Over the last few months, Illinois lawmakers have been working to improve the state’s approach to family law matters, and, near the end of June, approved a sweeping measure that would rewrite fairly large sections of family-related Illinois law. The effort is intended to recognize the evolving nature of familial situations, and amend the law to better serve the needs of Illinois citizens.
Senate Bill 57 was introduced in the Illinois Senate back in January by the bill’s sponsor Senator John Mulroe, D-Chicago. With little trouble, the measure was passed by the Senate and was sent to the House in late April. The House amended a few sections of the proposed law, approved it, and forwarded it to Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk for his signature. Governor Rauner, as of yet, has not acted on the bill.
Elimination of At-Fault Divorce
One of the major provisions of the new law, if passed, would remove references to fault grounds for divorce from the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Instead, all divorce cases would be considered on the basis of a breakdown due to irreconcilable differences. Additionally, the current two-year separation period would be removed, allowing a separation of six months to be assumed to represent an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The six-month period will not even be required if both parties consent to proceed immediately with the divorce.
Parenting Time vs. Custody
The proposed law would also redefine child custody proceedings as currently in force around the state. Under the current system, parents may be granted sole or joint legal custody, which some believe places too much emphasis on custodial status and not enough on active parenting. SB 57 would convert custody negotiations into proceedings to allocate parental responsibilities, taking into consideration the best interests of the children, the strengths and weaknesses of each parent, and the circumstances of the situation. Rather than focusing on “winning” custody, each parent would take responsibility for various, designated aspects of his or her child’s upbringing and care.
Under current Illinois law, a custodial parent must seek the court’s permission to relocate with his or her child, but only if the move is out of state. This means it would be perfectly legal for a parent to move from Chicago to East St. Louis, nearly 300 miles away, without court approval, while a 30-mile move to Gary, Indiana, would be illegal. The new law would permit parents with primary residential custody to move up to 25 miles without approval—including across state lines, as applicable—and up to 50 miles for parents living outside of Cook County and the five immediately-surrounding counties.
There are a number of other changes proposed by Senate Bill 57, as well, but none are likely to have the drastic impact of the three aforementioned provisions. Additional amendments include the requirement of the court to enter an order of dissolution within 60 days of closing the proofs, the requirement of the court to justify allocations in property division, and the elimination of actions based on “heart balm” issues such as alienation of affection, breach of promise to marry, and adultery.
As Governor Rauner makes his decision regarding the new law, you may have questions about the existing laws and how they apply to your family situation, particularly if you are considering divorce. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney today for a consultation. We will review your case, help you understand the law and your options, and work with you in taking the next appropriate steps.