Posted on March 28, 2020

How Long Do You Have To Wait For A Divorce In Illinois?

Can you just walk into a court in Illinois and ask for a divorce?  It doesn’t seem like it should be that easy to get a divorce. It feels like there should be some kind of waiting period so that unhappy couples can work on things before they actually get divorced.  Well, in Illinois there is very little waiting time before you can get a divorce.  So, how long do you have to wait for a divorce in Illinois?

Illinois Jurisdiction For Divorce

The biggest roadblock to getting divorced in Illinois is the requirement that you or your spouse actually live in Illinois.

The Illinois statute requires that one of the spouses be a resident of Illinois for 90 days before the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed.

“The court shall enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage when at the time the action was commenced one of the spouses was a resident of this State or was stationed in this State while a member of the armed services, and the residence or military presence had been maintained for 90 days next preceding the commencement of the action” 750 ILCS 401(a)

Then the Illinois statute regarding jurisdiction gets really clunky and continues to read:

“…or the making of the finding:

    Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.”  750 ILCS 401(a)

This clause requires some unpacking for the layperson. 

You definitely have to have one spouse be a resident of Illinois for 90 days before the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage


One of the spouses has to be a resident of Illinois 90 days before the court makes a finding that “irreconcilable differences” were the reason for the divorce and “reconciliation [has] failed”

So when does the court make these oddly specific findings? 

The court makes these findings on the final date of the divorce when the divorce is finalized and a Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage is entered as an order with the court.

So, the rule boils down to this…one spouse has to have lived in Illinois for 90 days before the divorce is filed OR one spouse has to have lived in Illinois for 90 days before the divorce is finalized.

So, in theory, you could live in Illinois for years, file for divorce and then move away.

Or you could file for divorce in Illinois and eventually move to Illinois in the future so long as you lived in Illinois for the 90 days before the divorce was finalized.

So, basically, live in Illinois for 90 days for some period of your life and you can get a divorce in Illinois.  That’s a pretty short wait for a divorce in Illinois?

Six Month Separation Period Before A Divorce In Illinois

Before 2016 the law in Illinois required married couples to be separated for two years before they would be granted a divorce.  Realizing this was bonkers, the Illinois statute also allowed the married couple to shorten that two year period to six months if they both agreed. 

So, because of this old law (which is no longer on the books) people in Illinois still think there is a waiting period before you can get divorced in Illinois.

Now the Illinois statute regarding waiting periods and divorce reads as follows:

“If the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months immediately preceding the entry of the judgment dissolving the marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met.” 750 ILCS 401(a-5)

If you’ll read this carefully, there is not a waiting period at all.  It merely says “if you’ve been separated more than 6 months the finding of “irreconcilable differences” (as mentioned earlier in this article as a requirement for a divorce in Illinois) is automatic.

So, if you’ve been separated for less than 6 months, how do you prove that there are irreconcilable differences? 

It is this simple: you just tell the judge at the final divorce hearing “our differences are irreconcilable”

You’ve filed for divorce. You’ve served your spouse. You made it all the way to the last step of the divorce.  The judge is going to believe you.

So, the answer to “how long do you have to wait for a divorce in Illinois?” is “a maximum of 90 days.”  If you’re living in Illinois and your spouse agrees, you could, technically, get divorced today.

Practically, you’d still need to schedule a final divorce hearing called a “prove up” in front of an Illinois judge and those typically aren’t available for two weeks or so (at least where I practice, Cook County)

If your spouse does not agree to all of the terms of your divorce both financial and as the divorce relates to your children, then you’re going to have to go through the rigors of the Illinois divorce process…and it can take years.  I have over a hundred articles about the various lengthy steps in the process of a contested divorce in Illinois

If you have questions about the time of your divorce or anything else related to your divorce, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.  I enjoy talking about this stuff as much as I enjoy writing about it. 

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Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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