Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Illinois
Divorces can be contentious. The end of a marriage means separating two lives and involves many major decisions, from spousal and child support to property division. There are plenty of issues on which spouses can disagree, but when a divorcing couple can reach a compromise on as much as possible, they can save significant amounts of time and money.
An uncontested divorce means that the spouses reached an agreement on all the issues before beginning the divorce process, including property division, alimony, child support, child custody and parenting time. Uncontested divorces are both simpler and faster than contested divorces.
One main benefit of an uncontested divorce is that the spouses can reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Rarely will a divorce settlement be ideal for either spouse, but the spouses in an uncontested divorce retain control over the outcome, unlike in a contested divorce, where the issues are settled by a judge.
Simply because the couple reaches an agreement does not mean that the family law judge will automatically approve it. Illinois law includes certain basic requirements for family court decisions, among which is ensuring that the best interests of any children are represented. Thus, before a judge approves a parenting plan, he or she must ensure that the children are provided for and will generally try to ensure that the child has a relationship with both parents.
A contested divorce happens when the spouses do not reach an agreement on some aspect of the divorce. This could be as fundamental as whether to divorce at all or as minor as haggling over which item of marital property goes to which spouse. There is a multiplicity of areas in which spouses can have disagreements, but common disputes involve parenting time, spousal and child support and property division.
Contested divorces are much more expensive than uncontested divorces and can take up to two years or longer. A judge may order mediation or another alternative dispute resolution method to try to help the spouses reach an agreement before proceeding with litigation.
But if they cannot reach an agreement, then the couple must proceed to litigation. Litigation means going to Court and appearing before a judge. In litigation, the judge make the final decision, and the parties no longer have control over the outcome. Judges’ decisions are based on principles of fairness, but they do not have to do what the spouses prefer. Additionally, litigation means increased attorney’s fees, court costs, expert witness fees and other expenses.
If you are considering a divorce, a dedicated attorney can help to make the process simpler and less stressful. Please contact skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson for a confidential initial consultation.