Getting a Divorce in Illinois

Ending your marriage isn’t all bliss and glamour, but doing it correctly helps you put the pain behind you more quickly. As painful as your divorce may be, the law requires you to meet specific conditions before you can kick your spouse out of your life. To make your divorce more bearable, I’ve created a guide on how to say bye! to your marriage in compliance with Illinois law.

Divorce in Illinois Summary

Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Illinois.

Divorce Filing Requirements

Divorce Filing Eligibility

There are two requirements to file for divorce in Illinois:
– You or your spouse must be living in Illinois for at least 90 days
– You must be able to show the court that there are irreconcilable differences between you and your spouse

Uncontested Divorce Process in Illinois

Step 1. Filing a Divorce Petition

The first step is to submit a joint petition to the circuit court closest to you.

Step 2. Swear an Affidavit

You’ll need to take an oath stating that all jointly held assets have been divided.

Step 3. The Hearing

The judge will invite you and your spouse to give oral testimonies.

Step 4. Judgment

A dissolution judgment will be entered if the judge is satisfied with your divorce papers.

Contested Divorce Process in Illinois

Step 1. Filing a Dissolution Petition

The first step is to file a dissolution complaint at the circuit court of the county where either of you lives.

Step 2. Notify the other party

After filing, you need to notify your spouse within two days.

Step 3. Dissolution Trial

You’ll both be required to make court appearances to determine if your marriage is beyond saving.

If there is no room for settlement, the trial will proceed.

Step 4. The Dissolution Order

The judge may grant a dissolution order after all vital issues of the divorce have been solved.


Requirements for Filing a Divorce Petition in Illinois

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides two requirements for spouses looking to sever their marital relationship in the state:

1. The Residency Requirement

You or your spouse must be considered an Illinois resident to file for divorce in the state. To be considered a resident, either spouse must have lived in Illinois for a minimum of 90 days before filing the petition. This requirement also extends to military service members.

2. The Irreconcilable Differences Requirement 

In addition to meeting the residency requirement, you need to show the court that irreconcilable differences have made it impossible for you and your spouse to continue the marriage. If the court is satisfied that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of your relationship and reconciliation is impractical, it will enter a dissolution judgment.

While these are the two basic requirements to file for divorce in Illinois, the court will only grant the divorce judgment when issues of child support, parental responsibility, and disposition of marital estate have been solved.

NOTE: Living separately and apart from your spouse for six months or more before the divorce proceeding is regarded as proof of an irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship.

How to File for Divorce in Illinois

NOTE: If the Illinois divorce process is too demanding, you can enlist an online divorce service with a guarantee of legal compliance and lower costs than a law firm. If you’re interested, check out my list of the best online divorce services in Illinois.

The first step to ending your marriage is identifying the appropriate divorce procedure. This is governed by the type of Illinois divorce you need. The divorce process where both spouses agree to end the marriage is entirely different from where you and your spouse differ on the divorce terms.

The Uncontested Divorce Process

This divorce process regulates marital dissolutions where both spouses agree to end the marriage. This is ideal for couples eager to depart each other’s lives and has a few requirements that you must meet before filing:

  1. Meeting the residency requirements 
  2. Drawing up a written agreement for property division
  3. No party is claiming spousal maintenance 
  4. There are no children from the relationship
  5. The marriage is shorter than eight years 
  6. Full financial disclosures of both parties

Step 1: Filing the petition

Once the above requirements are met, you can initiate the dissolution process by submitting a joint petition to the circuit court closest to you. This petition should contain the date of the marriage, the addresses of each spouse, and a joint declaration of willingness to end the marriage.

The judge will consider your divorce papers and fix a hearing date for either party to testify to the information in the divorce documents. The court clerk will also give you a brochure containing guidance procedures if you choose to represent yourself.

Step 2: Swear an affidavit

You’ll be required to take an oath before the hearing date stating that all jointly held assets have been divided per the property division agreement. You and your spouse will sign this affidavit and attach it to the divorce papers for reference. The court clerk will guide you through this process, and you’ll be required to pay the filing fee for the forms.

Step 3: The hearing

Once all the forms have been filed and completed, the judge will invite you and your spouse to give oral testimonies. This is to verify the information in the divorce papers and ensure your willingness to dissolve the marriage.

The simplified divorce procedure hearings are expedited since you and your spouse no longer want to be around each other.

Step 4: Judgment

A dissolution judgment will be entered if the judge is satisfied with your divorce papers. This judgment is final and cannot be appealed. The court clerk will provide you with copies of the judgment as evidence of a new beginning.

Contested Dissolution Procedure

This type of proceeding occurs when one spouse objects to a divorce or the terms surrounding it. This procedure is a four-step process.

