As part of an effort to meet the evolving needs of families in the state, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner approved a bill last week that eliminates at-fault grounds for divorce. The measure is slated to take effect on January 1, 2016, and is expected to have a major impact on family courts and the practice of family law.
Fault Grounds Eliminated
Introduced as Senate Bill 57 in the early part of this year, the new law completely overhauls portions of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Among the most significant changes is a totally new approach to divorce in the state. Beginning in 2016, the concept of fault will be entirely removed from divorce proceedings. Instead, all divorces will be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
Under current divorce laws, a spouse may pursue a divorce based on the actions of his or her partner. Infidelity, mental or physical cruelty, and the commission of an infamous crime, among others, are considered legitimate grounds for granting a divorce based on fault. In practice, however, fault grounds were given little consideration in the overall process, as the law prohibits marital misconduct from affecting spousal support, property division, and child-related matters in most cases. The primary advantage to filing for divorce on fault grounds, as it currently stands, is the ability to pursue divorce without a separation period.
Shortened Period of Separation
To account for the removal of fault grounds, the new law amends the required period of separation for a no-fault divorce. Currently, a couple must be separated for at least six months, and if the parties are not in agreement on the divorce, a two-year separation is mandatory. Beginning in January, the maximum required separation period will be six months, which couples can waive completely by agreement. Proponents of the new law believe that this will allow the court and both parties to focus on building a healthy new future, rather than watching the calendar and waiting unnecessarily.
More Changes to Come
The recently approved legislation will also affect a number of other changes to family law statutes in Illinois. The concept of child custody will be dramatically altered to instead focus on the allocation of parental responsibilities. There will also be new guidelines for primary residential parents who are looking to move significant distances both within and outside of the state. While the practical impact of the law is yet to be determined, 2016 certainly looks to be an interesting year for family courts around the state.
If you are considering divorce or have questions about the new law, contact an experienced family law attorney in Wheaton. For more than a decade, the knowledgeable team at Keller Legal Services, P.C. has been helping families throughout the region with divorce and child-related concerns. Call 630-868-3093 to schedule a confidential consultation today.