Illinois Divorce FAQ

Divorce – State FAQ – Illinois

Residency requirements, venue and procedures

Q: How long must I have lived in Illinois prior to filing for divorce in an Illinois court?

A: At least one of the parties to the dissolution action must have been a resident of the State of Illinois for a minimum of ninety days immediately prior to the filing of the action.

Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?

A: The party filing the action is called the Petitioner, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Respondent.

Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?

A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In Illinois, proper venue for the divorce action is the Circuit Court. The action for dissolution may be filed in the county where either party resides.

Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The order granting the divorce?

A: The title of the document initiating the divorce proceeding is a Petition for Dissolution, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage.

Grounds for divorce

Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?

A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Illinois. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.

Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Illinois?

A: A judgment of dissolution of marriage may be granted in Illinois on the following grounds:

1. Impotence
2. Bigamy
3. Adultery
4. Desertion for one year
5. Addiction to alcohol/drugs
6. Attempted murder
7. Conviction of felony
8. Infecting other spouse with sexually transmitted disease
9. Living separate and apart for two years where there exists irreconcilable differences.

If the grounds for the dissolution of marriage is based upon living separate and apart for two years with irreconcilable differences, the court must determine that efforts at reconciliation have failed or are impractical and not in the best interests of the family. Furthermore, if the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for at least six months immediately prior to the filing of the petition, the parties may waive the requirement of living separate and apart for two years by filing a stipulation to that effect with the court.

Q: Is there a simplified divorce procedure available when spouses meet certain qualifications and agree to all issues?

A: Yes, but the qualifications are strict. If you and your spouse meet all qualifications, you may file a joint petition for divorce. You may view the list of qualifications for a simplified divorce in the Illinois Divorce Information section on the Illinois Divorce Main Page.

Spousal support/alimony

Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?

A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.

Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?

A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.

Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?

A: Either party may be ordered to pay alimony to the other in amounts and for periods of time as the court deems just and equitable, after consideration of a lengthy list of standard factors. The list of factors can be viewed in the Divorce Information section on the Illinois Divorce Main Page.

Distribution of property

Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?

A: Illinois is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. While the trial court’s discretion will not be disturbed on appeal without a showing of clear abuse, the court will consider the factors enumerated on the Illinois Divorce Main Page.

Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?

A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.

Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?

A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.

Child custody and visitation

Q: What is child custody and visitation?

A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).

Q: Can grandparents obtain visitation of a grandchild?

A: Yes. Grandparent visitation is determined according to the best interests of the child.

Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?

A: Custody of the child is determined according to the child’s best interests, after consideration of the following factors:

1. The wishes of the child’s parents;
2. The wishes of the child;
3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parents and siblings, etc.;
4. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community;
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals concerned;
6. Any instances of domestic violence or abuse; and,
7. The willingness and ability of each party to encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and other parent.

Child support

Q: What is “child support”?

A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).

Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?

A: The State of Illinois has enacted child support guidelines which establish the amount of support which is presumed to be correct. The court may deviate from the guidelines, however, when it finds that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate, after consideration of the following factors:

1. The financial resources and needs of the child;
2. The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent;
3. The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
4. The physical and emotional condition of the child and his educational needs; and,
5. The financial resources and needs of the non custodial parent.


Inside Illinois Divorce FAQ