Illinois Divorce: Basics and Overview
This is a quick and easy guide to the basics of the uncontested divorce process in Illinois.
- Illinois’s residency requirement for divorce: In order to get a divorce in Illinois, you or your spouse must have been a resident in the state for at least 90 days just before you filed the initial divorce papers. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/401(a) (2022).)
- No-fault grounds for divorce in Illinois: Illinois allows only “no-fault” divorce. When you file for divorce, you don’t have to claim (or prove) that your spouse was to blame for the end of the marriage by engaging in some kind of misconduct. Instead, you simply state that your marriage has broken down because you and your spouse have “irreconcilable differences.” Unless you’ve been separated for a certain period of time, the judge must find that your attempts at getting back together have failed, or that any future attempt would be impractical and not in the family’s best interests. But if you’ve lived “separate and apart” for at least six continuous months by the time of your final divorce hearing, you’ll automatically meet the irreconcilable differences requirement, without any need to show your attempts at reconciliation. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/401(a), (a-5) (2022).)
- Requirements for uncontested divorce: To get an uncontested divorce in Illinois, you and your spouse must agree on all the issues in your divorce, including your irreconcilable differences, how to divide your property, alimony, and—if you have minor children—child custody and child support. Illinois also has a special streamlined form of uncontested divorce known as “joint simplified dissolution,” but you must meet several other strict requirements, including a short marriage with no children and limited property.
- Timeline for uncontested divorce in Illinois: Illinois law doesn’t require a waiting period before a judge may sign your final judgment in an uncontested divorce. As long as you’ve met the residency requirement before you filed your initial divorce papers, the amount of time it will take to get your final dissolution judgment will depend largely on how soon when you can get a hearing scheduled, as well as how quickly your spouse files an appearance and response to your petition for dissolution. Typically, it will take about two to four months from the time you start the process. In contrast, a contested divorce can take anywhere from six months to two years (or even more) to complete.
- Separation requirements for divorce in Illinois? Other than the six-month separation that functions as proof of irreconcilable differences (discussed above), Illinois doesn’t have any mandatory separation requirements to get a dissolution of marriage in the state.
- Legal terms used in Illinois divorce cases: Illinois law uses the term “dissolution of marriage” for divorce. The spouse who files the initial divorce papers is the “petitioner,” while the other spouse is the “respondent.” A “joint simplified dissolution” is the special, faster procedure for getting divorced for couples who meet the strict requirements.
- Where to file for divorce in Illinois: You’ll file your divorce papers with the circuit court clerk in the county where you or your spouse live. Unless you qualify for an exemption, you must file your documents electronically.
- Main divorce papers to file: For an uncontested divorce, the main forms are the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage, Summons, Parenting Plan (if you have minor children), Entry of Appearance, Certificate of Agreement, and Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. Some of the forms are different for couples with or without minor children. Some counties have their own forms, including special forms for a joint simplified dissolution.
- Requirements for serving a spouse with divorce papers: If you and your spouse are cooperating in the process of getting an uncontested divorce, your spouse can simply sign an Entry of Appearance and get a copy of the divorce paperwork from you. Otherwise, you will need to serve your spouse with the divorce papers, typically by having the sheriff hand deliver the documents. There are other methods of service available if your spouse is missing.
- Illinois Child Support Guidelines: Like all states, Illinois has guidelines for determining the right amount of child support. Whether the parents agree to an amount of child support or a judge makes a decision on the issue, the level of support may not differ from what it would be under the guidelines unless the judge has found (and explains why) ordering the guideline amount would be “inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate” under the circumstances, after considering the child’s best interests. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/505(a)(3.4) (2022).) 3StepDivorce™ provides the Illinois Child Support Guideline Worksheets, so you can easily calculate the state's guideline level of support.
- Illinois rules on child custody: Whether parents have agreed on issues related to child custody (or “parental responsibilities”) or a judge has to decide for them, Illinois child custody laws require that both the allocation of decision-making responsibilities and the parenting plan serve the children’s best interests. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/602.5, 5/602.7 (2022).)
- Illinois rules on property division: Like most states, Illinois follows the “equitable distribution” rule for dividing marital property and allocating marital debts between the spouses in a divorce. That means that judges will base their decisions on what’s fair under the particular circumstances of each case. This won’t necessarily result in a 50-50 split (as in “community property” states such as California and Texas). As with other issues in a divorce, couples may reach their own agreement on how to divide their property and debts, but the judge won’t approve the agreement if it’s “unconscionable.” (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/502, 5/503(d) (2022).)
- Parenting class requirements: Illinois requires that couples with minor children complete an approved, four-hour parenting education program soon after they’ve filed for divorce. (Ill. Sup. Ct. Rules, rule 924 (2022).) You can contact your local circuit clerk for information about approved programs in your county.
- Financial disclosure requirements in Illinois: Illinois state law doesn’t require divorcing spouses to file and exchange financial affidavits and supporting documentation unless there has been a request for temporary alimony (“spousal maintenance”) or child support. ((750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/501(a) (2022).) However, some local courts have their own stricter rules on financial disclosures, at least unless both spouses agree to waive the requirement.
- Hearing requirements to finalize uncontested divorce in Illinois: You’ll need to attend a court hearing (known as a “prove up” in Illinois) in your uncontested divorce before a judge will sign your final dissolution judgment. Generally, you’ll simply answer a few questions (under oath) about your state residency, “irreconcilable differences,” and the provisions in your settlement agreement. Depending on local court rules and practices, your spouse may or may not have to attend the hearing. Check with the circuit court clerk’s office (or website) on what you may need to do when your spouse isn’t planning on coming to the hearing.
- Default divorce in Illinois: If your spouse doesn’t file an appearance or response within 30 days after being served with the dissolution petition, you may ask for a default divorce by filing a Motion for Default and Notice of Motion. Contact the circuit court clerk’s office for information on how to set a court date on your motion and notify your spouse of that date. Assuming your spouse doesn’t show up, the judge will probably sign an Order of Default. Then, you’ll need to schedule a hearing on your default divorce (again, mailing the default order and notice of that hearing to your spouse). At that prove-up hearing, the judge will decide if you’re entitled to what you’ve requested in your dissolution petition. (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/2-1301; Ill. Sup. Ct. Rules, rule 181(a) (2022).) If you were never able to locate your spouse and had to publish a notice of the divorce in the newspaper, the judge will not have the authority (known as “personal jurisdiction”) to order your missing spouse to pay you money or transfer property.
- Illinois laws and rules on divorce: 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/401–5/802; Ill. Sup. Ct. Rules 900-924.
- Divorce records: You can order Illinois divorce records by mail, in person, or online. Learn more about how to find and obtain divorce records in Illinois.