Illinois Divorce LawAs of January 1, 2016, Illinois couples who are entering into divorce will see changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), an act which governs how marriage, divorce, child custody, child support and alimony are handled in the state. The Act, which was passed in 1977, was in dire need of restructuring in order to better reflect more modern cultural values with respect to divorce and child custody. Major areas of the Act that will be impacted by these changes include grounds for divorce, the waiting period to obtain a divorce, child custody and the calculation of child support.

In order to craft the set of changes, the Illinois Family Law Study Committee conducted a study over several years and collected information from judges, family law attorneys, and families who have been impacted by the law.The conclusions of these studies were incorporated into the new statutes that are the most sweeping reforms of Illinois family law in decades.

Grounds for Divorce

While the old law, which is set to expire at the end of 2015, enabled couples to file for divorce under the grounds of impotence, infertility, bigamy, desertion, abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, conviction of a felony, or transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, and had stiff requirements to prove irreconcilable differences, changes will mean that the no-fault ground of “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” will be the only available option in Illinois. No longer will the parties need to denounce each other in order to prove grounds for divorce. By providing a more positive option, the new law recognizes that sometimes marriages simply don’t work, and couples are more encouraged to end the marriage on good terms.

In the past, when parties chose the option of irreconcilable differences, they were required to have lived apart for two years, show that they had made failed attempts at reconciliation, and that any further attempts would not be practical or in the best interest of the family. Beginning in January, however, the new law will enable parties to divorce under the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage as long as they can either show that either attempts to reconcile have failed or that attempting to reconcile would not be in the best interests of the family. They will no longer have to prove that they have made attempts to repair the marriage.

Waiting Period

The old version of the Act required married couples to live apart for a period of two years before begin able to obtain a divorce. The new version reduces the waiting period to six months in a contested divorce, and eliminates it altogether in a non-contested divorce. Parties who have lived apart for six months or more, however, will be able to use that factor in order to help prove that they have irreconcilable differences which have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, thus making it easier for them to obtain a divorce.

Child Custody

How the courts decide on child custody and draft parenting plans also changes with the new law. “Custody,” as it was formerly conceived, is removed from the new legislation and has been replaced with the allocation of parenting time and the allocation of parenting responsibilities. Instead of awarding joint custody or sole custody, judges will determine specific allocations of parenting time and specific allocations of child care responsibilities. No longer will one party feel like the winner, the other a lesser parent. Under the new system there is more room for compromise in creating a child-care arrangement.

Additionally, the new law states that both parents must submit a proposed parenting plan within 120 days of filing a petition for divorce. The parenting agreements, which are required to be comprehensive, are designed to streamline the decision making process and minimize disruption to the children. While under the old law, Judges were required to decide on custody issues within 18 months, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time will now be accomplished much quicker.

Calculation of Child Support

Under the new law, in determining child support, the calculation of “net income,” will change. Parties will now be able to deduct student loan payments from gross income to determine net income when calculating child support. Since student loan payments can represent a significant portion of a person’s income, this change will likely have a substantial impact on both parties in a divorce.

The new law now limits parental responsibility for paying college expenses as well. The maximum contribution that can be ordered is based upon the cost of in-state tuition at the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana, and the obligation must be incurred before the 23rd birthday of the child unless good cause is shown. Even when good cause is show, however, the obligation cannot be awarded after the 25th birthday of the child.

Should you have any questions about Illinois Divorce laws or any other law that may affect your business, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847)253-8800.

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