What does “Irreconcilable Differences” mean in an Illinois Divorce?
To understand the Irreconcilable Differences requirement, let’s take a step back and look at divorce from a different angle to reveal its origins and purpose in the U.S.
To petition for divorce is to file a civil case against your spouse, and the relief or solution you are seeking is a divorce. When you sue someone, you must have a reason. Similarly, when you file for divorce, you must have a reason. In divorce law, these reasons are called “Grounds for Divorce” and in many states, there are two choices:
- Fault-Based, which claims the other spouse did something to cause you to file for divorce, and
- No-fault, which just means the marriage did not work out. Fault-based grounds include adultery, mental cruelty, habitual drunkenness, abandonment, or even infection with a sexually transmitted disease.
Back in the day, Illinois had both fault-based and no-fault based grounds for divorce. Many states in the U.S. still offer fault-based grounds for divorce. However, in 2016, Illinois passed a law that eliminated all previous grounds for divorce. Now, the only legal “reason” available to file for divorce in Illinois is irreconcilable differences.
Irreconcilable Differences is legally defined as “the persistent and unresolvable disagreements between the spouses.” This means that the Court must find that you and your spouse tried to reconcile your differences but could not do so.
What are the requirements for Irreconcilable Differences in Illinois?
The 2016 Illinois law means that courts, lawyers, and parties don’t have to spend time (and money!) trying to prove which party is “at fault” in the divorce, and people can get straight to resolving the issues, such as creating a parenting plan and dividing property. However, it also means you don’t automatically “win” the divorce if your spouse cheats on you or has substance abuse issues.
Proving Irreconcilable Differences to the Court requires at least one party to claim the marriage didn’t work out. A judge must find that all efforts at reconciliation of the marriage have failed and that any future attempts to reconcile with your spouse would not be in the best interest of the family.
The court shall enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage [upon] the making of the finding:…Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family. 750 ILCS 5/401
Luckily, proving Irreconcilable Differences to the Court is easy. You just need to testify that Irreconcilable Differences have broken down the marriage. Your testimony is sufficient to establish the requirement. At the end of a divorce, there is typically a Prove-Up Hearing in which a Judge reviews the parenting and property agreements to ensure that they comply with Illinois law. During this hearing, you can testify to the Judge that the marriage did not work out, despite your best efforts.
Additionally, Illinois says that a Court can presume, or automatically decide, that Irreconcilable Differences exist when you and your spouse have been separated for at least six months.
If the parties live separate and apart for a continuous period of not less than 6 months immediately preceding the entry of the judgment dissolving the marriage, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the requirement of irreconcilable differences has been met. 750 ILCS 5/401(a-5)
To be “separated” has its own interesting legal definition, too. It does not necessarily mean that you and your spouse need to live in separate homes. Rather, a Judge can find that you and your spouse are not acting like a married couple anymore. This is a huge misconception in divorce.
Can one spouse contest or object to the claim of Irreconcilable Differences?
Only one spouse must establish Irreconcilable Differences for a divorce to be granted in Illinois. However, the other spouse can contest the claim. If your spouse were to successfully contest the Irreconcilable Differences claim, there must be enough evidence to counter the three elements of the law listed above.
First, your spouse must counter that the differences between you and your spouse are, in fact, irreconcilable. Second, your spouse must have evidence to contradict that all past efforts at reconciliation were unsuccessful. Lastly, your spouse must have evidence to counter that any future attempts at reconciliation would not be in the best interest of your family.
Need Advice from a Chicago Divorce Attorney?
If you’re ready to speak with an experienced Chicago divorce attorney, contact Anderson Boback & Marshall. Taking that first step to speak with an attorney about your situation can help you start the process right with a strong advocate by your side.