Things to Do before You File for Divorce in Illinois

Navigating the complexities of a divorce can be challenging, especially when emotions run high. But if you're considering filing for divorce in Illinois, it's essential to arm yourself with knowledge and prepare thoroughly. Hello Divorce is here to help.

Preparing to file for divorce in Illinois

Considering divorce is a significant decision. It may be driven by various personal reasons such as a communication breakdown, infidelity, financial strain, or diverging life goals. If you've decided on this path, it's important to understand the legal implications. 

The Illinois divorce process will involve the division of your marital assets, child custody arrangements if you have minor children, and possibly alimony payments. 

Evaluate your personal situation

Before you file for divorce, evaluate your personal situation. This involves assessing your finances, career, and living arrangements – all of which play a significant role in preparing for the divorce process.


It’s critical to have a good grasp of your financial situation. You need a clear picture of your income, expenses, assets, and debts. This includes everything from bank accounts, retirement savings, and investments to mortgages, loans, and credit card debts. 

A detailed financial inventory will play a key role in discussions with your spouse (or their attorney) about marital property division and potential alimony or child support payments.


Your career also warrants careful consideration. Will you be able to support yourself and possibly your children on your income alone? If you've been out of the workforce for a while, you might need to consider retraining or further education to increase your earning potential. 

Living arrangements

Where you will live post-divorce is another important factor. Will you stay in your current home, or will you need to find a new place? Consider the cost of moving, renting, or buying a new home and how this will affect your budget. If you have children, their needs and well-being should be at the forefront of any decisions about living arrangements.

Learn Illinois residency requirements

In Illinois, either spouse can initiate a divorce, but at least one spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of 90 days. This is Illinois’ divorce residency requirement. The regulation is in place to ensure that the state has jurisdiction over your divorce case. 

If you're considering moving out of state, remember that doing so could potentially complicate your divorce proceedings. Moving to a new jurisdiction might mean having to meet new residency requirements, which could delay your ability to file for divorce.

Note that the 90-day residency requirement applies even if you were married in a different state or country.

Gather your financial information

A crucial step in preparing for a divorce involves gathering your financial information. This includes information about your income sources, expenses, and joint funds. Transparency is key during this process, as attempting to hide assets could lead to negative consequences.

Income sources

Your income sources aren't limited to your monthly salary. Income also includes money received for part-time work, rental income, dividends from investments, and any other streams of revenue you might have. 

Document all sources of income to gain a complete picture of your financial health, which is essential when discussing alimony or child support payments.


Keep track of all your expenses, both fixed and variable. Fixed expenses could include rent or mortgage payments, car payments, and insurance premiums. Variable expenses can include groceries, utility bills, and discretionary spending. 

Accurate documentation of your expenses will help determine how much money you'll need to maintain your lifestyle post-divorce.

Joint funds

Any joint bank accounts, investments, or assets held with your spouse should be identified. This includes property, vehicles, retirement funds, and any other shared assets. These will need to be divided during the divorce, and knowing what they are upfront helps ensure a fair distribution.


It's vital to be completely honest about your financial situation. Attempting to hide assets can backfire, leading to penalties and a potentially less favorable outcome for you. In Illinois, both spouses are required to complete financial disclosure forms as part of the divorce process, detailing all assets, liabilities, income, and expenses.

Read: Can You Sell Assets before Your Divorce Is Final?

Assess your immediate needs

As you prepare for divorce, it's crucial to assess your immediate needs and where you might anticipate having a difficult time. Your needs may range from establishing temporary orders to ensuring personal safety. Identifying and addressing these needs can provide some stability during the often tumultuous divorce process.

Temporary orders

In many cases, the court can issue temporary orders that take effect immediately and remain in place until the final divorce decree. Temporary orders can cover a variety of issues, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and use of the marital home or vehicles. 

If you have children or depend financially on your spouse, securing these temporary orders can provide immediate relief.


If you're experiencing any form of abuse or fear for your safety, take immediate steps to protect yourself and your children. This could involve contacting local law enforcement, seeking a protective order, or finding safe housing.

Read: What Domestic Abuse Victims Need to Know about Leaving and Divorce

Legal representation

Engaging a legal professional early on in the process can help protect your rights and interests. They can guide you through the complexities of the legal system, help you understand what to expect, and assist in planning for your future.

Note that many divorces do not require you to hire a divorce lawyer and pay a hefty retainer fee. For more information, read How to Divorce in Illinois without Lawyers.

Support systems

You need a strong support system. This could involve confiding in friends and family, joining a support group, or seeking professional counseling. Emotional support is important during this time.

Craft a divorce strategy

Crafting a divorce strategy is a key step in the divorce process, but what does this mean? Specifically, it involves setting ground rules with your spouse and deciding whether you'll be filing jointly, which is an option if your Illinois divorce is truly uncontested.

Set ground rules

Establishing clear communication guidelines can help maintain civility and reduce misunderstandings during the divorce process. You and your spouse might agree on how and when you'll communicate. You might determine which topics are off-limits outside of your legal proceedings. You might also agree to keep your minor children out of any disputes and to speak respectfully about each other in their presence.

Suggested: 4 Ways to Show Your Kids You Respect Their Other Parent

Filing jointly

In Illinois, it's possible for spouses to file a joint petition for divorce if they agree on all aspects of their separation, including the division of assets and liabilities, spousal support, child custody, and visitation rights. This is known as an uncontested divorce. 

Filing jointly can simplify the divorce process and reduce legal costs. However, it's crucial that both parties are genuinely in agreement. If there are any unresolved issues, a contested divorce, where each party hires their own attorney, might be more appropriate.

Consider mediation

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party, known as a divorce mediator, helps the divorcing parties negotiate and resolve issues. This method can be less adversarial and often more cost-effective than traditional litigation.

We strongly believe in the power of mediation at Hello Divorce A member of our professional mediation team can guide you through talks with your spouse, helping both of you work toward a settlement agreement. If you want an amicable divorce but need a little help, we can guide you.

Visit us at Hello Divorce to find out more about how we help divorcing couples move through the process with as little stress and cost as possible. We offer online divorce plans and a host of services, including divorce coach help and legal advice Or, schedule a free 15-minute phone call to explore your questions with an account coordinator.

Helpful: Pre-Leaving Checklist before Divorce

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.