Can I represent myself in a divorce case?

Yes, but life is complicated. If you end up in divorce court and represent yourself, you are expected to know and follow all of the local rules, Supreme Court Rules, and other procedural rules, as well as know the law, as well as the facts of your case. Failure to do so could cause you to lose your case or be required to start over.  We offer free initial consultations on divorce and all family law matters. If you would like to personally meet with an experienced family law practitioner, please contact Joseph M. Borsberry at the Borsberry Law Offices, P.C.

How can I get a divorce?

A divorce or “dissolution of marriage” in the State of Illinois case is not unlike any other lawsuit. The process begins with one party filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which is generally served on the other party through a variety of means. After the other party is served, the other party has a certain number of days to file an answer or they can be defaulted. Ultimately, if grounds are proven, and through either agreement or a judge  deciding issues, such as custody, child support, visitation, and property division, a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered with the court and the divorce is generally final.

How long does it take to get divorced?

If all paperwork is done properly and both parties agree on all issues, depending on court time, in some circumstances a divorce can be obtained in couple of days. We have even obtained a divorce for a client in less than 24 hours. If there are children involved, it is required that both parties attend a Children’s First class before the court will grant a divorce. The speed in which a divorce is resolved depends primarily on the issues involved and how much the parties argue. With the number of all legal cases handled by county courthouses, obtaining court time has becoming increasingly difficult. You may have to wait months to have court time, with the court sometimes requiring pre-trials, case management conferences, status hearings, and other hearings prior to hearing evidence on disputed issues.

Where Should I File For Divorce?

A party may file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in any county in the State of Illinois as long as one of them resides in that county. One or both of the parties must live in the county where the case is filed. Our firm has represented clients in Illinois counties from as far north as Chicago and as far south at Marion. When given a choice of counties to file in, we recommend doing so for efficiency and the convenience of all parties involved

How long do I need to live in Illinois to obtain a divorce?

One of the parties must have resided in the State of Illinois for at least 90 days prior to the court granting a divorce in Illinois. In order for an Illinois court to make a custody decision involving the child of the parties, Illinois must be the home state of the child for at least six months. Jurisdictional issues are complex legal issues. Cases involving parties of different states are special circumstances that require proper analysis.

What grounds do I need to prove to get A divorce in Illinois?

One cannot simply obtain a divorce because they want one, but the evidence required for grounds is substantially less now. Previously, the most commonly used grounds for divorce was extreme and repeated mental cruelty. Other grounds included impotency, bigamy, adultery, desertion, habitual drunkenness, addictive drug usage, attempted murder of the spouse, physical cruelty, felony conviction, or the fact that the spouse infected the other with a sexually transmitted disease as a basis for the grounds for divorce. Now there is only one basis for grounds — there must be an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. If the parties have lived separate and apart for 6 months there is a presumption the marriage is in irretrievably broken down.

What is an annulment?

A divorce dissolves a marital relationship between a husband and wife. An annulment or declaration of invalidity of marriage is a legal determination that the marriage was never legally effectuated and in theory never happened. It should not be confused with an annulment granted by a church, which has no legal enforcement. To legally annul a marriage one of the following must be proven by a court of competent jurisdiction: (1) that one of the parties lacked consent to the marriage at the time because of either mental incapacity, drugs or other incapacitating substances; (2) that a party was induced to enter into the marriage by force or duress, or by fraud involving the essentials of the marriage; (3) that a party lacks the physical capacity to consummate the marriage and the other party did not know of that incapacity at the time of the marriage; (4) that a party was age 16 or 17 and did not have proper consent or judicial approval; and (5) that the marriage was a prohibited marriage. Annulments are rare in Illinois and a spouse does not have a right to an annulment if the requirements are not met.  In certain situations an annulment may not be preferable over a divorce.

What is a separation?

The term “separation” is often confused. If married parties are not living together and are living separate, this does not constitute a legal separation. Further, if parties are going through a divorce, they are not required to live separately during the process, although in some situations it can be extremely stressful on the family. A legal separation is a court order providing for the reasonable support and maintenance of one party while they live apart. There are situations where a legal separation is preferable to a divorce.

How is property distributed as part of the divorce?

Property is generally “marital” or “non-marital” property. Property that was acquired during the marriage is generally considered marital property. Marital property is equitably divided between the parties. Equitably does not always mean equally. Property acquired by a party prior to the marriage, property acquired through gift or inheritance, or property received as a gift during the marriage is generally on-marital property that is awarded to that spouse. There are numerous statutory and common law exceptions to these concepts.

Is divorce “messy” or “dirty”?

It can be, but it is not necessary and not preferable. With dissolution of marriage courts are called upon to assist parties who cannot decide to make provisions for custody, child support, visitation, and division of property. For custody decisions, courts are not to  consider conduct of a proposed custodian that does not affect custody of the children. For property decisions, courts are to divide marital property equitably without regard to marital misconduct. Therefore, courts generally do not want to hear “dirty laundry” and do not care about it. With very few exceptions, misconduct generally does not affect a divorce at all. Focusing on the misconduct of one party tends to delay proceedings, cause unnecessary acrimony, cause the expending of needless attorney’s fees and can have a bad impact on the case.