How to Qualify for a Divorce Under Irreconcilable Differences  A lot of people wonder how long you have to be separated in order to be able to get a divorce. This really comes down to something called grounds. Grounds are the legal reason you have to have to in order to get a divorce. It’s not like getting married, where you can get married without having to provide any reason whatsoever. In a divorce situation, you need to have a reason, and those are called grounds.

There’s a long list of grounds in the state of Illinois. One of the most often used grounds is adultery. Sometimes people will use the grounds of abandonment, mental cruelty, physical cruelty. If you’re married to a convicted felon, that’s also grounds for a divorce. Sometimes people tell me that they don’t have specific grounds as far as the traditional grounds go for a divorce. There was no adultery, they’re spouse is not a felon, and they’re both good people who still get along; they’re just not in love anymore, and they realize that they’re going to be happier being divorced than they would be staying married to each other.

What used to happen is that people in that situation would have to make up grounds and go with the most subjective grounds, which was mental cruelty. People would claim mental cruelty in their divorces in order to be able to establish grounds. They would have to go into court and say that their spouse made them feel bad, humiliated them, and generally just wasn’t a very nice person. This would sometimes get under the skin of the person on the receiving end of that. He would say, “What are you talking about? We just don’t want to be married to each other. Why do you have to say that I was cruel to you? You know that’s not true.” Well, this is what people would often have to resort to if they wanted to get a divorce.

The lawmakers in Illinois realized that this wasn’t working out so well and that many people who wanted to get divorced simply weren’t getting along anymore. So new grounds were created called irreconcilable differences sometimes referred to as a no-fault divorce. When you have irreconcilable differences you’re just telling the court, “It’s simply not working anymore,” and those are your grounds.

Now, there’s a little bit of a catch to it. In order to be able to get divorced under irreconcilable differences grounds, you have to be able to establish that you’ve been separated for two years. Now, I know that sounds like a long time, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Let me explain. To be separated for two years – first of all, that does not mean separated in terms of a legal separation where you have something signed by a judge that says you’re separated, and it doesn’t even mean living in separate houses. You can still be separated from your spouse living in the same house, as long as you can say you’ve been living like roommates, you’re not holding yourselves out to being husband and wife, and you’ve essentially “broken up” for lack of better words. You’re just living under the same roof going about your separate lives. That qualifies as being separated in order to be able to get divorced under irreconcilable differences. As far as the two year time frame, if both husband and wife agree, then the two years go out the window, and you can shorten that time frame to six months. Both husband and wife have to sign a document saying they agree not to wait two years, and you can actually be divorced having only been separated for six months.

Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Bankruptcy, Injury, Real Estate & Mediation