Who Gets Custody?

Effective January 1, 2016, NOBODY! The rules of divorce and custody are dramatically changing New Year’s Day. Per the amended Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), as of January 1, 2016, the term “custody” has been stricken in an attempt to further the following specific goals propounded by the Illinois legislature when revamping the twenty (20) year old statutes:

  1. Mitigate the potential harm to spouses and their children caused by the process of an action brought under this Act, and protect children from exposure to conflict and violence.
  2. Ensure predictable decision-making for the care of children and for the allocation of parenting time and other parental responsibilities, and avoid prolonged uncertainty by expeditiously resolving issues involving children.
  3. Recognize the right of children to a healthy relationship with parents, and the responsibility of parents to ensure such a relationship.
  4. Acknowledge that the determination of children’s best interests, and the allocation of parenting time and significant decision-making responsibilities, are among the paramount responsibilities of our system of justice, and to that end: (A) recognize children’s right to a strong and healthy relationship with parents, and parents’ concomitant right and responsibility to create and maintain such relationships; (B) recognize that, in the absence of domestic violence or any other factor; (C) facilitate parental planning and agreement about the children’s upbringing and allocation of parenting time and other parental responsibilities; (D) continue existing parent-child relationships, and secure the maximum involvement and cooperation of parents regarding the physical, mental, moral, and emotional well-being of the children during and after the litigation; and (E) promote or order parents to participate in programs designed to education parents to: (i) minimize or eliminate rancor and the detrimental effect of litigation in any proceeding involving children; and (ii) facilitate the maximum cooperation of parents in raising their children.***

Whether the amended statutes will accomplish the goals set forth above remains to be seen. As parents navigate this new concept of responsibility allocation in lieu of custody, it is necessary for schools, medical offices, activity centers and the like to be educated about the new terms such that the goal of the Illinois legislature mirrors the real life issues. Check back to our Family Law blog for updates on the new law and its real world application.

This post was written by Jessica Winkler Boike, Family Law Partner