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III. The Elements of Divorce

Dissolution, also known as divorce, ends a marriage. A marriage is dissolved by a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage issued by an Illinois state court. The court also decides related issues such as custody, visitation, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property, and responsibility for the payment of marital debts.

A. Grounds

Since 1977, a divorce can be obtained in Illinois simply on grounds that "irreconcilable differences have caused an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." While the old grounds for divorce (e.g., adultery, attempted murder of a spouse, bigamy, conviction of a felony, desertion or extreme and repeated physical or mental cruelty, habitual use of alcohol or addictive drugs for two years or more, infection from the spouse with a communicable sexually transmitted disease or permanent impotence at the time of marriage) still exist, they require the party alleging these grounds to allege and prove that the ground occurred without any provocation on their part.* For example, a wife who files for a divorce based on mental cruelty must also allege and prove that she did nothing to provoke her husband's misbehavior.

Clearly, the current preference is for what has come to be called no-fault divorce as the simplest, least time consuming and least costly option for couples who agree to divorce. A judge may grant a no-fault divorce if the parties have lived separately for a continuous period of more than two (2) years, there were irreconcilable differences and attempts to reconcile have failed or future attempts would not be in the best interest of the family. If the parties are in agreement that the marriage should be dissolved, and they have lived separately for six (6) months, they may waive the two year separation requirement by signing a written stipulation.

*Effective January 1, 2016, Illinois will no longer assign blame as grounds for divorce. Irreconcilable differences is the only basis for divorce in Illinois.