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Illinois Divorce Law


Divorce laws are different in each state. Illinois divorce laws cover all area of divorce, and the way the divorce laws affect you depend on the circumstances of your case. Illinois divorce laws are complex and detailed. If you have questions about Illinois divorce law or the divorce process, speak to a local Illinois divorce lawyer today.

For your convenience, the chart below summarizes a few of the key concepts of Illinois's divorce laws:

Illinois State Laws

  • Fault/No-Fault: Both
  • Property Distribution: Equitable
  • ADR Available: Yes
  • Parenting Plan Required: Yes

Illinois Grounds for Divorce

Illinois divorce courts accept both no fault and fault grounds for divorce. When filing for no fault divorce, the couple must be living separate and apart for at least two continuous years and irreconcilable differences are shown to have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The Illinois divorce court must also determine that efforts to reconcile have failed and future attempts would not be in the couple's best interests.

Spouses can waive the two year separation requirement if the couple has been living apart for at least six months continuously with a written agreement by both spouses filed with the court, stating the couple has been separated for six months.

Fault divorce grounds include:

  • Impotence
  • Previously married and never divorced
  • Adultery
  • Willful desertion for one year
  • Habitual drunkenness for two years
  • Drug addiction for two years
  • Repeated and extreme physical or mental cruelty
  • Felony conviction or imprisonment
  • Infection with a sexually transmitted disease

Illinois Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce, one of the spouses needs to meet the state residency requirements for divorce. Illinois divorce law requires that one of the spouses has lived or has been stationed in the state for 90 days before filing for divorce. The divorce proceedings can be held in the county where either the petitioner or respondent lives.

During the Illinois divorce process, couples will need to meet other state requirements, such as Illinois divorce waiting periods.

Illinois Divorce Waiting Periods

Illinois divorce law requires couples to recognize at least a 6 month waiting period before filing for no fault divorce. Before filing the divorce petition, the couple must also meet the Illinois residency requirements.

Illinois divorce laws don't have a waiting period after filing for divorce. A remarriage waiting period is also not enforced, but the Illinois divorce court may order one if necessary in the situation.

Illinois Alternatives to Divorce

Divorce is not the only way to end a marriage. Some couples may also consider legal separation or annulment instead of dissolving the marriage through divorce. Illinois divorce law also allows couples to try alternatives to divorce court to try and work out agreements, such as through divorce mediation or arbitration, depending on the circumstances.

Legal Separation

Legal separation is considered the legal middle ground between marriage and divorce. The process allows the couples to set workable terms that may be used later on the divorce process, but the couple still has the option of reconciling without having to take further legal action.

A petition for legal separation must be filed in the county where the respondent lives or where the couples last lived together. If the Illinois divorce courts issue a judgment for legal separation, it doesn't mean the couple is legally divorced. However, the couple is able to divorce later if they wish.


Annulment is as if the marriage never existed because it wasn't legal under Illinois law. The Illinois divorce court will rule a marriage invalid and annulled if:

  • One spouse was unable to consent because of drugs or alcohol
  • A spouse was forced into the marriage through fraud or duress
  • One spouse was impotent and the other spouse didn't know before the marriage
  • A spouse was 16 or 17 and lacked consent of a parent
  • The marriage is otherwise prohibited

Illinois divorce law has specified time restraints for a marriage to be annulled. A local Illinois divorce lawyer can further explain these time limits and how your case may be affected.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution allows a couple to use a neutral third party help them negotiate a divorce settlement to save everyone time and money in the divorce process. If the Illinois divorce court determines there is a prospect of reconciliation, the court may order a conciliation conference. The couples will agree to meet with a conciliator to try to resolve differences. Hopefully, the couple can compromise and settle on main objectives.

Any facts discussed or determined during the conciliation conference will not be considered in the adjudication of a pending or subsequent legal action taken by the Illinois divorce court. Also, any report from the conciliation conference will not be recorded as part of the case, unless the couple have agreed to contrary in writing.

Illinois Property Division

During divorce, couples in Illinois have the option of entering into an agreement that determines property division, Illinois alimony and Illinois child custody. The terms the couple agree on are binding, unless the Illinois divorce court determines the agreement unfair.

