Family Law Update Part II: Senate Bill 57 and Divorce Requirement Changes

Deciding to get divorced is probably one of the toughest decisions you will ever have to make. However, Illinois lawmakers made the road to divorce or legal separation significantly easier with the passing of Illinois Senate Bill 57 which was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner on July 21, 2015 and goes into effect on January 1, 2016.

In order to get divorced today, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, requires that you prove a specific ground for dissolution of marriage or that you have lived separate from your spouse for at least 24 months. The grounds for dissolution of marriage in Illinois, among others, are:

  • Adultery;
  • Mental cruelty;
  • Physical cruelty;
  • Drug addiction;
  • Drunkenness; or
  • Irreconcilable differences.

Some individuals have chosen to use fault grounds to gain an advantage in contested cases involving child custody, division of marital property, child support and alimony. However, with the passing of Senate Bill 57, all of those grounds are removed and the only ground for marriage is irreconcilable differences. It also lowers the separation requirement of 24 months to six months.

Other Changes to Divorce Actions under Senate Bill 57

Senate Bill 57 clarifies the method used to value assets in a divorce. When determining the value of assets or property, the court is required to employ the fair market value standard. This means that the value of property or assets will be measured by their value on the date of trial or by some other date agreed by both parties. Should the court deem a financial expert or other professional is required, the court can seek such advice. If the court decides to consult a financial expert, he or she will be available for cross-examination and the normal tools of discovery. However, the costs of such an expert will be allocated amongst both parties, and the court may hold a hearing on the reasonableness of those fees.

Bill 57 also makes low-cost joint divorce available to more people since it raises the income cap from $35,000 to $60,000. Further, it codifies the judge’s common law discretionary powers to order couples to sell assets or borrow money during the temporary relief stage of proceedings. Bill 57 also codifies penalties and sanctions against parties that intentionally misrepresent information to the court during the temporary proceedings, which may include court costs and attorney’s fees.

Additionally, the bill makes distinct changes and supplies guidelines as to what is considered marital and non-marital property. It also delves into areas of commingled property, and when, in certain situations, property that will normally be considered non-marital will be considered marital and vice versa.

Consult a Divorce Attorney

As you can see, Senate Bill 57 is going to have a large impact on family law proceedings when it goes into effect on January 1, 2016. If you are contemplating divorce, or have divorce proceedings pending, you should contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney who will be able to evaluate your situation, inform you of what the law requires and guide you to the best possible outcome.