As reported in the State Journal-Register, Illinois lawmakers will be reviewing two new bills, one 196 page bill (House Bill 1452), which would have the effect of completely overhauling the Uniform Marriage and Dissolution Act (UMDA), and an alternative, which would focus entirely on mandating a set minimum of hours that non-custodial parents are required to spend with their children every week. The House Bill 1452 would substantially alter Illinois' current UMDA, and would tackle visitation and custody by including a provision providing that divorced parents should spend equal time with their children and that this would be in the best interest of the child.
The 35 Percent Suggested Standard
The current provision provides that the parents should create their own parenting plan, but with a suggested 35 percent minimum per week, where the non-custodial parent could spend a least 60 hours, or 35 percent, of the week with the child. The new language provided for by House Bill 1452 would make that 35 percent a stronger line, but would not require judges to hold fast to that rule. The language would enable judges to have some leeway in assessing the best interest of the child and the number of hours that each parent should have, for scenarios in which parents do not come up with their own parenting plan.
The 35 Percent Mandate: House Bill 5425
The alternative bill introduced, House Bill 5425, would mandate the 60 hours, 35 percent, line for non-custodial parents. The hope is that by creating a hard line that would be in the best interest of the child, there would be less conflict when defining the parenting plan, ensuring that children receive enough attention from their family. However, the problem with a mandated number of hours is that it takes little of the facts into consideration, and assumes that a “one-size-fits-all” solution would be functional for the ever-changing complexities of family law and alternative families.
Other Amendments to the Uniform Marriage and Dissolution Act
The amendment would also overhaul a few other important sections of the UMDA, such as eliminating the requirement that spouses choose a grounds for divorce when attempting to obtain a divorce. This would expedite the divorce proceedings substantially. Another change would require that all final divorce judgments occur within 60 days of the legal proceedings. In the current system, these final judgments can take up to a year, leaving many of the relevant issues, such as maintenance and child support payments, up in the air. Finally, one of the other changes would require that the reasoning (and all of the establishing facts) behind maintenance award decisions be explained.
All of these amendments, including many that were not discussed here, would have a substantial impact on the way that divorce proceedings function in Illinois. If you are considering a separation or divorce from your spouse and would like more information, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Naperville attorneys for a consultation.