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Changes Ahead for Illinois Divorce

Rolling Meadows Divorce Attorney

New Illinois laws that will go into effect in 2016 will eliminate fault-based divorce proceedings and change the way child custody is determined for divorcing couples. Up until now, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allowed couples to dissolve their marriage based on certain “faults”—adultery, drunkenness, or physical or mental abuse. Now, these faults are eliminated to require only that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; this is a different standard than the one currently used and will change (and ideally streamline) the manner and timeframe in which couples can seek divorce. Changes to child custody settlement agreements are also coming with the new year to emphasize the best interests of the child. Understanding these important changes requires the knowledge of an experienced family law attorney who can help you move forward with your divorce under the new laws that will go into effect in 2016.

Eliminating Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce

Filing for divorce in Illinois has historically required “fault” or “no-fault” based grounds. Fault implies intentional wrongdoing, addiction, or other actions that provided a clear event or series of events that could be pointed to as evidence for ending the marriage. No-fault grounds would be based on anything else that led to “irreconcilable differences” between the parties. No-fault grounds for divorce historically required a couple to demonstrate to a court that they had been living apart for at least two years in addition to attempting and failing to reconcile the marriage.

The new Illinois law eliminates this lengthy waiting period and simplifies the findings required by the court to grant a divorce. The court must make the following finding:

  • Irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the court determines that efforts at reconciliation have failed or that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.

This new standard emphasizes that while attempts clearly need to be made to reconcile the marriage, divorcing couples are no longer bound by a two-year waiting period to go forward with their divorce. In fact, a couple living apart for just six months before the divorce petition creates an irrebuttable presumption that there are irreconcilable differences between the parties that permit them to go forward with divorce proceedings.

Joint Custody Arrangement Changes

Custody has historically been determined in Illinois based on either “physical” custody or “legal” custody. The former refers to where the marital children live and the latter refers to which parent is responsible for the decision-making interests for the child. Physical and legal custody could be allocated to one parent or shared between the two depending on the unique circumstances of the family arrangement at the time of the divorce and the needs of the children.

The new child custody laws in Illinois effectively eliminate the difference between what we know as “joint” versus “sole” custody. Starting in 2016, the decisions about child custody will not be simplified into joint or sole custody or even physical or legal custody; instead, parental responsibility is broken down into decision-making (previously “legal” custody) and “allocation of parenting time” (previously “physical” custody).

Regardless of the terms being used to describe the relationships between the children and parents after divorce proceedings, the paramount consideration in both the new and old law is always the best interests of the child. The best interests of the child, under the new law, include the following considerations:

  • The wishes of the child (considering maturity and decision-making ability);
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
  • Mental and physical health of parents and children;
  • Level of compromise and relationship between parents;
  • Participation in each parent’s decision making in the past regarding the child;
  • Wishes of the parents;
  • Child’s needs; and
  • Geographical considerations.

In making determinations regarding the decision-making and “parenting time”, the court may also consider any other relevant factors that may aid in the custody arrangement. These are, however, the paramount considerations a court will take under advisement when allocating the responsibility of the parents for making educational, financial, religious, medical, and other important life decisions.

Rolling Meadows Divorce and Child Custody Lawyers

At the Law Offices of Donald J. Cosley, Donald J. Cosley has the experience necessary to help you and your family through this difficult and emotional time. Regardless of whether you are thinking of divorce, are already in the settlement stages of divorce, or are disputing over custody arrangements, Cosley can help. Our firm will make sure that you understand what is going on at every step of your case and that your desires are expressed and advocated for in court proceedings. Going through a divorce, especially with children, is a very complex time. Understanding your options, the new Illinois laws that speed up the process, and the best course of action for you to maintain a relationship with your children are all critical. Reach out to an experienced Rolling Meadows family law attorney at our office today. Call 847-253-3100 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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