In the state of Illinois, you need grounds to obtain a divorce. If everything is going fine in the marriage and neither party is at fault and neither party wants a divorce, that’s going to be very tough to get one without grounds. The most common ground for divorce is irreconcilable differences. Irreconcilable differences is where the parties have lived separate and apart for a period in excess of two years which can be reduced down to six months if both parties agree to reduce it down, whereby the parties just have differences that can’t be resolved. Those differences have led to the retrievable breakdown of the marriage. Attempts to reconcile the marriage have not been successful. And the parties consider the marriage is over and it’s in the best interest of the parties and the family to end the marriage.
The reason why irreconcilable differences is so popular is that neither party is really pointing a finger at the other to say they did anything wrong. The parties are just simply stating that there were differences, we couldn’t work them out, and we don’t see things the same way. It’s nobody’s fault, we just don’t agree and it didn’t work out. Most parties will reduce the two-year waiting period down to six months so that they can proceed with their divorce case quicker.
If irreconcilable differences are not the chosen grounds, there are several others that can apply. Another common ground is that of desertion. Desertion is where one party has left the other for a period in excess of one year without any information as to his or her whereabouts. And the person who remained did nothing to cause or provoke that other person to leave. We see desertion as the common grounds in a publication divorce where one party has left the jurisdiction with no information as to their whereabouts and the other party simply wants to get on with their life and get a divorce. For those situations, desertion is the most common grounds because the person has left for more than a year without any information as to their whereabouts.
There are other grounds where there is no waiting period. As you recall, I mentioned irreconcilable differences has a two-year waiting period which can be reduced down to six months. And desertion has a one-year waiting period. The grounds of physical cruelty, mental cruelty, and adultery contain no time period thus you can strike someone one evening and the very next morning the other party can come into court and file for divorce, alleging the grounds of physical cruelty.
With mental cruelty, there is no timeframe either, but the mental cruelty has to be over a period of time to manifest itself. For example, typically we will say did your spouse engage in conduct which caused you extreme and repeated mental cruelty which causes you to become upset, nervous, anxious and the like. With adultery, obviously you just need one incident or one proof of an incident whereby one spouse committed adultery, had an extramarital relationship, an affair or incident with another party. Adultery is the least common of the grounds because it has the toughest burden in terms of proof and it carries the biggest stigma mentally. Some of my clients want adultery in the documents because that is exactly what happened and they want the other spouse to know that that is the reason why the marriage fell apart.
For most clients however, irreconcilable differences is going to be the grounds of choice in that the time period can be reduced to six months, neither party points the finger at the other and everyone just agrees that we cannot get along. We tried to save the marriage and it’s not in the best interest of the parties or the family and we need to dissolve the marriage. Without grounds, the court will not grant a dissolution. Thus, grounds are the initial hurdle that one must cross over before proceeding with a divorce case.