The new revised version of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is set to become effective on January 1, 2016, and features many new changes. One of the largest changes to the Act will be the abolition of the term “custody” in the act.
Instead of granting parties “joint custody” or “sole custody” the act will focus upon allocating “parental responsibilities” to the parties. The different things that a custodial parent used to be responsible for under a custody order, such as decision making for education, health care, religion and more, are deconstructed and allocated amongst the parties accordingly. Parents can determine if they want to have final decision making authority on a particular issue, or issues, rather than bundling them up in an “all or nothing” approach. Parties can still opt to request all decision making responsibilities for their minor children. Mediation is still an option under the new law as well; parties can agree to mediate when a major decision is not agreed upon by them.
The practical implications of this change are that parties may feel less as if they are “winning” custody with the new terminology. Legal custody as it stands right now is simply an allocation of decision making authority. Parties often get wrapped up in the terms “joint” and “sole” custody and it makes it very difficult to resolve custody disputes as a result. The unbundling of these two types of legal custody so that responsibilities can be allocated appropriately among the parents seems as if it will be helpful in resolving more custody disputes by agreement.