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Illinois Divorce Laws

Not all marriages last a lifetime. Many marriages will end in divorce, which is unfortunate. If you're considering ending your marriage, understanding Illinois’ divorce laws is of utmost importance.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act governs the divorce process in Illinois. You must meet the legal requirements for divorce before filing your petition for dissolution of marriage.

Here, we’ll explain what these requirements are. We will also summarize how child custody, alimony, and property division are addressed in a divorce in Illinois.

Legal Requirements for Divorce in Illinois

To file for divorce in Illinois, you must meet specific legal requirements. First, you must meet the residency requirement. This law requires that petitioners live in-state for at least 90 days before filing for divorce.

The Illinois courts also require that you file your petition in either your county or your spouse's county of residence. For example, if you live in Chicago, you can file divorce papers with the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Illinois grants divorces based on irreconcilable differences which have led to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Proving that you and your spouse have lived separately for at least six months before filing for divorce establishes irrebuttable evidence that the irreconcilable differences requirement has been met.

You can also have a separation agreement that confirms the separation and the parties' agreement to divorce.

One of the benefits of living in Illinois is that there’s no waiting period. The judge can issue your final divorce judgment without waiting a specific time.

Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Illinois

The two main types of divorce in Illinois are uncontested and contested. In an uncontested divorce, the parties often file a joint petition. To file for this type of dissolution, you and your spouse must agree on all terms of the divorce. An uncontested divorce may finalize within a matter of months.

According to Illinois law, you must present a marital settlement agreement that addresses the following, if necessary:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Alimony (Maintenance)
  • Division of marital assets and debts
  • Allocation of parental responsibilities
  • Parenting plan

With a contested divorce, the parties either don’t agree on these divorce issues or one of the spouses contests (disagrees) with the idea of getting divorced and that the marriage is irretrievably broken. A contested divorce can take up to 18 months to resolve. This is why a contested divorce is more expensive than an uncontested divorce.

No-Fault and Fault-Based Divorce

Most couples today file for a no-fault divorce. They don’t feel the need to blame the other spouse for the breakdown of the marriage. In Illinois, the only grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences. You must affirm that your marriage is over and there is no chance of reconciliation.

Most states offer a host of grounds for divorce. For example, you can cite adultery or abandonment as the reason for your divorce. Illinois law doesn’t recognize the traditional grounds for divorce.

Child Custody

It's great if you and your spouse can negotiate a parenting plan together. If not, your divorce attorney will attempt to negotiate one with your spouse’s lawyer.

If you cannot come up with a custody solution, the judge will determine child custody for you. The primary concern of the court is the best interests of the child. They are not very concerned with the wishes of the parents, as their job is to ensure that the children are cared for and supported financially.

In most divorce cases, the court designates one parent as the custodial parent. This parent has primary physical custody of the kids. In almost all cases, the parents share joint legal custody. They both have a say in how they will raise the children.

Illinois refers to custody and visitation in terms that you may not be familiar with. "Caretaking functions" refers to interactions between parent and child that involve day-to-day parenting duties such as ensuring the child is fed, clothed, and attending school on time. Both parents perform caretaking functions when the child is in their custody.

"Parenting time" refers to what some states call "visitation" or "custodial time." It includes time spent with the child in which the parent exercises caretaking functions and may make minor decisions affecting the child. "Parental responsibilities" refers to both parenting time and the ability to make significant decisions affecting the child. Some states refer to this as "legal custody."

The non-custodial parent almost always has to pay child support. The courts rely on the Illinois state child support guidelines when determining the amount of support.

Spousal Maintenance, Alimony, and Spousal Support

Every state has its label for spousal support. Most states refer to this as alimony, while others call it separate maintenance. In Illinois, the courts refer to it as maintenance. Many assume they’ll receive maintenance or alimony if their spouse earns more than them. This isn’t necessarily the case.

The courts consider several factors when determining maintenance. The factors considered are among the following:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Earning capacity
  • The financial situation of each spouse
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Property division as the result of the divorce
  • Work history and education
  • Physical health of the parties

You can read more about these factors at’s Illinois Alimony Laws page.

Division of Marital Property and Non-Marital Property

Like most other states, Illinois only includes property the parties acquire during the marriage when determining equitable distribution. Any property you bring into the marriage belongs to you. The court does not divide non-marital assets and debts.

The courts use the same factors to determine property division when calculating alimony.

If all goes well, your divorce attorney will negotiate a fair division of property with your spouse’s lawyer. Once they reach an agreement, they will draft your marital settlement agreement. You will submit this to the court for approval before the judge issues a judgment of dissolution of marriage.

To learn more about the equitable distribution of marital property, visit’s Illinois Marital Property Laws page.

Illinois Divorce Laws

States tend to handle divorce differently. The main provisions of Illinois' divorce laws are in the table below.

Illinois Divorce Code Section

§ 750 ILCS 5/401, et seq. of the Illinois Statutes

Residency Requirements

At least one spouse must be a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days before commencing a divorce action

Waiting Period

There is no waiting period in Illinois.

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

Irretrievable breakdown

Note: Under certain conditions, parties may file a joint petition for simplified dissolution

Defenses to a Divorce Filing

The spouse who has been served with the divorce petition may respond by admitting, denying, or indicating they do not know concerning the allegations made by the filing spouse.

Other Grounds for Divorce

2016 legislation removed fault grounds from the Illinois code

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, higher court rulings, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information, please consult an attorney or conduct legal research to verify your state’s laws.

Getting Divorced in Illinois? Get Legal Help

Going through a divorce can be a difficult emotional and legal process. Consulting an experienced divorce attorney can make the divorce process a bit easier. You want to retain a lawyer who has handled divorce cases in the past.

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

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