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A Chicago Family Attorney Keeps You Abreast with the Upcoming Custody Law Changes

Laws routinely change through slow and steady evolution: minor changes that, over the course of time, alter the laws pertaining to a particular issue. Rarely do laws change in a sudden, radical, and dramatic fashion, yet many are claiming that Illinois’ new divorce and child custody laws are just such a change. Set to go into effect on January 1, 2016, these new laws will change the very language courts and litigants will use regarding child custody-related matters. But do the laws themselves represent that radical of a departure from the way in which child custody matters have been decided in the past?

New Law, New Language

Part of the new laws governing child custody matters are changes in the language used when discussing these matters. As of January 1, 2016, gone will be references to “custody,” “visitation,” and “custodial parent” (for example). Instead, the new terminology adopted by the laws will emphasize the cooperative nature of parenting and attempt to remove the stigma that some may parents feel if they are not awarded primary custody of their child or the negative connotations some older children may internalize when they hear of their parents fighting over their custody rights as to their children.

Instead of the “antiquated” language present in the current Illinois statutes, courts will speak in terms of “parenting plans,” “parenting time,” and “parental responsibilities.” For example, instead of creating a joint parenting agreement, parents will work to create a “parenting plan” that allocates each parent specific amounts of “parenting time.” One or both parents will have the responsibility of attending to certain “parental responsibilities.”

The goal of these changes is to do away with the perception that there are “winners” and “losers” in child custody matters and emphasize that both parents ought to be working toward the same end: accomplishing what is best for their child or children.

Legal Custody is in for Big Changes

The concept of legal custody gets an overhaul under the new Illinois statutes. Legal custody refers to which parent has the ability to make decisions concerning the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the child. In the past, legal custody was either awarded to one or both parents. Under the new law, however, “legal custody” will be broken down into several categories of parental responsibilities such as education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities of the child. Each area of responsibility will then be assigned to one or both parents: a parent who is awarded “joint” responsibility for health matters can participate in medical decisions regarding the child, for example, but cannot participate in determining the religion in which the child will be raised if he or she is not awarded that responsibility.

The new laws will also allow parties to more easily obtain modifications of existing parenting time orders and allow a parent with whom a child resides more than 50 percent of the time to relocate from Illinois to a new state more quickly.

Learn More With Chicago Family Attorneys

The Chicago-based family law firm of Arami Law Office is prepared to assist clients navigate this new legal landscape. We will help you understand how the new laws will affect your rights and your child custody proceeding going forward. If you have questions or concerns about the upcoming changes to Illinois’ child custody laws, contact our office for help by calling (312) 212-1399.