Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Divorce Is Possible

Checklists , Discovery

You may not need a divorce lawyer if you and your spouse are considering a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) divorce in Illinois. That’s right, we are a law firm telling you that you may not need a lawyer. In fact, we do not want you to hire us unless we can provide value to you. However, do not misunderstand this to mean that you do not need a lawyer. Going without a lawyer is a risky decision, but it could be appropriate when you have little at risk.

This might be appropriate if you have a relatively uncomplicated situation, both parties agree about the division of assets, child custody (if applicable), and other related matters, and you’re both comfortable navigating the legal system on your own. If you have the slightest of doubts that your spouse is being completely transparent (which is very common in a failing relationship), we do not recommend trying to handle this on your own.

This is NOT legal advice for your situation, but here are some general steps for a DIY divorce in Illinois:

1. Residency Requirement: At least one spouse must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before filing for divorce.

2. Gather Information: Gather all the necessary documents and details regarding your assets, debts, income, children (if applicable), etc.

3. Complete the Paperwork: You will need to complete all the needed paperwork, which can be found on the Illinois Supreme Court Website

Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Children or Petition for Dissolution of Marriage No Children

Summons (Notice to your Spouse if they are not willing to cooperate. Not needed if your spouse voluntarily files an Appearance)

Financial Affidavit

Proposed Parenting Plan (if you have children)

Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union

Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage (No Children)

Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage With Children

Other relevant forms

4. Filing: After completing the forms, file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the circuit court clerk in your county. You will also need to pay a filing fee. If you cannot afford the fee, you might be able to apply for a Fee Waiver (if you qualify you may request your filing fee to be waived)

5. Serve Your Spouse: If you are the petitioner, you must serve the divorce papers to your spouse, unless they waive service. This can be done via the county sheriff’s office or a private process server.

6. Appearance and Response: After being served, your spouse has 30 days to file an Appearance and a Response.

7. Parenting Class: If you have children, many Illinois counties require parents to attend a parenting class.

8. Agreement: If you and your spouse agree on all issues, you can prepare a written Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Agreement (if children are involved). Both documents detail the terms of your agreement on property division, child custody, support, etc.

9. Court Appearance: At least the Petitioner will need to show up for the court appearance, which is called a “Prove Up” so that the judge can verify the terms of the agreement. At this hearing, the judge will review your documents, ask questions to ensure the agreement is fair and voluntary, and then grant the divorce if everything is in order. After the judge approves your divorce, you’ll receive a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, which finalizes the divorce process.

Remember, while the DIY divorce can save you money, it is extremely risky if you have children, trust issues, substantial assets, substantial debts, or other complex issues. If at any point you feel overwhelmed or unsure, consult with an attorney.