Illinois No-Fault Divorce Laws

By Beverly Bird

Most Illinois couples who decide to part ways use the state’s irreconcilable differences ground for divorce. Although this is not technically a no-fault rule, it is the closest thing to it that Illinois offers. If you file divorce papers on grounds of irreconcilable differences, you don’t have to accuse your spouse of fault or of doing anything wrong in order to obtain a legal end to your marriage.

Definition of Irreconcilable Differences

Claiming irreconcilable differences means that you no longer want to be married and there is nothing your spouse can do to change your mind. In legal terms, this is an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. To use this ground, your spouse must agree that this is true. If he believes that the marriage can be saved, he can object to your use of that ground. If he does, the matter becomes contested and is no longer a no-fault divorce. You must also agree on the terms of a divorce settlement, such as property distribution, child support and custody. At the very least, you should be close enough to an agreement on these things that you can iron them out with a minimum of fuss so the court is not required to step in and make decisions for you.

Waiting Period

Illinois has a two-year separation rule for its version of no-fault divorce, but if you and your spouse agree that irreconcilable differences have ended your marriage, you can mutually waive the waiting period to some extent. The court will allow your divorce after six months if you both sign an agreement that this is what you want. You don’t have to wait until you’ve lived separately for six months before you file for divorce, but the court won’t finalize your matter until the six-month period has passed. The court also has to decide that reconciliation is impracticable. If you don’t have an agreement regarding marital issues, you can use this time to reach one.

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Separate Residences

In a landmark Illinois case decided in 1989, the court ruled that you do not necessarily have to live in separate residences to qualify as legally separated. If you and your spouse are still under the same roof, but he’s sleeping in the den, you’re not intimate and you rarely cross paths, the court will generally accept this as a separation.

Other Factors

You must live in Illinois for at least three months immediately preceding the date on which you file for divorce. When you appear in court to finalize your divorce after the six-month waiting period has elapsed, the judge will expect you to either verbally tell him the terms of your settlement agreement or provide him with a signed copy of one.

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