Five Illinois Divorce Laws to Consider in Your Divorce

Illlinois Divorce Laws

By Colleen Breems, Divorce Attorney, Partner, Beermann, LLP

The process of getting married can be relatively easy, no matter where you live. However, the divorce process can be tough in any state!  Most divorces come with emotional, financial, and practical stressors. With the help of your divorce attorney, arming yourself with knowledge is key to confidence and peace of mind as you go through your divorce. A great way to do this is to become familiar with Illinois divorce laws, or the laws in your state.


 The following are just are five Illinois divorce laws you may want to consider when making decisions in your divorce:


1. Grounds for Divorce.


Illinois is a “no fault” divorce state, meaning divorces are filed on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”  (750 ILCS 5/401).  Simply put, this means that the spouse who is filing for divorce believes the marriage is irretrievably broken, and is all that is required to proceed on a divorce.


2. Equitable Distribution.


Illinois follows the principle of equitable distribution when dividing marital property between spouses. This means that property, assets, and debts of the marriage are to be divided fairly, although not necessarily equally, based on factors such as non-marital estates, needs, and contributions. (750 ILCS 5/503).

It is helpful to know that property, assets, and debts accumulated from the date of marriage, on, is generally considered “marital property,” and therefore can be divisible between the parties – although, not always evenly. “Non-marital property” can include property a spouse had prior to the date of marriage, as well as inheritances and gifts received by one spouse during the course of the marriage, and therefore can be awarded to that spouse outright.


3. Maintenance.


Formerly known as “alimony” in Illinois, maintenance is spousal support that can be awarded within a divorce, the purpose of which is to help a lower earning spouse maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the course of the marriage. Illinois law has a guideline formula that can calculate maintenance based on respective incomes of the parties and length of the marriage.  (750 ILCS 5/504).


4. Child Support.


Illinois follows the principle of “income shares” in guideline calculation of child support. Child support is calculated based on each parent’s income and number of overnights with a child in a calendar year. (750 ILCS 5/505). This guideline calculation is just that – a guideline. A child support award can deviate from this guideline based on many factors, including the needs of the child and the resources of the parties.


5. Allocation of Parental Responsibility.


Formerly known as “custody” in Illinois, parental responsibility is major decision-making for a child in the areas of education, religion, medical care, and extracurricular activities. Courts can award shared allocation of parental responsibility between parents, or sole allocation of parental responsibility to one parent, based on the best interest of the child. (750 ILCS 5/602.5).

Know that Illinois courts generally presume both parents are fit to share allocation of parental responsibility in all areas for their child, as it is often in the best interest of a child to have two active and involved parents. A parent who is seeking otherwise will generally need to meet a high burden to prove that the other parent is unfit to share major decision-making with him or her.

Colleen Breems, Divorce Attorney, Beermann, LLP


Of course, these five laws are just scratching the surface of what there is to know about divorce in Illinois. I encourage you to connect with a trusted Illinois family law attorney to arm yourself with knowledge and counsel as you navigate your Illinois divorce. I am pleased to consult with you to discuss further.

Know that the divorce process is a temporary stressor. It will not last forever – however, a divorce decree generally does, so it is important to make it count. Work collaboratively with your attorney to ensure you are well-versed in the process and so you can make the best decisions for you and your family. You will get through this, and no doubt, go on to the next, bright, and shiny chapter of your life – there is absolutely life after divorce. You’ve got this!

Colleen Breems
Colleen Breems, Divorce Attorney, Partner, Beerman LLP


Colleen M. Breems has focused her legal career in matrimonial and family law since its inception. With a devotion to serving individuals in family transition, it is her calling to provide zealous advocacy for her clients, whether it is through skilled and commanding litigation in the courtroom, or in forming practical and creative solutions tailored to meet a family’s individual needs at the settlement table.

Ms. Breems’ practice includes dissolution of marriage and parentage proceedings involving the issues of parental responsibility, support, parenting time, property division, post-decree matters, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and orders of protection related to civil litigation. Ms. Breems also has experience in adoption and minor guardianship matters.

Ms. Breems strives to ensure the client feels seen and heard through every step in a case. Ms. Breems understands that there is no “one size fits all” approach to meet a client’s needs, and she therefore provides experienced and creative solutions to meet the unique and individual needs of the client. A dedication to basing her representation in empathy, compassion, encouragement, and empowerment sets her apart.

In addition to serving her adult clients, Ms. Breems also passionately represents children and is frequently appointed by Judges in Cook County to serve as a Child’s Representative or Guardian ad Litem in matrimonial and family law cases. Ms. Breems is also a trained mediator and parent coordinator.

Further, Ms. Breems is dedicated to giving back to the community. She devotes numerous hours each year to her pro bono practice, serving as an active volunteer with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, providing free-of-charge Guardian ad Litem and Child Representation legal work in Cook County. In addition, she serves as Co-Vice President for the Advocacy Council of the Junior League of Chicago, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to serving the local community.

Ms. Breems holds a J.D. and Certificate in Family Law from DePaul University College of Law. She graduated cum laude from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies.

Professional Associations:

  • Collaborative Divorce Illinois, 2024 – Present
  • Chicago Bar Association, Co-Chair, Young Lawyers Section: Family Law Committee, 2019 – Present
  • Junior League of Chicago, Co-Vice President, Advocacy Council, 2017 – Present
  • DePaul University  College of Law, Dean’s Advisory Council, 2023 – 2026
  • DePaul University Family Law Center Advisory Board, Board Member
  • Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, Member

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