and written response in the court. The appearance is a form he or she files in response to the petition. This must be e-filed with the court.
If both spouses agree to the divorce and all of the terms then they can then begin working on the Marital Settlement Agreement and/or the Allocation Judgment (with Parenting Plan) to submit to the court, though it is strongly recommended to be prepared by an attorney. If both spouses don’t agree to the divorce, his or her response will contain allegations in the Petition. A hearing may be held. The court will issue pretrial orders, which may resolve, on a temporary basis, such disputes as living arrangements, custody, support and visitation. During this period, each side does discovery, where each party obtains information about the marriage, including depositions (which are sworn recorded question and answer statements). Many Illinois counties now require the filing of a Financial Affidavit and supporting documentation in the case. The primary use of this form is to aid in the determination of support, maintenance and the division of property.
Negotiations may continue in an effort to resolve disputed issues, but if the couple cannot or will not agree, a series of hearings are preliminary to the divorce trial, which is costly and enervating. Again, an attorney is a key component to this successful process.
Depending upon the trajectory of the divorce, in Illinois a couple may need between 10 and 20 documents during the course of a divorce. Contact an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer at www.wardfamilylawchicago.com to obtain more information.