On July 21, 2015, Governor Rauner signed into law an overhaul of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and related family law Acts, effective January 1, 2016 (P.A. 99-0090).

For school districts, the most significant changes are (1) the abolition of the terms “custody” and “visitation” and imposition of the terms “parental responsibility” and “parenting time,” and (2) that parents must file with the court a proposed parenting plan or the court will impose one after an evidentiary hearing.

The parenting plan must allocate significant decision-making responsibilities and each parent’s right to access the child’s school records. The Act provides that access to a child’s records shall not be denied to a parent because the parent has not been allocated parental responsibility and that a parent not allocated parenting time is not entitled to access the child’s school or health care records unless a court finds that it is in the child’s best interests to provide those records to the parent.

The Illinois School Student Records Act (ISSRA) has long guided the process for access to a student’s records by, among other things, his or her custodial and noncustodial parents. P.A. 99-0090 did not amend ISSRA, and it is not immediately clear whether the provisions of the new law changes a noncustodial parent’s ability to access their student’s records.

As school districts regularly confront difficult issues regarding divorced or divorcing parents, including records access issues, please contact Laura Pavlik or Heather Brickman with your records access inquiries.