Grounds for Divorce in Illinois


Area of Law: 

Divorce may be defined as the legal ending of a marriage. Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states commonly grant divorces because forcing a couple to stay married would be against public policy. In Illinois, a divorce is known as “dissolution.”


In the United States, "no-fault" and "fault" are the two types of grounds, or justifications, for divorce. In some states, no-fault is the only acceptable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds are present within the marriage. The other states, including Illinois, allow the parties to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce. gives a comprehensive overview of divorce and separation law in Illinois.


The United States first adopted the concept of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all of the states presently allow for some form of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, each other for the divorce. Some examples of the justifications for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.” The justifications for a no-fault divorce in Illinois are irreconcilable differences that have caused the couple to remain separated for at least two years.


Many states mandate a "cooling-off" period of separation for a specific period of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can begin. During this time, the couple is required to live separate and apart with the intent that the separation will be permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law.  The waiting period in Illinois is two years. At the request of either spouse, or on its own initiative, the court may order a conciliation conference if it feels that there is a possibility of reconciliation.


Some states also allow fault grounds for divorce. Common fault grounds may include cruelty, desertion, adultery, prison confinement, habitual intemperance (drunkenness or drug addiction), and impotency. In Illinois, the fault grounds for divorce are impotence, the commitment of bigamy, adultery, or desertion, an attempt by one spouse to kill the spouse seeking the divorce by poisoning or other malicious means, extreme physical or mental cruelty, a felony conviction, the infection of a sexually-transmitted disease by one spouse to the other, and the excessive use of addictive drugs for at least two years.


Illinois has an approved "joint simplified dissolution" procedure and petition that may be viewed at To use this simplified procedure, the spouses: must not have been married for more than five years, must not have children and the wife cannot be pregnant by the husband, must not own any real estate, must certify that neither one is dependent upon the other for support, must have marital property that does not exceed $5000 in value, and must have a combined gross income of under $25,000 per year.


The specific grounds required for divorce vary widely across the United States. The American Bar Association provides a variety of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Illinois, can be found at


*An example of an Illinois Divorce Settlement Agreement can be seen on Free Legal Aid.