If you want to get a divorce in Illinois, you will go through the same formal steps that pretty much everyone who wants a divorce in any state has to follow. You:
- Decide you want a divorce (or your spouse decides that for you!);
- Collect and analyze your financial information;
- Negotiate a settlement with your spouse (either directly or through your attorneys);
- Figure out when you and your spouse will each see your kids and how you will parent post-divorce;
- Write up your divorce documents (or your attorney does this for you);
- File all the necessary paperwork in court, go in front of the judge and get divorced;
- Go all the way through trial if you and your spouse can’t agree about money, kids, or any other divorce issue.
It sounds simple, right? Of course, we all know that divorce is anything but simple.
Depending on how complicated your situation is, and how much you and your spouse fight, your divorce can take months, or years. It can be relatively inexpensive or it can cost you everything you have.
Again, depending upon your personality, you might feel like you have very little control over what happens in your divorce. Or, you may think you can control everything.
Either way, you’re wrong. (Sorry!)
Here’s the basics of what you need to know to get a divorce in Illinois:
- The Most Important Thing You Need to Know to Get a Divorce in Illinois;
- The New Illinois Divorce Laws;
- Grounds for Divorce in Illinois;
- Illinois Divorce Process Options;
- Alimony in Illinois;
- Divorce and Children in illinois;
- Illinois Child Support and Child Expenses;
- Answers to Basic Questions About How to Get a Divorce in Illinois.
1. The Most Important Thing You Need to Know to Get a Divorce in Illinois
Divorce in Illinois involves a lot of people. You have to deal with lawyers and judges. If you’re smart, you’ll have a therapist or a divorce coach to help you deal with your emotions. If you have a house you may need a real estate agent or a mortgage broker. You may need a financial planner or a certified divorce financial analyst.
If you think you can control all (or any) of those people, you’re kidding yourself. (Again, sorry!)
… and then, of course, there’s the issue of trying to control your spouse.
The good news is: Even though the only person in your divorce who you can control is yourself, just doing that can help you move your divorce in the right direction.
It all starts with one thing: Knowledge.
The more you know about how getting a divorce in Illinois really works, the better your chances will be of getting what you want and/or need.
The sooner you get that knowledge (and use it!) the better your chances will be for having some sort of control, both of your divorce, and of your life after divorce.
That doesn’t mean that you have to know as much about divorce as an Illinois divorce lawyer. But you do need to know the basics.
2. The New Illinois Divorce Laws
Illinois divorce law has changed dramatically in the past five years. If you’re getting a divorce now, you may wonder why you should care about the changes to Illinois divorce law.
The reason is simple: Even though the laws have changed, not all of the Illinois divorce lawyers’ websites have changed. So, if you’re surfing the web for information about how to get a divorce in Illinois, you’re probably going to see conflicting information.
If you don’t know what the law is TODAY, you may end up relying on the wrong information.
The important changes to Illinois divorce law that you, as a divorcing person, may need to know fall into X categories:
- Grounds for Divorce in Illinois;
- Illinois Divorce Process (i.e. The Different Ways You Can Get Divorced)
- Alimony in Illinois (a/k/a Maintenance or Spousal Support);
- Child Custody in Illinois and Parenting Time/Visitation (Both of these are now known as “Parental Responsibilities”).
- Illinois Child Support and the Payment of Children’s Expenses.
3. Grounds for Divorce in Illinois
The ONLY ground for divorce in Illinois is now irreconcilable differences.
If you and your spouse agree that you have irreconcilable differences in your marriage, you can get divorced any time. Illinois no longer has any waiting period for couples to get divorced if they both want a divorce.
If you and your spouse DON’T agree that you have irreconcilable differences, then you may have to be separated for six months before you can get a divorce. After you’ve been separated for six months, the law presumes that you have irreconcilable differences.
What that means is that, in Illinois, if your spouse wants a divorce, you CAN’T stop it. You can make your divorce take longer. You can make your divorce cost more. But, in the end, if your spouse wants a divorce, it doesn’t matter what you want. You will get a divorce.
