Now that you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, you may be wondering how to get a divorce in Illinois without a lawyer.
Maybe you're asking this question because you have a friend or family member who went through the divorce process in Illinois using lawyers. So you know how long it took and messy it was. And you want to avoid that happening to you.
Or perhaps you and your spouse get along reasonably well and you want to keep things civil for the sake of your kids. You don't need an Illinois divorce lawyer (or two) stirring the pot and creating disagreement where there wasn't any before.
Or maybe you simply don’t want to waste money on a pricey divorce. Illinois lawyer retainers cost $3,500 to $10,000 per person and you've heard even a "straightforward" divorce process in Illinois using attorneys can cost $25,000 or more!
No matter what the reason, the good news is... Yes, you can get a divorce without a lawyer! And you don't even have to risk making costly mistakes the way you would with a diy divorce.
How to Get a Divorce Without a Lawyer in Illinois
The answer is to mediate your uncontested divorce by working with a highly skilled and professionally trained divorce mediator.
At a very high level, here's how it works:
First, you and your spouse both agree to mediate your divorce. Mediating will only be an option for you if both of you are willing to do so.
Once you've chosen a mediator and started the process, you will gather and provide your mediator with a series of financial documents, forms and worksheets commonly referred to as discovery.
Your mediator will review your discovery and then, you, your spouse, and your mediator will schedule a time to meet either in-person or in an online divorce mediation format.
Over the course of 1 to 4 sessions, your divorce mediator will actively guide you and your spouse through a series of discussions and negotiations on all necessary issues (parental responsibility, child support, maintenance, marital asset and property division, etc.) to peacefully and cost-effectively end your marriage.
As agreements are reached on these matters, your mediator will draft a document called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) memorializing them.
When mediation is completed, you will file your uncontested divorce paperwork in one of four ways (two of the ways do not involve a lawyer).
What are The Benefits of Getting a Divorce in Illinois Without a Lawyer?
When you spend your time focusing on your kids and making decisions that are in their best interest, issues get resolved much faster and potential arguments are often avoided.
2. You will end your marriage in less time, with less stress, and at a lower cost than if you used a divorce lawyer.
In Illinois, no one wants to spend a fortune on divorce attorneys fees or have their proceedings drag on forever. Yet that's exactly what can happen when you involve lawyers in an Illinois divorce process.
As comedian Craig Fergusen once said:
Divorce lawyers stoke anger and fear in their clients, knowing that as long as the conflicts remain unresolved, the revenue stream will keep flowing.
Mediation, on the other hand, focuses on helping you work together to craft mutually agreeable solutions.
Helping the parties (you and your spouse) to peacefully and more quickly end the conflict, move on with your lives, and in turn, save tens of thousands of dollars in the process.
3. You control the pace of your divorce and the terms of your agreement.
When you give up control to your lawyers in the divorce process, Illinois couples risk a number of things that can happen:
Lawyers have very strong opinions on what your settlement should look like. And since they're billing you hourly, they're going to keep going and going because it's not in their financial interest to settle.
Lawyers are often overbooked, juggling dozens of cases. You may not be a priority and things may drag on longer than need be.
When working with divorce lawyers, Illinois couples will not only be at the mercy of their availability but the courts and their calendar, too. Even if you and your attorneys are ready, you could be waiting for months to get a court date. Making the process drag on for much longer than is necessary.
Besides eliminating attorney involvement in your negotiations, there's another major benefit to mediating your divorce in Illinois:
You'll be in complete control of your settlement!
Divorce is more about negotiation and less about Illinois divorce law, and mediators help you and your spouse negotiate an agreement you each find fair and equitable.
What Else Should I Know about How to Get Divorced in Illinois Without a Lawyer?
While there are certainly many benefits to divorcing without a lawyer in Illinois, here are four things you should know before you choose this path forward:
1. You and your spouse must both be in agreement about ending your marriage.
Because mediation is a voluntary process if one of you wants to end the marriage and the other doesn't then divorce without an attorney will not work for you.
The petitioning spouse who wants to end the marriage will probably have no choice but to hire a divorce attorney, file with the appropriate Illinois court, have the other spouse served with divorce papers, and down the litigation path, you will both go.
It's important to remember that while it takes two people to be married, it only takes one to file a divorce petition. So if one of you wants a divorce, both of you will be getting a divorce. It simply becomes a matter of how you will get the divorce and how much time, money, and heartache you will spend on it.
2. You and your spouse must both be willing to actively participate in the divorce process.
Your mediator is going to ask each of you to perform a number of tasks and gather a series of financial documents. Allowing the parties to participate in what's known as a "good-faith" negotiation.
If one party is willing to do the required work and one party is not, then again, you will likely need to retain an attorney. Your attorney will then file documents to petition the courts and compel your husband or wife to produce the required financial information and paperwork.
3. You and your spouse must both be of sound mind and body and be willing and able to make your own decisions.
If one of you is mentally incapacitated or under the influence of drugs, divorcing without a lawyer will not be possible. Instead, that divorcing spouse must have an advocate as divorce settlement agreements reached without one can be rejected by the courts. or worse yet, years down the road be challenged by the disadvantaged party.
Going through divorce proceedings is bad enough, but having to relive it all over again in the future because your ex-spouse stated they had no idea what was going on would be a nightmare.
4. You and your spouse must be willing to fully disclose your assets and liabilities.
In order to come to a truly comprehensive divorce agreement, it is critical that you each put "all your cards on the table" so that an open and honest dialogue may be had and all items are properly discussed.
Otherwise, an attorney will be forced to subpoena your marital assets and liabilities and down the slippery slope of divorce litigation, you will go.
Don't Let Your Divorce in Illinois Become a Disaster!
Choose to mediate your uncontested divorce in Illinois - without a lawyer.
Just because you're getting an Illinois divorce doesn’t mean you have to give up control of your settlement by having a family law judge decide on important divorce issues like child custody, child support, alimony (spousal maintenance), and division of marital property and debts in your divorce case.
And it doesn't mean you have to wait around for years to finally end your marriage.
It’s your life, your future, and your hard-earned money!
If you want a high-quality mediation that is peaceful, cost-effective, and results in a fair and thorough agreement while receiving personalized divorce support from a compassionate team of professionals, choose Equitable Mediation.
When you are ready to start the divorce process, take the next step and book an initial meeting for you and your spouse!
Joe Dillon, MBA is a professional divorce mediator and founder of Equitable Mediation Services. Joe is passionate about helping couples avoid the destruction of attorney-driven litigation and specializes in helping couples resolve the issues required for divorce -peacefully, fairly and cost-effectively. When he’s not mediating, you can find him exercising, cooking, and watching Cubs baseball.