Process of Divorce in Illinois

The process of divorce can be intimidating. At Stern Perkoski Mendez in Evanston, Chicago, Lake Forest and Oak Brook, we are dedicated to supporting you and providing clarity throughout the process. That’s why we created this basic overview of the legal process of divorce in Chicago, Illinois and the other suburbs where we practice. Each case will be unique, so contact us at any time to review the specifics of your family law case.

What is the divorce process in Illinois?

All divorces will proceed a bit differently depending on the case—but every divorce will include these stages:

  • Initiating the Divorce — Every divorce requires the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage. Basically, the couple needs to formally request a divorce from the court.
  • Finalizing the Divorce — The divorce is finalized with the entry of a judgment for dissolution of marriage. The judgment for dissolution of marriage (sometimes referred to as a divorce decree) is the court’s order that the couple’s marriage be dissolved.
  • Agreeing on Divorce Terms — If the terms of the divorce are agreed upon and there are no contested issues, a divorce action may require only those two documents. However, each area of dispute—including problems negotiating child support or maintenance, for example—adds an extra layer of complexity.

While filing a petition actually creates a court case, many divorces are initiated by letter prior to any court action. It is not uncommon for a spouse to receive an introductory letter and settlement proposal prior to seeing any filed petition for dissolution of marriage. This gives the parties the opportunity to discuss the issues in their case prior to incurring court fees. If the issues are relatively uncontested, the case may be resolved out of court.

Common Divorce Questions

What do I need to know before talking to a divorce lawyer?
The short answer is: no more than what you already know.

At the first meeting, your divorce attorney should explain the legal process of divorce in Illinois and learn more about you and your case. A good family law attorney will break down the issues into simple and concise choices. Use the first meeting with your attorney to get a sense of his or her style—hiring the right attorney makes all the difference.

Does my spouse need to be served?
No. If your spouse agrees to participate in a case, he or she can file an appearance with the court. Formal service is only necessary to establish personal jurisdiction over a person—e.g. if he or she is refusing to cooperate or avoids responding. If your spouse files an appearance, he or she consents to the court’s jurisdiction, and there is no need to have him or her served.

Do we need two attorneys?
Maybe. An attorney can only represent one party in a case. If the parties are in full agreement, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to hire an attorney for purposes of drafting and formalizing the divorce. However, that attorney may only give advice to his or her client and may only advocate for his or her interests. If both parties are in need of advice or want to ensure they have their own advocate, then two attorneys may be best.

Contact Our Divorce Lawyers in Evanston, Chicago, Lake Forest and Oak Brook

If you have any other questions related to divorce, you can request a free consultation online or call us at (847) 868-9584. We can meet with you in our offices in Evanston, Chicago, Lake Forest and Oak Brook, or at another location.

Our boutique family law firm is based in Evanston, Chicago, Lake Forest and Oak Brook. We serve clients across Cook County and the North Shore, as well as Lake, DuPage and Will Counties.


“With Nancy, you receive more than just legal advice; she provides comprehensive care, making sure you feel supported every step of the way. She’s an exceptional lawyer who is always one step ahead.”

Annebella, Evanston

For a free consultation, call Stern Perkoski Mendez at (847) 868-9584 or contact us.