When preparing for a divorce, knowing what to expect can help you plan ahead. It can also help you make informed decisions, and it allows you to set reasonable expectations so that you don’t encounter unexpected (and unwanted) surprises along the way.
While getting a divorce can seem daunting, the process follows a set of clearly defined steps. You will have some options—and you will need to make a lot of decisions—but you can get through it with an experienced divorce attorney on your side. With this in mind, here is an overview of the divorce process in Illinois:
7 Steps in the Divorce Process in Illinois
1. Preparing for Your Divorce
The key to a successful divorce process is preparation. By preparing for your divorce in advance (or beginning your preparations as soon as you learn that your spouse has filed for divorce), you can avoid many unnecessary challenges, and you can go through the process feeling confident in your decision-making.
Preparing for a divorce is a process in itself, and we encourage you to use our divorce preparation checklist to get started. You should schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce attorney at this stage as well, as you will need personalized legal advice focused on your unique individual circumstances.
2. Filing a Petition for Divorce
The divorce process formally starts when one spouse files a petition for divorce (or petition for dissolution of marriage). This is a formal legal document, and it must be filed in the circuit court of the county in which at least one spouse resides.
Illinois is a no-fault divorce state. This means that either spouse can file for divorce at any time with or without a specific reason. The petition for divorce will state that the spouses have experienced an “irretrievable breakdown” of their marriage and that any future attempts to reconcile would not be “in the best interest of the family.”
Once one spouse files a petition for divorce, the other spouse must file a formal legal document called an answer. Failure to do so can lead to a “default divorce,” which can have significant negative consequences for the spouse who fails to file.
3. Seeking Temporary Orders
Since getting divorced in Illinois takes time, many divorcing spouses will find it necessary to seek temporary orders. These are formal court orders that establish terms by which the spouses must abide during the divorce process.
For example, divorcing parents may need to seek a temporary order regarding parenting time. This is similar to a post-divorce custody arrangement, but it governs the parents’ respective rights and responsibilities while their divorce is pending. Depending on the circumstances involved in a divorce, it may be helpful(or necessary) to establish temporary orders regarding financial responsibility and certain other matters as well.
4. Deciding How to Move Forward
After initiating the divorce process in Illinois, divorcing spouses have a handful of options for moving forward. At this point, both spouses will need to consider whether it is in their best interests to attempt to negotiate a settlement, pursue a collaborative law divorce, pursue mediation, or seek a resolution in court.
In the vast majority of cases, going to court is not necessary. Even when divorcing spouses seem to be completely at odds, the one thing they will usually have in common is that they want to resolve their divorce as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. This alone can be enough to spur productive settlement negotiations. A collaborative law divorce provides additional structure and affords access to advice from financial planners, family planners, and other specialists, while mediation involves working with a neutral third party (who is typically a family lawyer or a retired judge) who assists with conflict resolution.
5. Working Toward a Divorce Settlement Agreement
Regardless of how you (and your spouse) decide to move forward, the goal will be to negotiate an amicable divorce settlement agreement. This will involve addressing all of the issues involved in the divorce process in Illinois, including:
- Property division
- Debt division
- Spousal support
- Child support
- Child custody and parenting time
Using the information you gather during your initial preparations and that you receive during the divorce process, you will be able to make informed decisions about each of these issues with the help of your divorce attorney. Once you and your spouse reach a compromise on one issue, you can then shift your focus to the next. With that said, it will often make sense to address multiple issues (i.e. property division and debt division) at the same time; and, if you and your spouse get stuck on one issue, you may choose to take a break from that issue and focus on another.
6. Going to Mediation or Court if Necessary
If you and your spouse are unable to come to terms with any particular issues, then you may need to seek outside help. If you did not pursue mediation from the outset of your divorce, now may be a good time to consider it. If mediation doesn’t work – or if your spouse is unwilling to participate in mediation in good faith – then you may need to take your divorce to court. However, this does not mean that the work you put in up to this point goes out the window. You can use the mediation or litigation process to resolve specific issues and still keep the terms to which you and your spouse have agreed.
7. Finalizing Your Divorce
Once all issues have been resolved, it will be time to finalize your divorce. Your attorney will ask a judge to issue a final order, and this final order will officially bring your marriage to an end. At this point, your divorce settlement agreement will become legally enforceable, and it will be time for you to focus on your post-divorce life.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Gurnee, IL Divorce Lawyer
If you would like to know more about the divorce process in Illinois, or if you are ready to start the process, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with Gurnee, IL divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen, please call 847-623-4002 or inquire online today.