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Legal Information: Illinois

Illinois Divorce

Laws current as of
January 23, 2024

This page has basic information about divorce in Illinois. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.

What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Illinois?

To file for divorce in Illinois, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state, or stationed in Illinois as a member of the armed services, for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce.1

1 750 ILCS 5/401(a)

What are the grounds for divorce in Illinois?

“Grounds” are legally acceptable reasons for a divorce. To get a divorce in Illinois the judge needs to find that there are irreconcilable differences that have “caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” The judge also needs to determine, by the documentation and proof received, that efforts to reconcile have failed or that any attempt to reconcile would be impossible or not in the best interests of the family.1

Note: If you and your spouse have lived apart for at least six consecutive months immediately before the divorce judgment, the judge will assume that this requirement for “irreconcilable differences” has already been met.2

1 750 ILCS 5/401(a)
2 750 ILCS 5/401(a-5)

Can I get alimony? What factors will a judge consider?

The judge will determine if a person is eligible to get alimony, or maintenance as it is called in Illinois, based on a series of factors.

A request for temporary maintenance and child support will be dealt with fairly quickly (on a “summary basis”) and the judge’s decision will be based on allocated parenting time, financial affidavits, tax returns, pay stubs, banking statements, and other relevant documentation.1

For a final maintenance order, there will usually be a more extensive hearing. The judge will consider the following factors:

  • the income and the property of each party, including both the property each spouse owns together and individually;
  • all financial obligations put on each party due to the divorce;
  • the needs of each party;
  • the realistic present and future earning capacity of each party;
  • any damage (impairment) to the earning capacity of the spouse requesting maintenance that may have happened due to:
    • delaying or giving up his/her education, training, or employment due to the marriage; or
    • devoting time to domestic duties; for example, if you gave up going to school in order to take care of your children, that would be considered;
  • any damage (impairment) to the earning capacity of the spouse who would be paying maintenance;
  • the time needed for the person requesting maintenance to get the necessary education, training and employment, while considering any parental responsibility that may have an effect on that time;
  • the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • the age, health, place in life (station), occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and the needs of each of the parties;
  • all sources of income including disability and retirement income;
  • any tax issues that may arise in dividing up property;
  • contributions and services the person seeking maintenance may have contributed to the other spouse to his/her education, training, career, or license;
  • any agreements between you and your spouse; and
  • any other factor the judge may find fair to consider.2

If the judge finds that one of the spouses is entitled to maintenance, s/he will calculate how much should be paid and for how long based on a formula set by state law.3 Upon review, the judge can also extend or terminate maintenance. For more information on this formula, you can view the statute on our Selected Illinois Statutes page.

1 750 ILCS 5/501(a)
2 750 ILCS 5/504(a)
3 750 ILCS 5/504(b-1)

If I don't have money to hire a lawyer, can the judge order my spouse to pay my attorney's fees?

You can ask the judge to order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees while the case is pending (“interim fees”), including money to pay an initial retainer fee in order to hire an attorney. If you are filing a petition for an initial retainer to hire an attorney, you must attach to your petition:

  1. an affidavit from the attorney that states:
    • you contacted the attorney about this case; and
    • the attorney has agreed to represent you if the court grants you the retainer fee; and
  2. a certificate from you that states that the interim fees granted will only be used to retain the attorney.1

Any interim fees granted would then be paid directly to the identified attorney.1

When deciding whether to award attorney’s fees, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • the income and property of each party, including marital property within the sole control of one party and non-marital property that each party has access to;
  • the needs of each party;
  • the realistic earning capacity of each party;
  • anything that lessens the present earning capacity of either party, including age and physical and emotional health;
  • the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • the degree of complexity of the issues, including allocation of parental responsibility, valuation or division of closely held businesses, tax planning, as well as reasonable needs for expert investigations or expert witnesses, or both;
  • each party’s access to relevant information;
  • the amount of the payment or payments already made or reasonably expected to be made to the attorney whose fees are being sought; and
  • any other factor that the judge believes should be looked at due to fairness.2

1 750 ILCS 5/501(c-1)(1.5)
2 750 ILCS 5/501(c-1)(1)

What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:

  • First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.

  • Second, you must have “grounds,” a legally acceptable reason, to end your marriage.

  • Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.)

  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.

  • Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Where can I find more additional information about divorce?

We hope the following links to outside sources may be helpful.

Illinois State Bar Association provides a divorce guide that includes information on grounds for divorce in Illinois, residency requirements, and maintenance.

Illinois Legal Aid has the following resources:

  • court forms that you may need if you wish to get a divorce as well as frequently asked questions; and
  • summaries of relevant laws related to divorce, separation, maintenance and more. The website also links you to the actual language of the laws.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.

You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.