Illinois Divorce

angry couple

In Illinois, divorce is referred to as a dissolution of marriage. State law provides for traditional contested divorce and a more simplified version that allows amicable spouses to fast-track their divorce at a reduced fee. Whether your case is complicated or straightforward, it helps to get an idea of how state law addresses important family law issues. Before filing for a divorce in Illinois, one spouse must live in the state for at least 90 days.


Illinois also allows both fault and no-fault divorce. To file a no-fault divorce, the spouses must satisfy four conditions:

  • Live separately for a continuous period of at least two years (not necessarily in separate residences)
  • State that irreconcilable differences caused the end of their marriage
  • State that reconciliation efforts have failed
  • State that staying together would harm their family

The two-year period can be waived if the parties live apart for at least six months, and both agree with a no-fault ground to the divorce in writing.

State law also permits parties to file a fault-based complaint under the following grounds:

  • Impotence
  • Previously married and never divorced
  • Adultery
  • One spouse has deserted the other spouse for one year
  • Habitual drunkenness for at least two years
  • Drug addiction for at least two years
  • Attempting to murder the other spouse
  • Repeated and extreme physical or mental cruelty
  • Felony conviction or imprisonment
  • Infection with a sexually transmitted disease

Filing Your Case

Illinois couples can choose from two types of divorce: formal dissolution and an abbreviated form of divorce known as Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.

Formal Dissolution

To file a traditional formal dissolution, you must follow the proper steps. The Cook County Court includes an outline of the dissolution procedure on its website, which is applicable in all Illinois courts:

  1. The Petitioner files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the appropriate court. Other necessary forms include a Domestic Relations Cover Sheet, Summons, Verification (also known as Certification), and Certificate of Dissolution. These documents are available at the Clerk's Office in your local county court system as well as online.

  2. After the documents are filed, the Petitioner must serve them on the opposing party. Illinois law permits five different types of service. Petitioners can choose from sheriff's service, special process server, publication, service by order of the court, or voluntary acceptance.

  3. Once the opposing party receives the documents, he has 30 days to file an appearance in the case. In most case, the opposing party does this by filing a Response.

Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

Illinois also offers a faster route to divorce for couples who meet certain criteria. To qualify for a Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, you and your spouse must satisfy the following:

  • Agree to the divorce and jointly complete the necessary paperwork
  • Waive the right to spousal support
  • Attend court together
  • At least one person must be a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days before filing the petition
  • Be married for eight years or less
  • Have lived apart for at least six months
  • Have no children, whether biological or adopted and the wife cannot be pregnant
  • Neither party owns any interest in real property
  • Own less than $10,000 in marital property
  • The parties' combined gross income doesn't exceed $35,000
  • Neither spouse earns more than $20,000 in gross income per year
  • Both parties have made a full disclosure of assets and taxes

If you and your spouse qualify for a Joint Simplified Dissolution, you can submit your documents and have your final prove-up hearing the same day.

Dividing Property

Illinois is an equitable distribution state. Courts consider the following when dividing property between the spouses:

  • The income and property of each spouse
  • The needs of each spouse
  • Each spouse's earning capacity
  • Any impairments either spouse might have
  • The age and physical health of both sides
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The complexity of the issues involved, including custody, business valuation, taxes, and expert witnesses
  • Each side's access to important information
  • Attorney's fees


Courts don't award alimony (also known as spousal support) in every case. Without regard to misconduct, the court will award alimony in a lump sum or for a fixed or indefinite period of time if the circumstances of the case call for it. The alimony may be paid from the income or property of the other spouse after considering all relevant factors, including:

  • The parties' income and assets
  • The future earning capacity of both parties
  • Whether the person seeking maintenance delayed education, training, or employment opportunities during the marriage to focus on domestic responsibilities
  • The age, health, and medical needs of both spouses
  • The standard of living established during marriage
  • The time the spouse seeking support may reasonably need to obtain steady employment

Child Custody and Support

Child custody and support issues are always a serious matter in any divorce case. Illinois courts use a host of factors to determine which solutions serve the best interest of any children involved in a divorce case.

Child Custody

In Illinois, the divorce court considers all relevant factors to determine custody arrangements, regardless of a parent's gender, including:

  • The parents' wishes
  • The child's wishes
  • The child's relationship with his parents, siblings, or any other important person
  • The child's adjustment to home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved
  • Any history or threat of physical violence
  • Any history of abuse
  • The willingness of each parent to encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent
  • Whether either parent is a sex offender
  • Whether either parent has a military-issued family-care plan due to deployment

Child Support

Either or both parents may be ordered to pay reasonable and necessary child support without regard to marital fault or misconduct. Under Illinois law, child support is calculated based on the following statutory factors:

  • The financial resources and needs of the child
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not ended
  • The physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child
  • The financial resources, needs, and obligations of both the non-custodial and the custodial parent

The website of Illinois' Department of Child Support Service also includes a helpful chart with a calculator that helps parents determine how much child support they might be ordered to pay.

Moving Forward

Once you have decided to end your marriage, you can quickly get overwhelmed by the financial implications of breaking up your household. As a result, you might be tempted to handle your divorce. Although many people successfully represent themselves in divorce court, you can land yourself in hot water down the road if your case gets complicated. If you have children or significant assets, it's a good idea to contact an Illinois family law attorney.

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