Getting a Divorce in Illinois

Getting a Divorce in Illinois

Last updated: July 2014

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If you want to end your marriage you can file for divorce. Grounds, or reasons, for divorce include:Mental CrueltyPhysical CrueltyDrug Addiction or DrunkennessYou can also get divorced for irreconcilable differences, or “no reason” if:You are separated from your spouse for at least 2 years. If you both agree to the divorce, then you must only be separated for 6 monthsYou state that both of you have made all efforts to try to work out your problems, and that your marriage cannot be savedClick on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.What will get decided in a divorce case? A divorce will include ending the marriage, child related issues, dividing marital property, and deciding if either spouse will pay maintenance. Dissolution of Marriage: This is the legal term for divorce. The Court will end your marriage and all the legal benefits that are a part of your marriage. Child Related Issues: If you have children, the court will decide which parent the children will live with, how often the other parent can visit the children, and how much money the parent will pay for child support. Parenting Education: Illinois requires parents to attend a parenting education class before the judge decides a divorce. This class teaches parents ways that they can act to avoid hurting their children during the divorce. Both parents must take this class within 60 days after the first meeting with the judge. The course is at least four hours long. Contact your local Circuit Clerk’s Office for specific information on how to meet this parenting education requirement. In cook County you can complete the Divorce Education Online and find more information about Cook County Parenting Education Programs. Issues related to child custody must be resolved within 18 months of the date of service of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, unless the judge agrees that there is a good reason to delay deciding these issues.Property: The Court will divide the marital property fairly. Any bad behavior has nothing to do with how the property is divided.Maintenance: The Court will also decide if maintenance (or alimony) will be to be paid from one spouse to the other spouse. What are some of the reasons I can use to get a divorce? You can get divorced for a reason (grounds) or with no reason (irreconcilable differences).Irreconcilable Differences:Irreconcilable differences is also know as a "no fault" divorce. To prove this reason, you must be separated from your spouse for at least 2 years. If you both agree to the divorce, then you must only be separated for 6 months.You must state that both of you have made all efforts to try to work out your problems, and that your marriage cannot be saved. You do not need to describe any specific behavior your spouse did to prove irreconcilable differences.Grounds:Mental Cruelty: To prove mental cruelty you must describe repeated behavior by your spouse that made you feel sad, nervous, or upset. You must also show that you did nothing to make your spouse treat you in that way.Physical Cruelty: To prove physical cruelty you must describe repeated physical acts of violence by your spouse towards you. You must also show that your spouse's actions injured you or made you scared, nervous or upset. You must also show that you did nothing to cause your spouse to act that way.Drug Addiction or Drunkenness: The addiction must go on for at least two years.If my marriage license was never registered do I have to file for divorce? A valid marriage must have a license, a formal ceremony, and a registration with the County Clerk. If you marriage never involved any of these three events, you will likely not need a divorce. If your marriage included some of these events, you may need to file for divorce. To find free legal help for your specific marriage click the "Find Legal Help" tab. Can I use irreconcilable differences if I've been separated for only 6 months? Yes. If both spouses agree to the divorce for irreconcilable differences and have been separated for at least 6 months. Both spouses must sign a a waiver. If the waiver is signed, you will not have to wait until the 2 year separation period has passed. Just in case your spouse decides they are not in agreement, you may want to plead other grounds for divorce besides irreconcilable diferences. Note: If you are separated and residing in the same house it is wise to sleep in separate beds and no sexual intercourse. How long do I have to live in Illinois before I can get a divorce here? You or your spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing for divorce. You can only file for divorce in Illinois if you live in Illinois as your primary residence. For example, if you work in Michigan for several months of the year your primary residence must still be in Illinois. For your divorce case to decide custody of your children, the children must have lived in Illinois for at least 6 months before you file for divorce. However, there are exceptions to this and if where you live and can file for divorce is a concern you should talk with a lawyer. Can I move my divorce case to the county I live in? If both spouses live in different counties, either county will suffice. But if both spouses live in the same county, the mutual county is the correct county. If you wish to change the county of the divorce case, you must bring it up in your answer to the divorce petition. How much does it cost to get a divorce in Illinois? There are usually two fees that you have to pay. The first fee is to file your case. You pay a fee to the county Circuit Clerk when you file your