Divorce in Illinois: everything you need to know

1 min readLast updated April 10, 2024by Charlie Barton

Explore our comprehensive guide, which covers everything you need to know about divorce in Illinois, from the reasons and types of divorce to the associated costs with it.


  • According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, there are two grounds for divorce in Illinois – “fault” and “no-fault”. 

  • The median cost of divorce in the US is $7,000, but this can fluctuate massively depending on your unique circumstances.

  • You must be separated from your spouse for six months to file for divorce in Illinois.  

  • A financial advisor can help you navigate your finances during a divorce and rebuild afterward.

What are the grounds for divorce in Illinois?

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, there are two grounds for divorce in Illinois – “fault” and “no-fault”. 

Need help rebuilding your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.
  • “No-fault” grounds in Illinois

The “no-fault” grounds allow for the dissolution of a marriage if irreconcilable differences have caused the breakdown of the marriage beyond repair.

In order to obtain a “no-fault” divorce, the spouses must have lived separate and apart for at least six continuous months before filing.

  • “Fault” grounds in Illinois

The “fault” grounds for divorce include impotence, adultery, and physical cruelty.

All “fault” grounds require clear evidentiary standards to be met.

What is the cost of divorce in Illinois?

The cost of divorce in Illinois can really vary case by case.

At a minimum, you'll have to pay the court filing fees to get the process started. This includes things like a fee to file the petition, a summons fee, and a sheriff's fee to serve papers, which could total $400 or more.

If you hire a lawyer, get ready to pay a hefty price tag – the average divorce attorney fees in Illinois range from $250 to $350 per hour. If you have a complicated case with custody disputes or financial assets to divide up, this could lead to higher costs.  

Due to the high costs, it’s wise to ensure you budget properly to cover what your divorce will cost from start to finish. It's worth speaking to a qualified financial advisor to provide additional guidance throughout the process, match with an advisor here.

How to file for divorce in Illinois?

Filing for divorce in Illinois is a step-by-step process that starts with:

  1. Submitting paperwork: This needs to be submitted to the court in the county where you or your spouse live. You'll need to fill out a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, stating the reasons you want a divorce, like irreconcilable differences or separation. You will also need to include all the details about any children, property, assets, and debts.

  2. Serve your spouse: You have to officially serve your spouse with copies of all these divorce papers. You can either hire someone to personally hand them the documents or publish a notice in the newspaper if you can't find your spouse. Once served, your spouse has 30 days to respond by filing an Appearance and Answer. If they don't respond in time, you can ask the court for a default judgment.

Eventually, there will be a hearing where you prove your grounds for divorce.

If everything checks out, the court will grant your request for dissolution of marriage, and you'll get a final judgment officially declaring you divorced according to Illinois law.

How do you split assets in Illinois?

When a marriage ends in Illinois, figuring out who gets what can be tricky.

Illinois law states that all marital property should be divided equitably between spouses.

Marital property includes:

  • Houses

  • Cars

  • Bank accounts

  • Retirement funds

  • Businesses

  • Basically, anything you acquired while married

It’s important to remember an equitable split doesn't necessarily mean 50-50. The court will look at factors like income, custody arrangements, and how much each spouse contributed when dividing up the property.

You and your spouse can also agree to divide assets on your own in a marital settlement agreement rather than leaving it up to the court. This allows you to make trades, like one spouse keeping the house while the other gets more retirement assets.

No matter how you divide it up, the overall goal is a fair split, considering each spouse's situation. Having a clear picture of all marital assets and liabilities upfront makes the division process smoother during an Illinois divorce.

How does alimony work in Illinois?

In Illinois, alimony or spousal maintenance can be awarded during a divorce to provide financial support for an ex-spouse.

The court decides alimony on a case-by-case basis, looking at factors like income levels, the needs of each spouse, and the marital standard of living.

Overall, the court has discretion in awarding alimony during an Illinois divorce based on what is fair and will provide adequate spousal support.

What happens to children during a divorce in Illinois?

Custody is a big issue when going through a divorce.

Joint custody, splitting time between both parent’s houses, is the most common if parents can cooperate.

If a 50/50 split is not possible, the court will grant visitation, allowing the non-custodial parent to spend regular time with the children.

How do you protect your finances when going through a divorce in Illinois?

Going through a divorce can be a stressful and challenging time, especially when it comes to finances.

You may have many questions and concerns about how to protect your assets, manage your debts, and plan for your future.

Here are some ways you can protect your money when going through a divorce:

  • Organize your finances: Before filing for divorce, gather all relevant financial information and documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement accounts. Make a list of all assets and liabilities, both marital and non-marital. This will help you and your spouse negotiate a fair distribution of property and debts.

  • Consider mediation: Mediation is a process where you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to resolve issues related to your divorce, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation can be less time-consuming, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. It can also help you maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse after the divorce.

  • Think about Social Security: If you have been married for at least 10 years, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can provide valuable income during retirement, especially if your ex-spouse earned more than you. However, certain criteria must be met to qualify for this benefit.

  • Seek professional help: Divorce can significantly impact your financial situation. Consider consulting with a financial advisor specializing in divorce to help you navigate these changes and plan for your future.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.


Charlie Barton

Charlie Barton is a writer at Unbiased. He has been writing about personal finance and investing since 2017, with extensive knowledge of platforms and products. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics.

Need help rebuilding your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.