Step 1: Filing the petition

The first step is to file your dissolution complaint at the circuit court of the county where either of you lives. The petition must contain the date of the marriage, the names of all children, the age and occupation of the parties, and any written agreement on custody and property sharing.

You can also begin this process by filing a praecipe for summons. You have to support a praecipe for summons with either a petition for dissolution or legal separation within six months. 

If you change your mind about leaving your spouse, you don’t have to file either, and the court will dismiss the praecipe for summons.

Step 2: Notifying the other party

After filing your complaint at the court, you need to notify your spouse within two days. This timeline is short, and most residents use a private process server to avoid physical interaction in these moments. This service method is also advisable if your spouse has a history of abuse or domestic violence.

Your spouse can respond to your petition and claims either by agreeing or filing their own claims. If they fail to respond, the court will hear your petition without giving a dissolution judgment unless all reasonable methods of reaching the respondent have been tried. 

Step 3: Dissolution trial 

If your spouse files a response disagreeing with your petition, you’ll both be required to make court appearances to determine if your marriage is beyond saving. 

If the judge sees an opportunity for reconciliation, the trial will be paused for you to reach an amicable settlement via conciliation at no additional costs.

If there is no room for settlement, the trial will proceed, and issues of property division, child custody, and spousal maintenance will be considered, where applicable.

Step 4: The dissolution order

The judge may grant a dissolution order after all vital issues of the divorce have been solved. The dissolution order is only granted when the stormy aspects of your divorce, like custody and property sharing, have been solved. The order becomes effective after the compulsory six months waiting period has passed.

If you need help with your divorce . . . 

There are several dissolution services in Illinois ready to assist you with these legal requirements so you can say bye to your marriage in no time. I’ve reviewed and ranked these services, so you don’t have to endure another unpleasant experience regarding your marriage.

You can read my review of the Top 10 Online Dissolution Services in Illinois here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a divorce in Illinois?

The timeline to get a divorce in Illinois depends mainly on the type of divorce process. If you and your spouse agree to dissolve your marriage (simplified divorce), the process is much faster and can be over in a few months.

If you and your spouse disagree on the dissolution (contested dissolution), the divorce process is much longer. This is because you’ll have to resolve the disagreement on the terms of the dissolution of marriage with your spouse. 

If this fails, the judge orders mediation for the parties to iron out the terms of their divorce and a compulsory waiting period of six months before a dissolution order is granted. During this period, the court may recommend conciliation if it sees an opportunity for reconciliation between the spouses.

As a general rule, judgment must be given within 90 days of the conclusion of all proof-ups and court hearings.

What are the different types of divorce in Illinois?

There are two types of divorce cases in Illinois: simplified, or uncontested, divorce and contested divorce.

An uncontested divorce case is one where your spouse doesn’t object to going separate ways. In such cases, spouses may file a joint petition, or the other party may waive their right to respond to an already-filed divorce petition. You and your spouse may also file for a joint simplified divorce if there are no children and neither party is seeking support.

In a contested divorce, your spouse either objects to you leaving at all or the specific terms of the dissolution. This kind of divorce usually involves a court hearing to determine vital aspects of your new status, including property division, child custody, and spousal maintenance.

Both types of divorce are subject to the fulfillment of the residency requirements of either spouse and an irretrievable breakdown of your marital relationship.

Can I get spousal maintenance in Illinois?

Yes, you may apply for maintenance when filing for divorce in Illinois. Illinois law allows courts to grant maintenance awards or spousal support claims where appropriate.

The court determines the appropriateness of a spousal support claim by considering the following factors:

  • The income and needs of each spouse
  • The marital property of each spouse and the new financial responsibilities brought about by the divorce
  • The realistic and future earning capacity of either spouse
  • The length of the marriage
  • The contributions and services by the party seeking maintenance (such as foregoing education) to the training, schooling, or career of the other spouse
  • The effects of parental responsibility on one spouse and how it affects their income
  • The age, health, and educational levels of the spouse seeking support
  • Any agreement made by the parties 
  • The time necessary for the spouse seeking support to become self-sufficient

The duration of the maintenance award varies in divorce cases depending on the length of the marriage and the domestic duties or sacrifices made by the party seeking support for the career advancement of the other spouse. In layman’s terms, if you stayed home to take care of the kids because your spouse worked, this will be considered in an appeal for spousal maintenance. 

NOTE: The court is barred from considering issues of marital misconduct in a spousal support hearing. This is because Illinois is a no-fault divorce state.

Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Illinois?

No, you don’t need an attorney to get a divorce in Illinois. If both spouses agree on the dissolution and can draw up a marital settlement agreement, they may file for a joint simplified divorce. 

