Deciding whether to file for divorce can be a stressful and emotional process. Here’s everything you need to know about the grounds for divorce in Illinois.
Many factors can lead couples to file for divorce. However, the fault is no longer relevant in the process.
Related: Illinois Divorce Residency Requirements
What Qualifies as Grounds For Divorce?
In Illinois, courts have abandoned the old concept stating only an innocent spouse may file for divorce. In the past, Illinois held on to the traditional fault grounds for divorce, like adultery, cruelty, or impotence. However, in 2016, lawmakers eliminated the option to file a fault divorce and now limit spouses to filing a no-fault divorce.
Regardless of whether a spouse commits spousal misconduct or causes the breakdown of the marriage, the court will not allow the fault to play a part in the divorce.
Does Fault Matter? If so, What Are The Fault Grounds?
Historically, the grounds for a fault divorce were:
- Bigamy (a spouse has another living spouse upon getting remarried)
- Abandonment for at least one year
- Alcohol abuse or drug addiction for two years
- Attempting to take the other spouse’s life
- Extreme and repeated physical or mental cruelty
- A felony conviction
- Infecting the other spouse with a sexually transmitted disease
In 2016, Illinois abolished fault divorce, so spouses can no longer cite any of these fault grounds as the reason for their divorce. However, the fault may come into play when courts consider child custody and visitation matters.
Although the law explicitly prohibits judges from analyzing fault when dividing property in a divorce, judges may evaluate whether or not one spouse dissipated marital assets during the marriage. For example, suppose one spouse spent marital funds on a gambling addiction or to fund an affair with a girlfriend or boyfriend. In that case, the court may award the other spouse more of the marital estate to compensate for the loss of marital assets. The “injured” spouse must follow specific steps when claiming the other spouse dissipated marital assets.
What Happens in a No-Fault Divorce?
As stated above, a “no-fault” divorce means neither spouse was at fault for the breakup. You will not have to prove or answer your spouse’s claims of marital misconduct.
The no-fault grounds only require the following:
- Irreconcilable differences cause the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (spouses no longer get along).
- You tried to reconcile and failed, and further attempts to reconcile would be impracticable and not in the family’s best interests.
- If you and your spouse live “separate and apart” for 6 months preceding the judgment, an “irrebuttable presumption” arises that “the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met.”
The court must accept that spouses live separately and apart and that you and your spouse no longer get along. “Separate and apart” doesn’t necessarily mean separate housing. If you and your spouse separate but continue to reside in the same household, you must demonstrate that you live “separate and apart” — basically as roommates.
How Can Spouses Obtain a Legal Separation?
If you live separately from your spouse, you may petition (ask) a court to grant a legal separation and reasonable support or alimony. A judgment for legal separation will not prevent either spouse from filing for divorce later but does prohibit either spouse from remarrying.
A legal separation has many of traditional divorce’s same characteristics. However, in the end, the parties remain legally married. Legal separation is uncommon, but couples still utilize it when they cannot divorce for religious or personal reasons.
When Can Couples Qualify For a Joint Dissolution?
If you and your spouse agree on all divorce-related issues, you may qualify for a streamlined divorce process called joint simplified dissolution.
In Illinois, divorcing spouses qualify for the simplified process if:
- Neither spouse requests alimony from the other
- At least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirement
- The reason for the divorce is irreconcilable differences
- Spouses have no children (born or adopted) from the marriage, and neither spouse is pregnant
- The marriage lasts no longer than eight years
- The couple does not have real property
- Neither spouse owns more than $10,000 in retirement benefits
- The spouses have less than $50,000 in marital property
- The spouses’ combined gross income is less than $60,000
- Both spouses disclose all assets and liabilities and exchange tax returns
- The spouses sign a written agreement dividing all assets and liabilities and allocating responsibilities for companion animals.
Related: Illinois Divorce FAQs
If you or a loved one would like to know more about what qualifies as grounds for divorce in Illinois, get your free consultation with one of our divorce attorneys today!