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Tips for Filing Divorce in Illinois

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While marriages are meant to last forever, they don’t always do. Each state will have different legal requirements for finalizing a divorce, but this article will highlight the general steps of where to start, how to prepare for your court hearing, and how to finalize it. Just keep in mind that all cases are unique and it would be a good idea to work with an experienced family attorney to guide you through the process. They will be able to address your specific situation and guide you to make the best legal decisions throughout the process.


Preparing for Divorce

As mentioned previously, working with an attorney through the divorce can make things a lot easier and will help you fight for what is most important to you. They will be able to foresee specific factors that will affect your case and even know what is favored and disfavored by the judge after working with them in previous cases.

The family attorneys at Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. are experienced in all areas of family law, including divorce, child custody, parental responsibilities (child support), alimony, property division, and more. They will be able to help with you with as much or as little assistance as you need, including the following:

  • Initial consultation
  • Providing legal advice
  • Informing you which laws will apply to your case
  • Guiding you throughout the divorce process

Make Sure You Qualify to File for Divorce

In order to file for divorce in the state of Illinois, you must have lived here for at least 90 days. You must also adhere to the following:

  • Both parties must agree to the divorce and agree that there is nothing more that can be done to save the marriage, despite making all efforts to solve the problems after 6 months.
  • Live separately from your spouse for at least 2 years if your spouse does not agree to the divorce.

Know the Law, Conditions, and Standards

While your divorce attorney will advise you to read up on the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5, discussing child custody, support, and property division. This document will prepare you for the presumptions and preferences the judge has to make as well as using proper terminology, including:

  • Determine child custody according to the child’s best interest.
  • Determine child support on the number of children under 18 and a percentage of the payer’s net income.
  • Determine the division of property assets, unless you and your spouse have already agreed beforehand.


Select the Court to Process the Divorce

As each county will have its own court system, choosing which one to file will have an impact on the results of your case. If you and your spouse have been living together up until the time of divorce, it is best to pick the court in your own county. Otherwise, file in the county in which your spouse lives to ensure that they will be able to order support from him or her.

Finding and Completing All Forms

While Illinois Legal Aid provides some simple forms to fill out, there are a number of documents to read over and sign. Your divorce attorney can also help with this process, or feel free to use your local self-help center. But it is crucial that you understand the significance of these documents and what you agree to as they outline your future after finalizing the divorce.

Getting Ready to File for DivorcePrepare-All-Documents-When-Filing-for-Divorce-Illinois

After completing all necessary forms for your case, you will need to sign the notary boxes in front of a notary. The courthouses will usually have one on staff or allow a deputy clerk to notarize them. If this is not the case, other approved services include check-cashing services, such as a bank, or your attorney’s office. Just remember to make four copies of each document.

Identify Common Roadblocks

Because Illinois is an equitable distribution state, you and your spouse will need to agree to a property settlement. The judge will then determine how to divide the assets and liabilities according to the current situation of each party. These will include any or all of the following:

  • The property neglected by each individual
  • Any previous agreements of each individual
  • All custodial provisions of each child
  • The tax results of the property division
  • The circumstances of each parent, including age, occupation, source and amount of income, employability, employment skills, liabilities, estate, health, and their individual needs.
  • Possible and amount of spousal support or alimony
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The current value of the assets for each spouse
  • Opportunities for each party to have a reasonable income or ability to buy assetsCreate-a-Parenting-Plan-for-Child-Support-IL-Divorce-Attorney

Create a Parenting Plan that Includes Child Support

The best way to get what you want out of the divorce is to come prepared with a parenting plan. This will highlight the parental responsibilities that each of you will have to your children. It also includes visitation times that will work best for both of your schedules.

Of course, don’t forget to include child support, or the percentage of income that must be paid to the other parent, depending on how many children that need support. While the amount will vary according to the economic situation of each parent, common amounts include 20% for one child and 50% for 6 or more children. If relevant circumstances have changed, the court may deviate the percentage according to the current situation of the family.

Filing and Carrying Out the Divorce

As soon as all documents and plans are ready, provide the original copy of each document to the clerk of the court who will hear your case. Be prepared to pay a fee, unless if you are qualified to have it waived. The court clerk will then sign your documents and summons (if needed), return your summons, and stamp your copies of the documents with the filing date if you ask them.

Summoning the Divorce and Serving Your Spouse

Unless if you and your spouse have already made agreements, you will need to serve them the summons. After the clerk signs these papers, make a copy for your records, and send the originals, along with the rest of your documents, to your spouse. Keep in mind that they must receive these within 1 month of having the summons issued to you. If you prefer to avoid contact, you can pay the sheriff to deliver these documents for you. Once all documents have been received by your spouse, they will have 30 days to respond with a written answer.

