November 2017 • Volume 105 • Number 11 • Page 14
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New family-law act eases name changing, revises maintenance calculation
Changes to Illinois spousal maintenance law streamline the process for name changes, revise how the duration of maintenance is calculated, and increase the number of cases to which the law applies.
On September 22, 2017, HB 2537 became Public Act 100-0520. It makes changes to the Code of Civil Procedure and the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), which has been the subject of a major overhaul in the past few years. The law takes effect June 1, 2018.
One major change during the Act's first overhaul was to make it gender-neutral to better include same-sex marriages within the language of the statute. Some portions of the new law seem geared towards cleaning up remaining language that wasn't gender neutral. It also streamlines the process for name changes, rewrites the calculation for the duration of spousal maintenance, and raises the combined income ceiling for couples to whom the maintenance guidelines apply from $250,000 to $500,000.
Name changing made easier
For example, the bill creates 735 ILCS 5/21-103.5, which governs changing a minor's name. It requires that actual notice be given to any parent whose parental rights have not been terminated and to any person who has been allocated parental responsibilities under the IMDMA. This brings the name change statute in line with the terminology used in the IMDMA.
The amendments to the Act also included replacing "custody" with "parental responsibility" in an attempt to reduce acrimony between divorcing parties. These specific changes seem to be an attempt to make that language uniform throughout the ILCS.
Another change regarding names has been made to the IMDMA itself. 750 ILCS 5/413 has added a subsection (c), which appears to streamline the name change process for divorcing spouses. Rather than forcing a divorcing spouse to file a separate chancery action for a name change - and incur additional court costs - the amendment mandates that judgments of dissolution contain a provision authorizing the person to resume the use of their former name should they choose so, and at any time.
The verbiage is also gender-neutral, mentioning both "previous" and "maiden" names. "Wife" is replaced with "person," which takes into account both same-sex marriage and situations where a husband takes his wife's name. All in all, the amendment makes the process of dissolving a marriage and starting a new life less complicated than it was before.
A more granular approach to calculating maintenance
Perhaps the biggest change in the new law appears in 750 ILCS 5/504, which involves the calculation of spousal maintenance and its duration. It also increases the gross-income ceiling for cases to which the guidelines apply from $250,000 per year to $500,000 per year.
Under the current math, the duration of maintenance is calculated based on five-year chunks of time. For instance, a marriage that lasted five years or less receives different treatment than one that lasted more than five but less than 10 years. Under the new law, calculating the duration of maintenance takes a more granular approach that seems more logical. For instance, it seems arbitrary that a one-day difference in filing for divorce can result in a doubling of the modifier used to determine how long a spouse will receive maintenance.
Under the current law, someone filing on the 364th day of the fourth year of their marriage will use a modifier of duration of marriage of 0.2. Someone filling on the first day of the fifth year of their marriage will use a modifier of duration of marriage of 0.4. The new formula treats the first five years of marriage the same way that the current law does. After that, it incrementally increases the duration modifier for each additional year. A marriage that has lasted six years uses a modifier of 0.24. One that has lasted eight years uses a modifier of 0.36.
Taking the math out of the equation, suppose the parties were married for four years and 364 days. Under the current and new calculation, maintenance would last for about one year. Under the current law, parties married for five years and one day at the time of filing would have a maintenance duration of about two years. Under the new law, that period would be 1.2 years.
The new changes seem designed to eliminate results that don't make sense. They may also eliminate some acrimony and gamesmanship (like timing when to file to maximize maintenance) in the divorce process.