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The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Governor Bruce Rauner recently signed Senate Bill 57 into law. The measure significantly reworks many portions of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. While some of these changes are largely cosmetic, others have a significant effect on divorce cases.

The Backstory

It is no secret that the American family is changing. According to the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of American children lived in a “traditional” household – a married man and woman who were on their first marriage, along with their biological children – in 1960. By 1980, the figure had dipped to 61 percent; in 1994, for the first time in history, the number dropped below 50 percent.

To cope with the new reality, the Illinois House actually passed the so-called “Modern Family” bill in 2014, but it died in the Senate. Effective on January 1, 2016, Senate Bill 57 will be the law of the land.

Heart Balm Actions and Evidence-Based Divorces

The first section of the new law prohibits court action for alienation of affection; these “love triangle” negligence lawsuits often arise from divorces that are granted due to adultery, when a jilted spouse sues the person that broke up the marriage.

In a closely-related provision, Senate Bill 57 eliminates all grounds for divorce other than irreconcilable differences. The two-year waiting period for no-fault divorces is reduced to six months, and even that period can be waived, in certain circumstances and if both spouses agree.

Waste of marital assets, which can be a back door to admit evidence of adultery during property division proceedings, is still admissible. In a similar vein, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse is admissible in a protective order proceeding.

Relocation

Existing law requires custodial parents wishing to move out of state to obtain court approval, while an in-state move requires no such permission. This provision often leads to seemingly unjust results: a move from Chicago to the Illinois side of the Kentucky border (300 miles) is perfectly legal, while a move from Chicago to Gary, Ind. (30 miles) requires judicial approval.

Senate Bill 57 imposes a flat 25-mile provision for most of the state. Any distance greater than that, the relocating party must file a motion with the court. In Cook County, and the five contiguous counties, the maximum distance is 50 miles.

In future posts, we will examine the sweeping changes to custody and support provisions.

Just like the family itself, Illinois family law is changing. For a consultation with an experienced Naperville divorce attorney who understands all the ramifications of the new law, contact our office. After-hours appointments with an attorney are available.

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