You are ready to file for divorce, and so is your spouse. Your marriage has run its course; and, while you and your spouse are ready to part ways, you are still on good terms, and you are willing to work together to ensure that the divorce process is as smooth as possible. So, you are thinking about an uncontested divorce. Is this an option? If so, what are the requirements in Illinois?
Understanding What it Means to File for an Uncontested Divorce
The best way to understand the requirements for making an uncontested divorce filing in Illinois is to understand what it truly means to file for an uncontested divorce. For example, many people confuse the terms “uncontested” and “no-fault.” All uncontested divorces are no-fault divorces, but not all no-fault divorces are uncontested.
In fact, in Illinois, all divorces are no-fault divorces. This has been the case since 2016, when the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) made Illinois a purely “no-fault” divorce state. Under the IMDMA, the only substantive requirement to file for divorce in Illinois is one spouse’s believe that, “[i]rreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” and a judge’s acknowledgment that, “efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.”
What, then, is an uncontested divorce? An uncontested divorce is one in which the spouses are in complete agreement with respect to all of the various issues that need to be resolved in order to bring their marriage to an end. As a result, uncontested divorces are also commonly referred to as “agreed divorces” in Illinois.
5 Requirements to File for an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois
Coming to terms with regard to the terms of your divorce can involve varying levels of complexity depending on the number of issues that need to be resolved. For example, uncontested divorces tend to be easiest for non-parents who both work and who have few major assets, as the potential areas for disagreement are usually relatively limited. If you have kids and one parent gave up his or her career to stay home, does this mean that an uncontested divorce is off the table? Absolutely not. But, it does mean that you will need to do more work upfront in order to save time and money later in the process.
For the sake of being comprehensive, let’s assume you have children from your marriage, and let’s also assume that you or your spouse is entitled to alimony under Illinois law. In this scenario, the issues you will need to resolve in advance in order to file for an uncontested divorce include:
- Division of Marital Property – Illinois law follows the principle of “equitable distribution,” which means that divorcing spouses must divide their marital assets fairly, though not necessarily equally. When dividing their property, spouses must distinguish between “separate” and “marital” assets; and, in an uncontested divorce, they must completely agree on who will get to keep each individual piece of marital property.
- Division of Marital Debts – Divorcing spouses must also equitably divide their marital debts. Typically, the spouse who takes a secured marital asset (i.e. a car or the family home) will assume responsibility for the associated debt as well. However, there are other alternatives that may prove more desirable in certain circumstances.
- Alimony – There are four main types of alimony in Illinois: temporary, fixed-term, reviewable, and permanent. In order to complete an uncontested divorce in which alimony is involved, the spouses must reach an agreement with regard to the type, duration, and amount of alimony to be awarded.
- Child Support – For most parents, calculating child support in an Illinois divorce is a matter of applying a statutory formula. As long as the couple has access to all relevant income and expense data, they should be capable of arriving at a legally-compliant (and mutually agreeable) child support award. That said, there are some potential complexities and nuances, and these cannot be overlooked during the divorce process.
- Parenting Time – Finally, and in many respects most importantly, parents seeking an uncontested divorce must create an agreed parenting time schedule. In addition to developing a parenting plan that works for everyone, divorcing parents must ensure that their agreed parenting plan meets Illinois’ “best interests of the child” standard.
Within these five broad categories, there are several specific issues that will need to be addressed, some of which are much more complex than others. For example, there are special rules for dividing retirement accounts, and not all types of alimony are available in all circumstances. Additionally, there are tax considerations that both spouses will likely want to factor into their calculations as well; and, when distributing things like real estate and mortgages, there is additional paperwork that must be done outside of the divorce process itself.
All of this is not meant to sway spouses against pursuing an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are efficient and cost-effective, and we help spouses complete uncontested divorces all the time. Rather, the point is to emphasize that getting an uncontested divorce still takes work, and both spouses need to be prepared to put in the effort (and approach the process with an open mind) in order to achieve the outcome they desire.
What if We Have Issues?
Due to the number and complexity of issues involved in getting a divorce, many couples will find that they face hurdles along the way. This is common, and there are various ways that divorcing spouses can overcome their differences without resorting to a contested process. For some tips on preparing to overcome these types of challenges, you can read: Preparing to Get Divorced in Illinois in 2020.
Contact Lake County, Illinois Divorce Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen
Do you have questions about filing for an uncontested divorce in Illinois? If so, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a complimentary initial consultation with Gurnee, IL uncontested divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen, please call 847-623-4002 or contact us online today.