Costs of a court case
It costs time and money to file a case in court. Divorce cases may take several months and even over a year to finish. Court cases often include:
Fees to file your case, if you cannot get them waived
Lawyer fees or your own time spent figuring out the court process and doing the paperwork
- Time spent in court, which may be time you have to take off work
1. Fill out your divorce forms
Use our program to fill out and sign the forms listed below. Make 3 copies of each form.
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: A document asking the judge to break up the marriage.
- Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Order: A document explaining the responsibilities of each parent.
- Uniform Order for Support: A document asking for monetary support from the other spouse.
- Notice to Withhold Income For Child Support: A document asking money to be withheld from the other spouse's paycheck to pay for support.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, you should also fill out the below application:
- Application for Waiver of Court Fees: You'll use the form to ask the court to hear and make a ruling in the court case for free.
A divorce petition must include all of these things:
- Age, job, and home address of both spouses, and how long each has lived in Illinois
- Date and place of marriage
- Initials, ages, and addresses of each child of the marriage and whether one of the spouses is pregnant
- Any arrangements for child support, parental responsibilities for the children, and maintenance (spousal support) of a spouse,
- Completion of Parenting Class Certificate (one for each parent)
- What they want the judge to decide
There are some things you should not put in a divorce petition:
2. File your forms with the court
- File the forms with the circuit clerk at the courthouse in the county where you live to start your court case. If you do not live in Illinois you may file for divorce in the county in Illinois where your spouse lives. If you and your spouse live in different counties, either county will work. You may be able to file online. Check your local circuit clerk’s website to see if online filing is an option.
- Pay the court filing fee or get a fee waiver. There are fees to file most court forms. The fees depend on what kind of case you have. To find out how much the fees are, contact your local circuit clerk's office. If you don’t have the money to pay the fees, file the Application for Waiver of Court Fees that you filled out in Step 1. The court will review your Application for Waiver of Court Fees and decide whether you have to pay the court fees.
- The circuit clerk will stamp and keep the original forms. Have the circuit clerk also stamp the extra copies of your forms. Keep at least one copy for your records.
- Ask the circuit clerk for the first court date. The circuit clerk will either give you the court date when you ask or tell you how you will find it out.
If the county where your divorce case is being heard needs to be changed, you should talk with a lawyer.
3. Tell your spouse about the divorce
After filing, you must send your spouse a summons and attach the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. A summons is a document that tells a person about the case and when to come to court. Here are the rules to know about a summons:
- You may send the summons with the Sheriff or if you don’t know where your spouse is, you can notify them by publishing a notice of the divorce in a newspaper.
- There is a usually a cost to have a summons served. The cost depends on how the summons is served to the other party.
- If you do not give your spouse the summons within the required time, the case may be dismissed because there was not proper notice of it.
After they are notified, your spouse can file an Answer and an Appearance if they choose. If they file these forms, they should send a copy to you.
If you are trying to notify your spouse by publication, they have until the date listed on the Notice of Publication to file their response to the divorce. If they do not file a response in that time, they can be held in default, and the case will move forward without them.
Learn more about how to serve a summons.
4. Get a hearing date
If your spouse doesn’t file a response within 30 days after being notified, you should ask for a hearing date. Depending on the county where you filed for divorce, you will need to contact either the circuit clerk or the coordinator of the judge who usually handles divorce cases to request the hearing. If your spouse signed an Entry of Appearance, Waiver, and Consent form waiving service, you do not need to wait the 30 days before asking for a hearing.
5. Get ready for divorce hearing
6. Going to court
Bring these items to your court hearing:
- Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage
- Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Order
- Uniform Order for Support
- Notice to Withhold Income For Child Support
You should also bring all of the other documents that you filed when you started the divorce, and any papers or documents that you used to help you fill those out (such as pay stubs, bank account information or tax returns).
It is important to follow all of the suggestions below when going to court:
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time. Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check in quietly with the courtroom staff and wait for your name and case number to be called;
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself. Briefly tell the judge what you want out of the case. After listening to you and the other side, the judge will let you know what happens next.
After you have testified, you should present the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, the Uniform Order for Support (if child support will be ordered), and the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities to the judge for their signature. If the judge wants corrections made, submit a corrected form by whatever method the judge has requested.
If this is your first time going to court, learn more about the process of Going to court in Illinois.
7. Send copies of court orders
After the judge has signed the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, the Uniform Order for Support, and the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, file the Judgment and Order with the clerk and send a file-stamped copy of the Judgment and other forms to your spouse.
Mail a copy of the Judgment and other orders to your spouse if:
- They didn’t come to court for the hearing, or
- If the judge doesn’t sign the Judgment on the day of the hearing.
If you have minor children and you know where your ex-spouse works, you must do all of these things:
- Send the Notice to Withhold Income to your ex-spouse’s employer;
- Send your ex-spouse a copy of the Uniform Order for Support, by certified mail. When you mail it you will get a green receipt card. Attach this to the Affidavit of Service of Uniform Order for Support and then file the Affidavit with the court;
- File their Certificate of Mailing with the clerk;
- Get a file-stamped copy of that Certificate;
- Send a copy of the Notice to Withhold Income to these 2 government agencies:
To prove that you have done this, file a Certificate of Mailing with the clerk. As with all documents that are filed in court, be sure to keep file stamped copies of these documents for yourself.