A Guide to Uncontested Divorce in Cook County, Illinois
A divorce is uncontested when the parties are able to come to a full settlement agreement before the case is filed in court. The one and only time your case will be before the judge is to finalize the divorce. You will save time and money compared to a contested divorce, however, it is not appropriate for every married couple.
In Cook County, an uncontested divorce is not appropriate when:
- You and your spouse cannot come to an agreement and need the judge to resolve the dispute;
- You do not know your spouse’s income, property, assets and debts and you need to conduct formal discovery;
- You need to start child support or maintenance immediately;
- You need to get an order of protection to prevent your spouse are made using you;
- You need an immediate order to stop your spouse from spending or transferring a marital assets.
The majority of your attorney’s time will be spent drafting the terms of a settlement agreement and negotiating with your spouse or your spouse’s attorney. An uncontested divorce can be completed from start to finish in as little as two weeks, and often requires less than 10 hours of your attorney’s time. The Law office of Jeffrey R. Esser charges a flat fee for uncontested divorces. Should your divorce become contested and require multiple court visits, discovery disputes, and numerous conversations with your spouse or your spouse’s attorney, the flat fee will be applied to the hourly billing rate, and you will be charged per hour.
Marital Settlement Agreement
A Marital Settlement Agreement (or MSA) is the key document that ultimately resolves your divorce case. In an uncontested divorce, the marital settlement agreement is the first thing that you, your spouse, and your attorneys will work on. Oftentimes, you and your spouse will need to negotiate and revise some of the terms over the course of a rounds of drafts. That’s OK. As long as the two of you can ultimately come to an agreement without the judge, your divorce will still be considered uncontested.
A complete marital settlement agreement needs to resolve the following issues:
- Grounds for divorce
- Custody of the children
- Child support
- Visitation, holiday and vacation schedule
- Maintenance (or alimony)
- Division of property
- Allocation of debts and attorney’s fees
If you and your spouse have agreed to share Joint Custody of your children, you will also need to draft a Joint Parenting Agreement (JPA).
Once the martial settlement and joint parenting agreements are finalized and signed, your attorney prepares the final paperwork to initiate a new case with the court. Among these documents will be the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. When the petition is filed and the court fee is paid, the court clerk provides a case number and your divorce has officially begun. The cost to file a new divorce case in cook County $337.
In Illinois, for a contested divorce, your spouse normally has to be served papers. This can be intrusive and costly, but it is not required in an uncontested divorce. Instead, your spouse can wave being served by voluntarily filing an appearance form with the court. In Cook County, it costs $206 to file an appearance. Your spouse you will not be able to enter a settlement agreement without filing an appearance.
When the case is filed and your spouse has filed his or her appearance, the next step is to schedule an appearance in front of a judge to finalize the divorce. This is called a “Prove Up“. At a prove up, you and your spouse will testify before the judge about some of the facts of the divorce and present the judge a copy of the settlement agreement. The judge reviews the settlement agreement for fairness and completeness.
Judgment for Divorce
If the judge approves your settlement agreement, he or she will sign your judgment for divorce and you will be divorce immediately. Oftentimes, there are a few items to take care of after the judgment has been signed, including:
- Changing your name
- Serving a withholding order for child support
- Dividing retirement benefits
- Recording a quitclaim deed to a house