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Understanding the Timeline of a Contested Divorce in Illinois

March 13, 2024
When a marriage reaches the point of no return, and a divorce is on the horizon, couples often wonder about the timeline for ending their marital ties. In Illinois, the duration of a contested divorce, where spouses disagree on key issues, can vary widely depending on multiple factors. Exploring the process and the variables that influence the timeline of a contested divorce can help you and your soon-to-be ex get prepared.

Timeline of a Contested Divorce in Illinois

  1. Filing the Petition
    The divorce process typically begins with one spouse filing a divorce petition (also known as a complaint) in the circuit court of the county where either spouse resides. Once the petition is filed, the other spouse must be served with legal notice of the divorce action, initiating the legal proceedings.
  2. Response and Contested Issues
    The responding spouse has 30 days to file a response to the divorce petition. If they contest the divorce or have disagreements on key issues, the case becomes contested. Common contested issues include division of property, allocation of debts, child custody, visitation, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), and more. The complexity and number of contested issues significantly impact the duration of the divorce.
  3. Discovery Phase
    Discovery is the process where both spouses gather and exchange information relevant to the divorce. This phase can include requests for documents, depositions, and interrogatories. The duration of the discovery phase depends on the cooperation of both parties and the volume of information to be exchanged.
  4. Negotiations and Mediation
    In Illinois, spouses are often required to attend mediation to attempt to resolve their disputes outside of court. Mediation can take one or more sessions, and its success can impact the timeline significantly. If spouses can reach agreements on some or all contested issues, it can expedite the divorce process.
  5. Court Proceedings
    If mediation and negotiations fail to resolve disputes, the case proceeds to court. The court’s schedule, including the availability of judges and court resources, can affect the timeline. Court hearings and trials for contested divorces may span several months or even longer if the docket is crowded.
  6. Judgment and Waiting Period
    Once the court issues a judgment of divorce, there is a mandatory waiting period of at least six months from the date of service before the divorce can be finalized. This waiting period is intended to allow couples time to reconsider and potentially reconcile. However, if the parties have been living separate and apart for at least six months before the divorce petition was filed, the waiting period may be waived.

Factors Influencing the Timeline

Complexity of Issues:

Divorces with numerous or intricate contested issues generally take longer to resolve.

Spousal Cooperation:

The level of cooperation between spouses can significantly impact the timeline. Amicable divorces tend to progress more smoothly and quickly.

Mediation Success:

Successful mediation can lead to quicker resolution of disputes.
Court Calendar: The court’s schedule and availability can affect hearing dates and trial dates.

Court Calendar:

The court’s schedule and availability can affect hearing dates and trial dates.

While some contested divorces can be resolved within a few months, others may take a year or more. It’s essential to consult with an experienced family law attorney in Illinois to navigate the process efficiently and ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout the proceedings.

Family law attorney David Silberman is the founding attorney of Silberman Law Group, Family Law and Divorce Attorneys in Northbrook, Illinois. Mr. Silberman has a long track record of success providing his clients with reliable legal advice, protecting their best interests, and helping them obtain successful, sustainable outcomes.

Years of Experience: More than 15 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association
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Family law attorney David Silberman is the founding attorney of Silberman Law Group, Family Law and Divorce Attorneys in Northbrook, Illinois. Mr. Silberman has a long track record of success providing his clients with reliable legal advice, protecting their best interests, and helping them obtain successful, sustainable outcomes.

Years of Experience: More than 15 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association