Everything You Need to Know before Getting Divorced in Illinois

Getting a divorce is a highly emotional and legally complex process. Here's everything you need to know so you can feel better about moving forward with your divorce (and post-divorce life) in Illinois.

Illinois divorce prerequisites

Do you meet the residency requirement?

To file for a divorce in the state of Illinois, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of 90 days before filing. The divorce must be filed in the county where either spouse resides.

Do you have a reason for divorce (grounds)?

Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, so a spouse doesn't need to prove any wrongdoing by the other spouse to obtain a divorce. Instead, a couple can get a divorce in Illinois based on irreconcilable differences as the only ground for divorce.

However, fault-based divorce is another option in Illinois. The following fault-based grounds for divorce are recognized by the state:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Mental cruelty
  • Physical cruelty
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Felony conviction
  • Infectious disease

Illinois mandates that spouses must have lived separately and apart for a minimum of six months before the divorce will be granted. This means that the couple must have been living separately for at least six months and that there is no reasonable chance of reconciliation between the spouses.

Will you proceed with or waive financial disclosures?

Financial disclosures are an important part of many divorces. Both parties provide a complete and accurate accounting of their respective financial situations to one another during the divorce process. This typically involves producing documentation relating to income, assets, and debts.

Financial disclosures are important for many reasons. They establish a baseline financial position for each person and allow a court to make fair and equitable decisions regarding property division, spousal maintenance, and child support. Without accurate financial disclosures, one party may hide assets or income, which could lead to an unfair outcome in the marital settlement agreement.

Waiving financial disclosures is not recommended in most cases due to the potential for an unfair outcome. If one party has a much higher income or significantly more assets than the other, for example, the party with less financial power may be coerced or otherwise convinced to waive disclosure for the sake of expediency. This could leave them with a bad outcome.

However, there could be a legitimate reason to waive financial disclosures in divorce. If both parties have roughly equal financial power and wish to resolve their divorce amicably and expeditiously, the parties may agree that financial disclosures are not necessary.

Have you taken the required parenting class?

In Illinois, when couples with children file for divorce, both spouses are required by law to attend a parenting education program. The program typically consists of a series of classes and lasts four hours. It can be taken online or in person. 

The classes cover topics such as:

  • The emotional impact of divorce on children and strategies for helping them cope
  • Communication skills for co-parenting effectively
  • Strategies for developing a parenting plan that meets the needs of the children
  • Legal and financial issues related to child custody and support

The parenting education program is mandatory for both parents regardless of their custody arrangement or whether they agree on parenting issues. In some cases, there may be exceptions to this requirement, such as when domestic violence or other safety concerns are present.

Read: Why Do I Have to Take a Parenting Class?

Illinois divorce forms

Illinois requires a number of forms to be filed in order to obtain a divorce. We'll outline some forms here, but you can also review the state website for an up-to-date list. 

The forms include:

  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: This form is a formal request to the court for a divorce.
  • Summons: This form is used to notify the other party that divorce papers have been filed and to instruct them on how to respond.
  • Financial Affidavit: This form is used to provide a complete and accurate accounting of the party's financial situation.
  • Marital Settlement Agreement: This form is used to outline the terms of the divorce settlement, including property division, spousal maintenance, and child custody and support, if applicable.
  • Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage: This form is the final order granting the divorce. It includes details about the division of marital property, any spousal maintenance (alimony) to be paid, and child custody and support, if applicable.

In Illinois, divorce forms must be filed in the circuit court of the county where either spouse resides. The fees for filing a divorce petition in Illinois vary by county but typically range from $300 to $500.

In Illinois, joint filing is possible if both parties agree to the terms of the divorce and the issues surrounding it, such as property division, spousal maintenance, and child custody and support. This can be accomplished through the use of a Marital Settlement Agreement that outlines the terms of the divorce settlement.

Read: What Are the Benefits of Filing Jointly for Divorce?

A simplified divorce procedure

A simplified divorce procedure is available for couples who meet certain criteria. This process is quicker and less expensive than a traditional divorce, but it is only available to couples who have been married for eight years or fewer and who have no children or substantial assets or debts. The process involves filing a Joint Simplified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court, and a hearing may not be required.

Acceptable means of service in Illinois include personal delivery of documents to the other party, service by mail, and service by publication (in cases where the other party's location is unknown). Personal service is preferred and is the most reliable method of ensuring that the other party receives notice of the divorce.

