DIFFICULTY: Legal may be help required depending on the complexity of the case

Initial Filing Fee: Fee varies by jurisdiction

In Illinois, a divorce is initiated through a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In Illinois, divorce can be granted based on either “fault” grounds or “no fault” grounds. The Illinois version of the “no fault” ground is entitled “irreconcilable differences.” In Illinois, irreconcilable differences is the most commonly used ground for divorce because it negates the need to air anyone’s dirty laundry in open court. The “fault” grounds for divorce in Illinois are: adultery, bigamy, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, desertion, drug addiction, conviction of a felony and impotency.

Step 1: File a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

The Petition is your formal written request to the court for a divorce. It also serves as a notice to
your spouse as to your position on certain issues — custody of children, debts, property, — so your spouse can respond to these issues. Although there a number of online resources providing templates on how to structure the legal documents required to start the adoption process Illinois does not offer standard forms available to the public. If you feel uncertain about your ability to prepare these documents consult a private attorney or search for a self-help legal clinic or legal aid service in your area. After you have prepared the documents, bring the original signed copy of your and a Summons to the Circuit Clerk’s office at your county’s courthouse. At this point, a case file will be started, and you will need to pay the filing fees. After you have received the official file stamped documents back from the Circuit Clerk, it will be your responsibility to make sure the summonses and Petition are served by a process server on all parties.

Step 2: Wait for Your Spouse to Respond

Once you have served your spouse, you will need to wait 30 days to see if he/she files a response to your Petition. If your spouse has failed to file a response after 30 days have passed, you should request a hearing date.

Step 3: Attend all Court Hearings

Check for your assigned court date once you receive notification that all parties have received a summons and the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Usually, the process server will provide you notification that the parties have been served. It is your responsibility to make sure that the proof of service is included in the Court file. This can be done by simply mailing or hand delivering a copy of the proof of service to the Court. After the Court receives notice that the parties have been properly served a Court date is normally scheduled.

Step 4: Discovery

This portion of the case involves determination of the value of the marital estate or “discovery”. Discovery procedures commonly used in divorce cases include depositions, subpoenas, interrogatories and review of financial documents by accounting experts. If the assets and debts of the marriage are readily ascertainable and agreed on by the parties, they may choose to waive formal discovery.

Step 5: Trial

Trial preparation includes interviewing potential witnesses, reviewing expert’s reports, taking depositions, reviewing the discovery produced by your spouse, preparing exhibits and entering into stipulations with opposing counsel. Thorough preparation for trial is essential to putting on a good case. It can also be very expensive; however, if a case cannot be settled, there is no other choice. A final divorce judgment will be entered at the conclusion of the trial.

Additional Resources

 • Sample Forms

 • Court Clerk

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