What to Expect in a No-Fault Divorce

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What to Expect in a No-Fault Divorce

In the summer of 1967, during the race for governor of California, conservative Ronald Reagan promised to “send the welfare bums back to work” and “clean up the mess at Berkeley,” a reference to Vietnam War protests at the University of California. Ironically, in one of his first acts as governor, Reagan signed one of the most liberal and most sweeping divorce laws ever conceived. Within about two decades, almost all other states had their own no-fault divorce laws.

Some people think that Reagan’s previous divorce from actress Jane Wyman might have been in the back of his mind when he signed California’s no-fault law. Wyman obtained a divorce based on Reagan’s supposed mental cruelty. Such an allegation was a necessary technicality back in the evidence-based divorce days, but it apparently hurt Reagan deeply.

Illinois originally adopted a California-like no-fault law in the 1980s. In 2016, lawmakers took things one step further and eliminated evidence-based divorce in Illinois. Now, Lincolnshire family law attorneys only obtain no-fault divorces, except in very limited circumstances.

No-Fault Divorce: A Closer Look

The original no-fault law stated that a judge could grant a divorce based on irreconcilable differences, which rendered further living together insupportable. That is a lot of Legalese, so let’s break it down. Typically, the petitioner’s own testimony that s/he no longer wishes to be married is sufficient to grant a divorce. 

Technically, the respondent could argue that there is a reasonable expectation of reconciliation. If the other spouse wants out of the marriage, reconciliation is rarely possible.

The original no-fault law also contained a two year waiting period. That waiting period did not apply in all cases, but it was a significant stumbling block in many situations. The original no-fault law also allowed for evidence-based divorces. Grounds included adultery, abandonment, and mental cruelty. An evidence-based divorce allowed parties to bypass the two-year waiting period. These proceedings often degenerated into rather nasty he said/she said affairs.

Now, the two-year waiting period is gone, as are most evidence-based grounds. Some exceptions, like legal insanity and long-term incarceration, remain.

Typical Procedure in a No-Fault Divorce

Every divorce case is different, but most of them follow the same general outline. If the parties had a prenuptial agreement or the marriage only lasted a few months, the no-fault divorce process is usually quite short. 

In most other cases, however, a divorce moves through several stages. Most divorces settle out of court, but the settlement process could take months.

About two weeks after the petition files paperwork, the judge usually holds a temporary hearing. The judge makes interim orders concerning parenting time, child support, alimony, and some other matters. These temporary orders often form the blueprint for the final orders.

Discovery comes next. Financial discovery is usually either very straightforward or quite complex. Some parties only need to exchange paystubs and other documents. If the marital estate included a family business or other large assets or debts, the process could be rather time-consuming.

Child custody discovery usually involves a social study. A social services investigator looks into the case and then makes a recommendation. Their opinions are not legally binding, but they have considerable weight with most judges.

If the case still has not settled after discovery, most Cook County judges order the matter to mediation. If both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful.

Contact a Dedicated Lawyer

No-fault divorces are not always fast or simple. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Lincolnshire, contact Andrea Heckman Law. Convenient payment plans are available.

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