Depending on your and your spouse’s circumstances, divorce can be a long, drawn out process, or it can take a few months to complete. Those who can work together and make decisions without consistent disagreements on the terms of their divorce may be able to finish the process more quickly. However, those who are at odds with each other throughout the entire process can stretch their patience and finances, and contentious divorce proceedings can often last a year or more.
Regardless of the relationship between spouses, the divorce process is basically the same for all Illinois residents. The steps that are followed during these proceedings, however, can vary. For instance, those who have an amicable relationship and do not anticipate much argumentation may opt for mediation or a collaborative divorce, while couples who cannot come to mutual agreements will need to have a judge make these decisions for them through litigation. It is important to have awork alongside you throughout the divorce process and guide you through each step.
Steps Before Filing
Before you can begin the divorce process, there are a few considerations that must be made. If you are filing in Illinois, either you or your spouse must have resided in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing. You are also not required to provide any grounds for your divorce, unlike some other states that require a person to state a reason that their marriage failed. Illinois only recognizes “irreconcilable differences” when it comes to divorce, meaning those filing for divorce in Illinois only need to state that their marriage has broken down beyond repair.
Even if a couple does not agree that their marriage cannot be fixed, irreconcilable differences will be presumed if the couple has lived separately for at least six months. The time during which spouses live apart gives each party the chance to really consider the implications of divorce. In some cases, the parties may decide that divorce is not the right option, while for others, this can provide them with reassurance that they have made the right decision to file for divorce.
Filing the Divorce Petition
With the help of your attorney, you can file a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage and formally begin the divorce process. The spouse who files the petition is known as the petitioner, while the other spouse is known as the respondent. Once the document is officially filed, the respondent will be served the petition and made aware that the other party would like to get divorced, if they were not previously aware of this. It is critical that you work with an attorney who is experienced in divorce cases in your prospective county, since divorce petitions can vary from county to county. Once the petition is filed, and the other spouse is notified, the divorce case has officially begun.
Since you and your spouse are likely living apart during the divorce proceedings, you may need to make temporary arrangements that last the duration of the divorce and expire once the divorce is finalized. This is especially relevant with divorcing couples who have children. You, your spouse, and your respective attorneys will create a temporary agreement that outlines information regarding spousal support, parenting time, parental responsibilities, and child support. Many people may not realize that they can create legal arrangements that are valid during the divorce proceedings so that they are able to financially support themselves and care for their kids. Once approved, these temporary orders are enforceable during the proceedings, and violations of these orders may cause a spouse to be held in contempt of court.
The Discovery Process
Divorce proceedings require each spouse’s lawyer to do some digging into the couple’s personal information—this is known as the discovery process. Each attorney will request official records of the couple’s savings, income, assets, property, and debts. This will help each party determine the full value of their marital assets and understand what needs to be considered when dividing marital property.
In cases where the proposed asset distribution is not contested, and both spouses are comfortable with how things are being allocated, an extensive discovery process may not be necessary. However, it is always a good idea to have a divorce attorney take the time to look into things before arrangements are made. This can ensure that no marital assets are being hidden and that there are no unexpected issues related to the division of marital assets.
During the divorce proceedings, a couple will also make decisions regarding child custody and parenting plans. During mediation or collaborative divorce proceedings, the spouses will work together to determine how to divide parenting time and responsibilities between each other in ways they can both agree on. This allows parents to decide on a future parenting strategy while bringing the knowledge and experience that come with being parents and working to find cooperative solutions. For those involved in divorce litigation, these decisions will be made by the judge after hearing testimonies by both parents and considering any other relevant evidence that can help them determine what is in the children’s best interests.
Coming to a Resolution
After discussing the details of your marriage, finances, and parental involvement in your child’s life, you, your spouse, and your attorneys will review the divorce agreement that you have created and make any final changes requested by each party. In most cases, spouses will learn to fight for what they really want and compromise when necessary in order to come to a settlement and avoid time spent in the courtroom. It can take months to get to this stage, but it is often financially and emotionally advisable to avoid drawing out your divorce case through court proceedings as much as possible. When both parties come to an agreement on all of the terms, the documents will be signed, and a short hearing will be held in front of a judge. If the judge notices any glaring, unfair terms, he or she can reject the agreement, though this rarely happens.
Navigating Illinois’ legal divorce process may seem fairly straightforward, but the small details and need for negotiation skills makes it imperative that you work with a reputable attorney. Making the mistake of self-representation can leave you with a divorce agreement that greatly favors your spouse or forces you to revisit the terms of your divorce a few years later. Whether your primary focus is on being named your child’s custodial parent, securing adequate spousal maintenance, or obtaining your rightful share of the marital assets, hiring ais your best chance at achieving your goals. Who you select as your attorney and how they guide you through the divorce process can greatly impact your future finances, parental roles, and overall happiness as you move past the end of your marriage.