Spouses who no longer wish to remain married can terminate their marriage through divorce. Divorce is a process that ends a marriage for all legal purposes. Once the marriage is dissolved, each individual is free to remarry someone else. Divorce laws differ between states.  Divorce in the state of Illinois is governed by a law called the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). This law covers what spouses must do in order to obtain a divorce.

How May Spouses Get a Divorce Under Illinois Law?

Under the IMDMA, spouses may get divorced either through a dissolution of marriage procedure (dissolution procedure), or through a joint simplified dissolution procedure.

What is a Dissolution Procedure?

A dissolution procedure is one way of getting a divorce under Illinois law. To end a marriage through a dissolution procedure, several requirements must be met by the spouses:

  • At the time of filing for divorce, one spouse must be an Illinois resident;
  • One spouse must be an Illinois resident for at least 90 days before filing; 
  • Irreconcilable differences have led to the marriage irretrievably breaking down;  
    • “Irretrievable breakdown” means that the spouses no longer get along with each other, and the marriage is past the point of repair;
    • If the spouses live apart for a continuous period of six months or more immediately preceding the date the marriage is dissolved, the “irreconcilable differences” requirement has been satisfied; 
  • There must have been attempts at reconciliation; and
  • These attempts must have failed.

If these elements are met, the judge issues an order dissolving the marriage. Before entering a judgment dissolving a marriage, the court must address:

  • The allocation of parental responsibilities. Here, the court must address child custody issues. There are two types of child custody issues. There is legal custody and physical custody. A parent with legal custody has the right to make important life decisions on behalf of the child. These decisions include (among others) where the child goes to school, and decisions concerning medical treatment of the child. A parent who has physical custody is the parent with whom the child lives;
  • Child support. Child support payments are payments a court orders one parent to make to the other, for support of minors; 
  • Spousal maintenance (which is sometimes referred to as “support” and sometimes referred to as “alimony”). Spousal maintenance consists of payments by one spouse to the other. Payments are made to ensure the spouse receiving them has a source of income. Payments are also made to ensure the spouse receiving them can be financially independent; and 
  • Distribution of property. Property includes real property (i.e., houses, land) and personal property (i.e., money, jewelry, furniture).

What is a Joint Simplified Dissolution Procedure?

A joint simplified dissolution procedure is another way of obtaining a divorce in Illinois. Illinois law. In a joint simplified divorce proceeding, the parties agree to a divorce. The joint simplified dissolution procedure is an expedited process. This means that the proceeding takes less time than a regular dissolution procedure. 

In a joint simplified dissolution procedures, the spouses, together, file a petition for simplified dissolution. To obtain a divorce under a joint simplified dissolution proceeding, the parties must meet certain requirements. These requirements include:

  • Neither party depends on the other for support, or each party is willing to waive support rights; 
  • Each spouse is aware that meeting with a lawyer may help them determine whether they are eligible for support; 
  • When the petition is filed, one spouse is an Illinois resident; 
  • One spouse must be an Illinois resident for at least 90 days before the filing; 
  • Irreconcilable differences have resulted in the marriage irretrievably breaking down;
  • There were attempts at reconciliation;
  • These attempts failed;
  • During the marriage, the spouses didn’t have children and didn’t adopt;  
  • The marriage must have lasted for less than an 8-year period; 
  • Neither spouse owns real estate;
  • Neither spouse has an interest in retirement benefits (except for individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, whose total value is under ten thousand dollars);
  • The total fair market value of all of the property the spouses own is less than $50,000; 
  • The combined annual gross income of the spouses is less than $60,000; 
  • Neither spouse has a gross income exceeding $30,000.00;
  • The spouses have disclosed all assets, liabilities, and tax returns to each other; 
  • This disclosure is made for each year the spouses were married;
  • The parties have agreed in writing to divide all assets exceeding $100; and 
  • The parties have agreed in writing to deal with ownership of any companion animals. 

Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer to Get a Divorce in Illinois?

If you are contemplating ending your marriage, you should contact a divorce lawyer. An experienced divorce lawyer can advise you of your rights, and can explain your options. Also, the lawyer can represent you in court proceedings.