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First major family law revision in 35 years pending in Illinois legislature

Legislation has been introduced in the Illinois House that would make changes to many family law sections of the Illinois statutes. The last major overhaul of the divorce law was completed in 1977, and special committee has spent the last four years working on revisions that would modernize Illinois divorce law with the goal making it more efficient.

The proposed changes include an effort to speed up the time it takes for a court to act on divorce issues and would affect child support, visitation and other decisions involving children during the divorce.

The amendments would eliminate the need to plead "grounds" for divorce. The committee views this as outdated and irrelevant. One attorney involved noted that irreconcilable differences have become "boilerplate" in practically all divorce pleadings.

A significant change would require that judgments be issued within 60 days, once the proceedings have completed. This would speed up appeals and lessen problems with child support and spousal maintenance.

The new law would also change how child support is calculated, and would consider the income of the custodial parent and how much time the children spend with the non-custodial parent.

For alimony (spousal maintenance), a judge would to make written findings to explain why he or she order the payment. This allows a reviewing court to better understand why a judge made a decision.

Other changes to the family law statues would affect decision making by parents for their children, would create a presumption that children should spend 35 percent of their time with each parent.

The bill would also eliminate some archaic aspects of the 1977 act, like the alienation of affection or criminal conversation, which were subject to abuse and have been repealed in many states.

The bill is still in committee and the sponsors hope that the years of bipartisan work that went into its creation will enable it to receive a fair hearing in the legislature.

Source: CBS St. Louis, "Illinois House Considers Changes To Divorce Laws," April 15, 2013

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