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What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Illinois?

Posted on in Divorce

Naperville divorce lawyerIt is a fairly common belief among divorcing couples that one must have “grounds,” or a specific reason, for a divorce. Historically, requiring grounds for divorce often served a purpose, in that any future spouse could look up records and see if the person they had chosen was to blame for the failure of his or her previous marriage. Nowadays, that idea is less in vogue due to the lessened stigma surrounding divorce. While there are states that still allow divorce on fault grounds, Illinois is no longer among them.

Fault Grounds

Up until a couple years ago, there were nine different grounds upon which a person could file for divorce—one of which was irreconcilable differences. The other eight all involved some alleged degree of fault. In other words, if a person’s spouse was guilty of any of the eight things listed as valid fault grounds, that person was permitted bring suit unilaterally to begin divorce proceedings. The grounds previously recognized in Illinois law were:

  • Impotence;
  • Bigamy and/or adultery;
  • Abandonment (for at least one year or longer);
  • “Extreme and repeated” mental cruelty;
  • Addiction to alcohol or drugs for at least two years;
  • Felony convictions;
  • Attempted murder or other serious abuse of one’s spouse; and
  • Infecting one’s spouse with a sexually transmitted disease.

While the grounds for a divorce actually mattered little in terms of property division or spousal support (Illinois law prohibited discussion of marital misconduct during such proceedings), they sometimes played a role in determining parental responsibilities and parenting time. Judges must decide custody in terms of the best interests of the child, and a parent who, for example, has a long-standing alcohol addiction, is arguably not a fit parent.

No-Fault Divorce

Beginning in 2016, a sweeping reform to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act eliminated all fault grounds for divorce in the state. The changes left one remaining option for couples seeking a divorce. Every Illinois divorce is now granted on the basis that irreconcilable differences have caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage. A divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences is commonly known as a “no-fault” divorce, meaning that neither spouse is assigned legal responsibility for the split. It also means that the petitioning spouse is no longer required to accumulate and provide evidence of his or her partner’s wrongdoing or destructive behavior. Thus, divorce proceedings may be streamlined in many cases.

Seek Professional Advice

If you are considering a divorce in Illinois, it is important to get help from an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. Our team will work with you in exploring your available options and pursuing the favorable outcome you deserve. Call 630-352-2240 for a confidential consultation today.


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