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Understanding irreconcilable differences in an Illinois divorce

While every state in the country allows initiating a divorce under no-fault grounds, only a few states recognize fault-based divorces. Originally, Illinois was one of those states that accepted fault as a ground to initiate a divorce. However, the state became a purely no-fault divorce state in January 2016. This means spouses can file for the marriage’s dissolution only on the ground of irreconcilable differences.

What do irreconcilable differences mean?

When separating spouses file for divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences, it means the spouses can no longer fix whatever issue caused the marriage’s downfall. But how can spouses show the court that the relationship can no longer work? According to Illinois divorce law, living separately for a continuous period of at least six months before filing the divorce petition creates an irrebuttable presumption that the spouses can no longer reconcile and fix the marriage.

Note that even if the other spouse denies the irreconcilable differences and contests the divorce, the judge will still grant the petition if it clearly shows that the ground exists.

Does this mean any marital misconduct will not affect the divorce?

While divorcing spouses do not have to claim and prove fault to initiate divorce, it does not necessarily mean that misconduct weighs nothing during the proceedings. For one, it may affect property division. As a general rule, Illinois courts must divide marital properties without considering marital misconduct. However, there is an exception to this rule. If one of the spouses wastes part of the marital assets, the court may award the other spouse more to compensate for their loss, much like a reimbursement.

Moreover, while it is not always the case, some judges may also consider misconduct when determining child custody and support. The law does not directly say it, but marital misconduct may fall under any other factor the court may find relevant to its determination.

Do not let the process overwhelm you

Divorce involves many legal concepts that can be confusing to nonlegal individuals. Sometimes, this confusion leads to divorcing parties feeling a bit overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are resources and guidance available to lead parties through the process.

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