Effective January 1, 2016, Illinois did away with the “grounds” system for divorce that had existed for decades. Instead, now Illinois uses “irreconcilable differences” and can be thought of a as no-fault state for divorces.
This change to Illinois law is a good one. In the past, a person wishing to get divorced in Illinois could only use irreconcilable differences as the initial basis for the divorce in Illinois if they had lives separate and apart from their spouse for a period of 2 years. That meant that many divorce petitions had to use other grounds, such as extreme and repeated mental cruelty. Calling one’s spouse mentally cruel – even when it was only done because the legal system required it to commence the divorce – often led to hard feeling which made the case more contentious than necessary.
The new divorce law in Illinois requires only that a person who is filing for divorce claim that irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The court will also take as an irrefutable fact that such a breakdown has occurred if the parties have been living apart for 6 months prior to the entry of the divorce decree. This is useful as there are (rare) cases where one spouse tries to prevent the divorce from occurring by claiming there are not grounds for divorce. In years past, Illinois judges handled that situation by finding grounds existed in just about every situation (e.g. finding that a spouse not helping with household chores was mental cruelty), but now time need not be wasted on such matters.