How to Divorce in Illinois without Lawyers


Divorce is a difficult process, but it doesn’t always have to involve lawyers. In Illinois, couples have the option to pursue an uncontested divorce – a great way to end a marriage without lawyers.

Uncontested divorce requires no lawyers in Illinois

An uncontested divorce simply means that both parties have agreed on all the critical issues involved in their divorce, such as child custody, marital property division, and spousal support. Uncontested divorces can be less stressful and time-consuming than contested divorces.

To be eligible for an uncontested Illinois divorce, you and your spouse must agree on all major issues pertaining to your marital settlement agreement. 

Suggested: Download: What to Include in Your Settlement Agreement

If you and your spouse don’t agree on everything, mediation may be an excellent solution. A mediator is a neutral third party who can help the two of you reach an agreement on any outstanding issues without having to take your divorce to court.

Notably, Illinois divorce law imposes a minimum six-month separation period before a divorce can be finalized. This waiting period requirement applies whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Therefore, there will be a minimum of six months from the day your divorce petition is filed to the day your divorce can be finalized in Illinois.

Basic steps of uncontested divorce in Illinois

Step 1: Filing and serving

The first step in an uncontested divorce is to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Illinois court. You must meet all the eligibility requirements to file.

Illinois courts charge filing fees, and they vary from county to county. If you can’t afford them, you can apply to have them waived.

Start by filling out an Application for Waiver of Court Fees. If you don’t get public benefits (like SNAP or TANF), you’ll have to provide information about your income, monthly expenses, property, and the number of family members who need financial support. After you file your application, the court may have a hearing, or the judge could simply decide by looking at your form. A decision could take two weeks.

When your papers are filed, can serve your spouse with divorce papers, giving them 30 days to respond.

Step 2: Negotiation with spouse

Once you receive a response from your spouse, you and your spouse can start negotiating. You'll need to discuss and agree upon how to divide property, spousal maintenance, child support, parenting time, and any other critical issues involved in your case.

Read: How to Slay Your Divorce Negotiations Like a Pro

Step 3: Finalizing the uncontested divorce

Once you and your spouse have agreed upon all the critical issues, you’ll need to present the court with your marital settlement agreement. Typically, there will be a final hearing where the court reviews your agreement and grants the divorce.

Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in Illinois

A Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage is a specific type of uncontested divorce permitted by Illinois law. 

It is an option for Illinois people who meet the following requirements:

  • You or your spouse have been an Illinois resident for the past 90 days.
  • Your marriage didn’t last longer than eight years.
  • You do not share children, and neither is pregnant with the other’s child or is in the midst of adopting a shared child.
  • You don’t own real estate.
  • The total value of items acquired during your marriage (minus debts) is less than $50,000, and you agree to divide all property worth more than $100.
  • You don’t share joint retirement benefits, and the combined value of benefits you hold individually is less than $10,000.
  • You don’t make more than $30,000 per year individually and $60,000 per year together, before taxes.
  • You agree to waive the right to spousal support, and neither party relies on the other for financial support.

A Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage is the fastest option for an uncontested divorce in Illinois because the process is streamlined. The couple only needs to fill out a Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage Petition and an Agreement. This is presented to a judge who may ask a few questions, but it won’t require much of your time, and it won’t necessitate an attorney.

How to hire a mediator to help you

Mediators are trained professionals who can guide you through difficult issues with your spouse. An ideal mediator will have plenty of experience in divorce cases and be available to work with both parties on an acceptable arrangement.

The Illinois Chapter of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals maintains a membership roster complete with available dates. This tool could help you find a professional that’s ready to get to work on your case.


FAQ about divorce in Illinois

Do I have to live in Illinois before filing for divorce?

It's important to note that at least one member of a couple looking to divorce in Illinois must have resided in the state for at least 90 days before filing. This is the Illinois state residency requirement for divorce.

How much does it cost to get divorced in Illinois?

It depends on where you live. Filing fees usually range between $300 and $500. If this sounds steep, you may be able to apply for a filing fee waiver.

You'll also incur fees to serve your spouse and, if you use an attorney, you will have lawyer fees. These fees can increase your costs to tens of thousands of dollars. However, you can avoid many of these additional costs by engaging in an uncontested divorce.

Do I have to take a parenting class?

If you have children, the state requires you to complete a class before granting the divorce. This is the protocol for all divorcing parents of minor children in Illinois. Some people find the class helpful; others do not. Regardless, it’s part of the mandatory process.

Note that the class will be at least four hours long, and you'll be required to pay a fee to take the class.

What’s the best way to handle complex assets or debts without a lawyer?

To be eligible for an uncontested Illinois divorce, you and your spouse must agree on all major issues regarding your separation. Coming to that agreement isn’t always easy.

Enter the conversation with an open mind, knowing you’re unlikely to get everything you want. Listen to your partner, and try to respect what they want and need in the split. If the conversation stalls, consider hiring a mediator to facilitate your discussion. As mentioned, this can be a simpler and far less expensive method of dispute resolution than hiring a divorce lawyer.

My spouse is contesting issues we agreed on previously. What happens next?

It depends. If you’re still negotiating your divorce and your partner hasn’t filed official paperwork contesting your decision, you have time to talk. Listen to your spouse’s concerns, and look for a middle path you both can live with. Hiring a mediator can be an efficient choice.

If your spouse has filed official paperwork contesting some or all of the documents you’ve filed, you can still try to talk and come to an arrangement. However, if your spouse refuses to work with you, the issues might require a judge’s input in a court case.

Can I change my mind after the divorce is final?

To change a divorce order, you must file a motion with the court. This process can help you do things like change child custody arrangements when you’re moving to a new location or alter spousal support payments if you lose your job. A judge will review your motion in a hearing and rule to change your arrangements or leave them in place.

Are you considering getting divorced in Illinois? Many people in this situation want to know if they can get divorced without a lawyer.

To learn more about divorce cases without lawyers, check out our webinar: Yes, You Can Get a Divorce Without a Lawyer.


Motions Basics. Illinois Legal Aid Online.
Joint Simplified Divorce with No Children. Illinois Legal Aid Online.
Filing Court Papers for Free. Illinois Legal Aid Online.


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.