As a legal process in the court system, divorce includes certain steps that must be completed before the marriage can be dissolved. If you are considering divorce, it helps to know the basic steps and what is involved.
Determine if you are eligible for divorce in Chicago or the Chicagoland area
Before being granted a divorce, you or your spouse must have lived or been stationed in the military in the state for at least 90 days.. You must also have lived separately from your spouse for at least six months when you file a no-fault divorce. This does not mean you must have lived in separate houses, but rather that you lived not as husband and wife due to the breakdown of the marriage.
Decide what type of divorce you need to file
State law did away with divorces based on fault in 2016. Now Illinois only recognizes irreconcilable differences as grounds for a divorce. You need only show that the marriage is irretrievably broken – not that your spouse did anything to break it. If you and your soon-to-be-ex agree on all the terms, you may file for an uncontested divorce. On the other hand, you may need to pursue a contested divorce if you and your spouse do not agree on issues such as:
- Division of marital assets
- Allocation of parental responsibilities
- Allocation of parenting time
- Spousal maintenance
- Child support
Take stock of your non-marital and marital assets
Gather all your financial documents and thoroughly assess the financial state of your marriage. This is important because divorce in Chicago or the Chicagoland area involves the equitable distribution of marital property and debts. Non-marital assets may have been acquired before the marriage, after legal separation, or by gift or inheritance. Marital property includes all assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage, with the exception of anything excluded by a prenuptial agreement or other marriage contract, or property acquired through gift or inheritance. Along with other documentation, you may need to collect:
- Tax returns
- Pay stubs
- Retirement or pension plan account information
- Bank and financial account statements
File a petition with the court
To begin the process, you will need to complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and file it with the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse resides. The petition will provide information including grounds for divorce, any children of the marriage, and current living arrangements. You will need to serve your spouse with a court-stamped copy of the petition or your spouse can file their Appearance to avoid the necessity of being served.
Wait for your spouse to answer
Once your spouse is served with the petition and a summons, he or she will have time to respond by filing an Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. If you and your spouse have minor children, you may be court-ordered to mediation to resolve issues related to the children, such as allocation of parental responsibilities (custody) and parenting time (visitation). If your spouse contests the divorce or you have disagreements about how to finalize it, you may end up in a true divorce litigation process.
Beermann LLP in Chicago and Bannockburn is an award-winning divorce and family law firm. We are a team of attorneys at the top of our field, known for achieving outstanding results. Established more than 60 years ago, we are the family law firm that cares.