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Bifurcated Divorce: Can I Get Divorced Right Away in Illinois?

bifurcated, Wheaton divorce attorneyNormally, a divorce is a single judgment that not only dissolves the parties’ marriage but also resolves all outstanding issues, such as division of property and establishing child support. A contested divorce can take several months or years to resolve, but there are some situations where one party may need to expedite the process. Illinois courts, therefore, have the discretion to split–or bifurcate–a divorce into separate proceedings if the judge finds there are “appropriate circumstances.” With bifurcation, a court can immediately divorce the parties while reserving other issues until a later date.

Court Permits Bifurcated Divorce to Terminally Ill Man

A recent Illinois case illustrates how bifurcation works in practice. In this case, a couple married for over 20 years “stopped acting as husband and wife,” according to court records, although they continued to reside in the same house. For approximately seven years afterward, the husband was in a romantic relationship with another woman. Eventually, the husband started living with his girlfriend.

Shortly thereafter, the husband learned he had skin cancer. Treatment proved unsuccessful and by March 2015, doctors determined the husband had less than a year to live. The husband, wanting to immediately marry his longtime girlfriend and “create an estate plan free of [his wife's] influence,” filed a petition in Cook County Circuit Court seeking a bifurcated divorce. A month later, he filed a second “emergency” petition claiming “he had substantially less time to live” than previously thought.

The wife opposed the petition, but the court ultimately granted the bifurcated divorce. The parties’ marriage was legally dissolved on July 27, 2015. The husband and his girlfriend married four days later. The husband died less than a month later, on August 21.

His death did not end the legal proceedings, however. The wife appealed the Circuit Court’s decision to grant the bifurcated divorce. This past October, the Illinois First District Appellate Court determined the trial court acted correctly, as there were “appropriate circumstances” justifying the immediate grant of divorce.

The First District noted there were several prior cases in Illinois (and other states) where courts allowed “terminally ill petitioners” to receive divorces before they died. In a 2002 decision, the Fourth District Appellate Court said allowing bifurcated divorces in these situations may encourage a dying spouse to “seek a dissolution of marriage in the hopes of increasing the amount of their estate for their heirs,” but conversely, “to hold otherwise encourages the surviving spouse to delay the divorce proceedings as long as possible to avoid the termination of their rights as surviving spouse.”

Need Help With the Divorce Process?

Bifurcation is not a normal process, and the majority of divorces take a significant amount of time and energy. Ideally, the parties can resolve their issues without the need for litigation, but, sometimes, a full trial is necessary. Whatever your situation, if you are contemplating divorce and need to consult with an experienced DuPage County family law attorney, please contact our offices right away.





Uncontested and Contested Divorce Proceedings in Illinois

contested, DuPage County divorce attorneysHow quickly your divorce is finalized typically depends on whether your divorce is considered a contested or uncontested proceeding. Uncontested divorces are generally resolved faster, since the parties can come to an agreement and avoid the time and expense of litigation.

However, uncontested divorces are not appropriate for spouses who cannot agree on all of the most important aspects of a divorce, including spousal and child support, a parenting plan and custody agreement, and division of the assets and debts.

If you are seeking a divorce and wonder which method of divorce proceedings would be right for you, one of our experienced family law attorneys in the Wheaton area who handles divorce can discuss with you the pros and cons of both contested and uncontested divorce.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?

An uncontested divorce is possible when the spouses can amicably come to an agreement without needing to proceed to court. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses make the decisions about the terms of the divorce, rather than the judge deciding – though the judge will still need to sign off on the divorce agreement.

The major benefits of an uncontested divorce are that they are resolved more efficiently and cost-effectively. Even if you need to negotiate some of the terms of the so-called marital settlement agreement that you will file with the court, this will still take fewer hours to complete – and thus cost far less – than would a court proceeding before a judge.

Another benefit of an uncontested divorce is that the non-filing spouse may waive their right to be served divorce papers and notice of the proceedings. Both spouses will still be required to appear in court to finalize the divorce and answer any questions that the court may have regarding the terms of the negotiated agreement, however.

What is a Contested Divorce in Illinois?

While a divorce hearing before a judge may be more expensive and time-consuming, it is necessary when spouses cannot agree on all of the important factors affecting a divorce. Contested divorces can be more emotionally and financially stressful, but the rewards can be great for spouses who are able to ask for what they believe they deserve, in light of their particular circumstances.

For instance, many parents who are awarded primary custody of their children do so in contested divorce proceedings, whereas uncontested divorce proceedings in which the parents fully agree on child custody matters typically involve joint custody arrangements.

Many times, clients believe they want to pursue an uncontested divorce, only to realize later that they are unwilling to compromise on any one area of disagreement, and thus this calls for a contested divorce instead.

Consult an Experienced Divorce Attorney in DuPage County

Your experienced DuPage County divorce lawyer at our firm will be able to discuss with you your goals for the terms of your divorce and determine which type of proceeding will be most advantageous given your situation. Reach out to us today for help.