For many years, a married person in Illinois could seek a divorce based on the negative or destructive behavior of his or her spouse. Doing so, however, could be difficult, as the proceedings required the petitioner to provide proof of the alleged behavior before the divorce could be granted on such grounds. A little over 30 years ago, the laws in Illinois were amended to permit divorce on the basis that a marriage had broken down due to irreconcilable differences between the spouses, and that neither party was particularly to blame.
In just a matter of weeks, the law is set to change again. This time, though, instead of adding possible reasons for a divorce, fault grounds are being eliminated as the basis for divorce proceedings. Beginning January 1, 2016, every divorce in the state will be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and the fault of either spouse will not be considered.
The changes to the state’s divorce laws are part of a sweeping family law reform measure passed earlier this year. Proponents of the legislation believe that updates were needed to help families focus on more important concerns, such as caring for their children and building a happier future, rather than dealing with outdated and increasingly out-of-touch guidelines.
In terms of the divorce process, the amended law is meant to reduce acrimony and contentiousness by removing the requirement to prove spousal misconduct. While previously-recognized fault grounds such as adultery, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, substance abuse, and abandonment, are very serious concerns, proving such behavior is often difficult. Additionally, if a spouse was ready to pursue a divorce on fault grounds, the couple was almost certainly dealing with irreconcilable differences anyway.
Existing laws already prohibited a court from considering marital misconduct—adultery or abuse, for example—in proceedings for spousal maintenance or the division of marital property. Therefore, the only perceived advantage of a divorce on fault grounds was the possibility of skipping the separation period mandatory for a no-fault dissolution. In a contested situation, the separation period could be as long as two years, but in no case could it be less than six months.
To address this, the new law also eliminates required periods of separation. Going forward, a couple in agreement can proceed with the divorce without ever having lived apart. For couples who cannot agree, the court will recognize a six-month separation as irrebuttable proof of irreconcilable differences, and the divorce can be granted anyway.
Legal Guidance for No-Fault Divorce
If you are considering a divorce, it is important to enlist the assistance of qualified lawyer who can help you through the process. Contact the experienced St. Charles family law attorneys at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. for a free consultation today. We have helped hundreds of area clients build the post-divorce life they deserve and we look forward to helping you.