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Kevin O'Flaherty

Divorce can be a costly and complex process, but did you know that it's possible to learn how to get a free divorce in Illinois?

While our attorneys at O'Flaherty Law do not assist in getting clients a free divorce and do not provide pro bono legal work, this article contains information that will walk you through the criteria, procedures, and resources available to help you successfully navigate the process without breaking the bank. Should your divorce case require more than a simple online form, we are here to help.

Be aware that getting divorced with limited to no legal fees in Illinois is only possible through qualifying for a joint simplified divorce or uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse are not in agreement on all divorce terms, you will not qualify, although you may still find the information below helpful.

Again, O'Flaherty Law WILL NOT provide with you assistance in obtaining a free or low-cost divorce, we will not field your questions on getting a free divorce, and we DO NOT provide pro bono legal work. An option for those requiring free or pro bono legal services in Illinois is to contact a local legal aid service.

Eligibility for a Free Divorce in Illinois

What does it take to be eligible for a free divorce in Illinois? First and foremost, you must meet certain residency and financial requirements. At least one spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of 90 days before filing the divorce petition. Additionally, the lower-earning spouse's income must fall below the poverty line.

Meeting these prerequisites is vital to qualify for a free divorce, but other requirements also apply, such as filing the divorce petition and participating in parenting education and mediation.

Residency Requirements

In Illinois, at least one spouse must reside in the state for a minimum of 90 days before filing for divorce. For example, if you live in Cook County, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of Cook County for at least 90 days before submitting the divorce paperwork.

Now, if you and your spouse agree on all matters related to the divorce and fulfill certain financial criteria, you can opt for a Joint and Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. This type of no-fault divorce allows couples to complete the necessary paperwork together, attend court, and streamline the divorce process.

Financial Eligibility

To be eligible for a free divorce, your income must not exceed certain limits. An individual's income must not exceed $30,000 per year before taxes, and a couple's combined income must not exceed $60,000 per year before taxes.

Once you file the paperwork and schedule a court date, you can proceed with the divorce process. Moreover, it's possible to waive the filing fee for a divorce petition in Illinois if you meet the eligibility criteria.

Obtaining Statewide Forms and Legal Aid

Aside from meeting the eligibility requirements, it's essential to have access to the correct divorce forms and legal aid. Thankfully, free statewide divorce forms are available online, covering three common scenarios. These forms outline the information needed to obtain a divorce in Illinois and explain the divorce process in the state.

Additionally, Illinois Legal Aid Online offers free legal aid to those who qualify under Illinois law.

Free Divorce in Illinois

Free Statewide Divorce Forms

Online access to free statewide divorce forms makes the process easier for Illinois residents. However, keep in mind that certain counties may require additional forms in addition to the statewide standard forms.

If you don't meet the requirements for a Joint and Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, you can still download divorce papers for a standard dissolution or divorce.

Illinois Legal Aid Online is a valuable resource that offers free legal forms, referrals, and clear information on various legal issues, helping individuals make informed decisions and understand their legal options. This service reduces barriers to accessing the law and assists individuals in completing the necessary forms for a divorce.

By utilizing Illinois Legal Aid Online, you can ensure that you have the proper guidance and resources to navigate your divorce process.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

When it comes to divorce, there are two types available in Illinois: uncontested and contested. The primary difference between the two lies in whether the spouses agree on all issues involved in the divorce (uncontested) or if they have irreconcilable differences (contested).

The forms required for a contested divorce differ from those for an uncontested divorce. While it's recommended to retain legal counsel for a divorce, it's possible to proceed without one.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce in Illinois occurs when both parties agree on all matters pertaining to the divorce. The first step in filing for an uncontested divorce is to submit the necessary paperwork. The clerk of the court can provide information on the required forms for an uncontested divorce.

If one spouse fails to respond to the divorce filing, the divorce will be considered uncontested, and the court will proceed based on the information provided by the responding party. Uncontested divorces generally take less time to resolve than contested divorces, but they may still require up to 6 months or more for completion.

It is essential that the terms of the agreement are reasonable and encompass any necessary support for the minor children, if applicable.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce arises when spouses are unable to agree on one or more issues associated with the divorce, such as child custody, property division, or spousal support. The procedure for a contested divorce typically involves submitting a petition to the court, participating in mediation, and appearing in court for a hearing.

The court will then make a ruling on the contested matters. The expenses associated with a contested divorce may vary based on the complexity of the case and the duration it takes to resolve the issues.

However, a contested divorce provides the opportunity to have a judge determine the contested matters and the possibility of securing a more comprehensive and equitable resolution of the issues, ultimately leading to a divorce judgment.

Navigating the Divorce Process

The divorce process in Illinois involves several steps, including filing the petition, attending parenting education and mediation, and preparing for court hearings.

Parenting education and mediation play essential roles in the divorce process. Parenting education helps parents understand the impact of divorce on their children and how to provide the necessary support. Meanwhile, mediation is a process in which a neutral third party assists in reaching an agreement on matters such as child custody, visitation, and support.

Take an in-depth look at how to file for divorce in Illinois here.

Filing the Divorce Petition

To initiate a divorce in Illinois, you must file the necessary paperwork in the county where either you or your spouse resides. Filing a petition does not require any specific waiting time. However, after living in Illinois for 90 days, a judgment may be granted.

