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What is the role of fault in Illinois divorce cases?

Most readers are aware that, while fault used to be an important in divorce factor decades ago, it typically is not a significant factor nowadays. That being said, many states still do allow parties to divorce on fault-based grounds. Until recently, Illinois was among these states.

Under a law that recently took effect in Illinois, parties to divorce are no longer allowed to cite fault-based grounds to dissolve their marriage. Such grounds included things like adultery, habitual drunkenness, mental anguish, and so on. Going forward, the only available ground for dissolution in Illinois will be irreconcilable differences. The change is part of a package of modifications to state law aimed at streamlining the divorce process.

Although fault is not a factor in the actual dissolution of marriage here in Illinois, fault-based factors can still play a role in child custody and property division. Under Illinois’ equitable distribution law, judges may take a variety of factors into consideration when determining how to divide marital property, including some factors that touch upon issues of fault. Among them are a party’s contribution to the decrease in value of marital or non-marital property, as well as a party’s dissipation of marital property.

Contributions to the decrease of marital or non-marital property and dissipation of marital property can take a variety of forms, and it is important for a spouse who believes his or her spouse is responsible for property (value) loss should work with an experienced attorney to ensure the other spouse is held fully accountable in property division negotiations.

In our next post, we’ll look at how fault can come into play in child custody determinations.

Source: Northwest Herald, “Illinois divorce law changes for 2016 focus on parental duties, time, streamlining process,” Chelsea McDougall, Jan. 3, 2016. 

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