Grounds for Divorce

By Jordan Levey

What are “Grounds?”

In Illinois, a spouse filing for divorce has to provide the legal reasons (called “grounds”) for the divorce. Previously, a spouse filing for divorce could choose either no-fault grounds for divorce (called “irreconcilable differences”) or fault-based grounds (such as physical/mental cruelty or adultery). However, effective January 1, 2016 Illinois no longer uses fault-based grounds for divorce. Now, the only grounds for divorce available in Illinois are the no-fault grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”

Section 401 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states specifically that the Court can only enter a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage after making a finding that “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.”

What does “Irreconcilable Differences” mean?

Irreconcilable differences is defined as an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” essentially meaning that the marriage is over. Any efforts to save the marriage have been unsuccessful, and all future attempts to save the marriage would also be unsuccessful and contrary to the best interests of the family.

If you and your spouse have been separated for at least 6 months, it is presumed that the grounds of irreconcilable differences have been met. This does not mean that you must obtain a legal separation prior to filing for divorce. Separation, for the purposes of proving grounds for divorce, is defined as “living separate and apart.” Oftentimes this means that one spouse moved out of the marital residence. However, you and your spouse may still be “separated” even if you continue to live in the same residence. So long as the marital relationship is over and you are no longer carrying on as spouses, then you are separated for the purposes of proving the grounds of irreconcilable differences.

How will the grounds for divorce impact my case?

We understand that going through a divorce is an emotional process, and often one party feels that the other spouse is responsible for the end of the marital relationship. However, Illinois is a pure no-fault state. This means that the cause for your divorce will not have any legal impact on the terms of your case. In other words, the Court will not consider the reasons why you and your spouse are getting divorced when making determinations regarding support and property division.

Categories: Divorce and Separation.