All divorce cases in Illinois are started by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition sets forth the issues before the Judge. Typically, it is very adversarial because it is a pleading. A pleading is a formal legal document. Any statements made in the document will be taken as true by a Court. So, regardless of whether your matter is uncontested or you expect to be litigating all issues in court, you should not admit to any fact in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage that may be disadvantageous to you. It is just common sense.
Once the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Petition and a Summons must be served on your spouse. Service is usually performed by a Sheriff or by a private investigator. Your spouse may be served at home or at work. Once it is served upon your spouse, he or she will have 30 days to officially respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
A NON-RESPONSIVE SPOUSE:
You may still obtain a divorce. But, the Court will have to recognize that your spouse is in “default” for failing to file an Appearance of Answer to your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Then, you may ask the Court to enter the Judgment that you have drafted and that you want. This is called a “default divorce”. Typically default divorces are rare.
NEXT STEPS IF YOUR SPOUSE RESPONDS:
The local rules of Cook County, DuPage County and Will County require the parties to exchange a sort of Financial Disclosure Statement or Comprehensive Financial Statement or Financial Affidavit. All documents are a form of disclosure statement that tells the other side what your assets and debts are. It must be complete and accurate because it may be used in Court. The document creates a snapshot of your financial picture. Many times, the document is used in Court to show that you are not being truthful or that you need support in a certain dollar amount. So, it is really important to be accurate. We recognize that this is a difficult task. Most people have a great difficulty in identifying their expenses, and income. But it is important to be as accurate as possible.
Once we have identified all the assets and debts, assuming that the parties are reasonable, you may reach an agreement. In which case, the financial settlement agreement is reduced to writing called a Marital Settlement Agreement and is presented to the Court for approval. Likewise, Illinois law requires all parenting and custody arrangements agreed upon by the parties to be reduced to writing in the form of a Joint Parenting Agreement and Custody Judgment.
The Step by Step Approach to Divorce in Illinois:
- File Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- Serve the other party with a Summons and the Petition
- Exchange Financial Disclosure Statements as required by Local Rule. (The Rules vary by County.)
- Look for hidden assets! Verify information, as necessary, such as income and assets.
- Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!
- Participate in a Pre-trial Conference with the Court.
- Avoid trial, if possible….draft fabulously creative settlement documents that protect our client.
- If the other party is unreasonable, prepare the client and the case for trial.
Other Divorce Resources
Be sure to read our other pages which go into more depth on the process and intricacies of divorce.
- The new Illinois Marriage & Dissolution of Marriage Act
- Grounds for Divorce in Illinois
- Pre-Divorce Planning
- The Cost of a Divorce
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Uncontested Divorce
- Grandparents Rights in Divorce
- Mediation and Collaborative Law
- Illinois Divorce FAQ
Divorce is difficult, whether you instigated the process or you are responding to your spouse’s Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. It takes time to understand where your spouse is coming from and to grieve for the loss of the “dream” of growing old together and raising your children together. As experienced divorce attorneys, we understand your situation. We help you move through this difficult time, and protect yourself and your assets in the process.
After a divorce, you should consider developing an estate plan that protects your assets after your death for those you leave behind. It is important, for example, to change the executor of you Last Will and Testament or the Trustee of your Living Trust. In addition, you will want to research the issue of how to protect your estate from probate. This is one area that seems to be neglected after divorce.