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How To File for Divorce in Illinois

Couple signing divorce papers

Marriage vows may include promises to stay together until death, but you don't have to wait that long in Illinois. Illinois law allows for a fast and relatively uncomplicated divorce process. As long as you meet specific requirements, you can finalize your divorce in months.

A contested divorce takes a lot longer than an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, you can file an uncontested divorce and submit a copy of your marital settlement agreement.

You'll file a contested divorce if you and your spouse disagree on significant issues. Your Illinois divorce attorney will attempt to negotiate a property settlement agreement with your spouse’s lawyer. If they can do this, your divorce will move at a swift pace. If not, the family court judge will schedule a trial to decide these issues for you.

Here, we’ll discuss the Illinois divorce process. We’ll also explain how the divorce laws in Illinois work regarding child custody, alimony, and property division.

Illinois Is a No-Fault Divorce State

Like many states, Illinois offers a no-fault divorce option. You don’t have to prove that your spouse engaged in misconduct during the marriage. The court only requires that you certify you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences.

Unlike most other states, Illinois law doesn’t recognize the traditional grounds for divorce. In this way, the courts in Illinois treat all divorces as no-fault divorce cases.

Requirements for a Divorce in Illinois

You must meet specific legal requirements before qualifying for divorce in Illinois. For example, you must meet Illinois’ residency requirements. You or your spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing your court forms.

Illinois differs from most other states by not having a required waiting period for divorce.

Separation in Illinois

How do you prove a divorce based on irreconcilable differences in Illinois? To grant a divorce based on irreconcilable differences, the court must make the following finding: "Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family."

One way to establish that the marriage is irretrievably broken is by having the couple live separated from one other for at least six months. A six-month separation provides strong, although rebuttable, evidence that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The separation period allows couples a chance to repair their marriage rather than divorce. The good news is that you and your spouse can waive this requirement in a written agreement.

If you have not been separated for six months, you may still go ahead and file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences. As long as the judge can make the required findings as discussed previously, there is no specific period that must pass before being granted a divorce.

If there are issues to settle such as custody, visitation, and support, it will be difficult to finalize a divorce in less than six months.

How To File for Divorce in Illinois

Once you fulfill the above requirements, you can file your petition for dissolution of marriage/civil union. You must also submit additional documents when you file your divorce petition.

These documents include:

  • Petition for dissolution of marriage
  • Financial Affidavit
  • Summons & Proof of Service

If you and your spouse have children together, you must also file the following:

  • Parenting plan
  • Certification Agreement
  • Uniform Order of Support (Child Support)

To complete these forms, you’ll need specific information about your marriage.

Information the Illinois Court Requires for Divorce

When you submit your divorce papers, you must provide the court with detailed information about your marriage.

Some of the information you will need when you fill out the forms include:

  • Date of your marriage
  • Date when you and your spouse separated
  • Location (city, county, state, country) where your wedding took place
  • List of marital property including personal property, real estate, bank accounts, and retirement accounts
  • List of all marital debts

If you have children, you must provide additional information including parental responsibilities, custody arrangements, a parenting plan, and a request for child support if you would like the court to order it.

File Your Court Forms Properly

The person filling the divorce papers is the petitioner. The other spouse is the respondent. Regardless of the type of divorce you or your spouse file, you must complete your forms correctly. If you don’t, the court clerk will return them to you. This could delay your final divorce and cost you more money.

If you are filing the forms without the help of an attorney, double-check to make sure all the forms are correct and complete before filing them with the clerk of the court. This office is often in the same courthouse where you would find your county’s family court.

Once you file the forms, the clerk will give you a case number, issue a summons, and assign a judge to the case. A summons is a document that notifies your spouse that the court requires them to file an answer or appear in court.

The last thing you must do is pay the requisite filing fees. The fees may vary from county to county. You must pay this fee whether you file in person or e-file. There is a process for filing for a fee waiver if paying the filing fee would be a hardship.

You Must Serve Your Spouse With the Divorce Papers

Illinois allows you to serve your spouse in one of several ways. Service is how you deliver copies of the court papers for your divorce case to your spouse. Service is the official notice of the divorce case.

You can achieve service of process in the following ways:

  • Have the local sheriff or a process server serve the divorce papers
  • If your spouse is out of the state, you should hire a process server, or contact the sheriff's office, in the county where your spouse resides
  • If you do not have an address for your spouse, publish the notice in your local newspaper. This is called service by publication. Before doing this, you must show the court you can't locate your spouse.