4. Illinois Divorce Process Options
There are many different ways to get a divorce in Illinois.
Litigation is the traditional way to get a divorce in Illinois. Litigation essentially means going to court.
Mediation is another divorce process you can use. In mediation, a trained mediator helps you and your spouse talk to each other so you can resolve your divorce together. You can mediate your entire divorce, or you can mediate a portion of your divorce. For example, you can mediate all of your parenting issues, and litigate all of your financial issues.
Collaborative Divorce is a very specific Illinois divorce process. It, too, is an out-of-court divorce process. In Collaborative Divorce specially trained divorce professionals guide you and your spouse to make the best possible choices for yourselves and your family.
Divorce arbitration is another option in Illinois. Arbitration is a formal divorce process. It is similar to litigation, but your case is heard by a private arbitrator rather than a judge.
Illinois also has a special divorce process called a Joint and Simplified Divorce. If you and your spouse agree on everything, have no real estate, no kids, a small income and relatively few assets, you may be able to get a simple divorce. The rules regarding who qualifies for a joint and simple divorce are very specific. If you don’t meet the requirements, you will have to get a divorce using one of the other divorce processes outlined above.
To learn more about these Illinois divorce processes, CLICK HERE.
5. Alimony in Illinois
In Illinois “alimony” is known as “maintenance.”
Getting maintenance in Illinois is a three step process. First, you have to figure out whether maintenance is appropriate in your divorce. To discover the factors the court relies on in making that determination, CLICK HERE.
If your case is one in which maintenance is appropriate, then the court applies a formula (called “guideline maintenance”) to determine how much maintenance should be paid. The court also applies a formula to determine how long maintenance should be paid for. To learn more about the Illinois maintenance calculation, CLICK HERE.
Illinois divorce judges are allowed to deviate from the guideline maintenance formula if they decide it’s appropriate to do so. If they do deviate from guideline child support, they must state their reasons for doing so in the divorce judgment.
6. Divorce and Children in Illinois
If you have children, there are 4 main areas you need to consider when you divorce.
Decision Making issues (i.e. what used to be known as “Legal Custody”);
Issues surrounding where your kids live and when you and your spouse see them (i.e. what used to be known as “Residential Custody and Visitation”);
Money issues (Child support and the payment of kids’ expenses); and
Other parenting issues.
Unlike most other states, Illinois has abolished the terms “custody” and “visitation.” Instead, Illinois has created “Parental Responsibilities.”
As parents, when you divorce, you now have to decide who will be responsible for making the decisions regarding your children’s education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities.
You also need to decide where your children will live and when each of you will see your children. You also need to decide whether you and your spouse want to have a right of first refusal and, if so, what the terms of that right will be.
7. Illinois Child Support and Child Expenses
Illinois Child Support
For the most part, child support in Illinois follows a guideline formula. The court has the discretion to grant more or less child support than what the guideline formula prescribes. But, most of the time, the courts will follow the guideline formula.
Before July 1, 2017, Illinois child support was calculated based on a percentage of the paying spouse’s net income. That has now changed.
Illinois child support is now calculated based upon BOTH parent’s net incomes. The guideline child support formula can also be adjusted depending upon how much time a child spends with the paying parent.
If a child spends more than 146 overnights per year with the parent who is paying Illinois child support, then the child support payment is adjusted downwards. The reason for this is that the parent who is paying child support also needs to support the child during those 146 overnight visits.
Calculating Illinois child support is now fairly complicated. Most Illinois divorce lawyers calculate child support using special computer software. If you would like to try to calculate your own child support, you can try using the Illinois Child Support Estimator.
When using the estimator, remember that the child support number you calculate there is only an estimate! Your actual child support numbers may vary depending upon a number of factors, including whether you used the proper amount of gross income and whether you used the standardized or individualized tax amount.