To learn which forms are needed to start a divorce or separation case in Illinois, consult the clerk of the court.

Parenting Education and Mediation

Parenting education is a valuable resource for parents going through a divorce in Illinois. Before a decision is made regarding parental responsibilities, both parents must attend a court-authorized parenting education program within 60 days of their first meeting with the judge. In certain circumstances, the court may permit parents to complete their parenting class via distance learning. This provides parents with more flexibility to fulfill their obligations.

Mediation, on the other hand, helps parties reach an agreement on contested issues. It is a crucial step in the divorce process, as it can resolve disputes without the need for a lengthy and expensive court trial.

Preparing for Court Hearings

Being prepared for court hearings is essential for a successful outcome in your divorce case. This involves gathering all relevant documents, such as financial records, and crafting a statement of the facts. Additionally, you must be knowledgeable about the pertinent laws and procedures.

Ensuring that you present yourself professionally in court is also crucial, as it can impact the judge's perception of you and your case. If one party fails to comply with the terms of the judgment, the other party may need to initiate legal proceedings to petition the court to hold the non-compliant party in contempt.

Handling Child Support and Marital Property Issues

Child support and marital property division are two crucial aspects of divorce in Illinois. Child support is determined using the "income shares" model and considers the number of overnights each parent has with the child. It is also subject to modification.

Marital property division, on the other hand, takes into account both financial contributions and future income.

Child Support Guidelines

Both parents have a legal responsibility to support their children in Illinois financially. Child support is calculated using the "income shares" model. This methodology takes into account the financial contributions of both parents and applies a set of guidelines as specified by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. These charts can be found at

Parents' overnight stays with their children is an important factor in decision-making. Such decisions are taken with due consideration to both parents. Child support remains in effect until the child reaches age 18 or completes high school, whichever is later. Parents have a shared responsibility in assisting with their child’s post-high school education expenses. This could include college fees, accommodation, or other related costs.

Child support is modifiable if there is a material change in circumstances.

Marital Property Division

Marital property in Illinois includes several assets. These include real estate, furniture, cars, bank accounts, stock, retirement/pension plans, and other items acquired during the marriage. The division of marital property and debts is conducted equitably, which may not always be equal, depending on factors such as each party's financial circumstances and potential for future asset acquisition.

Maintenance, or spousal support, is calculated as 30% of the paying spouse's gross income minus 20% of the receiving spouse's gross income, provided the receiving spouse's total gross income does not exceed 40% of the total combined income of the parties. The duration of maintenance payments depends on the length of the marriage.

Fee Waivers and Other Cost-Saving Measures

For those who qualify, fee waivers can alleviate some of the financial burden associated with divorce. Additionally, free legal help is available through various organizations, such as Illinois Legal Aid Online, for those who meet the eligibility requirements.

Applying for a Fee Waiver

Applying for a fee waiver can make the divorce process more affordable for those with limited means. Dissolving a marriage can incur substantial costs. In Lake County, Illinois, for example, the filing fees for dissolution are $334 as of June 2023.

You must file an Application for Waiver of Court Fees to request a fee waiver. This is the only way to waive court fees. If granted, you will not incur any court costs during the divorce.

Utilizing Free Legal Help

Free legal help refers to legal assistance provided to individuals who cannot afford legal services. This may include legal aid clinics, pro bono services, self-help resources, and other programs that offer free or low-cost legal aid to those facing civil legal issues. Eligibility for free legal assistance varies depending on the state and program.

By seeking out these resources, you can obtain the necessary support and guidance throughout your divorce process.


Obtaining a free divorce in Illinois is achievable by meeting residency and financial requirements, accessing the appropriate forms and legal aid, and understanding the differences between uncontested and contested divorces. With the right resources and guidance, you can navigate the divorce process efficiently and cost-effectively, ensuring a smoother transition into the next chapter of your life. Remember, help is available - you don't have to face this challenging time alone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can O'Flaherty Law help me get a free divorce?

O'Flaherty Law cannot help you get a free divorce. Our attorneys handle divorce and family law cases, but individuals in Illinois looking for free legal aid or pro bono work should seek out a service like Illinois Legal Aid Online.

What is the cheapest way to get a divorce in Illinois?

In Illinois, the cheapest way to get a divorce is to proceed with an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce does not require court hearings or lengthy paperwork and can usually be accomplished for less than the cost of a contested divorce.

The parties must still agree on the terms and conditions of the divorce, however, such as division of assets and child custody, before filing.

How do I get a divorce immediately in Illinois?

The quickest way to get a divorce in Illinois is by filing a joint petition, which both parties must sign. This cuts down on processing time and allows the court to grant the final judgment of divorce without waiting for the required 90-day period of residency.

It also saves money, as only one filing fee is necessary.

How much is the divorce filing fee in Illinois?

Filing for divorce in Illinois will cost you approximately $350 to open the case, plus an additional approximate $210 if your spouse files first, and a $60 fee for having the sheriff serve your spouse with a copy of the documents.

These fees are current as of June 2023.

If you are looking for an Illinois divorce attorney to assist you in this matter, please click here to find an Illinois divorce lawyer near you.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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