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What are the grounds for divorce in Illinois?

Couples in Illinois have been getting divorced for over 100 years with the first divorce laws in the state passed in 1819.  Previously, Illinois law listed 10 legally acceptable reasons, otherwise known as “grounds”, that a spouse could claim when filing for divorce. This was known as “fault-based” divorce. 

However, in 2016, Illinois did away with these requirements, replacing them with the only recognized grounds being “irreconcilable differences”, making Illinois a “no-fault divorce” state.  This revamping of the law resulted in a simpler, more streamlined process for couples looking to split due to irreconcilable differences, a/k/a “the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage”.

But what does this change really mean in practice?

Pre-2016 Grounds for a Fault-Based Divorce

Before the 2016 update to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a spouse filing for divorce had to cite 1 of the 10 following reasons for divorce:  

  1. Impotency
  2. Bigamy (the at-fault spouse already had a living wife or husband at the time that they entered into the subsequent marriage)
  3. Adultery
  4. Abandonment (for no less than one year)
  5. Alcohol abuse or drug addiction for at least 2 years
  6. Attempted murder of the other spouse
  7. Serious, repeated physical and/or mental cruelty
  8. Conviction of a felony
  9. Infection with a sexually transmitted disease 
  10. Irreconcilable differences

However, the courts began to recognize that grounds for divorce ultimately did not change the final outcome of the divorce proceedings.  Additionally, regardless of the grounds for divorce, the division of property and assets remained the same and was not determined by fault of one party or the other.   

This realization led to a major overhaul of divorce law in Illinois in 2016 as Illinois decided to do away with the concept of the fault-based divorce.

So how does no-fault divorce work?

Under no-fault divorce, neither spouse is technically responsible for the end of the marriage. Therefore, neither party needs to prove grounds for the divorce or defend themselves in court against allegations of misconduct from the other spouse.

Since 2016, the courts have set forth a much simpler path to severing the bonds of matrimony.

The new criteria include:

    1. The couple has lived separately for at least six months. The reason for this requirement is to give each party a chance to cool down or become more level-headed about the situation. In certain circumstances, this 6-month waiting period may be waived if both parties agree.  Living separately does not necessarily mean you must live in different households. You just need to show that you’ve been living independently of one another, basically as roommates as opposed to as a couple.
    2. There are irreconcilable differences that make the marriage unsavable.  This basically means that you can’t get along, the marriage cannot be saved and you don’t want to be married anymore because of these differences.
    3. Continued attempts to reconcile such differences would have no impact and could put further stress on your family.
    4. One or both of the parties has lived in the state for at least 90 days.

What do I need to know about initiating a divorce in Illinois?

Filing for divorce in Illinois requires completion of required paperwork and following the steps as required by local court rules.  Each county has different requirements, forms, deadlines and procedures, so it’s important to know what these are before you begin the dissolution of marriage process.

In a divorce case, there are many issues to be considered.  4 major issues that are looked at in every divorce are:

  1. The division of assets, including real estate, as well as the debts;
  2. Is either party entitled to maintenance (formerly “alimony”) or spousal support;
  3. Who gets the kids (parenting time/child custody) and when, if there are minor children;
  4. Will one spouse be paying the other for child support and, if so, how much?

So, although initiating a divorce and filing the proper documents with the court may seem straightforward and can move along fairly quickly, there are crucial considerations to keep in mind.  

The decision to get divorced is not one made lightly.  You have rights and interests that need to be protected.  Hiring an experienced family law attorney in McHenry Illinois to help you navigate the legal process, assist in negotiations and advocate for you during this difficult time could help you avoid costly mistakes and save you time and money.   

Contact Diamond Divorce Law today. 

An Illinois divorce attorney can work with you to set realistic expectations during a time when emotions run high.  They will objectively review your situation and needs and suggest options and strategies you might not have considered in an attempt to get you the best deal and divorced as quickly as possible. 

At Diamond Divorce Law, we know that the subject of divorce is delicate and must be handled professionally and with great care.  We offer family law consultations and services for divorce, child custody, modification of support, prenuptial arrangements and much more.See why we’re an excellent and compassionate choice for your divorce representation. Contact us to get started.

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