Family Law Update: Illinois Senate Bill 57 and Its Impact on Divorce, Custody and Support

Currently, all issues related to divorce, custody, and child support are controlled by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which was passed in 1977. The requirements delineated by this statute were appropriate for society back when it was originally passed. Today, there are several challenges and cultural trends that make the law insufficient to resolve the issues of modern families.

Recently, lawmakers drafted Senate Bill 57, also referred to as the Modern Family Law, to amend the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to better deal with the issues many couples in society face today. Senate Bill 57 makes a variety of changes to the law, but most importantly, it removes the concept of child custody to avoid the creation of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ when it comes to custody arrangements.

Senate Bill 57 was signed into law on July 21, 2015 and it will go into effect on January 1, 2016. The changes enacted by this law will affect:

  • All cases filed on January 1, 2016 or after;
  • Any and all unresolved issues in all pending cases after January 1, 2016; and
  • Any modification requests filed after January 1, 2016.

Changes Ushered in by Senate Bill 57

The most significant change and impact by Bill 57 is how it deals with child custody. As the law stands today, the court awards custody (physical and/or legal) to one or both parents. Bill 57 eliminates the difference between joint and sole custody. Instead, each parent is assigned responsibilities to remain intertwined with their children’s lives and it serves to limit or minimize the minor litigation disputes between parents.

Another important change created by Bill 57 involves modifications to the requirements of divorce. Currently, the law requires couples to prove certain grounds before a divorce is granted. However, Bill 57 removes all grounds for divorce, and “irreconcilable differences” will be the only ground for divorce when the law goes into effect later this year. Likewise, Bill 57 eliminates the requirement of the court holding a separate hearing to determine whether or not it should grant a divorce. Often times, these hearings require divorcing couples to air their personal information, and turns amicable divorces into hostile ones.

Additionally, the new law lowers the legal separation period from two years to six months and eliminates the archaic “heart balm torts,” which allow a spouse to sue a third party who breaks up the marriage or engages in adultery with the other spouse. Lastly, Bill 57 makes changes to the application of child support, and parenting time will be considered a factor in child support determinations.

Consult an Attorney

As you can see, Illinois law is constantly evolving to suit the needs of society. If you are considering divorce, or facing child custody or support issues, it is imperative that you retain a skilled and experienced DuPage County family law attorney who knows how to navigate the legal system, and understands the changes created by Senate Bill 57 and how it will affect the outcome of your case.