Grounds for Divorce on Mental Cruelty in Illinois

By Wayne Thomas

While marital discord is often mutual, sometimes one spouse bears the brunt of intentional and unreasonable mental and verbal abuse from the other spouse. In these cases, the Illinois courts allow for immediate divorce on the basis of fault, but this option is limited to cases where the victim spouse can prove the behavior was meant to cause harm and was unprovoked.


While the Illinois legislature has not provided a clear-cut definition of mental cruelty, it has been described by the courts as, “a course of abusive and humiliating treatment calculated, or obviously of the nature, to torture, discommode, or render miserable the life of the opposite spouse, which conduct actually affects the physical or mental health of the spouse.” The focus is on the effect of the action on the harmed spouse rather than the action itself. In Illinois, a single, isolated instance of mental or verbal abuse does not provide the requisite grounds for divorce. The action must be repeated and have a long-term, damaging effect on the victim.

Absense of Provocation

In order to succeed on a claim for divorce based on mental cruelty in Illinois, the innocent spouse must have "clean hands." In other words, the harmful action of the aggressor spouse needs to have been delivered without provocation. This conclusion is highly fact-based and the court will look to whether a specific action or reaction was caused by the other spouse. Generally speaking, simply stating that one has been generous and considerate during the marriage is not enough to provide a defense.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Burden of Proof

If you are seeking to terminate the marriage on the basis of mental cruelty, you bear the burden of proving that your spouse did more than just humiliate and embarrass you on several occasions. Rather, you must show that his actions were either calculated or obviously meant to invoke these feelings. Further, the absence of provocation must be proved by a preponderance of evidence, which means that more than 50 percent of the evidence indicates that there was no provocation.

Fault-Based Divorce

Although divorce for mental cruelty does not affect property distribution or alimony, your spouse might contest the divorce and deny the allegations if he believes reconciliation is possible. Fault grounds, such as mental cruelty, can be accomplished without the two-year period of separation for no-fault divorce and can provide a quicker avenue for the victim spouse to get out of the marriage. However, proving mental cruelty can be difficult.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Are Desertion Divorce Papers?


Related articles

How Long Do You Have to Be Separated to Get a Divorce in Virginia?

If your marriage is no longer working, you have the option of filing for legal separation or divorce. Unfortunately, in Virginia, these options are not described in such a straightforward manner. Instead, legal separation is known as "divorce from bed and board," while an actual divorce is called a "divorce from the bond of matrimony." Considering the similarity in terminology, it's easy to get the two confused. To ensure you meet the requirements for a divorce, particularly the length of separation required, it's important to know and understand the differences between the two.

Separation & Divorce in Virginia State

Living separate and apart for a period is a prerequisite for most grounds for divorce in Virginia. The state broadly and simply defines separation as a continuous break from being husband and wife. Understanding how voluntary separation affects your divorce, as well as the situations in which the court can order a separation can help you better prepare for your Virginia divorce.

Abandonment Laws in a Florida Divorce

Florida law provides that a court may grant a divorce request if the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Whether the circumstances of a particular case rise to the level of an irretrievably broken marriage depends on the facts of the case. One circumstance under which a Florida court may make such a finding is when one spouse abandons the other. Abandonment, sometimes referred to as “desertion,” may be actual or implied under the circumstances.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can You Divorce if You Are Mentally Unstable?

It is of little surprise that a married couple would decide to get divorced over personality differences. Spouses may ...

Is Impotence Grounds for Divorce?

Impotence is a traditional ground for divorce and it remains on the books in many states that still allow fault as well ...

Grounds for Divorce in Fayetteville, North Carolina

Divorce in North Carolina is governed by state law. Whether you are in Fayetteville, Durham or Ashville, the grounds ...

Laws About Adultery & Abandonment

Adultery and abandonment are two common issues that can cause a marriage to end in divorce. Although all states will ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED