We are reviewing the provisions included in a family law bill that is making its way through the Illinois General Assembly right now. The bill, HB 1452, is the product of four years of research by the Family Law Study Committee. The group met with child advocates, family law practitioners, family law judges and the public to weed out the outdated portions of current law and to craft new language that more accurately reflects how the courts and families operate now.
Apparently Otto von Bismarck never actually said, "Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made." Whoever did say it first certainly had it right, though. Just ask the committee that has been studying Illinois' family laws for the past four years.
The Illinois Senate will vote today, Valentine's Day, on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, if everything goes as planned. Before the bill becomes law, of course, the House must pass it and the governor must sign it. Thirty days after that signing, all state laws regarding marriage will apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Steven Watkins Memorial Act into law in August, giving Watkins' family a victory in a hard-fought legislative battle. The law gives family court judges the power to revoke the driver's license of a custodial parent if that parent refuses to allow court-ordered visits of the children and the noncustodial parent.
As Illinois nears the end of the first year of the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, the General Assembly is gearing up for a debate about same-sex marriage. Civil unions may grant same-sex couples many of the same rights and responsibilities that a married couple has -- including the right to divorce -- but, for proponents, it is not marriage. This is not the only state dealing with the issue, either.
A recent article about the changing attitudes toward permanent alimony highlighted one state legislature's brewing battle over doing away with it altogether. Alimony -- more commonly termed "spousal maintenance" now -- won't disappear, but the idea of permanent maintenance will. A handful of states have taken up the cause. Illinois law allows permanent maintenance, if the court determines the award is just.
As his parents continue their struggle for visitation with his 4-year-old son, a bill bearing Steven Watkins' name is making its way through the Illinois General Assembly. Watkins was murdered in 2008 when he went to pick up his son for a court-ordered visitation. This bill would allow the court to suspend the driver's license of a person like Watkins' wife who fails to comply with a visitation order.