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The Divorce Process

Introduction

Divorce is a difficult decision, and often, people have concerns about how the divorce process will affect their lives.  Furthermore, another question people have is whether a divorce is the appropriate decision for them and their families.  In this article, we will discuss the divorce process in the State of Illinois.

Background of Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm

Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm concentrate in divorce, child support, child custody, and dissolution of marriage proceedings in the State of Illinois.  Our law firm focuses on the counties of Kendall, Will, DuPage, Kane, and Grundy Counties.  Attorney Robertson has over 15 years of experience as an attorney and counselor of law.  Sean Robertson is the Principal of Gateville Law Firm, which concentrates in family law and divorce law.  Sean Robertson is an Elite Attorney.

There are three steps to being voted as an Elite Lawyer.  An advisory panel finds high-quality attorneys eligible for Elite Lawyer Award.  Attorneys are prohibited from nominating themselves or their law firms.  The second process is the review and selection process by the Elite Lawyer Advisory Panel involving reviews, rates, and evaluates attorneys on their legal history, experience, and reputation.  The third phase of the process involves the award and recognition phase.  Only a small percentage of nominated attorneys make it to the final selection and recognition stage. Sean Robertson was selected as an Elite Lawyer by his peers.  Contact Sean Robertson at 630-780-1034 or via online submission.

Beginning of the Divorce Process:  Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

In Illinois, the beginning of the divorce process begins with filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is the initial paperwork, which summarizes the key legal issues in a divorce.  The filing spouse is called “the Petitioner” and the responding spouse is called “the Defendant” or “the Respondent”.

The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is a request to the Court to issue a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage and outlines the key desires of the Petitioner Spouse.  One of the key requirements to the divorce process is that the Petitioner must have been a resident of the State of Illinois for at least 90 days prior to filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  All divorces now in Illinois are under the guidelines of irreconcilable differences, which means that the Courts do not care about adultery or fault.  Illinois is a “no fault” state that means that the Respondent Spouse does not have to agree with the divorce.  Another requirement of the divorce process is that the parties have lived separate and apart, continuously for a period of at least six months (prior to the resolution of the divorce).  This requirement is a liberal requirement in Illinois and the Courts generally rely upon the parties’ assertion for this requirement.

Service of Process of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

Service of process is the means of notifying the Respondent Spouse about the Petitioner’s Spouse filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  Generally, the service of process is delivered either by the local Sheriff’s Office or a private process server.  The goal of the service of process is simply to inform the Respondent Spouse of the future court date and give the Respondent Spouse the contents of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage document and any other pleadings, which may have been filed.

The divorce court cannot begin the Illinois divorce process until the Respondent Spouse has been served the initial divorce paperwork.  The divorce court must have jurisdiction, which means that the divorce court can address matters relevant in the divorce process such as the following:

  • To grant the divorce;
  • Enter orders related to spousal support or otherwise known as “alimony” or “spousal maintenance”
  • Issue child support including temporary child support or other temporary or permanent child support orders
  • Divide property and debts
  • Enter parenting time and significant allocation of parental responsibilities such as child custody and visitation concerns.

Generally, the Respondent Spouse has 28 days to file a response to the initial divorce paperwork (i.e. Petition for Dissolution of Marriage) from the date of service of the summons and initial paperwork.  However, the Petitioner Spouse often will file for initial court proceedings prior to the conclusion of the 28 days for the Respondent Spouse to file their initial appearance and responses (to the initial paperwork).  Often, temporary child support and spousal maintenance orders may be issued on an emergency basis with little notice to the Respondent Spouse.  Thus, legal representation is critical as soon as possible because a Petitioner’s Spouse’s Attorney will seek temporary court orders, which may irreparably hurt the Respondent Spouse.

When a Respondent Spouse cannot be served or located, a Divorce by Publication is a method of serving a Respondent Spouse.  A divorce court in Illinois may grant a divorce (without all the rights of a normal divorce) when a Respondent Spouse cannot be served.  Divorce by Publication is the court procedure of filing and receiving a divorce when the Respondent Spouse cannot be served and found.

Generally, a Divorce by Publication requires publication in a local newspaper for a period, which theoretically notifies the Respondent Spouse of the impending divorce.  A Divorce by Publication is only acceptable under extenuating circumstances such as the Petitioner Spouse has made their best efforts to find the location of the Respondent Spouse.  Typically, best efforts require hiring of a private process server to do a skip trace to see if they can locate the Respondent Spouse.  The divorce court requires “reasonable diligence” prior to their approval for Divorce by Publication.

Filing of an Appearance and Responding to the Initial Paperwork

A Respondent Spouse typically has up to twenty-eight (28) days to file their initial response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  The Respondent Spouse should consult with legal counsel prior to responding to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  An appearance is the payment of a filing fee and providing the Petitioner’s Attorney with how to contact them such as giving them their address and means of communication (phone number and email).  An appearance generally submits to the venue and jurisdiction of the court. Venue is the specific County where the divorce is being initiated.  Venue is essentially the proper county where the divorce proceedings should be filed.

The initial paperwork often will contain important responses to the issuance of child support, custody decisions, and spousal maintenance.  These are vital economic and parental rights, which are affected by the initial pleadings and responses in a divorce case.  Furthermore, a Respondent Spouse’s Attorney may want to initiate their own pleadings or responses to the initial divorce paperwork to protect the Respondent’s Spouse’s Rights.  The Respondent Spouse has significant rights and responsibilities, which their attorney should safeguard and explain the divorce process to their client.

