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How to Divorce in Illinois

Divorce is largely the same across all states; however, there are small differences to note. In Illinois, for example, a divorce could look incredibly different from one in Florida or California. In order to get a divorce in Illinois, here are a few important steps to take.

Step 1: Hire an Attorney

First and foremost, determine whether or not you can afford to hire representation. A skilled Illinois divorce attorney can go a long way to helping you achieve desirable results. For example, if you want physical custody of your children, you are more likely to win a court case if you are represented by an experienced lawyer rather than representing yourself.

Step 2: Determine Whether You Qualify to File

In order to file for a divorce in Illinois, you must have lived in the state for at least 6 months. If you lived in a state prior to this, you might have to file across state lines, which can be complicated. However, if you hired an attorney, he or she may be likely to have worked with interstate divorce cases before. Likewise, Illinois is a fault state, meaning you can file for divorce immediately for cruelty (physical or mental), drug addiction, or drunkenness. To file on the ground of irreconcilable differences, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be separated from your spouse for at least 2 years (6 months if you both agree to the divorce)
  • State both of you have made all efforts to try and reconcile your differences, and there is no way to save the marriage

Step 3: Research

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act dictates the general rules for property settlement, custody, and financial support. These laws can tell you if a judge is likely to have any preferences or presumptions in your upcoming case. For example, an Illinois court will divide your property equitably unless you and your spouse can agree on a way to divide assets and debts differently.

Step 4: Get the Appropriate Forms

Your local court will likely have the forms you need to file for divorce; however, they may also be readily available online. The forms will depend on your circumstances, but at minimum, you will need a summons and a petition. Your attorney can help you file the documents you need.

Step 5: Make a Proposed Settlement

If you and your spouse can agree on all concerns related to the divorce, it would be the best case scenario. Issues in divorce include property division, child custody, parenting plans, visitation, child support, and spousal support. However, if your spouse is unaware the divorce is occurring, you can make a proposed settlement for the divorce and submit it with the served papers.

Step 6: Filing

Once all forms have been completed, you will need to sign them. Those that need to be signed in front of a notary will have a notary block on them. Many courthouses have a notary on staff or allow the deputy clerk to notarize documents. However, local notaries are available at many places, such as check-cashing businesses and attorneys’ offices.

Step 7: Serving

If your spouse is unaware of the divorce, part of the process involves serving them with divorce papers. These should include a summons notice, which you should have the clerk sign. You should then make three copies of the documents—one to keep for yourself, one to send your spouse, and one to keep for the clerk who will hear your case. You can pay a sheriff to provide personal service of your summons, and your spouse will have 30 days to respond to the proposed terms of the divorce inside.

Step 8: Filing for Default

If your spouse doesn’t respond within 30 days, you can file for a Default Judgment. Not all issues can be resolved by default, especially if your spouse lives outside of the court’s jurisdiction. However, many of the issues can be decided by a judge consulting your original divorce proposal and ensuring they are fair and in line with state law.

Step 9: Mediation

In Illinois, mediation is necessary for any child-related disagreements. A neutral third party will attempt to help you and your spouse come to an agreement regarding child custody. If it is successful, the mediator will help prepare proper documents. If not, the parties proceed to court.

Step 10: Schedule a Hearing

If you need to decide custody or other divorce issues that can’t be resolved through mediation, you must go to court. Contact the clerk of the court to schedule a hearing. You and your attorney should work together to assemble relevant evidence in the meantime. The clerk will tell you where and when the hearing will be and who will preside over the case. Your spouse will also need to be notified, and the clerk can provide a form for this.

Step 11: Attend the Hearing

At the hearing, you and your spouse will both be able to argue the case for the terms of the divorce. The judge will listen to your arguments, or the arguments of your attorneys, and make a ruling. The prevailing party usually must prepare any orders. If you and your attorney submitted orders in advance, the judge might use those to make the decision.

Step 12: Appeal

Following the court case, you are typically officially divorced. However, you can appeal a decision the judge made in court. This will not reverse the divorce, but it can make the terms of custody, visitation, or spousal support easier to bear. Appeals are usually more successful with the help of a skilled Illinois divorce attorney.

If you’re interested in beginning a divorce, let us help. Our skilled Illinois divorce attorneys have been helping families in the state with complicated family law matters for years. Whether you need mediation or representation, give us a call.

Talk to us about your case in a free phone consultation. Contact us by phone or fill out our online form to schedule it today.

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