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New Family Law Changes Effective January 1, 2018

As a new year comes, so do the effective dates of many new statutes that Illinois has passed in 2017.  Several of these laws involve family law matters.

Pet Custody

The first and most talked about change is the authority for courts to now determine “pet custody” in divorce cases.  We have previously done a separate article on this specific issue, but to simply recap, the new law provides that the court can specifically decide whether the parties to a divorce should be awarded sole custody of a pet or whether or not they will have shared custody.  Previously, courts simply treated pets as any other marital asset such as a car, home or a lamp.  With this new law, the court has more guidance and authority to award pet custody.

Cell Phones for Domestic Abuse Victims

Another important law change is for victims of domestic violence, Public Act 100-0388 allows the court, in an order of protection matter, upon request of the petitioner, to order a wireless telephone provider to transfer the petitioner’s right to continue the use of his/her telephone number(s) and any financial responsibilities associated with those numbers to the petitioner.  The purpose of this is to prohibit the respondent/abuser from using the petitioner’s cell phone number to either further the abuse or to discourage a petitioner from seeking protection out of the fear they will lose their cell phone number or service.  The petitioner’s right to transfer a cell phone number not only includes their own number but also includes the numbers of any minor children in his/her custody.

If a petitioner seeks this remedy, the petitioner assumes all financial responsibility for the telephone number, including the monthly service cost and costs associated with any mobile device associated with the number to be transferred.  Additionally, the wireless service provider may also require the petitioner to fulfill its other routine and customary requirements for establishing an account for transferring numbers such as proof of identification, financial information and customer preferences.

Maintenance Law Changes

A third significant change in the family law realm is in regard to the maintenance statute.  While there are no dramatic shifts, there are some notable changes.  As of January 1, 2018, the maximum gross income of the parties for application of the maintenance guidelines increased from $250,000 to $500,000 per year.  Additionally, for the duration of the maintenance award, instead of it being broken up into 5-year increments, it is now done in yearly increments after a 5-year period.

Therefore, it is even more critical to consider when you are filing a divorce based upon the lengths of the marriage if maintenance will be an issue in your matter since the duration of the maintenance award is based on from the date of marriage to the date the Petition for Dissolution is filed.  Previously, this concern was nominal as you only thought about it if you were close to the ends of the 5-year blocks.  Now, if you are a payer of maintenance, you may look to file for divorce prior to your next anniversary date to gain slightly shorter maintenance duration.  If you are expecting to receive maintenance, you may wait until after your next anniversary date to have a slightly longer duration of maintenance.  If you have been married for 20 or more years the duration of the maintenance award will either be a period of time in an equal length of the marriage or an indefinite term as the court is to determine.

A final change regarding maintenance is that any temporary maintenance paid while a divorce is pending may result in a corresponding credit to the duration of the maintenance to be paid upon finalization of the maintenance.  For example, if temporary maintenance is paid for 6 months during the divorce proceedings, those 6 months would be removed from the duration of the maintenance, after entry of the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage.

When seeking legal counsel for a divorce or family law matter, it is important to have attorneys that are knowledgeable and current on statutory and case law changes.  At Drendel & Jansons Law Group we pride ourselves on keeping up with current law changes and examining how these changes may affect our client’s cases.  Please call us to set up a meeting to discuss your matter and receive a personalized consult wherein we will provide you direct insight into your matter in order to provide you the peace of mind necessary to make the decisions that will impact your life.

Roman J. Seckel
Drendel & Jannsons Law Group
111 Flinn Street
Batavia, IL 60510
[email protected]