Does Fault Matter in Your Divorce?

Imagine a reasonable scenario in which a person has been married to his or her spouse for several years. During the course of the marriage, the person’s spouse develops a pattern of physical and emotional abuse, as well as repeated episodes of adulterous behavior. What would your advice be to that person? More than likely, you would suggest that he or she needs to get out of the relationship and that the behavior of his or her spouse should be more than enough to justify a divorce. While the hypothetical actions in this fictitious scenario could certainly lead to a divorce, it may come as a surprise to know that such behavior can no longer be used as formal grounds for divorce in Illinois.

The Old Law and Proving Fault

For many years, a person seeking a divorce in Illinois could cite one of about a dozen different fault grounds as the reason for the dissolution. The most common such grounds included:

  • A spouse having an affair;
  • Repeated mental, physical, or emotional cruelty;
  • Abandonment;
  • Patterns of drug or alcohol abuse; and
  • A spouse being convicted of a major crime.

As part of the divorce proceedings, though, the petitioning spouse filing on fault grounds would be required to provide proof of the alleged behavior. For certain grounds—such as adultery or emotional abuse—proving that such things actually took place could be extremely difficult.

Irreconcilable Differences

In the mid-1980s, Illinois law was amended to provide a new grounds for divorce that did not require a finding of fault. By showing or stipulating that the marriage had broken down due irreconcilable differences, a no-fault divorce could be granted. The spouses, however, were required to undergo a period of separation before the divorce judgment could be issued. The prescribed separation in the law was two years, which could be reduced to six months by agreement of the parties.

On January 1 of this year, the law in Illinois was changed again, this time removing fault grounds as an option for a divorcing couple. This means that every divorce in the state will officially be considered no-fault on the basis that irreconcilable differences caused the irrevocable breakdown of the marriage. The mandatory separation period was also eliminated, allowing divorce proceedings to move along more quickly.

A Divorce Lawyer Can Help

If your marriage is on the verge of failing and you would like to know more about your options for divorce in Illinois, contact an experienced Will County divorce attorney. Call 708-518-8200 for a free consultation at any of the three convenient office locations of Kezy & Associates today.