8 New Changes to Illinois Divorce Laws in 2016

Divorce laws in Illinois underwent a major re-write that went into effect on January 1, 2016.  This was the first major re-write since the 1970’s! What does this mean for you?  Here is a brief recap of some of the major changes:

 

  • No More “Fault Grounds”‚Äč Up until the re-writes, Illinois recognized “fault grounds” and “no fault grounds”. Grounds are the reason that someone has to give for wanting a divorce. Examples of fault grounds were adultery, bigamy, desertion, mental cruelty, physical cruelty, etc.The vast majority of divorces proceeded under “Irreconcilable Differences” anyway, and fault grounds had no bearing on the outcome of divorce. So, they have been done away with.
  • No More Two Year Separation Period Under the Grounds “Irreconcilable Differences” was a requirement that the parties be separated for at least two years, which didn’t really mean two years as long as both parties agreed to shorten this time frame to six months and sign a document to that effect. Now, under the new form of irreconcilable differences, as long as the parties have been separated for at least 6 months, it is presumed that the requirement has been met- no signatures required. No more waiting two years if your spouse doesn’t agree. 
  • More Documents Needed  A big part of the divorce case is the exchange of financial information. As a starting point, a financial affidavit needs to be filled out. This document will now be standard statewide - whereas before every county had their own. But more to the point, to keep people honest- the forms have to be submitted with income tax returns, pay stubs and bank statements. These forms may be only a starting point as typically, lawyers will request additional financial records, depending on the circumstances. 
  • No More "Custody" You aren’t going to her the words “custody” in court anymore because the term has been completely written out of the divorce laws.  Now courts will talk about “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities” and “Caretaking Functions”.  Each parent will be “allocated” their time with the children and duties will be set forth as to who is to do what.  The old “custody agreements” did much of what the new agreements will do, though the new agreements tend to go into much more detail in line with the shift  towards  greater involvement of each parent.  In some respects, this could be helpful as it will do away with ambiguities, but on the other hand- I think it could cause more friction as parents fight over care taking labels- which the removal of the word “custody” was designed to fix.
  • Parenting Plans Must be Filed with the Court Before 2016, there was typically nothing filed with the court in terms of the children until and unless the parties were ready to be done with that portion of the case (“custody” and visitation”- now antiquated terms).  This was supposed to have an 18 month deadline. Now, all parents have to file a proposed parenting plan with the court within 120 days (approx. 4 months), whether they are ready or not. They can be filed jointly if there is an agreement and if not- then separately.
  • Spousal Support (Maintenance): New Criteria and New Formula  The laws on spousal support were changed in 2015 which set forth a formula upon which support must be calculated, once a court has determined that spousal support is appropriate. The formula has survived the re-writes but there are some changes as to what the court must consider when deciding whether or not to award spousal support, such as "realistic" present and future earning capacities and "all sources of public and private income, including, without limitation, disability and retirement income"  
  • College Expenses  The old laws required contribution to college but now the courts take it even further and can order parental payment of up to five college applications, 2 college entrance exams and the cost of one college prep course. The court can also order parents to complete Financial Aid Forms.            
  • Child Support: Who Pays? Who Knows?                                                                                                                                                                                         Typically, the parent who does not live with the children is the parent who pays child support. The new laws can turn this arrangement onto its head, leaving room for the "supporting parent" (defined only as the parent obligated to pay support to the other parent) to pay support to the other even if he or she has more time with the children.  The courts will likely consider factors beyond just who the kids live with most of the time.                                                                                                                                         

This covers some of the main ones that people need to know about. The changes were much more comprehensive than that but much of it will come down to nuances in the way that your lawyer will need to draft documents, procedural requirements, and issues that will only come up in some cases and not others.  In searching for a lawyer, be careful to select an attorney who does a lot of divorce cases, otherwise you run the risk of being in the hands of someone who may not know about these changes. At O'Connor Cadiz Law, we have studied the new laws comprehensively and now work with these laws day in and day out on our cases. If you are considering divorce, you need to know how the laws affect you. Call us at 630 250-8813 for a confidential consultation.