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New Terminology in Illinois Divorce Law

Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyIt has been nearly two years since sweeping reforms to Illinois’ family law statutes were enacted. The new laws amended several processes associated with divorce and child-related legal proceedings, including the elimination of fault-based divorce and the removal of mandatory separation periods prior to divorce. Perhaps the most noticeable changes, however, were in the terminology used to describe certain elements of family law. It is important to familiarize yourself with the new language if you are considering filing for divorce.

Changes to Child Custody Matters

In terms of terminology, the most important change in this arena is the removal of the term “child custody” from the law. Instead, judges and attorneys now speak of “allocation of parenting time and responsibility.” This may seem like a small change, but it was intended to make the entire divorce process far less confrontational. Many Illinois lawmakers have made the valid point that a more civil divorce process benefits both the spouses and the children of a marriage, and terminology changes like this are meant to cast parenting as a joint endeavor rather than a battle to be “won” or “lost.”

Other modifications made to the law in this area included expanding and clarifying the factors a judge may rely on when awarding “parenting time”—previously known as visitation. For example, a judge may consider issues such as the level of previous parental involvement in a child’s life in the months and years before the divorce, whereas beforehand each parent would come into divorce proceedings with a relatively clean slate.

Changes to Marriage and Divorce Law

The other big aspect of the modifications to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) includes the changes to divorce law. Many of the changes now going into effect were considered to be long overdue, including the abolition of fault grounds for divorce. Today, the only grounds for divorce in Illinois—as it is in most other states—is irreconcilable differences. This change also takes some of the rancor out of divorce proceedings, especially since Illinois does not, by law, take any kind of marital misconduct into account when dividing property. While accusations of domestic violence and the like may still affect questions of parenting time, the process of asset distribution stays largely unchanged.

One more minor yet important change was the removal of “husband” and “wife” from the law, replaced by the more gender-neutral “spouses.” While it changes nothing in the law itself, it plays into the aim of humanizing the process for all involved. Same-sex marriage is the now law of the land, and even such a small change in the law can make more people feel respected and included.

Get Your Questions Answered

With such far-reaching changes to the law now in effect, it is understandable that you might have questions, especially with regard to how it all may affect your case. Consulting a good divorce lawyer before you file can help. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney by calling 630-871-1002 today.


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