Illinois Family Law Primed for Major Updates


The primary Illinois statute covering divorce, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, was passed back in 1977. The 40-year-old law was designed for a different society with different social conventions and is in need of an update. An Illinois legislative advisory group has been working for years to develop revisions to the law. The group recently introduced Senate Bill 57, which would make a variety of changes to Illinois family law if it passes. The most important of these changes is the fact that the bill removes the concept of child custody, but it also makes a couple other changes to the law.

Removing Custody

The biggest change the law makes is that it includes major revisions to the way that Illinois courts handle child custody proceedings. Currently, Illinois courts award custody of the child to one or both parents. This involves both physical custody, which determines who actually cares for the child, and legal custody, which determines which parent can make decisions about how the child is raised. The new bill would eliminate this view of custody.

Instead, courts would be responsible for allocating parental responsibilities between the divorcing spouses. These parental responsibilities mirror the types of parental actions that used to be covered by custody. For instance, courts can award parenting time, the right to choose what school the child attends, and the right to direct the childs religious upbringing, among other things. The general standard for making these determinations would not change with the new bill, and would still be based on the childs best interests. However, it is important to note that the bill lays out a variety of different factors that judges should look to when determining the best interests of the child.

Other Changes

The bill would also make a couple of smaller changes, such as the elimination of a separate hearing that is currently required in which the spouses show why the court should grant them a divorce. This hearing often involves couples airing their dirty laundry or criticizing each other, which can result in otherwise friendly divorces becoming more acrimonious.

The bill also eliminates a pair of archaic legal actions known as the “heart balm torts.” The heart balm torts are a pair of legal causes of action that allow a spouse to sue a third party who breaks up a marriage or engages in adultery. Although these types of cases used to be more common, most states have already removed them from their laws. This change would bring Illinois into line with most of the country.

Illinois family law is constantly changing to better suit the needs of Illinois families. If you are considering a divorce and would like more information, contact a skilled Naperville divorce lawyer today.

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