How to File for Divorce in Illinois


Divorce is never easy, but it works similarly in every state.  If you are considering getting divorced in Illinois, this article can give you some of the specific items to think about.  

Make sure you are a resident

In order for the Illinois courts to process your divorce, you must be a resident of the state.  Residency for divorce purposes in Illinois requires that one of the spouses was a resident of the State or stationed there in the armed services for at least 90 days before filing for divorce.  

Grounds to file a divorce in illinois

The most common grounds for divorce in any state are so-called “no-fault” grounds.

This simply means that the spouses want to split and go their separate ways.  Neither one necessarily did anything wrong. Illinois has actually abolished all the “fault” grounds for divorce, like adultery or domestic violence.  

In Illinois, divorce is granted when a couple claims that “irreconcilable differences” have caused an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.”  The law actually has a provision stating that if a couple has lived “separate and apart” for six months or more before the dissolution of marriage then irreconcilable differences is assumed.  

If a couple has not been separated long, the law technically requires a judge to “determine that efforts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.”  

In reality, though, if a couple wants the split and wishes to file for a divorce in Illinois, the court is going to let them.  

Issues resolved in a divorce

Like most other states, Illinois will generally not issue a divorce without first resolving issues related to the couple’s money and children.  

The Illinois law says that the court must address: (1) the allocation of parental responsibilities, (2) support of any child of the marriage, (3) the maintenance, meaning support, of either spouse and (4) the division of the couple’s property.  

Court approval of the agreement

The vast majority of divorces are ultimately resolved by an agreement.  

A couple can agree on all the issues that need to be resolved and then present their agreement to the judge for approval.  The judge may ask some questions to make sure it is fair, and then the agreement will usually be approved. The state has developed forms that can be used anywhere across the state to ensure your agreement works for the judge.  

It is important to note that just because a divorce is settled with an agreement does not mean it is easy.  Sometimes a couple will just split what they have in their checking account and go their separate ways.

In other cases, couples will take months using lawyers in negotiation, mediation, or arbitration to find an agreement.  

Court procedures with an uncooperative spouse

Court procedures with an uncooperative spouse

If you and your spouse cannot resolve your divorce with an agreement, then the court process looks very much like any other civil case.  You must file a petition for divorce with the court, and then serve a summons on your spouse.  

That means delivering a copy of your petition to your spouse and conforming to the court that your spouse received it.  This can usually be accomplished with the mail, but you may need to pay the local Sheriff to hand deliver the papers to your spouse.  

If no agreement is reached, you will eventually have a hearing before a judge where you will ask for what you want in terms of money and childcare issues.  

If your spouse is there, they will ask for what they want and the judge will have to decide.  This can be very complicated and involve lots of paperwork and witnesses, so using a lawyer is usually best if you can afford one.  


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