Understanding the Divorce Process

Deciding to end your marriage is only the first step. Where do you go from here?

The following basic information can help you understand the divorce, or dissolution of marriage, process in Illinois. For more specific information about your case, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney. At Beermann Law Group, Ltd, in Libertyville, we offer free 30-minute initial legal consultations. Send us an email or call 847-984-0211 to schedule yours.

How long does divorce take? It depends on whether the spouses can cooperate, or negotiate productively, to resolve the issues. It typically takes one month or so to file paperwork and set a court date. Contested divorce cases that go to trial will typically take a minimum of one year to complete.

Divorce in Six Steps

  1. Petition: The person seeking the divorce files a document called the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in court. From then on, this person is known as the petitioner. The petition is typically very brief, and it includes the following information: current living arrangements, grounds for the divorce and whether any children are involved.
  2. Service of process: In addition to filing the petition in court, the petitioner needs to serve the petition, as well as a required summons, to the other spouse. The petitioner's family law attorney should arrange service through the local sheriff's department or a private process server.
  3. Response: The spouse who was served, known as the respondent, has 30 days to respond in writing to the petition. In general, the respondent hires an attorney soon after service to take care of this. Once a response is filed, attorneys for both parties may discuss whether temporary support (spousal maintenance, child support and expenses) is needed. If the respondent fails to file a response, the court could enter a default judgment.
  4. Investigation, negotiation and settlement: This stage begins with an inventory to determine the value of the marital estate. This is sometimes referred to as "discovery," as this process may include depositions and financial investigations. If both parties agree on which marital assets and debts make up the estate, formal discovery may not be necessary. Once the value of the marital estate is determined, it is time to negotiate the division of assets. Child custody (now referred to in the law as "allocation of parental responsibility")and visitation (now known in the law as "parenting time") can also be negotiated at this time. If a compromise is reached, the spouses will each sign a settlement agreement. This will then be presented to a judge who can review it and enter the decree of divorce. At Beermann Law Group, Ltd, we aim to resolve cases through negotiation and settlement whenever possible. Avoiding litigation saves our clients time, money and emotional expense.
  5. Pretrial conference: If negotiations fail to reach a settlement, lawyers may present the disputes before a judge during a pretrial conference. A judge will make recommendations on settlement options, and this can be an indicator of how the judge would rule should the case go to trial. Armed with this information, the spouses and their attorneys may take the opportunity to settle the case or proceed to prepare for trial.
  6. Trial: If a settlement agreement is not reached through negotiation or pretrial conference, it is time to schedule a trial. Divorce cases are heard by judges, not juries. The judge will make the final decisions and enter the judgment at the conclusion of the trial. As you wait for your trial date, your attorney will prepare your case. This process may include gathering evidence by interviewing witnesses, taking depositions, calling on experts and reviewing discovery produced by the other party. Thorough preparation for trial is necessary to present your case effectively. Your trial could be as short as one day or as long as several weeks, depending on the complexity of your case.

Post-divorce Step 7: Modifications. Your divorce settlement or judgment is not necessarily set in stone. If circumstances change, you may pursue a modification. An experienced lawyer can help you understand your options to modify spousal maintenance, child custody and other arrangements.

Schedule Your Free 30-Minute Initial Consultation

Our attorneys are prepared to discuss your case with you during a free 30-minute initial legal consultation. We draw on over 40 years of legal experience to guide our clients through the divorce process and help them achieve the results they need. Call 847-984-0211 or send us an email today to schedule a free initial 30-minute consultation with one of our lawyers.