Divorces in Illinois have been governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, originally enacted in 1979. Since then, changes in family dynamics, including recent developments in Illinois law related to same-sex marriage, parentage, adoption, and in areas of embryo preservation and rights, rendered the law outdated and in need of an update. For years, Illinois legislators, judges, and prominent practitioners in the field have pushed for a revised version of the Act, but only recently has this been accomplished.
The revised law, which will become effective on January 1, 2016, has been updated in several significant ways that impact how divorces and related issues will be addressed. The law will apply to new and pending cases and will change the way that divorcing parties navigate the process of divorce.
The following is a brief summary of some of the important changes to the Act:
Presently, a person seeking a divorce must allege “grounds” for the divorce. Most commonly, people cite “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for a divorce. To prove irreconcilable differences have arisen to cause a marriage to fail, the party filing for divorce must prove that the parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of in excess of two years, or agree with the other party to waive the separation period if they have lived apart for six months. The must also prove that the marriage is over and not salvageable. The other fault-based reasons include: impotency, adultery, desertion, habitual drunkenness, excessive use of addictive drugs, poisoning, extreme and repeated physical or mental cruelty, one party being convicted of a felony or other infamous crime, or infecting the other spouse with a sexually transmitted disease.
The revised law eliminates all of the fault-based grounds for getting divorced, leaving the only grounds of irreconcilable differences. Further, instead of having to prove a statutory period of separation, the new law eliminates the separation period as well. These changes shift the focus away from having the parties blame one another for the divorce in order to allow them to proceed as amicably and quickly as possible.