How to File for Divorce in Illinois

You must be an Illinois resident for a minimum of 90 days to file for divorce. In Cook County, you file a domestic relations cover sheet, summons, petition, and certificate of dissolution with the county court, pay a divorce filing fee, and serve your spouse papers.

Considerations Before Filing a Divorce

The more prepared you are, the faster and less painful the process will be. In the divorce, you'll need to determine how your property is divided, whether or not one spouse requires financial support, health insurance continuation, child support, and many other aspects of your life moving forward. Additionally, if you have minor children, you will also need to create a parenting plan to determine how much time each of you spends with them. If there are any points you and your spouse can't agree on before appearing before a judge, then the court could order mediation or, in extreme cases, end up making the decision for you.

Overview of Filing for Divorce in Illinois

  • You or your spouse must have resided in Illinois for at least 90 days
  • File a petition for dissolution of marriage together with your spouse or alone. In addition, you will provide the court with papers outlining any of your assets (financial, real estate, etc)
  • If your spouse is not present, you will have to serve your spouse and submit proof that the papers were sent to him/her.
  • If the divorce is uncontested, there will be no waiting period, and a court date will be set for your case. If it is contested, there's a 6 month waiting period (750 ILCS 5/401(a-5)).
  • If you have minor children, you will need to submit a parenting plan within 120 days of filing your petition.
  • Before the final hearing, you can request a temporary order for items such as child support, spousal support, bill payments, and restraining orders.
  • If the couple can finalize the agreement, the judge will review it and return a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage to finalize the process. If the two parties can't agree, then the court may order additional mediation and extend the process.

How to Apply for a Fast Divorce in Illinois

A “Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage”, also known as a “same day divorce”, is the fastest way to get a divorce in IL is to file for. Below are the steps involved, but they differ based on county:

  1. Complete a  Domestic Relations Division Cover Sheet
  2. Complete a Joint Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
  3. Complete a Judgment for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
  4. Complete a Property Settlement Agreement
  5. Make two copies of the petition and all attachments, one for you and one for the court
  6. Both parties attend a court hearing, which may take place on the same day

In Cook County, if you and your spouse have no children, have been married less than 8 years, make less than $30,000 per year individually, and one spouse has lived in Illinois for a minimum of 90 days, then you may qualify for a joint simplified divorce. This is a simplified divorce, with less paperwork, and you usually have a court hearing the same day you file. There are many other factors to determine if you are eligible or not, and in order to take this route, the divorce must be uncontested on all counts.

If you're in Cook County, you can use the county's online system to file for a joint simplified divorce. If not, then you need to check with your local circuit court to determine the correct forms you'll need to file for divorce. Here are forms for DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County.

Preparing Your Divorce Forms

The exact forms you'll need to file for divorce can differ based on circumstances or county you file in. Various factors such as if the divorce is contested or not, if you have children, and your total income will ultimately determine which forms you need. It's important to know exactly which forms are required and to fill them out accurately so as to avoid any delays. While it is possible to do yourself, the quickest and safest method for filing papers is to have a family attorney do it for you.

If you are filing on your own, make sure to thoroughly complete all the necessary paperwork. In some cases, you will be able to do a guided online interview that will help fill the forms out for you.

You can also go to Illinois Legal Aid Online to get a basic overview of the forms you'll need to complete the divorce process.

What Information Do I Need to Provide to Get the Right Forms?

Before filling out any personal information, you will need to answer the following questions in order to access the correct forms:

  1. Are you filing jointly?
  2. Do you have any children?
  3. Will you need to schedule a temporary hearing?

Filing Illinois Divorce Papers

If you have a divorce lawyer, they will double check the contents with you, then file them with the appropriate courthouse on your behalf.

Otherwise, if you're filing on your own, make sure you accurately fill out and sign all Illinois divorce forms. If the forms have a notary block next to them, you will need to sign them in the presence of a notary, who is usually on staff at the courthouse. You will need to make four copies of every document. When you're ready to file, you will need to go to the District Court in the county where you or your spouse lives.

Once there, you'll give over the original forms and a copy to the clerk, pay any filing fees and schedule any temporary order hearings. If your spouse is not with you, you can present an Entry of Appearance form signed by your spouse, otherwise, you will have to serve them with a summons and a petition. These documents will need to be signed by the county clerk before being sent to your spouse.

Serving Your Spouse Divorce Papers

If you do not file jointly for a dissolution of marriage, you will be required to serve your spouse. This assures the court that everything possible was done to inform the spouse of the divorce and give them a chance to contest any part of it. Only the Sheriff's office or a private “Process Server” can serve papers. Once the other party receive the papers, they officially have 30 days to respond.

What Happens if your Spouse Avoids Service?

If your spouse doesn't respond, then a couple of things may happen. If it's not clear whether the papers were actually seen by the spouse, the judge may ask for another 30 days for the papers to be sent again.

In a case where your spouse has been served but refuses to respond, it may result in a default judgment. This would not mean that you get everything, but a judge will come to an equitable agreement without your spouse's input. Once the court approves the judgment, it must be mailed to your spouse and filed with a certificate of mailing with the court.

Some Common Divorce Concerns

When undergoing a divorce, it's understood that you and your spouse may be living apart long before it's finalized. There are many cases where a spouse is dependent on the other's income or health insurance, need help supporting children, are concerned about whether they can stay in the family home, or any other number of temporary concerns. In these cases, you can file a petition for “temporary relief” through a temporary order to help you or your spouse maintain their standard of living until the divorce is finalized.

Filing for a Temporary Order

There are certain orders that are automatic when filing a divorce. Neither spouse can take their children out of the state or harass one another, for instance. However, there are some circumstances that may require you to take a step further. These are some of the common situations that require a temporary order to address while the divorce is being finalized:

  • Stop a spouse from selling or disposing of valuable property
  • A spouse needs financial support while living apart
  • Continuing health insurance
  • Temporary restraining orders
  • Set up a temporary parenting schedule
  • Temporary child support

As it says in the name, any of these orders are temporary and may change or be adjusted once the final judgment is agreed on.

How Long Does Divorce Take in Illinois?

The time it takes to finalize a divorce can vary drastically based on your circumstances and can take anywhere from six weeks to 18 months. This assumes you meet the residency requirements to file in the first place.

If you have children or the divorce is contested in any way, the process is bound to be a little more complicated and take longer. If you choose to file the paperwork yourself and make any errors, this can also slow down the process.

To ensure the speediest possible outcome, it is always advised to retain the services of an experienced family attorney.

Is There a Waiting Period?

Beyond the residency requirements, there is no additional waiting period required if the divorce is uncontested. If either side contests the divorce itself (i.e. disagrees that you should get divorced at all) it has to be proven that they've been living separate and apart for a period of six months. Keep in mind, “living separately” in the law, does not mean physically living at a different address. If you and your spouse have been living essentially as estranged roommates under the same roof, this is accepted as living separately.

Divorce Options that Work for You

There are three basic types of divorce. The first step getting divorced in Illinois is to decide which process is right for you.

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