In Illinois, as in other states, both no-fault and fault divorce may be either contested or uncontested. While it is always advisable to seek legal counsel, you do not need a lawyer to obtain a divorce in Illinois; it is possible to obtain a divorce by simply filing the appropriate forms. An uncontested, no-fault divorce can move through the courts quickly. To file for divorce in Illinois, you or your spouse must have legally resided in the state for at least 90 days immediately prior to filing for divorce.
Simplified Divorce Qualifications
If you and your spouse meet certain requirements, you may qualify for a joint simplified dissolution of marriage. To obtain this type of divorce, your marriage cannot have lasted more than eight years and you must be separated for at least six months. You cannot be financially dependent on each other and neither of you can own any real estate. You must have no children from the marriage. Both you and your spouse must waive your rights to receive any maintenance or support payment. The total value of all joint property must be less than $10,000. Your total combined annual income must be less than $35,000 with neither of you earning more than $20,000.
Simplified Divorce Process
The clerk of the county court where you are resident can provide you with the simplified divorce packet. You will need to fill out the Petition for Divorce; you and your spouse must both sign it. You will need to prepare your separation agreement and divide all your assets such as joint bank accounts and credit cards. Both spouses must also sign an affidavit and complete a judgment form in advance. The forms are then filed with the county clerk's office and you will be assigned a court date. At the court hearing, the judge will make sure you both agree to all terms of the divorce before signing and stamping your divorce forms.
If you do not qualify for a simplified divorce, but you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce, you can still apply for an uncontested divorce yourself. You can download the proper forms on the circuit court website or obtain them from the clerk of the county court in the county where you live. You will need to fill out more forms and supply more information than with a simplified divorce. For example, you will need to supply more financial information and a more detailed settlement agreement. However, the process is generally the same as in the simplified divorce. You and your spouse will need to write and sign a settlement agreement and file a Stipulation for Uncontested Hearing with the clerk's office.
It is possible to conduct a contested divorce without an attorney, but this is unwise. The reason is that a contested divorce involves a trial in front of a judge; you should have legal representation to ensure your rights are protected. Some judges may also refuse to hear a contested divorce case in which one spouse does not have legal representation. Further, you may need a lawyer to help with financial aspects such as division of property, child support and division of retirement accounts. Even in an uncontested do-it-yourself divorce, you may want to consult a lawyer or legal aid agency for advice, to ensure your rights are protected.