Although divorce is common in the state of Illinois, the process can be complicated and stressful. In addition to the division of your family and your assets, you must now undergo a lengthy legal procedure. Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced Illinois divorce attorney means you will be far better prepared to take the remaining steps on this list and protect your family’s financial and personal security.
Even in instances of amicable divorce, it can be highly useful to have a lawyer assess the situation, educating and providing you with all the information you need to make informed decisions. Remember that family law can get complicated and requires a number of legal filings. An Illinois divorce attorney has deep knowledge about every phase and requirement of the divorce process and can smoothly guide you through each.
Determine Whether the Divorce Is Contested or Uncontested
First, make sure you have a solid understanding of the differences between contested and uncontested divorce. The process necessary to initiate divorce in Illinois differed depending on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. If both parties are able to compromise and come to their own agreement on the terms of divorce, the courts consider the divorce uncontested. Uncontested divorces are typically much simpler to handle, and feature a more streamlined and less costly court process. Uncontested divorces are also well suited to alternative dispute resolution, which can help you save even more money on legal fees.
If the divorcing parties are unable to agree on any of the terms of the divorce, the case is considered contested. Failure to agree on any one term results in a contested divorce. Common sources of dispute include the division of assets, child custody, child support, and spousal support, but can include any other factor.
Do You Qualify to File For a Divorce in Illinois?
Not everyone qualifies to file for a divorce in Illinois, so it is important to ensure you meet each of these requirements before filing. First, at least one spouse must be a resident of Illinois for the courts to issue a divorce decree in the state. Establishing residency in Illinois is fairly simple, however—you can petition for divorce as long as you or your spouse has resided in Illinois for 90 days or plans to reside in the state for 90 days after the filing. If one or more parties is in the military and has been residing in a base outside the United States, it is still possible to meet the residency requirements as long as one party lived in Illinois for at least six months prior to leaving the country.
Additionally, the state of Illinois requires divorcing couples to separate for a minimum of six months prior to qualifying for a divorce. They cannot live together for any time during this six month period. However, if both parties agree, the state can waive this requirement.
Take Inventory of Your Property, Both Marital and Non-Marital
While you are preparing to divorce, it is crucial to recognize the significance of the property division phase as well as the financial implications of child custody, child support, and spousal support. Illinois law dictates the equitable distribution of property, which means that the court will attempt to distribute marital property fairly, but not necessarily equally. As such, before the divorce proceedings begin, you must document your property as thoroughly as possible.
Gather the entirety of your financial documents, including pay stubs, tax returns, financial account statements, pension plans, documentation of retirement plans, and more. Assess the present financial position of your household, prior to beginning divorce proceedings. In addition, consider your non-marital or personal property, even if you do not believe it subject to equitable distribution. Take inventory and gather photo documentation of any physical property.
Prepare and Organize Your Personal Finances
You will need to separate your personal finances from your marital accounts by the end of the divorce process, and now is a good time to start. Open an independent bank account, then organize your finances so that assets you gain privately after the divorce filing are held in your personal account. This is an important safety net to have early on, in case your spouse opts to cut you off from other financial sources.
Update Your Wills and Beneficiaries
Ensure your spouse is no longer listed as a beneficiary for your insurance policies or living will. Many divorcing people choose to accomplish this step after they have made the decision to file, rather than waiting until the filing is complete. If you wait until after divorce proceedings have begun, the process of updating your insurance policies or living will could be put on hold until your divorce has been finalized. Avoid this by making the updates early, prior to filing.
Locate and Complete Any Necessary Forms, and Prepare For Filing
In the state of Illinois, filing for divorce requires the completion and filing of multiple documents. At minimum, you will need to complete a cover sheet, summons and a petition for dissolution of marriage, as well as an affidavit of service unless your spouse waives the requirement for notice. If you have children, you must complete a joint parenting agreement, a uniform order of support, and a visitation form. You will need to sign these forms, and some may require you to do so before a notary.
If the divorce is contested, then you should serve these documents to your ex-spouse. However, if the divorce is uncontested and your spouse waives the requirement for notice, you may move to scheduling a hearing. Provide the clerk of court with the original and at least four copies of each necessary document.
Consider Participating in Mediation
Under Illinois law, if there are any child-related disagreements in your divorce, you and your spouse are required to attend mediation. During mediation, a neutral third party will help guide the discussion, making it easier for you and your spouse to reach a fair agreement regarding child custody, visitation, child support, and more. However, if this mediation is unsuccessful, the matter must proceed to trial.
If you have no children, mediation is voluntary but can prove useful for many divorcing couples.
Schedule a Consultation With a Springfield Divorce Attorney
The experienced Springfield, Illinois divorce attorneys at Stange Law Firm have a deep understanding of the family court system, and we can help you ensure you are thoroughly prepared for your divorce proceedings. With our comprehensive, caring representation, you can pursue a fair and equitable settlement that protects your rights, your finances, and your family. To schedule a consultation, contact us online today.