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Do I Need a Family Law Attorney for Divorce or Dissolution in Illinois?

Posted by A. Lou Benassi | Mar 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

Many marriages do not last; in fact, the most recent data from 2016 revealed that 827,261 marriages ended in the U.S. The national divorce rate is presently 3.2 per every 1,000 people and is 2.2 in Illinois. Those seeking to end a marriage or civil union in Illinois do so according to the state's Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The venues for these matters are the Judicial Circuit Courts; in Peoria County this is the 10th Circuit Court's Family and Domestic Court. Courts allow for parties to represent themselves in these actions. Ordinarily, self-representation is only appropriate when the dissolution is simplistic, such as marriages that were short in duration, do not involve minor children, real estate, or other significant assets or income.

Representing Yourself

Those choosing to represent themselves, also known as “pro se,” must follow local domestic relations case procedure. Parties are expected to adhere to the same rules as a lawyer otherwise would. You will need adequate preparation time and to have all paperwork properly completed. It is important to remember that family-oriented matters can be stressful and sometimes emotional; therefore, you must be confident that you can remain composed during all proceedings.

Court Guidance

The court will hold a pro se party to the same set of standards that they would for an attorney. You must have a firm grasp on your responsibilities. Judges are in a neutral position overseeing these cases and are not likely to provide you much guidance or afford you any favors because you are without legal counsel. It is your responsibility to comply with methods of service, motions, responses, etc. It is strongly recommended that parties seek legal counsel in cases that may be considered as even moderately complex.

Both Parties Self-Represented

When deciding to represent yourself, you should be certain that your spouse has no intention of hiring an attorney. The opposing party's lawyer may place you at a significant disadvantage. Opposing counsel is likely to recognize when you are noncompliant which could lead to denials of your motions and potential sanctions (penalties).

Agreement Between Parties

Self-representation in cases of marital dissolution requires that parties resolve any disagreements and work through any points of contention to insure that the following conditions exist:

  • Both parties wish to end the marriage or civil union
  • Both parties intend to be active participants in the proceedings
  • The parties are of sound mind and not incapacitated in any ways
  • A willingness to fully and honestly disclose all marital assets and liabilities

Joint Simplified Dissolution in Illinois

To expedite the dissolution of simple cases, the state allows a Joint Simplified Dissolution. The latest requirements to qualify include some of the following:

  • The marriage or civil union lasted no more than eight years
  • Parties agree that the relationship is beyond repair
  • Attempts to reconcile have been exhausted and there have been six months of separation
  • The parties have no minor children together and are not pregnant
  • One party will not be dependent on the other for support and waives this right
  • All assets have been disclosed, there are no real estate interests and the total value of marital property is under $50,000
  • The total combined annual income is under $60,000 and neither party has annual income over $30,000
  • Combined retirement accounts are less than $10,000, unless based in IRA accounts

Collaborative Law

Illinois established the collaborative divorce option in 2002 according to the Collaborative Process Act. It is a non-contentious, team-oriented method where the couple works with attorneys on a basis that is more limited in scope to reach an agreement outside of court. Both parties must agree to make “timely, full, & candid disclosure” of all assets. It is typically less expensive than traditional court-based litigation.

Family Law Attorneys in Central Illinois

For many years, Benassi & Benassi, P.C., has helped our clients solve family problems. Those seeking a divorce will benefit from our experience in many critical aspects involved including division of property, parental responsibility, parenting time, child support, and others. We are committed, supportive, and caring advocates for you and your family. Contact our office in Peoria today at (309) 674-3556.

About the Author

A. Lou Benassi

A. Lou Benassi was born and raised in Taylor Springs, Illinois, a small mining and farming community located near Hillsboro, the county seat of Montgomery County, Illinois...


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