Divorce is probably one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. In addition to mourning the loss of a cherished relationship, you also have to navigate a complicated legal process. Couples who have a functional relationship and are able to work together may be able to get an uncontested divorce. The uncontested divorce process in Illinois will save you both time and money.
This article explains uncontested divorces in Illinois. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
An uncontested divorce (referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” in Illinois) means that both spouses agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:
Couples can reach an agreement on their own or with a mediator’s help. The dissolution agreement should resolve all issues in the divorce and be signed by both spouses. If there are any areas where you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement, you’ll have to litigate those issues before a judge at trial. However, you can still settle your case at any time prior to the trial date.
There is no divorce waiting period for uncontested divorces in Illinois. However, you still must meet Illinois’ residency requirements before you can file for divorce in the state. You or your spouse has to live in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing for divorce.
If you want a fast divorce in Illinois, you’ll need to meet the residency requirements and find a way to settle things with your spouse. Contested divorces can take several months depending on the number of issues in your case and whether your case requires a lengthy trial. See 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/401(a) (2020).
Illinois has a special, expedited form of an uncontested divorce which can move things along even faster—a “joint simplified dissolution.” Couples qualify for a joint simplified dissolution if all of the following statements are true:
If you’re handling your case without an attorney, you’ll be responsible for knowing where and what to file in your divorce. You’ll need to file your case in the proper venue (court location) or a judge could end up transferring or throwing out your case altogether. The proper venue is the family court in the county where you or your spouse resides. The Illinois Judicial Branch has a court locator you can use to identify the court where you should begin your divorce.
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.
Once you’re ready to initiate the divorce, you can find Illinois uncontested divorce forms either online through Illinois Legal Aid or through your local courthouse. The required forms vary from courthouse to courthouse, but some divorce forms are available on the Cook County Court website and are a good example of what you can expect to find. You should contact the clerk of court at your local courthouse make sure you’re using the correct forms.
When you get the forms, take your time and work carefully. You should plan to type everything on a computer or print neatly. If you rush through the paperwork and make mistakes, they could cost you in your divorce. Court clerks are available for basic questions, but only an attorney can give you legal advice.
You’ll need to 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), he or she will waive filing fees in your case. 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.
Couples who file for a joint simplified dissolution won’t have to “serve” paperwork on the other spouse since they are filing together. The purpose of service of process in a divorce to give the other spouse notice that a divorce is pending.
If you’re simply filing for an uncontested, but not a joint divorce, you’ll need to properly serve your spouse with the divorce papers unless he or she signs a waiver of service. Your spouse can be served by process server or sheriff hand delivering the divorce paperwork.
Both you and the spouse must attend a final divorce hearing. A judge will ask you questions about your case and your settlement agreement with your spouse. You and your spouse will likely both give brief testimony, but the hearing shouldn’t take long. If the terms of your settlement aren’t unfairly one-sided and comply with Illinois law, the judge will sign it the divorce order and your divorce will be final.
You and your spouse will each receive a copy of the final order. If you have questions about the uncontested divorce process, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.