Changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act

Amendments to the Illinois divorce and custody law may make positive solutions easier to achieve when couples no longer want to be married.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, or IMDMA, is the Illinois family law that dictates issues regarding divorce and custody decisions. The Illinois State Medical Society's update on recent legislative activity in the Illinois General Assembly notes that State Bill 57 has been signed, meaning that changes are coming for those who want to divorce after Jan. 1, 2016.

Divorce

Under the current IMDMA, there are a number of reasons that a person might file for divorce, including the following:

  • Impotence
  • Adultery
  • Desertion lasting at least one year
  • Habitual drunkenness or drug use that has continued for two years
  • Felony conviction
  • Attempted murder of the other spouse

If one spouse does not agree to the divorce, but the couple has not lived together for at least two full years, a judge may determine that reconciling is not possible or in the family's best interests and grant the divorce. A couple that agrees to separate must live apart for at least six months before the divorce can be made final.

Changes to the law may reduce the complexity of some cases. According to the Illinois State Bar Association, under the new amendments, the couple does not need to have grounds for the divorce. In addition, only six months of separation are required before a person can be granted a divorce when the other spouse does not want it. Couples who both want the divorce no longer have to fulfill a waiting period.

Custody

The court will soon also be taking a different approach to child custody proceedings. In fact, Illinois is joining other states in focusing on allocating parents' responsibilities based on the best interests of the child. According to the Cook County court system, the current law includes sole and joint custody arrangements. Either one parent makes the educational, religious, medical and social decisions for the child, or both work together to determine the solutions to any questions that arise in these areas. Only parents who can work together well are awarded joint custody, because no decisions can be reached without both providing consent.

The Illinois State Bar Association notes that under the new system, the judge might determine that one parent is better suited to be responsible for certain decisions, such as education or social interactions, while the other might be given the responsibility for religious upbringing or medical decisions.

These amendments may smooth the road for those who are seeking divorces or modifications to their current custodial arrangements. A family law attorney who understands the nuances of the changes may be able to provide assistance in achieving the best arrangement for parents and children alike.