The Illinois Divorce Process

Marriage, from a legal standpoint, is a civil matter — and so is divorce. The state of Illinois grants both the marriage license and the divorce decree. The state may be in charge, but in this state, your Illinois divorce process is as unique as your marriage. You need an experinced attorney near you  to guide you, inform you, and advocate for you.

Here we  explain the Illinois divorce process, including spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, the discovery process, and how long the divorce process can take.

Can I Ask the Court for a Divorce Without Permission From my Spouse?

One person can ask the court for a divorce, without permission from the other spouse. One of the spouses must have been a resident of Illinois for 90 days before filing the petition for dissolution of marriage.  In Illinois, the parties may request a divorce based upon the grounds of irreconcilable differences, or if they have lived separate and apart for 6 months the Court will assume irreconcilable differences. 

Illinois is a “no fault” state, meaning that the state has rejected the concept of divorce based upon fault, a revolutionary aspect of the law which promotes respect for the law and minimizes hostility between the parties.

Phase 1 of the Illinois Divorce Process: Filing of the Petition

A divorce is commenced by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage and serving the petition to the spouse. If the spouse does not answer the petition, the divorce will proceed uncontested, by default. The Court will decide issues and enter judgment.

Uncontested divorce does not mean that the Court will automatically approve the terms of settlement. The Court will approve settlement terms that are reasonable as to property division, and provide support for, and allocate parental decision-making and parenting time with, the children of the marriage.

Phase 2 of the Illinois Divorce Process: Discovery 

Each party is required to complete a Financial Affidavit, which includes income, expenses, assets, debts, and other financial related items. This is also the time to discuss spousal support.

Spousal support, also called maintenance or alimony, is a question frequently asked in a consultation with the attorney. The Illinois divorce process often begins with a client wondering if it is possible to avoid paying maintenance. Beginning in January 2018, the maintenance guidelines in Illinois changed. Be sure to obtain an  Illinois divorce attorney who can draft a divorce decree using precise language, including language regarding the modification of maintenance. Additionally, be sure you are clear on your obligation to notify of a remarriage, and of your potential requirement to reimburse maintenance paid after a cohabitation commences.

Can Bad Marital Conduct Impact How My Assets are Divided?

In the Illinois divorce process, marital misconduct (bad behavior) will not affect how property and debt is divided – unless a spouse has been spending marital money outside the marriage, or “dissipating assets” that belong to the marriage.

 If you suspect that your spouse has been spending money (or hiding money) outside the marriage, hire a divorce lawyer who will clarify for you:

  • The allocation of property and debt
  • The exclusion of property
  • The benefits earned after marriage in retirement plans acquired prior to the marriage
  • Defined benefits
  • Defined contributions
  • Individual retirement accounts
  • Non-qualified plans, and
  • Restricted stock.

If you are facing divorce, you will want your attorney to raise any challenges you may have to the classification of property as marital or non-marital.

Filing for Divorce in Illinois with Children

The Illinois law governing divorce is the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. According to the Act, the Court must:

  • Protect children from harm resulting from their parents’ divorce
  • Quickly resolve the allocation of parental decision-making and parenting time, and
  • Protect and promote children’s relationships with both of their parents.

If you are getting a divorce and you have minor children, or children who have reached the age of eighteen but are not emancipated, your divorce process includes a careful analysis of which parent’s residence will be used for school purposes, which parent will be making substantial decisions in the areas of religion, health, education and extracurricular activities, and how the parents may be dividing up the parenting time. If you are getting a divorce, and your children have all emancipated, the divorce process will be substantially quicker for you.

Calculating Child Support in Illinois

Before the court ends the marriage and all of the legal benefits of that marriage, the court must be satisfied that support for the children has been ordered. In Illinois, every child is owed support from the parents. How much child support must be paid, and who pays it, is governed by the July 1, 2017 Public Act. Your attorney will explain how we calculate child support, based upon the income shares model.

College Expenses 

The court can also order parents to contribute to the college expenses of their children. During the divorce process, your attorney will provide you with assistance for seeking contribution for college expenses. Specifically, have your attorney advise you of the retroactivity provisions. If you have a disabled child or a child with special needs, the court may provide support subsequent to the normal emancipation date.

Illinois Parenting Education Classes 

In Illinois, parents must attend a parenting education class before the Court will enter their Allocation Judgment. The parenting education class teaches parents how to avoid involving their children in the Illinois divorce process. 

If you are facing divorce with minor children, other issues related to child support may arise: 

  • What if the parents can’t agree as to who has residential responsibility? 
  • What if the parents can’t agree as to parenting time allocation? 

The Illinois divorce process allows for the court to appoint an expert to investigate the best interests of the children and make recommendations to the court.

Phase 3 of the Illinois Divorce Process: Resolution

The resolution phase of the Illinois Divorce Process is usually where the case settles (each case is unique). The court encourages the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues at this time. If the parties cannot reach a settlement, the matter proceeds to trial where the court will declare the property award. In applicable cases, the court will also rule on spousal support/maintenance. 

How Long Will the Illinois Divorce Process Take?

There is no way to know, because the length of time depends on many things. Generally, if there are minor children, the Court is expected to enter judgment within eighteen (18) months of the filing of the petition. Sometimes, divorcing couples will resolve the allocation of parenting decision-making and parenting time first, then focus on resolving their financial differences.

What Will it Cost to Get Divorced in Illinois?

In many cases, the cost of the Illinois divorce process is far less than the cost of an inequitable settlement. Your divorce process may include: a business valuation, or perhaps your spouse obtained a loan, using non-marital property as collateral, and then acquired new property with the loan proceeds. Your divorce process may include a neutral court expert to value assets or conduct forensic work. A good Illinois divorce law firm near you can save you costs in your divorce.

Your Illinois divorce process is unique to you. Become familiar with the questions that the court will consider. 

Ask questions when you first meet with your divorce attorney, and as new issues come up, discuss the standards and the changes so that you are well-informed and not confused when the court makes important decisions concerning your divorce.

Schedule Your Free Divorce Consultation

With our law firm  in Orland Park, Illinois, Sterk Family Law Group serves clients in Cook County, Will County, and DuPage County. Our experienced, knowledgable, and compassionate family law group is ready to serve you today.

Schedule your free, no obligation consultation to see how our legal team and skilled  family law attorneys can assist you with your family law needs. Call us at 815-600-8950 or contact us online today.


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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