Although the legal procedure of divorce is often complicated, if the spouses are willing to negotiate the terms of their separation, they can still save time, effort, and money by filing for an uncontested divorce.
An uncontested divorce means that the parties resolve their differences out of court. They outline their arrangements concerning child custody and support, alimony, property, and debts division in the Marital Settlement Agreement instead of relying on the judge's decision.
Such an amicable divorce is considered an affordable and simple way to dissolve the marriage in Illinois due to the flexibility that comes with it. The fewer disagreements the spouses have, the more opportunities they have to manage their divorce expenses efficiently. Couples can choose different ways to be represented and use alternative services that best suit their circumstances.
So, let's take a closer look at the most critical factors affecting the length, cost, and process of an uncontested divorce in Illinois.
Uncontested Divorce With Children
The spouses are eligible to file for an uncontested divorce, regardless of whether they have minor children or not. However, the need to resolve child-related issues can still increase divorce costs.
For example, the average cost of divorce in Illinois is about $20,700 for couples with children, the 14th highest in the nation.
Custody battles and related attorney fees typically make the lion's share of the total cost. Still, uncontested divorce with children involved can also require some additional expenses.
First of all, the spouses filing for an uncontested divorce with children are required to create a Parenting Plan. This written contract between the parties must cover all aspects of physical (the child's residence) and legal (each parent's decision-making authority) custody, visitation rights, and other essential matters.
Since it can be challenging to sort out all of these issues independently, the divorcing parents typically seek a lawyer's help or mediation to develop a proposed parenting plan.
Some law firms provide a so-called flat fee for uncontested divorces, starting from $2,000 per case for couples with children.
Mediators usually charge an hourly rate, with fees ranging from $100 to $500 per hour. Much depends on how quickly the parties can reach an agreement and how many mediation sessions they need.
Besides, Illinois courts require all divorcing spouses with minor children to take a parenting class designed to teach parents how to help their kids during the transition of divorce. The price of such parenting classes is about $60, but it can vary between jurisdictions.
Cost of Uncontested Divorce Without Children
If the spouses do not have minor children, the Illinois divorce process can be straightforward. The parties must find mutual solutions to the issues they face and submit the resulting Settlement Agreement for court approval along with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and other divorce documents.
Illinois Family Law also provides a process called a "joint simplified divorce." It is shortened way to get divorced available for couples who meet the following requirements:
- The spouses do not have children;
- The marriage lasted for less than eight years;
- The spouses waive any right to alimony;
- The spouses have lived separately for six months, or both of them agree to waive this requirement;
- The spouses do not own real estate together or separately;
- The total market value of all marital property is less than $50,000;
- The spouses' combined gross annual income is less than $60,000 (neither spouse's yearly gross income is more than $30,000);
- Neither spouse has any interest in retirement benefits (the only exception is IRAs with a combined total value of less than $10,000).
- The spouses have disclosed to one another all of their assets and liabilities;
- The parties have a written agreement dealing with ownership of any pets.
Filing a divorce petition jointly, the spouses avoid "service of process." So, unlike a regular divorce, where one of the spouses is the plaintiff and the other is the defendant who must be "served" with the divorce papers, a simplified divorce can be finalized much faster.
Besides, joint simplified dissolution of marriage requires fewer legal forms, which are also less complex.
And finally, joint simplified divorce is the cheapest type of divorce in Illinois as it can be generally arranged without an attorney. In some simplified dissolution cases, the divorce costs can be limited to the standard court filing fee. This fee is about $300 in Illinois, but it can vary slightly from county to county.
How Much Does Uncontested Divorce Cost Without a Lawyer?
The Illinois divorce procedure does not require the divorcing spouses to hire a full-scope attorney to deal with their case. So DIY divorce is a legit option.
Even though such an approach is not advisable for complex, contested cases, spouses willing to negotiate to achieve a mutually beneficial settlement can arrange their divorce with minimal help.
For example, the spouses may resort to divorce mediation (starting from $100 per hour) to draw up their Settlement Agreement or online divorce services to prepare all the required divorce forms (starting from $139).
To access free information about the main steps in the divorce process, they can visit the Office of the Illinois Courts website. It provides a self-help guide and a list of helpful resources for self-represented litigants.
How Much Does a Lawyer Cost for an Uncontested Divorce?
Most divorce lawyers work at an hourly rate. So the overall costs of legal representation largely depend on the length of the process and the amount of time spent on each issue.
The lawyer's average hourly rate in Illinois is $260, and the average total costs for Illinois divorce lawyers range between $11,000 and $14,000.
However, uncontested divorces typically cost less, even if the spouses seek legal advice. For example, most lawyers provide flat fees for simple, uncontested cases. It means that instead of paying per hour, the client makes a one-time payment per case. Such flat rates start at $1,500 for couples without children.
Uncontested Divorce Online
When the spouses have reached amicable solutions on the significant aspects of their divorce and entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement, the next step they must take is to prepare the necessary divorce papers.
Those couples attempting a DIY divorce can use blank forms provided by their local court or visit the Office of the Illinois Courts website. However, even a minor mistake in legal documents can lead to the rejection of the case. In addition, processing paperwork can be a complicated and time-consuming task for a person without relevant experience.
Online divorce provides a perfect solution to such challenges. What’s more, an amicable online divorce is in your best interest if you want to save money.
Even though various online divorce services do not provide legal advice and thus cannot be used in contested cases, they allow preparing for filing an uncontested divorce as quickly as possible.
This is how online divorce works:
- Choose the online divorce website and check whether you qualify for online paperwork preparation.
- Complete an online questionnaire and provide your case details. The system will help you select and fill out the correct forms following your unique circumstances, considering Illinois laws and the specific county rules.
- You can work with this questionnaire at any time and progress at your own pace, go back, and make edits if needed.
- Typically, the ready-to-sign divorce forms are available for download from your account within two business days.
Thus, online divorce is a beneficial option for those spouses who do not want to overpay for divorce lawyers but still need some help with the paperwork. The average online divorce fees are as little as $139 per case, compared to $1,500 lawyer's flat fees for simple divorce cases.