233 W. Wilson Street, Batavia, IL, 60510

Major Changes to Illinois Family Law for 2016

Updates to Child Custody and Parental Laws

For the last four decades, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) has provided the primary legal basis for most family law concerns throughout the state. Although the IMDMA has been gradually revised since it was originally enacted, many of its provisions have remained relatively untouched for almost 40 years. In the spring of 2015, however, the Illinois State Legislature passed a measure that looked to substantially update the IMDMA on several different areas of focus. Senate Bill 57 was signed by the governor in August 2015, with the sweeping amendments set to take effect on January 1, 2016.

Child Custody vs. Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

The updated IMDMA provides a new way for parents and the courts to think about raising a child following a divorce, separation, or break-up. The previous version of the law provided two options for parenting situations: sole custody or joint custody. In a sole custody arrangement, one parent would be granted all of the authority for important decision-making regarding the child, while such responsibilities would be shared by both parents under a joint custody order. Titles such as custodial and non-custodial parent tended to imply that one parent was more important than the other, often leading to bitter, drawn-out battles over child custody.

Going forward, the entire concept of child custody has been replaced with a more fluid, more cooperative allocation of parental responsibilities. Orders will not be classified as sole or joint custody, nor will either party be labeled as a custodial or non-custodial parent. Instead, parents are expected to work together in raising their child, with each parent’s rights being fully respected and protected. However, one party will be considered the primary residential parent with the majority of parental responsibility, for purposes of child support, determining school district, etc.

In any such proceeding, the court expects divorcing or separating parents to present a proposed parenting plan, outlining the significant decision-making responsibilities each parent will have. The plan must also include a schedule for each parent’s time with the child, and a means for resolving future disagreements. If an agreement cannot be reached, the court is granted the discretion to allocate parental responsibilities between the parents as deemed to be in the child’s best interest.

Parental Visitation Now Called Parenting Time

Under the new IMDMA guidelines, one parent will typically be granted a majority of the parenting time so as to provide the child with a stable basis for school attendance and as the basis for a child support order. While the previous law presumed a parent’s right to reasonable visitation with his or her child, the amended law recognizes that a parent is much more than a temporary visitor in a child’s life. As such, the wording in the law has been changed, and a parent is now presumed to have the right to reasonable parenting time with the child, regardless of the amount of significant decision-making responsibilities he or she may have been allocated. In the event a court determines that a parent’s time with the child presents a danger to the child, it may impose limitations or restrictions to keep the child safe.

If you have questions regarding the newly-updated Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, it is important to speak with a qualified legal professional. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today. We are proud to serve clients from our office located in Batavia, Illinois.

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