Living “Separate And Apart” In A Chicago Divorce
There are many different factors that must be examined in the course of dissolution proceedings in Chicago, and throughout Illinois. In addition to the perhaps more major and controversial issues that come up during a divorce, such as the division of property and assets, spousal support, and child custody, there are threshold issues in every Chicago divorce that the parties must be prepared for. One of the considerations that a party or parties seeking a divorce should be aware of is the issue of “no fault” divorce and, correspondingly, the consequence of “separate and apart” living arrangements under Illinois divorce laws.
The Old Illinois Divorce Law: “Irreconcilable Differences” and “No-Fault” Grounds
In 2016, Illinois eliminated “fault” grounds for divorce. “Fault grounds” were reasons that a party would want to end the marriage and pursue a divorce. Under old Illinois divorce laws, a person seeking a dissolution of marriage could allege a variety of different fault grounds as the foundation of divorce, such as adultery, drug and alcohol abuse, financial irresponsibility, abandonment of the marriage, and mental and physical abuse. These grounds were alleged to show the breakdown of the marriage, which is a threshold requirement in Illinois divorces. Prior to 2016, “irreconcilable differences” could also be alleged in order to satisfy the law. To allege “irreconcilable differences”, the parties to a divorce proceeding must have lived “separate and apart” for at least two years. If a party alleged other bases for ending the marriage, such as abuse or infidelity, the two-year period was reduced to six months.
In 2016, Illinois eliminated fault grounds for divorce. As of 2016, parties allege “irreconcilable differences” as the basis of the divorce. “Irreconcilable differences” are “no-fault” grounds for divorce, meaning that neither party is at fault, but the marriage has effectively ended and is “irretrievably broken.” A divorce case can proceed once a party or parties plead “irreconcilable differences”, but there are additional steps that must be taken if one party disagrees. In that case, under the new Illinois divorce law, if a party can show that the spouses lived “separate and apart” for at least 6 months, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the “irreconcilable differences” requirement is met.
In sum, a party no longer needs to prove fault grounds for a divorce under Illinois law, but can allege that there are “irreconcilable differences” as no-fault grounds for a divorce. This is sufficient if both parties agree to proceed with the dissolution proceedings, but if one party disagrees that the parties have “irreconcilable differences” the court will look to whether they lived “separate and apart” for at least six months. If they have, then the requirement is satisfied and the dissolution proceedings will continue.
Practical Considerations in a Chicago Divorce
There are many nuances to Illinois divorce laws that are important to understand if a person is involved in an Illinois divorce proceeding. Living “separate and apart” is a legal term, and the best way for a person to understand this element of a divorce proceeding is to get in touch with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer. An experienced Chicago divorce lawyer can help explain whether you must prove that you lived “separate and apart” from your spouse and what exactly that means in your particular case. If you have questions about your Chicago divorce, or are interested in potentially seeking a divorce, contact the experienced Chicago divorce lawyers at Birnbaum, Gelfman, Sharma & Arnoux today for a confidential consultation.