Dissolution of Marriage/Divorce

a. JurisdictionThe first step is to make sure that the Court has jurisdiction over your case. One or both spouses must be a resident of Illinois (or stationed in Illinois while a member of the armed services) for at least 90 days prior to the filing of the case, or not less than 90 days before the final judgment is entered.  

b. Venue: You can file for divorce in the county in which you reside or the county in which your spouse resides. Filing in a county where neither you nor your spouse resides requires a written request (Motion) and hearing to proceed. The Motion must be filed at the same time that you file for divorce.

c. Petition. Prepare a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which will be filed with the Circuit Court Clerk. Each Petition for Dissolution of Marriage should include the following information:

  • Date of marriage and the state and county in which it was registered.
  • Names, addresses and ages of all living children of the spouses, and whether a spouse is pregnant; (Note: it is preferable to use the initials of all minor children instead of full names and only the year of each child’s birth and age as opposed to the actual date of birth of a child).
  • Whether any arrangement has been made between the spouses as to support, parental responsibility allocation and parenting time.
  • Whether any arrangement has been made between the spouses as to the support or maintenance of each spouse; and
  • The relief sought (what you want the Judge to award to you and/or your spouse).

d. Filing:  The Petition must be e-Filed with the Clerk of the Court. A case number and court date will be assigned at the time of filing. 

You must also e-file the following documents at the Lake County Clerk’s Office: 

  • Summons. The appropriate summons form is titled: “Summons Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.”   You will need to complete the summons form with the case name, the name and address of the opposing party and your information.
  • Affidavit of Military Service. The Affidavit of Military Service informs the Court whether the Respondent is or might be in the military service of the United States. You must complete the form truthfully and accurately and include your name and contact information at the bottom.
  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJEA). This form is only required if you and your spouse have minor children together. The form requires detailed information about the children involved in this action and where they have lived for the past five years. Complete the form truthfully and accurately and include your name and contact information at the bottom.

e. Service of ProcessThe process of officially delivering the summons and petition to the other party is known as service of process. This provides legal notice of your divorce action to the other party

  • Service by the Sheriff: The sheriff in the county that your spouse resides can attempt to serve your spouse with a file-stamped copy of your petition and summons. There is a fee, which varies depending on where your spouse lives within the county. If you cannot afford the fee, follow the steps in section 5.2. The Sheriff only accepts cash or checks. A minimum of 2 weeks is required for service.
  • Service by Publication: If you do not know where your spouse lives or works, or if the Sheriff has tried and failed to serve your spouse, then you may be able to serve the Respondent by publishing a notice in a local newspaper. You must get a Court Order signed by the Judge allowing you to publish the notice in the local newspaper.
  • Proof of Service: All affidavits of service by Lake County Sheriff will be returned to the Clerk of the Circuit Court for filing.

f.   After serviceYour spouse has 30 days after being served to file an “Appearance” in your case and pay the filing fee (or apply for a fee waiver). 

  • If your spouse has filed an Appearance and you have reached an agreement on all issues, you can request a prove-up hearing date. You can obtain a date by submitting a Motion and Notice of Motion to the Clerk’s office or from your Judge if you are already in court for a previously scheduled appearance.  A prove-up hearing is the court date when you appear before the Judge and request that the Judge grant you a divorce based on the terms of your agreement. You must bring to court all of the necessary documents for the prove up and follow the prove up instructions below.
  • If your spouse chooses, they may file an Answer to the Petition, in which they answer every numbered paragraph of the Petition by denying or admitting the allegations. This must also be e-Filed and given to the opposing party. 
  • If your spouse does not file his or her Appearance within 30 days of being served, you will file a motion for default, see instructions below. 

g. Default: To obtain a Default Judgement and finalize the divorce without your spouse’s participation, you must: 

  • Complete a Motion for Default and a Notice of Motion.
  • If your spouse was served by publication, you may be able to go before a Judge and complete the prove-up that same day.
  • If your spouse was personally served with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you will need to mail him or her the Order of Default and set another date to return to court to complete the prove-up.
  • If you and your spouse have minor children together, you must complete the Lake County Parenting Class before the final prove-up hearing.


h. Prove-up on Uncontested Proceedings: If you have reached an agreement with your spouse, you may appear in front of a Judge to finalize your case. This is known as a prove-up. If your spouse does not plan to appear in court on the date of the prove-up hearing, you must send a Notice of Motion to your spouse indicating the date of the prove-up.

At the prove-up hearing you will need an original and two copies of the following documents:

  • Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage;
  • Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage;

If there are minor children, you will also need the following:   

  • Certificate of Compliance with Parenting Class;
  • Parenting Agreement, or proposed Order;
  • Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act;
  • Uniform Order of Support;
  • Notice to Withhold Income for Support.

When your case is called by the Judge, you will be required to pay the court reporter. The court reporter’s fee is $75.00. Note that if you have previously been granted an Application for Waiver of Court Fees, this fee will be waived. At the prove-up hearing you will be put under oath and asked questions regarding your Petition for Dissolution, and what you are asking of the court. If the Judge is satisfied that all the requirements have met, the Judge will state his or her findings, grant the dissolution, and sign the Judgment for Dissolution and other orders as required. Wait for a copy of the Judgment and orders signed by the Judge before leaving the courtroom.  

If your spouse is not in court for the prove-up hearing, then you must send a file-stamped copy of each order to your former spouse and you must file with the clerk’s office a certification that you have sent a copy of the orders. If you have requested permission to return to your maiden name or if you need to change ownership of bank accounts or car titles, you should request a certified copy of the Judgment for Dissolution from the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.  There is a fee to receive a certified copy.  

i. Contested Proceedings: For more information on pre-trial matters and trial, please see the tab on the left.