How to File for Divorce in Chicago, Illinois
By Claire Gillespie
Updated August 08, 2018
Under Illinois law, a divorce – the legal termination of a marriage – is known as a dissolution. You can file for divorce in Chicago, Illinois, provided one of the spouses lives in Illinois on the day of filing. While there is no waiting period to file a petition, at least one spouse must be a resident of Illinois for 90 days before the divorce can be granted.
Grounds for Divorce
The only ground for divorce in Illinois is irreconcilable differences, which is often called a “no fault” divorce. Under Illinois law, irreconcilable differences is defined as the “irretrievable breakdown” of a marriage. The judge muse be satisfied that there is a breakdown in the marriage, that all efforts at reconciliation have failed and that future attempts to reconcile would not be in the family’s best interests. However, if the parties have lived separately for at least six consecutive months immediately before the divorce action, this satisfies the irreconcilable differences ground.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
A divorce may be uncontested, meaning both spouses agree on all issues related to the divorce, or contested, meaning they don't agree.
An uncontested divorce is the quickest and most straightforward type of divorce. A contested divorce can take up to 18 months to finalize. The court is required to intervene to make decisions about issues such as child support or custody, spousal support, the division of property and allocation of debts.
In both uncontested and contested divorces, the agreement requires final approval by a judge.
Chicago Divorce Court Required Documents
Whether you live in the city of Chicago or the Cook County suburbs, you can file for divorce at Cook County circuit court.
The documents required by the court to file a petition for dissolution of marriage or civil union are a Domestic Relations Cover Sheet, a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union, a Summons, a Verification/Certification attesting to the truthfulness of the allegations in the petition, and a Certificate of Dissolution.
The Petition and the Summons
On the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union, you provide information about you, your spouse, your marriage (including the date of marriage), your separation (including the date of separation), and any orders you want the court to make in relation to any children of the relationship, spousal support and the division of property.
The Summons tells your spouse (the respondent) that you have filed a petition for dissolution of marriage or civil union and provides instructions regarding his written response.
Submitting the Paperwork
When you complete the forms, take them to the eighth floor of the Daley Center, or any suburban district courthouse. You have to pay a filing fee when you submit your divorce papers. As of July 2018, the filing fee is $359. If you cannot afford this fee, you can apply for a waiver or deferment of fees.
Your spouse is then served with the divorce papers, either by voluntary acceptance or service by a sheriff, process server, publication or special order of the court. Your spouse has 30 days from the date of service to file her appearance.
The court will set a date for a court hearing – you must give the spouse notice of the court date, too – where both you and your spouse can present your case on all issues relating to the divorce.
- Circuit Court of Cook County: Filing and Answering a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union
- Illinois State Bar Association: Your Guide to Getting a Divorce in Illinois
- Circuit Court of Cook County: Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union
- Circuit Court of Cook County: Frequently Asked Questions
- Illinois Legal Aid Online: Getting a Divorce
- If you do not feel comfortable drafting your own petition, there are online services that provide state compliant divorce forms for a fee.
Claire Gillespie writes about health, science, home and parenting. She has bylines on SELF, SheKnows, The Washington Post, Vice and more.