Divorce can be a very complex process, and it is natural to have countless questions once you acknowledge the reality that divorce is on the horizon for you. An experienced Springfield, IL divorce attorney is a great resource for specific answers about your unique case. However, it is wise for anyone approaching the divorce process to understand what to expect from it, common obstacles divorcing individuals face during their proceedings, and the options available for resolving a divorce in Illinois.

How Do I Start Divorce Proceedings in Illinois?

There is no reason to list a specific fault or grievance when filing for divorce in Illinois. State law recognizes “irreconcilable differences,” or the irrecoverable breakdown of a marriage, as sufficient grounds for filing for divorce. It does not matter which spouse files for divorce, and being the first to file offers no tangible advantage or benefit in divorce proceedings. In most cases, both spouses in a marriage are aware they are going to divorce before either of them formally files a divorce petition.

When a spouse files for divorce with the local court, they must include proposed divorce terms pertaining to asset division, spousal support, and child custody. The petition is filed with the Springfield, IL family court, and the court then officially serves divorce papers to the other spouse.

What Happens After Filing a Divorce Petition?

Once a married spouse files a divorce petition with the Springfield, IL family court, the court serves divorce papers to the other and records their receipt of these materials. The recipient may then either sign the papers and agree to the proposed divorce terms in an uncontested divorce, or they may dispute elements of the proposed terms.

At this point, the divorce can take many different directions. Like most other civil claims filed in the US, divorce cases often settle outside of court. Divorcing spouses have the option of privately negotiating their divorce without the expense of litigation. However, alternative dispute resolution isn’t always an option, and a divorcing couple may need to litigate some or all of their divorce proceedings in some cases.

Why Is It Best to Avoid Divorce Litigation?

Divorce litigation is notorious for being an arduous, expensive, and time-consuming process. A litigated divorce will play out much like any other case filed in a civil court. The divorcing spouses will have the right to call witnesses, provide testimony, offer evidence, and submit to cross-examination. The legal proceedings required for divorce litigation often last for months or even years in some cases.

Aside from the exorbitant cost and time required for divorce litigation, another major drawback to opting for litigation in divorce is the lack of privacy this method entails. Cases tried in court become public record, so everything said during divorce proceedings will become public record. This alone is enough to encourage many divorcing couples to pursue collaborative divorce or mediation.

The final major drawback to choosing divorce litigation is the divorcing couple’s lack of control over the result. When a divorce is litigated, the judge overseeing the case has the final say in the terms of the divorce order.

What Alternatives to Litigation Are Available in Illinois?

Illinois state law recognizes several types of alternative dispute resolution available to divorcing couples in the Springfield area. Much like other civil claims, the majority of divorce cases settle outside of court. Divorce mediation is the preferred method of private divorce settlement in the United States. Most experienced Springfield, IL divorce attorneys will encourage their clients to take full advantage of collaborative divorce mediation whenever possible.

What Can Be Negotiated in Divorce Mediation?

In some cases, it is possible to negotiate some, but not all, divorce-related issues in mediation, arbitration, or other alternative settlement. Some things, such as child care, custody, and support, require court approval. Illinois family court judges must ensure the best interests of children involved in a divorce case. Divorcing parents can negotiate a parenting plan privately, but they must ultimately submit it to a judge for review and approval. Some of the issues they can settle privately in divorce mediation include asset division, spousal support, and property division.

How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take to Complete?

Divorce mediation typically requires a fraction of the time required for divorce litigation. Mediation only requires as many sessions as the divorcing couple need to comprehensively negotiate their divorce. Illinois does not uphold any type of waiting period for divorce finalization aside from the 90-day residency requirement. As long as both spouses meet the state’s residency requirements, they may submit their divorce proposal once they finish negotiating all necessary terms.

How Does a Divorce End?

Whether a divorcing couple litigates their case or pursues alternative dispute resolution, a divorce ends when the couple agrees to terms that align with state laws. They may draft a divorce agreement privately and submit it to a Springfield, IL family court judge for review and approval or could litigate their case until a judge delivers a ruling. Since Illinois does not require a waiting period for a divorce to be finalized, the divorce is granted once a judge approves the divorce agreement.

What Happens After Divorce?

In most cases, divorcing spouses will have already arranged their separate lives by the time divorce proceedings conclude or will have at least started these processes. Once they obtain their divorce decree, they are legally single and may remarry. However, if their divorce order includes any long-term agreement between them, such as child support, spousal maintenance, or alimony, the situation could be more complex. It may be necessary for them to return to court to renegotiate certain terms as their needs and lives change. For example, it may be necessary for a divorced spouse to file a post-judgment motion if the other receives alimony but completes a terminating action. It’s also possible to petition for increased or decreased child support as a child’s needs change.

Do I Really Need a Lawyer for Divorce?

Unless you and your spouse qualify for a joint petition divorce, have no children, and agree to everything in your divorce, it is essential to have legal representation on which you can rely for guidance and clarity through your divorce proceedings. No matter which route you take toward resolving your divorce, the right attorney can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your divorce case, ensuring a reasonable and fair result that protects your family’s best interests.