One of the most common questions I am asked during an initial client consultation is whether or not it is possible to get divorced “amicably”. I think that many people are surprised to find that a significant portion of divorce cases, at least, in my experience, settle without having a full-blown trial. There are no extra-marital affairs, no major custody disputes, no major financial disputes – just two people that are ready to move forward. Not every divorce has to be “ugly”, per se, and a financially conscious lawyer will do everything in their power to ensure that as many issues remain uncontested as possible, and to lessen court involvement when not necessary. Of course, there are always exceptions.
The courts have specific procedures in place to try and assist parties in coming to an amicable resolution. For instance, in Cook County, you can file the divorce as uncontested from the beginning, so long as there is a full agreement and everyone has signed off on everything and paid the filing fees. This allows the parties to have (usually) one court date and the divorce is finalized.
Additionally, Illinois Supreme Court Rules mandate mediation regarding child custody and visitation related issues, except in an emergency or another circumstance where a Court finds that mediation would be impractical. The result is that a majority of parties, no matter where they are at with each other, will have to sit down and attempt to mediate before going into Court and asking the Judge for relief. The parties can utilize these services through free mediators in Cook County, or private mediators if they so choose, for a fee. Recently, mediation became allowed in Cook County for financial issues as well.
Overall, it is possible to have an “amicable” divorce. Even in the event that a Judge has to get involved to resolve specific issues, a divorce can still be resolved amicably. Most clients favor this approach, as there is a direct relationship between how much fighting and arguing goes on in court and how large their attorney’s fees are.