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How to get a divorce in Illinois

On behalf of Joe Lucas at Lucas Law

Currently, Illinois residents must prove appropriate grounds in order to get divorced. That will change as of January 1, 2016.

Getting divorced may not be what most people in Illinois want to be thinking about at the holidays but sometimes life's realities make it the topic of discussion. When a couple or even one person in a marriage has decided that a divorce is needed, it is important to understand what that entails.

Identifying grounds for divorce

Historically and through the end of 2015, Illinois has outlined 10 different grounds for divorce. In addition, the ability to get divorced based upon irreconcilable differences has existed.

The Illinois General Assembly identifies the 10 acceptable grounds feature the involvement of the following elements on the behalf of at least one spouse:

Impotence, adultery, bigamy or infection with a sexually transmitted disease.

Conviction of a felony or other similar crime.

Attempted poisoning.

Abandonment lasting at least one year.

Mental or physical cruelty

Habitual drunkenness or drug use lasting at least two years.

If one of these grounds cannot be identified, couples can obtain a divorce based upon irreconcilable differences. This is generally achieved by living apart for two or more years which demonstrates to the court that the marriage has indeed broken down beyond repair.

A divorce process is initiated by the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union according to the State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County. Once this is served on the other spouse, that person has 30 days in which to respond. The divorce process continues from there.

What will change in 2016?

The News Gazette explains that as of January 1, 2016, the 10 grounds for divorce will no longer be applicable in Illinois divorces. All divorces in the state will now be classified as no fault. This means irreconcilable differences will essentially be the reason for any Illinois divorce.

Instead of the two-year separate period that has been required to date, couples must only be separated for six months in order to get a divorce under these terms.

At the same time, the way in which child custody and visitation will be addressed from a legal perspective will change. Courts will refer to the allocation of parental responsibilities instead of custody or visitation. Parents will be required to provide their proposal for how to share time. More detailed information will also be included in divorce decrees regarding parental or child relocation.

How can couples learn more?

With January just around the corner, anyone with an impending divorce should talk to a family law attorney. This is the best way to fully understand how the new laws may impact their ability to get divorced in Illinois.

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