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How to Get a Divorce Fast

torn piece of paper with divorce text and paper couple figures

Working with an uncontested divorce is a great first step in how to get a divorce fast. Contested divorces can take many months or years, while the parties in an uncontested divorce can finalize paperwork within a month or so. It also speeds up the process to do preliminary prep work, remain as open-minded and collaborative as possible, and retain a lawyer. Attorneys know the ins and outs of divorce and can expedite yours considerably.

torn piece of paper with divorce text and paper couple figures

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?

An uncontested divorce in Illinois can take as little as one month. The more areas the parties agree on, the quicker the divorce should be. The following elements often speed up a divorce proceeding:

  • Preparing the final documents at the beginning of the process, even if there are “fill in the blank” parts
  • Working on areas of agreement first and reserving issues of contention to discuss later when emotions are calmer or more information is known
  • Getting mediators to help
  • Retaining lawyers

Many lawyers charge flat fees rather than hourly rates for uncontested divorces (or give you the option of which structure to pick). They are able to charge flat fees because their experience helps them accelerate the process. 

A bit of luck is involved with court scheduling. Some people happen to file at a time when the court load is relatively light. That means their divorce might be finalized a few days to a week earlier than usual. However, a packed court schedule should not delay a divorce by any serious amount of time.

No one should give up their legal rights or avoid taking reasonable precautions for the sake of speed. For example, if you co-own a business with your spouse or even own a business by yourself, it is worth taking the time to ensure you cover your bases. Child custody, taxation issues, and unusual income or compensation systems are a few of the things that may add a little time to an otherwise smooth, uncontested split.

By comparison, a contested divorce can take many months or even years. One party may intentionally attempt to slow down the process by waiting until the last minute or past the deadline to respond to motions or summons, hiding assets or debts or refusing to disclose them, or stonewalling practically everything.

Uncontested Divorce in Illinois

The uncontested divorce process in Illinois can be fast, taking just one or two months. It helps to know what to do before filing for divorce. For example, it is helpful to lay the groundwork early for your emotional, mental, physical, and financial needs. Much of the preparatory work to expedite a divorce occurs before anything is actually filed with the court.

To speed up a divorce, meet with lawyers, solidify your support network, acknowledge with the other party that you both want a collaborative divorce, and gather documentation relating to your assets, debts, and income.

An uncontested divorce is probably not a possibility if your case involves domestic violence, abuse, or manipulation. Uncontested divorces require some degree of trust in the good faith of the other party. 

A critical issue to consider as you prepare is: “What should I ask for in a collaborative law divorce?” Interest-based negotiation tends to be more productive than traditional positional bargaining.

The Importance of Negotiation Tactics

With interest-based negotiation, the parties identify their interests (concerns, needs, fears, etc.) and their desired outcomes. Take child custody as an example. Both parents might be worried that the children would not handle the divorce transition well and be better off primarily with one parent (themselves).

In reality, significant time with both parents tends to be in the children’s best interest. Given that, the parties might agree that the best interests of their children are their priority, even if it means both get less time with the kids than they would prefer.

This is in contrast to positional bargaining, in which both parents might start by insisting that each gets primary custody. The process of achieving joint custody would involve a lot more contention and heated negotiating that did not necessarily or genuinely consider the children’s best interests. It would also take up significantly more time.

Top Advantages of Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce can save both parties tremendous time, money, and stress. It also shields children a great deal from the process. In a contested divorce, the parents might be more likely to put their children in tough spots, fight in front of them, or make them “choose.” The parenting relationship after a contentious divorce might remain heated and adversarial in the long term.

Conversely, an uncontested divorce emphasizes collaboration and working out issues without the children’s involvement. Parents have the opportunity to get a head start on a productive, long-lasting co-parenting relationship. Uncontested divorces are collaborative, flexible, and much easier to manage and recover from than contested divorces are.

Divorce is typically stressful, even if the split is amicable. Fortunately, the uncontested route puts less financial, mental, and emotional strain on everyone involved.

How to Get a Fast Divorce

An uncontested divorce, especially with good prep work and divorce lawyers, can result in a quick legal split. There is another possible route in Illinois depending on your income, assets, and other considerations. You may qualify for joint simplified dissolution if you and the other party meet the following criteria, among other requirements:

  • Neither of you owns a house
  • You have no children and are not expecting any
  • You earn less than $20,000 per person
  • You have lived apart for the past six months
  • You have been married for less than eight years
  • You agree to a “no contest” divorce

Lawyers, especially flat-fee lawyers, can be immensely helpful in getting you a swift joint simplified dissolution. A joint simplified dissolution can knock a few weeks off the more typical uncontested divorce timeframe that starts at one to two months.

You can retain a divorce lawyer to start exploring uncontested divorce or joint simplified dissolution. The dissolution forms should be available from the clerk of your circuit court, both online and in person. Filing for divorce in Illinois does not have to be tricky, particularly with the expertise of attorneys.

The Steps Involved in Divorce

When contemplating how to get a quick divorce, it helps to think about the steps involved in getting divorced. For example, a contested divorce could include multiple filings, meetings, written discovery, motions for temporary relief, discovery motions, depositions, financial analyses, parent education programs, mediation, custody evaluations, pretrial settlement conferences, and trial.

Meanwhile, an uncontested divorce might include the petitioner’s initial filing, both sides meeting quickly with their lawyers to identify fill-in-the-blank areas on the final paperwork, resolving these issues through mediation, and one court appearance that only the petitioner is required to attend.

An uncontested divorce eliminates the need for many of the steps associated with a contested divorce. You can see at a glance how the uncontested route can shave many months or years off the divorce timeframe. Comparing timelines motivates some parties to try to attempt the uncontested route earlier than they might have otherwise.

An uncontested divorce can still take some time, especially if you use financial advisers, divorce coaches, and child specialists. However, the time saved is still considerable compared to a contested divorce. Even if your uncontested divorce takes a year while you and the other party hammer out the issues, that is a huge “win” in comparison to the two, three, or four years and complicated trial it might have required otherwise.

Illinois Requirements for Divorce

The Illinois divorce process includes several requirements. There is no leeway. One requirement is that one or both spouses must have resided in Illinois for 90 days prior to the divorce being finalized (or be in the armed services and stationed in Illinois for at least 90 days prior to finalization).

The residency mandate usually is not a problem. You can still get a relatively fast, uncontested divorce if you do not meet it yet. You just have to wait an extra period of time until you meet the requirement before the split is finalized. If your divorce would ordinarily take two months, but you don’t quite meet the residency requirement, it might then take about three months, so you can meet this guideline.

The filing fee is another requirement. The fee amount varies according to county, but you can get it waived if you cannot afford it. Divorcees can apply to the court for the waiver.

Having one spouse file and the papers served to the other spouse is a third requirement but the other spouse can waive formal service and agree to just file an Appearance. Another is having the grounds to legally end your marriage, typically referred to as irreconcilable differences.

In an uncontested divorce, petitioners and their lawyers must attend the court hearing that finalizes the divorce. The respondent can attend, but is not required to do so.  In some counties, the divorce can be finalized via a Prove Up Affidavit and no court appearance is required.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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