Divorce in Illinois after marriage in another state

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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If I Was Married In Another State Can I Get Divorced In Illinois?

Divorce in Illinois after marriage in another state

Yes. You can get divorced in Illinois if you had a valid marriage in another state and either you or your spouse meet the residency requirements for an Illinois divorce to be filed and completed.

Marriage In A State Other Than Illinois.

There is not a federal, nation-wide rule across the United States that a marriage in one state is good in another state.

The federal government won’t even get involved in a divorce. Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U. S. 689, 714 (1992)

So, each state has their own rules about what counts as a valid marriage. In Illinois, if you have a valid marriage…you can get a valid divorce.

In Illinois a valid marriage is defined by the Illinois statute.

“All marriages contracted within this State, prior to the effective date of this Act, or outside this State, that were valid at the time of the contract or subsequently validated by the laws of the place in which they were contracted or by the domicile of the parties, are valid in this State, except where contrary to the public policy of this State.” 750 ILCS 5/213

So, if the marriage is valid in another state or even another country, the marriage is a valid marriage in Illinois. Having a valid marriage in Illinois means you can get a divorce in Illinois.

How Do You Prove You Got Married In Another State?

You really don’t have to prove you were married in another state apart from testifying that you were once married.

“The complaint or petition for dissolution of marriage…shall be verified and shall minimally set forth:

The date of the marriage and the place at which it was registered” 750 ILCS 5/403(a)

That’s all you need.  You don’t need to show the court a certificate of marriage, a ring, or (if it is a default marriage) even a spouse.

Marriages in A State Other Than Illinois That Are NOT Valid in Illinois

But there’s a big exception in that statute “except where contrary to the public policy of this State.”  This means that if some state or country started to let brothers and sisters, aunts and nephews, dogs and cats, etcetera, marry each other that Illinois would NOT recognize that marriage and you could therefore NOT get divorced in Illinois.

What are the marriages that are against public policy in Illinois?  The Illinois statute gives us a list under it’s “Prohibited Marriages” section which includes.

“[A] marriage entered into prior to the dissolution” 750 ILCS 5/212(a)(1)

You can’t get married if you’re already married.

“[A] marriage between an ancestor and a descendant or between siblings , whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood or by adoption;” 750 ILCS 5/212(a)(2)

“[A] marriage between an uncle and a niece, between an uncle and a nephew, between an aunt and a nephew, or between an aunt and a niece, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood;” 750 ILCS 5/212(a)(3)

“[A] marriage between cousins of the first degree; however, a marriage between first cousins is not prohibited if:(i) both parties are 50 years of age or older; or(ii) either party, at the time of application for a marriage license, presents for filing with the county clerk of the county in which the marriage is to be solemnized, a certificate signed by a licensed physician stating that the party to the proposed marriage is permanently and irreversibly sterile;” 750 ILCS 5/212(a)(3)

Relatives can’t get married and there is no first cousin marriage allowed in Illinois unless a doctor proved the two first cousins could not have kids.

So, if you were married in another state under one of these increasingly bizarre circumstances, your marriage will not be eligible for divorce in Illinois. 

While you cannot get divorced in Illinois if you have one of the above marriages, you can get these kind of marriages annulled in Illinois.

What Do You Need To Get Divorced In Illinois

We already established that all you need is a marriage that is considered valid in Illinois in order to get a divorce in Illinois.

The only thing else you need is for either spouse to be a resident of Illinois for 90 days.

“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)

Illinois has a pretty low bar for residency in Illinois.  That’s 90 days before you’re allowed to file.  If you filed with less than 90 days residency and then 90 days finally passed by the time the divorce was about to be finalized, no Illinois family law judge would question your residency for the purposes of divorces. 

How do you prove residency in Illinois?  99% of people just testify at the final divorce hearing that they have lived in Illinois for 90 days prior to the filing of their divorce judgment and have been an Illinois resident ever since. 

Where Do You Get Divorced In Illinois?

In Illinois, you get divorced in whichever county you or your spouse lives.

“The proceedings shall be had in the county where the plaintiff or defendant resides.”  750 ILCS 5/104(a)

Typically, if one spouse has the children, the children’s resident county will be deemed the appropriate county for the divorce to proceed in.

Alternatively, if most of the marital property is in one county which one spouse actually lives in and that property is at issue in the divorce, then that county will be deemed the appropriate venue for the divorce to proceed in. 

I used to file all my divorces in the 1st district of Cook County at the Daley Center, 55 W. Washington, Chicago, Illinois.

But, with COVID-19 crisis making Zoom and other remote meeting applications the new standard in Illinois divorce court procedure, I am now willing to practice in any county in Illinois so long as they allow for remote hearings.

If you’d like to discuss your divorce, contact my office in Chicago, Illinois to speak with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer.