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Illinois Divorce and Family Law Changes for 2020

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Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article, we expound Illinois divorce and family law for 2020.  Family law has undergone many alterations from 2016 to present-day, so there aren’t many changes taking effect as of January 1st, 2020.  We will discuss the most recent changes to Illinois spousal maintenance law for 2020, changes to Illinois child custody law for 2020, and changes to Illinois child support law for 2020.

Changes to Illinois Spousal Maintenance Law for 2020

Spousal maintenance law in Illinois had its most recent changes after the federal tax reform took effect in 2019.  Here are the most profound changes and explanations of how those changes have impacted Illinois spousal maintenance law:

  • Spousal maintenance payments are taxed differently as a result of the 2019 tax reform.

Prior to 2019, spousal maintenance (also known as alimony) payments were tax-deductible for the payor spouse and not included in gross income calculations.  Conversely, the recipient spouse was obligated to include maintenance payments when calculating gross income, thereby making maintenance taxable income for the recipient.  Under the new law, the tax burden of maintenance payments has shifted from the recipient spouse to the payor spouse.  This will likely lead to lower alimony payments, as the obligor spouse will now pay taxes on maintenance money twice; once via taxes taken out by his or her employer, and again when gross income is calculated and taxed.  Payor spouses are more likely to fight for lower payments because there is no longer a tax incentive for maintenance, which may lead to longer and uglier divorces.

  • The threshold to deviate from statutory guidelines when calculating the amount of maintenance has raised from a combined gross income of $250,000 to $500,000.

The formula to calculate the amount for spousal maintenance payments is still the same, with the exception of including maintenance in gross income calculations.  The increase of combined  income allows statutory guidelines to apply to many additional divorces.  A judge can still deviate from statutory guidelines when couples have a combined gross income under $500,000, but the judge must provide a specific reason(s) that the guidelines should not apply.  The calculated amount for support plus the net income of the payor spouse still cannot exceed 40%, and the combined payments of spousal maintenance and child support cannot exceed 50% of the payee’s net income.

  • The formula for calculating the amount of spousal maintenance has changed.

The formula for calculating spousal maintenance changed. The current formula is 33.33% of the the payor's net income minus 25% of the recipient's net income. Note that the amount of spousal maintenance is capped at 40% of the combined net income of the parties.

  • Calculating the duration of spousal maintenance has changed.

The duration of maintenance payments are still calculated by multiplying a percentage that increases with the length of the marriage.  Prior to 2019, the multiplying factors changed for every five years of marriage.  The breakdown used to be:

  • 5 years or less (0.20);
  • 5-9 years (0.40);
  • 10-14 years (.60);
  • 15-19 years (0.80);
  • 20 or more years, the court is instructed to order maintenance for a term equalling the length of the marriage or, alternatively, permanent maintenance.

Now, the multiplying factors change every year, as opposed to every five years.  This change should ultimately shorten the duration of spousal maintenance payments.

For more detailed information on current spousal maintenance law, check out our article entitled Recent Changes to Illinois Spousal Maintenance Law.

Changes to Illinois Child Custody Law for 2020

Illinois child custody law hasn’t changed much since the new amendments took effect in 2016.  Significant changes of terminology had a strong impact on determining custody and how custody law is structured.  Here are some highlights of the biggest changes and their effects on child custody law:

  • The terms “custody” and “visitation” are no longer used and have been replaced with “allocation of parenting time and responsibilities.”
  • “Joint decision-making privileges” and “sole decision-making privileges” have been added as legal terminology to designate whether one or both parents must contribute to decisions regarding education, medical care, religion and extracurricular activities.  The court wants to encourage positive relationships between each parent and their child, so judges tend to award “joint decision-making privileges” to keep both parents involved and engaged in the child’s life.  Only in extreme cases, such as drug abuse, domestic violence, or alcohol abuse, will a judge award sole decision-making to one of the parents.
  • “Allocation of parenting time” defines the responsibilities of each parent, including a comprehensive schedule of which parent is responsible for the child at all times.  This is also referred to as a “parenting plan,” which must be submitted by each party within 120 days of requesting parental responsibilities from the court.
  • “Custody” is only used to designate the “custodial parent” for legal purposes and residency requirements for the child to attend school.  The term “visitation” is no longer used.  Instead, the days and times each parent spends with their child is referred to as “parenting time.”
  • Previously, the custodial parent was able to move anywhere in the state without permission from the court.  Under the current law, families living in the Chicago metropolitan area cannot move more than 25 miles from their residence without a court order.  If you do not live in the metropolitan area, the distance increases to 50 miles without needing a court order.  State lines do not matter as long as the distance requirement is met.

To learn more about Illinois child custody, see our article entitled Illinois Child Custody 2020 | Recent Changes to Illinois Custody Law.

Recent Changes to Illinois Child Support Laws

Child support went through significant modifications when Illinois adopted the “income shares” model for support, which took effect in July of 2017.  The “income shares” model is currently used to calculate child support in 40 states.  The formula uses economic tables in coalescence with the combined income of the parents, cost of living and number of children involved, to calculate an appropriate number for support.  Once the number is set, the court looks at the relative incomes of the parents to determine each parent’s portion of the obligation.  The general rule of thumb is, the larger the difference in income between the parties, the more the obligor is likely to pay in support.  Regardless of your income class, if each parent makes a similar wage, child support will be less than it was for orders entered before 2017.  However, it is important to remember that if a support order entered prior to 2017 needs modification, the most current law will apply to the modified order.

Under the “income shares” model, child support is calculated differently in “shared parenting” situations.  If the obligor spouse spends at least 146 nights per year with the child, guidelines for “shared parenting” take effect.  In addition to the standard calculations for child support, the amount is increased by a factor of 50%, and extra considerations are made for the amount of time each parent spends with the child.  “Shared parenting” procedure stipulates that the more time the payor spouse spends with the child, the less that parent will pay in support.  However, the amount of time the obligor spends with the child is not taken into consideration unless that parent meets the standard of 146 overnight stays.

Another change to child support orders in Illinois includes maintenance payments. When Illinois maintenance law was changed in 2019, it included an amendment stating the combination of maintenance and child support payments cannot exceed 50% of the payor’s net income. The adaption of the “income shares” model also caused a change to the calculation for child support for multiple families.  The chronological order in which child support payments are established is directly related to the amount each family will receive. Please see our article entitled Illinois Child Support 2020 | Recent Changes to Illinois Support Law.

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Illinois Divorce and Family Law Changes for 2020

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