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Reforms bring big changes to child custody

Photo of Karen Lavin

Illinois has already seen its fair share of changes to family law over the past few years, including revisions concerning spousal maintenance and same-sex marriages. New reforms took place at the beginning of the year in order to adapt to the changing times and lives of married and divorcing couples. Some of those reforms focus on child custody, potentially making the process much easier for parents.

One of the biggest changes in child custody comes down to terminology. No longer will family law judges approve child custody plans with full or joint custody. Instead, parents will determine the allocation of parental responsibilities. Visitation is also getting the boot and being replaced by parenting time. Experts believe that these subtle changes in terminology will create mindsets that are more conducive to focusing on the best interests of a child rather than "winning" or "losing" custody.

Ultimately, how parents and courts determine custody or parental allocation has not changed. The child's best interests will still play a central role in the process, and both parents' financial positions will be taken into account for figuring out child support payments. However, those familiar with the reforms point out that, although the changes are small, they have the potential to effect significant change.

Since child custody can be such an important part of divorce for parents, introducing reforms to ease the process can create better outcomes for parents and children alike. While these changes might be invaluable to some, other families might have more complex circumstances that require additional time and attention. Although most Illinois parents might hope to stay out of court, extenuating circumstances can necessitate going before a judge in order to determine what is in a child's best interest.

Source: cookcountyrecord.com, "Illinois family law, child custody rules undergo overhaul", Annie Hunt, Feb. 15, 2016

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