FAQ About Illinois Family Law Changes

Since January 2016, the landscape of family law in Illinois has looked much different. Senate Bill 57, which was passed in early 2015, overhauled the state's longstanding Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), which governs divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and property valuations.

The IMDMA had been in effect since 1977 and has remained substantially untouched for the past 40 years. Everything changed last year when professionals in the field convinced legislators that the act as it was not doing enough to help it achieve its overall goal of minimizing discord between divorcing individuals and protecting children from harm.

The following should answer your questions about the major changes to family law in Illinois.

Fault-Based Divorce Eliminated In Illinois

Qualifying for divorce used to involve providing the court with adequate grounds for dissolving the union. Divorce grounds formerly included bigamy, adultery, impotence, conviction of a felony, attempted murder, abandonment, extreme emotional or physical cruelty.

Changes In How Marital Property Is Determined In Property Division

The first step in property division is a determination of which assets are a part of the marital estate and which are nonmarital. Proceeds of an inheritance, for example, are considered nonmarital as long as they have not been commingled with marital funds.

The change in the law concerns the point at which property is no longer marital. Previously, unless a couple was legally separated, their income and other acquisitions remained marital property until the divorce was complete. Under the new law, the marital estate is cut off at the date that the petition for divorce is filed.

Changes In How Property Is Valued

Property valuation can significantly impact each party in a divorce. Fluctuating values of real estate and other assets can make a determination of what is really equitable difficult. With the changing law, the value of property and other assets in a divorce will utilize the fair market value standard. The value of assets will be determined either on the date of trial or when the parties agree. Experts may be employed with the court's approval and costs will be shared between the parties.

Goodbye To Child Custody And Visitation

The terms joint custody and visitation will be a thing of the past in 2016. In an effort to make sure neither parent feels like they are losing control, legal custody will now reference decision-making responsibilities, such as education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities. These can be broken up and distributed to one or both parents as the courts sees fit.

Physical custody and visitation will now be referred to as parenting time. This will be determined by weighing 15 best-interest standards.

A Changing Relocation Landscape

Parents used to be able to move freely within the state without court approval, even if that meant moving from Chicago to the southern tip of the state, whereas moving across state lines to a city like Gary, Indiana, would have been out of the question without court approval.

The law changes in 2016 will enable parents who live outside of Cook County to move 50 miles without court permission. Those who live in Cook County will only be able to move 25 miles without obtaining prior court approval.

Low-Cost Joint Divorce Income Caps Raised

More individuals who need a low-cost joint divorce will be able to get one in 2016. The income caps for parties eligible for low-cost income divorce were raised from $35,000 to $60,000.

What Has Not Changed?

While Senate Bill 57 brought about many changes to Illinois' family laws, some aspects of divorce did not change. Child support is still calculated based on a percentage of income of the obligor parent. Several years ago, the Child Support Advisory Committee in Illinois recommended the state change the support model to an income shares model. The income shares model is a more equitable approach to child support. Both parents share the cost of raising the child with room for adjustment based on large disparities in income and other factors.

Do You Have More Questions About Changes To Illinois Family Laws?

If you have additional questions about how the changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act will affect you, talk to an attorney at The Law Offices of Van A. Schwab in Chicago. Call directly at 312-702-1745 or reach the firm using our online form.