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Illinois Divorce Laws

Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, meaning irreconcilable differences alone can be grounds for divorce without proving fault by either spouse. Child custody, referred to as allocation of parental responsibilities, follows the child's best interest standard. Marital property and alimony get divided equitably based on factors like income, needs, and marriage duration.

Wisconsin Divorce

Initiating a Divorce in Illinois

The divorce process begins with one spouse (the petitioner) filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Illinois. The other spouse (the respondent) then receives a summons and has a chance to respond.

Residency Requirements

To file for divorce in Illinois, one spouse must have lived in the state, or stationed in Illinois as a member of the armed services, for at least 90 days. There's no specific waiting period before the divorce can be finalized once the process has started.

Ground for Divorce

As of January 1, 2016, Illinois became a ‘no-fault' divorce state, meaning the only ground for divorce is ‘irreconcilable differences.' Also, if you and your spouse have been living separately for at least six months, irreconcilable differences are presumed.

Six Month Separation

Illinois law does not require a 6 month separation before filing for divorce. However, if one spouse contests divorce, irreconcilable differences are presumed after 6 months separation, but this can be waived if both parties agree to the divorce.

Wisconsin Divorce Laws No Fault

Understanding the Divorce Process

The divorce process in Illinois involves several steps, which differ depending on the type of divorce:

  • Uncontested Divorce: This is when both parties agree on all terms, including property division, child custody, and alimony.
  • Mediated Divorce: Here, a neutral third party, the mediator, helps the couple reach agreements on disputed issues.
  • Contested Divorce: This occurs when spouses cannot agree, and the court must decide the contested issues.

Step 1

Filing for Divorce

To start divorce proceedings, you or your spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in county court.

Step 2

Temporary Orders

The court may issue temporary orders for child custody, support, and asset distribution while the divorce is pending.

Step 3

Mediation Process

If you can’t agree, the court may order mediation to resolve conflicts cooperatively, reducing the need for court intervention.

Step 4

Pretrial Conference

If the divorce is contested, the judge may hold a pretrial conference to discuss the unresolved issues before going to trial.

Step 5

Trial and Finalization

If an agreement is not reached, the divorce will proceed to trial, where the judge makes the final decisions.Then a final divorce decree is issued, outlining all decisions.

Types of Divorce

For an uncontested divorce, you and the other party agree on all the divorce issues and just need help with the legal process.

In a mediated divorce, the two parties meet with a third-party mediation attorney who helps them go through the divorce process together.

A contested divorce is where the two parties go through the process separately because they do not agree on one or more divorce issue.

A family law attorney can help you understand which type of divorce best suits your situation.
Call now for immediate help with your family law case.
(312) 757-8082

Key Components of Divorce in Illinois

A divorce in Illinois involves several key components, including the division of property, determination of parental responsibilities, and potential alimony payments.

Divorce Essentials

Understanding the types of divorces, their duration, and associated expenses can help you manage your expectations.

Types of Divorces

The types of divorces include no-fault, uncontested, mediated, and contested divorce. Each type has its own requirements and processes, influenced by factors like agreement on issues, cooperation between spouses, and the presence of marital assets or children.

Divorce Duration

An uncontested divorce typically finalizes in 2-4 months. Contested cases vary greatly – a simple case may take 6-9 months, while complex disputes over assets and child custody can take several years. On average contested divorces take 12-18 months, but many factors influence the timeline. Consulting an attorney can provide more clarity on the expected duration of a divorce.

Divorce Expenses

Divorce costs can include attorney's fees, court costs, mediation costs, and expenses related to child custody evaluations or property appraisals. An uncontested divorce is the most affordable, while a contested divorce could reach or exceed $20,000. Alimony, child support, asset division and case complexity can significantly increase the cost.

What Gets Split

The court equitably divides all marital property, regardless of who holds title. This includes bank accounts, investments, real estate, retirement accounts, businesses, cars, and personal property. Debts like mortgages and credit cards are also divided.
The goal is a fair distribution based on factors like each spouse's income, needs, and contributions to acquiring assets.

