The Ultimate Illinois Divorce Checklist
- What to consider when preparing for divorce
- Why a checklist is helpful
- Marital property
- Legal documents and forms
- Special situations
Starting a divorce proceeding in Illinois requires strict compliance with legal regulations and adherence to all deadlines. To make the process smoother, we created this checklist of essential tasks and documents you need to know about before divorce proceedings start.
What things should you consider when preparing for divorce?
It’s helpful to know whether you and your spouse are on the same page about various issues that will inevitably come up in your divorce process. For example, you will want to know whether you will be filing a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce. If you can, find out how you and your spouse align on the following issues.
Do you expect to stay in the house or move? Are you keeping your car or selling it to split the proceeds with your spouse? What will you do with any vacation properties, boats, investment portfolios, or high-end art pieces the two of you own?
Find out the degree to which you and your spouse agree on your answers to these questions. In divorce, everything you accumulate during marriage must be divided.
Debts that built up during the marriage will need to be paid as soon as possible. That could mean selling an item attached to a loan, such as a car or house. It could mean closing the credit card account and figuring out who is going to pay any outstanding balances.
If one spouse supported the other spouse financially or made considerably more money than the other, it may be appropriate for them to pay spousal support (alimony).
The amount of those payments, and how long they will last, will need to be discussed. For example, you may decide that when a certain income threshold is crossed or a certain number of years have passed, spousal support payments will stop.
Child custody and support
The goal of any child custody and support arrangement should be to prioritize the child’s best interests during the divorce and beyond. To that end, talk about what your parenting plan will look like. This includes details about custody and visitation arrangements as well as child support amounts, who will cover the cost of extracurricular activities, who will be responsible for medical care and decisions, and other details.
Note that both parents are legally obliged to support their children financially after divorce. Regardless of income, it is a parent’s job to make sure each child’s needs are met.
Mediation vs. legal assistance
Mediation is by far the most efficient and cost-effective choice if you find that you and your spouse need help negotiating different aspects of your divorce settlement. Lawyers often require a multi-thousand dollar retainer to get started, and they generally advise courses of action that require you to continue paying for their services.
You can save a lot of money by working with a mediator instead. Mediators usually charge by the hour at a much lower rate than a divorce attorney. Your mediator will work to help you resolve your issues so everyone’s rights are protected and children are prioritized.
By working with a mediator, you can save the money, time, and stress involved in going to court.
Type of divorce
As long as you and your spouse can come to an agreement on the major points of your divorce, you can file an uncontested divorce in Illinois. An uncontested divorce is usually preferred over a contested one because it costs so much less.
Though you may need to meet with a mediator or legal professional to reach the “uncontested” status, it will still cost less than working with a trial lawyer who charges a hefty retainer fee.
If you find that you cannot agree with your spouse on the details of your divorce – even with mediation or legal help – you will need to file for a contested divorce. If you go this route, prepare for a considerable amount of paperwork, time investment, and cost.
Why is an Illinois divorce checklist so important to have?
An Illinois divorce checklist is an invaluable asset in streamlining the divorce process. By offering a structured approach that reduces stress and errors, this checklist helps you avoid missing important details as you prepare to file or respond to filings.
With a checklist in hand, you and your spouse are more likely to enjoy transparency and open communication. You can then protect your financial assets and ease the emotional burden associated with divorce.
Personal information needed for divorce
Be prepared to provide this information:
- Your full name, address, and contact information
- Your Social Security number and date of birth
- Your personal identification documents (driver’s license or passport)
- Your employment details and income documentation
You will need the same information for your partner:
- Your spouse's full name, address, and contact details
- Your spouse's Social Security number and date of birth
- Your spouse should provide employment details and income documentation
- Existing legal agreements or court orders involving your spouse
If you have children together, prepare these documents as well:
- Birth certificates for each child
- Child custody arrangements or parenting plans
- Records of child-related expenses, including tuition and healthcare costs
- Any relevant medical and healthcare records for your children
Marital property and divorce in Illinois
Illinois defines marital property as assets and debts acquired during the course of marriage. According to Illinois law, marital property must be divided during divorce proceedings in an equitable distribution. It’s important to note that “equitable distribution” does not necessarily translate into a 50/50 split.
