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What's New in 2015?

Happy New Year from Parker & Parker! Every year a host of new laws become effective - 220 this year, to be exact. Here's a few in areas that we know well.

ADOPTION

The Illinois Adoption Act has added a provision that allows adult grandchildren of an adopted or surrendered person access to original birth certificates, adoption registries and appointments with confidential mediators when the birth and adoptive families have both registered with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange. We originally wrote about this HERE (Click) as an anticipated change, which now has occurred. Additionally, the General Assembly has expanded the definition of what constitutes a "related" to include families related by a civil union, step-grandparents, and second cousins.

On the federal level the Accuracy for Adoptees Act requires federal agencies to recognize amended birth dates as issued by state courts. Before this law, when an adopted child was given an inaccurate birth date (e.g. from missing records), families could change state documents (birth certificates) but not federal documents such as passports.

International adoptions declined 18 percent from 8,668 to 7,092 adoptions. China led with 2,306 adoptions. The drop signals a change in policy from many countries. Around the world in intercountry adoptions, changes in country policies include:

  • Vietnam now allows US citizens to adopt special needs children, sibling groups, and children aged 5 or older.
  • India now accepts 50 registrations a month from non-resident Indians (NRIs) and Overseas Citizens of India to adopt non-special needs children. There is no limit to adopting special needs children.
  • Russia continues to ban adoption to the US.
  • South Korean adoptions dropped dramatically (80% drop) as they attempt to focus on increasing domestic adoptions internally.
  • Congo continues to halt exit visas for children, stalling many waiting people.
  • Colombia now prohibits non-Colombians from adopting children younger than 7.

DIVORCE

Maintenance or what once was known as "alimony" also undergoes a major changes. Previously, an award of maintenance was completely within a judge's discretion in both the amount of the maintenance award and the duration. The new law contains a formula to determine the amount and duration of maintenance when the combined incomes of the parties is under $250,000.00. We've previously written extensively on this new law and you can find out more HERE.

CRIMINAL

One piece of big news: police departments can no longer maintain ticket quotas. If you do get ticket, they can't take your license anymore. On the local level, records may now be sealed when a person received court supervision or a conviction for a municipal ordinance violation. Good news for many minors: juvenile arrest records will automatically be expunged when the minor had been arrested and no delinquency petition was filed, the minor has attained the age of 18 years, and if at least six months has passed without an additional arrest. Underage drinking continues to be an issue for both parents and their children. The General Assembly has now expanded the law that makes it illegal for parents or guardians to allow underage drinking at their residence or other private property, vehicles, trailers, mobile homes, campers, and watercraft.

We previously wrote HERE that wiretapping/eavesdropping laws in Illinois were overturned. That has now changed too: the state legislature created a new law that relaxes the rules but still puts some restrictions back in place. Public conversations and those conversations in which there is "no reasonable expectation of privacy" can be recorded. However, if you record a private conversation, such as one occurring in someone's house, without their consent, then you again would be breaking the law.

NURSING HOME/ELDER LAW

Hopefully it will be easier for folks living in nursing homes or other long term care facilities to make complaints with the overhaul of Older Adult Services Act. The amended law now provides that a nursing home or other long term care facility must permit a representative of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program to communicate privately and without restriction with any participant who consents to the communication whether or not a legal guardian or an agent named in a power of attorney agrees. Also, each Regional Ombudsman may establish a multi-disciplinary team to act in an advisory role for the purpose of providing professional knowledge and expertise in handling complex abuse, neglect, and advocacy issues involving people who live in nursing homes or other long term care facilities.

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