Talk to a top lawyer for free

Is Illinois a No-Fault Divorce State?

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.

evident Editorial Team
November 20, 2023
Chicago city skyline with lake

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.

Key Takeaways

Is fault-based divorce an option in Illinois?

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.” 

New divorce laws in Illinois eliminated fault-based grounds for divorce in 2016. 

Illinois No-Fault Divorce

In an Illinois no-fault divorce, 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. 

Proving Irreconcilable Differences

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.

Impact of Fault on an Illinois Divorce

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. 

Uncontested vs Contested No-Fault Divorce 

divorce, separation, marriage breakup

The distinction between fault and no-fault divorce relates to what grounds for divorce you file under. As discussed, Illinois is a no-fault state for divorce and there is only one available ground for divorce, namely 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:

  • property division;
  • spousal maintenance (or alimony);
  • child custody (referred to as parenting time and parental responsibilities in Illinois);
  • child support.

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.

Joint Simplified Divorce in Illinois

A joint simplified dissolution is a form of uncontested divorce, but it has many requirements. 

Requirements for a joint simplified divorce in Illinois include:

  • You have been married for fewer than eight years
  • You and your spouse have no children
  • You do not own any real estate, and the value of other marital property is less than $50,000
  • Neither you nor your spouse make more than $30,000 per year
  • Neither spouse relies on the other for support, and neither spouse is seeking spousal maintenance

Couples that meet all the requirements may file for a simplified joint dissolution, which involves a simplified process and less paperwork.

FAQs About Illinois No-Fault Divorce

What does no-fault divorce mean in Illinois?

For Illinois divorce, the term “no-fault” refers to the legal grounds for the divorce. 

That is, it doesn’t matter whether one spouse or the other was to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Legally speaking, the only ground for divorce available in Illinois is “irreconcilable differences.”

Does adultery matter in Illinois divorce?

Legally speaking, adultery typically doesn’t affect the outcome of an Illinois divorce. In fact, Illinois divorce laws specifically bar judges from considering marital misconduct (such as adultery) when evaluating alimony or property division. 

That said, any “dissipation” of marital property could be factored into a judge’s decision if a spouse funded their adulterous affair using marital assets. For instance, if a cheating spouse used marital property to finance the affair, such as for gifts or trips, the other spouse could file a claim of dissipation and seek compensation for the loss of marital funds. 

Meanwhile, note that Illinois child custody laws don’t specifically preclude a judge from considering marital misconduct the way the alimony and property division laws do, but that adultery is still unlikely to affect custody decisions in most cases.

How long does it take to get a no-fault divorce in Illinois?

The timeline for a no-fault divorce in Illinois is anywhere from two months to over a year. But keep in mind, the timetable for a no-fault divorce in Illinois is basically the same as asking how long any divorce in Illinois takes given there are no longer any fault-based grounds available in the state. 

The actual timing depends on many factors, including whether or not a divorce is contested, how complicated the divorce is, and more. 

Is Illinois a 50-50 state for divorce?

No, Illinois is not a 50-50 state for divorce. Unlike states like California or Texas which are community property states, Illinois is an equitable distribution state. 

Under Illinois divorce law, judges may consider a long list of factors in determining how to divide marital property, but the key point is that they aim to divide that property equitably and not necessarily evenly. 

Illinois No-Fault Divorce: The Bottom Line

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 no-fault 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.