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Family Law Resources

Marriage

The Basic Requirements for Getting Married in Illinois

​1.  The minimum age requirement in Illinois is 16 with parental consent, or 18 without. 
2.  The two parties must not be blood relatives.
3.  The two parties must not already be legally married to someone else (or to each other).
4.  The couple must appear together, in person, at a county clerk's office to apply for a marriage license. ​

Applying for a Marriage License

​Marriage licenses are issued in person by the county clerk in the country in which the couple will be married.  The couple must visit the clerk's office together, present valid forms of identification​, and pay a marriage license fee (currently $60 in Cook County). They are issued while you wait, are effective the day after they are issued (you can't get married the same day), and are valid for a period of sixty (60) days. In Cook County, couples may complete a marriage license application online, but still must appear in person to finalize the application process

Key Legal Rights and Responsibilities of Married Couples in Illinois

  • A legal presumption that both parties are parents of any children born into the marriage
  • Right to file joint income tax returns
  • Hospital visitation rights and the right to make major medical decisions for one another
  • Eligibility for employment benefits, including health insurance available through a spouse
  • Ability to use FMLA time to care for an ailing spouse​​
  • Right to have a court legally dissolve the marriage and equitably divide assets and debts
  • Access to custody, visitation, and child support upon dissolution of the marriage
  • Right to claim spousal privilege and refuse to testify against a spouse

Obtaining Lawful Permanent Residency (a "green card") for a Foreign Spouse

A married U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident may sponsor his or her spouse for lawful permanent residency.  This process is best handled by an attorney with expertise in immigration law.  CSLS can offer referrals, as needed.  The process generally involves filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with US Customs & Immigration Services (USCIS). While it can take up to twelve (12) months for USCIS to review and respond to a Form I-130 application, it is still possible for the foreign spouse to live in the US while the application is pending pursuant to a K-3 visa. If the spouse has children, they may likewise be included in the Form I-130 petition and brought to live in the US pursuant to a K-4 visa while the petition is pending​​​.  Again, we urge you to consult with an immigration attorney if you are interested in pursuing any of these options. ​

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Divorce 

Qualifying for a Divorce in Illinois

A divorce is the legal end of a marriage and all of the legal rights and responsibilities that come along with it.  ​A married couple can get divorced in Illinois if:
  • At least one spouse has resided within the State of Illinois for at least 90 days
  • The couple can prove to a judge that they have "irreconcilable differences" (the couple can no longer get along or there are other issues that simply cannot be resolved). This is the only legal reason why a judge can grant a divorce in Illinois. 
  • If a couple has lived separately for at least 6 months, the court will presume that irreconcilable differences exist.​

Key Considerations / What happens during a divorce?

A judge will enter a divorce decree that officially ends the marriage.  The decree will generally dictate:

  • Division of Property.  How property owned by the spouses will be divided, including financial assets (money and investments), personal belongings, real estate, and debts.

  • Parental Responsibiliti​​es.  Whether one spouse will have sole legal and physical custody and decisionmaking responsibility for the couple's children (and/or pets), or if the two spouses will share those respon​sibilities (joint custody), and on what terms.​​​

  • Maintenance.  Whether one spouse will be required to pay alimony/spousal support, or child support to the other spouse.   

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

​A contested divorce is one in which both spouses fail to agree on the basic elements of the divorce. Such divorces generally require both parties to be represented by a​ttorneys, are more costly, and take at least 18 months to resolve.  Contested issues may include:

  • Whether or not the couple should get a divorce

  • Who should have custody of any children 

  • How real estate and personal property should be divided

  • How financial assets should be allocated

  • Whether maintenance should be paid by one spouse or another

​An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree on all of the key issues.  Uncontested divorces must still be entered by a judge through a formal decree.  However, it may be possible to ac​complish this without attorneys, and the process will generally be much faster much less expensive for both sides. Illinois Legal Aid Online offers guided online forms to assist parties with uncontested divorces.  You can access these forms here:


Annulment

What is an Annulment?

Annulment is the legal process of invalidating a marriage, which is different from divorce. ​​

What are Grounds for an Annulment in Illinois?

  • ​​One of the parties lacked legal capacity to enter into the marriage, due to infirmity, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, use of force, duress, or fraud;

  • One of the parties is physically incapable of consummating the marriage;

  • The marriage is prohibited by law, due to a former marriage being undissolved, the marriage being between blood relatives, or the marriage being a common law marriage (not recognized in Illinois).​​

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Child Custody and Child Support

Illinois Child Custody Law

Illinois has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act. The Act helps ensure that a child custody decision made by an Illinois court will be followed in oth​er states, and serves to reduce the likelihood that a parent will take a child across state lines in search of a more favorable court. Illinois courts recognize two different types of custody: Legal Custody (the right to make major life decisions regarding the child) and Physical Custody (where the child will physically reside). One parent may single-handedly have both forms of custody (known as "sole custody"), or custody may be divided between both parents ("joint custody")​. 

What Services are Available Through the State of Illinois Child Support Program?

