The first step in any divorce action involves filing a petition for dissolution. Either you or your spouse must live in Illinois for at least 90 days before you can file. You can avoid hard feelings and the necessity to prove grounds for the divorce in the court if you file based on the no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences. If you base your divorce on other, fault grounds, the divorce becomes a contested matter. The Illinois statutes require that you live separate and apart for two years to qualify to use the no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences, but if you and your spouse are in agreement, and if you both file a statement with the court that you want to waive the two-year requirement, you can reduce the time requirement to six months.
Service of Process
Normally, you would have to officially serve your spouse with a copy of the petition after you file it with the court, but Illinois law allows you to skip this step in an uncontested matter. Your spouse can simply file a notice called an appearance, which eliminates the need for service. The appearance acts as a non-adversarial answer to your petition. After filing, you have an active, open divorce case with the court and you can then file a marital settlement agreement, the next step to ending the marriage.
Once you draft your marital settlement agreement in written form and after both you and your spouse sign it, call the court to schedule a prove-up hearing. If your divorce is uncontested, this is the only time you'll have to appear before a judge in Illinois. The judge will ask you a few questions regarding your marriage -- and you can give him a copy of your settlement agreement at this time. He might have a few more questions regarding the agreement, but if it's fair and covers all the bases, he will sign a final order of divorce.
An uncontested divorce doesn't work for everyone, even if you and your spouse get along reasonably well and you think you can resolve all issues on your own without a trial. One aspect of a contested divorce is discovery, the process during which you and your spouse exchange information and documentation regarding all your assets and debts. If you're not absolutely sure of the extent of your marital assets and debts, you can begin your divorce as a contested matter and request discovery from your spouse. You can still sign a settlement agreement after you know with what you're dealing and for sure what property you must divide. Your matter can then proceed to a prove-up hearing rather than a divorce trial.