What Is the Illinois Divorce Process?
- Filing an Illinois divorce petition
- Serving the documents
- Spousal response
- What happens next
- Uncontested vs. contested divorce
Getting a divorce in Illinois can feel overwhelming, but if you understand what the process entails, you’re likely to feel more confident. Here's what you need to know.
Divorce in Illinois: Before filing the petition
One of the most important considerations when filing for divorce in any state is meeting the residency requirements. These requirements specify how long you must have lived in the state before you can file for divorce.
In Illinois, at least one member of the couple must have lived in the state for 90 days before filing for divorce. Meeting this requirement can be a deciding factor in which state you choose to file for divorce in.
Joint filing for divorce in Illinois
In some states, couples can file for an uncontested divorce jointly, which is when both parties agree on the terms of the divorce and there is no need to go to trial. This can save time and money, and it can reduce the stress often associated with divorce.
Illinois allows for this type of divorce filing. However, you and your spouse must agree on the divorce and on how to split assets and debts between you.
If you have minor children, joining petitioning for divorce is not a path available to you.
Filing your Illinois divorce petition
To file for divorce in Illinois, you need to obtain the necessary forms and file them with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where you or your spouse reside. You can obtain the divorce petition (also called a Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage) from the clerk's office or online from the Illinois Courts website.
In addition to the petition, you will also need to fill out and file additional forms, such as a summons and a financial affidavit.
Fault vs. no-fault
Illinois allows for both fault- and no-fault-based divorce. For a no-fault divorce, the only acceptable grounds are irreconcilable differences, which means the marriage is beyond repair. Fault-based grounds for divorce encompass situations that involve adultery, cruelty, abandonment, drug addiction, and habitual drunkenness.
Illinois has a waiting period in which a divorce cannot be finalized. For a contested divorce, there is a minimum waiting period of six months from the date the divorce petition is filed and served on the other party. However, this waiting period may be waived in cases where both parties agree and meet certain requirements.
Serving your documents
In Illinois, you can serve your spouse by personal service. A sheriff, private process server, or any person over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case may personally serve the papers to the other spouse. This means that the papers are physically handed to the other spouse.
You may also use substitute service. If the other spouse cannot be found or is avoiding service, the papers can be left with someone who is over 13 years old in the household, work, or other usual place of abode of the defendant.
Spouse responds to petition (or fails to respond)
Once a spouse has been served with divorce papers in Illinois, they have 30 days to file a response with the court. This response is called an "Answer," and it is the spouse's opportunity to respond to the claims made in the divorce petition.
If the spouse responds within the 30-day period and agrees to the terms of the divorce, the parties can move forward with the divorce. If the parties agree on all terms, they'll enter a marital settlement agreement that a judge will review. If there isn't agreement on all terms, then the spouses may need to attend mediation or even go to trial.
Free download: What to Include in Your Settlement Agreement
Spouse fails to respond
If the spouse does not respond, the court may enter a default judgment of divorce. This means the court grants the divorce without the input of the non-responding spouse and according to the terms outlined in the divorce petition. The non-responding spouse forfeits their right to have a say in the terms of the divorce.
What happens next
Once the divorce has been filed, the parties typically engage in a negotiation process to determine how to divide their assets and debts, arrange child custody and support if applicable, and determine spousal support.
Illinois is an "equitable distribution" state when it comes to property division. This means the couple is expected to divide the marital property in a fair and reasonable manner but not necessarily equally. If a divorcing couple cannot agree on this, the court may have to divide their property for them.
Uncontested vs. contested divorce process
If the parties reach an agreement on all the issues related to the divorce, they can proceed with an uncontested divorce. In this process, the parties prepare and sign a marital settlement agreement that outlines the terms of the divorce. The agreement is then submitted to the court for approval.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the divorce will proceed as a contested divorce. In a contested divorce, the court may hold a hearing or a trial to determine the unresolved issues. This process can be lengthy and expensive.
Mediation is an alternative solution to litigation. It costs less than going to divorce court and can minimize your stress. To learn more about mediation, read our free resources on the subject.
Final judgment vs. trial
Once the parties have resolved all the issues related to the divorce, they will submit a final judgment to the court. If the court approves the judgment, the divorce will be finalized.
If there are any outstanding issues, the court may schedule a trial to make decisions on those issues. In a trial, the judge will hear arguments from both parties and make a final decision. Once the trial is complete, the court will issue a final judgment.
FAQ about the Illinois divorce process
Is mediation required for my Illinois divorce?
In a contested divorce in Illinois, mediation is required. Spouses must attend at least one session in an attempt to resolve any outstanding issues.
Can I change my name in the divorce process?
Yes. When you file your divorce petition or response, note that you want to change your name. When your divorce is finalized, your new name will become legal.
How can I avoid a trial?
Avoiding a trial is important to keep costs down and expedite the divorce process. Hello Divorce can support you by helping you find the right mediator and providing flat-rate legal coaching. We also offer divorce coaching to help you prepare for your post-divorce life.