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Kevin O'Flaherty

Navigating the divorce process in Illinois involves meeting particular legal standards, including living within the state for at least 90 days and citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ as grounds. This guide offers a clear outline of these prerequisites, encompassing critical actions like submitting your divorce petition, along with explaining potential complexities related to dividing property, determining child custody arrangements, and figuring out spousal maintenance obligations.

Key Takeaways

  • Illinois divorce requires 90-day residency and is based on irreconcilable differences after six months of separation.
  • The process includes filing a detailed petition, serving the spouse, and options for expedited uncontested divorces.
  • Laws ensure fair property split, child custody/support for their best interest, and formula-based spousal maintenance, adjustable with changes.

Establishing Residency for Illinois Divorce

When it comes to filing for divorce in Illinois, residency is a significant factor to consider. As per Illinois law, at least one spouse must have resided in the state for a minimum of 90 days prior to filing for divorce. Ensuring that you meet this requirement is crucial in order to proceed with the divorce process.

Same-sex couples in Illinois have the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples when it comes to divorce, but they may encounter certain difficulties. Understanding the potential challenges and being prepared to address them can help same-sex couples navigate the Illinois divorce process more smoothly.

Illustration of the state of Illinois with a gavel and family silhouette to represent Illinois divorce laws

Grounds for Divorce: Irreconcilable Differences

Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that irreconcilable differences are the sole grounds for divorce. In order to file for divorce on these grounds, the couple must have lived separately for a period of two years, and attempts at reconciliation must have been unsuccessful or deemed contrary to the best interests of the family. The two-year requirement can be waived in certain cases. If a couple has been separated for at least six months prior, a written stipulation can waive the requirement.

This no-fault approach simplifies the divorce process by eliminating the need to prove fault or marital misconduct. It allows couples to focus on resolving their disputes and moving forward with their lives rather than fighting over blame in court.

Separation Period

While a six-month separation period is generally considered indicative of irreconcilable differences in Illinois, it is not mandatory. The court may still grant a divorce without a separation if it determines that efforts at reconciliation have been unsuccessful or that further attempts would be impractical and not in the family’s best interests.

This flexibility allows couples to proceed with their divorce even if they have not met the traditional separation period requirement.

Filing the Divorce Petition

The divorce process in Illinois begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage by the plaintiff (the spouse initiating the divorce) and serving it to the defendant (the other spouse). The defendant then has 30 days to respond to the petition after being served. It is essential to adhere to this time frame to avoid any delays or complications in the divorce process.

The cost of filing for divorce can vary depending on the county in which you file. For example, the initial filing fee for divorce in Cook County in 2022 was $388. Be prepared to cover these costs when initiating the divorce process.

Child Custody Arrangements in Illinois

When it comes to determining child custody in Illinois, the primary focus is on the best interests of the child. The court considers a range of factors, including the child’s needs, the parents’ wishes, the child’s relationship with each parent, and the child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community. Additionally, the preferences of older children may be taken into account.

If parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, they are required to participate in mediation to attempt to resolve their disputes. Illinois law requires that parents attend classes which focus on how divorce affects children. These classes help to ensure that children’s welfare is at the forefront. These measures are in place to ensure that the best interests of the child are the primary concern throughout the divorce process.

Division of Marital Property

Illinois follows the principle of equitable distribution when dividing marital property during a divorce. This means that the court will divide the property between the spouses in a fair and just manner, taking into account relevant factors such as the length of the marriage, the contributions of each spouse, and any debts accrued during the marriage.

Marital property typically includes most assets and debts acquired during the marriage, such as real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and credit card debts.

It is crucial to understand the concept of equitable distribution and how it may impact the division of your marital property during the divorce process.

Non-Marital Property

Non-marital property, on the other hand, refers to assets acquired prior to the marriage or those received as gifts or inheritance during the marriage. Separate property is that which is owned by one spouse before a marriage. It cannot be divided during a divorce. However, under certain circumstances, such as depositing inheritance money into a joint bank account with both spouses’ names, separate property can become marital property.

Being aware of the distinctions between marital and non-marital property can help you better navigate the property division process during your divorce.

Child Support Guidelines

In Illinois, child support guidelines are determined using an income-share model. This model takes into account both parents’ net incomes, the number of overnights each parent has with the child, and any children from other relationships. The aim of this model is to ensure that the financial burden of raising a child is shared equitably between both parents.

Illinois requires all parents to financially support their children, regardless of whether they have children from different partners. Understanding the child support guidelines in Illinois and how they impact your specific situation is crucial to ensuring that your child receives the appropriate level of support.

