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Illinois Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers

The spouse who files the divorce petition is called the plaintiff or petitioner; the other spouse is the defendant or respondent. Illinois does not have a uniform set of domestic relations forms. At a minimum, however, the filer must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which is a written request for a divorce . Filing in Cook County, specifically, requires the following forms, in addition to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: > Domestic Relations Cover Sheet > Four copies of Petition for Dissolution of Marriage > Four copies of the Summons > Affidavit of Service (unless the defendant waives the notice requirement), and > Certificate of Dissolution. If the parties have minor children, the petitioner must also file: > Joint Parenting Agreement > Visitation Form, which is attached as an exhibit to the Joint Parenting Agreement), and > Uniform Order of Support (in cases involving child support).

Read more about Illinois divorce forms


Filing the Paperwork with the Court

The action begins when the petitioner files the divorce papers with the clerk of court. A filing fee must also be paid, which will vary by county, and most jurisdictions do not accept debit cards or personal checks, so it is best to take cash or a certified check.

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Serving the Documents

Illinois law permits the petitioner to "serve" the other spouse by private process server, sheriff's service, or publication. Service means delivering to the respondent copies of the documents filed in the case. Sheriff's service is the preferred method of service in most Illinois counties. Once the sheriff has delivered the papers, the petitioner receives a proof of service document, which he or she files with the court.

In the case of a missing spouse, Illinois permits the petitioner to publish notification of the divorce in a local newspaper. Service by publication can cost several hundred dollars, however, so it's best to exhaust all efforts to track down an address before resorting to this option.

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Disclosing Financial Information

An increasing number of Illinois counties require the petitioner and the respondent to file a Financial Disclosure Statement. The form, which requires each party to list out his or her assets and debts, streamlines the process of dividing marital property.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

The couples must decide if they will file for divorce together or if one will file alone. Joint filing makes the dissolution easier. For an uncontested divorce, the spouses live apart for at least six months and irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and the spouses both waive the two-year waiting period.

In many cases the couple can qualify for a Simplified Divorce, which is a much quicker and simpler method of divorcing. In order to divorce this way, the couples must:

  • have been married for less than eight (8) years,
  • have been separated for six (6) months or more,
  • have combined assets worth less than $10,000,
  • have no interest in any real property (real estate, such as a home or business),
  • have a combined income of less than $35,000,
  • have no children together, and
  • not be dependent on each other for support (alimony or maintenance).

Parties need special forms for a simplified divorce or for a divorce with minor children. Some of the forms include:

  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which everyone filing for divorce must complete.
  • Stipulation to Waiver of Two-Year Requirement, which couples suing for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and in agreement to waive the two–year separation requirement need to complete.
  • Notice of Hearing, which is used when the spouses are not in agreement on all issues, including division of assets, child custody and visitation, and child support.
  • Certificate of Mailing of Notice of Hearing, which is sent to the spouses after the petitioner has filed all documents with the Court.
  • Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, which is completed after a hearing or pursuant to an agreement and signed by the Judge to grant the divorce.
  • Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support, completed when one party pays child support, to have the support automatically withheld money from his or her check.

When spouses settle before their case goes to trial, Illinois requires submission of the agreement and all related documents at what is called a "prove up" hearing. During the hearing, the petitioner must be prepared to answer the judge's questions about the division of the marital property and provide any documentation.

Finalizing the Divorce

The more unresolved issues, the more the parties disagree, the longer the case takes. Normally it takes approximately one month to have the paper work completed and to obtain a final court date. If the case goes to trial, it can take much longer, up to one year or more.

In the case of a no-fault action based on irreconcilable differences, the waiting period is two years, however if both parties agree, they can waive that two-year period so that the Divorce Finalization Waiting Period is only 6 months.

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In dividing property, the Illinois court considers all relevant factors including the contribution of each party to the value of the property, particularly the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker, the value of the property distributed to each spouse, the length of the marriage, the financial situation of each spouse when the property is divided, (such as the need to give the family home to the spouse who has custody of the children), any obligations and rights arising from a prior marriage of either party, the age, health, station, occupation, income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and needs of each of the parties, the custody of any children, and the reasonable opportunity of each spouse for future acquisition of capital assets and income.

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