The Divorce Process Explained

The Divorce Process Explained

Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences that a person can face. A married couple never starts their marriage with the expectation that a divorce awaits in the future, but sadly divorces do happen, and they can become very emotionally taxing.

The institution of marriage is controlled by the laws of our society – there are laws that say who can get married, when they can marry, and a marriage license is required in order to make the union officially recognized by the law. Our laws also play a major role in the divorce process – defining the circumstances in which a divorce may occur, and the legal steps that must occur before the divorce will be finalized in the eyes of the law.

Initial Steps

The first step in any divorce process should be for each party to hire an attorney. For a person going through a divorce, having the assistance of a lawyer who knows the process and will advocate on their behalf can be crucial. Parties may choose to legally separate instead of divorcing. Parties are not required to legally separate prior to proceeding with a divorce. In order to legally separate, parties are required to file a petition for legal separation with the court. Husbands and wives may elect to separate informally without any court proceedings. As a general rule, the vast majority of couples that separate do so informally.

The Divorce Petition

In order to proceed with the divorce, a petition for dissolution of the marriage (divorce) must be filed with the court. These petitions will allege facts that will attempt to prove that grounds for a divorce exist, and that the parties meet the requirements for the divorce – such as residency requirements, age requirements, and a valid marriage. I note that effective January 1, 2016 grounds are eliminated in Illinois and all divorces will be based upon irreconcilable differences.

Negotiations and Hearings

Not all divorces end up in a contentious hearing in order to decide who gets what or who gets custody (the concept of custody will also change in Illinois on January 1, 2016) of shared children. Parties to a divorce may choose to negotiate the terms of their divorce before going to court. If they have attorneys then the negotiations will be conducted through their attorneys or with their attorneys’ guidance. Parties may participate in alternative dispute resolution such as mediation in order to come to an agreement on property division, spousal maintenance, child custody and child support. Those who are able to come to an agreement may only need to appear in court in order to get the judge’s approval on their order.

Those who are unable to reach an agreement will have a hearing or trial in front of the judge and make arguments as to each party’s right to certain property, maintenance, support, or custody. After those arguments, the judge has the power to make a final decision regarding the terms of the divorce.

If you or your loved one has questions about the divorce process in Illinois, contact me for a consultation today. I can review your case and help you understand possible outcomes and the best options for you and your family.

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