Same Sex Divorce in Illinois

Same sex marriage was signed into law in Illinois on November 20, 2013 by Governor Pat Quinn.  It takes effect on June 1, 2014, which means that same sex divorce also takes effect on that same day.  What does this mean for same sex couples who were married in other jurisdictions?  Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Can I Get Divorced in Illinois?

If you are a married  same sex couple, after June 1, 2014, you can get an Illinois divorce. However, you can still legally become “unmarried” to your spouse prior to June 1.  Illinois legalized civil unions on June 1,2011.  Married same sex couples are recognized as having civil unions in Illinois.  If certain residency requirements are met, the marriage can be dissolved via dissolution of a civil union.  A dissolution of a civil union has the same legal effect of a divorce.

What if I Was Married Outside of Illinois?

Legal same sex marriages from a different jurisdiction, which includes other states of the United States and foreign countries, are recognized in Illinois as civil unions.  After June 1, 2014, they will be recognized as marriages.  If you are a same sex couple in a civil union from another jurisdiction, you can have your civil union dissolved in Illinois.  If you were married in a different jurisdiction, you can dissolve the marriage as a civil union now, or wait until after June 1, 2014 to get a divorce.

What is the Process?

For either a same sex divorce or dissolution of a civil union, Illinois requires that one person be a resident of Illinois for 90 days prior to filing.  What happens next depends on whether the matter is contested or uncontested.

Do I Need to Know the Location of my Spouse?

If you are an Illinois resident seeking a divorce or dissolution of a civil union, you can give your spouse notice by publication.  However, you must make a showing to the court that you made a good faith effort to locate your spouse.  A divorce or dissolution of a civil union by publication legally dissolves the marriage (or civil union), but does not determine the disposition of any property issues.  Those are left “reserved,” meaning the court will not take any action until the other spouse comes forward.  For the sake of finality, it is always best to find your spouse and have him or her personally served.  If a spouse chooses not to participate, the court then has jurisdiction to determine property issues in that spouse’s absence.

How Long Does a Divorce or Dissolution of a Civil Union Take?

If the divorce or dissolution of civil union is uncontested, meaning both parties agree to all terms, it can be as fast as two weeks in Cook County (some of the other counties are slightly longer due to dates when divorce prove-ups are scheduled).  If the divorce or dissolution is contested, it can take months to years for the case to wind its way through the court system to its conclusion.

 What Do I Do Next?

If you are ready to get started exploring your options, you can call me now at 708-466-6912 or contact me online. I often meet clients in the evening and on weekends, and all clients get my personal mobile phone number.  Legal problems don’t take weekends off and neither do I.


Leave a Reply