How to File for Legal Separation in Illinois

How to File for Legal Separation in Illinois: A Comprehensive Guide


When a marriage becomes strained and irreparable, legal separation may be a viable option for couples seeking to live separate lives without terminating their marital status. Legal separation allows spouses to address issues such as child custody, spousal support, and property division while still remaining married. If you are considering legal separation in Illinois, this article will guide you through the process, providing step-by-step instructions and addressing common FAQs.

Step 1: Residency Requirements

To file for legal separation in Illinois, at least one spouse must have resided in the state for a minimum of 90 days. It is crucial to ensure that you meet this residency requirement before initiating the legal separation process.

Step 2: Grounds for Legal Separation

Illinois recognizes no-fault grounds for legal separation, meaning that neither spouse is required to prove fault or wrongdoing by the other. The only requirement is that the petitioner must demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is typically done by stating irreconcilable differences as the reason for seeking a legal separation.

Step 3: Filing the Petition

The petitioner, the spouse initiating the legal separation process, must file a Petition for Legal Separation with the appropriate Circuit Court in the county where either spouse resides. The petition should include essential information such as the names of both spouses, their addresses, the date of marriage, and the date of separation. It is advisable to consult an attorney experienced in family law to ensure all necessary details are included accurately.

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Step 4: Serving the Respondent

After filing the petition, the petitioner must serve a copy to the other spouse, known as the respondent. This can be done through personal service, where a third party, not involved in the case, delivers the documents directly to the respondent. Alternatively, the petitioner may choose to use certified mail or a process server to serve the respondent.

Step 5: Response from the Respondent

Once served, the respondent has 30 days to file a response to the petition. The response may either be an agreement or a counter-petition, which outlines the respondent’s desired terms for the legal separation. If the respondent fails to respond within the designated time frame, the court may proceed with the legal separation based on the petitioner’s claims.

Step 6: Temporary Orders and Mediation

During the legal separation process, the court may issue temporary orders regarding child custody, visitation, spousal support, and financial matters. Additionally, the court may require the spouses to attend mediation sessions to attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Mediation can be a valuable tool for reducing conflict and finding common ground.

Step 7: Discovery and Negotiation

Both spouses may engage in the discovery process, wherein they exchange relevant financial documents and information. This allows each party to assess the marital assets, debts, and income, aiding in the negotiation process. If the spouses can agree on the terms of their legal separation, they may draft a settlement agreement outlining the agreed-upon terms.

Step 8: Court Appearance and Finalizing the Legal Separation

To finalize the legal separation, both parties must attend a court hearing. During this hearing, the judge will review the settlement agreement, ensuring it is fair and equitable. If approved, the court will issue a Judgment for Legal Separation, officially granting the legal separation.

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Q1: Is legal separation the same as divorce in Illinois?
A: No, legal separation allows couples to live apart while still being married, whereas divorce terminates the marital status.

Q2: Can I remarry after obtaining a legal separation?
A: No, legal separation does not permit either spouse to remarry. To remarry, the couple must pursue a divorce.

Q3: Can I convert my legal separation into a divorce later?
A: Yes, legal separation may be converted into a divorce by filing a motion with the court after six months have passed since the legal separation was granted.

Q4: Can I represent myself during the legal separation process?
A: Yes, you have the right to represent yourself, but it is highly recommended to consult an attorney, especially if there are complex issues involved.

Q5: How long does the legal separation process take?
A: The duration varies depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. On average, the process can take several months to a year.


Legal separation in Illinois provides couples with an alternative to divorce, allowing them to live separate lives while still married. By following the steps outlined in this guide, couples can successfully navigate the legal separation process. Remember, seeking legal counsel is always beneficial to ensure your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.