The decision to file for divorce is often one of the most difficult decisions in one’s life. Filing for divorce can be time consuming, costly, and complex. For these reasons as well as others, it is crucial that anyone considering ending their marriage be sure a divorce is what they truly want.
Once you are 100% certain you are ready to file for divorce, you will need to evaluate whether you want to hire counsel or attempt to navigate the process on your own. Generally, there are several main steps that will need to taken in order to dissolve a marriage.
The first step is to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This is the legal document that is initially filed, putting the court on notice that you are seeking to dissolve your marriage. This document and the documents related to it are often referred to as divorce papers. In the Petition, you must detail the grounds for divorce. In Illinois, grounds for divorce include either at fault grounds and no-fault grounds, which are commonly known as irreconcilable differences.
Irreconcilable differences happen to be the most common grounds for divorce in Illinois. If a couple seeks to file for divorce in Illinois citing irreconcilable differences there is a required two year separation period. However, there is an exception to the rule. If both parties agree that the divorce is uncontested, they can both sign a waiver to proceed, after being separated for at least six (6) months.
Once the case is filed, the Respondent (or non-filing party) must be served with the Petition for Dissolution and corresponding documents. After service, the parties and their attorneys will attempt to gauge the route the case is going to go. Much of the time, once a case gets going and both parties are actively participating, the discovery process will begin. Discovery is generally described as the process of exchanging information relevant to the divorce proceedings. For example, parties will exchange income and expense affidavits and will most likely also exchange documentation supporting those financial affidavits.
It is also important to note that child custody, visitation, child support and alimony can also be negotiated at this phase. If the parties cannot resolve their differences through negotiations with their attorneys (or among themselves), they may next attempt to continue negotiations with the assistance of the court. If resolution cannot be reached through negotiations, the case would be set for trial and the relevant final decisions would be made by a judge. All of the documents obtained in the discovery process will be combined with even more extensive trial preparation including: interviewing potential witnesses, more depositions, reviewing your spouse’s documents and corresponding with the opposing counsel. Trial preparation can take months and thee actual trial can take anywhere from a day to a several weeks, depending on the contested issues.