Spousal Support (Maintenance) in Illinois

Spousal support, or maintenance, in Illinois is determined by a formula based on the incomes of both spouses and the length of the marriage. The basic formula is (33% of the payer’s income) minus (25% of the recipient’s income). Judges also have the discretion to award temporary maintenance during the divorce process if deemed necessary.

It is important to understand the formula and factors involved in determining spousal support in Illinois, as well as the potential for temporary maintenance. This knowledge can help you prepare for the financial implications of your divorce and ensure that you are adequately supported during and after the process.

Navigating Uncontested and Contested Divorces

An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses agree on all matters related to the divorce, including child custody, asset division, and alimony. Uncontested divorces are typically quicker and less costly than contested divorces, as they do not require a trial and can be resolved more amicably.

A contested divorce, on the other hand, involves disputes over issues such as child custody, asset division, and spousal support, ultimately requiring a trial for a judge to resolve these disputes. Contested divorces can be time-consuming and expensive, so it is beneficial to strive for an uncontested divorce whenever possible, as it can simplify the divorce proceedings.

Joint Simplified Dissolution

For couples who meet specific criteria, Illinois offers a streamlined divorce process called “joint simplified dissolution”. This option is available to couples without children, with a total marital estate valued at $50,000 or less, and who have been married for less than eight years. At least one spouse must meet the residency requirement of living in Illinois for at least 90 days, as per the Illinois divorce laws.

The joint simplified dissolution process can be a faster and more cost-effective solution for eligible couples seeking to end their marriage.

Legal Assistance and Resources

For those seeking help with their Illinois divorce, various resources are available. Illinois courts, Illinois Court Help, and Illinois Legal Aid offer assistance for low-income and senior residents, as well as providing free legal resources and forms for divorce, child support, and maintenance. Non-profit organizations such as Prairie State Legal Services, Land of Lincoln, and Legal Aid Chicago also provide free legal services to eligible individuals.

In addition to these resources, private attorneys can offer specialized legal representation for your divorce. It is essential to explore all available options to ensure that you receive the appropriate legal assistance and guidance throughout your divorce process.

Legal Alternatives to Divorce in Illinois

Divorce may not be the only solution for couples experiencing marital difficulties in Illinois. Legal alternatives such as legal separation and annulment are available and may be more suitable for some couples, depending on their specific circumstances. Understanding the nuances of divorce law can help couples make informed decisions about their options.

Legal separation involves the court issuing a separation judgment, resolving disputes between the spouses regarding property division, child custody, and child support. However, neither spouse can remarry after a legal separation, as it is not a final divorce judgment.

Annulment, or a judgment of invalidity, may be granted on specific grounds, such as mental or physical incapacity, coercion, bigamy, incest, and impotence. Understanding the legal alternatives to divorce can help you make the best decision for your unique situation.


Navigating the complexities of divorce in Illinois can be challenging, but understanding the requirements and procedures can make the process smoother and less stressful. With knowledge of residency requirements, grounds for divorce, child custody arrangements, property division, and available legal resources, you can confidently approach your Illinois divorce. Remember that every situation is unique, and seeking professional legal assistance can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout this life-altering process.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to be separated before you can get a divorce in Illinois?

In Illinois, you must be living separately from your spouse for at least 6 months before you can file for divorce. If you’re considering getting a divorce in Illinois, then you should know that the state requires couples to be separated for six months prior to filing.

What is a spouse entitled to in a divorce in Illinois?

In Illinois, both parties are entitled to a fair and equitable division of all marital property accrued during the marriage.

In addition, a court may award spousal support payments based on an evaluation of each party’s contributions and current economic needs.

Is Illinois a 50-50 divorce state?

No, Illinois is not a 50-50 divorce state. The law in this state dictates that the outcome of the division of assets and debts depends on each individual’s unique circumstances. In other words, the split will not necessarily be even.

Thus, divorced couples in Illinois need to take into consideration their personal and financial situation in order to make a suitable decision.

Who has to leave the house in a divorce in Illinois?

Ultimately, the home is treated like any other marital asset. Depending on the situation, it might be sold and split evenly or one spouse may buy out the other spouse’s share of equity. It all depends on the individual divorce proceedings.

In most divorce cases in Illinois, the family home will be divided according to each party’s contribution to the acquisition and appreciation of the house. Who has to leave the house in a divorce in Illinois ultimately depends on who made contributions to the home during the marriage.

What is the residency requirement for filing for divorce in Illinois?

In order to file for divorce in Illinois, it is necessary to have lived in the state for at least 90 days beforehand.

​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.

While we serve most of Illinois, if you’re in the Schaumburg, IL area and are looking for an experienced Schaumburg divorce attorney to assist you, please feel free to reach out to O’Flaherty Law at:

O'Flaherty Law

200 W Higgins Rd Ste. 231A

Schaumburg, IL 60195

(847) 220-8191

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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