Legal Grounds to File for Divorce in Illinois

Though Illinois used to be a state where both “no-fault” and fault-based grounds could be used to pursue a divorce, the passage of the new law in 2016 has made Illinois an entirely “no-fault” divorce state. This means either spouse may file for divorce without proving that the other did something wrong.

What does “no-fault” mean? It means that traditional grounds for divorce such as impotency or adultery can't be used in court.

Under the new law, the only grounds for divorce that one can cite are “irreconcilable differences”. In other words, you and your spouse have differences that have caused the marriage to break down, your past attempts to improve or fix your situation didn't work, and no amount of future effort to repair the marriage would be effective. The “why” your marriage broke down isn't legally considered, only that for whatever reason your marriage isn't working and can't be repaired.

One thing the court will take into account is if both parties explicitly agree the marriage has broken down. If all aspects of the divorce case are uncontested by both sides, then there's no waiting period or required separation period before a divorce case can be filed.

Conversely, if both sides can't agree that the marriage has broken down, the court may require them to be separate for up to six months before filing for divorce in an attempt to give them a chance reconcile their differences. Being “separate” in this case does not mean physically living apart necessarily. Even if a couple is living at the same address, but are not living together as one unit it would be considered as living separately.

Another way Illinois is different from some states is their recognition of civil unions. Prior to the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in 2015, same-sex couples (and opposite-sex couples) were afforded similar rights in Illinois as well as similar divorce rights due to Illinois stance on civil unions. Although couples who have a civil union do not have the exact same rights as married couples, a civil union is dissolved in a manner similar to the dissolution of a marriage.

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