How To Draft a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

It’s the document that starts it all! The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. So how do you draft it? 

Alright so you’re exploring your divorce options and trying to figure out whether you can get this done without a lawyer.

Maybe you can do some of the leg work to save yourself a few bucks.

I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again here: Even if just for a few minutes, you should talk with a lawyer about your situation before you decide whether the DIY divorce is right for you. I don’t want you to miss something obvious that could really hurt you financially down the road. I also need to say that the information in this blog is just that - information. It’s not advice. I don’t know your situation. I can’t give you advice. I’m not telling you to do things one way or the other. I am not you lawyer. Duh. 

I have a passion for teaching so I’m teaching you about the process of drafting a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Nothing more nothing less.

The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is generally a one to three page document that is your formal request to the court to end your marriage.

The minimum contents of the Petition are established by statute. Specifically, the statute is 750 ILCS 5/403. The statute says that each Petition has to include: 

the age, occupation and residence of each party and their length of residence in this State;

  1. the date of the marriage and where it was registered; 
  2. whether a petition for dissolution of marriage is pending in any other county or state;
  3. a statement that irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage;
  4. the names, ages and addresses of all living children of the marriage and whether either party is pregnant; 
  5. any arrangements as to support, allocation of parental responsibility of the children and maintenance of a spouse; and the relief sought.

So that’s the barebones requirements. In practice, most attorney’s include a bit more information. We’ll go into that in a bit. 

No attorney writes the Petition from scratch. They use a template or a previous draft from another case and they modify it to suit the current case.

If you are considering drafting a Petition yourself, you have a couple options.

There are two great websites that are free where you can get your hands on a Petition. The first one is illinoislegalaid.org. Illinoislegalaid.org is an amazing, modern website that is full of information about all areas of the law.

One of the coolest parts of the website is their document generator -  and it has inspired me to build my own document generator. They have different “interviews” that guide you through a series of questions and then pump out the legal documents you need. 

Fair warning. There are no guarantees that these documents are going to protect you in the best way possible, and they are no replacement for a lawyer’s skilled drafting. They are good for people that either have no other option or have a high tolerance for risk and want to save some money. 

Your next option is the standardized forms published by the supreme court of Illinois. These forms are meant to be printed off and filled out by hand, and they include instructions that answer common questions. 

The other options that you have for drafting a Petition for Dissolution include requesting a form at the courthouse, which they may or may not have, and paying for a DIY service online. 

There are quite a few DIY services. The ultimate question is whether these DIY services offer more value than the Illinois Legal Aid website, which is completely free. I will be doing a comprehensive review of the major DIY websites in future videos.

So there you have it.

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About the Author

Robert Buchanan is the founder and manager of The Law Office of Robert B. Buchanan.