Key Assets

When dividing property during a divorce, several key assets typically come into play:

  • The Marital Residence: This is often the most significant asset, both financially and emotionally.
  • Retirement Accounts and Pensions: These represent a bulk of savings and future financial security.
  • Marital Debts: While not an asset, marital debts significantly impact each party's financial situation post-divorce.
  • Investment Portfolios: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments can represent a significant portion of a couple's wealth.
  • Business Interests: If a couple owns a business, this can be a major asset and a source of ongoing income.
  • Bank Accounts: Checking, savings, and other bank accounts represent liquid assets that are immediately accessible.
  • Personal Property: Items like cars, furniture, and jewelry may have significant sentimental value.
  • Life Insurance Policies: These can be an important asset in a divorce, especially if there are children involved. The cash value of a policy can be divided, and the policy itself can be used to secure future support payments.

The Court's Role in Property Division

The court considers various factors, like the duration of the marriage, the economic circumstances of each spouse, and the value of the property, to ensure an equitable division.

Property Division

In an Illinois divorce, non-marital property, like assets acquired before the marriage or inherited, is typically excluded. However, marital property is divided equitably between spouses. Marital property includes assets and debts acquired during the marriage.

Child Custody

Illinois divorce law has moved away from the term “child custody“, now using the term “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Divorcing parents must develop a comprehensive parenting plan that includes:

  • Allocation of decision-making responsibilities – Which parent(s) can make important choices regarding the child's education, health care, religion, and other welfare needs.
  • Allocation of parenting time – A detailed schedule indicating when the child will be under each parent's care and supervision.

How Custody Works

Child custody in Illinois is determined based on the “best interests of the child” standard. This involves examining many factors related to the child's needs, circumstances, and relationships with each parent to decide parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities that serve the overall welfare and well-being of the child.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Responsibilities can be sole (one parent has primary) or joint (parents share decision-making). When determining the legal decision-making authority, the court prefers joint allocation if possible.

Parenting Time

Parenting time determines when each parent will have the child. Parents should agree on a schedule. If not, the court will order one based on the child's best interests.

Child Support

Child support is calculated based on both parents' incomes and amount of parenting time allocated. Modifications can be ordered by the court if circumstances change.

Alimony Determination

Whether alimony is awarded depends on a variety of factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse's financial situation, and their future earning potential, expenses, and more.

Alimony Calculation

In Illinois, alimony is calculated using a specific formula that considers both spouses' incomes and the length of the marriage to create the amount and duration of alimony. However, courts have discretion – they may use other methods to determine a fair amount based on the circumstances of the case. There is no rigid formula that must be followed.


Sometimes referred to spousal maintenance or spousal support, alimony is a payment one spouse makes to the other during or after a divorce. It's designed to prevent significant disparities in living standards post-divorce, but it’s not guaranteed.

For more comprehensive legal advice, consider consulting a family law attorney.
Call now for immediate help with your family law case.
(312) 757-8082

Frequently Asked Questions

How long until a divorce gets finalized in Illinois?

An uncontested divorce can finalize within months, while a contested divorce with disputes over assets, support, or child custody can take years. How long a divorce takes also depends on the complexity of the case. The court schedule may also impact the timeline.

What is the wife entitled to in a divorce in Illinois?

The wife, or any spouse, is entitled to an equitable share of marital property and assets acquired during marriage. The court divides property fairly based on factors like contributions, needs, and earning abilities.

Does Illinois require separation before divorce?

No, Illinois doesn't require legal separation first. However, if spouses have lived separately for at least 6 months, irreconcilable differences are legally established as grounds for divorce. This separation can be waived if both parties mutually consent to the divorce upfront.

How is marital property divided in an Illinois divorce?

Marital property is divided equitably, which means fairly but not always equally. Factors like contributions, length of marriage, and circumstances are considered when dividing assets.

How does Illinois determine child custody?

Parental responsibilities in Illinois are based on the child's best interests. The court considers various factors impacting the child's well-being and family circumstances.

Can you divorce a disabled spouse in Illinois?

If you or your spouse is disabled, most of the divorce process works the same as any other case. However, a disability can significantly impact Illinois divorce proceedings. When determining spousal support, courts consider the earning capacity of each spouse which may result in a higher alimony award. It can also impact property division and child custody.

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