What if you want a divorce and your spouse wants a divorce too? Do you need to go through the entire divorce process? The formal service, the mediation, the exchange of documents and the trial can all be avoided if there is a full agreement of the parties.
Joint Simplified Divorce
If you both want a divorce, you can actually bypass the divorce process if you meet a lot of requirements as listed in the Joint Simplified Divorce Statute 750 ILCS 5/452.
In summary, you must have no kids, each person must earn less than $ 30,000 a year and you must have less than $ 50,000 of assets.
If you meet these requirements, you can just fill out forms available on the Cook County Circuit Clerk’s website which allow you to bypass the formalities of divorce and literally just submit a written agreement as to how you will divide your assets. The court then does all the work for you and finalizes the divorce.
In all my years of practice, I have never once had a couple consult me that qualified for joint simplified divorce. One person will either make more than $ 15 an hour (that’s what $ 30,000 is based on a 40 hour work week).
Agreed Uncontested Divorce
What if you and your spouse want a divorce but don’t qualify for Joint Simplified Divorce. You have kids, incomes and assets and you both have already agreed on the terms of the divorce?
One party in the couple can hire an attorney and advise the attorney that there is an agreement. The agreement merely has to be prepared pursuant to the formalities of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
The attorney then is formally hired by that one party and owes an obligation to that one party NOT the other party. In an uncontested divorce, what this means is that the attorney can tell their client what they “should do” while the attorney can tell the other party merely “what’s going on.” In a truly uncontested divorce, this distinction can be meaningless.
When parties approach me to prepare an uncontested divorce, I provide both parties with an Illinois financial affidavit. If the parties have children, I provide the parties with a parenting plan intake sheet that they must fill out together.
After our review of the financial affidavits and parenting plan intake our office may follow up with the parties with additional questions raised by the documents. Due to our duty to our client, we always follow up with our client first.
Based on the income and assets on the financial affidavit, my office will prepare a marital settlement agreement which my client will peruse and approve of first.
Typically, this first draft will follow the law as written in Illinois. We will be splitting assets and debts up 50/50. Child support and maintenance will be calculated pursuant to Illinois guidelines.
We then send the first approved draft to the opposing party for approval or edits. If there are children, we do the same exchange with the agreed allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities.
Once the documents are agreed, our office circulates signed copies of all the documents, we file all the documents and we schedule a prove up date with the court in about two weeks.
One of our office’s attorneys then attends the final court date with our client (the other party is welcome to attend) and we conduct a short hearing verifying the contents of the divorce documents with the court through the client’s testimony. The questions are quite mundane, ex: “Were you married on June 15, 1996?, Are you in agreement that you will be awarded the blue credenza.” The judge signs the divorce decree right after the prove up and wishes you both luck.
Uncontested Divorce That Isn’t Agreed…Yet
Many times clients will consult with me hoping that an uncontested divorce can be achieved but they do not, as of yet, have a full agreement. This is usually because the clients simply don’t know how a divorce is structured. What are you even supposed to agree to?
For these cases, I suggest that we “begin at the end.”
I request from my client a completed financial affidavit and a parenting plan intake. With just these documents my staff can construct a judgment for dissolution, a marital settlement agreement and an allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities that is usually 90% complete.
With the approval of the client, we forward these almost finished final documents to the opposing party along with a filed petition for dissolution of marriage. We politely introduce ourselves and advise that we represent the spouse and have prepared final documents which are almost complete. If the other party wishes to cooperate with us, we will respectfully request the missing information to complete the final documents.
This approach to finalizing a divorce at the very beginning of the divorce process invariably reduces the tension and anxiety of both parties. Both spouses can see the structure of how their divorce will likely look and know with certainty how 80% of the divorce will be finalized even if they are not in full agreement.
Even more so, the possibility of avoiding formal service, mediation, discovery and involving the kids is often enough to bring people together to finalize the case before a single additional court filing is made.
If you’d like to learn more about uncontested divorces in Chicago and how you could get one, contact my Chicago, Illinois law office to speak to an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer today.