The best way to get an accurate idea of how much child support you may owe or receive is to check with an Illinois divorce attorney or an Illinois Divorce Financial Analyst in your area.
The Payment of Children’s Expenses in Illinois
In addition to paying child support, a court may order Illinois parents to pay the following additional expenses for their children:
- Medical Insurance;
- Medical/Healthcare Expenses not covered by Insurance;
- Extracurricular Activities and School Expenses; and
- Child Care Expenses.
In Illinois, parents also have an obligation to contribute toward the payment of their children’s college education expenses. Those expenses include:
- Tuition and fees (this cost can not exceed the cost of in-state tuition and fees at the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana);
- Housing expenses, whether on or off-campus (this cost this cost can not exceed the cost of a double-occupancy student room with a standard meal plan in a residence hall at the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana);
- Medical insurance and medical expenses not covered by insurance;
- The reasonable cost of the child’s living expenses during school breaks; and
- Books and other necessary supplies.
8. Answers to Basic Questions About How to Get a Divorce in Illinois
Who can get a divorce in Illinois?
In order to get a divorce in Illinois, either you or your spouse has to have been a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days before the date on which you file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (i.e. a divorce petition).
How much does it cost to file for divorce in Illinois?
Everyone who files for divorce in Illinois has to pay a court filing fee, unless they get a special waiver. Waivers are only granted for people who have limited income and assets.
Only judges can grant fee waivers. To get a fee waiver, you have to go to court and ask the judge to grant you a fee waiver. It is within the judge’s discretion whether to grant your request or not.
To see whether you may be entitled to a fee waiver in Cook County, CLICK HERE.
To find out what the filing fees are in the Illinois County in which you live, check with the Clerk of the Court of your county. Every county sets its own fees.
In addition to the court fees, if you choose to use an Illinois divorce attorney, you will also have to pay his/her fees. The amount your attorney charges for your divorce will depend upon how complicated your case is and your attorney’s regular rates.
Most Illinois divorce attorneys charge by the hour for their services. The more hours your case takes, the more attorneys’ fees you will pay. So, the more you fight, the more your case will cost.
How much does it cost to get an uncontested divorce?
Your court filing fee is the same whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. What changes dramatically in an uncontested divorce is the amount of attorneys’ fees you will pay.Remember, most Illinois divorce lawyers charge by the hour. Since uncontested divorces take less time and effort than contested divorces, your attorneys’ fees are generally lower.
Is Illinois a no fault state?
Yes. As a matter of fact, the only grounds for divorce in Illinois today are irreconcilable differences. What’s more, what you or your spouse did during the marriage has no effect on how your property gets divided.
Is there a waiting period to get a divorce in Illinois?
Yes, and no. Illinois has NO waiting period for divorce IF you and your spouse agree that you have irreconcilable differences.
How long do you have to wait to get divorced in Illinois if you don’t agree that you have irreconcilable differences? Six months.
After you’ve been separated for a period of six months, the law presumes that you have irreconcilable differences. That means that, even if you don’t want to get divorced, but your spouse does, after you’ve been separated for six months, your spouse can divorce you.
Is adultery grounds for divorce in Illinois?
Not anymore. The only ground for divorce in Illinois today is irreconcilable differences.
Can you refuse to get divorced in Illinois?
Sure, you can refuse to get divorced. You can even refuse to participate in your divorce. But, if your spouse wants a divorce, and you’ve been living separately for at least six months, your spouse can divorce you – whether you agree or not.
The bottom line is that, if your spouse wants a divorce, your refusal makes no difference. (Sorry!)
Is Illinois a 50/50 state?
Illinois is an “equitable distribution” state. That means the property in an Illinois divorce is divided “equitably” Dividing property “equitably” does not necessarily mean that property gets divided “equally,” or 50/50.
What does dividing property “equitably” mean? It means that property gets divided “fairly” in light of all of the facts and circumstances of your case. (Yes. There is a lot of room for interpretation as to what “fair” means.)
