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“For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…” These words are spoken each and every day by couples who vow a lifelong commitment to their spouse. But a recent study examines the significant number of marriages that don’t survive these vows, especially when a serious illness strikes the wife.

Researchers at Iowa State University examined 20 years of divorce rates, as reported by HealthDay News. The result of the study was a finding that divorce rates are six percent higher when the wife becomes ill. By comparison, the rate of divorce remains consistent when sickness takes hold of the husband. Depending on the specific circumstances of each situation, the court may find that the leaving party deserted their ill spouse, which is a ground for divorce under the divorce laws in Illinois.

The study reportedly examined divorce rates among couples who experienced bouts with cancer, stroke, heart disease and/or lung disease. Of the 2,700 participating couples, 32 percent of the marriages ended in divorce. The authors point to the change in marital roles that can occur when one partner is significantly ill. The primary caregiver often becomes the partner in need of care. The healthy spouse may not willingly take on this caregiver role, deciding to leave the marriage instead. If the leaving party withholds all support from the ill party, grounds for desertion may exist.

What is Desertion?

The state of Illinois defines desertion as the willful separation of one spouse from the other for a time period of at least one year. There are a number of situations that can fit this description, including:

  • One spouse leaves the marital home and provides no physical, emotional or monetary support to the remaining spouse; or
  • One spouse forces the other spouse to physically leave the marital home and provides no physical, emotional or monetary support to the ejected spouse.

When claiming desertion as a ground for divorce, the petitioning spouse must prove that an actual or constructive abandonment did occur and lasted for at least one year and one day. She must also prove that the husband’s actions were intentional and willful and establish that she was not at fault for the desertion. If the petitioning spouse caused the other party to leave through his or her behavior, the elements of desertion are not met.

Proving desertion in Illinois is not at an automatic key to a higher level of spousal support. The court looks at the totality of the circumstances when making monetary determinations. If the healthy spouse left during the illness, the court may order an increased amount of support for the ill spouse who may be unable to support himself.

Deciphering the grounds for divorce in Illinois can prove challenging without the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact one of our divorce attorneys at the Law Office of Elizabeth Chacko, P.C. today if you believe your spouse deserted you or you are being accused of deserting your spouse. Serving clients in Wheaton, Carol Stream and Lombard, our attorneys are available to assist you.


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