If you are considering filing for divorce, there are some things you should know about the divorce process and decisions you need to make.
Determine whether you are eligible to file for divorce in Illinois
Illinois has a residency requirement. In order to file for divorce, either you or your spouse must live in Illinois for at least 90 days preceding the date you file for divorce. You can file in the county where you or your spouse reside.
The grounds for your divorce
Illinois permits no-fault divorce where irreconcilable differences have irretrievably broken the marriage. The statute also allows fault-based divorce on other grounds:
- A pre-existing marriage
- Habitual drunkenness or drug addiction
- Physical or mental abuse
- Conviction of a felony crime
- Infection with a sexually transmitted disease
Divorce or legal separation
As an alternative to divorce, you can choose to file for a legal separation in Illinois. Legal separation is appropriate if there is a possibility you may reconcile or if religious reasons prevent you from seeking a divorce.
During a separation, you and your spouse will live separately and follow a binding legal separation agreement governing child support, custody, visitation, property division and other family related matters. The legal separation agreement protects all parties from the time of separation until the divorce is finalized. Because it often serves as a basis for the final divorce settlement, the separation agreement should not contain anything you cannot live with once the divorce is final. For help with a legal separation agreement, contact an experienced Chicago divorce law firm for assistance.
Petition the court for divorce
A petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed with the court identifying the parties involved, children of the marriage and the reason for the divorce. The court will legally serve your spouse with divorce papers. Your spouse must respond in writing within 30 days.
Comply with discovery requests
Discovery consists of the exchange of information regarding all marital issues. Discovery can be both the exchange of documents and oral testimony. During discovery, attorneys for both parties gather financial affidavits, bank statements, sworn testimony from witnesses, and other information relevant to your case.
Follow through with mediation or counseling requirements in Chicago
Divorce laws allow the court to order you and your spouse to attend counseling to try to reconcile your marriage. In cases involving children, both parents may be ordered to attend an educational program on the effects of divorce on children.
Temporary divorce orders
Unless agreed upon by the parties, court may issue temporary orders for child support, spousal support, child custody and visitation. These orders are legally binding and must be followed until the final divorce hearing.
Settlement negotiations and mediation
Settlement negotiations in Illinois can begin as soon as divorce papers are filed. Illinois is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property is divided equitably, not necessarily equally. All property acquired by either spouse during the marriage and before a divorce judgment is considered to be marital property, regardless of whether ownership is titled in one or both names.
If the spouses cannot reach agreement on disputed issues, the court can require mediation. During mediation, both spouses and their lawyers meet with a court-appointed mediator to discuss and resolve areas of disagreement. The mediator is specially trained to negotiate a settlement between conflicted parties.
Consider divorce court as a last resort
If there are still unresolved issues after mediation, there will be a trial during which both parties present evidence before a judge. The judge will examine all evidence and make a decision on contested issues.
While the divorce process may seem straight forward, issues can quickly become complex and volatile. For help and to protect your rights, call (312) 641-0771 to speak with an experienced Chicago land divorce attorney from the Law Offices of Azita M. Mojarad & Associates.