Illinois Court Records
Where To Find Family Court Records In Illinois?
In Illinois, family court cases are heard by the state’s circuit courts. Family court cases cover a wide range of issues, including marriage, child custody, paternity, divorce, domestic abuse, and other related cases that pertain to families. Depending on the specifics, unsatisfied litigants may move family court cases to appellate courts or the Illinois Supreme Court.
There are 23 judicial circuit courts in Illinois, scattered across 102 counties in the state. While some courts only cater to one county, some have jurisdiction over multiple counties. Family court cases usually begin in one of these courts.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What Is Family Law In Illinois?
Generally, courts rule on family law cases in Illinois with guidance from a range of acts under the Illinois Family Law Statute. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) is the most prominent of these statutes. However, depending on the specifics of a family dispute, other parts of the law may come into play. Some of the other acts considered include the following:
- Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (750 ILCS 36)
- Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/)Expedited Child Support Act of 1990 (750 ILCS 25/)
- Gestational Surrogacy Act (750 ILCS 47/)
- Rights of Married Persons Act (750 ILCS 65/)
- Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 (750 ILCS 60/)
In addition to the Illinois Family Law acts, circuit courts may also rule with guidance from many family law rulings by Illinois Appellate Courts and the Illinois Supreme Court. These courts generally set the tone in many cases, especially cases with peculiar circumstances that the Illinois Family Law may not specifically cater to.
What Are Family Court Cases And Records In Illinois?
Illinois circuit courts handle several kinds of family court cases. Many of these cases have certain peculiarities that generally differentiate one case from the other. However, regardless of these specifics, Illinois family court cases usually fall under one or more of these categories:
- Dissolution of Marriage: Also called a divorce, dissolution of marriage is a process that seeks to end a marriage that is legally recognized by the state. According to the IMDMA, one or both parties may file for a dissolution of marriage if the parties are no longer interested in the marriage. If granted by a judge, the dissolution of marriage ends all marital obligations between the couple. Illinois recognizes the “no-fault” grounds for a divorce, allowing the petitioning party to file for a divorce without specifying any reasons.
- Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage: also called an annulment, where a party seeks to end an invalid marriage. If a judge grants an annulment, the parties are no longer married, and the state does not recognize that the marriage ever took place. A judge might grant an annulment if one or both parties were underage, mentally incapable of providing consent or fraudulently obtained consent.
- Legal Separation: A legal separation allows a couple to remain married, without any physical or financial obligations. However, according to 750 ILCS 5/402, a legally separated couple may still receive “reasonable support and maintenance” even while living apart. Note that a legal separation does not end a marriage. Legally separated parties may only remarry after a divorce.
- Dissolution of Civil Union: Illinois marriages and civil unions are very similar. However, parties under 18 years old in Illinois cannot consent to a civil union even with parental consent. While a civil union is similar to a marriage, the former is governed by the Illinois Civil Union Act, and only ends through a dissolution of a civil union.
- Parentage: Parentage caters to cases between parties that have children together, even if the couple is unmarried. This is generally called parental responsibilities in Illinois and provides for cases that involve parenting time, child support, education, extracurricular activities, medical needs, and religion.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Are Family Court Cases Public Records In Illinois?
In Illinois, public access to family court cases largely depends on the type of case. For example, the Clerks of Courts Act (705 ILCS 105/) requires that certain information in the custody of a circuit court be accessible to the general public. However, according to the Illinois Vital Records Act, juvenile records, divorce court records, such as divorce decrees, are not available to the general public.
Limited information about parental responsibilities cases, formerly known in Illinois as custody cases, may also be accessible to the general public. Also, according to the Illinois Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/), all adoption records are generally considered impounded by the circuit clerk in charge of the record. Illinois law only allows inspection of adoption records by a specific court order.
How Do I Find Family Court Records In Illinois?
Illinois does not have a central repository providing copies of family court records. Requestors that require family court records will have to make a request to the circuit court in the county where the case was heard.
For Cook County, the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court maintains family records through its Domestic Relations Division, for all family court cases heard since 1987. To request for family court records, contact the Domestic Relations Division using the details listed below:
Domestic Relations Division
Richard J. Daley Center
50 West Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone: (312) 603–6300
Fax: (312) 603–6336
Requestors may also visit the Domestic Relations Division from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, excluding court holidays.
Office of the Circuit Court Clerk
505 County Farm Road
P. O. Box 707
Wheaton, IL 60187–0707
The DuPage county clerk also provides computer terminals for the public to view or print copies of these records in person. Visit the above address to access one of the information terminals.
To request family court records from other counties, use the Illinois Circuit Court Clerks directory to determine contact details of any local court. Note that the processes may differ between counties, and varying fees may also apply.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Do I Find Family Court Records Online?
Illinois does not have a central online repository that caters strictly to family court records. However, in accordance with the Electronic Access Policy for Circuit Court Records of the Illinois Courts (EAP), the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts provides the re:SearchIL platform for access to court records. Regardless, the use of this platform is restricted to Illinois judges, clerks or workers in a clerk’s office, and parties to certain cases filed through the eFileIL platform.
Online access to family court records is more direct at the county level. Many counties allow public access to limited information about family court cases. Cook County provides a Full Electronic Docket Search for court records. Requestors may select “Domestic Relations/Child Support” from the division drop-down menu, and select the preferred search type, depending on the information available. The platform allows users to conduct searches by case number, filing date, name, and Cook county attorney code. For McHenry County, a Public Case Access platform is also available for limited information about court cases.
What Is Illinois Custody Law?
Illinois’ custody law became the Parental Responsibility Law (740 ILCS 115/) in 2016. According to the law, a legal guardian, appointed so by an Illinois circuit court, is responsible for the child. Note that this is different from a person appointed as a guardian by an Illinois juvenile court. Custody in Illinois is divided as follows:
- Legal custody
- Residential custody
A parent with legal custody may make life decisions for the child. These include school, religion, and medical treatment. A parent with residential custody gets to decide where the child will live and spend more time.
Illinois provides joint legal and residential custody for children born into a marriage, while both parents are still married. If the parents are unmarried, the child’s mother has sole legal and residential custody until the father makes a finding of paternity and petitions the court for custody.
After a divorce, the child’s parents may decide on legal and residential custody. While this is much easier, the court is not obligated to accept the parents’ decision. Generally, the court will consider the child’s needs over the parents’ preferences. For example, the court may not grant joint custody to parents who do not communicate with each other, especially about the child’s needs.
Generally, the court will consider several factors, including the following:
- The child’s needs. The older the child, the more likely the court will consider the child’s preference.
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s ability to cater to the child’s needs
- The parents’ preferences
- Any history of child or sexual abuse
Except by court order, a parent with custody who denies the other parent access to the child may be found in contempt of court. Any parent that wishes to deny access to the other must first petition the court.
Limited information from court records of custody cases are generally open to the public. However, a judge may rule to redact the full case information where specific details may negatively affect the child if made public.
How To Find Family Court Lawyers In Illinois?
The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) provides access to family court lawyers, through its lawyer finder page. Illinois citizens may find the right family court lawyer by selecting one of the different practice areas in family law from the popup menu. These different family law specializations are divorce, adoption, child custody, child support, guardianship, visitation, etc. Users may further filter a search on the page by first name, last name, firm name, city, zip code, and county.