An uncontested divorce is when the spouses can agree on all divorce-related issues without going through the litigation process. Instead of relying on judges to determine the final outcome, the spouses can outline the terms of their divorce in a Marital Settlement Agreement and submit this contract for court approval.
How To Do It Yourself Uncontested Divorce
In Illinois, an uncontested divorce is the most common way to dissolve the marriage, as many couples consider it a chance to arrange the process amicably and with dignity.
However, the most important benefit of an uncontested divorce is that it is much cheaper than a litigated one.
With a settlement agreement, the parties have more freedom to plan and manage their divorce to choose the most beneficial options or even complete a divorce without an attorney.
Spouses filing for an uncontested divorce in Illinois must follow the basic steps described below:
- Select and fill out all the primary divorce forms, including Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Summons, Marital Settlement Agreement, etc., and other papers required in a particular divorce case.
- File the divorce papers with the Circuit Court in the county where either spouse currently lives (following the Illinois residency requirements).
- Pay a filing fee to begin the court case.
- Serve the divorce papers to the non-filing spouse (the respondent).
- Participate in a prove-up hearing and finalize the divorce.
Filing for divorce without a lawyer is a legitimate option, which doesn't preclude the possibility of seeking some help.
Thus, even without having a legal representative (a full-scope divorce lawyer), a person filing a DIY divorce can take advantage of cheaper alternative services at each stage of the process. For example, couples often resort to mediation to prepare their Settlement Agreement or get their paperwork completed with the help of online divorce websites.
Filing Your DIY Divorce Forms For Free
Even an uncontested divorce in Illinois may involve high costs, including filing fees, mediation costs, attorneys' flat fees, etc. Nevertheless, under the right circumstances, the spouses can get a divorce almost free.
Such a "pure" DIY divorce is most suitable when a couple has no minor children, marital property, and debts. However, if the spouses can resolve all these issues through a Settlement Agreement and neither needs legal advice, they can also attempt to file for divorce independently and save money.
For that, they must be well aware of the Family Law of the state, as well as their rights and liabilities as self-represented litigants. Spouses can find the necessary information concerning the filing process on the Illinois Courts website's self-help page or other online resources offering free legal help. Besides, the Illinois Office of the Courts provides a printable kit of basic court-approved blank forms.
Court filing fees are the only divorce costs mandatory for all couples, regardless of whether they contest the case, hire lawyers, choose a DIY divorce approach, etc.
The plaintiff must pay a court filing fee when filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This fee is about $300 in Illinois, but it can vary slightly from county to county. You can find the exact amount on the Clerk of the Circuit Court website or in the local courthouse.
If the petitioner cannot afford to pay the court fee due to financial hardship, they can make relevant disclosures and ask for a fee waiver (by completing the Application for Waiver of Court Fees form with the court).
Serving Divorce Papers To Your Spouse
Once the case is filed and a court fee is charged, serving divorce papers on the respondent is the next step the petitioner must take.
In Illinois, the respondent may sign the Entry of Appearance, Waiver and Consent form and thus agree to the default divorce in advance. In such a case, divorce is considered uncontested.
However, suppose the respondent doesn't sign this form. In that case, the petitioner must deliver them the copies of the completed Petition and Summons with the help of a sheriff or a private process server.
Once the divorce papers are served, the respondent has 30 days to file response papers with the Circuit Clerk. After that, the court can schedule a hearing date.
Court Orders in an Illinois Divorce
A court order is an official ruling by a judge that defines the legal relationships between the parties to a divorce proceeding.
During a divorce, the court can make a range of orders when dealing with child custody, property division, spousal support, etc., which can be temporary or final. Temporary court orders regulate the specific issues while the divorce is pending. Final orders, as the name suggests, finalize the divorce proceedings. Along with that, only final orders are appealable.
Thus, the spouses apply for a court order if they cannot agree on all the divorce-related issues independently. It makes a divorce case contested, and a DIY approach is not advisable under these circumstances.
If the spouses want to arrange their own divorce, they should do their best to resolve their disputes with a Settlement Agreement, not leave the decision up to the judge.
Financial disclosure is the stage of the divorce process when the spouses provide information about their assets to ensure the fairness of their financial arrangements, including alimony, child support, property and debt division, etc.
Most Illinois counties require filing a Financial Affidavit during a divorce process. This document must outline an applicant's income, expenses, and assets.
Divorce mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which can be helpful if the parties want to settle their differences out of court but cannot reach an agreement on their own.
During the mediation session, the spouses meet with a neutral third party (a trained mediator) who guides their negotiation and helps the parties find common ground using non-adversarial techniques.
A mediator is not eligible to take sides, give legal advice, or represent either party before the court but can draft the Settlement Agreement for Pro Se litigants.
Online Do-It-Yourself Divorce
Online divorce is a straightforward and affordable way to complete all the required divorce forms in a couple of days. This option is available for all couples seeking an uncontested divorce, regardless of whether they have minor children or shared property.
All you have to do is choose one of the online divorce websites and answer the interview questions. After providing your case details and confirming that your divorce is uncontested, you will get a unique packet of forms. They will be selected according to your circumstances and filled out following local rules.
Once the questionnaire is completed, the ready-to-sign documents are available for download along with step-by-step filing instructions. The last step is to print, sign, and file the prepared divorce papers with the Circuit Court.