File for Default if Your Spouse Doesn’t Answer

If you haven’t received an answer in over a month, you can file for a Default Judgment. Just remember that this won’t solve everything, especially if your spouse lives out of the court’s jurisdiction. For example, if the children are in Illinois and the other parent lived in a different state, the judge would be able to change the visitation times or the power of decisions they are allowed to make on your children’s behalf. But they may not be able to issue an order for child support.

Following Through with the Divorce

The first step in preparing for court is gathering evidence and information needed to support your case, known as the discovery phase. You will find the regulations, techniques, and processes regarding discovery in Part E of the Rules on Civil Proceedings in the Trial Court. You will also want to work with your divorce attorney through this phase as they can educate you on what to say and how to make the best legal decisions to help your case.

During the discovery, you will be allowed to require your spouse to:

  • Answer all questions under oath
  • Allow you to inspect items and/or property
  • Provide you with copies of documents regarding the divorce and marriage

Stating Disclosures

When preparing to state your case, make specific disclosures as well as requesting the same from your spouse. These can include lists of witnesses asked to testify, financial complications, relevant evidence, and any other statements your family attorney recommends.

But if these are not disclosed prior to the hearing or your spouse objects to their use, you might not be able to use them during the trial.

Understanding the Rules of Evidence

Ask your attorney about the rules and regulations of evidence and ensure you understand them well.


Mediation is always required when children are involved in divorce. Throughout this process, a third party will suggest possible options to help each party settle an agreement for all issues. But the mediator will only provide suggestions, not make decisions, so you won’t need to bring evidence with you. If both parties are able to come to a mutual agreement, then there is no need to go to trial.

  • If both parties have come to an agreement, the mediator will prepare all necessary documents for you and the individual to sign.
  • If you were not able to come to an agreement, matters will then be handled in court.
  • Keep in mind that the mediator will not make any statements to the court, regardless of what was said during mediation.

Scheduling the Hearing

As this is the most important step of the divorce process, make sure you are prepared with everything, including:

  • Your documents and summons
  • Relevant evidence
  • The estimated duration of the hearing
  • Issuing subpoenas for witnesses
  • Date, time, and location of the hearing
  • The judge who will attend the hearing
  • Confirmation from your divorce attorney


When Attending the Hearing

You should be dressed in business professional attire on the date of your hearing. Men should wear suits and women blazers and dress pants or skirt. If you do not have either, dress clean and respectfully, avoiding shorts, tank tops, miniskirts, sagging pants, and flip flops.

When entering the court room, don’t speak with anyone other than your attorney and the judge, and refer to them as “Judge” or “Your Honor.” Whenever it is your turn to speak, stand before doing so. The divorce case will then proceed as any other would, unless under specific circumstances:

  • The petitioner will make their opening statements (a summary of the case and what is to be proven)
  • Opening statements from the respondent
  • All witnesses cross-examined by the respondent and called by the petitioner and vice versa
  • Closing arguments by the petitioner (summary of their wishes and why the hearing should be ruled in their favor)
  • Closing arguments from the respondent
  • Final argument from the petitioner
  • Final ruling from the judge

Reviewing and Adhering to or Appealing a Hearing

After the hearing is finished, the opposed party will usually have to prepare orders, unless if you had already proposed them earlier. But if you do have to prepare them, you can find blank ones on the bench, picking the one that applies to your case, and complete it there.

When you are done, make 2 copies and file the original with the court, sending a copy to the other party and keeping the originals for yourself. As soon as the judge signs the order, you can get a signed copy from the clerk. If at any time you disagree with the ruling, you have about 30 days to file a Notice of Appeal with the Trial Court.

Ask Your Attorney for Extra Help

As there are numerous benefits of working with an experienced family attorney, they will be able to help you through all stages of the process. They may be able to complete your documents and summons for you. But regardless of your case, they will best prepare you for mediation or the hearing, including gathering all necessary evidence and information, which questions to ask, and how to answer questions. Ultimately, they will guide you to make legal decisions that will work in your best interest.

If you live in the southern suburbs or parts of Chicago, contact Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. Our family attorneys not only have years of experience but have worked in unique situations that will help you through any and all complications of your divorce. They also remain updated on all current law in order to educate you and argue why the hearing should rule in your favor.

Don’t hesitate to contact them at (708) 425-9530 in Oak Lawn, IL.

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