Do-it-yourself divorce is recommended only where the divorce is uncontested. If you or your spouse are financially dependent on the other or disagree about child custody, division of property, responsibility for debts or whether there should be a divorce at all, it's important you get the assistance of a legal professional who understands and can protect your rights. But if you both agree to the divorce and its terms, it's not necessary to hire an attorney. The state of Illinois offers a simplified joint divorce packet that makes a DIY divorce (called dissolution of marriage) easy.
Jurisdiction and Grounds
Before filing for divorce in Illinois, it's important to understand the jurisdictional requirements and the grounds for divorce. You don't have to have been married in Illinois to file for divorce there, but either you or your spouse must be a legal resident of the state (or stationed there by the armed services) for a minimum 90 days immediately preceding the petition for dissolution of marriage. Jurisdiction is in the county where either spouse resides. Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that either spouse can file for divorce without having to provide a reason. This is the option taken by most uncontested divorces because it maintains the privacy of the couple. On the other hand, divorce can also be granted if evidence is entered into the public record that either spouse is sexually impotent, was still in a prior marriage at the time of your marriage, has committed adultery,has deserted the other spouse for at least a year, is habitually intoxicated for a period of at least two years, has been convicted of physical or mental cruelty or a felony, or is infected with a sexually transmitted disease.
Joint Divorce Packet
In Cook County (Chicago), marriages of fewer than eight years where the total income of both parties is less than $35,000 can be terminated quickly through a simplified dissolution of marriage packet of three documents (see Additional Resources). First, the three-page Joint Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage identifies the parties and establishes the requirements for joint petition. If the parties meet these requirements, they can set forth the assets that will become the sole property of each spouse and the debts for which they will each be solely liable. Next they must sign the affidavit attesting that the property has been divided according to the joint petition. Finally, they submit a judgment form that the judge simply has to order to grant the divorce.
Most Illinois counties do not offer the simplified joint divorce option, and many marriages in the Chicago area would not qualify for it anyway. If you live in a county other than Cook, use the Additional Resources section to identify the circuit court in which you should file, and locate the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form on the circuit court's family division web page. A sample petition from the 19th Circuit is included in the Additional Resources section for reference--if you live in Cook County but do not qualify for the simplified joint divorce, use this form as a guide to draft your own petition for dissolution of marriage. In all counties, the form must be filed with the circuit court clerk, served on the other spouse by a process server or sheriff, along with a summons (available from the clerk). Since the divorce is uncontested, you and your spouse can draft your own Marriage Settlement Agreement, setting forth the division of property, debts, payment of alimony or child support and child custody. You can then jointly sign and file a Stipulation for Uncontested Hearing to notify the court that you are ready to expedite the divorce.