New Law Eliminates Mandatory Separation Period for Divorce

divorce, separation, Illinois Family Law AttorneyIf you know a couple who recently went through the process of divorce in Illinois, chances are, they were probably required to wait at least six months before the divorce would be granted. Even if the parties fully agree upon every detail of the dissolution, existing law in the state mandates a separation period in a no-fault divorce. Beginning in 2016, however, that will no longer be the case, as a new law will allow couples to look ahead to their post-divorce life without having to simply watch the calendar and wait.

Two Years or Six Months

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act contains most of the state’s provisions regarding divorce. For the last several decades, it has allowed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences—often called no-fault divorce—in addition to more traditional reasons, including adultery, repeated mental or physical abuse, or long-term alcohol or drug issues. However, before a no-fault divorce can be issued, the couple must show that they have lived “separate and apart” for at least two years. The law permits a shorter period if both parties agree, but in no case can the separation be less than six months.

While the statute may have been initially enacted to prevent couples from making hasty decisions about divorce, it has begun to have a significant negative impact on those looking to move on.  The separation can even effect the divorce itself. Consider a person who has separated from his or her spouse, and is looking to buy a new home prior to the divorce being finalized. For the purposes of the mortgage application, he or she is still legally married, which could create potential issues depending upon the requirements of the lender. In addition, property acquired by either spouse while still married could possibly considered a marital asset by the letter of the law regarding property division.

No More Required Separation

Thanks to a measure signed into law earlier this year and taking effect on January 1, 2016, couples seeking a no-fault divorce will not be required to live separately for a set amount of time. A couple may choose to separate first, and a separation of six months or more will be considered irrefutable proof of irreconcilable differences, but will not be statutorily necessary. Upon agreement of the parties to proceed with the divorce, a separation period cannot be mandated by the court.

If you are considering divorce in Illinois, it is important to fully understand the process. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today to schedule your free initial consultation. We will work with you throughout the process and help you negotiate a divorce agreement that meets your needs both now and in the future.

 

Sources:

https://www.isba.org/ibj/2015/07/lawpulse/familylawrewritegoesgovernor

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=3700000&SeqEnd=5200000

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