New Law Ends At-Fault Divorce and Reduces Separation Periods

A few weeks ago, a post on this blog discussed a newly signed law that promises to bring sweeping changes to the application of family law provisions in the state of Illinois. In addition to the major updates regarding parental relocation and child removal, as covered in that post, the new law—originally introduced as Senate Bill 57—also revamps the existing statutes related to divorce. Set to take effect on January 1, 2016, the law’s impact is expected be a positive one, allowing unhappy couples to move toward a brighter future more efficiently and without unnecessary roadblocks.

Elimination of Fault Grounds

Did you know that, according to present provisions in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, there are ten different fault grounds upon which you could obtain a divorce?  Some may be more obvious to most people, such as extreme mental or physical cruelty, adultery, or substance abuse. Others, however, may seem a little more unusual, but rather understandable, such as an attempt by your spouse to kill you, or your spouse’s conviction of a felony or other infamous crime.

When the new law takes effect, fault grounds will no longer be an option. Instead, every divorce will be considered on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, commonly referred to as a no-fault divorce. The legislative move was designed to simplify the divorce process and eliminate the need for the petitioner to show proof of his or her spouse’s actions. The effect is expected to be minimal in other areas, though, as marital conduct is already excluded from alimony and asset division considerations.

Reduction of Two-Year Separation

No-fault divorce in Illinois currently requires a couple to “live separate and apart” before the divorce will be granted. The existing law allows a court to enforce a separation period of up to two years, although, by agreement of the parties, it can be dropped to as little as six months. Even so, half a year is a fairly long time to wait if both spouses are ready to move on with their lives.

In recognition of this idea, mandatory separations are also being eliminated under the new law. It does, however, provide a standard of six months, not as a required period of living separate and apart, but as presumptive proof of irreconcilable differences. Thus, in practice, the longest a couple may have to wait—and even then, only if they cannot agree—would be six months, the court’s schedule notwithstanding.

If you are considering divorce and you would like more information on how the law changes may affect your situation, contact an experienced family law attorney in Orland Park. Our team would be happy to meet with you to discuss your case and help you clearly understand your available options under the law. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free consultation today.