How long a divorce takes
A contested divorce
Contested divorces can take more than 18 months to be resolved. In this situation, spouses disagree about any of these things:
- Whether to get a divorce
- Where the children should live
- Where a companion animal should live
- How much child support should be paid
- How property should be split up
- Who should pay certain debts
- Whether "maintenance" or spousal support (alimony) should be paid
An uncontested divorce
This is a situation when both spouses agree on all of these issues. An uncontested divorce does not mean that the settlement terms will be approved by the judge. The terms must be reasonable and cover support of the children. It can also be considered an uncontested if the spouse who received the "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" or divorce papers does not reply by filing an Appearance and Answer. The case will go on without them, and the court will make decisions based on what the other spouse says.
Qualifying to get a divorce in Illinois
To get a divorce in Illinois, one spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before the court grants the divorce. A married couple can get divorced if they can prove to a judge there are "irreconcilable differences" between them. If the spouses have been living in different places for at least 6 months, the court assumes that irreconcilable differences exist. The spouses do not have to prove that they can no longer get along.
What is decided in a divorce
At the end of a divorce case, a judge will issue an order called a "decree," or "judgment," which officially ends the marriage. The judgment also sets rules for spouses that have minor children (under 18 years old):
- The judge will decide parental responsibilities (custody). Custody issues must be decided within 18 months of the date of service of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage unless the judge agrees that there is a good reason to delay deciding these issues. This covers which parent the children will live with, how often the other parent can spend time with the children and who will have significant decision-making responsibilities.
- The judge will also decide how much money the other parent will pay for child support.
NOTE: In Illinois, parents must attend a court-authorized in-class parenting education program before the judge decides custody. This class teaches parents ways they can avoid hurting their children during the divorce. Both parents must take this class within 60 days after the first meeting with the judge. The class is available in-person and online. Contact your local circuit clerk’s office for information about a court-approved course, whether you may qualify for a fee waiver and how to get a "Certificate of Completion,” to prove you have taken it. The Center for Divorce Education provides a list of available options.
Updated: October 2016