A Summary of Illinois Divorce Laws

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Grounds for Divorce Under Illinois Divorce Laws

If you are planning to get divorced in the State of Illinois, you can get divorced for any of the following reasons:

  1. Impotence
  2. Bigamy
  3. Adultery
  4. Desertion for one year
  5. Addiction to alcohol/drugs
  6. Attempted murder
  7. Conviction of felony
  8. Infecting other spouse with sexually transmitted disease
  9. Living separate and apart for two years where there exists irreconcilable differences

In the case of living separate and apart with irreconcilable differences, you must show the court that all attempts at fixing the marriage have failed and that there is no chance of making it work. The court will look at the evidence and determine whether all efforts have been made or that it is not practical or good for the family to attempt reconciliation.

In addition to this, if you have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for at least six months immediately prior to the filing of the petition, you may waive the requirement of living separate and apart for two years by filing a stipulation to that effect with the court.

Residency Requirements/Where to File

At least one of the parties to the dissolution action must have been a resident of the State of Illinois for a minimum of ninety days immediately prior to the filing of the action.  The action for dissolution may be filed in the county where either party resides.

Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties

The action for dissolution of marriage is filed in the Circuit Court.  The action that begins the process of the dissolution proceeding is called the Petition for Dissolution. The action ends your marriage is referred to as a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. The person who files for divorce is the Petitioner and the other spouse is the Respondent.

Legal Separation

If you and your spouse have been living separate and apart but are not yet ready for a divorce, you may be able to request a judgment of legal separation

Simplified Divorce Procedure

We all know that a divorce is very rarely simple. However, you may be able to simplify your divorce by filing jointly, if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • Neither party is dependent upon the other for support or each party is willing to waive the right to support, and each party understands that consultation with an attorney may help them determine eligibility for support
  • The residency requirements have been met
  • Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the parties have been separated for at least six months
  • Reconciliation efforts have failed or would be futile
  • There are no children of the marriage and the wife is not pregnant
  • The marriage is no older than eight years
  • Neither party has any interest in real property
  • The parties waive all rights to alimony
  • The total fair market value of all marital property does not exceed $10,000
  • The combined gross annual income of both parties does not exceed $35,000, and neither party has a gross annual income in excess of $20,000
  • The parties have disclosed to each other all assets and their tax returns for all years of marriage
  • The parties have executed a written agreement dividing all assets in excess of $100 in value and allocated responsibility for all debts and liabilities between the parties


The court may order alimony to be paid to either spouse and will decide the amount to be paid and the length of time is shall be paid. When making this decision, the courts will consider the following factors:

  • The income and property of each party
  • The needs of each party
  • The present and future earning capacity of each party
  • Any impairment of earning capacity due to domestic duties or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage
  • The time necessary for the party seeking alimony to acquire appropriate education, training and employment
  • Whether the party seeking alimony is the caretaker of a child whose condition is such that it would be inappropriate for that party to seek employment
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and physical and emotional condition of each party
  • The tax circumstances of each party
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant

Distribution of Property

In Illinois, you will be allowed to keep any property that belongs to you alone. The court will then divide any shared property, as it deems equitable and just, without regard to marital fault. The court will consider the following factors when dividing marital property:

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition and preservation of the marital and non-marital property
  • The dissipation by each party of the marital and non-marital property
  • The value of the property set aside to each spouse
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The economic circumstances of the parties at the time the division of property takes effect
  • Any pre-existing rights and obligations from previous marriages
  • Any prenuptial agreement between the parties
  • The age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each party
  • The custodial provisions for any children
  • Whether the apportionment is in lieu of or in addition to alimony
  • The reasonable opportunities of each spouse for future acquisition of capital assets and income
  • The tax circumstances of the property division

Child Custody

If you are unable to come to an agreement with your spouse, the court will determine custody based on the following factors:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents
  • The wishes of the child
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his/her parents and siblings, etc
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals concerned
  • Any instances of domestic violence or abuse
  • The willingness and ability of each party to encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and other parent

Illinois divorce laws allow a court to interview the child in chambers to ascertain his wishes as to custody and visitation.

Child Support

The State of Illinois has enacted child support guidelines that establish the amount of support, which is presumed to be correct.  The court may deviate from the guidelines, however, when it finds that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate, after consideration of the following factors:

  • The financial resources and needs of the child
  • The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved
  • The physical and emotional condition of the child and his educational needs
  • The financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent

You may also be required to provide health care coverage for the child as part of the child support order.


If the court determines that there is a prospect of reconciliation, the court may, at the request of either party or on its own motion, order counseling for the parties.

Educational Program

If there are minor children in the marriage, you may be required participate in a course on parenting that will teach you about the effects of divorce on children and give you useful tools for helping your children get through the changes to your family.

Name Change

Upon request, the court may order a party resume the use of any former or maiden name as allowed by Illinois divorce laws.


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