Overview of Changes to Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act

January 5, 2016

Changing divorce laws are part of a national trend toward re-examining our consciousness and conscience in divorce and children. In Illinois, a new groundbreaking law effective January 1, 2016, makes significant changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act with the hope of improving the divorce process for all involved.

Here is a brief summary of the major changes.

  • The overhaul of Illinois’ marriage, divorce, and parentage laws was long overdue. The prior outdated Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was enacted in 1977 and the Parentage Act was enacted in 1984.
  • Eliminating grounds for dissolution. The idea that we need to continue to litigate “fault” in a broken marriage wastes valuable time and money. Abandoning it promotes better cooperation during resolution of the matter.
  • A marital settlement agreement must be in writing unless excused for good cause shown with the approval of the court before proceeding to an oral prove-up.
  • The revised law provides for standardized statewide forms for interim attorneys’ fee award orders, financial affidavits, and parenting plans, which were drafted by an Illinois Supreme Court committee.
  • To encourage accountability and better compliance with judgments, courts will be required to provide specific factual findings for property allocations.
  • The court may now appoint and seek the advice of financial experts or other professionals. The use of a court’s witness increases the likelihood of settlement and is likely to minimize the need for retention of multiple experts. For example, the court may appoint a single expert to conduct a business valuation, which may obviate the need for the parties to obtain two separate business valuations.
  • Only one change was made at this time affecting the child support section. The definition of “net income” for calculation of child support was revised to allow for the deduction of student loan payments of an obligor. Bigger changes will come later.
  • Under the new law, there continues to no automatic entitlement to maintenance — a party’s right to maintenance must be based upon the facts of each case. The statute also gives the court the ability to set fixed-term maintenance awards for marriages that lasted 10 years or less, for example.
  • The section governing educational expenses for a child who wishes to attend college has been revised to ensure more consistency and fairness.
  • The terms “custody” and “visitation” have been replaced with “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” Parental responsibilities are broken out into categories reflecting different needs a child may have. Decisions about education, health, religion, and extra-curricular activities can be divided between both parents or solely assigned to one parent.
  • Both parents, within 120 days after service or filing of a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities, must now file with the court a separate or joint proposed parenting plan.
  • A parent who has been allocated a majority of parenting time or equal parenting time may seek to “relocate” with a child. The “location” language has replaced the prior “removal” language.

For more information, call our office at (312) 853-3000.

Source: Summarized from Illinois Bar Journal

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