Your spouse has 30 days from the date of service to file their response to your petition. Once you provide proof of service and the 30 days have lapsed, you will be able to schedule a court date even if your spouse did not respond to the divorce documents.

Court Requires Financial Disclosures

Most counties in Illinois, including Cook County, require you to disclose your finances during the court proceedings.

When a party requests temporary maintenance, support, or attorney's fees to be paid while the case is pending, a financial affidavit must be submitted. Local court rules may require it as well. The form is a signed financial affidavit that supplies the following information:

  • Assets
  • Income
  • Mortgage payments
  • Bills such as credit card bills
  • Other relevant financial information

The courts will use this information to determine:

  • How to divide marital property
  • Amount and duration of alimony (if any)
  • The amount of child support

Once the court clerk and judge can review this information, they will schedule your hearing. Ideally, your attorney will negotiate a divorce settlement before that date and you won’t need to go to court.

Attend the Court Hearing

On the day of the hearing, the judge will review your case. Some of the issues the judge will review include:

  • How to divide your marital property
  • Whether either party will pay spousal support
  • Child custody and child support for minor children

These are the steps for an uncontested divorce. Below we will discuss the process for a contested divorce.

Contested Divorces

A contested divorce happens when both spouses want a divorce but can't agree on terms. It can also occur if your spouse does not agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

In contested divorces, the judge may order you to undergo mediation. Mediation can result in a settlement.

If mediation doesn't work, your case will go to trial. If this happens, the judge will decide on specific issues you and your spouse disagree on.

How Much Does It Cost To File for Divorce in Illinois?

The cost of filing for a divorce in Illinois depends on whether or not you have an attorney. Your attorney's fees will depend on the complexity of your case. Filing fees may vary but often range from $200 to $400.

There may be additional costs as the divorce process continues. These include:

  • Service costs
  • Mediation costs
  • Expert witnesses (if necessary)
  • Depositions
  • Discovery

If you don't have money to pay the court’s filing fees, you may qualify for a fee waiver, depending on your income.

Do You Need an Attorney To File for Divorce in Illinois?

Like all legal proceedings, it's always best to have an attorney to get the best outcome. Technically, you can file for divorce yourself. If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce and don’t have children or many assets, the process may not be that difficult.

However, it may be best to speak to an Illinois divorce attorney if your divorce is more complicated. An attorney can help if you and your spouse disagree on the divorce terms. The same applies if you have significant debts and assets, have children, or seek spousal support.

It is essential to work with an attorney if your spouse is abusive or has been hiding money from you.

Is There a Faster Way To Get a Divorce in Illinois?

If you and your spouse don't have children, lack money, and agree on everything, you can file a joint and simplified divorce.

There are additional requirements you must meet to qualify for a simplified divorce. Some of these include:

  • You must be married less than eight years
  • Neither spouse owns real estate
  • Neither spouse earns more than $30,000 per year before taxes and the parties' marital property is worth less than $50,000
  • You meet the residency requirements
  • Neither spouse is financially dependent on the other and each waives their right to maintenance

If you meet these criteria, ask your county clerk’s office for the requisite forms. You and your spouse should jointly file the divorce petition with your county's circuit court.

The clerk will assign a hearing date for you. On the date of the hearing, the judge will review your forms and, if they don't see any issues, sign your divorce papers. When this occurs, you will receive a judgment of dissolution of marriage.

Legal Separation Is Also an Option

Illinois is one of the few states that recognize legal separation. Legal separation does not permanently end your marriage, instead allowing you to see if your marriage is salvageable.

If you decide that legal separation is your best option, your attorney can draft a separation agreement. This agreement is enforceable like any other court order.

You can submit it to the court clerk, who will keep it on file should either party deviate from the terms of the agreement.

This is a good option if you don't want a divorce but want to live separately. Your legal separation agreement will outline child custody, child support, alimony, and property division. The judge must approve your separation agreement. This agreement defines the spouses' legal rights and obligations.

How To Find a Divorce Attorney

Filing for divorce can be overwhelming, especially if you and your spouse don't agree on the terms of the divorce. It is worth your time to seek legal advice before you file your petition. Your family law attorney will work hard to negotiate a divorce settlement that protects your interests.

Visit’s attorney directory to find a divorce lawyer near you.

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