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Key Custody, Legal Separation, and Support Provisions in the "Modern Family" Law

A sweeping new family law bill will take effect January 1, 2016, greatly changing the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). In addition to the end of “heart balm” actions, changes to modification proceedings, and the elimination of evidence-based divorces, there are some other relevant changes.

Child Custody Provisions

Many critics complain that most states, perhaps unintentionally, place too much emphasis on “winning” and “losing” child custody disputes. Senate Bill 57 is a direct response to these faultfinders.

The law replaces the term “custody,” which has some negative implications, with the phrase “parental responsibility allocation.” Although it is somewhat unwieldy, the words more accurately reflect the idea of shared parenting responsibilities in a divorced household.

Senate Bill 57, or the "Modern Family Law" is much more than window dressing. The Legislature amended Section 102, including a few more overarching principles for family law cases. The new guideposts include:

  • Protecting minor children from exposure to “conflict and violence,”
  • Discouraging novel or unusual solutions,
  • Accelerating the process, to the greatest extent possible,
  • Recognizing the importance of joint decision-making after divorce, and
  • Making timely support awards, including advances for legal fees and costs, when appropriate.

Court pleadings must be changed in accordance with the new rules; instead of “In Re Custody of XYZ,” they are to be titled “In Re Parental Responsibility of XYZ.”

Legal Separation

This proceeding is not eliminated, but it is rather sharply limited. There may have been a concern that legal separation, though originally conceived as a shortcut, simply meant a longer legal proceeding and higher attorneys' fees, at least in many cases.

In legal separations filed after January 1, 2016, the judge may only grant limited support and enter limited property division orders. Furthermore, all these questions must be entirely re-litigated, if and when a divorce is filed.

Temporary Support

In a rather minor change, courts will now require a standardized affidavit in support of these requests. Child support is to be allocated according to parenting time, and there are “significant penalties” for intentionally filing a false affidavit.

There are some more significant changes.

  • “Kick-Out” Orders: A judge may only remove a person from the marital residence after the petitioner files an affidavit or verified pleading, and a full hearing is conducted.
  • Mediation: If ordered, the costs must be distributed equitably, as opposed to equally; the matter may be revisited in the final order.
  • Prohibition on Extraordinary Expenditures: This subsection is entirely omitted.

There are still more changes in this law. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Naperville family law attorney, contact Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC. Although we have access to a vast network of resources, we strive to maintain a small-town atmosphere. Call today.

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