This is the most common question I receive in consultations since everyone prefers to put this behind them. Unfortunately, there is a wide range in how long a divorce can take to complete in Illinois due to many factors.
The foremost determining factor on timing depends on whether a divorce is uncontested or contested. If uncontested – meaning the parties generally agree on the major issues (e.g., parental responsibility, division of property, maintenance and child support, etc.), the entire process can take as little as two months.
If contested, a large number of issues will determine the length of the process. First is the general positioning of each party: are they obstinate and refusing to agree on anything? If so, every issue must be resolved through hearings and ultimately a trial.
Second is the size and complexity of the marital estate. How many financial accounts exist? Do you suspect other accounts or assets have been hidden? Are there hard to value private investments (e.g., rental real estate, a family business, grants of stock options, etc.)? Will there be any claims of marital dissipation (for an affair or otherwise) which requires forensic work? If a source of contention, any of these issues can significantly lengthen the process.
Third is the court docket. That is, how busy is the court and can hearings be scheduled and motions presented in a timely fashion? Some counties such as Cook County are notoriously busy. Sometimes even simple matters are heard on one day with the follow up or conclusion of the matter scheduled a month or so later. Also, the judge plays a role in determining overall length. If the judge continuously delays hearings in the hope of the parties reaching a settlement, the process can be delayed substantially.
These factors can extend the divorce into a multi-year process. Worse, even after divorce, the matter may feel as if it continues due to post-decree issues. These may relate to the enforcement of a decision or settlement, changing facts and circumstances (e.g., one parent desiring to move significantly farther away, the loss of a job impacting child support and maintenance, etc.), or to address issues potentially unresolved by the judgement such as college expenses.
To shorten the length of the process, attorneys and clients must prioritize what truly matters and avoid arguing over issues which ultimately have little relative impact.