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Recent Changes to Illinois Divorce Law

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 14, 2020

In 2016, there have been several major changes to Illinois divorce law, which are designed to bring the law into alignment with the realities of modern co-parenting arrangements and to soften the blow of divorces.  More changes are on the way in 2017 as well.  You can read our article about changes to Illinois child support laws for 2017 here. 

Changes to Illinois Grounds for Divorce

Prior to 2016 there were (11) grounds for dissolution of marriage in Illinois:

  • natural impotence at the time of the marriage and continuing thereafter;
  • bigamy;
  • adultery;
  • willful desertion or absence from the petitioner for one year;
  • habitual drunkenness for a time of 2 years or more;
  • gross and confirmed habits caused by the excessive use of addictive drugs for 2 years or more;
  • threatening the life of the other by poison or other means showing malice;
  • extreme and repeated physical or mental cruelty;
  • conviction of a felony or other infamous crime;
  • infecting the other spouse with a communicable venereal disease; and/or
  • irreconcilable differences

As of 2016, the only grounds for divorce is irreconcilable differences.  Prior to 2016 the required period to live separate and apart would vary based on the grounds for divorce. The parties need to prove that there are irreconcilable differences. If the parties have lived separate and apart for 6 months, then there is an irrefutable presumption that there are irreconcilable differences. If a party can prove irreconcilable differences, it doesn’t matter how long they have lived separate and apart. Also the 6 months is from the time of the entry of the judgment, not from the date of filing.

Changes to Illinois Law Regarding Custody and Visitation Rights

Prior to 2016, the parties were defined as a "custodial parent" or "non-custodial parent," and the "non-custodial parent" was allotted "visitation rights."  The terms "custody" and "visitation" have been done away with and replaced with "allocation of parenting time and responsibility."  The intention is to soften the blow for the parent who would have previously been labeled as "non-custodial" and to reduce disputes over custody. 

In addition, parenting responsibility is divided into four categories: medical, education, religious, and extra-curricular.  The responsibility for making decisions regarding each of these separate categories will be divided among the parents either by agreement or by order of the court. 

Changes to Illinois Law Regarding Parents Relocating

Prior to 2016 the custodial parent could move anywhere within the state of Illinois without approval from the court, but a move out of state would require court approval, regardless of the actual change in distance.  As of 2016, a court order is required for moves of more than 25 miles.  Moves within 25 miles are permitted without court approval, even if they are out of state.  If the party seeking to relocate lives outside the Chicago metropolitan area, he or she is permitted to move 50 miles within Illinois without a court order.

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Recent Changes to Illinois Divorce Law

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