However, it is advisable to get legal advice from an experienced family law attorney in contested divorces where spousal support, division of marital property, and child custody are in dispute. If you cannot afford legal fees, you may apply to Illinois legal aid for advice and assistance with your divorce.

Do I have to prove separation to get a divorce In Illinois?

No, Illinois law doesn’t require you to prove separation in a divorce petition. While you don’t have to prove separation for a divorce, living apart from your spouse for a minimum of six months fulfills the irreconcilable differences requirement under the law. 

This time apart may also be helpful when filing for legal separation and in spousal support hearings.

What are the grounds for divorce in Illinois?

Currently, there is only one ground for divorce in Illinois, called irreconcilable differences. This is due to an amendment of the divorce laws of Illinois, which took place in 2016. Before then, you could file for a fault-based divorce in Illinois, citing adultery, impotence, or cruelty as the grounds for divorce.

However, Illinois is now a no-fault divorce state, and you no longer have to prove grounds for divorce even where your partner has greatly offended you. You can file for divorce citing irreconcilable differences to avoid reliving the trauma in court.

Can I get a divorce in Illinois if I was married in another state?

Yes, you can divorce your spouse in Illinois even if you got married in another state. However, you must provide a copy of your marriage license as proof of foreign marriage. 

Illinois law allows you to file for divorce if you or your spouse has lived in the state for the past 90 days. Even if only one spouse meets this residency requirement, the other spouse may file for dissolution of marriage in Illinois.

Is spousal fault necessary for the dissolution of marriage in Illinois?

Luckily, Illinois is a no-fault dissolution state. This means you don’t have to discuss your marriage’s secrets and air your dirty laundry at a court hearing. You can get a dissolution of marriage order in Illinois without trading blames by citing irreconcilable differences as your reason for divorce.

What factors influence child custody and support in Illinois?

Illinois courts refer to the state’s Child Support Guidelines in each divorce case involving children. The child support guidelines help the court ensure adequate support for the needs of minor children subject to the financial ability of the parents.

The law makes the child support guidelines compulsory in each divorce case involving minor children except where the guidelines would be inappropriate after considering the following factors:

  1. The best interests of the children involved
  2. The financial needs and resources of the children
  3. The financial needs and resources of the parents
  4. The physical, educational, and emotional needs of the children
  5. The standard of living established during the marriage
  6. The standard of care the child would have received had the parents not divorced 

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services assists the court in gathering evidence relating to the above factors by computing each parent’s net income and ensuring equitable treatment of the parents in any child support obligations.

In child custody cases, the primary consideration is given to agreements between the parents. If spouses agree on custody and visitation, they may submit a joint parenting agreement to the court during their divorce hearing.

If you and your spouse can’t come up with a parenting plan, the court will step in and decide custody by considering the child’s best interests. The judge considers several factors, which can be divided into legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s decision-making authority, while physical custody deals with where the child lives.

The court considers the following factors when determining child support:

  1. The wishes of the parties
  2. The needs of the child
  3. The ease of the child’s adjustment to a new home and environment 
  4. The ability of either parent to support the needs of the child
  5. Any history of abuse, domestic violence, or crime committed by either party
  6. The physical and mental health of the parents
  7. If either spouse is a sex offender 
  8. The child’s relationship with either parent

The court may also consider other factors, including the parents’ ages and earning capacities. Illinois courts aim to avoid granting custody to an unfit parent who won’t prioritize the child’s best interests.

How is marital property shared in an Illinois divorce?

Illinois is a bit different from other states when it comes to dividing assets. The law prescribes a fair and equitable division of marital property in any divorce proceeding. Consequently, there is no 50/50 division of marital estates like we have in some other US states.

The primary factor for dividing assets in an Illinois divorce is whether such property is marital or nonmarital property. The Dissolution of Marriage Act defines marital property as all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, including debts and other obligations. 

Nonmarital property is acquired before the marriage and includes those assets acquired by gift, inheritance, or judgment from a previous marriage or during a legal separation.

Where a property is considered a marital estate, the court shall ensure a fair distribution of such property by considering the following:

  1. Each party’s contribution to the acquisition of the property. This also extends to cases where one party contributes to the acquisition of the other party’s nonmarital assets.
  2. The duration of the marriage
  3. Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements of the parties
  4. The custodial responsibilities of each spouse
  5. The reasonable opportunity of each spouse for future acquisition of capital assets
  6. The age and health conditions of either spouse
  7. The economic standing of each spouse
  8. The value of the property and the needs of each spouse

However, the court will ignore any evidence of marital misconduct in a property division claim.

In Summary

While divorces are never pleasant, I’ve created this guide to make the process as bearable as possible. I wish you good luck with your divorce and your future attempts at finding love.

Divorce information around the United States

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Manhattan, NY 10002

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