How Long to Get a Divorce in Illinois?
By Beverly Bird
Although Illinois technically has a 90-day waiting period for divorce, this is deceptive. The three-month period overlaps the 90-day residency requirement to be able to file for divorce in the state. Once you file, your divorce might take days, or it might take years, depending on the complexity of your situation. (References 1 and 3)
Joint Simplified Divorce
The quickest option for divorce in Illinois is the state’s joint simplified process. However, not every couple qualifies. It’s restricted to spouses who do not have children, who do not own any real estate, have less than $10,000 in assets and who collectively earn less than $35,000 a year. Your marriage must also be short-term, less than eight years in duration. If you qualify, you and your spouse can file a divorce petition together, waive service and be divorced as soon as the court can schedule a date for a hearing. However, you would have to complete your own settlement agreement, telling the court how you’re going to divide your assets and joint debts.
If you don’t qualify for a simplified divorce because you own too much property, earn too much or have children, you can still hasten the process by completing a marital settlement agreement prior to filing. You can file a “regular” complaint for divorce and file it with your settlement agreement. If your spouse signs an entry of appearance, waiving his right to be officially served with your complaint, and if you file that at the same time you file your complaint and agreement, you can usually receive a court date to finalize your divorce within a couple of weeks.
A collaborative divorce is similar to an uncontested divorce, and Illinois law recognizes the concept. It involves a series of meetings between you, your spouse, your attorneys and various custody and financial experts. If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement on your own, you can try with the help of these professionals. Generally, you won’t file for divorce until you’ve ironed out your differences and an agreement is in place. Although this can take some time, once you do so, you can be divorced just as quickly as with a simplified or uncontested matter.
As in all states, the divorces that take the longest are contested matters. Your spouse can still waive service by signing and filing an entry of appearance, but if he does not, you will have to have the county sheriff serve him with a copy of your divorce documents. This can take a couple of weeks, then you must wait out the 30-day period the court gives him to respond to your complaint. You may have to engage in the discovery process to identify all assets and debts. If you don’t have a parenting plan, you’ll have to negotiate one. If you can't reach an agreement on these issues, you'll have to go to trial. Overall, a contested divorce can take a year or more, although the Illinois Supreme Court wants divorces resolved within 18 months when children are involved.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.