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 (also called a dissolution of marriage) the judge needs to find that there are irreconcilable differences which have “caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” The judge also needs to determine, by the documentation and proof received, that efforts to reconcile (mend the marriage) 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?
The judge will determine if a person is eligible to get alimony, or maintenance as it is referred to in Illinois, based on a series of factors. These factors include:
- 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 impairment (damage) 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 nursing school in order to take care of your children, that would be considered);
- any impairment (damage) 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 (skills that someone gets on the job, in a certain industry), 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.1
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.2 Upon review, the judge can also extend or terminate maintenance. For more information on this formula, you can view the statute on our IL Statutes page.
Note: Either party may petition for temporary maintenance and child support and these issues will be dealt with fairly quickly (on a summary basis).3 Either spouse can also request that the other spouse pay his/her attorney’s fees and costs while the case is pending. The judge will consider the factors explained in subsection (c-1)(1) of 750 ILCS 5/501 when deciding whether one spouse has to pay the attorney’s fees of the other spouse.3
1 750 ILCS 5/504(a)
2 750 ILCS 5/504(b-1)
3 750 ILCS 5/501(a)
4 750 ILCS 5/501(c-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.