Commencing January 1, 2016, Illinois will truly be a no-fault state when it comes to divorcing your spouse. While “irreconcilable differences” has always been one of the options when pursuing a divorce from your spouse, Public Act 99-90 has eliminated all fault-based grounds for dissolving a marriage. Infidelity? Mental cruelty? These, along with other fault-based grounds, will no longer be applicable in Illinois.  Commencing January 1, 2016, there will only be a single ground for dissolving a marriage: irreconcilable differences. 

The definition of irreconcilable differences remains the same: “irreconcilable differences” have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failure or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interest of the family.”

Are there any other changes to note when pursuing an entirely no-fault divorce in Illinois? Absolutely. For starters, if you and your spouse agree that irreconcilable differences have arisen in your marriage, there is technically no waiting period to enter your divorce decree.  If one spouse is contesting the grounds of irreconcilable differences, new subsection (a-5) to 750 ILCS 5/401 requires that “if the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months immediately preceding the entry of the judgment dissolving the marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met.”  Practically speaking, this means that even if your spouse contests that there have been irreconcilable differences, so long as you live separate and apart for six months, there’s not much he or she can do about it.

It is important to know that while the only grounds for dissolving a marriage are irreconcilable differences as of January 1st, Courts can still declare a marriage invalid, which is a process entirely different from dissolving a marriage. If you are curious to learn more about the two and which you should be pursuing at the start of this New Year, please feel free to call me. Not only can we discuss your options, but we can also discuss how other new laws becoming effective January 1st will potentially impact your case.

Aubrey J. Parker, Family Law Attorney