As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to disrupt life in Illinois in ways that few residents could have imagined just a few months ago, some experts are predicting a sharp rise in the number of divorces. From financial stress to the stresses of being confined together for a prolonged period of time, there are a number of factors that experts say are likely to trigger a wave of divorce filings once the courts reopen.
#10 Considerations for Seeking a Divorce During the Covid-19 Crisis
If you are contemplating a divorce during the COVID-19 crisis, what do you need to know? Can you file for divorce? Regardless, what steps can you be taking now to prepare? Here is some key considerations from Gurnee, and Lake County, IL family law attorney Deanna J. Bowen:
#1 Law Firms are Still Open During the COVID-19 Crisis
First, many law firms are still open during the COVID-19 crisis, including ours. While Illinois’s stay-at-home order is forcing many businesses to keep their doors closed, law firms that are capable of having their attorneys work remotely are permitted to do so. We are continuing to serve our existing clients remotely, and we are able to conduct confidential initial consultations with new clients by phone and online via Zoom, Skype, and other apps.
#2 The Illinois Courts are in the Beginning Phases of Reopening
On May 20, 2020, the Supreme Court of Illinois issued an order that authorized state court judges, “to develop plans for resumption of court operations in their circuits.” To this end, the Supreme Court is, “continu[ing] to promote the use of remote hearings where appropriate.” When the courts will resume hearing new cases, what those hearings will look like, and which circuit courts will reopen first remains to be seen. But, the good news is that provisions are being made to move forward, and this means that divorce cases will get back on track eventually.
#3 Much of Your Divorce Can Be Handled Outside of the Courts
Importantly, while the Illinois courts may still be largely closed, this does not necessarily mean that your divorce has to wait. In fact, there are many aspects of your divorce that can proceed without court involvement. You can begin taking steps to prepare (more on this below), you can meet with a divorce attorney, and you and your spouse may even be able to begin working toward settling the terms of your divorce.
#4 There are Steps You Can Take to Begin Preparing at Home
If you are ready to begin moving forward, there are steps you can take to prepare for your divorce at home. We recently published a five-part checklist that you can use to begin gathering information and thinking through the issues that you will need to address during the divorce process. We encourage you to use this checklist to start preparing, and we also encourage you to schedule a free initial consultation to walk through everything you need to know.
#5 You and Your Spouse Will Each Need Private Space
If you will be handling certain aspects of your divorce remotely, you and your spouse will each need your own private space to consult with your respective attorneys in confidence. If you are residing separately then this obviously is not an issue; but, if you are living together then you will need to find a way that you can respect one another’s privacy and proceed with the divorce process in good faith.
#6 If You are Out of Work, You May Be Entitled to Temporary Alimony
If you are out of work due to Illinois’ stay-at-home order, you may be able to secure temporary alimony during your divorce. This is alimony that is awarded during the divorce process, and the payor’s obligation ends once the divorce becomes final. The fact that the courts are still largely closed presents certain challenges; but, if you will need financial support during your divorce, this is something that you absolutely can – and should – discuss with your attorney.
#7 You May Need to Get in Line to Finalize Your Divorce
It is not yet clear how the Illinois courts will prioritize cases, including but not limited to divorces, once they reopen. What is clear, however, is that there is going to be a significant backlog. As a result, with regard to finalizing your divorce in court, you may need to get in line. This means that it may be in your best interests to start the process sooner rather than later even though the courts are still largely closed; and, again, this is a consideration that you can discuss with your divorce attorney.
#8 It is Important to Make Decisions with a Long-Term Perspective
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to focus on the present in many respects; but, when it comes to your divorce, it is important that you still make decisions from a long-term perspective. Once your divorce is over, the outcome will generally be final (modification of divorce decrees is only permitted for limited purposes under limited circumstances), and you will need to live with the terms of your divorce for years to come.
#9 All of the Usual Considerations Still Apply
In this same vein, while we are living in very unusual times, all of the basic principles of getting a divorce still apply. This means that you still need to deal with property division and alimony; and, if you have children, you must still address child support and parenting time. For more information on each of these aspects of your divorce, you can read:
#10 You Need to Do What is Best for You and Your Children
Finally, when it comes to making decisions about your divorce, you need to do what is best for you and your children. There are many factors involved, but these are ultimately what is most important. So, learn as much as you can, schedule an initial consultation with an attorney, and make sure you are confident that you are seeking the best outcome possible.
Request a Free Consultation with a Lake County & Gurnee, IL Divorce Lawyer
If you would like to speak with a divorce lawyer about starting the process, we encourage you to get in touch. To request a free initial consultation with Gurnee and Lake County divorce attorney Deanna J. Bowen, please call 847-623-4002 or contact us online today.