Nov 6, 2015 | Child Custody

Over the next two months, our firm would like to update you about some recent and important adjustments to Illinois family law, which begin on January 1, 2016. Quite a few changes have been made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissociation of Marriage Act (IMDMA). We should being by sharing one of the biggest amendments, which will affect future child custody determinations.

Old law

Before the new law, Senate Bill 57, IMDMA permitted child custody to be allocated jointly or solely, pursuant to a divorce. When a parent was granted sole custody, the other parent was entitled to child visitation rights.

In essence, the law distinguished between legal and physical custody. “Legal custody” involved the right to make decisions on behalf of a child. On the other hand, “physical custody” dictated where the child resided. In making the child custody decision, courts would examine the best interests of the child and consider several factors in this evaluation.

Future law: Senate Bill 57 in 2016

Under Senate Bill 57, effective January 1, the court will make decisions regarding “parental responsibility” instead of concrete child custody determinations. Parental responsibility involves decision-making responsibilities and parenting time.

Decision-making responsibilities

“Decision-making responsibilities” replaces the old notion of legal custody and assigns to parents the right to make decisions for a child in four varied areas: education, religion, health and extracurricular activities. The court may determine that only one parent is entitled to make decisions in all four areas. However, the court may otherwise find that different responsibilities can be distributed among both parents.

The determination of responsibilities is still based on the best interests of the child. In making this decision, the court must consider several relevant factors, including those summarized in the statute. Some of them include:

  • The child’s needs.
  • The distance between the parents’ homes.
  • The ability of parents to cooperate.

Parenting time

As you would expect, the concept of “parenting time” replaces the former concept of physical custody (and visitation). In making a determination regarding parenting time, again, the court must consider the child’s best interests. In addition to the factors used when considering the decision-making responsibility, the court will also consider the following:

  • Whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate.
  • The amount of time each parent has spent taking care of the child over the past couple of years.
  • The relationship of the child with his or her parents, siblings (or any other person who might influence the child’s best interests).

After the assessment, the court will order a specific parenting time schedule.

If you would like to learn more about the recent changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissociation of Marriage Act, continue following this blog. Our firm will discuss some other pertinent differences shortly.

To learn more about the evolution of family law in relation to your specific divorce, speak with a knowledgeable attorney in your area.