5/25/2012 1:09 PM
The “typical” Illinois divorce follow the progression of events described below. Of course, hotly contested issues can change this order and compress, or stretch, the time it takes to complete the divorce proceeding.
The Petition for Divorce
A divorce proceeding begins when one spouse - the “Petitioner” - files a Petition for Dissolution. This document lays out the reason (the “grounds”) for the divorce and the relief the Petitioner wants: the divorce, property division, spousal maintenance (also known as support, or alimony) child custody, child support, and visitation. The Petition must be served on the other spouse, usually by a Deputy Sherriff. Service can be avoided if that Spouse files an Appearance in the case without being served.
The other spouse (now the “Respondent”), either pro se or through counsel, then appears in the case and files an answer to the Petition, responding to each claim and request for relief. If no appearance or answer is filed the spouse will be found “in default” and the divorce will proceed without the defaulting spouse having an opportunity to tell his/her story. When an answer has been filed, the spouses then know where each stands and they can begin working to resolve their differences. If the parties are in agreement – an “Agreed” or Uncontested” divorce – an Answer may not be needed.
During the divorce one spouse can ask the court to order the other spouse to pay child support, spousal maintenance, and attorney fees. A spouse can also ask for an order prohibiting the other spouse from transferring assets, dissipating accounts, taking children out-of-state and more. These awards are described as “interim” because each only lasts until the divorce is finished.
Exchange of Financial Information
Both DuPage and Will counties require the parties to exchange financial information and related documents early in the case. (DuPage: within 30 days after answer filed; Will: before hearing). This exchange jump-starts discussions about financial issues: property division and spousal maintenance; child support.
Specific rules and strict timelines address child custody and support issues. An initial case management case kicks it off. Within 60 days thereafter both parents must attend a parenting education program. A child custody case management conference will be scheduled within 90 days after Respondent’s answer is filed. If the parties have not agreed on custody and support issues by the time of this conference, the court will then require the spouses to participate in a mediation process. Within 30 days after the mediation sessions conclude the court will schedule another case management conference. If child custody issues still have not been resolved, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the children (as a Guardian ad Litem) in the hope that this additional input will lead to an agreed solution without a trial. If custody is hotly contested, these dates get compressed and steps may be skipped.
Negotiation continues on financial issues. If needed, formal discovery takes place which can include written discovery (questions and document requests) and depositions of both spouses and of third parties who have needed information which might include employers, business partners, and accountants.
If Agreement Reached
When the spouses reach agreement the terms are written into i) a Marital Settlement Agreement, which addresses property division, spousal maintenance and other non-child issues, and ii) the Parenting Agreement/Joint Parenting Agreement, which lays out the agreement on child custody, child support, visitation and other child-related issues such as education expenses and child care expenses.
If the parties settle all issues and the MSA and JPA/PA are signed the parties appear in front of the judge for a short hearing at which the lawyers inform the judge of the agreements reached, ask each spouse a few questions on the record, and enter the agreed documents in the record along with a Judgment of Dissolution. Other documents may be required - depending on the circumstance – for child support and maintenance payments. One last document – the Certificate of Dissolution – is completed, signed by the judge and forwarded off to the Department of Health.
If the parties fail to agree on one or more issues a trial will be held where the Judge will hear testimony and review relevant documents and decide for the parties. The trial process may include an additional pre-trial conference with the judge where he will encourage settlement.
For more information about this topic, please contact the author, Brian D. Moore, by phone at 630-355-5577 or by email at email@example.com.
This article is not legal advice and does not contain legal advice. This article is intended to provide friends and clients with general information regarding the subject matter covered. This article may be considered attorney advertising.