Marital homes and real properties
Options include selling the property and splitting its proceeds or having one partner keep the property while buying out the other’s share of the investment.
This includes bank accounts, investments, and retirement accounts. An equitable division may involve transferring a portion of assets or altering payments of spousal support.
This may include things like furniture and vehicles. Spouses can work out an agreement to sell shared property and split the profits, or they may choose who gets to keep each item.
This may include loans and credit card balances These accounts are typically closed. The responsibility to pay off the remaining balances is divided between spouses based on their respective financial situations.
Business interests and investments
If there is a family business in the mix, unless spouses intend to continue co-ownership, it will either need to be sold, or one party will need to buy out the other. Options involving a sale require a valuation of the business and its assets.
What legal documents and forms do you need for divorce in Illinois?
When going through a divorce in Illinois, you will need to complete various legal documents and forms throughout the process, including these:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union
- Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union
- Summons Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union
- Non-Marital Real Estate
- Additional Debts & Liabilities
- Additional Personal Property & Bank Accounts
- Certification Agreement
- Letter to the Sheriff
- Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union
- Entry of Appearance
- Answer/Response to Complaint/Petition
- Financial Affidavit
- Interim Fee Award Order
What documents and forms will you need if children are involved?
When children are involved in a divorce in Illinois, additional documents and forms are typically required to address custody, visitation, child support, and other child-related matters. These forms generally include the following:
- Parenting Plan
- Additional Minor Children
- Additional Adult Children
- Additional Parenting Time
- Order for Support
- Income Withholding for Support
The importance of getting your finances in order
Having your financial items organized in advance can help to facilitate smoother negotiations and ensure that your financial interests are protected.
- Financial records
- Asset inventory and valuation if necessary
- Debt documentation
- Budget and expenses list
- Retirement accounts
- Insurance policies
- Tax information
- Legal agreements
- Estate planning documents
- Business interests
- Stock and investment portfolios
- Joint accounts and liabilities
Start the process of separating your lives
Beginning to rebuild your life independent of your marriage is an important part of the divorce process emotionally as well as financially. Take these steps:
Establish individual financial accounts
Achieve financial independence and untangle joint finances. Open a personal bank account and credit card in your name. Do not use any accounts that were used during your marriage.
Organize financial records
Gain clarity on your financial situation. Compile bank statements, tax returns, and investment records. You need to manage expenses and plan for your post-divorce finances. Create a detailed budget that covers living costs, child-related expenses, and savings goals.
Review and update legal documents
Make sure your will, trust, and power of attorney reflect your current wishes. Update beneficiaries and decision-makers in estate planning documents. Manage all paperwork and deadlines efficiently, and implement a system to track documents, court dates, and essential communications.
Establish a parenting plan
Establish cooperative co-parenting for your children's benefit. Keep the lines of communication open regarding parenting schedules and decisions, and maintain a routine that's both stable and consistent for your children.
Seek emotional support
Divorce can be a very trying process mentally and emotionally. Doing the emotional work associated with divorce requires you to take proactive steps. Seek counseling or support groups for assistance, and make time for self-care. Acknowledge the stress and emotional work so you can process it and move forward.
Special considerations for divorce
Some divorces have unique considerations based on personal factors.
For example, Illinois military divorce proceedings are governed by the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). This act permits postponing divorce proceedings until active duty service ends plus 60 days post-service. This protects active-duty service members and gives them enough time to prepare a response.
For same-sex couples, the same rules apply. However, if one person adopted a child, there may be issues with child custody if they came into the picture later or if they do not have legal custody of the child.
References750 ILCS 5/503. Illinois General Assembly.
Equitable Distribution. (July 2021). Cornell Law School.
Approved Statewide Forms – Divorce, Child Support, and Maintenance. Illinois Courts.
Illinois Child Support Estimator. Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Parenting Plans for Separating or Divorcing Parents. (January 2010). University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) | United States Courts. United States Courts.