case. The second fee is the cost of making sure that your spouse has been notified that you filed for divorce. This usually involves having a sheriff's deputy personally hand a copy of the divorce papers to your spouse or, if you cannot find your spouse, publishing a notice of the divorce in the newspaper. The filing fees vary from county to county. Call your county's Circuit Clerk to find out the cost for filing a divorce case and serving the divorce papers. To find out how to contact your county's Circuit Clerk, visit the Illinois Courts' website. If you cannot pay these fees, you may ask the judge to allow you to go ahead without paying. You will need to prove you have limited income. Visit the "Related Articles" section to learn how to ask the judge to let you file for free. What is the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce? A contested case is when you and your spouse do not agree. You have a contested case if your spouse:Does not want a divorceDisagrees about where the children should liveDisagrees about paying child supportDisagrees about how property should be split upDisagrees about who should pay certain debtsDisagrees about whether maintenance should be paid An uncontested case is when you and your spouse agree on everything in your case. You have an uncontested case if you:Both want a divorceAgree on issues about your childrenAgree on how property should be divided upAgree on who should pay which bills owedAgree if maintenance should or should not be paidNote: Just because a divorce is uncontested does not mean that the settlement terms will be approved by the Court. The terms can't be too unreasonable and children must be properly supported in accordance with the law. What is a Joint Simplified Divorce? A Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, or Joint Simplified Divorce, is a court process that makes it easier to get a divorce. Not every couple will meet the requirements for a Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. To get a Joint Simplified Divorce: You and your spouse must agree on everything in your divorce caseYou must be married for less than 8 yearsYou must not have any children togetherYou must own no real estateYou must be separated for at least 6 monthsTogether you must make less than $35,000 a yearTo learn more about Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, go to the "Related Articles" section.What if my spouse will not sign the divorce papers? Your spouse cannot stop you from getting a divorce by refusing to "sign the divorce papers." If you can prove that you have grounds for divorce under Illinois law, you can get a divorce. It is the Judge and not your spouse, who decides to grant you a divorce. Even if your spouse ignores the divorce case completely, you can still ask for a divorce. What if I cannot find my spouse? In all divorce cases you serve your spouse giving your spouse legal notice that you have filed a divorce case. If you cannot find your spouse to serve him or her with the divorce papers, then you can serve "by publication." You do this by publishing a notice in the local newspaper. Each county is different and you will need to contact your county's Circuit Clerk to find out which newspaper to publish your notice in. To find out how to contact your county's Circuit Clerk, visit the Illinois Courts' website. You can only use service by publication if:You could not find your spouse after making good efforts to do so. You will be questioned by the Court as to these efforts. You have asked your spouse's family members, friends or colleagues if they know how to find your spouse. It is also a good idea to conduct a basic internet search for your spouses whereabouts.If you have to serve by publication you will not be able to get:MaintenanceChild SupportVisitationDivision of your property that is not personal property or property located outside of IllinoisThese issues will be "reserved" which means that the Judge will not make any decisions about them when the divorce is granted. If you find your spouse later, then you can go back to court to have those issues decided.Can I get a divorce without my spouse knowing about it? No. One of the most important things you have to remember about your divorce case is that your spouse must have notice that you have filed for divorce so that they can take part in the case if they want to. Once your spouse receives a notice that you have filed for divorce, he or she can choose to ignore the case or get involved in it. If your spouse chooses to ignore the case, then you can go ahead without their involvement. But your spouse must be given notice so that he or she can make that choice. If you do not give your spouse proper notice that you have filed for divorce, the judge cannot give you a divorce.How long does it take to get a divorce? There is no way to know exactly how long it will take you to get a divorce. It depends on many things such as, how long it takes to notify your spouse about the divorce and whether your spouse decides to take part in the case to argue about issues such as custody and maintenance. It is not uncommon for contested divorces to take in more than 18 months. What can make the divorce take longer? Several factors can slow down the divorce process. Difficulty the sheriff has serving your spouse with divorce papers or finding your spouseActions your spouse takes such as getting a lawyer or filing an Appearance and ResponseDecisions about financial support such as child support or maintenanceDetermining who gets cutsody of the children or deciding on joint custodySetting a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parentDivision of marital property and any debts you and your spouse may haveCan I make my spouse