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New Laws in Illinois for 2016

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While our elected officials in Springfield have a reputation for not getting anything done, they did find the time to write and pass 200 new laws that will take effect come January 1. Here is a quick rundown of those which may be the most important (or maybe just the most interesting):

1. New Divorce Law

In what may be the most wide-reaching and important change for 2016, the statute governing divorce in Illinois has been rewritten. It has kept the same name – The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act – but has been modified in ways both minor and major.

In the old version of the law, the party asking for a divorce had the option of providing a reason (adultery, mental cruelty, drug abuse, abandonment, etc.) or stating, simply, that there were irreconcilable differences between the parties (often called ‘no-fault divorce’). The new version of the law takes away the option of providing a reason and states that all divorces will proceed as if they were ‘no-fault’. This may seem important, but in practice, almost all divorce cases were filed under the ‘no-fault’ option, so this likely won’t change much for divorce attorneys or litigants.

The second noticeable change is in how the law states divorced parents are given decision-making authority over their children. The new law completely omits the words ‘custody’ and ‘visitation’ and instead states that the court is to determine and allocate ‘parental responsibility’ and ‘parental decision-making’. This is likely meant to foster a better environment for both parents to have active roles in children’s lives than under the old ‘custodial parent’ and ‘non-custodial parent’ terminology.

2. Locking Pill Bottles

Anyone filling a prescription for an opioid medication will now find that their pill bottle comes with a numerical code lock on the cap (similar to what you would see on a pad lock or bike lock).

3. Laws for Fido

There are several new laws taking effect meant to protect pets from abuse and neglect. It is now illegal to leave pets out in extreme weather and there are harsher penalties for those found guilty of abusing a pet in front of children. (Senate Bill 125 and House Bill 3231). Relatedly, another law now makes it legal for children and disabled adults who are victims of sexual abuse to have their service dog sit with them when testifying in court. (Senate Bill 1389)

4. Police tactics and body cams

Senate Bill 1304 prohibits police from using certain chokeholds and requires more training for police officers. It also establishes guidelines for the use of body cameras.

5. Pumpkin pie

The Illinois legislature may not have gotten a budget done yet but they did find time to make pumpkin pie the official state pie. (House Bill 208)

6. Immunity for underage drinkers calling 911

Anyone who calls 911 for someone needing medical help will not have to worry about facing prosecution if they were drinking underage.

7. Foreign Weeds

The Exotic Weed Act has been modified to now include a restriction on the buying, selling, or planting of bush honeysuckle, olive, salt cedar, poison hemlock, oriental bittersweet, teasel, knotweed, and giant hogweed. So, if you love any of those weeds, you’d better get them in the ground before January 1.

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