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August 19, 1999

Child Support Legislation Makes Parents Pay And Puts Kids First

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today signed legislation preserving grandparents' visitation rights and creating an act to make non-payment of support a felony.

"We have the tools to see to it that custodial and non-custodial parents do what's right and take care of their children," Ryan said. "The bills I've signed today will help children financially though child support and emotionally with grandparent visitation. We must do whatever we can to help our kids and to put their emotional and financial needs first."

House Bill 1845 raises the standard of proof for relatives when requesting changes to visitation rights. The bill allows the court to modify an order granting, denying or limiting visitation rights of a grandparent, great-grandparent or sibling of any minor child only when a change of circumstances has occurred. Modifications can be made if the court finds by "clear and convincing evidence" that the modification is in the best interest of the child.

Chief Senate sponsors of House Bill 1845, which takes affect immediately, were Sen. Wendell Jones, R-Palatine, and representatives Tom Cross, R-Yorkville; William Brady, R-Bloomington; Larry Woolard, D-Marion; Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, and Carolyn Krause, R-Mt. Prospect.

When signing Senate Bill 19, Ryan created the Non-Support Punishment Act to join efforts by other states and the federal government making non-support of dependents a felony. This law enhances federal and state law enforcement efforts, and puts more "teeth" in Illinois' child support law by establishing criminal penalties, Ryan explained.

Specifically, Senate Bill 19 sets graduated penalties for failure to support children beginning with a Class A misdemeanor and progressing to a Class 4 felony. Class A misdemeanors include:

  • willful refusal without lawful excuse to support a spouse or minor child; and

  • willful failure to comply with a court or administrative support order where arrearages are greater than $5,000 or payment was delayed more than six months.

    The Class 4 felony charges include:

  • leaving the state with intent to evade paying support under a court order where arrearages are more than $10,000 or payment was delayed more than six months;

  • willful failure to comply with a court order where arrearages are more than $20,000 or payment was delayed more than one year; and

  • second or subsequent offenses.

    In addition, Senate Bill 19 addresses loopholes in current law concerning the suspension of driver's licenses and professional licenses. The court can seek revocation or suspension on driver's licenses, professional licenses, or occupational licenses if the person is convicted of a violation of being more than 60 days behind in support payment. The bill includes additional provisions for prosecution and penalties.

    Senate Bill 19 was sponsored by Sen. Patrick O'Malley, R-Palos Park; Sen. Christine Radogno, R-LaGrange; Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie; Rep. Maggie Crotty, D-Oak Forest; Rep. Lauren Beth Gash, D-Deerfield; Rep. Anne Zickus, R-Palos Hills; and Rep. Bill Mitchell; R-Forsyth. The provisions of the bill amending the Illinois Vehicle code take effect immediately. Other provisions take effect Oct. 1, 1999.

    In other action, Ryan signed Senate Bill 1207 creating a new veteran's home in Illinois, which was recommended by the Aging Veterans Task Force. The state will take over a closed medical facility owned by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and rename it the John Joseph Kelly Veteran's Home. Kelly, of Chicago received two medals of honor during World War II. Ryan said the FY 2000 budget includes $2 million for phasing in a leasing contract with the federal government for long-term care beds.

    The task force was created to study long-term care for veterans because demand for bed space is expected to peak in the next 11 years. Ryan said the Kelly Home is a natural fit because staffing and construction already exist in the area.

    "Veterans from the Chicago area should be within close proximity to family and friends so that they can maintain that personal contact which is so vital at this time in their lives," he added. "But with the current waiting lists at our veterans homes, the needs of these honorable men and women were not being met, until now."

    Sponsors of Senate Bill 1207 were senators Dan Cronin, R-Elmhurst; senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Addison; Sen. Kimberly Lightfoot, D-Chicago; Tom Walsh, R-Westchester; and Sen. Kathleen Parker, R-Northfield. House sponsors were Patricia Bellock, R-Westmont; Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley; and James Meyer, R-Bolingbrook. The bill takes affect immediately.

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