Changes to Illinois Divorce Laws in 2016

We have assisted many clients with Divorce in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. You can be assured we can prepare you for the new Illinois Laws for Divorce and Child Custody (which is now known as allocation of parental responsibly). How will the changes to the law affect Chicago area residents who are thinking about filing for divorce?

2016 New Laws

After decades without major amendments or policy shifts, the Illinois legislature believed that certain tenets of divorce law in Illinois did not adequately attend to the modern needs of couples seeking divorce, spousal support, and child custody arrangements. Senate Bill 57 explains changes will be made to existing divorce law. The bill was signed into law by Governor Rauner and became effective January 1, 2016. The law completely overhauls many aspects of divorce in our state, including child custody. Under the new law, the old way of determining sole or joint custody is abolished. When determining what was formerly known as parental custody of a child, the court is now required to “allocate parental responsibilities”.

Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage

One of the primary changes to the law concerns grounds for divorce. Under the old statute, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act required a petitioner to have grounds for divorce without having lived separate and apart for more than two years. Grounds for fault under the old (pre-2016) law included but were not limited to:

  • Adultery;
  • Desertion;
  • Habitual drunkenness;
  • Drug addiction;
  • Physical cruelty;
  • Mental cruelty; and
  • Felony conviction.

Under the revised law, however, the only ground for a divorce is irreconcilable difference (commonly known as “no fault”). A couple that wants to divorce as of January 1, 2016 will also discover that they will not need to be separated for more than two years. Instead, the separation requirement is lowered to six months.

When evaluating the best interests of a child at issue in determining an allocation of parental responsibility (formerly known as “child custody”), the law directs the court to consider certain factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Wishes of the child;
  • Wishes of the parents;
  • Status of familial relationships;
  • Impact, if any, of a change of residence;
  • Mental and/or physical state of all parties involved in the proceedings;
  • Actual or anticipated violence or threats of violence;
  • Direct or indirect presence of abuse;
  • Willingness of each parent to foster a bond with the child and commitment to allow the child to foster a bond with the other parent;
  • Status of any parent registered as a sex offender; and
  • Any family plans for deployed military personnel.

Marital Assets and Educational Support Expenses

Changes to the law will also help clarify how assets are valued in the event of divorce. In short, courts will use a “fair market” method of valuation. The value of a couple’s marital assets will be assessed at the trial date, at which point the value will be a fair market standard. If necessary, the judge may appoint a financial expert.

In addition to adding language about asset valuation, the law also addresses educational expenses. Whereas the old law did not specify how educational expenses would be made or when a parent could cease making such support payments, the new law clarifies when a parent can petition for educational expenses for a child, and events around which a parent can stop making payments.

Contact a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

This has just been a small sample of some of the numerous changes for the start of 2016 to the divorce laws in Illinois. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates today to learn get help with the changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Speak with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer.

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