What are the basic divorce steps in Illinois?

Here are the basic steps in the divorce process in Illinois.

Filing the Petition: The petitioner files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court in the county where either spouse resides. This initiates the divorce proceedings and notifies the respondent of the divorce.

Responding to the Petition: The respondent has 30 days to file a response to the Petition with the Illinois court. This response acknowledges receipt of the petition and can include any disagreements about the proposed terms of the divorce.

Discovery: Both parties must provide a complete and accurate accounting of their respective financial situations. This can include financial affidavits, income tax returns, and other documents.

Negotiating the settlement: The parties may work together to create a Marital Settlement Agreement, which outlines the terms of the divorce settlement, including property division, spousal maintenance, and child custody and support.

Mediation: If negotiations break down, the parties may attempt to resolve their differences through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods.

Finalizing the divorce: If a settlement is reached, or if the parties cannot resolve their differences and the matter goes to trial, the court will issue a final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. This document grants the divorce and sets forth the terms of the settlement.

What to know about spousal maintenance

Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support, is a payment made from one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. Its purpose is to provide financial support to the receiving spouse, who may have become financially dependent on the other spouse for various reasons.

In Illinois, spousal maintenance can be awarded during the divorce proceedings or at the final judgment. The amount and duration of spousal maintenance are determined by the court. It is based on a variety of factors, such as:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each party's income and assets
  • Each party's earning capacity and future earning potential
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The physical and emotional health of each party

Several types of spousal maintenance are possible in Illinois:

Temporary spousal maintenance provides financial support during the divorce proceedings, typically to the lower-earning spouse, until a settlement or final decision is made.

Rehabilitative spousal maintenance is intended to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient. The payments are made for a limited period of time. The receiving spouse is expected to gain training or education to increase their earning potential during this time.

Permanent spousal maintenance may be awarded in cases where the receiving spouse is unable to become self-sufficient or where the marriage was particularly long. The payments may continue until the death of the receiving spouse, remarriage, or cohabitation with another partner.

What to know about child support

Child support is money paid from one parent to the other to help cover the cost of raising a child. Child support is meant to provide for the basic needs of the child. This includes housing, food, clothing, medical care, and education.

In Illinois, child support is calculated based on a specific formula that takes into account several factors, including the following:

  1.  The income of both parents
  2.  The number of children the parents have together
  3.  The amount of time each parent spends with the child
  4.  Whether either parent has other children from prior relationships

The formula is used to arrive at an appropriate amount of child support based on the parents' combined net income. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court may deviate from the formula in order to adjust the child support amount.

In Illinois, child support is typically paid until the child reaches the age of 18. However, payments may continue until the age of 19 if the child is still in high school. In some cases, child support may continue beyond these ages if the child has special needs or is disabled.


FAQ about Illinois divorce

How long will the divorce process take?

The duration of the divorce process in Illinois can depend on a variety of factors. Some divorces can be resolved in a matter of weeks. Others may take several years to be fully resolved. 

Here are some factors that can affect the timeline:

  • Contested vs. uncontested divorce: If the divorce is uncontested (meaning both parties are in agreement on all terms), the process will likely be faster than a contested divorce (where the parties are in disagreement on some or all terms).
  • The complexity of the issues: If there are complex financial issues or child custody issues to resolve, the process may take longer than a straightforward divorce.
  • Mediation or other alternative dispute resolution: If the parties use mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods, the process may be faster than if the case goes to trial. Mediators can often help couples resolve pending disputes faster and more cost-effectively than a court.
  • Court scheduling: The timing of court proceedings can also affect the timeline. Courts may have a backlog of cases that can cause delays.

In general, an uncontested divorce in Illinois can take three to six months to be finalized, whereas a contested divorce can take one to three years or more. It's important to note that every divorce is different, and timelines can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

Can I e-file my divorce papers in Illinois?

Yes, you can e-file your divorce papers in Illinois. 

E-filing is an easy and convenient way to submit your documents to court electronically. Most courts in the state now accept e-filings of documents associated with divorce proceedings. It's important to note that all filings must still comply with any local rules regarding the format and content of the documents. Additionally, some courts may require a signed original document in addition to the electronic filing, so be sure to check with your local court for any additional filing requirements.

Suggested: Why Is Hello Divorce Better than Other Online Divorce Services?


Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.