Discovery, Litigation, and Temporary Orders

Differences often occur with divorcing spouses, which may be termed a “contested divorce”.  A contested divorce involves the process of litigation.  Litigation is the process of discovering critical financial discovery, which assists the court and the parties’ attorneys calculate temporary child support and spousal maintenance orders.

The parties often have serious disagreements especially when there are substantial assets or issues such as child custody disputes.  Discovery is the initial paperwork sought by the parties and their attorneys.  Generally, Discovery involves past tax returns, bank statements, paycheck stubs, credit card statements, retirement and pension statements, and other assets such as real estate holdings (among other things).

Discovery is the process of obtaining critical information to make informed decisions impacting the divorce process.  The parties typically exchange financial information including a financial affidavit, which is filled out by the parties.  The exchange of financial information is required in a divorce case.  The parties will swear under oath that their answers are forthright and complete.

The initial discovery part may take a period of thirty to ninety days depending on the complexity and cooperation of the parties.  These exchanges of financial information also will result in temporary orders involving child support and spousal alimony figures.  The discovery phase is a critical and important step in the divorce process.

Temporary Orders:  Child Support, Spousal Maintenance and Others

Temporary court orders play a significant role in divorce cases in Illinois.  Temporary court orders are made by divorce courts after a hearing or by agreement of the parties.  Temporary court orders are temporary orders until the final dissolution of a divorce case, or the divorce court has an opportunity to provide a hearing on the issue.  Often, temporary court orders are by agreement or after consultation with a Judge on issues of child support, spousal support, or other matters.  Temporary court orders provide temporary court orders until the next court date or another time.  Either spouse may file a Petition or Motion for Temporary Relief of Child Support or Spousal Maintenance.  Temporary court orders involve temporary relief such as child custody, spousal support, parenting time, and or other matters.  Temporary orders are also necessary from time to time to force one party from paying financial bills in the ordinary course of the marriage (or like how the married couples handled things prior to the divorce filing).  Or, in the alternative, parties may have to be forced to stop or prevent either spouse from making disparaging remarks about each other to the minor children.  Moreover, cancellation of insurance policies or a change in beneficiaries are not permissible.

Pre-Trial

Pre-Trial is a significant phase in a divorce.  The Pre-Trial Hearing is the process where the parties’ attorneys submit their position papers to the divorce judge and get feedback on how to properly structure the divorce settlement.  The parties will often have conflicting views and the divorce Judge will inform the parties how they would resolve the disputes.  The Pre-Trial Hearing is held in the Judge’s quarters between the Judge and the attorneys (without the aid of the parties).  The attorneys argue their clients’ positions and submit briefs, which summarize the critical issues and disputes involved in the divorce process.

Generally, a Pre-Trial Hearing is an attempt to avoid the costs and expense of trial and negotiate a resolved settlement to disputed issues.  During the Pre-Trial Hearing, the divorce Judge will give feedback how they would resolve the issue or issues at trial (without the length and expense of trial).  In many instances, the pre-trial hearing results in a settlement and a resolution of disputed issues involved in a divorce case.

Prove Up and Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage

A Prove up is the official proceedings, which the parties and their attorneys submit their marital settlement agreements and or parenting plans (or custody agreements) to the court for the court’s approval.  Generally, the prove up is the final phase of the divorce process when the parties settle and resolve their differences.  The prove up hearing involves questioning of the parties by their attorneys and the other party’s attorneys to gain the Judge’s approval of the settlement terms.

A Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is the final court paperwork which directs the court how to resolve key issues such as child support, custody and visitation, spousal maintenance, property division and payment of debts (among other issues).  The Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage also will detail whether one spouse wants to reserve the right to change their name to their maiden name.

Trial

A divorce trial is the final step in the dissolution of marriage process.  Trial involves substantial issues, which cannot be negotiated prior to trial.  Despite the setting of trial, the parties and their attorneys (and the Judge) often attempt to resolve their differences without the costs and expense of trial.  If the parties must proceed to trial, the divorce judge and the parties will take consecutive days to try their case.  The Attorneys will file trial briefs, which summarize the parties’ positions on critical issues.  Furthermore, the parties will utilize the discovery process and information obtained to litigate the matter at trial.  In conclusion, a trial is where the Judge will determine the critical and disputed issues involving financial disputes, parenting issues, and other issues.

Length of a Divorce in Illinois

In summary, each divorce case is unique because it involves different facts and circumstances, parties, and attorneys.  The length of divorce in Illinois can be as short as a couple of months to six months to two years depending on the jurisdiction, venue and other vital issues.  In our experience, most divorces in Illinois take a minimum of six months to a year to resolve.  More complex and substantial divorces may take longer to resolve.

Hire Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm

Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm provide qualified and expert legal expertise in the areas of divorce, child support, custody, parenting, and financial matters.  Sean Robertson has a significant estate planning, business, real estate, and financial background, which are critical for simple to complex divorce cases.

Business divorces and high net worth divorces often require an attorney and support staff with a diverse skill set because the issues involve dissolution of marriage and substantial financial and business concerns.  Our attorneys and Attorney Robertson’s strong financial, tax, business, and divorce background are essential in complex to simple divorce and post-divorce concerns.  Our attorneys may be reached at 630-780-1034.  Our law firm has a strong team including certified and experienced paralegals, legal assistants, administrative assistants, and staff.

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