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Type of relationships: common-law relationships (or cohabitation) vs traditional marriage (by church or civil marriage)
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What Is the Difference Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce happens when a couple reaches a mutual agreement regarding all the divorce terms before trial. A contested divorce occurs when the couple fails to agree on one or more major issues and will depend on the court to make the final decision. A divorce may begin as contested, but then end up uncontested as the couple resolves disagreements. 

No-Fault Divorce 

Couples may sometimes disagree on whether to divorce. A judge will not order a couple to remain married if one of the parties wants to get divorced. Any married person who wants a divorce can get one, since Illinois is a  “no-fault” divorce state. 

The process can be lengthy and grueling if one of the parties is unwilling to participate in the negotiations in good faith. No-fault divorces are largely ideal for parties with a fundamental disagreement or incompatibility. A perfect example of fundamental disagreement is when a couple cannot agree on whether to get divorced.  

Contested Vs. Uncontested Divorce: What is the Difference? 

Length of Time Taken to Finalize the Divorce Process 

The length of time it takes for the divorce process to become finalized is one of the main factors that set a contested divorce apart from an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce will often sail through relatively fast.

This type of divorce also doesn’t need lengthy legal procedures, such as trial and discovery. For this reason, an uncontested divorce costs less than a contested divorce. 

Can Divorce Outcomes Be Appealed?

Outcomes of uncontested divorces in Illinois are generally not up for appeal. The reason is that both parties mutually agree to divorce terms. That does not make the agreement permanent. If the situation changes significantly or a specific length of time elapses, one of the parties may modify the divorce agreement through an appeal. 

In a contested divorce that fails to settle, the judge decides for the divorcing parties. If a party is displeased with the judge’s decision, the party can appeal the entire decision or part of it. Divorce attorneys usually appeal by preparing and filing written arguments. 

The attorneys argue that the trial judge made a legal error when making the ruling. Appeals in divorce cases are less common. They also have low success rates due to the significant discretion that the trial judge enjoys when making the ruling. 

Modifications are more common and have high success rates but only as it pertains to issues regarding the children and spousal maintenance (alimony)  Property settlements are final and non-modifiable. Modifications seek to modify the agreement in light of the significant change in circumstances. One party may, for instance, request a modification of the child support amount following a job loss. 

What are the Steps of an Uncontested Divorce? 

Drafting Divorce Documents 

An uncontested divorce starts with one party drafting divorce documents with the help of a divorce attorney. 

Reviewing and Signing of the Documents by Both Parties 

Both parties must review, consent to divorce terms, and sign the divorce documents. The parties must agree on all issues that are often decided within a divorce judgment, including child custody, child support,  parenting time, alimony, property, debts, and asset division. 

Reviewing and Signing of the Documents by the Judge 

If both parties consent to the divorce terms, a judge is requested to review the documents. The judge looks at the agreement to determine if it’s fair and reasonable. The judge then signs the divorce agreement. 

Entering the Final Divorce Decree 

After signing the agreement, the judge enters the final divorce decree. The final divorce decree is simply a court order that formally terminates a marriage. 

What Are the Steps of a Contested Divorce?

Filing Divorce Documents 

The first step of a contested divorce is filing divorce documents with the relevant court. A person intending to file a divorce in Chicago should work closely with a Chicago divorce lawyer. The lawyer can prepare all the required documents and file them with the appropriate court. The lawyer will also serve the other party with the divorce documents.

Filing an Official Response 

In Illinois, the responding party has 30 days to file an official response and appearance with the court. The official response must address each claim listed in the documents. Apart from the official response, the responding party can file and serve a separate counter-complaint to the other party. This is especially true if the responding party has separate allegations like requesting spousal maintenance or a different custody and parenting time request.

Initial Case Management Conference (CMC)

A CMC is the first court appearance of a person pursuing a divorce, unless the person had filed a restraining order or motion for emergency custody. This hearing happens around 90 days after filing divorce documents. During this hearing, the judge makes temporary determinations regarding custody, visitation, or alimony. 

Divorce Discovery 

Divorce discovery refers to a range of legal procedures that enable both parties to request information and hold depositions. Attorneys of both parties use discovery to compile evidence for the trial. 

Divorce Trial 

At this stage, attorneys for both parties will call witnesses, present evidence, and argue their case before the judge. 

Entering a Final Divorce Decree

The judge will review the evidence and arguments presented by both sides and issue a final verdict on all claims. The judge will also enter a final divorce decree.  

Type of relationships: common-law relationships (or cohabitation) vs traditional marriage (by church or civil marriage)

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois.

Years of Experience: Approx. 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illiois Courts Northern District of Illinois Federal Courts Illinois State Bar Association Chicago Bar Association

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