A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Illinois
In Illinois, the process of getting a divorce is actually known as a dissolution of marriage. From start to finish, this can be stressful and highly emotional, especially when someone does not understand how the process works.
If you are contemplating a dissolution of marriage in Illinois, or you’ve already made the decision to move forward, understanding what you will go through can help ease concerns that are sure to crop up.
Although every divorce is unique, there are certain things that common to all divorces in Illinois. When you have a clear understanding of what those issues are, you can proceed with a higher degree of confidence, allowing you to make better decisions at several important steps along the way.
Here are some important things to know:
- Gathering Important Information
- Deciding How to Proceed With Your Divorce
- Filling Out the Necessary Forms
- Filing Your Documents
- Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
- Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Illinois
Gathering important financial information
You can set the tone for how your divorce will proceed from the outset if you approach the task of gathering information the right way. Doing so can save you time, money and stress in the long haul.
You’ll also give yourself the best possible chance at the most favorable outcome if your documents and information are in order. Starting early and being organized are keys to successfully completing this task.
We’ve simplified the process for you by creating a Divorce Information Checklist you can check out in our article: The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.
What type of divorce is right for you?
Deciding on what divorce process to use (litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, etc.) provides you with the framework to begin moving forward. That’s an important decision and not one that should be taken lightly.
It will drive how amicable or contentious your divorce will be and set the tone for your future co-parenting relationship if you have kids. With so much at stake, it’s imperative that you understand all of your options and how they will play upon your individual situation.
To learn more about your options and the pros and cons, be sure to check out our article on The Types of Divorce.
Fill Out the Divorce Forms to Start the Process
After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue, you will need to complete several forms and submit them to start the process.
If you are going to complete forms by yourself, which many people do, there are several possible forms you will need to submit. The state of Illinois does not have a statewide uniform set of forms, so the exact forms you need to complete will vary from county to county. You will need to do some research based on where you live.
However, at a minimum, you will need to complete and file a Petition for a Dissolution of Marriage. If you are the one initiating this process, you will be known as the petitioner. If you are the one responding to the petition, you will be known as the respondent or defendant.
To give you a better idea of what you may need to submit by way of example, at a minimum in Cook County, these forms must be filled out and filed:
- Domestic Relations Cover Sheet
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- Affidavit of Service
- Certificate of Dissolution
- Financial Disclosure Statement
If you have minor children, you will also need to file the following:
- Joint Parenting Agreement
- Visitation Form
- Uniform Order of Support
You must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of the divorce petition.
File Your Divorce Forms with the Court
If you are working with an attorney, they will make sure all the forms are correct and will file them at the clerk of the court which is generally found in the courthouse for your county. You will need to pay a filing fee when you submit your paperwork. Fees vary by county but expect to pay between $150 and $300.
The clerk’s office will file your paperwork, provide you with a case number, assign a judge to your case, and issue your summons.
You must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of the divorce petition.
Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
Illinois law allows the filing spouse to “serve” the other spouse in five possible ways:
- Voluntary acceptance.
- Sheriff’s service. This is the preferred method of service in Illinois. After the sheriff has served your papers to your spouse, you will receive a proof of service document which you must then file with the court.
- Service by special process server. (must receive court permission)
- Service by publication. You can pursue this option if you can’t find your spouse. This method allows you to publish notification of your divorce in a local newspaper. This generally is the most costly of all methods.
- Service by special order of the court.
The Respondent has 30 days to file his or her response from the date of service. When you know the date of service, you can return to the Clerk’s office and set a court date. You must provide notice to the Respondent of the court date.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Illinois
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Illinois?
Costs vary from county to county in Illinois, but a petitioner can expect to pay between $150 and $300 to file paperwork that starts a divorce action. To get an exact cost, you will need to contact the county’s circuit clerk where you intend to file paperwork.
In addition to a filing fee, you will also need to pay a fee to have service completed on your spouse. The least expensive way to have service completed is through a sheriff’s deputy or a process server.
Can divorce fees be waived in Illinois?
If filing for divorce imposes an economic burden on you, then you can ask a judge to waive fees. To do so, you will need to demonstrate your lack of means to pay, complete a waiver request form and submit it for consideration.
