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Do I Need to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?

Couples who have a functional relationship and are able to work together may be able to get an uncontested divorce. If you live in the state of Illinois, here’s what you need to know about whether or not you will need to attend court during this process. 

Going through a divorce is not easy; it can be a very emotional and stressful time for all involved. The prospect of having to attend court for hearings throughout the process can make it even more stressful and nerve-wracking. For most court appearances, both parties appear by the representation of their lawyers – meaning they do not have to be personally present.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

When one spouse challenges whether the couple should get a divorce or any other reason, you have a divorce dispute. This is referred to as a contested divorce and can take more than 18 months to be resolved. An uncontested divorce (referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” in our state of Illinois) means that both parties agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:

  • Dividing marital property.
  • Child custody and parenting time schedule.
  • Dividing marital debts.
  • Child support and medical insurance coverage for any minor children.
  • Spousal support (also called “alimony”).
  • Custody of pets.

While two divorces are the same, specific instances may require both spouses to appear at hearings throughout the divorce process. Here’s a look at some examples where both spouses do not have to attend court appearances and instances where both must be present. A lot of times this is determined by whether a divorce is uncontested or contested.

Spousal Attendance in an Uncontested Divorce

As mentioned, an uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on terms of the divorce by a marital settlement agreement. This includes matters such as property being divided up, whether any financial support will be granted to either spouse, and any child custody issues.

For an uncontested divorce to be finalized, the spouse who petitioned for divorce by filing with the county court must appear at the final hearing. The other spouse is not required to attend, as long as he or she has signed all the necessary documents regarding the marital settlement agreement.

The petitioner, or plaintiff, is required to testify as to the identity of both parties, as well as the terms of the settlement. The spouse’s lawyer may ask the spouse questions to acknowledge they fully understand the terms of the settlement. 

Spousal Attendance in a Contested Divorce

Unfortunately, marital settlement agreements aren’t always reached easily. When this matter arises, both spouses would need to be present at pre-trials along with their lawyers. These are usually informal in nature, and require both attorneys to present their client’s side of the argument.

A judge then provides both attorneys with a non-binding opinion on how to proceed, which is then reported back to the spouses. It’s important for both spouses to be present for this because a resolution on an issue could be made. 

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a final divorce hearing will be held, where both spouses must be present. A judge will hear all evidence and arguments, and will make a decision on all issues. Both parties must abide by the judge’s final decision.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Illinois?

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. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/401(a).)

Conclusion

To answer the initial question: you may not have to attend court to get a divorce in Illinois. If you’re the one who petitioned for the divorce, you would have to appear at the final hearing. If the goal is a quick and efficient divorce in which you don’t have to attend court, the best approach is to agree on terms of a marital settlement agreement promptly and before the final hearing. 

At Masters Law Group our attorneys are here to guide you through your divorce every step of the way. When you need the assistance of an experienced family court attorney in the greater Chicagoland Area, call Masters Law Group. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exceptional service and support throughout the divorce process. 

Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Can a Divorce be Amicable?

An amicable – or uncontested – divorce may seem impossible with the emotions involved in dissolving one of the most important relationships you’ve committed to. However it is not unreachable. 

Divorce is probably one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. An amicable divorce almost always means an uncontested divorce, where both spouses agree to property division, spousal and child support, visitation and custody.  This does not mean to say both parties need to remain good friends after the fact, it simply means the spouses don’t fight and enter an agreement reasonably, without litigation.

Uncontested Divorces in Illinois

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.

Individuals 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.

Factors to consider with an uncontested divorce include:

  • Divisions of Property: In Illinois, property is divided equitably (fairly) in accordance with the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. In a contested divorce, the judge decides what is fair. In an uncontested divorce, the parties decide was is fair. For the most part, marital property is divided. Non-marital property is not divided.
  • Debt and other Assets: Pretty much the same as property. If debt is classified as marital and non-marital, then only the marital debt is divided.
  • Child Custody: In an uncontested divorce, the parties can agree on any custody arrangement they want, within reason. Technically, according the the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, there is no preference for joint legal custody. Visitation can be complicated, and there are sub-parts to any visitation schedule.
  • Child Support: Child support is paid according to statutory guidelines. However, particularly in an uncontested divorce, parents can agree to deviations on the statutory guidelines. In an uncontested divorce, parents can agree to handle support as the see fit, within reasonable limits.
  • Alimony: The term “alimony” is no longer technically correct. Court’s refer to it as spousal maintenance or spousal support. When it comes to spousal maintenance, any amount can be agreed upon, within reason.

Steps to a Peaceful Divorce

The thing you need to do when getting a divorce is pause and take a deep breath. No divorce is sweet and rarely is it as amicable as hoped for. However, there are some strategies that divorcing couples can learn in order to make their departure from the relationship as peaceful and stress-free as possible. Steps to take to achieve an amicable, respectful divorce from your spouse include:

  1. Eliminate blame: This can be extremely difficult depending on how the divorce came about. But blaming the other party will not help the uncontested divorce resolve sooner.
  2. Look ahead to the future: In order to move forward, you must only look forward to your future and your children’s future.  Wallowing in the past creates negative emotions and keeps you stuck in a victim state, which isn’t healthy for anyone.
  3. Negotiate in good faith: Don’t make agreements but in secret know you’ll withdraw them when the time comes to sign the agreement. Negotiating the terms of your divorce agreement in good faith will only help both parties move on fairly. 
  4. Put the children first: When you keep your kids’ best interest at heart, you often help find a way to do the right thing. Create a good parenting plan and be good co-parents once your divorce case is finalized.
  5. Listen to your attorney: Don’t try and be brave and go it alone. Instead, be sensible and invest in you and your future, and hire an attorney experienced in family law and divorce mediation. 

Divorce Mediation

Mediation can be enormously helpful when couples want to resolve issues amicably and thus avoid a court battle. When you mediate, both parties come to a neutral, often licensed mediator to help the couple ink out the final agreement for the court filings. The goal of this practice is to get couples to agree on as much, if not all, the terms of the divorce making it an amicable divorce. Among peaceful divorce solutions, mediation is at the top because it’s the only divorce method that enables both parties  to:

    • Negotiate the terms of your no-fault divorce or separation in good faith.
    • Focus on the big picture.
    • Put the needs of your children first and create a good foundation for co-parenting and life post-divorce.

At Masters Law Group, we provide divorce mediation services and also represent clients involved in mediation. If you are looking to settle your family law matter without court intervention, contact Masters Law Group to schedule a mediation appointment here.