We often get asked, “is it possible to file an uncontested divorce without an attorney?” The technical answer is “yes” – but for a lot of reasons, we don’t recommend trying to DIY an uncontested divorce. There are a lot of details that most people just don’t know to ask – and missing any of these details can cost you a lot of time, money, and even the hassles of court. While it might seem like it could cost more up front, it’s worth hiring an experienced attorney to help you navigate the complexities of uncontested divorce.
We have been helping families in and around McHenry County for over 40 years, and during that time, we have seen a lot of success stories. Unfortunately, we have also had people call us after the fact to help them unwind issues from DIY uncontested divorces that ended in disaster. Although we love to be able to help, we want to prevent any more families from having to go through this distress.
Understanding Uncontested Divorce in Illinois
In Illinois, there are two main types of divorce: contested and uncontested. The benefit of uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on everything (or almost everything) and can work together to reach a settlement, is that it costs far less money and takes far less time than a contested divorce, which requires litigation.
If both spouses agree on all or most details surrounding the divorce settlement, uncontested can be a great option. This makes it an easy choice for some clients.
Although uncontested divorce is simpler, many people have a misconception that it is “easy.” This just isn’t true. Separating two lives (and all the details that go with them) is not an easy process. From separating assets to determining custody and parenting schedules, there are a lot of nuanced decisions that need to be made. If those details are not addressed and filed properly, there will be legal issues down the road – and often, they’ll be expensive to resolve.
We want to help you avoid those mistakes!
Common Mistakes in DIY Uncontested Divorce
Although there are a lot of details that are easy to miss, there are some that tend to pop up more than others. Sometimes these are missed because couples decide to handle the details later, but more often, it is because they just don’t know what to ask.
Some of the common mistakes we see include:
Not understanding child support
While many parents want to agree to a specific amount for child support, Illinois’ child support statute contains many provisions that are not optional. Understanding those requirements and handling the financial matters correctly avoids confusion and the chance the court could reject your agreement.
Not understanding custody
It’s easy for both parents to agree to provide for, take care of, and spend time with their children, but trying to work through these agreements is a lot more complicated. When these details aren’t determined up front, however, they will come back to haunt you later on.
When you decide to go with an uncontested divorce, you’ll have a lot more autonomy over your divorce agreement – but when you also choose to hire an experienced divorce attorney, you’ll have the guidance you need to make sure that everything is handled correctly from the start.
Overlooking marital assets
One of the biggest divorce “headaches” for many people is reporting, valuing, and deciding how to allocate assets. It’s just not something you think a lot about while you’re married, but it’s essential to be detailed and thoughtful throughout the process.
An experienced attorney can help you through each step, asking you the right questions and helping you see things that you otherwise may not. This will save you time and money down the road!
Filing your paperwork properly
It may not seem like filing paperwork would be difficult – after all, we all file some sort of paperwork on a regular basis. When you’re filing divorce paperwork with the court, however, there are a ton of little details to stay on top of – and missing any of them can be costly.
Having a Diamond Divorce Law attorney in your corner can be invaluable!
Benefits of Hiring an Attorney to Help with Your Uncontested Divorce
Yes, it may seem cheaper to DIY your divorce, but there are definite benefits to hiring an attorney to help you through the process.
As discussed above, having someone to guide you through the entire process and look over your paperwork – to make sure that everything is done correctly the first time – is worth the price.
There are some other benefits to consider, though:
- An attorney will help you avoid delays, from having to redo your paperwork to facing the chance that the court will reject your agreement.
- Having an objective third party (especially one who knows the right questions to ask) is a huge help, especially when things get stressful.
- Even though an uncontested divorce is usually fairly amicable, it’s essential to have someone who can advise you on ways to safeguard your assets and protect your rights. When details are missed, you can lose a lot more than you thought possible.
If you’re still on the fence, think about the cost-to-benefit ratio.
When it comes to short term vs. long term costs, is it worth a reasonable flat fee to avoid potential massive costs months or years in the future? (In our experience, it’s a lot more expensive to fix mistakes than it is to avoid them in the first place.)
What is your peace of mind worth? Even when it’s uncontested, divorce is never an “easy” process. Adding in the additional stress of trying to anticipate every detail and file the paperwork is often unnecessary.
Uncontested Divorce FAQs
Still have some questions? We’re happy to answer!
Q: Can’t I use online templates?
A: Technically, yes – but it’s important to realize that for most people, these forms just don’t cover everything you need. Every couple has different needs and a different situation, and standardized forms will most likely not be enough. Your divorce should be tailored to your needs, and an experienced attorney can help make that happen. Many online templates are general, and do not adhere to Illinois law. Some DIYers don’t realize they haven’t met Illinois’ requirements until they get to Court.
Q: How long will an uncontested divorce take in Illinois?
A: While there is no one “set” timeline, an uncontested divorce will almost always take several months less than a contested divorce – and when you have a great legal team by your side, that time can be streamlined even more.
Q: What about sites that offer online divorce?
A: This might seem like an easier process, but these sites can’t tailor your divorce agreement to your needs – and when you have questions (or don’t know what to ask), you won’t have anyone to turn to.
Q: How do I choose the right divorce attorney?
A: You’ll want to hire an attorney who understands your goals, has your best interests in mind, and has the experience to guide you through each step. There are a lot of attorneys who may fit that description, but we think you’ll find our team brings something extra to the table.
Because many members of our team have been through divorce ourselves, and because we have spent the past 40+ years serving the families of McHenry, Lake, and Kane Counties, we are able to bring that experience to the table for you. Our goal, stated simply, is to help you successfully navigate your divorce and reclaim your life.
DISCLAIMER: Any information contained herein is solely for informational purposes and is only applicable in the state of Illinois. While it is important that you educate yourself, nothing herein should be construed as legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. For specific questions, we urge you to contact a local attorney for advice pertaining to your specific legal needs.