How to Get a Divorce in Illinois

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The easiest way to get a divorce is to agree with your spouse regarding how you’re going to do it. Otherwise, you’ll have to proceed through a series of legal phases. Illinois’s phases are structured and some have deadlines, but judges have leeway to extend them.

Step 1

File your petition with the court in the county where either you or your spouse currently live, then make sure she gets a copy through a legally-approved means. This is "process of service." Illinois allows you to have the sheriff in the county where your spouse lives deliver it to her, or you may hire a private process server. She has 30 days within which to file a response to your petition with the court, but she can request an extension.

Step 2

Tell the court if you need any temporary orders while your divorce is pending, such as for child support or help paying the household bills. When your spouse answers your petition, the court will schedule a case management conference that both of you must attend. Use this opportunity to tell a judge or court official what you need. If you and your spouse are in conflict regarding parenting time, the court will also enter an order obligating you to attend mediation to try to work it out.

Step 3

Begin discovery efforts to make sure you know everything there is to know about your spouse’s finances. Discovery can include a request for copies of all her financial documents, or interrogatories, which are lists of written questions she must answer. You can also conduct depositions, during which you can ask her questions under oath. This involves hiring a court reporter to take everything down. If you want to take this route, consult with a professional first to find out how to go about it.

Step 4

Meet with your spouse -- several times, if necessary -- to try to come to an agreement regarding your property, support issues and custody. If you can, put it into written form, sign it, have it notarized and submit it to the court. The court will schedule a final hearing for your divorce.

Step 5

Let the court know if you have not yet come up with a parenting plan through mediation, or if there are any other outstanding issues between you and your spouse. The court will schedule a pre-trial conference so you can meet with the judge who will hear your case if it goes to trial. The judge will also try to help you settle. If he fails, the court will schedule a trial and the judge will decide the terms of your divorce for you.


  • Large estates and children can make divorce complex. Consult with an experienced family attorney if necessary.


  • If you can’t settle and must attend a pre-trial conference, the judge might give you a hint or indication of how he’ll rule if you force him to try your case. Listen carefully, because if you're holding out for something he's not likely to give you, there might be little sense in going to trial.


About the Author

Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.

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