Do I Need to Prove Grounds to Get a Divorce in Illinois?

Originally, Illinois was a grounds state. The petitioner had to plead and prove certain specific acts by the respondent in order to obtain a divorce – which is now called a dissolution of marriage.

The grounds that were set forth in the law (statute) in Illinois were mental cruelty, physical cruelty, impotency, desertion, habitual drunkenness or use of addictive drugs for more than two years, attempting the life of your spouse by poison or other means, showing malice, conviction of a felony or infamous crime, or infecting a spouse with a sexually transmitted disease. In Illinois these grounds still exist today.

In the past, the grounds that were most commonly used were “mental cruelty," mostly because those grounds were thought by divorce lawyers to be the least offensive to the other spouse.

Due to the resistance of various religious groups to the idea of making divorce easier, Illinois did not adopt “no-fault” divorce system. Rather than go to a “no-fault” system of divorce in which it is not necessary to file or prove grounds, Illinois simply added the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” to the other existing grounds for divorce listed above.

This new ground of “irreconcilable differences” requires that the parties be living separate and apart for a period in excess of two years in order to use the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” However, spouses that have not been living separate and apart for 2 years, could still use “irreconcilable differences” by signing a written document or “stipulation” agreeing to use the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” and stating that they had been living separate and apart for a period in excess of six months prior to the entry of their judgment for a dissolution of marriage.

The simple answer to the question, "Do you need to prove grounds to obtain a divorce in Illinois?" is "Yes, you do." But, this is usually not a problem since:

  1. Rarely does the other spouse attempt to fight the grounds for divorce (dissolution) of marriage because you can still use mental cruelty as a grounds with no prior period of separation.
  2. Divorce judges in Illinois are very much against trying grounds cases or having a trial on the “grounds for dissolution of marriage.” In fact, they will usually strongly suggest to the spouses that they consent to the grounds even if they wish to argue about other things such as child custody, division of assets, etc.

In more than 35 years of practicing divorce law, I have only had two contested trials over the grounds for dissolution of marriage. Both of which were granted, so that the grounds make little if any difference to obtaining a divorce in Illinois.

If you are considering divorce and want to consult a DuPage County divorce attorney regarding how to prove grounds for divorce, contact me today at 630-920-8855.

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