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Family Law Questions & Answers

WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE?

There is only one ground for divorce in Illinois, and it is “irreconcilable differences.” The only requirement being that the parties have lived “separate and apart” for at least six months immediately preceding the entry of judgment for dissolution of marriage. To be clear, all other grounds, including “repeated and extreme physical or mental cruelty,” have been abolished by the Illinois legislature.

WHAT DOES THE “ALLOCATION OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES” MEAN?

Use of the terms, “custody” and “visitation,” have been replaced by the term, “parental responsibilities.” Now, Illinois courts allocate parental responsibilities between parents. Parental responsibilities encompass the allocation of both decision-making and parenting time. Decision-making responsibilities relate to issues such as education, religion, health, and extracurricular activities. Parenting time relates to the time that each parent is allowed to spend with the children.

By law, the parents must submit, jointly or individually, a parenting plan to the court within 120 days after the filing of any petition for the allocation of parental responsibilities. The plan must include enumerated provisions making clear how the children are to be raised, how the parties are to communicate and cooperate, and procedures for how to resolve future disagreements between the parties, among many other issues.

HOW DOES THE COURT DECIDE HOW TO ALLOCATE PARENTING TIME?

The court will allocate parenting time based on the best interest of the minor child. The court will consider the following factors: (1) the wishes of the child’s parent or parents; (2) the wishes of the child; (3) the amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child; (4) any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions; (5) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest; (6) the child’s adjustment to his home, school and community; (7) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (8) the child’s needs; (9) the distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement; (10) whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate; (11) the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child or other member of the child’s household; (12) the willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs; (13) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child; (14) the occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household; (15) whether one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so, the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment the offender has successfully participated in; the parties re-entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in the paragraph (15); (16) the terms of a parent’s military family-care plan that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed; and (17) any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

HOW MUCH WILL THE COURT CONSIDER THE CHILD’S WISHES AS TO THE ALLOCATION OF PARENTING TIME?

The court will take the child’s wishes into consideration, also taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time. Generally speaking, the court will rely more heavily on an older child’s wishes than it will on a younger child’s.

HOW IS THE AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT DETERMINED?

Child support is determined by guidelines created by the Illinois legislature, and it is based on the number of minor children for which there is a support duty owed. Illinois child support guidelines state that the minimum amount of child support for one child shall be 20% of the supporting party’s net income; 28% for two children; 32% for three children; 40% for four children; 45% for five children; and 50% for six or more children.

CAN I RECEIVE CHILD SUPPORT FOR MY CHILDREN BEFORE THE DIVORCE IS “FINAL”?

Yes. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”) provides that either party may ask the Court for temporary child support. As the name implies, the temporary child support order is effective only during the pendency of the case. A final child support order will be entered at some point before the divorce is “final.”

WHAT IS “REASONABLE PARENTING TIME”?

The IMDMA provides that parents who are denied decision-making responsibility are nonetheless entitled to reasonable parenting time. The only way that a parent may be denied reasonable parenting time is if the Court finds, after a hearing, that the parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, or moral health, or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.