Before you file for divorce, keep in mind that it costs time and money to file a case in court. Divorce cases may take several months and even over a year to finish. Court cases often include:
- Fees to file your case, if you cannot get them waived
- Lawyer fees or your own time spent figuring out the court process and doing the paperwork
- Time spent in court, which may be time you have to take off work
To file for divorce, take the steps below.
1. Fill out your divorce forms
Use our program to fill out and sign the forms listed below. Make 3 copies of each form.
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: A document asking the judge to break up the marriage.
- Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Order: A document explaining the responsibilities of each parent.
- Uniform Order for Support: A document asking for monetary support from the other spouse.
- Notice to Withhold Income For Child Support: A document asking money to be withheld from the other spouse's paycheck to pay for support.
There is a fee to file most forms. The cost depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.A divorce petition must include all of these things:
- Age, job, and home address of both spouses, and how long each has lived in Illinois
- Date and place of marriage
- Initials, ages, and addresses of each child of the marriage and whether one of the spouses is pregnant
- Any arrangements for child support, parental responsibilities for the children, and maintenance (spousal support) of a spouse
- Completion of Parenting Class Certificate (one for each parent)
- What they want the judge to decide
- Whether they want custody of any pets
There are some things you should not put in a divorce petition:
2. File your forms with the court
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Some counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If you can paper file or have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations.
3. Tell your spouse about the divorce
After filing, you must send your spouse a Summons and attach the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. A Summons is a document that tells a person about the lawsuit and when to come to court. Here are the rules to know about a Summons:
- You may send the Summons to the Sheriff, or if you don’t know where your spouse is, you can notify them by publishing a notice of the divorce in a newspaper.
- There is a usually a cost to having a Summons served. The cost depends on how the summons is served to the other party; and
- If you do not give your spouse a Summons telling them about your lawsuit within the required time, the lawsuit may be dismissed because there was not proper notice of the lawsuit.
After they are notified, your spouse can file an Answer and an Appearance if they choose. If they file these forms, they should send a copy to you.
If you are trying to notify your spouse by publication, they have until the date listed on the Notice of Publication to file their response to the divorce. If they do not file a response in that time, they can be held in default, and the case will move forward without them.
Learn more about how to serve a Summons.
4. Get a hearing date
If your spouse doesn’t file a response within 30 days after being notified, you should ask for a hearing date. Depending on the county where you filed for divorce, you will need to contact either the circuit clerk or the coordinator of the judge who usually handles divorce cases to request the hearing. If your spouse signed an Entry of Appearance, Waiver, and Consent form waiving service, you do not need to wait the 30 days before asking for a hearing.
5. Get ready for divorce hearing
- Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Order
- Uniform Order for Support (talk to your circuit clerk to get this form)
- Notice to Withhold Income For Child Support
- Completion of Parenting Class Certificate (talk to your circuit clerk to get this form)
You should also bring all of the other documents that you filed when you started the divorce and any papers or documents that you used to help you fill those out (such as pay stubs, bank account information or tax returns).
6. Going to court
Follow these suggestions when going to court:
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time;
- Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check-in quietly with the courtroom staff;
- Wait for your name and case number to be called; and
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself;
- Explain briefly what you want out of the case;
- After listening to you and to the other side, the judge will let you know what happens next.
If this is your first time going to court, learn more about the process of Going to court in Illinois.
7. Send copies of court orders
After the judge has signed the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, the Uniform Order for Support and the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities file the Judgment and Order with the clerk and send a file-stamped copy of the Judgment and other forms to your spouse.
Mail a copy of the Judgment and other orders to your spouse if:
- They didn’t come to court for the hearing, or
- If the judge doesn’t sign the Judgment on the day of the hearing.
If you know where your ex-spouse works, you must do all of these things:
- Send the Notice to Withhold Income to your ex-spouse’s employer;
- Send your ex-spouse a copy of the Uniform Order for Support, by certified mail. When you mail it, you will get a green receipt card. Attach this to the Affidavit of Service of Uniform Order for Support and then file the Affidavit with the court;
- File their Certificate of Mailing with the clerk;
- Get a file-stamped copy of that Certificate;
- Send a copy of the Notice to Withhold Income to these two government agencies:
State Disbursement Unit
P.O. Box 5400
Carol Stream, IL 60197-5400
Division of Child Support Enforcement
Mail Response Unit
P.O. Box 19405
Springfield, IL 62794-9405
To prove that you have done this, file a Certificate of Mailing with the clerk. As with all documents that are filed in court, be sure to keep file-stamped copies of these documents for yourself.
Updated: September 2016