Thursday, October 18, 2012

Major Changes In Family Law May Be On The Way

After four (4) years of research and public meetings, an Illinois House committee has recommended several major reforms to Illinois laws regarding divorces and custody matters.

House Bill 6191 and House bill 6192 have been drafted by The Illinois Family-Law Study Committee and they are currently under review by the House Rules Committee. If approved after joint hearings early next year, House Bill 6191 would create the new Illinois Parentage Act of 2012, repealing older versions of the act. House Bill 6192 would amend the current  Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act of 1977 and the amendment would likely be significant.

Hundreds of amendments have been proposed to the marriage and divorce statutes, however, six amendments in particular that are believed to affect the most families and family-law attorneys in the state.

No more grounds for divorce

One major proposal would eliminate the requirement of alleging “grounds” to obtain a divorce. An overwhelming majority of divorce cases in Illinois are brought under the grounds of irreconcilable differences and with Illinois being a “no-fault” state, this change would include eliminating the necessity of alleging grounds.

Judgments within 90 days

Another major proposal is that all judgments of divorce be issued within 60 days of the close of proofs in the legal proceedings, with one 30-day extension if the court files a statement of reasons for the delay. This change will require Judges to issue Judgments in a reasonable time frame allowing parties to move on with their lives or initiate appeals quicker as it has not been uncommon for parties to wait several months or even longer to have their cases decided. This requirement may also help protect assets that could be dissipated while the parties wait on a decision.

Shared-income approach for child support

A third significant proposal is to change the factors used to calculate child-support payments. Under the current system, statutory guidelines are used to calculate child support payments based almost exclusively on the non-custodial parent's income and assets, without taking into account such factors as the amount of time a non-custodial parent spends with the children or the level of the custodial parent's income and assets.
The proposed income-sharing model would force courts to consider how time spent with the child might impact the situation and whether the custodial parent's income needs to be considered.  The goal of this proposed change is to make child support orders more fair by considering multiple factors other than the non-custodial parents income and assets.

Maintenance awards explained in writing

Another proposal suggests a rule requiring judges to provide written and reviewable findings in regards to spousal maintenance formerly known as alimony. This change will require judges to explain in detail why they ordered maintenance in a specific amount and/or duration and to explain what factors were considered in making their findings. The goals is to help parties obtain or prevent modifications of these awards when circumstances change or to appeal awards that are believed to be unfair under the circumstances.

Custody Hybrid

A fourth proposal is the adoption of a third of custody called "joint and sole custody." Currently, the courts either award one of the parties “sole custody” to make major decisions on behalf of minor children or award both parties “joint custody” to make major decisions together. With joint and sole custody, parents could enter a joint-custody agreement, but one or both of the parents could simultaneously obtain the right to make some decisions on behalf of the child without the other parent's input.
An example of the above would be allowing the custodial father to make decisions regarding issues like the child's education, religion, and extra-curricular schedule, but it would also make sense for the non-custodial mother (a medical doctor) to make decisions regarding the child's health care.
The committee also unanimously agreed that Illinois should adopt a statutory presumption that it is in a child's best interest to spend at least 35 percent of their time with each parent.

Elimination of old common law remedies

Old “common laws” still exist such as suing a cheating spouses love interest for alienation of affection, breach of promise to marry when damages are incurred and civil charge of adultery against a cheating spouse.  These remedies are rarely sought, are often abused and widely believed to be out dated and unnecessary.


Hearings regarding these proposals will likely begin in early 2013 but if adopted will likely not go into effect until at least 2014 and will not apply retroactively to cases that have already been decided.

Brian M. Radke
Des Plaines Lawyer