How to Get Divorced in Illinois Without Going to Court

by John Cromwell

It is understandable that people may want to avoid going to court when getting a divorce. A court date can be stressful and expensive. However, if you wish to get divorced in Illinois, at least one spouse will need to attend court. This is to ensure that all of the important issues that need to be resolved in a divorce, such as spousal support and child custody, are resolved fairly. However, depending on the circumstances, an Illinois divorce can occur quickly and with few trips to court.

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Marital Settlement Agreement

The way to minimize the amount of time you spend before a court is to arrive at a marital settlement agreement. This agreement must cover all of the important elements of a divorce, including how the property from the marriage will be divided between spouses, if any spouse will be receiving support and for how long, and any child custody issues. It is important to note that during negotiation, either the spouses or their attorneys may be required to appear in court for “status hearings.” These appearances are meant to keep the court informed of the progress of the parties. Before negotiating the settlement, both sides will go through discovery. Discovery is a legal process in which both sides investigate each other to determine how much the other owns and how much debt he or she may have. Once the financial status of both parties is established, negotiation begins.

Illinois Hearing for Uncontested Divorce

In Illinois, a divorce can be contested or uncontested. Uncontested divorces generally require the least amount of time in front of a judge and usually result in a marital settlement agreement. If the spouses can arrive at an agreement regarding all the issues involved with the divorce, they must write down the terms and present the terms to the judge who is overseeing their case. Only the spouse who initiated the process by submitting a petition for divorce needs to show up for the hearing, as long as the other spouse signs all necessary documents. The spouse who appears in court must testify regarding the identity of both spouses, where they live, when and where the marriage took place, as well as the names and ages of all children from that marriage. The spouse must also testify regarding the grounds of the divorce and the terms of the agreement. The court appearance is usually a brief formality, which involves placing the marital settlement agreement on the record and testifying that the agreement was entered into willingly. Once the judge is satisfied, he will approve the divorce. The final hearing normally takes between five to ten minutes.

Contested Hearings

When spouses cannot agree on the terms, the proceedings will move to a contested hearing. The judge will call a pretrial conference. Before this conference, both parties will still participate in discovery so that both sides are aware of the other party's financial condition. Discovery is also important for the judge to have an accurate understanding of the financial needs of both spouses. During the pretrial conference, each spouse's attorney will present their side of the argument: The judge will then give his nonbinding opinion on the issues and both attorneys will report back to their clients. If the spouses still cannot agree, they must go to court for a final hearing. The judge will hear all evidence and arguments then make a decision on all the issues, which both spouses must follow.

Joint Simplified Divorce

In some instances, both parties want to divorce and expedite the process. The Illinois joint simplified divorce is one means of accomplishing that. To qualify for a simplified divorce, the marriage must have lasted for less than eight years with one or both spouses living in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing, there can be no kids, no co-owned real estate, and the couple must have been living separate and apart for six months. There must be less than $10,000 worth of marital personal property and the couple must make a combined income of less than $35,000. However, to execute this type of divorce, both parties must attend the hearing where the divorce is finalized.