How to Get a Divorce Without a Lawyer in Illinois

You do not have to use a lawyer when getting a divorce in Illinois. Having an experienced family lawyer can definitely help make the process smoother. But if you have the time and patience to learn courtroom procedures and navigate the legal complexities, DIY divorce may save you money in the end.

What is the Process of a DIY Divorce?

If you or your spouse has lived in Illinois for at least 90 days, you will be able to file for divorce. To do it yourself without a lawyer, you’ll need to file a petition for dissolution of marriage at the county courthouse where you live.

The specific paperwork you’ll need will change depending on if it’s contested or uncontested, and whether or not you have minor children. In all cases, you’ll need to provide the court with papers outlining all your property and assets.

If you file alone, you must officially notify the other spouse about the divorce before it can proceed.

At this point, you would also decide if you need a temporary hearing to set up things like child support, spousal support, and restraining orders before the divorce is finalized.

Once the judge has reviewed all the paperwork, and if there are no errors, the judge will return a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. If you can’t agree on every aspect of the divorce, they may order mediation to help you and your spouse come to an agreement.

Do-It-Yourself Divorce Defined

A DIY divorce is when you file all the paperwork with the court and make decisions about all the aspects of a divorce without the help of an attorney. In most cases, this is done in low-conflict divorces where the couple agrees on property division, child custody and support, and all other parts of the divorce.

Couples who haven’t been married long, agree on the terms of the divorce, and don’t have children may qualify for a Joint Simplified Divorce. This is by far the fastest and easiest way to get a divorce but has a strict list of qualifications[1].

If you and your spouse don’t agree on the divorce, you can still file for a contested divorce on your own. However, the process and paperwork for a contested divorce are slightly different and may require additional steps.

How Much Does It Cost To File a Divorce Yourself?

When you get divorced, you will need to pay filing fees with the court. This specific amount varies from county to county. Also, if your spouse isn’t present, you’ll have to pay to serve them papers. If both parties can’t agree and the judge orders mediation, it may incur additional costs.

In general, expect to pay a minimum of $250 to file for a divorce.

The Risks of a DIY Divorce

Even when both you and your spouse agree on the divorce, it’s always best to consult a lawyer. This isn’t because of any hidden plots, or ill-will. Instead, having a lawyer can help avoid mistakes that can cost you a lot of time, money, and energy.

The more complex a divorce case gets, the more demanding the requirements for paperwork. Worse, if your divorce is contested, it can be harder to get a fair result without legal help.

Before filing a divorce on your own, make sure you’re prepared. Consider how your property will be divided, if either side needs financial support, child support, parenting schedules, and every other aspect. If there is even one point that you and your spouse can’t agree on, a judge may order costly mediation or, if that doesn’t work, might have to decide themselves.

The idea of a DIY divorce is to save time and money. But if you’re unsure of the process or make mistakes, it might end up costing you more in the end. When in doubt, consult an experienced family lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a divorce in Illinois?

A divorce can take anywhere from six weeks to 18 months to be fully finalized. Times can vary dramatically depending on whether your divorce is contested, if you have children, or if the other spouse is present.

Contested divorces are almost always more complicated and take longer. Also, if you’ve been married for a long time or have children, the process might slow down.

Additionally, there is a mandatory six-month waiting period for a contested divorce to move forward.

How much does it cost to file for divorce in Illinois?

Filing costs vary from county to county, but you can expect to pay a minimum of $250 for the basic filing fee. If you need to serve papers to a missing spouse or are ordered to attend mediation there can be additional costs.

To find out more, consult the county clerk’s office in your county. For some low-income individuals, filing fees can be greatly reduced or waived.

Does it matter who files for divorce first in Illinois?

No, who files for the divorce first has no effect on the outcome. However, if you need any temporary orders like child support or to file for a restraining order, it can be better to file sooner rather than later.

Whoever petitions for the divorce will be required to pay the filing fees. However, there are ways to apply for free filing if you’re unable to afford it.


References: [1]Illinois Legal Aid

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