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Understanding No-Fault Divorce in Chicago

Many people in the Chicago area file for divorce because of the other spouse’s immediate actions. For example, as an article in Today highlights, a spouse will often make the final decision to file for divorce because the other spouse had an affair or because the other spouse has a serious problem with addiction. For most couples in these situations, there were problems in the marriage for quite some time before the actual divorce filing. Yet the spouse who is filing the petition for dissolution of marriage might be focusing on the way in which the other spouse’s “fault” played a major role in his or her decision to file for divorce. When a party files a petition for the dissolution of marriage under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the issue of “fault” should not arise.

Since 2016, Illinois has been a completely “no-fault” state for divorce purposes. It is important to understand how divorces work when fault is not alleged and to be clear about the legislative reasons behind the shift to an entirely “no-fault” system.

Getting Rid of “Heart Balm Actions” in Illinois

Fault-based grounds for divorce used to be common in states across the country, including in Illinois. Grounds for divorce based on infidelity were often described as “heart balm actions,” and many states allowed a party to file for divorce on the grounds that the other spouse had an affair. Some states still have fault-based grounds for divorce. Up until 2016, Illinois still had its fault-based grounds on the books. While there was a “no-fault” option that a party could exercise, that party could still allege grounds for the divorce. 

However, recognizing the biases inherent in many divorces sought and granted on fault-based grounds, Illinois lawmakers eradicated these grounds for divorce through Public Act 099-0090. Starting in January 2016, anyone filing for divorce in Illinois could only seek a “no-fault” divorce. 

Filing for Divorce in a “No-Fault” System

If you cannot allege fault when you file for divorce, what do you need to do in order to have a Chicago court grant your divorce? Under the IMDMA, divorces are only granted on the basis of “irreconcilable differences.” As such, according to the statute, the party who is seeking a divorce only needs to assert that irreconcilable differences make the continuation of the marriage impossible. Then, the court only needs to make the finding that reconciliation between the married parties is not possible or not in anyone’s best interests. Now, you might be wondering: should I bring up any issues of fault to prove that irreconcilable differences caused the irretrievable breakdown of my marriage?

In short, the answer to that question is no. Rather than providing any kind of specific evidence about the relationship itself, the statute clarifies that there is an “irrebuttable presumption” of irreconcilable differences as soon as the parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of six months or more. As such, the only “evidence” you need to be eligible for a divorce—beyond residency requirements under Illinois law—is evidence that shows you have been living separate and apart from your spouse for at least six months. 

Contact a Divorce Attorney in Chicago 

Do you need help with your divorce? A Chicago divorce attorney can assist you. Contact the Arami Law Office today to get started on your case.

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