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New Approach to Divorce and Child Custody Now in Effect

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divorce law, new laws, Illinois family law attorneyOver the last few months, the state of Illinois has been preparing for recently passed family law provisions to take effect. With the law becoming effective on January 1, 2016, the wait is officially over. Going forward, the amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act will drastically change the state's approach to issues such as divorce, child custody, and a number of others, looking to meet the needs of today's changing family environment.


Starting in 2016, every divorce in Illinois will be granted on the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences, regardless of what type of behavior by one spouse or the other may have led to the marriage's breakdown. Formerly available fault grounds like adultery, physical or mental cruelty, or abandonment are no longer considered official reasons for divorce.

With existing laws prohibiting the consideration of marital misconduct in proceedings for property division or spousal maintenance anyway, the only practical advantage to an at-fault divorce was the ability to skip the state's mandatory two-year separation period for no-fault divorce. To address this, the new law also eliminates mandatory separations, allowing couples who agree to proceed with their divorce immediately. For those in more contentious situations, a six-month separation will be accepted by the court as proof of irreconcilable differences.

Child Custody and the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

The previous concept of child custody in Illinois lent itself to contentious battles for sole or joint custody which often lost sight of the child's actual best interests. Under the new law, custody has been replaced by the idea of parental responsibilities, with each parent expected to play a role in raising the child. Significant decision-making responsibilities are to be divided appropriately between the parents, with the good of the child as the driving force. Parents are also expected by law to cooperate in developing a parenting plan, regardless of their relationship with one another.

A seemingly minor change, but one that could have a dramatic psychological impact, can also be found in the renaming of parental visitation as “parenting time.” No matter how few decision-making responsibilities a parent is allocated, he or she is considered more than just a visitor in the child's life, and the new law officially reflects this idea. Again, the purpose is keep the parents focused on what is best for the child rather than on winning and losing titles between the parents.

Other Considerations

In addition to the more significant changes, there are also a number of other updates that took effect on January 1, 2016. The new law set, for the first time, a mileage limit regarding parental moves with a child subject to parenting agreement. It also clarified some of the requirements and limitations regarding non-minor child support for college expenses. Spousal maintenance proceedings will also be a little different going forward, as a court will be required to make specific findings as why or why not an award is being ordered.

If you have questions or concerns about any of the new provisions in the law, contact an experienced Will County family law attorney. We will work with you to find the answers you need and help you through whatever legal matter you may be facing. Schedule your free consultation at the Law Offices of Tedone and Morton, P.C. today.


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