How to File for Divorce in Illinois
Filing for divorce is often a difficult decision, but the filing process itself can be relatively simple for many couples. This guide offers a step-by-step overview of how to file for divorce in Illinois. Understanding the divorce process may make your divorce quicker and easier.
1) Fill Out the Forms
Before you can file for divorce in Illinois, you will need to fill out divorce forms. The main divorce form that must be filled out is called a petition for divorce. This petition will require you to list, among other pieces of information, your name, your spouse's name, your addresses and contact information, when and where your marriage began, and why you are divorcing.
Most people choose to use “no fault” grounds, saying that they and their spouse had irreconcilable differences that make continuing the marriage impossible. However, Illinois does also allow several fault grounds, including bigamy, adultery, and cruelty.
Most of the time, even if a spouse engages in marital misconduct, a no-fault divorce will be filed. This is because judges in Illinois are not allowed to change the division of marital property based on fault, and fault can be extremely difficult to prove to a judge's satisfaction. You will also need to request relief in the petition when you file for divorce in Illinois. Relief can be anything from the divorce itself to child custody or support or even an order of protection against an abusive spouse.
2) File the Petition
Once the divorce forms are completed, you are ready to file for divorce in Illinois. This step is relatively simple and can be completed quickly. You will file the divorce petition at the district courthouse in the county where you live, or where your spouse lives. The clerk of the court will ask for a filing fee, and once it has been paid, the paperwork will be stamped and dated.
3) Serve Your Spouse
After you file for divorce in Illinois, you will need to officially notify your spouse that divorce papers are pending against them. Typically, this is done by sending a sheriff's deputy or a process server to their home or place of employment to “serve” them with papers. Your spouse will then be given time to respond to your petition and contest any requests or fault they may dispute.
4) Settlement or Trial
Spouses who file for divorce in Illinois usually do not push their case all the way through to the trial phase. Instead, most people find a way to settle their disputes out of court, which is generally a much cheaper and faster solution. If both spouses can agree on all aspects of their divorce, they will write out a settlement agreement that spells out the terms and it can be submitted for court approval.
If you are having difficulty settling, the court may appoint a mediator to help you resolve any remaining disputed issues. If mediation fails, you will be given a trial date. Trials often require waiting for months as lawyers attempt to complete a financial investigation, and the trial itself may take days or weeks. Your divorce will only be completed after the trial, if you decide to take your case that far.