The State of Illinois has greatly revised the way divorce proceedings will take place by enacting sweeping changes in Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Anyone seeking a divorce should immediately contact a knowledgeable Illinois Divorce Attorney to review these changes and see how they impact not only future divorce litigation, but also currently pending litigation. Don't try to navigate these rocky waters on your own.
The new law revised the prior Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act that was originally enacted in 1977. In the past 40 years, marriage has changed dramatically. The legislature intended the new laws to focus more on the needs of the parties and their children, and to speed up the process. Here are the major changes to be aware of under the new law, effective January 1, 2016 for all pending and future divorce proceedings:
1) Grounds and Waiting Period Largely Eliminated
Under the prior law, petitioners for a divorce were required to state the grounds for the divorce. The legislature felt that this process merely lead to more argument and fewer settlements. The new law allows for only one ground to be plead in a new divorce proceeding: irreconcilable differences. This phrase assigns no blame and merely states that the marriage is no longer viable.
In addition, courts are now required to accept as true that irreconcilable differences exist if the parties have lived separate and apart for 6 months or more. This is part of a change which eliminates waiting periods. Now, once 6 months have taken place, the court must recognize that the marriage is no longer viable and proceed to adjudicate the divorce.
2) Custody and Visitation Redefined as Parental Responsibilities and Parental Time
The new law almost completely eliminates the words 'custody' and 'visitation' from the modern divorce proceedings. Instead, we are now left with 'parental responsibility' and 'parental time'. Parental responsibility functions as custody used to: it is a measure of who has decision making rights for the children in education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities. Parental time functions as visitation used to.
There are still a number of factors courts use to evaluate assigning parental time and parental responsibility, but there is a new heightened focus on both parents being involved with the children. However, the “best interests of the child” is still the primary focus in deciding these matters.
3) Parenting Plans are mandatory
In order for courts to evaluate the new assignment of parental time and parental responsibilities, courts will now require the parties to submit a parenting plan to the court. This parenting plan will set forth a proposed assignment for various functions. If the parenting plan is agreed upon by the parties, they will submit a joint parenting plan. If there are disagreements between the parents, separate parenting plans will be submitted and the court will need to rule on how those functions are to be assigned.
The parenting plans represent a potential new burden for parties to bear in beginning a divorce. However, thanks to the creation of many new forms, including a form parenting plan, this process should not require an intensive amount of work or cost for the client.
There are a host of other new changes in the new Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and anyone going through a divorce should discuss how these changes will impact their own personal situation with a knowledgeable attorney. The new law will take getting used to for all attorneys, but the focus on resolving divorce proceedings quicker, and less painfully, should be a benefit for everyone- especially our number one priority- the children.