DIY Divorce The Challenges of Self-Representation in Family Law Bruckner Hernandez Legal Solutions, LLC

DIY Divorce: The Challenge of Self-Representation in Family Law

While DIY divorce is certainly allowed under Illinois law, family law presents numerous challenges towards self-representation. To help you along the way, here are 10 things you must know when conducting DIY divorce.

1) You Can Represent Yourself in a DIY Divorce

Firstly, some parties are eligible for a “joint simplified dissolution” procedure. However, even those not eligible for a simplified procedure maintain the right to file a petition on their own behalf.

2) A DIY Divorce Must Still Satisfy the Requirements of the Court

Secondly, when conducting DIY divorce, it is your responsibility to understand the law with respect to your situation. To start, you must file an appearance on your own behalf. It should be noted that you will be required to use e-filing.

Depending on your status, you must file either a petition (petitioner) or answer (respondent). Next, you must also prepare a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage (with or without children). When divorcing, you are responsible for preparing an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time Judgment, too.

Also, you must prepare an Order for Support regarding support of minor children. Lastly, you must prepare a Certificate of Dissolution (Kane County provided here).

3) Judicial Approval Will Still Be Required for a DIY Divorce

Regarding the judge’s responsibilities, part of their duties entails ensuring that issues are adequately addressed in your written agreements. This includes the following:

  • Jurisdiction: Parties and Marriage
  • Grounds: Irreconcilable differences caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Apart from this, reconciliation efforts failed. Finally, future attempts at reconciliation are impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.
  • Children of the Marriage (Born, Unborn and/or Adopted): This includes Minor Children (birth to 18 years old) and Adult Children (over 18 years). For Adult Children, support may be an issue in the event of disablement. Also, post-high school educational expenses may be an issue for those in school.
  • Agreements regarding parental responsibilities and parenting time must be thorough and in the child(ren)’s best interests.
  • Parties must provide one another disclosure of all of their assets, income, debts and liabilities. A statewide financial affidavit is used to do so and is required by statute and local court rule.
  • Financial agreements must be fair and equitable and not unconscionable.
  • Agreements must be freely and voluntarily entered into.

4) Responsibilities for Children Must Be Thoroughly Addressed

When creating a Parenting Plan, prospective divorcées outline their Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time. Typically, this covers:

  • Rights and Responsibilities of Both Parents
  • Responsibilities for Significant Decision Making
  • Parenting Time
    • Regular parenting time
    • Holiday parenting time
    • School breaks
  • Transportation of children
  • Exchange of Children
  • Right of First Refusal
  • Communication
  • Relocation
  • Designation of Custodian
  • Changing the Parenting Plan
  • Resolving Disagreements (mediation)

5) Property Issues Must Be Fully Addressed

Overall, property issues are primarily broken up into two main categories: assets and debts.


  • Real Estate
  • Personal Property
  • Retirement/Pension accounts
  • Stocks
  • Any other type of asset (e.g. vehicles, valuables, personal property)


  • Loans
  • Credit cards
  • Any other type of debt or other financial obligations

6) Support Issues Must Be Thoroughly Addressed


Usually, maintenance entails spousal support, previously called alimony. That said, divorcées often misconceive entitlement to maintenance.

For example, Illinois contains a specific law regarding maintenance and a formula based upon the duration of the marriage and the respective incomes of the parties. Because of this, self-represented parties must know what the statutory requirements are and, if deviating from the statutory formula, provide a basis for doing so that will be acceptable to the court and get court approval to deviate.

Financial Support for Minor Children

Illinois is an “income shares” state when it comes to Child Support. Thus, Illinois utilizes the income of both parties in order to determine support.

Along with Basic Child Support, Health Insurance and out of pocket medical, dental and vision expenses remain viable. More so, expenses related to Educational and Extra Curricular Activities may also be included. For example, these expenses may include post-high school educational expenses (college).

To calculate Illinois Child Support, use this calculator.

7) Self-Help Legal Resources Are Available to Self-Represented Individuals

8) Mediation is a Resource to Help Resolve Disagreements

a. While a Judge is able to decide outstanding legal disputes between the party, there are additional procedural and evidentiary requirements in order to obtain a date and time for the Judge to hear evidence related to your case. Ultimately, the parties may find mediation to be a useful alternative to having a hearing with the Judge.
b. Different Types of Mediation

9) Limited Scope (A La Carte) Legal Services Are Obtainable as Needed for DIY Divorce

Essentially, limited scope representation remains available at any stage of the DIY divorce process. As a matter of fact, Bruckner Hernandez Legal Solutions helps clients via à la carte with:

  • Legal Consultation
  • Case Analysis
  • Gather Facts
  • Research Law
  • Client Advice
  • Draft Documents
  • Document Review
  • Discovery
  • Hearing Preparation
  • Case Management
  • Negotiation
  • Court Representation

10) A Judicial Intervention Will Cap Off Your DIY Divorce Proceedings

Lastly, judicial intervention entails a review of the pleadings along with any proposed agreement. In the event that both parties accept everything, the next step contains an approval of the agreements. In conjunction with the approval, judicial intervention resolves any remaining issues of disagreement between the parties.

Bruckner Hernandez Legal Solutions offers free consultation and limited scope services for people representing themselves. Contact us today!

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Bruckner Hernandez Legal Solutions LLC DIY Divorce 10 Things

DISCLAIMER: This is an article for informational purposes only. In addition, this article does not replace the advice of an attorney regarding specific details of your situation.

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