How is property divided in divorce in Illinois?
If you and your spouse agree on how you want to divide your property in your divorce, you can do so. The only criterion is that the division you agree upon is “equitable.”
If you and your spouse can’t agree on how to divide your property in an Illinois divorce, you can go to trial. Then a judge will decide how your property will be divided.
Is an inheritance considered marital property in Illinois?
Money that you inherit and money that you receive as a gift is not considered to be marital property in Illinois. However, if you deposit your inheritance into a joint bank account with your spouse, then you may be deemed to have “made a gift” to the marriage.
Also, once you spend your inheritance to pay marital bills, it’s gone. You are generally not entitled to get reimbursed by the “marital estate” if you divorce.
The issue of what is and is not marital property in Illinois can be complicated. If you’re not sure whether what you own is marital property, the smartest thing you can do is to consult with an Illinois divorce attorney. S/he should be able to answer any questions you may have.
What is considered marital debt in Illinois?
In general, all debt incurred from the date of your marriage to the date of your divorce is considered to be marital debt.
But just as with marital property, the issue of what is considered marital debt in Illinois can be complicated. If you have questions, the best thing you can do is to consult with an Illinois divorce attorney about this issue.
Do I get more money in my divorce if my spouse cheated on me?
In Illinois, marital misconduct (i.e., cheating) has NO effect on how property in a divorce is divided.
The only exception is if your spouse used marital money for a non-marital purpose. For example, if your spouse spent money taking his/her new love interest out to dinner, or on vacation, that money is considered to be “dissipation.”
Your spouse may have to pay the marital estate back for amounts s/he dissipated during your marriage. However, the rules surrounding dissipation can be complicated. If you have questions about whether dissipation may be an issue in your divorce, consult with an Illinois divorce attorney to get more information.
Is there alimony in Illinois?
Yes. Alimony in Illinois is called “maintenance.” Maintenance is money paid to support your spouse or former spouse.
How many years do you have to be married to get spousal support (i.e. maintenance)?
You don’t have to be married for any certain amount of time in order to get maintenance in Illinois. However, the amount of time during which you are entitled to get maintenance depends upon the amount of time you were married.
The longer you were married, the longer the period of time you may be entitled to receive maintenance.
To see a table that shows how long you may be entitled to get spousal support based upon the length of your marriage, CLICK HERE.
What is the average amount of alimony in Illinois?
In Illinois alimony is based upon the amount of money you and your spouse make. There is no “average” amount of alimony. (Even if there was, it wouldn’t matter. What you care about is how much YOU will have to pay or will get in alimony. What happens to everyone else may be interesting, but it won’t affect your life.)
How do I get a simple divorce in Illinois?
A joint and simplified divorce in Illinois is a special divorce process that’s available if you have no children, little money, and you and your spouse agree on everything in your divorce. To get a joint and simplified divorce you must meet these requirements:
- You or your spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before you filed for divorce;
- You and your spouse have to agree that irreconcilable differences have arisen between you and that you want a divorce;
- Neither you nor your spouse can ask for maintenance (spousal support);
- You can’t have children;
- The wife can’t be pregnant by the husband;
- You’ve been married for less than 8 years;
- Neither you nor your spouse owns any real estate;
- You and your spouse have NO joint retirement benefits and the combined amount of any individual retirement benefits you have is less than $10,000;
- The value of everything you own (after subtracting what you owe on that property) is less than $50,000;
- Neither you nor your spouse earns more than $30,000 per year, gross;
- As a couple, you and your spouse do not earn more than $60,000 per year, gross;
- You and your spouse have each disclosed all of your assets and debts to each other;
- Both you and your spouse have copies of all of the tax returns either of you filed during your marriage;
- You and your spouse have both signed a written settlement agreement dividing all of your property worth more than $100 and all of your debts;
- You and your spouse have both signed a written settlement agreement outlining who will own and be responsible for all of your pets.