The timeline for finalizing a divorce in Illinois varies significantly. Factors that determine how quickly a divorce is settled include whether or not the divorce is uncontested or contested. Divorces that fall into the latter category take substantially longer to settle.
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses agree on key divorce matters. Terms of the divorce to which the spouses agree may include the division of marital property, child custody, child support, spousal maintenance and the division of responsibility for marital debts.
When spouses have a functional relationship and can come to agreeable terms during an uncontested divorce, the process moves quickly. In fact, an uncontested divorce in Illinois can be finalized within two weeks to two months. Spouses may reach an agreement independently or with the help of a mediator.
What is a contested divorce?
In a contested divorce, one spouse disagrees with the terms of divorce. As a result, the divorce process is prolonged. When a spouse argues issues, such as spousal support or the allocation of parental responsibilities, settling a divorce can take anywhere from 18 to 30 months.
Spouses who fail to reach an agreement through the help of a mediator, collaborative law or negotiations will have to take their case to trial. Divorce cases are unique, with some being simple and others complex. The length of time it takes to settle depends on the individual factors involved.
Complex divorces often include high income or assets on which it is difficult to place an accurate value. In complex divorce cases, spouses will struggle to reach an agreement about at least one major divorce issue. It may be necessary to go to trial and allow a judge to intervene.
What are the steps to initiate a divorce?
Several steps are required to begin the divorce proceedings. Each step takes time, especially when the other spouse is expected to disagree to the terms of divorce. The person filing for divorce is considered the petitioner, and the spouse receiving divorce papers is the respondent.
One spouse will file a petition for divorce, either through mail or in person. The respondent (the individual responding to the petition) then has 30 days to notify the court about whether or not he or she agrees or disagrees with the terms of the petition.
At this point, both spouses are expected to have secured a divorce attorney. The lawyers will begin the process of discovery, by which information about assets, debts, income and details relevant to child custody are found. Discovery procedures can take four months or more.
Six months may pass by the time the discovery process is completed. In cases where financial details are complex, such as in the evaluation of a business, the discovery procedure can take substantially longer. This is especially true if one spouse does not cooperate and requires court orders to comply
Once the discovery phase is complete, the lawyers have sufficient information to begin negotiations. The length of negotiations depends heavily on the case’s complexity and issues at stake. Allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time are known to be the most difficult issues to settle.
Even in contested divorces, the majority of battling spouses eventually reach a settlement. Divorce attorneys facilitate the settlement by helping the spouses reach an agreement about unresolved issues. An alternative dispute resolution tactic is mediation. If neither is effective, the case goes to trial.
A settlement conference may be scheduled during the settlement phase of divorce. In a settlement conference, the judge and divorce lawyers meet to try to settle the case. Prior to the meeting, each lawyer provides the judge with a memo containing the case’s background information.
The judge reviews the memo, including the spouses’ ages, income, assets and information about the children in efforts to make a recommendation for settlement. The lawyers present the recommendation to the spouses. At this point, the case still has the potential of going to trial.
When a case goes to trial, the lawyers and judges hold another conference to determine the logistics of the trial. A divorce trial on average takes three to four days to complete. Non-complex trials conclude with a day. Complex, highly contested trials can take up to 60 days to complete.
Appeals and post-trial motions may prolong the contested divorce even further. However, either spouse is entitled to file an appeal or post-trial motion if he or she believes false information was presented in the case and led to an unfair judgment.
The circumstances surrounding individual contested divorce cases vary, and these variations largely influence the time it takes to finalize the divorce. One way to speed up the completion of a divorce is to ensure it is uncontested. In uncontested divorces, the spouses agree on every issue.
Work with a Divorce Attorney
When you are contemplating divorce, you’ll need an experienced legal team on your side. The divorce lawyers at Allen Gabe, P.C., are highly skilled in providing expert legal counsel to a range of clients, whether they seek an uncontested or contested divorce.
Our divorce attorneys will guide you through each step of divorce, from filing the divorce petition to discovery and settlement negotiations. If disagreements occur between spouses, we will take your case to trial, effectively argue your case and work toward an advantageous settlement.
When a spouse does not agree to divorce, the case can extend for months. Working with divorce attorneys who are familiar with all aspects of Illinois divorce law will make the lengthy process manageable. Allen Gabe Law, P.C., lawyers will effectively represent you during every step.
Choose Allen Gabe Law, P.C., when you are on the brink of divorce. Our firm of qualified lawyers stay updated on all Illinois family laws to ensure your best interests are met. We serve individuals and families residing in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Call us at (847) 241-5000, ext. 121 for an initial consultation.