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Illinois Divorce Lawyer: New Laws that affect Family Law Cases

Below is a synopsis of two new bills signed into law that affect Family Law practice.  HB4121 sets a minimum standard for GALs in terms of their obligation to interview the parents and the children.  Now, most of us would agree that a period of 90 days is too long, and that most competent GALs make a practice of meeting with the parents and children within days or weeks of the appointment of the GAL.  This legislation may be addressing a concern that some GALs ( and I have seen this in operation) can be quite dilitory about their work, and some simply do not accept that the role of a GAl involves competence and diligence.  In most cases, judges and lawyers know who the good GALs are, and those appointments are often made with this understanding in mind. However, there are cases that involve GALs who do competent work, but may not visit with the children as often as they might, and this issue then becomes an area for criticism when the case goes to trial. HB4121 sets a minimum standard, to which GALs either conform, or risk some sanction for failing to do so.

HB2741 is an important change. The IMDMA was amended in 2016 to allow the Court to appoint a clinician to perform therapy in a family law case, with certain underlying findings being made. The hitch has been for a few years that the therapy process and feedback from the clinicians was barred insofar as communication with a GAL was concerned. In my view, this placed the process of therapy into a difficult position where children were concerned, insofar as the GAL has a statutory duty to investigate all aspects of the child’s life to determine the custodial best interests of the child. Now, with this amendment, the GAL may do his/her work to the fullest extent by allowing the feedback from the clinician so long as the HIPAA and Illinois Mental Health Act provisions are followed.

House Bill 4121
(West, D-Rockford) requires any individual serving in the role of guardian ad litem or child representative to meet with both parties and the child every 90 days. Provides that the first meeting shall occur within 90 days of appointment and a meeting shall occur in every subsequent 90-day period until the conclusion of the case. Requires the GAL or child representative to file with the court, within 90 days of his or her appointment and once in every subsequent 90-day period during the course of his or her representation, a document confirming that the GAL or child representative has met with both parties. House Bill 4121 was just introduced. (ISBA e-clips)

IMDMA counseling cleanup
House Bill 2741
(Ness, D-Carpentersville; Hastings, D-Frankfort) amends the unintended consequences of Section 607.6(d) of the IMDMA. As currently written, it bars all information from therapy getting out. All information. Even if the court orders a guardian to talk to a therapist, the guardian and information are barred regardless of whether the parties sign releases. House Bill 2741 deletes subparagraph (d) and provides that the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act and the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 protect the confidentiality and release of this kind of information. The Governor signed House Bill 2741 into law on Aug. 13, 2021 and it took effect immediately. (ISBA e-clips)

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