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How specific should I be when listing grounds for divorce?

Photo of Karen Lavin

The first step in a divorce is making the decision to end the marriage. Once that emotional decision is made, the formal process begins. You need to file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage papers in your area, papers that will be served to your spouse. 

The step of filling out those basic papers, however, can come with questions. A big question you might be faced with during the process is what you should list as your grounds for divorce. There are various options to choose from in Illinois, and you should consider a few things when listing the grounds in your specific case.

The following are the grounds for divorce options in Illinois: 

  • Abandonment
  • Adultery
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Mental cruelty
  • Physical cruelty

Most of the grounds seem self-explanatory. If a spouse cheated on you, hit you, spoke cruelly to you or has been gone, it might seem like an obvious course of action to select a specific grounds that correlates with that treatment in the dissolution papers. 

You should know, however, that even if a spouse did mistreat you in any of those specific ways, decisions regarding child custody and property division will not reflect that treatment. Courts won't alter their family law decisions based on specifics regarding fault -- unless a person's behavior is a danger to the safety or stability of a child, such as drug use or violence toward the children.

A question to consider when selecting grounds is how much you would like the public to know about your divorce. Dissolution papers are generally open to the public. If you choose to select physical abuse, for example, you might be sharing information with the public that you might not want them to know about you or your ex. 

Irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce is the most neutral option that many people, including celebrities, select when filing their papers. It keeps certain details personal and can also allow for a more amicable process between the divorcing parties. 

If you have any doubts or concerns regarding grounds for divorce, a family law attorney in your area can provide guidance at an early stage. Trusted legal support from the beginning can help to ensure that you get the divorce process and outcome from your divorce that you hope for. 

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