For some individuals, when their spouse files for divorce, it is a shocking, unexpected act. In other situations, however, both spouses realize that for one reason or another their marriage is no longer working.  When a divorce is something that both parties want, the couple is typically seeking to end the marriage as quickly and painlessly as possible.  If this is the case, the couple may be able to avoid the traditional adversarial form of divorce and may instead seek to use a more collaborative process.

WHAT IS AN “UNCONTESTED” DIVORCE?

An uncontested divorce exists when both parties are seeking to terminate the relationship. A divorce is considered uncontested when the couple agrees on most of the common issues in a divorce and may need legal guidance in only a few areas. Some of the key areas required to be agreed upon for a divorce to be classified as uncontested are:

  • The division of marital property;
  • The division of marital debts; and
  • Whether either party will receive maintence.

While this list is not exhaustive of all the issues that a couple might need to decide, if a couple does not agree on these terms at the beginning, then the divorce will be considered “contested”. However, just because a divorce is considered “contested” does not necessarily mean that the couple will be required to go to trial to settle their disputes or that they may not eventually reach an agreement.

UNCONTESTED DIVORCES IN ILLINOIS

Illinois has a unique, expedited form of uncontested divorce that saves both time and money if the couple qualifies.  The is called a “joint simplified dissolution” and can vastly speed up the process when the couple is able to reach complete agreement about the terms of the divorce. While this form may seem attractive to couples, there are specific requirements to qualify for this form besides total agreement. For example, a couple cannot receive a joint simplified dissolution if they own a house or joint assets exceeding $10,000. Furthermore, this form of dissolution is not available for couples who have children or have been married longer than eight years. For these reasons, joint simplified dissolutions are available in very limited situations.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER OPTIONS BESIDES TRIAL?

If a couple determines that their separation is contested for even seemingly small disagreements, there are still collaborative options available.  One such option is mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process in which an individual trained in dispute-resolution strategies assists the parties in coming to an agreement on their issues. Mediators do not give advice to either of the parties and instead act as a neutral presence trained to keep the parties focused on reaching a resolution.  Mediators use techniques like brainstorming, challenging assumptions, and posing alternatives to encourage parties to collaborate.  If the couple is able to come to an agreement, the mediator will craft a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the resolution. The parties, or their attorneys, may then file this document with the court. If the couple cannot reach an agreement, then trial may be the next best step to ensure all parties rights are protected.

Another collaborative process available is a collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce, each party retains their own attorney for advice and to protect their own interests. These attorneys have dispute-resolution skills similar to those of a mediator but use different strategies to reach the goal of resolution, and each are working to represent their clients’ interests. For example, a collaborative divorce attorney may bring in professionals with specialized expertise in children’s needs, finances, or emotional wellness to aid in the agreement process. Any discussions that occur during a collaborative divorce meeting are confidential and may not be used against either party.  If the parties can reach an agreement, the attorneys can draft a Marriage Settlement Agreement and file it with the court on the couple’s behalf. If they fail to reach an agreement, then the attorneys with withdraw and the spouses can move on with attorneys in a contested divorce.

Even if you and your spouse are contemplating divorce and you believe it will be an amicable process, it is critical to still take the time to have an attorney review anything prior to submitting it with the court. This ensures that your interests are protected in the long run and that the agreement is legally binding.  Divorces can be messy, complex legal proceedings which need to be approached with the utmost care.

If you have more questions about the divorce process, contact Sherer Law Offices at (618) 692-6656 , for more information.

The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  You should consult with an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, emails, and communications.  Contacting our offices does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Please do not send any confidential information to us unless and until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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[1] https://www.illinoislegalaid.org/legal-information/joint-simplified-divorce-no-children

[2] https://www.illinoislegalaid.org/legal-information/mediation-during-divorce

[3] https://collablawil.org/#targetText=Collaborative%20Divorce%20is%20a%20respectful,more%20%E2%80%93%20without%20fighting%20in%20court.