Uncontested Divorce in Illinois
Learn about the process of uncontested divorce in Illinois.
Divorce is probably one of the most difficult experiences a human being can endure. In addition to mourning the loss of a cherished relationship, you also have to navigate a complicated legal process. But if you and your spouse still have a functional relationship and are able to work together, you may be able to get an uncontested divorce that will save you time and money.
This article will explain uncontested divorce in Illinois. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?
In general, an uncontested divorce (referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” in Illinois) simply means that both spouses agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:
- division of the marital assets and debts
- alimony, and
- any other dispute involving your marriage.
If you or your spouse disagree about any of these items, your divorce will be considered "contested" and it will have to go to trial, although you can still settle your case at any time up to the trial date.
Illinois has a special, expedited form of uncontested divorce that should save you time and money if you qualify. It’s called “joint simplified dissolution,” and it’s designed to speed up the process for couples who are able to reach a complete agreement about the terms of their divorce. You will qualify for a joint simplified dissolution if all of the following statements are true:
- You and your spouse will fill out all the forms together.
- You and your spouse are able to go to court for a final hearing together.
- You and your spouse have been married for eight years or less. (If you’ve been married more than eight years, you don’t qualify for a joint simplified dissolution.)
- You and your spouse don’t have any children together, and the wife isn’t pregnant. (If you have children or the wife is pregnant, you don’t qualify.)
- You and your spouse separated and have lived apart for at least six months.
- You and your spouse don’t own a house, and you have less than $10,000 in joint marital property. Furthermore, each spouse can only earn $20,000 in individual gross income, and as a couple, you can’t earn more than $35,000 in gross income.
- You and your spouse agree to waive (give up) the right to get alimony from each other. This is a permanent waiver. You can’t come back later and ask for alimony, even if the other spouse wins the lottery.
- Either you or your spouse have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before you file for divorce.
- You and your spouse agree that irreconcilable differences have caused an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. This is a fancy legal way of saying that your marriage has broken down so badly that it can’t be saved. You don’t need to get into who did what to whom, or air your dirty laundry in court. Just saying that there’s been an irretrievable breakdown is enough for the court to grant your divorce.
Bear in mind that you can’t get a joint simplified dissolution if you have a house or children, or if you have total joint assets exceeding $10,000. Joint simplified dissolution is only meant to cover easier cases with limited issues. If you have a house or children, you’ll have to go the regular divorce route. But even then, if you’re able to agree on all the issues, your case will pass through the system more quickly.
Where Do I Go to Get Started?
You’re responsible for knowing where to file your papers. If you file in the wrong place, your case could be tossed out or transferred and you might have to start over. The Illinois Judicial Branch has a website you can use to identify the court where you should start your divorce. If you find that confusing, you can use this map.
In Illinois, the entry-level trial courts are called circuit courts. There are 24 judicial circuits in Illinois, and each of them is responsible for the judicial work in one or more counties. Circuit courts have jurisdiction to hear most civil cases, including divorces. The circuit courts are divided into subdivisions, including a family division that exclusively handles juvenile, adoption, domestic abuse and divorce cases. You’ll need to locate the correct circuit court to proceed with your divorce.
What’s the Process?
If you want to initiate the divorce, the first thing you'll need to do is locate the correct forms and complete them. Illinois divorce forms vary from courthouse to courthouse, but in general, the instructional brochure and online joint simplified divorce forms used by Cook Countyare a good example of what you can expect to find. You'll need to contact the clerk of court at your courthouse to find the correct forms to use. See Illinois Courts: Citizen Self-Help,Illinois Legal Aid (legal aid and free divorce information) and Illinois Legal Aid: Getting a Joint Simplified Divorce for more information.
When you get the forms, take your time and work carefully. Type everything on a computer or print neatly. If you rush through the papers and make mistakes, your divorce could be delayed. Feel free to talk to the court clerks who work in the courthouse, but keep in mind that they can’t give you any legal advice. If something needs to be notarized, don’t sign it until you’re in the presence of a notary.
Generally speaking, you and your spouse will have to work together to prepare a joint petition, an affidavit in support of the joint petition, and a judgment form. Then you will bring the completed forms to the courthouse for filing. The clerk will assign a case number and charge a filing fee. If you can't afford the filing fee, just ask the clerk for a fee waiver form. You'll fill it out by furnishing your income information, and if a judge agrees that you're indigent (below the poverty line), you won't have to pay any more fees.
After you file the papers, the clerk will give you a form from the Bureau of Vital Statistics, which you and your spouse will have to complete and sign. The clerk will then give you a final hearing date.
Both you and the spouse need to come to the final hearing and bring a photo identification. You will give brief testimony in response to the judge’s questions. The hearing won’t take long. If the terms of your settlement are fair and reasonable and comply with Illinois law, the judge will sign it and your divorce will be final. You and your spouse will each get a copy of the final order.
If you have questions about the uncontested divorce process, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
Illinois Compiled Statutes, Chapter 750 (Families)