Every year there are varying changes and usually ‘smallish’ changes to the laws that govern our fields of work, namely divorce and parenting rights/responsibilities cases. That’s what the legislators in Springfield do. However, effective January 1, 2016 the changes aren’t smallish in 2016; both of the laws that govern much of what I do on a daily basis: Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and Illinois Parentage Act have been 100% rewritten from scratch. So unlike most years where a small handful of sections of a law are amended this year the entire framework and terminology governing EVERYTHING is new.
***As an aside, these massive changes are among the reasons why you cannot trust your legal representation to an attorney who isn’t focused on family law. Attorneys who dabble in multiple areas of law have always been bad to work with as an opposing lawyer and bad for there clients but the new law simply makes in MANDATORY that you not trust you and your children’s lives to a non-specialist. We at the Chicago Family Law Group, LLC practice only family law.
Without further ado, the 9 MOST IMPORTANT changes to Illinois Divorce/Child Custody law in 2016:
- All Divorces are ‘no fault’ & No Waiting Period. Previously there was 2-year separation requirement that could be shortened to 6-months when pursuing a ‘no fault’ divorce. Now simple, uncontested divorces can be completed in 2-weeks.
- Child Custody and Visitation are No More. Now parenting disputes will involve dividing “Parental Responsibilities” and “Parenting Time.” In substance these are just word changes because “custody” always meant decision-making responsibilities and “visitation” always meant parenting time but over time the words custody/visitation clearly began to have baggage associated with them where clear winners and losers were created. This change will defray and eliminate a lot of useless court fights that previously existed only because someone was worried about losing custody.
- Geographic Relocation of Kids. Formerly a sole or residential custodial parent had to get a Court’s approval to move out-of-Illinois. As of 2016, a parent who has at least 50% of the court-ordered parenting time must get a Court’s approval to relocate 25 miles (Chicagoland) or 50 miles (Illinois beyond the 6 “Collar Counties”) with a child or children. I like that relocation is now tied to mileage rather than state boundaries I personally just feel like 25 miles is a pretty small circle and would have preferred 50/75 miles for everyone. I could see this promoting more court fights.
- Student Loan Payments Now a Specific Deduction for Child Support. This change actually might be the #1 reason to bring your case back into court immediately if you’re re-paying a significant student loan obligation because now it’s nearly assured that your “Net Income” which child support is based on must be reduced by the student loan repayment obligation in the same way as say federal or state taxes. So if you have a student loan obligation of say $300 per month or more you should call us now @ 312-893-5888.
- Affirmative Obligation to Report New Job or Job Termination to Other Parent. This should help people get the child support that they’re entitled to. In the past it was pretty easy for a parent to hide a new job if they covered their tracks and I feel like oftentimes this information could only be discovered if a parent were careless on social media. The new law allows that a person can be held in contempt of court for not reporting the job change plus I would surely expect that child support will be made retroactive to a new job’s income if it’s not reported to the other parent.
- “C” Average and Age 23 Limits on College Expenses. Previously college contribution ended when a student obtained a bachelor’s degree so adding a requisite grade point average and age limit surely tightens things up for the kids and may be a way to stop your contribution if your child isn’t meeting these new criteria.
- Financial Deception Penalties. It’s not new that parties’ in family law matters must prepare a financial affidavit that sets forth information about their income and assets that can serve as the basis for things like child support, spousal support, and attorney fee contributions. What is new is that the law now provides that parties’ can be punished if these aren’t prepared accurately with likely punishments being financial sanctions and attorney fee awards.
- Fixed Term Spousal Support for Less than 10-year Marriages. Previously I regularly saw maintenance “reviewed” for many, many years in short-term marriages with the result being no certainty on this obligation and little incentive for the recipient former spouse to become self-supporting. Now if you are ordered to pay spousal support post-divorce it can at least be made clear/certain as to the time and amount rather than an unpredictable obligation.
- Pre-Birth Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. One of the ways that a father establishes himself as the legal father is through an administrative procedure that includes signing/witnessing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. If there’s 100% certainty this is something to consider especially in situations where you might be worried about one of the parents relocating or withholding your child from you after he/she is born.