MAJOR NEWS: We No Longer Need Grounds for Divorce in Illinois

The Illinois law that governs divorce is known as the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.(“IMDMA”). This law has just undergone a major overhaul, which was effective January 1, 2016. Senate Bill 57, which amends IMDMA, has been signed into law by the governor, and is now official.

One of the major changes in the law is the elimination of at-fault divorce. Up until now, for the most part, the spouse seeking a divorce had to come to court and prove that the other spouse was at fault by virtue of that spouse committing one of Illinois’ grounds for divorce.

The new law removes all references to fault grounds, and requires only a showing of irreconcilable differences. If the parties are separated for six months, the court will presume that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and will grant the divorce (even if one party does not it to happen). If the parties agree to a divorce, a separation period is not required at all.

A ground for divorce is the legal reason that gives the court its power to dissolve a marriage. In injury law, the court gets its power to award damages only when an injury is proven. In contract law, the court gets the power to act once a beach of the contract is proven. In criminal law, the court gets its power to punish when a crime is proven. In divorce, the legal reason that gives the court the power to end the marriage has just become easier and simpler. You no longer have to say anything bad about your spouse.

Continuing in its effort to keep up with societal changes (and with the rest of the country), Illinois also changed its laws pertaining to custody and visitation.

Under the old system, parents were awarded sole or joint legal custody, and the non-residential parent was awarded visitation. Under the new law, there is no longer any mention of custody, joint custody, or visitation. Parents are simply awarded parenting time, and parental responsibilities are allocated between the ex-spouses.

Also, under the old law, a residential ex-spouse was allowed to move anywhere within the state without permission from the court. Permission would be needed if that person sought to relocate the children to another state (even if it is only one or two miles over the Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, or Wisconsin borders). Under our new law, the residential ex-spouse may only move up to 25 miles from his or her current residence without leave of court, and it is OK to leave Illinois with the children as long as the move is less than 25 miles. Parents in counties other than Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will may move up to 50 miles from their current residence without leave of court.

Earlier in 2015, Illinois changed its alimony (spousal maintenance) laws dramatically, and is changing its child support laws effective July 1, 2017.

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