Grounds for divorce in Chicago, Illinois.
In years past getting a divorce wasn’t an option just because you wanted a divorce. In addition to the desire, one needed “grounds,” a specified statutorily approved reason to get the divorce. In Illinois, the grounds were adultery, desertion, imprisonment, etc. Requiring a ground for divorce meant proving that ground to a judge as a prerequisite to the divorce being granted. So, back in the days where there were multiple grounds, divorcing parties would hire private investigators to take pictures of their spouse committing adultery (or about to). Over time, it became clear that the duty to prove grounds made the divorce process more contentious and was counterproductive to the process as a whole.
In 2016, Illinois eliminated all the grounds for divorce except for one: “irreconcilable differences.”
The new statute purposely outlines this solitary ground as the very vague term “Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.” 750 ILCS 5/401(a)
During the final divorce hearing, the term is usually defined for the client on the transcribed record by one of the lawyers asking, “Is the cause of your divorce are irreconcilable differences? In that, you both tried to save your relationship but you couldn’t save your relationship.”
While the last remaining ground, irreconcilable differences is vaguely defined and there are no other available reasons for divorce, irreconcilable differences still must be proven to the court in order to finalize your divorce.
It is extremely easy to prove irreconcilable differences. A mere six months of separation between the parties can be proven by testimony alone and the Illinois statute says you’ve automatically proven irreconcilable differences.
“If the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months immediately preceding the entry of the judgment dissolving the marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met.” 750 ILCS 5/410(a-5)
If the six month separation period has not been satisfied the divorcing parties can simply testify that, “We do not get along and we can not get along.” That testimony should be enough for an Illinois judge to make a finding of irreconcilable differences and thereby satisfy the required grounds.
The 6-month separation is not some kind of additional required element to get a divorce in Illinois. The Illinois statute has no explicit time requirement.
In the past, there used to be a requirement of 2 years of separation that could only be waived by written agreement after at least 6 months of separation. Under the new Illinois law there is no separation time requirement, just the 6 months of separation as de facto proof of irreconcilable differences.
In 1984 Illinois joined the majority of states in becoming a “no-fault” divorce state. The Illinois legislature passed a series of laws eliminating the concept of one spouse being “at fault” for the divorce.
So, now that Illinois is a “no-fault” state, it is not required that one party’s poor behavior or bad deeds be exposed to the world in public documents in an Illinois divorce. What goes on behind closed doors can stay behind closed doors, so to speak.
Poor decisions and actions by a divorcing party are not now irrelevant. Bad behavior will absolutely a factor in all parenting matters before the court. Bad behavior that involves drugs, alcohol, gambling or illicit sex will definitely stick in a judge’s mind and likely shift the weight.
In conclusion, the only real grounds for divorce in Chicago, Illinois is the desire to be divorced of one of the parties. So, its something that barely needs to be considered and just needs to be acknowledged.
The author, Russell Knight is a Chicago divorce lawyer.