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Child Support Program is available to assist families with:
  • Establishing paternity for a child
  • Locating a non-custodial parent
  • Obtaining or modifying a child support order
  • Arranging for income withholding/payroll deduction through a non-custodial parent's employer
  • Deducting support from a non-custodial parent's unemployment insurance benefits
  • Sending medical support notices to enroll a child in a non-custodial parent's health insurance plan

How to Apply for Child Support Services

Child support is established in Illinois by a court order.  ​If you are interested in applying for child support services, please use the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services On-Line Application for Child Support Services to complete an online application.  You may also apply for services by printing the application form and mailing it to the address located at the top of the application.  Your signed application must be received before the process may begin.​​​ 

Child Support Enforcement / Past-Due Payments

​The specific measures taken will vary based on the individual's circumstances.  However, the State has several methods for attempting to collect past-due child support payments, including but not limited to:
  • Intercepting federal or state tax refund payments
  • Denying a passport requested by the delinquent parent
  • Suspending or revoking the delinquent parent's professional or recreational state licenses
  • Suspending the delinquent parent's drivers license
  • Reporting the delinquent parent to credit monitoring agencies
  • Placing liens on the delinquent parent's assets
​​

Legal Name Changes

Name Change Following Marriage

An Illinois resident who was recently married in Illinois is not required to formally petition a court in order to change their name.  Instead, the process is as follows:​

  1. Request a Social Security Card Reflecting the New Name.  The individual requesting the name change will need to visit a local Social Security Administration office to apply for a new Social Security card.  They must bring proof of identity and the reason for the name change, including a passport or birth certificate, a drivers license, and a certified copy of a marriage license issued by an Illinois county clerk. 

  2. Request a New Drivers License Reflecting the New Name. The individual must visit a Secretary of State Driver Facility, bring their current Illinois drivers license, a certified copy of the ma​rriage license, and the new Social Security card. Request and complete an application for a corrected license.  Submit the application and pay the required fee. 

  3. Notify the Illinois Secretary of State of the Name Change.  Illinois law requires one to notify the Secretary of State within 10 days of changing one's name on a drivers lice​​nse. Visit the official website of the Illinois Secretary of State to notify the office online. They will have to provide their drivers license number, home address, date of birth and information on any vehicles registered in Illinois, including make, model and year.​

Name Change Following Divorce

​In most cases, the process for changing one's name after a divorce should be identical to the process for changing one's name after marriage, provided that the individual has a divorce decree with a provision specifically granting the name change. A copy of this decree will serve as proof of the individual's reason for requesting the change.  The process is as follows: 

  1. Request a Social Security Card Reflecting the New Name.  The individual requesting the name change will need to visit a local Social Security Administration office to apply for a new Social Secur​​​ity card.  They must bring proof of identity and the reason for the name change, including a passport or birth certificate, a drivers license, and a copy of the divorce decree granting a name change. 

  2. Request a New Drivers License Reflecting the New Name.​​​ The individual must visit a Secretary of State Driver Facility, bring their current Illinois drivers license, a certified copy of the ma​rriage license, and the new Social Security card. Request and complete an application for a corrected license.  Submit the application and pay the required fee. 

  3. Notify the Illinois Secretary of State of the Name Change.  Illinois law requires one to notify the Secretary of State within 10 days of changing one's name on a drivers lice​​nse. Visit the official website of the Illinois Secretary of Stat​e to notify the office online. They will have to provide their drivers license number, home address, date of birth and information on any vehicles registered in Illinois, including make, model and year.​​​

In the event the individual's divorce decree does not grant a name change, they should contact the court that entered the decree and ask to amend the document to include it.  All Illinois courts do n​ot allow amendments.  If the request is denied, then the individual must follow the standard process for changing a name for reasons other than marriage or divorce​, which is unfortunately much longer and more expensive. 

Other Legal Name Changes

Illinois residents may legally change their names for almost any reason, including simply no longer liking a given name.  Unfortuantely, the process is more complicated when it is intiiated apart from a marriage or divorce.  An individual who has resided in the State of Illinois for at least 6 months may legally change their name by petitioning a circuit court:
  1. Complete the Necessary Legal Forms.  Obtain from the court and complete the following three forms that will be necessary to move forward with the process:  Notice of Filing a Request for Name Change; Request for Name Change; Order for Name Change.

  2. File the Forms.  File these three forms with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county in which the individual resides.

  3. Get a Hearing Date.  The individual will receive a hearing date and time from the court.

  4. Publish a Notice.  After rece​iving the hearing date, notice of the name change must be published in a local newspaper​ with circulation in the appropriate county.  The notice must include the hearing date and time, the Judge's name and courtroom number, and the case number assigned to the request. 

  5. Get a Certificate of Publication. After the notice has run, the individual must obtain a Certificate of Publication from the newspaper, certifying that the notice ran for at least 3 straight weeks. The newspaper may send the certificate directly to the court clerk or provided it directly to the individual. 

  6. Attend the Court Hearing.  The individual should bring copies of all the above-mentioned documentation to the Judge's courtroom at the assigned time. When the case is called, the individual may be placed under oath and asked questions by the Judge about the name change request.  The Judge will grant or deny the request and will complete and sign the Order for Name Change form. 

  7. File the Order with the Court.  If the Judge grants the Order for Name Change, it will have to be filed with the court clerk in order to have legal effect.  

  8. Proceed with Updating Vital Records and IDs.  Contact the Illinois Department of Public Health ​to request a change to an Illinois birth certificate. Contact the Social Security Administration to change the name appearing on a Social Security Card. Contact the Illinois Secretary of State to change the name on an Illinois drivers license or state ID. 

In total, the process will take at least 8-10 weeks.  For more detailed infomation, including fillable forms, please visit Illinois Legal Aid Online.