Shawn McKenna | Chicago Divorce Lawyer | Divorce Lawyer Chicago

Divorce in Chicago: Insider Secrets to Splitting Without the Drama!

Divorce, a term that often comes laden with emotional turmoil, marks the legal termination of a marital union. In Chicago, as in the rest of Illinois, the process is governed by specific laws designed to ensure fairness and clarity for all parties involved. Whether you’re contemplating the possibility or are in the midst of navigating your way through one, understanding how a divorce works in Chicago can provide some much-needed guidance.

The Initial Steps: Filing for Divorce

The journey begins with one spouse (the petitioner) filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the Circuit Court of Cook County if the divorce is to take place in Chicago. Illinois is a no-fault state, meaning the only ground for divorce is “irreconcilable differences,” suggesting that efforts at reconciliation have failed or would be futile. The beauty of this no-fault approach is its simplicity; there’s no need to prove wrongdoing by either party.

Mandatory Residency Requirement

A crucial step before filing is ensuring you meet the residency requirement. At least one spouse must have been a resident of Illinois for a minimum of 90 days before filing. This criterion ensures that the state has jurisdiction over your case.

The Waiting Period

While Illinois law doesn’t impose a waiting period to file for divorce, a final judgment will be entered after a six-month separation period. This period is considered sufficient proof of irreconcilable differences.

Navigating Financial and Parental Issues

A significant part of the divorce process involves making arrangements for the future, including the division of assets and debts, determining spousal support (also known as maintenance or alimony), and, if applicable, hashing out child support and custody arrangements. Illinois strives for an equitable distribution of marital property, which means a fair division, though not necessarily equal.
When it comes to children, the court prioritizes their best interests. Custody is now referred to as parental responsibilities, and support is calculated using the “income shares” model, which takes into account both parents’ incomes and the time each parent spends with the children.

Seeking Legal Representation

Given the complexities of divorce law and the high stakes involved, especially where finances and children are concerned, it’s wise to seek legal representation. A skilled divorce attorney can provide invaluable guidance, ensuring that your rights are protected and helping to navigate the often intricate legal proceedings.

The Path to Finalization

Once all issues are resolved, either through negotiation, mediation, or court intervention, the divorce can be finalized. The court will issue a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, officially ending the marriage and outlining the terms agreed upon or decided by the court regarding assets, debts, support, and parental responsibilities.

Post-Divorce Considerations

Even after a divorce is finalized, issues may arise, such as enforcement of the divorce decree, modifications to support or custody arrangements, and navigating co-parenting. It’s essential to remain proactive and seek legal advice when necessary to address these challenges.


Divorce in Chicago follows a structured process aimed at ensuring fairness and respect for all parties involved. While it’s a path fraught with emotional and legal complexities, understanding the basics of how divorce works in this jurisdiction is the first step towards navigating the process with confidence and clarity. With the right support and guidance, individuals can manage this challenging life event and move forward toward a new beginning.