On January 1, 2016, the most sweeping changes to Illinois family law in decades went into effect as the legislature amended major portions of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Attorneys are still grappling with how the law will affect divorce and child custody cases filed in the new year in DuPage County, but it has already become apparent that a few procedural issues still need to be addressed.
Old Approach Left Much Uncertain
Illinois courts have always tried to put children first in divorce cases by encouraging judges to award primary custody in the best interests of the child. However, this has never been an easy task in the early stages of divorce proceedings while the parties are hammering out the details of custody.
The previous version of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) allowed for parties to establish custody while the divorce was pending through a series of temporary visitation and custody orders that could require multiple trips to court to extend and enforce. Parents were encouraged to come up with a custody agreement within 90 days of filing for divorce, or the case would be set for mediation. In many counties, the wait for mediation could be several months, leaving the parties in limbo for quite some time.
New Deadline for Parenting Plans, with Exceptions
The new law mandates that the parties must come up with a parenting plan within 120 days of filing for divorce, avoiding the long wait for mandatory mediation. The amended law states that parties can only extend this deadline for good cause or face an evidentiary hearing where the judge will make the decision about parental responsibilities and parenting time. As the law is so new, it is not yet clear what courts will consider “good cause” to grant an extension, so it is in the best interest of both parties to file a parenting plan with the court as soon as possible.
Another exception muddies the water of parenting plans even more. The amended IMDMA also excuses the parties from filing a parenting plan within the 120-day deadline (or at all) if the parties agree to mediation on their own or submit an agreed-upon written order to the court allowing for an extension of time. However, allowing the parties to extend that deadline far beyond the 120-day deadline is clearly against the intent of the new law to quickly foster an agreement, so courts will likely soon institute local rules establishing how quickly parties must attend a mediation hearing or come to a resolution to establish parenting time and responsibilities.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you are considering filing for divorce or have been served with divorce papers, it is important to have legal representation who knows the new Illinois divorce laws about parental responsibilities and parenting time on your sid. An experienced attorney can assist you in understanding the often convoluted legal procedures of the Illinois courts. Contact our caring DuPage County family law attorneys
today for a consultation.
New Deadline for Parenting Plans, With Exceptions