Wondering whether Illinois is a no-fault state for divorce? Read on for everything you need to know about the grounds for divorce in Illinois.
Wondering whether Illinois is a no-fault state for divorce?
The short answer is yes. Illinois is a no-fault divorce state. This means a spouse doesn’t need to prove fault or wrongdoing to get a divorce.
Previously, only fault grounds for divorce were available, but states (including Illinois) increasingly introduced no-fault grounds for divorce over time.
No, there are no fault-based grounds for divorce available in Illinois. In fact, there is only a single ground for divorce in Illinois, which is “irreconcilable differences.”
Illinois eliminated fault-based grounds for divorce in 2016.
In a no-fault divorce in Illinois, neither spouse has to prove fault by the other party to end the marriage. And note that under Illinois law, divorce is technically called “dissolution of marriage.”
The only ground for divorce in Illinois is irreconcilable differences. So whether your marriage broke down because of adultery or because you and your spouse simply don’t get along anymore, all Illinois divorces are filed on this basis.
The only question, therefore, is how to show you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences.
One way to do this is if you and your spouse have lived “separate and apart” for at least six months. And note that “separate and apart” does not necessarily mean you cannot cohabitate in the same house. Sometimes financial constraints or family reasons make it difficult for a spouse to move out, but as long as you and your ex-spouse are separated and living under the same roof as roommates, you can still meet this criteria.
Alternatively, even if you have not lived separately for six months, you can still get divorced if you and your spouse agree the marriage is irretrievably broken and say so in your divorce petition.
Finally, if one spouse disagrees that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court might have the spouse seeking divorce testify under oath that there are irreconcilable differences and no chance the couple will reconcile.
So, there are no fault-based grounds for divorce in Illinois, but can “fault” still impact a divorce?
The same behavior that would have been the basis for seeking a fault-based divorce, such as adultery or cruelty, could be relevant in a court’s child custody and visitation decision. Child custody decisions are based on the best interests of the child, and such behavior could certainly factor into a judge’s decision.
Additionally, Illinois divorce law expressly states that property division should be decided “without regard to marital misconduct,” but a spouse could file a claim for “dissipation” of marital property. So, for example, if a spouse committed adultery and used marital assets to fund the affair, the other spouse could file a claim of dissipation and seek to be compensated for the loss of marital funds.
The distinction between fault and no-fault divorce relates to what grounds for divorce you file under. In Illinois, as discussed, there is only one available ground for divorce, and it is the no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences.
Whether or not a divorce is contested is a separate question, though. The difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce refers to whether spouses agree on all of the terms of the divorce, including:
When spouses agree on all issues in a divorce, they may file for an uncontested divorce. Filing for an uncontested divorce involves drafting and submitting a marital settlement agreement for the court’s approval.
Uncontested divorces are typically quicker, simpler, and less expensive because the parties agree on all the issues rather than fighting things out in court.
If a divorcing couple disagrees about a single issue, though–for instance, if they agree on property division and alimony but not child custody–then their divorce is contested and requires greater court supervision.
So a no-fault divorce in Illinois could still be a contested divorce. Neither spouse has to prove the other was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage in order to get divorced, but you could still have a contentious divorce process if you can’t reach an agreement on all divorce-related issues with your ex-spouse.
A joint simplified dissolution is a form of uncontested divorce, but it has many requirements.
Requirements for a joint simplified divorce in Illinois include:
Couples that meet all the requirements may file for a simplified joint dissolution, which involves a simplified process and less paperwork.
So, is Illinois a no-fault state for divorce? Yes, Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, and the only available ground for divorce is irreconcilable differences.
Proving irreconcilable differences is straightforward if you and your spouse live separate and apart for six months, but a judge may grant a divorce even if you do not meet this criteria.
Even though there are no fault-based grounds for divorce, two things to remember are (1) marital misconduct could still impact things like child custody or property division, and (2) your Illinois divorce could still be contested depending on whether you and your spouse can agree on all divorce-related issues.
If you have questions about ending a marriage in Illinois, it may be worth speaking with an experienced divorce lawyer about your particular circumstances.