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What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Illinois?

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Illinois, like most states, allows for some form of “no-fault” divorce (typically called “irreconcilable differences”). Different states are more distinct in terms of whether other “fault” grounds for divorce are still on the books, as well as how no-fault divorce is precisely defined. In 2016, Illinois enacted a new law, firmly taking a position on the fault vs. no-fault divide. Continue reading to learn about the grounds for divorce in Illinois, and call a knowledgeable Chicago divorce attorney for help with an Illinois divorce or other family law matter.

Illinois Eliminates Fault Grounds for Divorce

Historically, couples in Illinois had to cite some type of marital fault in order to seek divorce. Fault grounds include reasons like intolerable cruelty, adultery, abandonment, addiction, and others. Illinois, like most other states, added “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for what is colloquially called “no-fault” divorce. Until 2016, married parties could file for divorce citing either irreconcilable differences or one of the fault-based grounds.

In 2016, Illinois enacted the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). The IMDMA, among other things, officially ended the dual approach to marital dissolution. Now, parties seeking to divorce can only cite “irreconcilable differences” when filing for divorce. There is no option to claim adultery, cruelty, or other fault-based grounds for divorcing.

How to Divorce Based on Irreconcilable Differences

Each state defines irreconcilable differences differently. In Illinois, Section 401 of the IMDMA states a party may divorce when “[i]rreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.”

Technically, a party seeking to divorce need only show:

  • At least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirement (one spouse has lived in Illinois for at least 90 days);
  • Irreconcilable differences (problems with the marriage) have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage;
  • Past efforts at reconciliation have failed; and
  • Future efforts to reconcile would be impractical and not in the best interests of the family.

Courts generally do not question whether a marriage is irreconcilable. Even if one spouse objects, the court may see that opposition as evidence that the marriage has broken down.

Is There a Waiting Period for Illinois Divorce?

Before the IMDMA, Illinois law required married couples to have lived “separate and apart” for two years before filing for divorce based on irreconcilable differences. Now, the law states that living separate and apart for six months is de facto proof that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The six month period is not a requirement, however; it is simply one way of proving that the marriage cannot be fixed.


If you are dealing with divorce, child custody, spousal support, or any other family law matter in Illinois, contact the passionate and professional Carol Stream family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt for a consultation on your case at 630-665-9600.

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