By Doris N. Ayala, PhD, MJ
If you are considering ending your marriage, there’s a better option out there that might be right for you – an uncontested divorce.
A divorce is "uncontested" when both parties amicably accept the decision to legally separate and also agree on the terms of the divorce. It is by far the fastest, most affordable and peaceful way to divorce. Uncontested divorces finalize much more quickly than contested divorces, and usually only require a brief court hearing. Also, the spouse who filed the petition for divorce is the only one required to attend. When you represent yourself in court, we call the process pro se, taken from the Latin word which means to represent yourself. Uncontested divorces can be filed “pro se” as can legal separations, and publication divorces.
In the State of Illinois, to file for uncontested divorce and you wish to do so pro se, you must file a Joint Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in the county where you live. To do so, you must meet the following requirements:
Meet the residency requirement of having lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before the filing
Complete the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage documents
Complete paperwork for any spousal or child support
The main requirement or qualification for an uncontested divorce, however, is that you and your spouse are able to agree on the ultimate resolution of such important matters as:
Division of property and assets (including investment properties, automobiles, savings accrued before and after marriage)
Child responsibility plan, custody and child support
Distribution of business or company holdings
Dispersal of pension and inheritances
Final dispersal of personal gifts
Your divorce agreement must address all of these areas, and potentially many more depending upon your financial situation.
At the hearing, the judge will ask you both questions to clarify the agreement you have prepared and submitted. The judge will also question your final decision to make sure that the marriage itself is not salvageable. The court will create a record of your responses.
When it comes to putting together the legal paperwork for your uncontested divorce, there are three options that you may wish to consider:
You can do it yourself – pro se. However if you are unfamiliar with the procedure, it can be a time-consuming, overwhelming learning process. It can also be frustrating as you navigate the complicated legal system on your own and even frightening when you think of the consequences of overlooking something or making a mistake.
You can hire a divorce attorney. With an attorney, be prepared to have your retainer fees mount into the thousands, even with an uncontested divorce. With a divorce attorney, you are hiring highly-priced experience in negotiating with your spouse’s attorney, disputing child support arrangements, distribution of assets, etc. That kind of expertise is definitely needed to settle a contested divorce, but it is unnecessary for an uncontested one where all decisions have already been amicably agreed on.
You can hire a divorce professional—and file pro se. This is an option specifically for couples pursuing uncontested divorce or an individual whose spouse abandons her/him (publication divorce). This option costs a fraction of what a divorce attorney charges. A qualified divorce professional understands the divorce laws in your state and can intelligently guide you through the preparation of your petition for an uncontested divorce. They will ensure that you have covered all bases, both legally and personally, so your court hearing will be easy for you.
The divorce professionals at Divorce Dimensions help couples and individuals who have decided to end their marriage with an uncontested or divorce pro se. For those couples able to forgo lengthy and costly litigation, we provide a graceful exit to marriage that is faster, affordable and simpler than the standard legal proceeding. Before you call an attorney, contact Divorce Dimensions toll free at 800.969.9087 if an uncontested divorce in Cook, DuPage, Lake or Will County is right for you.
Dr. Ayala is the founder of Divorce Dimensions has a doctorate in social work and a Masters of Jurisprudence in Child and Family Law. Her mission is to help those who are ending their marriage to pursue a positive future beginning with an affordable divorce. She is not an attorney and will not provide legal advice, nor mediation or psychotherapy, but will refer individuals to the professionals who offer these services.