How to file for Uncontested Divorce in Cook County, IL.
Many times, people ask me, "how can I file for divorce pro se"? Usually, they have some small idea or one document that they think only needs to be notarized to cement their dissolution. Well, it is very simple. However, keep in mind that if you are filing for an uncontested dissolution of marriage, it is imperative that every single issue has been agreed upon. If there are still lingering issues that become disputed, you will not be allowed to file an uncontested matter. It's all or nothing for uncontested matters.
There are several documents that you will need to get started: (1) a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, (2) a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, (3) a Marital Settlement Agreement (not necessary for the first filing), (4) a Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage, and (5) a summons of service.
In addition to those requisite documents, make sure that you have enough funds to file the matter. In Cook County, IL, the cost to file for dissolution is $337. You may also click here to see the full fee schedule for the domestic relations division in Cook County. You may also ask the clerk for a fee waiver form if you have very little or no income.
Let's discuss the documents. A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage can be drafted by yourself, an attorney, or you can use the template that is posted on Cook County's website. Click here to access the template. Usually in uncontested divorces, the grounds for divorce are irreconciliable differences. If there are other grounds complained of like mental cruelty or abandonment, be cognizant that you or the opposing party may want to challenge it which may turn the cause of action into a contested matter.
The Judgment for Dissolution simply asks the court to enter a judgment in your favor for the reasons that you have listed in your petition. After you have drafted your petition and judgment, you will need to have started (or finished) the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). The MSA disposes of all issues in the dissolution by allowing the parties to discern how they will split marital property, decide on custody and visitiation arrangements, agree on how each party will pay for attorneys fees if they consulted with one, and agree on how later disputes will be handled.
It is very important that when you or the opposing party drafts and presents an MSA, that an attorney is utilized to review the agreement and advise accordingly on any conditions, obligations and consequences. This is not mandatory, only optional. In my experience, many people are brought back into court for violating the MSA and then claim that the agreement was not fair or that there was some subsequent agreement without approval of the court. Judges are not apt to finding unfairness in an agreement where both parties agreed to the terms and the initial ruling judge found the terms to be equitable. Nor are they going to enforce a later oral agreement of the MSA if it had not been adjudicated by the court.
The next form is the Certificate of Dissolution. This form is not online. It is at the clerk of court's desk in the domestic relations division. The form is a half sheet with attached carbon copies. This form asks for general information like the petitioner's and respondent's name, address, age, date of birth, place of marriage, social security number, date of marriage, and county married in. If an attorney is representing you, this is something that the attorney will complete. Make sure that you get this form and complete it before you stand in line to file your documents.
The summons is the last document. This document simply asks for basic information of the Respondent and the dissolution matter so that the Respondent can be served. Keep in mind that you CANNOT serve this document. It has to be served by a third-party such as the sheriff or a private process server.
Once you have gotten all of your documents prepared, you'll take them along with your filing fee to the eight floor of the Daley Center in Chicago, IL. Make three copies of all documents. The clerk will stamp your documents and keep a copy of one set for the court. One copy will be for your files, the other will be for service on the opposing party.
If you are having trouble drafting these documents, consider hiring an attorney to do it for you. Call the SL DeBarros Law Firm, LLC for your legal needs. SLD is committed to providing competent and zealous legal representation to its clients.
SL DeBarros Law Firm, LLC
Disclosure: this is not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship attaches by you reading this post.