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FAQ: Illinois divorce waiting period (hint: new divorce law)

Uncontested divorce in Illinois is can be quick, and affordable. And thanks to the new divorce laws in Illinois, in many cases it has just gotten faster. The dreaded 2-year waiting period is no more!

There is still a lot of confusion about what waiting periods there are in Illinois. So I wrote this FAQ about waiting periods in Illinois divorce.

What is the residency requirement?

Section 401 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the “IMDMA”) (750 ILCS 5/401) states that a person must be a resident of Illinois continuously for the 90 days preceding the filing a a petition for dissolution (starting a case).

What that mean? You have to live in Illinois for 90 days before you file a divorce case. Why? I guess the legislature doesn’t want divorce tourism – people coming to Illinois just to get divorced here. There are some good reasons for that if a case is contested, but those reasons seem mostly meaningless if a divorce is uncontested.

Long story short, be a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days, then you can open a divorce case.

But what about the separation period?

Is there a separation waiting period for uncontested divorce?

The short answer: For a divorce that starts as an uncontested divorce in Illinois, there is no longer any separation waiting period. None at all.

But if you thought there used to be a waiting period, you’re right. Here’s what went down.

Prior to 2016, there used to be various grounds for divorce. There were fault-based grounds such as adultery, abandonment, and so forth. There was no waiting period for a divorce on those grounds. But taking a case to conclusion on those fault-based grounds was rare because proving those grounds has no direct impact on finances or Children.

As you may know, most people – even those who hated each other – filed on the grounds that people referred to as “no fault.” The legal term for that in Illinois is “irreconcilable difference.” Prior to 2016, there was as “separation waiting period” even people who filed with the grounds of irreconcilable differences and were in total agreement on the terms of a divorce. That waiting period was 2 years by default, but the spouses could agree to waive the 2 year period and bring it down to 6 months. But like I said, now, after the law changed in 2016, there is no waiting period at all for people who file a divorce as uncontested.

Is there every any separation waiting period?

Yes, sometimes there is a separation waiting period. But it’s not one for divorces that start out as an uncontested divorce in Illinois.

Just as explained above, if your divorce starts out as uncontested, and you and your spouse are in total agreement, then there is no waiting period.

But as you can imagine, not every divorce starts out with agreement. Sometimes people fight. When people fight in their divorce, there is still a separation waiting period – but it’s not two years anymore. It’s just 6 months. So for people who start off a divorce fighting, then come to agreement, they’ll complete the waiting period so long as they’ve been living separate and apart for 6 months.

What is irreconcilable differences?

On one hand, it doesn’t matter if you know what it is or not. Staring in 2016, irreconcilable differences are the only grounds on which a Illinois divorce can be filed.

Irreconcilable differences just means that people had problems  they couldn’t work out, and now they are getting divorce. It doesn’t matter if those problems are adultery, transmitting an STD to a spouse, or abandonment – it’s all called “irreconcilable differences” now.

The concept of irreconcilable differences was created because pursuing a case on the old fault based grounds (like adultery) was mostly a waste of time. That’s because the courts aren’t there no scold people who cheated – they’re there to divide property, order support, and to look out for kids. All that fault-based stuff was just a waste of time.

What if this waiting period stuff is confusing?

If you want a fast an affordable uncontested divorce in Illinois, you might find the issue of waiting periods confusing. But I handle many uncontested divorces each year. If you call me, I can ask you a few questions to determine whether or not you can file for an uncontested divorce now, and give you an estimate of how long it might take to complete.