Highlights of Recent Illinois Family Law Amendments

In the last two years Governor Rauner has signed into law several bills that has drastically changed how Illinois calculates maintenance and custody. Since their introduction, it was clear that there needed to be revisions/amendments as some provisions were vague while others simply contradicted each other. Several amendments were passed thereafter with the latest one having passed on August 12, 2016. These changes and amendments as I will highlight in this article are effective retroactive to January 1, 2016.

Maintenance: Illinois has now enacted a provision to calculate maintenance based on the income of both parties and the duration of the marriage. However, it was not clear how courts would deal with maintenance upon the review of a previously ordered spousal support. Section 504(b-8) now provides that upon the review of a prior spousal support order, a court is to use statutory guidelines to determine the amount. However, it is not to use the duration, and it may extend maintenance for further review, for a fixed non-modifiable term, for an indefinite term, or it may permanently terminate maintenance.

College Expenses: Illinois has now limited the amount of contribution by both parents to the tuition and fees paid by a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year. The new amendments clarify that the tuition amount to be used would be “in-state” tuition and not “out-of-state”.

Removal: The new law now defines removal of a child as anywhere more than 25 miles from the child’s current primary residence regardless of whether that move took place within or outside of the State of Illinois. The new amendment now clarifies that we measure the 25 miles based on any internet mapping service such as mapquest or google maps.

Modification of Parenting Time: The new law has now completely removed any mention of custody and visitation in exchange for allocation of parenting time and responsibilities. With these changes, legislators inadvertently raised the standard of any small modification of parenting time to the same standard of what used to be called modifications of custody–serious endangerment to the child or else a two-year waiting period. The mistake here was clear and an amendment was sure to follow. Sure enough, the most recent bill signed by Governor Rauner on August

12, 2016 clarifies that parenting time may now be modified by the lower standard of modification to serve the child’s best interest.

Professional Custody Evaluations: The new changes in the law provided that any custody (now called parenting allocation) evaluation would be submitted to a judge under seal only and could only be seen by a judge after it was admitted into evidence at trial. The restriction infuriated judges and many judges took the strong position of asking litigants to waive their right to any objections to its introduction into evidence so that the judges could review the report and give proper recommendations. The new amendments now allow all parties and the court to review a custody evaluation without having to formally submit it into the record as evidence.

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