Major Changes to Illinois Divorce Laws Coming in January

divorce law, new law, Arlington Heights divorce attorneyThanks to legislation passed by the State House and Senate earlier this year and signed by Governor Bruce Rauner in July, divorce laws in Illinois are being rewritten for the first time in nearly 40 years. The legislation took the form of a single bill, introduced as Senate Bill 57 in January, 2015, but its effects will be widespread, impacting a significant number of family law provisions, including those regarding divorce, child custody, and, as discussed on this blog previously, parental relocation. Future posts will address some of the other areas of change, but the amendments to the divorce laws are likely to begin affecting Illinois residents very quickly.

Only No-Fault Divorce

While every state in America currently provides couples the ability to divorce on the “no-fault” grounds of irreconcilable differences, a little less than half still allow divorce on fault grounds as well. Currently, that is the case in Illinois, as an individual may seek a divorce based on the actions or behavior of his or her spouse, including ongoing substance abuse, mental or physical cruelty, abandonment, or adultery. Beginning January 1, 2016, however, fault grounds will no longer be an option. Instead, all divorces will be officially granted on the basis of irreconcilable differences.

While it may sound overly simplistic, the rationale for the change is based on the idea that if fault grounds behavior is sufficient to pursue a divorce, than the behavior has also fractured the relationship to the point of an irretrievable breakdown. From a practical standpoint, the changes are not likely to have a significant impact on most divorce-related concerns. Even under existing laws, marital misconduct is not to be considered in spousal maintenance or property division proceedings. Therefore, the only practical reason to leave fault divorce as an option would be to avoid the separation period required in a no-fault divorce.

No More Required Separation

Not coincidentally, the amended law will no longer require that a couple live “separate and apart” prior to being granted a no-fault divorce. Under current provisions, the required separation period can be as long as two years, and must be, statutorily, no less than six months. Going forward into 2016, spouses who stipulate that the marriage is beyond repair can proceed without a separation period. In cases where spouses cannot agree, a court will accept a six-month separation as irrebuttable proof of irreconcilable differences. Thus, families will be able to focus on more important concerns related to building a post-divorce future, rather than watching the calendar, unable to make much progress.

If you are considering divorce in the near future and have questions about how the new laws may affect your situation, contact an experienced family law attorney in Rolling Meadows today. Our knowledgeable team will meet with you to review your case, help you understand your options, and work with you in taking the necessary steps to improve your life. We look forward to serving you.



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