Summary of Recent Family Law Changes in Illinois

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Family law in Illinois has undergone major changes in the past two years.  Anyone in a divorce or child custody and support situation should be aware of the changes, as they may have direct effects on your situation.

The compassionate and experienced Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., understand the stresses and financial pressures of divorce and recognize the concerns parents have for the well-being of their children.  If you are considering divorce, or if you have any issues with how the new laws affect you, we offer a free initial consultation to examine your individual situation and help come up with solutions that are best for you and your family.

Changes to the Law

The Parentage Act of 2015 modified the previous Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA).  The Act became effective on January 1, 2016, and additional changes involving child support became effective July 1, 2017.

Major changes include:

General changes and presumptions of paternity

  • The language talks about “two” parents, indicating an intent to limit a child to two legal parents.
  • The Act added definitions, in 750 ILCS 46/103:
    • Adjudicated parent: a parent based on a ruling by a court
    • Presumed parent: someone presumed to be a parent by marriage, including same-sex marriage
    • Acknowledged father: a man who established paternity by Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP)
    • Alleged father: a man alleging himself to be a father, but who has not yet been determined to be the father.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP)

  • To acknowledge paternity, a VAP can be signed before birth, but it is not effective until the child’s birth or filing.
  • A VAP can only be challenged in court based on fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. Challenge must happen within two years of the VAP’s effective date, except for time added if the person challenging is under legal disability or duress or is fraudulently concealed.
  • The VAP is still limited to a father and a mother, not same-sex parents.

Time Limits

  • Time limits for establishing a different person as the legal parent have been made stricter for establishing that the child has a presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated parent.
  • Time limits for establishing non-existence of a parent/child relationship can be brought only by the child, the mother, or someone presumed to be the parent by a marriage.  The limit is now two years after the date when the petitioner knew or should have known of the relevant facts.
  • A presumed father can declare the non-existence of a parent/child relationship at any time if the court determines there was no co-habitation or sexual intercourse during the probable time period of conception.

Custody and Visitation

  • Terminology — The terms custody and visitation have been changed to “Allocation of Parental Responsibility and Parenting Time.” 750 ILCS 5/600.
    • The term “parenting time” under the IMDMA 2016 refers to the time that both parents spend with the children. The term “visitation” now refers only to time a non-parent, such as a grandparent, spends with the child.
    • Parents must come up with a written parenting plan setting out significant decision making, parenting time, or both, within 120 days of service.
    • Allocation of parental responsibility sets out significant decision-making responsibility in the four major life areas for the child: education, religion, health, and extra-curricular activities. Either or both parents can be allocated responsibility in any of these areas.
  • Parental relocation, 750 ILCS 5/609.2.
    • The concept of “relocation” replaces “removal” and means to move the child more than 25 miles from a home in Cook or the collar counties; more than 50 miles if the original home is not in a collar county; and more than 25 miles from the original home if the move is out of state. Illinois remains the home state in out-of-state relocations within 25 miles of the original home.
    • Relocation by the parent with the majority of parenting time, or either parent if equal parenting time was allotted, requires a filed notice of intent to relocate. If the non-relocating parent does not agree, court action and showing of best interest of the child is required.
  • Modification, 750 ILCS 5/610.5.
    • For modification of a plan beyond two years, the burden of proof is lowered from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of the evidence.” Modification without a substantial change in circumstances may reflect the actual care arrangement or minor changes.

Child Support Changes

1) 2016 changes

  • Terminology — obligor becomes “supporting parent” and obligee becomes “parent receiving support.”
  • Student loan repayments are included as a deduction from income for net-income calculation.
  • Support for pregnancy and birth-related costs can be ordered only if action is brought within two years after birth.

2) 2017 changes

Effective July, 1, 2017, both parents’ incomes are considered when determining the child-support award. Instead of relying on the net income of the non-custodial parent to pay the custodial parent, the new law creates an income-share system.  Both parents are now accountable for child support based on how much they financially contributed to the combined household income while married.

Some of the costs of raising a child that are considered are: housing, clothes, food, transportation, ordinary uncovered medical expenses, ordinary extracurricular activities, entertainment, education and any extraordinary circumstances.

Child support orders established before July 1, 2017, will not change.

Contact Us for Help and a Free Consultation

Child-support laws can be complicated, especially when changes occur, and you will have to deal with the results for years. If you have questions about the new laws or calculating child support, you should contact an attorney to be sure your rights are protected. The skilled Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. know the laws, the courts and the system and can guide you through the process.  We represent and advise clients in all types of child custody matters and have a long history of success.

Don’t delay. For a free initial consultation with an experienced and compassionate DuPage County custody lawyer, contact us online or call 630-305-0222 for a free initial consultation.

Attorney Natalie Stec

Natalie M. Stec, born and raised in Illinois, and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her practice has been concentrated in significant pre and post decree marital and family law cases; including custody, visitation, support, and paternity matters. She has important criminal defense experience in both misdemeanor and felony cases. She is a very dedicated and passionate litigator. [ Attorney Bio ]