8 Drastic Changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act You Should be Aware of

Effective January 1, 2016 changes to the IMDMA drastically changed the way divorce and family law cases are handled. In recognition of the many changes that have taken place in society and with families since the passage of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act the Illinois legislature completed a major rewrite of the IMDMA. An outline of the major changes to the IMDMA are briefly discussed below.


As of January 1, 2016 there is only one ground, or legal basis for a divorce – irreconcilable differences. The rewrite to the IMDMA eliminated all “fault” based grounds for a divorce such as adultery, habitual drunkenness, bigamy and mental or physical cruelty. Illinois has been a “no-fault” state for quite some time which enabled a person to obtain a divorce by demonstrating irreconcilable differences. Prior to 2016, most divorce cases were filed under the no-fault grounds of Irreconcilable Differences since the grounds for the divorce had absolutely no impact on the outcome of the case.

As such, a case previously filed using a fault based grounds was greatly disfavored and only did one thing--- create more conflict during an already difficult time. It made no sense to waste time and money arguing over the legal basis for the divorce since this had no bearing on the outcome of the case.

The no-fault grounds only requires a showing of irreconcilable differences which has caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and that attempts at reconciliation have failed or would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family. This is done simply by the petitioning party testifying in court that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable. Irreconcilable differences also requires the parties demonstrate that they have been living separate and apart for a period of six (6) months.


The waiting period under the new IMDMA is a reduction in the waiting period from two (2) years to six (6) months. It should be noted that the courts have established that the “separate and apart” waiting period is satisfied even if the parties have continued to reside in the same residence, so long as the parties are able to demonstrate that they have maintained separate living arrangements such as having separate bedrooms.


Effective January 1, 2016 Illinois no longer recognizes Alienation of Affection as a cause of action. Alienation of Affection is a cause of action filed against a thirty party alleging that a person was the reason for the breakdown of a party’s marriage. This cause of action was abolished based on the emphasis to reduce conflict and place a greater emphasis on conflict resolution.


The nomenclature regarding custody and visitation has moved away from awarding custody and visitation to allocating parental responsibilities and parenting time. The change in terminology is an attempt to use less adversarial terms when discussing parenting issues for minor children. The word “custody” has a possessory connotation and was disfavored by most divorce attorneys and judges. The new changes reflect the trend to place more emphasis on reducing conflict and avoiding the perception that one spouse is a winner or loser in terms of parenting responsibilities and parenting time.

While the terminology has changed, the same concepts of “joint” or “sole” custody still exists. Parenting plans still provide that either both parents share the responsibility for significant decisions for the children or one parent will have the primary decision making responsibility for the children. The parental responsibilities include decisions about education, health, religion and extra-curricular activities. The parties also must designate the primary residence of the children for purpose of school registration only.

The revised IMDMA also provides that the parties must exchange their proposed parenting plan to each other and file the same with the court within 120 days. If a conflict exists regarding the respective parenting plans, the court shall set a hearing to determine a parenting plan that maximizes the child’s relationship and access to both parents and the overall plan are in the best interests of the child.


Prior to the revised Act the residential parent only needed the court’s permission if he/she intended to move to another state. As of January 1, 2016, the primary residential parent is now required to provide notice to the other parent if he/she intends to move more than 25 miles from their existing residence if they reside in the Chicago collar counties or 50 miles if they reside outside the Chicago collar counties.

The notice must be in writing and must be given at least 60 days prior to the move and shall include the address of the new residence and indicate if the move is permanent or temporary. If the other parent objects to the move, then the parent intending to move must obtain the court’s permission.

If the non-relocating parent agrees with the relocation and signs the notice of relocation, the notice should be filed with the circuit court and no other action is required.


All counties throughout the state of Illinois will use a uniform Financial Disclosure Statement. Prior to January 1, 2016 there was no standardized form and the Financial Disclosure Statement would vary from county to county. Find the approved financial form online.


A deduction for purposes of determining net income for child support now includes payments made by an obligor for student loans. Further changes are coming in 2017 regarding how child support is calculated and will mostly likely include an income sharing model. Under an income sharing model for child support the incomes of both parents and the amount of time the children are with each parent are considered when determining the net income.


A parent’s obligation to contribute towards their children’s college expenses is now limited to the costs to attend the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The obligation to contribute also requires the child to maintain a “C” average and terminates upon the child turning 23 years of age, receiving a bachelor’s degree, or remarries.

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