If a person wants to end a marriage, they can file for divorce. In a divorce, the court will end the marriage and all of the legal benefits that are a part of that marriage. A divorce can be contested or uncontested.
Contested divorce is when the spouses do not agree. This happens if the spouses disagree about any of these things:
- Whether to get a divorce
- Where the children should live
- How much child support should be paid
- How property should be split up
- Who should pay certain debts
- Whether "maintenance" or spousal support should be paid
Uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree on all of these issues. Uncontested divorce goes much faster than contested divorce.
A divorce will also be uncontested if the spouse who received the "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" or divorce papers does not reply by filing an Appearance and Answer. The case will go on without them, and the court will make decisions based on what the other spouse says.
Just because a divorce is uncontested does not mean that the settlement terms will be approved by the judge. The terms must be reasonable and cover support of the children.
Time for getting a divorce
To get a divorce in Illinois, one spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before the court grants the divorce.
If spouses apply for joint simplified divorce, there are additional requirements. But this type of divorce can be finished more quickly.
Reasons for a divorce
A married couple can get divorced if they can prove to a judge there are "irreconcilable differences" between them. This means the spouses no longer get along.
If the spouses have been living in different places for at least 6 months, the court assumes that irreconcilable differences exist. The spouses do not have to prove that they can no longer get along.
What gets decided in a divorce
At the end of a divorce case, a judge will issue an order called a "decree," or "judgment," which officially ends the marriage. The judgment also sets rules for others issues:
- Child related issues: If the spouses have minor children (under 18 years old), the judge will decide parental responsibilties (custody). Custody covers which parent the children will live with, how often the other parent can spend time with the children and who will have significant decision-making responsibilities. The judge will also decide how much money the other parent will pay for child support.
In Illinois, parents must attend a parenting education class before the judge decides custody. This class teaches parents ways they can avoid hurting their children during the divorce. Both parents must take this class within 60 days after the first meeting with the judge. The class will be at least 4 hours long. Contact your local circuit clerk’s office for information about where to take the parenting class and how to prove you have taken it. In Cook County, you can complete the class online.
Custody issues must be decided within 18 months of the date of service of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, unless the judge agrees that there is a good reason to delay deciding these issues.
- Marital property and debt: Marital property is property that was gained by either spouse during the marriage. The court will divide the marital property fairly. But this does not necessarily mean the division will be equal. The court will also divide the debts owed from the marriage. Bad behavior by one or both spouses has nothing to do with how the property and the debt is divided.
- Maintenance: The court will also decide if "maintenance" will be paid from one spouse to the other. Maintenance is sometimes called "spousal support" or "alimony."
How long a divorce takes
There is no way to know exactly how long it will take to get a divorce. The length of time depends on many things. If both spouses can agree on how to settle issues in the divorce case, the process will be shorter. However, if both spouses cannot come to an agreement, the divorce process will take much longer and be more costly.
Contested divorces can take more than 18 months to be resolved.