Adoption Law | Child Custody | Child Neglect | Child Abuse

Becoming a Legal Adult: Marriage, Divorce and Children Q & A

Q: When can I marry without my parents’ consent?

A: When you turn 18.

Q: What is the youngest age at which I could marry with parents’ consent?

A: Sixteen with proof of parental consent. Even with consent of your parents, you may not marry legally in Illinois if you are under 16.

Q: What can happen if we lie about our ages to get married?

A: If either person is under 16 at the time of a marriage, the marriage is void. That means there is no marriage.

Q: How do I get a marriage license?

A: You apply to the county clerk and pay the application fee. The license is good in the county where it was issued one day after issuance, unless the court orders it to be effective when issued. The license expires 60 days after taking effect. You can get married only in the county where the license was issued.

Q: What is required for a valid marriage?

A: A marriage must be:

  • Between a man and a woman old enough to marry
  • Performed by an authorized official (generally a clergyman, judge or public official whose powers include performing marriages)
  • Recorded by a properly registered marriage certificate

Q: Who has to provide support in a marriage?

A: Both husband and wife must support one another and all minor children.

Q: Does a non-working spouse have any share in the family’s income or assets?

A: Yes. This is a complex subject: You should talk with a lawyer for more information.

Q: What happens in a divorce?

A: A judge will consider whether there are grounds for divorce and issues of child custody, child support, the need for financial support by either spouse, and property division. As a general rule, assets are divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, regardless of whom is at fault for the end of the marriage.

Q: What are the grounds for divorce?

A: There are eleven grounds. Among the most commonly used are mental cruelty, physical cruelty, adultery and desertion. There is also one ground that does not require fault—the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This ground requires that the spouses have either lived apart for more than two years, or have agreed to divorce and have been separated at least six months.

Q: What's the difference between an "amicable" and "contested" divorce?

A: An amicable divorce is usually between two parties who are willing to work toward a divorce agreement or settlement together in an amicable or agreeable manner. Many couples in amicable divorces seek the services of a trained mediator to help them facilitate a settlement fair to both husband and wife.

A contested divorce is one in which one party does not want the divorce and is less than willing to discuss or reach agreement on settlement of marital assets.

Q: Can a father be required to support his child if he is not married to the mother?

A: Yes. A father can be sued by the child, the child’s mother or a child support agency. They can get a "wage assignment" that will automatically deduct support from the father’s paycheck.

Q: What happens if a parent refuses/fails to pay child support?

A: The delinquent parent's income (which includes salary, lottery winnings, insurance settlements, tax refunds, workers compensation, unemployment benefits, and other sources) can be withheld for the amount of support owed. Also, the delinquent parent can be held in contempt of court, which could result in probation or periodic imprisonment (not to exceed 6 months).

Q: Can a father get custody of his child if he is not married to the mother?

A: Yes. The father can request that a court grant him custody of a child even though he and the mother have never been married.

Q: What if a man denies that he is a child’s father?

A: In that case, either the child, the child’s mother or a child support agency can ask the court to decide whether he is the father through a paternity action. If the man can’t afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for him. He has the right to require blood tests (today’s very accurate blood tests usually settle the question of whether the man is the father). The question of paternity can be settled by a paternity agreement. If the question is not settled, a trial will be held to determine whether the man is the child’s father.

Q: May a parent’s rights be terminated?

A: Yes. Among other reasons, a court may terminate parental rights if it finds that a parent is unfit because he or she:

  • Abandoned the child
  • Failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility for the child Deserted the child for more than three months
  • Repeatedly neglected or was cruel to the child
  • Failed to protect the child from harmful conditions.

Q: What does "termination" mean?

A: Termination of parental rights means that the former parent is no longer legally considered the child’s parent and no longer has any of the rights or responsibilities of a parent, including the right to see the child.

Q: If my spouse is abusing me, do I have to file for divorce to get help from the courts?

A: No. If you are abused, you can get a court order of protection if either you or your children are likely to be abused. The order prohibits further abuse and may give you control of the home, car, or other property. Other help is also available. Call a lawyer, and check the Yellow Pages under "Social Services Organizations" for battered wives or spouse abuse or domestic violence victim support groups.

Q: If my spouse is abusing me before the divorce is final, what kind of protection can I get from the court?

A: Among other things, the court can order your spouse not to bother you, order your spouse to leave the home for a period of time, or enter an order of protection. Anyone disobeying such orders can be fined, jailed, or both, depending on the circumstances.

Q: If I’m being abused, can the state’s attorney bring criminal charges against my spouse?

A: Yes. If you are abused, immediately call the police or state’s attorney’s office. Get hospital treatment and keep records of injuries, witnesses, police officers and medical attendants. Get copies of medical reports and bills.

Q: Can I sue my spouse for personal injuries resulting from the abuse?

A: Yes. You should see a lawyer to discuss the evidence, the facts you must prove and the amount of damages or other remedies you could get.

Q: Can I ask for an order of protection even if I’m not married?

A: Yes. Anyone abused by a family or household member can ask the court for an order of protection.


Download the full Becoming a Legal Adult Booklet here


Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page.

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