Wrangling the uncooperative spouse

While many spouses have asked me about various types of grounds for a divorce, they were largely jilted spouses where cheating was involved in the marriage. Almost never had I witnessed a divorce completed on grounds other than no-fault (irreconcilable differences). And while many attorneys will claim adultery or mental cruelty on court documents, those hurtful allegations were largely to appease their clients. But, not always.

There have been cases where a client would believe that their spouse would not cooperate with the divorce. This would be problematic, and an uncooperative spouse could easily delay the case, which would make it more expensive. Getting the other spouse to cooperate was essential because he or she would have to sign-off on various documents to finish the case on no-fault as grounds.

Essential was the signing of a six-month waiver (without the waiver, to complete a no-fault divorce, the marriage had to be strained for at least 2 years). So, things get real when the spouse refused to sign the waiver, and the spouse that want’s out, would have to wait the 2 years legally required period. But lawyers got crafty (as they usually do).

Lawyers figured out that if there were signs that a spouse would be uncooperative, grounds would be asserted in the initial court filings; usually mental cruelty would be alleged, because almost anything could satisfy that standard. That way, if the spouse refused to sign the 6-month waiver, the case could proceed on the mental cruelty grounds, which required no cooperation from the spouse that didn’t want the divorce. But this also caused problems.

The allegation that there’s mental cruelty in the marriage was (and is) usually offensive – especially by the spouse that didn’t or doesn’t want the divorce. So, how to you effectively handle the uncooperative spouse without offending him or her? Easy. Wait until the legislature changes the law to take care of the problem, and that’s what just happened in Illinois and taking effect on January 1, 2016.

The new law now establishes that if the marriage has been over for at lease 6 months, there are proper grounds for the divorce. No waiver necessary. So the uncooperative spouse is leashed, and the divorce can proceed to finalization. The uncooperative spouse can only now contest whether or not the marriage had died 6 months ago, and the new law infers (if not commands) that this issue, if there is an issue, must (or can) be dealt with first.

So, the problem is solved. Lawyers no longer have to plead nasty grounds for a divorce, which were inflammatory, and can still get things done even with an uncooperative spouse.

Settlement minded lawyers and spouses win with this new law.





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