How to File for Divorce in Illinois

divorce papers gavel

This article will briefly explain the basic process for how to file for divorce in Illinois.  For more detailed explanation and guidance on how to get a divorce, contact a licensed and experienced family law attorney.  For a brief explanation of how the divorce process works, click here.



To begin the Illinois divorce process, a spouse must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  This is the initial document of the divorce papers which initiates the divorce process in the court system.  There is a filing fee to file for divorce, which can cost around $300 or more depending on the county where the Petition is filed.  This Petition must be filed at the local courthouse in a county where either spouse resides.  The spouse filing the petition is referred to as the “petitioner,” and the other spouse is referred to as the “respondent” in the legal proceedings.



The spouse filing for divorce must take the appropriate steps to ensure that the other spouse is given proper notice that the divorce has been filed.  One common method is to have the Petition “served” on the other spouse.  Service refers to the process where a third party, usually a county sheriff, physically hands the Petition to the other spouse, or to someone who can accept service on behalf of the spouse.  If the spouse cannot be located after multiple attempts at service, the petitioning spouse can ask the court to allow “service by publication.”  Service by publication is a process where notice of the divorce is posted in a local newspaper for a certain period of time.  If the other spouse does not respond or take part in the proceedings, a “default” judgment may be granted, meaning the divorce is granted without any participation by the other spouse.  A default judgment may also be requested if the other spouse has been served and does not respond to the Petition within a certain amount of time.

It is important to note that if a default judgment is granted from service by publication, the judge may not rule on issues of alimony (maintenance)property division, or child support.  The judge might also not rule on issues of child custody.

If the other spouse agrees to participate the divorce, they can file an “appearance” with the court.  An “appearance” is a document signed by a party which tells the court that he or she wishes to participate in the proceedings.  As part of this document, the respondent spouse can state that he or she “waives” proper service, meaning that the case can proceed without him or her being served.


Jurisdiction: Can you file in Illinois?

To obtain a divorce in Illinois, one of the two spouses must have either lived in Illinois or have been stationed under the armed forces in Illinois for 90 days before the filing of the Petition, or for 90 days before the finalization of the divorce.


Grounds for Divorce

In order to obtain a divorce, the petitioning spouse must have a proper reason.  Prior to 2016, Illinois law provided that a spouse must use one of several grounds for divorce to initiate the case.  New changes to Illinois divorce laws in 2016 provide that there is now only one basis for divorce: irreconcilable differences.  It must be proven that irreconcilable differences have caused an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage, that efforts at reconciliation have failed, and future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.  If the spouses are in agreement, they can simply testify before a judge to prove these requirements.  

There is no longer a two-year waiting period to use the grounds of irreconcilable differences.   If both spouses have been living separate and apart for 6 months, irreconcilable differences will be presumed, and the divorce can be finalized. 

After the divorce court proceedings have commenced, and both spouses are participating, a certain series of stages take place, which are described in our article on how the divorce process works in Illinois.  It is important for each spouse to be aware of their rights and responsibilities under Illinois law as part of these proceedings.  If you or someone you know is thinking about filing for divorce in Illinois, have them contact our office today to speak with an experienced attorney.


To schedule a consultation and learn how to get a divorce in Illinois, call an experienced family law attorney serving Will county, Dupage county and Kendall County at (815) 207-9570 or (815) 409-8858.


The information on this site is not legal advice.  Retain an attorney licensed in the state which has jurisdiction over your matter before taking any action which affects your legal issues, legal marital status or custody arrangements, and follow the advice of your retained lawyer.