Illinois: Getting a Divorce

Divorce is the legal process and result of dissolving your marital ties and obligations to your spouse, including the division of marital property, assets and debts, as well as determining child custody and support payments, spousal maintenance and other legal and parental obligations that may continue post-marital dissolution.

Currently, Illinois recognizes civil unions for same-sex couples, meaning that you have substantially the same rights of marriage and you have to comply with the court procedures under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to dissolve your civil union.

Getting a Divorce

Not all married couples or those in civil unions choose divorce, as there are other options to a dissolution, such as a legal separation or an annulment. In lieu of a divorce or dissolution, couples may opt for a legal separation, which is similar to a divorce in all respects except that you remain married. You may enter into a separation agreement with your estranged spouse or partner on your own terms, unless a court considers the terms unconscionable, or endure court hearings and orders regarding child custody and support, spousal maintenance, division of property and debts, and any other disputed marital issues.

Under limited circumstances, your marriage may be annulled or declared invalid. These include a lack of mental capacity, including intoxication or duress, to enter into a marriage; if you are unable to consummate the marriage and your spouse was unaware of your physical incapacity; if you under 16 or 17 and lacked parental consent or judicial approval; and if you or your spouse was still married to someone else at the time, which is bigamy.

You have 90 days after knowledge of the grounds for annulment become known to request the annulment.

If you do choose to dissolve your marriage or civil union, your divorce will consist of a number of documents and steps:


You need to file a Petition for Dissolution of marriage stating the grounds for the divorce. Illinois allows you to choose the no-fault option, which merely states your marriage or union has irretrievable differences. Or, you can state the grounds for the breakup such as adultery, mental or physical cruelty, desertion, drug addiction and impotency.

Financial affidavit

This form lists your personal financial information.

Waiting period

Illinois divorce laws impose no waiting period after you file before the court will grant your divorce decree. Either you or your spouse have to reside in Illinois for 90 days before filing.

Parenting education class

Illinois law mandates that both parents attend a parenting education class of at least four hours covering issues of child custody and visitation. Long waiting periods for these classes can delay the final resolution of your divorce by weeks or months.


Should your custody or visitation issues be intractable, the court will order you to participate in mediation before litigating these topics. A mediation is a non-adversarial process designed to encourage you and your spouse to understand each other’s concerns and to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.

Late in Life Divorce Issues

Couples who are divorcing in their 60s or 70s may have unique concerns. You may have to deal with issues of loneliness and the loss of support networks, but your main challenges may be financial and medical care. Without the financial and emotional support of a spouse or partner, many seniors depend on public benefits that may not be sufficient.

Late-divorcing parties can turn to church or senior community resources to find living and caretaking arrangements. Advance planning if senior couples are contemplating divorce is essential.

Consult a Divorce Lawyer

Divorce can present many challenges, including how the laws affect your tax status and support obligations. State laws are constantly changing and evolving, so consulting an Illinois divorce lawyer can ensure that your rights and interests are adequately protected in a divorce or civil union dissolution.

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This article was verified by:
Kourosh Arami, Esq. | April 23, 2015
53 West Jackson Boulevard, Suite 1633

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