New Child Custody/Support Laws: How the changes affect divorcing couples

Illinois divorce law is undergoing a multi-year overhaul. In January 2016, new changes to child custody laws - now called parental responsibilities - were introduced. A second statute, which took effect July 1, significantly altered the way courts allocate child - support payments.

Both of these changes in Illinois law were intended to create more equitable outcomes for divorcing spouses and factor in modern realities of dual-income families and shared parenting responsibilities.

Crain's Custom Media turned to four Chicago-based family law attorneys to get their thoughts about how the new laws will affect divorcing couples with minor-age children.

What prompted the changes to Illinois law?

alyssa_mogul_thumb.jpgAM: Illinois is working to align more closely with federal mandates and national trends in family law. The new laws reflect changes in and further encourage increased involvement of both parents in their children's lives after a divorce. The new laws also address a long-standing concern that looking at one parent's income to set child support was unfair and not in line with the children's needs.

Under the parental responsibilities statute, what are the major responsibilities to be allocated?

AM: Parenting time, which includes regular, holiday and vacation schedules, is also divided between the parties in a way that makes the most sense for the children.

The new law replaces the term "child custody" with the phrase "allocation of parental responsibilities." What's the difference?

AM:  It still means a determination is required to assign decision-making and parenting time to one or both parents. Unfortunately, to add to the confusion, while the new law removes the word "custody" there are other related laws affecting families that are still in use and not modified by the legislature that continue to use the term "custody."

Under the new law, what's a parenting plan?

AM:  The parenting plan provides the rules parents will follow. If the parents cooperate and agree on a plan, the court will adopt it and enforce it, so long as it serves the children's best interests.

How does the amount of parenting time with a child affect child support calculations?

AM:  Both parents' incomes are considered when determining child support, and each parent will have a support obligation based on his or her prorated share of the child's overall support. In addition, when each parent has at least 146 overnights with a child per year (40 percent of annual overnights), a different calculation is used to apportion child support. A parent with at least 146 overnights per year pays the other parent less than he or she would if he or she had less parenting time. Conceptually, the more time a parent spends with a child, the less money that parent is required to pay to the other, as the child is not living with the child support recipient as much.

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