Basis for Illinois Divorce
Effective January 1, 2016, the law in the state of Illinois regarding the dissolution of marriage (known as divorce) was changed in numerous ways including the topic of “grounds” or the legal basis that a couple uses to request a divorce. While the prior version of the law required a couple to live separate and apart for two years based on irreconcilable differences or that one spouse committed a wrong such as adultery, intoxication or abandonment, the new Illinois divorce law eliminates all such grounds and allows a couple to request a divorce if “the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months… .”
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?
There is no single definition of an uncontested divorce, but to most people it means that the couple has agreed to file for divorce and that they have reached an agreement as to issues regarding a division of property, parenting time, child support or any other matter that applies to their situation. But what may seem uncontested to a couple, can often lead to unexpected disagreements and even litigation, as the parties and their attorneys navigate the complex terms of a Marital Settlement Agreement. While a married couple may believe they have an agreement as to property division or even parenting time, often they have not considered all of the issues involved in a division of their family unit including:
- Will you have parenting time on the child’s birthday? Your own birthday?
- Who pays for college education expenses (an issue not considered by parents of young children or infants)?
- Are you allowed to claim the child or children as dependents for tax purposes? Will your spouse be allowed to claim that tax deduction?
- Who will pay for extracurricular activities? What if you and your former spouse do not agree on the activities for your child or children? If your spouse enrolls each child in 4 activities a month, are you still required to pay?
- If the residence is to be placed on the market for sale, who will select a realtor? The list price? Make the monthly mortgage payment? Who will pay for repairs necessary to list the house for sale?
- If damage occurs to the residence before it is sold or the divorce is final, are you required to pay the bill?
- Is there a pet or pets in your family? Who will keep the pets? Who will pay for vet care?
The list of possible issues where a couple might disagree is endless making it necessary to speak to an experienced divorce lawyer to determine if you have an uncontested divorce or if there are areas of disagreement that cannot be resolved without the court’s assistance.
My Spouse and I Agree on All Issues – What is the Next Step?
If you and your spouse have reached an agreement concerning all of the issues affecting your family, the next step is to have a confidential meeting with a skilled divorce attorney to review all aspects of your case. Under Illinois law, an attorney is prohibited from representing both spouses in a divorce case so you will meet with the attorney privately without your spouse present. The attorney will obtain information from you regarding a variety of topics specific to your case including:
- Identification: Names and addresses of both parties.
- Employment: Name, address, and contact information for employers of both parties including salary information.
- Property: Address of each property owned by one or both of the parties as well as the name, address, and account number for each mortgage or lien holder.
- Financial Accounts: The name, address and account number for each financial account owned by either party or by the couple jointly. If one or both of the parties is a business owner, it will also be necessary to obtain information regarding business accounts.
- Children: In cases where children are involved, it will be necessary for your lawyer to obtain information regarding the agreed upon parenting schedule, the payment of child support, medical expenses, educational expenses and a variety of other issues that will apply to your individual case.
Once your attorney has gathered all of the necessary information, he will draft a settlement letter or draft Marital Settlement Agreement on your behalf. Such an agreement will set forth the specific terms of your agreement with regard to all of the issues that apply to your family. It will also be necessary for your attorney to draft additional documents such as a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in order to formally file your case with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. In many cases, these documents can be forwarded to your spouse or their attorney once you approve the specific terms.
As each divorce case is unique, only a divorce attorney can detail the legal steps that apply to your situation. If you believe that you have an uncontested divorce in Illinois, it is important to speak to an experienced divorce attorney to decide your next steps. Contact the Stetler Law Group at (815) 529-4554 to arrange for your initial consultation.