What Are the Steps for a Contested Divorce in Illinois?
When two individuals decide to divorce, they can be in agreement with the decision to divorce and yet unable to agree on all of the issues pertaining to matters such as the allocation of parental responsibilities or the division of marital assets. An experienced Illinois contested divorce lawyer can help you explore your options. . If reaching an agreement is not possible, an attorney can also help their client to present their case in court in a way that helps the judge understand their point of view on these matters.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
There are two types of divorces that can be obtained in Illinois: contested and uncontested. Uncontested divorces occur when both parties to the divorce agree on the important matters involved in the divorce, including parenting responsibilities, child support, maintenance, and division of assets and liabilities. Truly “uncontested divorces” are uncommon because there are issues that need to be worked out.
If the divorcing couple disagrees on any of these issues, the divorce is contested. Contested divorces usually end up being uncontested in the end, but it takes time to get there. Contested divorces are most often resolved through mediation and negotiation, which occurs when both parties — often with their attorneys — agree to work together to find a compromise. If they are unable to settle their disagreements through out-of-court methods, then the case will go to trial, and all matters of disagreement will be decided by a judge.
The Steps for a Contested Divorce in Illinois
Contested divorces in Illinois involve the following steps:
- Petition Filed. One party in the couple files a petition for the dissolution of marriage and is referred to in the document as the petitioner.
- Service of Process. The petition for dissolution is served to the other spouse, who is referred to as the respondent. Upon being served with the petition, the respondent has 30 days to respond to the petition. Service of Process can also be waived and completed voluntarily by the respondent.
- Discovery. Discovery is the opportunity for each side to find out as much or as little information as they need in order to move forward. The attorneys for both parties obtain information about the parties’ individual and jointly held assets, income, and issues pertaining to child custody. Ultimately, each side needs enough information to enter into an agreement or to convince the judge of their position.
- Negotiation. If the parties agree to attempt to settle their issues before the court, the attorneys for both sides will negotiate on behalf of their clients. If a settlement cannot be reached before the scheduled trial date, the case will go to trial.
- Trial. During the trial, each party’s attorneys will present arguments and evidence to the judge. In some cases, witnesses are called, including expert witnesses such as child psychologists or financial experts. Additionally, a guardian ad litem may be appointed by the judge to interview both parties and others in order to help the court determine the best interests of the child.
- Post-Trial Motions. After hearing and seeing all testimony and evidence, the judge will decide the matter. Either party has the right to file a post-trial motion or an appeal if they disagree with the judge’s orders.
How a Lawyer Can Help with a Contested Divorce in Illinois
An experienced Illinois contested divorce lawyer can provide a number of services to assist their clients in obtaining a divorce agreement that reflects the best interests of the parents and children involved. Most contested divorces are resolved by settlement after mediation or negotiation. However, it is important to have an attorney who is also comfortable with litigation, as there is no guarantee that an agreement will be reached outside of court.
Contact us to learn more about the contested divorce process and to obtain answers to the legal questions you have about your situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a contested divorce take in Illinois?
It depends on the unique issues of your situation. several issues, including the parties, the issues to decide, the children, the court, the attorneys, and other witnesses. Some counties have waiting periods (for example, requires 30 days to complete the divorce from the date the petitioner files the petition even if the parties have a complete agreement), but Illinois does not have a statutory waiting period like other states. Beyond that, however, there is no required waiting period after the papers are filed. However, there can be a considerable amount of time spent waiting for a scheduled trial date, attempting to serve papers on the other spouse, attempting to reach an out-of-court agreement and issues involved with high net worth or complex cases. Most contested divorces will be resolved within six to eighteen months.
If the divorce is contested, can the issues be resolved outside of court?
Absolutely. In fact, the majority of contested divorces are resolved through mediation or negotiation. In spite of how divorces are often portrayed on television and in the movies, most individuals wish to avoid trial if possible due to the emotional stress and financial expense involved. An additional benefit to resolving divorce matters outside of court is that it offers both parties the opportunity to work on an agreement they can live with rather than leaving the decisions over their assets and even their children in the hands of the court.
What are some of the most common reasons for a contested divorce in Illinois?
You may be surprised to know that divorce is not usually the result of one event or one thing. Instead, it usually happens over time when spouses drift apart. Child custody is one of the most common aspects that divorcing couples struggle to reach an agreement on. These disagreements can occur over legal custody — which is the ability of the parent to make health, educational, or religious decisions on their child’s behalf — or over physical custody, including parental time schedules. . Other common issues of contention include maintenance, the division of marital assets and marital debts, and division of retirement accounts.
Can I get a divorce in Illinois if I was married in another state?
Yes. In order to obtain a contested divorce in Illinois, at least one of the spouses must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or 90 days before the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. So long as one of the spouses meets one of the above requirements, you can get divorced in Illinois if you were married in another state or another recognized country.