Can I file for a divorce online in Illinois?
Yes! As a matter of fact, filing for divorce online can be a great way to save time and money.
Online divorce isn’t right for everyone. It doesn’t work if you have a contested divorce (you can’t reach agreements with your spouse and need a judge to make decisions).
If you have a dispute over child custody or particularly complicated finances, you should consult with a lawyer. There’s simply too much on the line to cut corners.
But if you have an amicable divorce, you might be able to do it yourself.
I won’t sugarcoat it. The legal system is confusing. There’s a ton of paperwork and mistakes can be costly.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help. That’s where 3StepDivorce comes in. 3StepDivorce makes it easy to complete all your divorce papers and gives you clear step-by-step filing instructions. All you need to do is answer a series of questions, which shouldn’t take more than an hour.
Not all online divorce companies are created equal. In fact, most fail to deliver on their promises. Here’s how 3StepDivorce stands out:
- A+ rating with the BBB
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- Established in 1997 with over 750,000 customers
- Private and secure
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
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One of the things that really stands out to me is that only 4% of all reviews are 1- or 2-stars. In other words, virtually everyone has a good experience with 3StepDivorce.
Read our full 3StepDivorce review, or check out 3StepDivorce to get started for as little as $84 >>
How long does it take to get a divorce in Illinois?
There is no formal waiting period to have an uncontested divorce granted in Illinois. The steps you are required to follow means that you can go through an uncontested divorce in as little as two months from start to finish. But if you are going through a contested divorce, there may be a six-month waiting period. It will depend on your jurisdiction.
On the flip side, if you are in a hotly contested divorce with many issues to resolve, a divorce could take one to two years, or even longer, depending on the circumstances of your case.
Read More: How Long Does Divorce Take?
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Illinois?
To file for a dissolution of marriage in Illinois, at least one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing. The action must be filed in the county where the plaintiff or the defendant lives.
Can I file for divorce in Illinois without using a lawyer?
You can file for divorce in Illinois without using a lawyer. In an uncontested divorce where you and your spouse can agree on all the settlement terms, you can complete the required paperwork on your own and submit the documents to the court for approval. If you meet requirements, you may qualify for a joint simplified dissolution of marriage.
To qualify, you must have been married for less than 8 years and separated for at least six months. You must also be financially independent and neither of you can own any real estate. Also, you can have no children from the marriage and you waive all right to receive any form of support. To go this route, ask the county clerk where you reside for a simplified divorce packet.
You can also use the services of a mediator, as long as both you and your spouse agree on this option.
Over the course of one or more sessions, a mediator will review financial documents, forms and worksheets as part of a discovery process and then guide you and your spouse through a series of discussions about the outstanding issues, attempting to peacefully resolve things such as child support and custody, alimony and a division of assets.
Once these issues are resolved, a mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding and you will file this document with the court as part of your divorce process. Going this route saves time, money and stress in most cases.
Can I get a divorce in Illinois if I am pregnant?
You can file for divorce in Illinois if you or your spouse are pregnant. However, there are certain issues in a divorce that cannot be addressed until after the baby is born. For example, until the baby is born, no legal parentage can be established.
This means that neither parent can pursue parenting responsibilities, and the court cannot order child support for the unborn child. As a result, the court will either deal with those issues after the baby is born or delay the final divorce instead.
How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Illinois?
If you or your spouse are a member of the U.S. armed forces and you are seeking a divorce in Illinois, your or your spouse must live in Illinois or be stationed in Illinois.
The grounds for divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce. You only need to cite irreconcilable differences as an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
Just as in a civilian divorce, once paperwork has been filed in Illinois to begin a divorce, copies must be served on a spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. However, when that spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty. A service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.
Normal property division laws apply for a military divorce in Illinois, but the federal government also protects military personnel through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act that governs how military benefits are calculated when a divorce takes place. Federal laws will not allow a military member’s retirement to be distributed to a spouse unless the couple has been married for 10 years or more while the service member was on active duty.
Child support and spousal support are determined by Illinois state guidelines, but federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and allowances.
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