Monday, January 4, 2016

Summary of the Changes to the IMDMA

A Summary of the Significant Changes to the 2016 Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act

Commencing January 1, 2016, Illinois family laws will significantly change.  The new laws are applicable to divorce cases filed after January 1, 2016 and those cases pending before January 1, but not yet resolved as of that date. Here is a summary of some of the major changes:

Grounds for divorce. Formerly a party seeking a divorce was required to allege and prove grounds before a divorce was granted. Those grounds included fault based grounds (e.g. physical or mental cruelty) and no fault grounds (irreconcilable differences). Under the new law, if couples are separated for at least six months, the party seeking the divorce may obtain one, regardless of whether the opposing party agrees to the divorce.  In other words, one no longer needs to prove fault grounds to obtain a divorce judgment. Under the former law “separation” did not require parties to live separately; a separation was accomplished if the parties were emotionally separated and not acting as a married couple. Presumably this definition of separation will remain under the new law.

College expense contributions. Under the former law, the court could order a parent to contribute to a child’s post high school education (college or trade school). Under the new rules, a parent can only seek contributions for a student under the age of 23 (or 25 upon good cause shown). Further, the costs of education and housing are now to be capped using the costs of a child attending the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana as a standard.  Regardless of where the child attends college, the court is to limit a parent’s responsibility based upon the cost of that child’s attendance at U of I.  As a condition of the contribution, the child must maintain a C average and grade reports must be shared with the contributing parents.

Child custody. The concept of “child custody” is abolished. Now, rather than orders of child custody, parents will be allocated decision making rights and parenting time.  Within 120 days of the beginning of the case, the parents are to submit, either jointly or separately, a parenting plan. At a minimum, the plan is to include:

1.      allocation of decision-making responsibilities;
2.      provisions for the child’s living arrangements and parenting time for each parent;
3.      a provision for mediation if the parties intend to make joint decisions regarding the children;
4.      provisions for access to medical and other records;
5.      a designation of the parent having the majority of the time;
6.      a designated address for the child for school enrollment purposes;
7.      contact information for each parent;
8.      notification procedures for future relocation by either parent;
9.      notification procedures in the event of emergencies, healthcare, travel or other issues;
10.  communication procedures for the child is with the other parent;
11.  provisions anticipating possible future relocations of the parents (if applicable) ;
12.  provisions for future modification in the event certain contingencies occur (e.g. if a parent becomes incapacitated);
13.  applicability and terms of a right of first refusal;
14.  Other arrangements to facilitate cooperation between the parents.

Abuse of parenting time.  The legislature has created new remedies for parents improperly deprived of parenting time. Those remedies now include a “fine per incident” provision, make up time, and the option of requiring a parent to post a cash bond to ensure future compliance. If a parent is found in contempt of court as a result of non-compliance with a parenting time order, that parent’s driving privileges can now be suspended and the court can also incarcerate the offending parent.

Parental relocation. If a parent has equal or the majority of parenting time with a child, that parent must notify the other parent, in writing, of plans to relocate within 60 days prior to the potential move. This provision applies to any move more than 25 miles for residents of Cook County or the Collar Counties (including Kane County) and 50 miles for any move for a parent residing outside the Chicago metropolitan area. If the parties do not agree to the relocation or a revised parenting schedule, the parent desiring to relocate must file a petition with the court seeking permission to relocate with the child. The court is to either allow or deny the relocation based upon the best interest of the child.

For more information, consult Steven N. Peskind’s book, "The Changing Face of Illinois Family Law: 2016 Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act Overhaul” published by the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education or click here to be redirected to purchasing information for the book.