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Illinois is located in the Midwestern United States, where you can find the Mississippi River to its west and the Great Lakes to its northeast. The state is known for its input into the American automotive industry, its abolition of slavery, and its powerhouse city, Chicago. Illinois also has the fifth largest GDP in the U.S., with major economic contributions to industries like rental and leasing, finance, and insurance. As a high-income community, Illinois has an increased rate of cohabitation, which is reflected in figures like its lower divorce rates of 6.2 per 1,000 people, as reported by the World Population Review. However low it may be, the fact remains that there are people in Illinois who undergo divorce due to lack of commitment, domestic abuse, couples growing apart, or money-related issues.

Due to low divorce rates in the Prairie State, information may be scarce for you and your partner if you are going through one. This article intends to help you understand your case and the legal processes involved and prepare you for what lies ahead.

Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation in Illinois

Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage under Illinois law, means that the marriage between a couple has ended and is sealed by a final verdict from the court or through mediation. Meanwhile, legal separation states that the couple remains married but will no longer have to live together. In a divorce, the judgment will include spousal support, child custody, and property division, while in a legal separation, the judgment will only concern child custody and support if there were children born in wedlock. On the other hand, annulment in Illinois occurs when the court determines that the couple’s marriage is deemed invalid and will not be recognized by the state.

Is Illinois a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?

Illinois became a no-fault state for divorce on January 1, 2016. This rule was implemented following Public Act 99-90, which removed all fault-based grounds for divorce in the metro, such as substance abuse, adultery, impotence, habitual drunkenness, or abandonment. With its enactment, the process for divorce in Illinois has become simpler and easier since the couple’s only grounds for divorce would be irreconcilable differences. As stated in Sec. 401 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the dissolution of a couple’s marriage will be granted if the court’s attempt to reconcile them has failed.

How to File for Divorce in Illinois

The following are the steps that separating couples must take to complete the divorce process: 

1. Obtain and File Your County Divorce Forms 

  • When obtaining a form for filing a divorce in Illinois, take note that some counties in Illinois require different divorce forms. To make sure you are accomplishing the correct one, check with your county’s official website or directly at their office. You should also keep in mind that the forms you need to obtain will be based on whether you and your spouse have children.

2. Collect the Information

  • Prior to officially filing a divorce in Illinois, you will be required to collect the necessary information and documentation, such as your marriage date and the address where your marriage took place. You should also gather a list of your personal property, such as separate or joint bank accounts, real estate, and assets. 

3. File the Forms

  • After obtaining the forms, filling them out, and collecting the necessary documentation, you can go ahead and file. The process varies from person to person; some choose to represent themselves in court, also known as pro se, while most people hire the services of an attorney to assist them during the filing process. 

4. Serve the Papers to Your Spouse

  • Once your forms have been filed and accepted by the court, you, as the petitioner of the divorce, will deliver a copy of the papers to your spouse. If you do not want to serve the papers personally, you can have a sheriff deliver them, send them by mail, or obtain the assistance of service by publication or special order of the court

5. Disclose Your Assets

  • Before your appearance in court with your spouse, you should disclose all your assets, mortgage and debt obligations, and annual income. Doing this will help you and your spouse distribute your assets equitably and provide the court with the right financial information when determining rulings for alimony and child support. Some petitioners also request that their spouse pay for court and attorney fees.

6. Appear in a Divorce Court

  • After receiving the summons, the respondent, your spouse, has 30 days to respond to the case. If they agree to argue your case in court, both of you will appear in a divorce court in Illinois to settle your case. Most people have an attorney to represent them in court, which is the most efficient way and increases their chances of obtaining a favorable outcome. Take note that some people avoid this step by filing the appropriate pleadings and affidavits, resulting in the divorce being finalized without a court appearance.

How Property Is Divided in an Illinois Divorce

Illinois is an equitable division state, which means that marital debts and property are not required to be divided following the 50/50 rule. Rather, the court will determine both parties’ current financial situation along with their future needs. During the divorce, you and your spouse may need to divide real estate, money, investments, vehicles, debts, and family businesses. In some property division cases in Illinois, divorces are resolved using 70/30 or 60/40 splits. When dividing these assets, the court will look into various factors, such as:

  • The length of the couple’s marriage

    • Looking over this factor helps prevent wealthy people from getting exploited by people who only marry them for their money and divorce them immediately to obtain a portion of their wealth.

  • The couple’s contribution to the marital estate.

    • This could involve the acquisition or increased value of the property, such as contributions as a homemaker. However, this will also consider the spouses’ contributions to any waste of either marital or separate property.

  • The value of the property assigned.

  • Pre- and post-nuptial agreements.

  • Each party’s current financial situation.

    • This will cover their debt, financial needs, and earning potential.

  • The money and time needed to raise the children, if any.

  • A spouse’s obligation to a prior marriage.

    • The court will consider if the other spouse is paying spousal or child support from their previous marriages when dividing the assets in the current divorce proceeding.

  • Each spouse’s health and age.

  • The employability, occupation, and vocational skills of each spouse.

  • The tax associated with each asset. 

Illinois Divorce FAQs

Couples undergoing a divorce proceeding in Illinois typically ask about the costs related to the process, how long it will take, and whether they can file a divorce online or if their court records will be made public.

Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Illinois

Illinois Legal Aid Online

Illinois Legal Aid Online has been serving people in the community for over 20 years, focusing on resolving law-related issues for those who have the least access to the legal system. It uses easy-to-understand language when stating legislation to help Illinoisans make informed decisions and even represent themselves in court if necessary. Its website contains information that will help people learn their rights before and after a divorce, provide them access to forms like the Financial Affidavit and Notice of Relocation, and other resources such as the filing cost and conditions of undergoing a divorce if a couple has children.

Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois

The Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois provides civil legal aid for community members who belong to the low-income category. The nonprofit organization was established in 1983 and is a member of Investing in Communities. It has spurred access to free legal services for 140,000 different cases in Illinois since 2016. Its LTF Legal Aid program provides low-income people in the state access to attorney representation for cases that involve family, immigration, consumer, immigration, housing, and public benefits law. It also has the LTF Grand Program, which has granted tens of thousands of clients free legal services.

Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court Self-Help Center

Its website contains links to resources for Illinoisans who are planning to represent themselves during a divorce proceeding. The links also lead to topics discussing how to find an attorney that fits their case, the process of going to court, and information about juvenile expungement, adoption, and name change. The website also allows citizens access to Illinois Court Rules and Cook County Court Forms and Case Documents from trials that took place before the Circuit Court of Cook County. Furthermore, people can access Cook County Circuit Court Child Care Services to obtain assistance in recovering child support.

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