How Long Does a Divorce Take in Illinois?

In Illinois, there is no mandatory waiting period for an uncontested divorce as long as you meet the residency requirements. A contested divorce usually has a waiting period of six months. Overall, finalizing a divorce in Illinois can take anywhere between 2 months and a year.

In a contested divorce, one spouse might not agree to the divorce, where the children should stay, how property should be divided or other key differences.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Illinois?

Unlike some states, Illinois does not have a mandatory waiting period for an uncontested divorce. This means that once you file divorce papers, there’s no “cooling off” period that has to happen before the process can start.

While there’s no waiting period, there are residency requirements that need to be met first. Before you can file a divorce in Illinois at least one of the spouses needs to have lived in the state for 90 days. If you have minor children, they must have lived in the state for at least six months.

In the case of a contested divorce, there may be a waiting period of up to six months. If the other spouse does not agree to the divorce itself or to some of the major issues (child custody, property division, etc.), that does not mean the divorce can’t move forward.

Additionally, if your spouse isn’t present when the divorce is filed, you’ll need to serve them with the divorce papers. This can take several weeks. Then, once served, the other spouse has 30 days to respond. In the event the other spouse can’t be found or refuses to respond, the divorce will proceed as an uncontested divorce.

If the other spouse does not need to be served, they can sign an Entry of Appearance in advance.

Generally speaking, the process can be fairly quick as long as both spouses can agree on the big aspects of a divorce. The more conflict in the case, the longer it typically drags out.

Divorce Timeframe Scenario 1:

Person 1 and Person 2 decide to break off their marriage and have no children. Person 1 files their Petition for Dissolution of Marriage at the county courthouse where they reside. To speed up the process, Person 2 signed an Entry of Appearance so it’s not necessary to serve him papers.

Within two weeks, they have a case file, the name of the judge, and a court date. Because that county is a little backed up, their court date is scheduled for a few months out. Once they appear in court, the judge reviews the terms of their agreement and finalizes the divorce.

Divorce Timeframe Scenario 2:

Person 1 discovers that Person 2 has been having an affair. Person 2 moves out of the house and Person 1 files a Petition for Dissolution of marriage in the county courthouse where they live. Person 1 must notify Person 2 of the divorce with a summons and arranges for the Sheriff to deliver it. This takes several weeks. Once Person 2 receives the summons, they have 30 days to respond.

After Person 2 responds, a court date is set. Person 1 and 2 appear in court, but still can’t agree on certain issues. The judge orders mediation, which draws out the process. They also need to schedule another court date. Once the decisions are agreed on, a prove-up hearing is scheduled to finalize the divorce.

How much does it cost to get a divorce in Illinois?

Filing fees vary from county to county. Expect to pay around $250. Paperwork that is not filed properly may need to be filed again, so it’s important to take the time to make sure it’s all correct. Your safest bet to avoid delays is to have an attorney prepare the paperwork for you.

If you need to serve papers to your spouse, there will be additional fee to do this. You can choose to serve papers through the Sheriff or a private process server. If you don’t know where your spouse lives, you can also place a notice in the local paper.

If you can’t afford the filing fees or service fees, you can file for a Waiver of Court Fees.

What is the divorce process in Illinois?

Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, so you don’t need to prove wrongdoing to start the process. Though recommended, it’s also not required to have an attorney to file for divorce for you.

To start the divorce process (known as a Dissolution of Marriage in Illinois), you will need to file certain forms with the courthouse in the county you live.

If you’re using an attorney, they’ll walk you through this process and make sure you have the right forms. If you plan to do the process yourself, you can find which forms you need online[1].

Once you file the correct forms, you’ll need to officially notify the other spouse. Serving them papers can take several weeks, and once they’ve been served they have 30 days to respond. If your spouse does not need to be served, they can fill out an Entry of Appearance form in advance.

After this step, you’ll get a case number and a court date. If you and your spouse can agree on all the particulars, a judge is likely to sign the judgment unless there’s irregularities at odds with the law. If you can’t agree, additional court dates and mediation may be ordered.

Couples that have been married for a short time, have relatively low income, have no children[2], and agree on the terms of their divorce may qualify for a Joint Simplified Divorce. This is by far the fastest and easiest way to get a divorce in Illinois, but there are very specific criteria to qualify.

How long does it take to get an amicable divorce?

Spouses who are able to set aside their differences and work things out amicably generally move much quicker through the divorce process. If a couple qualifies for a Joint Simplified Divorce [3] then they can typically finalize the divorce at their first court appearance. In some cases, this could even happen the same day or within a week or two.

If you don’t qualify for the simplified process but are still on good terms with your spouse, don’t worry. An amicable divorce is still much quicker and usually much less expensive than a contested divorce. If you can prepare all the necessary documentation, collect the information, and waive the need for summons, a divorce could be finalized within a matter of weeks or months.

There are a few other things that might slow down an amicable divorce:

  1. If the courts are particularly backed up with other cases. Sometimes even a simple case can’t get a hearing scheduled for a long time.
  2. If you make a mistake on a form, are missing forms, or file in the wrong county. This is one of the primary reasons we recommend consulting a lawyer even when the spouses get along.

Does it matter who files for divorce first in Illinois?

Who files first won’t have an effect on the outcome. Because Illinois is a no-fault state, the petitioner (the person filing) does not have to provide any proof for why they want a divorce.

If you file first, you’ll be responsible for filing fees, but some of this may be recovered during the property division. If you can’t afford the fees, you could also apply to have the fees waived.


References: [1]Open Forms, [2]Divorce With No Children, [3]Joint Simplified Divorce


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