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What You Need to Know About Uncontested Divorce in Illinois

 Posted on June 22, 2024 in Divorce

DuPage County, IL divorce lawyerThe end of a marriage can be difficult for everyone involved. When a couple’s relationship has broken down, spouses often struggle to be civil with each other, and they may encounter arguments and conflict as they address issues related to their separation.

As a couple proceeds with the divorce process, they have several options for addressing and resolving the legal issues in their case. For many couples, uncontested divorce may be the most beneficial way to dissolve their marriages. Understanding what an uncontested divorce entails, the issues that need to be addressed, and the methods that may be used to resolve conflict can help ensure that a couple can end their marriage successfully.

While an uncontested divorce can provide a straightforward and amicable path to ending your marriage, it is important to take steps to protect your rights and your financial interests during this process. An experienced attorney at Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC can advise you on the legal issues that you will need to address, the steps that will be followed during the divorce process, and the best ways to resolve disputes as you negotiate a divorce settlement. A skilled lawyer can make sure all legal issues will be addressed correctly while advocating for solutions that meet your needs in the years to come.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

In some divorce cases, court intervention is required to resolve disputes. A case may proceed to litigation, and a divorce trial may be held. These cases can take a great deal of time to resolve, and they can also be very expensive due to the preparation that is needed, including compiling evidence, hiring expert witnesses, and preparing arguments. As an alternative to contentious, complicated divorce litigation, many couples choose to work together to resolve their issues outside of court and negotiate a divorce settlement.

In an uncontested divorce, spouses address divorce-related issues on their own rather than asking a judge to decide. They work together to create a comprehensive settlement that addresses all outstanding legal issues in their case, and once an agreement is reached, it is filed in court. 

Notably, even though the term “uncontested divorce” may indicate that there is minimal conflict, these cases may still involve a variety of contentious disputes. A couple is likely to encounter disagreements about how various issues should be handled. However, by cooperating as much as possible and reaching compromises, they can resolve these disputes and ensure that their divorce settlement makes sense for their family. This allows them to finalize their divorce as soon as agreements have been reached on all outstanding issues.

Benefits of Uncontested Divorce

By working together to resolve disputes outside of court and create a mutually agreeable divorce settlement, a couple can benefit in many ways, including:

  • Lower costs: A divorce trial or a contentious case requiring multiple court appearances can be very expensive. Spouses can often save money by working together to negotiate a divorce settlement. While it is still important to work with an attorney, the legal fees involved in negotiating agreements and drafting an uncontested divorce settlement are usually much lower than they are for a contested divorce.

  • Speed: An uncontested divorce can usually be completed much faster than a contested case. The time needed to negotiate a settlement depends on the level of conflict and the complexity of the issues that need to be resolved. By working together to discuss these issues and make compromises, a couple may be able to complete an uncontested divorce relatively quickly.

  • Privacy: In a contested divorce, a trial is held in a courtroom, potentially exposing a couple’s private affairs to public scrutiny. In contrast, an uncontested divorce allows a couple to resolve their issues privately. This can help prevent issues that could affect their personal lives, their business affairs, and their children.

  • Control: In an uncontested divorce, both spouses need to agree on the terms of their divorce settlement. Rather than leaving decisions to a judge, a couple can make mutually beneficial decisions that meet the needs of both parties. This often results in a more favorable outcome for both spouses.

  • Reduced stress: While any divorce can be stressful, a contested divorce can be much more difficult, since it involves increased levels of conflict and the need to follow complex legal procedures. By working together to negotiate a settlement, a couple can make the divorce process much easier. The collaborative nature of an uncontested divorce can help reduce stress for both parties, especially if a couple works to minimize conflict and find effective solutions.

The Process of Negotiating a Divorce Settlement

In an uncontested divorce, spouses must work together to create a comprehensive settlement agreement. This process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Initial discussions: At the beginning of a case, a couple may sit down together and discuss their expectations and goals for their divorce. Open and honest communication helps identify key issues and potential areas of agreement. This also helps identify the issues that need to be resolved, including matters related to property and finances, arrangements for child custody, and any other relevant concerns that may affect the couple as they begin to separate their lives from each other.

  2. Gathering information: The discovery phase of a divorce ensures that both parties have all the information they need to make decisions about how different issues will be handled. Each spouse must provide a complete and honest disclosure of their financial situation. This includes assets, debts, income, and expenses. Steps may also need to be taken to determine the value of different marital assets, including real estate, vehicles, investments, and personal property.

  3. Negotiation sessions: Once a couple has all the information they need to make decisions about divorce-related issues, they can begin negotiating agreements. In some cases, spouses may be able to negotiate directly with each other, and they can work together with their respective attorneys to reach agreements and ensure their settlement meets all legal requirements. Effective communication and willingness to compromise are key during negotiations. If necessary, alternative dispute resolution methods may be used to address disputed issues.

