The End of At-Fault Divorce in Illinois
If, for some reason, you are committed to pursuing a divorce on one of the fault grounds set forth by Illinois law, you only have a couple months left to file your petition. Beginning in January, at-fault divorce will no longer be an option in the state, thanks to a legislative measure signed by Governor Bruce Rauner last month. The bill was originally introduced earlier this year as Senate Bill 57, and its enactment implements a number of sweeping changes to the state’s divorce and family-related laws.
Irreconcilable Differences Only
The new law effectively removes a fairly significant portion of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act referring to the possible fault grounds for divorce. In doing so, it removes the necessity for a petitioner to prove adultery, physical or mental cruelty, “habitual drunkenness” or any of the other currently-specified fault grounds. Instead, a petitioner must only show that “irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Obviously, the behavior currently considered separate grounds for divorce can certainly create irreconcilable differences between spouses, so, in effect, the new law simply categorizes all divorce grounds under a single umbrella.
Easing the Burden of Proof
Additionally, the current law requires that a petitioner provide some sort of proof to substantiate his or her fault grounds divorce request. Under the new law, a six-month separation period is statutorily considered sufficient proof of irreconcilable differences. The court may also accept an agreement by both parties to proceed with the divorce and waive the separation period completely.
Little Practical Impact on Other Considerations
The concept of fault in divorce has become decreasingly important over the last several decades. While providing an alternative legal avenue for obtaining a divorce, fault itself is largely ignored in most other applications. By law, marital misconduct, including the behaviors that constitute grounds for divorce, may not be taken into account in proceedings for property division or spousal maintenance. Parental behavior may be considered in child-related matters, but only to the extent that the behavior impacts the child. Thus, the removal of fault grounds will not require an associated change in any of the other applicable guidelines.
If you are considering a divorce in Illinois, the new law is likely to have at least some impact on your case. Contact an experienced Geneva family law attorney at the Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates. With more than three decades of family law experience, Attorney Doug Warlick is prepared to help you understand the new law and any other applicable statutes as you pursue a more positive future. Call our office today to schedule a confidential consultation.