If property distribution is left up to the Illinois divorce court, property division will be determined by what the divorce court considers fair since Illinois is an equitable distribution state. Illinois divorce courts will consider the following factors in property distribution:

  • Contribution to the acquisition, preservation, increase or decrease in value of property
  • Contribution as a homemaker by one spouse
  • Dissipation of property
  • Property's value assigned to each spouse
  • Length of marriage
  • Opportunity for future acquisition of assets
  • Property appointment is lieu or addition to Illinois alimony
  • Illinois child custody arrangements
  • Age, health, station, occupation, income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each party
  • Tax consequences of property division
  • Relevant economic circumstances when property division goes into effect
  • Obligations and rights from a previous marriage
  • Any prenuptial agreements or postnuptial agreements

Illinois Alimony

After divorce, Illinois divorce court may make temporary or permanent alimony awards to either spouse. Alimony, which also referred to by state divorce laws as spousal support or maintenance, is awarded if the Illinois divorce court determines it fair, without considering marital misconduct of either party. Illinois divorce courts will consider the following factors:

  • Income and earning capacity
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Length of marriage
  • Age and health
  • Tax consequences of Illinois property division
  • Other relevant factors

The spouses have the option of entering into a voluntary agreement regarding property division, alimony and Illinois child custody.

Illinois Child Custody

In Illinois divorce, couples can come to an agreement, whether in writing or orally, on how to handle such issues as child custody, Illinois child support, alimony and property division. Any terms reached in an agreement are binding, unless the Illinois divorce court rules the terms to be unreasonable.

If child custody is left up to the Illinois divorce court to decide, several factors will determine child custody considerations, including:

  • Wishes of the parents and child
  • Relationship between the child and each parent, siblings and other people who may significantly affect the child
  • Child's adjustment to home, school and community
  • Mental and physical health of everyone involved
  • Any evidence of domestic violence or threat of physical harm
  • Ongoing and repeated abuse of the child or another person
  • Willingness of each parent to encourage a close relationship between the child and other parent

Ultimately, the Illinois divorce court must keep the best interest of the child in mind when determine child custody.

Illinois Grandparent Visitation

State divorce laws don't automatically grant visitation rights for grandparents, but in most states, grandparents can petition the divorce court for child visitation considerations. In Illinois divorce, grandparents of a child who is at least one-year-old, have the right to request visitation rights. The petition for child visitation must be filed in the county where the child lives.

Illinois Child Support

In Illinois divorce, couples have the option of entering into an agreement to determine child support, as well as child custody, alimony and property division. The Illinois divorce court will approve the terms, which will be binding, unless the divorce court considers the agreement unreasonable.

If an agreement is not made, the Illinois divorce court may order either or both parents to pay child support that is considered reasonable and necessary. The Illinois divorce court doesn't consider who is at fault for the divorce or marital misconduct. Illinois divorce law uses the percentage of income formula to determine the amount of child support as a percentage of each parent's income. The percentage will be determined by the number of children needing support.

Illinois child support guidelines will be used in every divorce, unless the divorce court considers the amount inappropriate. If this is the case, the Illinois divorce court will consider what's in the best interest of the child, as well as:

  • Child's financial resources and needs
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Health and educational needs of the child
  • Parents' financial resources, needs and obligations

Child Support Enforcement

Illinois child support is issued to help protect the child's future after a divorce is final. States sometimes have trouble collecting unpaid child support from parents so child support enforcement agencies have been established to help collect child support from deadbeat parents.

Child support enforcement methods in Illinois include:

  • Withholding incomes
  • Probation
  • Contempt of court
  • Imprisonment for up to six months
  • Being listed on the child support enforcement Web site
  • Other penalties

Please understand that this information is provided for illustration purposes only and is not legal advice. Get legal advice about the Illinois divorce process by speaking to a local Illinois divorce lawyer. Call 877-349-1310 or fill out an Illinois divorce case review form to get connected today.

Case Evaluation

The above synopsis of Illinois divorce laws is by no means all-inclusive and has been adapted from applicable state laws. These laws may have changed since our last update and there may be additional laws that apply in your situation. For the latest information on these divorce laws, please contact a local Illinois divorce lawyer in your area.

The "Illinois Divorce Laws" page was last updated May 2009.

Note: Keep in mind that all divorce laws are complex. If you need legal divorce advice or want to fully understand how these laws affect you, please speak with a local divorce attorney.