How to: Get an Illinois uncontested divorce, with a lawyer, for a flat fee

Do you want to know how to get an Illinois uncontested divorce, with a lawyer, for a flat fee? I explain the process below in easy-to-understand steps. As an Illinois uncontested divorce lawyer, I know people are sometimes nervous about starting a divorce in Illinois, or they think a lawyer is going to rip them off. Hopefully this “how to” article will help. To skip reading and to start your uncontested divorce now, call or text 312-554-5433 or use our contact form.

Step 1: Communicate with your spouse about the uncontested divorce, and obtain agreement

Most people want to start an uncontested divorce in Illinois because they don’t get along too well any more. Or maybe they’ve grown apart. Either way, communicating with a soon-to-be Ex is often difficult.

But if you want an uncontested divorce in Illinois, you need two things above all else: agreement and cooperation. You must both agree on all aspects of the divorce, and you both must cooperate to sign certain documents.

Long story short, you will need to communicate with your spouse about your settlement ideas, and get assurances from your spouse that both of you can cooperate to finalize the uncontested divorce in Illinois.

Step 2: Find an uncontested divorce lawyer who offers a flat fee

It is important to find an Illinois uncontested divorce lawyer who offers a flat fee. Some lawyers handle uncontested divorces, but will not agree to charge a flat fee. They give excuses including not being able to provide you the appropriate level of service if they charge an affordable flat fee, and they will otherwise avoid explaining why they don’t offer flat fees. But know this: the real reason some lawyers avoid flat fees for uncontested divorce is because they want to bill you by the hour, and make more money.

Here are some suggestions about how to go about finding a flat fee uncontested divorce lawyer in Illinois:

  1. Use the contact page on this website
  2. Search Google for “uncontested divorce in Illinois”
  3. Check if the lawyer offers a flat fee
  4. Sign a flat fee retainer agreement

Every divorce lawyer in Illinois is obligated to have clients sign a Retainer Agreement; it is the contract for you to hire your attorney for representation. The Retainer Agreement should state that you are being charged “flat fee” of a certain amount, as opposed the the attorney billing you according to the amount of time worked.

Step 3: Complete the intake procedure for an uncontested divorce

An uncontested divorce lawyer will have an intake procedure. Our uncontested divorce procedure involves filling out an intake form, and sending it back for evaluation. Then, if we contact our client if we have questions, or need more information. The intake and information gathering stage can happen completely remotely, by email, online video conferencing, and phone. For an uncontested divorce in Illinois, meeting a lawyer in person is generally a giant waste of time. If you are discussing an uncontested divorce with a lawyer who insists on meeting, the lawyer is probably trying to sell you something, instead of trying to quickly finalize your uncontested divorce in Illinois.

Step 4: Review documents prepared by your uncontested divorce lawyer

After you complete the uncontested divorce intake procedure, your lawyer will prepare various documents. The documents can be split into two categories: procedural documents, and substantive documents.

Procedural documents are not very important in an uncontested divorce, and generally contain very basic facts (ie, date of marriages, how many children you have, etc.). Procedural documents just open the case and move it ahead, and they don’t contain any terms of the divorce by agreement. In truth, reviewing procedural documents isn’t generally very important.

Substance documents are very important. The substantive documents in an uncontested divorce in Illinois include a marital settlement agreement (MSA) which contains all the financial terms of a divorce. If a couple has minor children, then they will also have a Judgment for Allocation of Parental Responsibility (aka “parenting agreement”). It is very important that people closing review the substantive agreements. Substantive agreements contain all the binding terms of the divorce. Once an uncontested divorce is finalized in court, the substantive documents will have the force of a court order, and that means the terms must be followed.

Step 5: Sign documents prepared by your uncontested divorce lawyer

After you have approved all documents required for the uncontested divorce in Illinois, they need to be signed. The procedural documents are often handled a bit differently than the substantive documents. Don’t worry, an uncontested divorce in Illinois should only involve signing four to six documents, in total.

Some procedural documents are signed by both spouses, and some are signed by only one. Generally speaking, most county in Illinois require two to four procedural documents. It varies by county, and your uncontested divorce lawyer will know what to do. Generally speaking, procedural documents can be signed online, using an online signature platform.

Substantive documents are a bit different. That’s because the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) and Judgment for Allocation (aka “parenting agreement”) contains all the terms of the divorce.

It is generally possible for both spouses to sign all the substantive documents online, without notarization. As mentioned before, the person who files the case is called the Petitioner. The other spouse is called the Respondent. However, without notarization, both spouses would need to appear at the prove up. The Petitioner (the person who filed the case) must always appear at the prove up.

But what does someone do if the Respondent doesn’t want to appear in court? Generally speaking, the Respondent will not be required in court if the Respondent gets their signature notarized on the substantive agreements. The notarization helps the judge feel confident that the Respondent actually agreed to the terms in the substantive agreements.

In summary, you should keep this in mind about signing the substantive agreements:

  1. Petitioner does not need a notarized signature on any agreement
  2. Respondent may not need to come to court if the Respondent’s signature IS notarized
  3. Respondent will definitely have to come to court of the Respondent’s signature is NOT notarized

Keep in mind that a judge can require a Respondent to attend EVEN IF the Respondent has the substantive agreements notarized. However, that only happens in less than 5% of cases, such as those with extreme circumstances. Your Illinois uncontested divorce lawyer can help guide you through this process. All that being said, you want your divorce to be quick, and easy – with one trip to court. If you don’t want to take any chances of extra court dates, it is best if both the Petitioner and Respondent show up at the Prove Up.

Step 6: Appear in court for the uncontested divorce “prove up” to finalize the case

In Illinois, the vast majority of courts require at least the spouse who filed the case to appear in court for what is called a Prove Up. The Prove Up is where the spouse who filed the case (called the “Petitioner”), puts the main points of the substantive agreements “on the record.” If the Respondent is at the Prove Up, the Respondent might be asked a few questions as well.

The Prove Up is not meant to cover every single point in the agreement between the spouses, so it should be relatively quick. Usually, a Prove Up takes 5 minutes or under. However, sometimes going to court is kind of like the DMV – you might have to wait for your turn.

When your case is called by the court clerk, you lawyer will probably make a few statements introducing the case. Then the lawyer will begin asking questions.

Questions are often asked in the form of “leading” question, where the question suggests the answer to be given. For example, an example of leading question asked by a lawyer would be “You were married on January 1, 2022, correct?” And the client my answer “Correct.”

About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).