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Understanding The Illinois Divorce Process

Taking the first steps toward divorce can be overwhelming and full of questions: Where do I start? What is the process? How long will it take? How much will it cost?
At Beattie Freeman Onorato Family Law Group, we believe that knowledge is power. By understanding the divorce process, you can take control of your future.

What Is The Process?

The divorce process generally is the same for everyone – whether same-sex or different-sex couples – with some additional considerations for families with children:

  • Step one: filing. The first step in every case is when the petitioner (i.e. the spouse asking for the divorce) files a petition for dissolution of marriage. It does not matter which spouse files for divorce, there is no legal advantage to being the petitioner. Illinois is a “no fault” divorce state, which means that the Court does not consider wrongdoing (adultery, abandonment or cruelty) in order to get divorced. The most common reason for divorce is simply “irreconcilable differences,” which means the marriage isn’t working and isn’t fixable.
  • Step two: notice. Next, the petitioner notifies the other spouse (i.e. the respondent) that the divorce has been filed. Generally, this is done by having the other spouse served with summons and the petition for dissolution of marriage by a special process server or the sheriff.
  • Step three: response. After receiving notice of the divorce case, the respondent spouse or their attorney will file an appearance in the case. Once the appearance of the respondent is filed, the court has authority (“personal jurisdiction”) over the parties and can proceed with the divorce. At this time, the respondent will also respond to, or answer, the petition for dissolution of marriage.
  • Step four: discovery. This is the critical part of any divorce case. “Discovery” is the term used to describe the information-gathering part of the divorce process. During this phase, the parties exchange information about their property, income and debts, which is used to determine a number of issues, including spousal support (maintenance), child support, and how to split property and debts between the parties.
    • If children are involved, the discovery process is also used to gather information about how the parties should make significant decisions for the children and an appropriate parenting time schedule for each party.
    • The information learned from the discovery process is then used to assist the parties in negotiating settlement or, if the parties are not able to agree on certain major issues, then this information may be used in temporary hearings to determine issues like maintenance and child support and/or parenting time schedule while the case is pending or at the final trial.
  • Step five: finalizing the divorce. This step in the process depends on whether the parties are able to agree upon all matters related to their divorce (“uncontested divorce”) or if they disagree about some or all matters related to their divorce (“contested divorce”). If the divorce is uncontested, then the attorneys will prepare a marital settlement agreement that details the parties’ agreements regarding all issues in their divorce, including the division of their property and debts as well as child support and spousal support (maintenance). If children are involved, the attorneys will also prepare an agreed judgment for allocation of parental responsibilities (custody), which details how the parties will make decisions for the children (sole or joint custody) and the parenting time schedule (visitation). These two agreements will then be presented to the judge at a hearing called a “prove up” and, after approving the agreements, the judge will enter a judgment for dissolution of marriage, which ends the marriage.
    • If the divorce is contested, then the case will be scheduled for trial and, after being presented with evidence gathered during discovery and hearing testimony from the parties and any witnesses, the judge will make decisions for each contested issue.

Discuss Your Divorce With Our Team Of Attorneys

At Beattie Freeman Onorato Family Law Group, our team treats each individual case with the utmost care, compassion, and experience needed to navigate you through the divorce process while advocating for you and your family. If you are considering divorce and wish to learn more about the process or our services, call us at 312-809-2750 or contact us online.