  4. Drafting the settlement: Once agreements have been reached on all issues, the terms are drafted into a formal settlement agreement. This document outlines the rights and responsibilities of each spouse and details how all aspects of the divorce will be handled. The parties and their attorneys review the settlement agreement to ensure it accurately reflects their decisions, meets all legal requirements, and is fair to both parties. Revisions may be made as needed.

  5. Filing the divorce settlement: The finalized settlement agreement, along with any other required legal documents, is filed with the court. Spouses need to attend a final court hearing where a judge reviews their agreement. If the judge finds the settlement agreement to be fair and in accordance with Illinois law, he or she will approve it and issue a divorce decree, making the terms of the agreement legally binding.

Issues to Address in an Uncontested Divorce

During the divorce process, a couple needs to address and resolve a variety of legal issues, including:

  • Property division: Both spouses must agree on how to divide all marital property and debts fairly and equitably. A divorce settlement may address multiple types of marital assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate property, personal property, business interests, retirement accounts, and any other assets or debts acquired during the marriage. All assets owned by the spouses must be evaluated to determine whether they are marital or separate property. The division of marital assets should be equitable, taking into account factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial situation of each spouse, and the contributions each party has made to the marriage.

  • Spousal support: In some cases, ongoing support may be paid by one spouse to the other. This may be an issue in situations where one spouse is at a financial disadvantage because they earn a lower income or have been a stay-at-home parent. In their divorce settlement, a couple may agree on whether spousal maintenance will be paid, the amount and duration of these payments, and when payments may be modified or terminated. During settlement negotiations, a couple can work together to find solutions that meet both parties' financial needs without resulting in undue hardship for either spouse.

  • Child custody: For parents, a divorce settlement must include a parenting plan that outlines parenting time schedules, decision-making responsibilities, and other issues that affect their children. The parenting plan should detail day-to-day schedules for where children will live, holiday arrangements, vacation plans, transportation arrangements, appropriate methods of communication, and rules that will apply to parents and children. The best interests of the couple’s children should always be the primary consideration in a parenting plan. 

  • Child support: Parents also need to make sure the proper arrangements are put in place to ensure that they share the costs of raising their children. Child support payments are usually paid by one parent to the other, and the amount of these payments is calculated based on both parents' incomes, the amount of time each parent spends with the child, and the child's financial needs. Parents also need to determine how they will share different child-related expenses, including the costs of health insurance, child care, school supplies and fees, and extracurricular activities.

Resolving Disputes in an Uncontested Divorce

When negotiating a divorce settlement, a couple may encounter many disputes, and they need to determine how to resolve these issues, reach agreements, and finalize the terms of their divorce. Methods that may be used to address and resolve the outstanding legal issues in a divorce may include:

  • Direct negotiations: Some couples may be able to discuss divorce-related issues and work together to negotiate agreements. This requires open and honest communication between spouses and a willingness to cooperate and compromise. Spouses may receive assistance from their attorneys during the negotiation process, ensuring that they understand how the laws apply to them and the options available for resolving disputes. In many cases, negotiation allows spouses to discuss their priorities and find compromises that work for both of them. Their attorneys can ensure that the agreements they make meet all applicable legal requirements.

  • Mediation: Some couples can benefit from working together with a neutral third party to negotiate agreements and create a divorce settlement. A mediator can facilitate discussions and negotiations, helping spouses reach mutually acceptable agreements. Mediation encourages cooperative problem-solving, and it ensures that both parties can express their needs and concerns. The mediator does not make decisions, but they help guide the spouses toward reaching a consensus on all outstanding issues.

  • Collaborative divorce: In some cases, spouses may benefit by taking a team approach to their divorce. In a collaborative divorce, a couple and their attorneys sign a collaborative agreement, stating that they will work together to negotiate agreements in good faith while disclosing all requested information and doing everything possible to resolve their case outside of court. The couple may also work with other professionals during this process, including accountants, mental health professionals, or child custody advisors. This approach emphasizes open communication and joint problem-solving. It can help a couple create an effective divorce settlement that will meet the needs of everyone involved.

Contact Our DuPage County, IL Uncontested Divorce Attorneys

By pursuing an uncontested divorce, you may be able to resolve legal issues more quickly and efficiently while minimizing conflict. At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, our Elmhurst uncontested divorce lawyers can provide you with legal guidance and representation during this process, working to help you create a divorce settlement that meets your needs. Contact our firm at 312-605-4041 to set up a consultation and learn how we can assist you during the divorce process.

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