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Changes to Illinois Divorce Law for 2016

Changes to Illinois Divorce Law for 2016

By: M. Scott Gordon

If you have been following the work of the Illinois Family Law Study Committee over the past year, you know that some significant changes are on the way for Illinois divorce law in 2016. According to an article in the Illinois Times, the legislative advisory group has been hard at work on divorce law in our state for the last seven years, aiming to update many of the laws that have been on the books for more than 40 years. After decades without amendments or policy shifts, members of the Committee believed that certain tenets of divorce law in Illinois did not adequately attend to the needs of couples seeking divorce, spousal support, and child custody arrangements.

How will the changes to the law affect Chicago area residents who are thinking about filing for divorce? We should take a closer look at Senate Bill 57 to get a clearer idea of what changes, specifically, will be made to existing divorce law. The bill was signed into law by Governor Rauner on July 21, 2015, and changes to the Illinois Divorce Law for 2016 will take effect on January 1.

Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage

One of the primary changes to the law concerns grounds for divorce. Until SB 57 was signed into law, 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 current law include but are not limited to:

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

Without a showing of fault, a couple would need to live separate and apart for a “period in excess of two years” and would need to cite irreconcilable differences in order to be eligible for divorce. Under the new terms of SB 57, however, the only ground for a divorce is irreconcilable difference. 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, under SB 57, the separation requirement is lowered to six months.

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, SB 57 also addresses educational expenses. Whereas the current law does not specify how educational expenses will be made or when a parent can 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. For example, if a child does not receive certain grades, a parent’s support obligation may cease. And a child may be eligible for educational expenses up through age 25.

Contact a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

This has just been a small sample of some of the numerous changes to the divorce laws in our state with the start of 2016. If you have questions about filing for divorce or concerns about how changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act may affect you, do not hesitate to speak with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates today to learn more about how we can help.