leave the house while the divorce is pending? Once you've filed for divorce, you can seek a temporary order granting you possession of the house. You'll have to file a written request for temporary relief in the divorce case and go to court on that request. What is temporary relief? Orders for temporary relief give certain rights and privileges to one of the parties until the case is finished. The temporary order is replaced by the final and permanent order at the end of the case. An order for temporary relief may include the following:Temporary custody and/or visitation Temporary child support Temporary maintenance (also known aas spousal support)Temporary exclusive possession of the home A temporary restraining order keeping the other party from selling or getting rid of property A temporary restraining order keeping the other party from removing a childTemporary attorney's fees Any other appropriate temporary reliefWhat else can the judge do for me in a divorce case? In addition to giving you a divorce, the judge can make the following orders:Grant custody of any minor children you and your spouse haveSet a visitation schedule for the parent that will not have custody of the childrenSet an amount of money to be paid as child support by one parent to the otherDivide property you and your spouse had during marriageDivide who should pay any debts owed from marriageOrder one spouse to pay the other spouse maintenance (also called alimony or spousal support)Can my spouse still use our married name after we divorce? Yes. The law does not force him/her to change his/her name after divorce. Once I get a divorce, can I go back to my maiden name? If you took your spouse's name after marriage, the Court can allow you to return to your maiden name or any other former name. The Court cannot allow you to take a new name that you never had before. If you wish to change your name to something new, you have to file a separate legal action.Do I need a lawyer to help me with my divorce? It is always a good idea to talk with a lawyer who will advise you of your rights even if you decide not to hire a lawyer. If you think your spouse will disagree with you about an important issue, you have a contested case and you should get a lawyer to help you.You may also need a lawyer if the issues in your case are complicated. You should talk with a lawyer if you:Own real estateHave pension or retirement accountHave childrenHave special needs due to a disabilityNeed financial support from your spouse What is marital property? Marital property is any property or money gotten during the marriage. For example, if you were to buy a lottery ticket on the way to your wedding and won, this would not be marital property. If you were to buy a lottery ticket after your wedding on the way to your reception, this would be marital property.Most Property is marital property. The following are not marital property:Property gotten as a gift, an inheritance, or left to to you in someone's willProperty received in exchange for property gotten before the marriageProperty received in exchange for property gotten as a gift, an inheritance, or left to you in someone's willProperty owned by a spouse after a Judgment of Legal Separation. Property excluded by a valid agreement of the partiesAny judgment or property obtained by a court judgment awarded to a spouse from the other spouseProperty owned before the marriageThe court equitably divides marital property between the two spouses.If the house title remains a joint tenancy after the divorce, one ex-spouse will still acquire the other ex-spouse's share of the property upon his/her death. Am I responsible for my spouse's debts after we are separated? An ex-spouse is responsible any ex-spouse's expenses for the family during their marriage. An ex-spouse is not responsible an ex-spouse's post-divorce debts.Is a divorce from a civil union similar to a divorce from marriage? Yes. Civil union divorces are the same as a marriage divorce. Is a divorce from a same-sex marriage any different? No. Same-sex divorces are the same as any other divorce.Get Your Court Costs Waived File your Application, Affidavit and Order to Sue as an Indigent PersonIf your Application is approved, you will get a stamped Order to Sue or Defend as an Indigent PersonGo to the “Related Articles” section to get more information on how to waive your court costs.Prepare Your Forms Complete the Uncontested Divorce Documents Interview which you can find in the “Forms/Letters” section of this guide. This should prepare all of the forms that you will need.The forms will not print in the order that you will use them, and you will need to make photocopies of many of them. The rest of the instructions below explain which forms you will need for each step and how many copies you should make.File Your Forms Take these forms to room 802 of the Daley Center. You should have:Domestic Relations Cover Sheet;Summons – 4 copies;Petition for Dissolution of Marriage – 4 copies;Affidavit as to Military Service – 2 copies;Certificate of Dissolution – This form will not be in the packet you printed. You can pick it up in Room 802 of the Daley Center. Then fill it out with pen;Application, Affidavit and Order to Sue as an Indigent Person (if approved) – 4 copies. (You will not need to file this again, just keep a copy with you to prove to the clerk that you don’t have to pay the filing fees.)Take the original and copies of each form to the Cashier in Room 802. The cashier will stamp your originals, file them, and assign you a “case number” and a “calendar number.” Write down this information. You will need to write these numbers on everything else that you file for this ca


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