A sad girl, divorce and child custody

An overhaul of the Illinois divorce laws went into effect on January 1, 2016, and the changes to child custody terminology are significant. This is not the first time the law has been revised, but this reform is comprehensive and could have a major impact on how divorce is handled in Illinois.

No More Custody and Visitation

One major change to the law is the elimination of the terms custody and visitation, which are now referred to as parental responsibilities and parenting time. Prior to the update, parents generally were awarded joint or sole custody. Parents with a joint custody agreement would typically share participation in the decision-making process regarding choices such as education, healthcare and religion.

Under the new divorce law, this decision-making authority will not necessarily be granted to one or both parents. Instead, the court will determine which parent should be responsible for each decision. In some cases, both parents may still be granted joint responsibility for all or some decisions. The judge will make a determination separately for each major subject.

The old law generally led to one parent being granted resident custody, while the non-custodial parent was given a reasonable visitation schedule. The court would decide which parent had residential custody and visitation normally occurred on alternating weekends and holidays or at a specific time on one day a week.

Under the new law, there is no longer residential custody, and parenting schedules will be determined in a different way. The court will still consider the best interests of the child. The needs and wishes of the parents and the child will both be reviewed, along with any other factors that the court finds relevant before a final decision is made. Even if a parent has not been granted significant decision-making responsibilities, they may still be given reasonable parenting time.

The Reasons for the Changes

Along with the legal changes to parenting terminology, the new divorce laws eliminate grounds for divorce, making irreconcilable differences the only legal reason behind divorce and make several changes to time limits and the way that divorces are granted in Illinois. Lawmakers hope that this update will make it easier for families experiencing divorce, particularly when children are involved. Questions regarding the new divorce laws in Illinois can be addressed with Illinois divorce lawyers.