The Differences Between Uncontested, Joint Simplified, and Contested Divorce in Illinois

The legal term for divorce is “dissolution of marriage” in Illinois, but for the purposes of this blog, we are using “divorce” for consistency.

Divorces are a difficult time for everyone involved. They are stressful and often contentious, especially when you have children to worry about. For these reasons it is in everyone’s best interests to settle a divorce as quickly and amicably as possible. There are a three different types of divorce proceedings in Illinois and the kind of experience you will have depends largely on which scenario you are in.

So what’s the difference? What does each type mean for the proceedings you and your family will have to go through? Below we discuss the main differences between joint simplified, uncontested, and contested divorces, as well as what each can mean for you and your family.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, the couple has already reached an agreement on all elements of the separation prior to actually filing for divorce. This means everything, from dividing property to child custody. However, even if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have already determined your divorce settlement, it does not mean that a judge will automatically approve it. Most states have individual requirements before a judge will approve a divorce agreement. In Illinois, for example, a family law judge will not approve a divorce settlement when kids are involved, unless it is determined that the settlement is in the best interests of the child, the parents have participated in a parenting class, and have exchanged the state-approved financial affidavits. The court has a series of factors that it must go through before determining whether or not the child custody agreement you and your ex seek is in fact in the best interests of the kids.

Joint Simplified Divorce

The Illinois courts offer this simpler and more efficient kind of uncontested divorce in certain situations if you qualify. Although there are many things that disqualify married couples from using this type of divorce process, it simplifies the process and saves you money if you do. For example, to qualify for Joint Simplified Divorce:

  • You and your spouse must agree on all of the terms of the divorce;
  • You must agree that your marriage has broken down and cannot be repaired;
  • You must file court forms and appear in court together with your spouse;
  • You or your spouse must be a resident of Illinois for the past 90 days;
  • You and your spouse must currently be living separate and apart;
  • Your marriage cannot be longer than 8 years;
  • You cannot have any children with your spouse;
  • You or your spouse must not be pregnant by the other spouse, or in the process of adopting a child;
  • You or your spouse cannot own any real estate;
  • You and your spouse cannot hold any retirement benefits jointly and the combined value of any benefits either of you hold individually must be less than $10,000;
  • The total marital property, minus debts, must be less than $50,000;
  • You or your spouse individually cannot make more than $30,000 per year, before taxes;
  • You and your spouse together cannot make more $60,000 per year, before taxes;
  • You or your spouse must not depend on each other for support;
  • You and your spouse must agree to waive the right to support;
  • You and your spouse must show your tax returns to each other for each year of the marriage; AND
  • You and your spouse must agree to divide all property you got during the marriage that is worth more than $100, and all debts taken on during the marriage

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Contested Divorce

Unlike in an uncontested divorce, a couple in a contested divorce has not yet reached an agreement on all aspects of the divorce before entering into divorce proceedings with the court. In these situations, it may very well be that although the couple agrees on the fact that they want a divorce, they might actually agree on very little else. From not seeing eye-eye on something as trivial as who gets the lawn care equipment to more emotional things like who gets custody of the family pet, contested divorces can reach a fever pitch quickly. They can also drag on for years, costing everyone involved lots of time, money, and severe emotional distress.

What’s the Difference?

Aside from the main difference of agreement versus disagreement, contested and uncontested divorces can affect the divorce process in vastly different ways. As you might guess, in an uncontested divorce, the process is generally much smoother and less costly. Because both parties are on the same page, there is no real need for there to be a long, drawn out process of divvying up the family assets.

In a contested divorce, however, the process is often long, expensive, and arduous. It can take years and lots of resources to finally settle. And, in the worst of cases, if a settlement cannot be made between the parties, then the case will go to court which will lead to even longer and more expensive proceedings.

Consult an experienced family law attorney.

Divorce is tough, regardless of whether it is amicable or contentious. It’s hard enough to wrap your head around such a major life change without worrying about how much you’ll be able to see your children or beloved pet when all is said and done. For these and many other reasons, it is important to speak with an experienced and trusted family law attorney as soon as possible to make sure that you and your family’s rights are property represented.

At Lake Cook Legal Solutions, we have the experience and compassion to help you get your divorce taken care of with your best interests at heart. If you are going through a divorce in Illinois, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Written by Lake Cook Legal Solutions, LLC

Lake Cook Legal Solutions, LLC

Lake Cook Legal Solutions has been helping people throughout Lake, Cook, McHenry, and DuPage counties since 2012. We focus our practice on matters involving Illinois families—namely Family Law and Estate Planning.