Types of Family Law Cases


Before you can file a case in court to start the process, you need to determine what you need to file, or what is your “cause of action”.  The Family Law Division handles many types of cases involving families including dissolution of marriage (commonly known as a “divorce”), legal separation, declaration of invalidity of marriage (commonly known as an “annulment”), dissolution of civil union, and parentage and child support for unmarried persons. Throughout this booklet, when a reference is made to “dissolution” it means both a dissolution of marriage and a dissolution of a civil union, unless it specifically excludes one or the other. 

1    Dissolution of Marriage (“Divorce”): If you are married and no longer wish to be, you must start the process by filing a written Petition asking the Court for a Dissolution of Marriage. See Section III below for specific guidelines to pursue the dissolution of a marriage.

2    Legal Separation: Any person living separate and apart from his or her spouse during the marriage may petition the Court for reasonable support and maintenance while they live apart.  See Section IV below for specific guidelines to pursue a legal separation. 

3    Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage (“Annulment”):  A spouse can ask the Court to declare their marriage to be invalid rather than granting dissolution if the appropriate grounds exist. This process is commonly known as an annulment – the legal effect is that the marriage is treated as never having existed. See Section V below for specific guidelines to pursue the invalidity of a marriage. 

4    Dissolution of Civil Union: A civil union is dissolved using the same procedures as dissolution of marriage. All provisions of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act apply to the dissolution of civil unions. See Section VI below for specific guidelines to pursue the dissolution of a civil union.

5    Parentage or Family Case: If you are not married, but you have children together, and you are asking the court to enter orders: establishing parentage; establishing or enforcing child support; establishing parenting time (formerly known as visitation); or establishing decision making for the minor child or children including education, medical, extracurricular, or religion.