Family Law Changes for 2016: Child Custody and Visitation

In the last post on this blog, we talked about a number of upcoming changes to the laws regarding divorce in Illinois. These changes are being implemented January 1, 2016, and are the result of a family law reform measure that was signed by the governor this past summer. The amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act also address child-related concerns, making substantial updates to the approach to such issues.

Part 2: New Child Custody and Visitation Laws

Child Custody

One of the most significant changes to be implemented under the new law is a dramatic shift in focus regarding child custody. The concept of custody as it currently exists is being eliminated in an effort to reduce the combative nature of such proceedings. The labels of sole or joint custody are being replaced with a more fluid allocation of parental responsibilities. Responsibilities for significant decision-making will be divided between the parents, based on the child’s best interests.

Parenting Plans

As part of the shift, parents will be required to submit a parenting to the court. Each parent can submit a plan, or they may develop one together, but they plan must outline each parent’s responsibilities in regard to the child. The law provides a number a provisions that must be included, such as parenting time, mediation, and access to school and medical records. If a joint plan is not approved by the court, the court must make specific findings as to why it was refused. The parents may be given the opportunity to revise it, but ultimately, the court may enter an order that best serves the child’s needs.

Parenting Time

The new law no longer refers to time with a person’s own children as visitation. Instead, the concept of parenting time will be introduced, and though it may be restricted to protect the child, each parent is presumed to have the right to it. One parent may be granted a majority of the parenting time, or primary residential responsibility for the purposes of school and child support, but the law will no longer make reference to custodial or non-custodial parents. Visitation privileges may still be granted to non-parental family members in certain situations.

Parental Relocation

Under the existing law, a custodial parent must seek consent from the non-custodial parent or the overriding approval of the court to move out of Illinois with his or her child. In-state moves currently require no such approval. The amended law defines a parental relocation as any move by a parent with equal or a majority of the parenting time with child in excess of 25 miles from a home in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties, or 50 miles from a home in any other county while remaining in the State. Moving more than 25 miles to a new home out of state is also considered a relocation. All relocations require the approval of the other parent or the court and the modification of a parenting agreement.

Non-Minor Child Support for College Expenses

Although not expressly part of the child custody and visitation concerns, the new law also provides clarification regarding the support of an adult child. New limits are being implemented regarding support for educational expenses, including setting a calculation standard for expenses as those of a typical student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Support for educational expenses may also now be terminated before the completion of the bachelor’s degree program if the child gets married, turns 23, or fails to maintain a C average.

How exactly the new laws will affect existing orders for child custody and visitation remain to be seen. In the meantime, if you have questions about child custody or visitation, contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free initial consultation today.