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New Illinois Divorce Laws – Custody and Visitation

As of January 1, 2016 Illinois has adopted new language in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act as it relates to child custody and visitation in divorce cases. These two words that we have all grown to know and love must now be removed from our vocabulary. Beginning January 1, 2016 the term “custody” is now known as “allocation of parental responsibilities”. The term “visitation” has a slightly less wordy change to “parenting time”. You may read the full statute here. The pertinent part is as follows:

(a) Generally. The court shall allocate decision-making responsibilities according to the child’s best interests. Nothing in this Act requires that each parent be allocated decision-making responsibilities. (b) Allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities. Unless the parents otherwise agree in writing on an allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities, or the issue of the allocation of parental responsibilities has been reserved under Section 401, the court shall make the determination. The court shall allocate to one or both of the parents the significant decision-making responsibility for each significant issue affecting the child. Those significant issues shall include, without limitation, the following: (1) Education, including the choice of schools and tutors.
(2) Health, including all decisions relating to the medical, dental, and psychological needs of the child and to the treatments arising or resulting from those needs.
(3) Religion, subject to the following provisions: (A) The court shall allocate decision-making responsibility for the child’s religious upbringing in accordance with any express or implied agreement between the parents.
(B) The court shall consider evidence of the parents’ past conduct as to the child’s religious upbringing in allocating decision-making responsibilities consistent with demonstrated past conduct in the absence of an express or implied agreement between the parents.
(C) The court shall not allocate any aspect of the child’s religious upbringing if it determines that the parents do not or did not have an express or implied agreement for such religious upbringing or that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate a course of conduct regarding the child’s religious upbringing that could serve as a basis for any such order.
(4) Extracurricular activities.
The new framework of the allocation of parental responsibilities is broken into four parts: education, health, religion, and now includes extra-curricular activities. The benefit of this is that instead of the Court awarding joint or sole custody as to the categories, parents are able to allocate their responsibilities as to each of the four categories. For example, the mother can have sole decision-making responsibilities regarding the minor child’s education and health issues. The father may be granted sole decision-making responsibilities as to religion. The parents can share the decision making responsibilities as to the extra-curricular activities.When determining appropriate parenting time, the Court will continue to look at the best interests of the child, but now there are seventeen additional factors that the Court will take under advisement when determining what is in the best interest of the minor child.750 ILCS 5/602.7 Sec. 602.7. Allocation of parental responsibilities: parenting time. (a) Best interests. The court shall allocate parenting time according to the child’s best interests. (b) Allocation of parenting time. Unless the parents present a mutually agreed written parenting plan and that plan is approved by the court, the court shall allocate parenting time. It is presumed both parents are fit and the court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time as defined in Section 600 and described in Section 603.10, unless it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent’s exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. In determining the child’s best interests for purposes of allocating parenting time, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, without limitation, the following: (1) the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time; (2) the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time;
(3) the amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24 months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2 years of age, since the child’s birth;
(4) any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect to the child;
(5) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and with any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
(6) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
(7) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
(8) the child’s needs; (9) the distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
(10) whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate;
(11) the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child or other member of the child’s household;
(12) the willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
(13) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
(14) the occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household;
(15) whether one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so, the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment the offender has successfully participated in; the parties are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this paragraph (15);
(16) the terms of a parent’s military family-care plan that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed; and
(17) any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

Illinois has also recently changed its maintenance (alimony) laws, as previously discussed by attorney Michael Gauthier in his post New Illinois Maintenance (Alimony) Laws

For more information on the changes to the divorce statute and any questions you may have, contact Gauthier Family Law at 847-327-0898.