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How Do I Start A Divorce Proceeding In Illinois?

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If you have come to the realization that your marriage is beyond repair, your next step will be to start the process of filing for a divorce. Illinois allows for either a “contested” or an “uncontested” divorce, both of which have their pros and cons we will discuss below. Whichever you choose to pursue, there are some first steps that you need to take. Take a look below at how to start your divorce process in Illinois.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Residency Qualifies

In order to file for a divorce in Illinois, you must have been a resident for at least 90 days. If you have not been a resident of the state for 90 days yet, you will have to wait until you can file your petition. If you are the victim of domestic abuse or are in an unsafe situation, contact an advocate to get help immediately.

Step 2: File a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage / Civil Union

The Illinois Courts have standardized forms that you can use to submit the first step towards your divorce. These forms will ask a judge to terminate your divorce, notify your spouse of your intent to do so, and begin the process of legal dissolution of your marriage.

Step 3: Find a Divorce Lawyer

Even if you believe that your divorce will be relatively simple, having assistance from a professional like Robert S. Thomas, Attorney at Law will ensure that every step is taken properly to be certain that your divorce is both fair and as simple as possible.

Step 4: Prove Irreconcilable Differences In Your Marriage

In order to have a judge begin the process of your divorce, you must either prove yourself, or have both you and your spouse admit that the issues in your divorce were irreparable, and that your only option is to terminate the marriage. If your spouse refuses, you will need to prove the issues that have made the situation impossible, which greatly complicates things.

Step 5: Determine If You Will Pursue a Contested of Uncontested Divorce

If you and your spouse are able to agree to the terms of your divorce, you will be able to avoid a lot of time in court, and ultimately maintain control over your personal life instead of leaving it up to the state. In order to finalize an uncontested divorce, you will need to sit with your spouse (in either a 4-way meeting with your lawyers or in a series of mediated negotiations) to settle each issue. This includes issues such as alimony, child support, custody, and property division, to name a few.


If you and your spouse are unable to reach a collaborative agreement, the next step is to have a contested divorce, which will require a full trial and an extended timeline. During this process, you will need to submit extensive documentation to a judge, let them determine the outcome, and then either finalize the divorce or begin an appeals process. An uncontested divorce is preferable for many reasons, starting with the simple fact that it does not create the additional animosity that a contested divorce can.

Ready To File For a Divorce?

Make sure that you understand the issues we have outlined above, but most importantly, make sure that you hire a divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Every step you take without legal counsel means another step that you need to learn as you go, and have to navigate the complicated Illinois legal system without the advice of a professional.


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