Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C.

Family Law in the Face of COVID-19

Court Closures

The public health precautions instituted in response to the Coronavirus pandemic have led to the reduction or closure of various business and governmental operations. In Illinois, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an order that spelled out temporary procedures for legal proceedings, including Domestic Relations cases.

Court hearings in the Domestic Relations Division are canceled and continued until May 15. However, this does not mean that all proceedings cannot be heard by the courts. Emergency matters may be heard by way of remote court appearance. Pre-trial settlement conferences and prove-up hearings for divorce cases may also be conducted in remote appearances.

Additionally, proposed agreed orders can be emailed to the Clerk’s Office for judicial approval. Upon approval, the Clerk will email the approved order to the parties.

Parenting Time & Parental Responsibilities

Despite restrictions on social contact and travel, parenting time and parental responsibility orders —also known as child custody and visitation—remain in effect. Furthermore, Illinois courts will continue to accept filings for motions regarding parenting time and parental decision making.

The preservation of parenting time and decision making arrangements is vital for families during this time of crisis. As a result of the mandatory health precautions implemented to slow the progression of the Coronavirus, children are staying at home from school, and many parents may be working remotely.

In light of these unique circumstances, it is essential for parents to make an extra effort at communicating with each other to help ensure their children’s best interests are protected. To promote the best interests of their children, parents should exercise greater effort in complying with custody orders. At the same time, children would significantly benefit if their parents exercised of understanding and compassion under these unusual circumstances.

Child Support & Spousal Support

The impact that these extraordinary COVID-19 precautions have had on the economy and employment is significant. Many businesses have been forced to scale back operations, leading to minimal hours, furloughs, and even layoffs.

As a result, divorced spouses may not have enough money to honor their child support or spousal support obligations, as initially agreed to and ordered by the court. With this in mind, divorced individuals should try and appreciate the hardships their former spouses may be going through.

Ordinarily, an involuntary reduction in income may serve as sufficient grounds for altering the terms of a child support or spousal support order. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, child support and alimony orders may be modified upon a showing that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that justify changing their terms. Given the unprecedented and widespread economic impact of the Coronavirus, persons who owe child or spousal support payments may be justified in seeking a reduection in the amount they pay, commensurate with any lost income they have suffered as a consequence of recent COVID-19 policies.

Mediations

When it comes to ongoing family law matters, Illinois courts have recognized the importance that mediation plays in helping the parties resolve their legal dispute. As a result, the parties may conduct mediation proceedings remotely in light of the reduction in court services.

Temporary Restraining Orders

As mentioned above, the Illinois Supreme Court has provided that emergency proceedings may be conducted remotely. This includes temporary restraining orders concerning domestic violence. Persons who are suffering at the hands of an abusive spouse should not have to choose between escaping such abuse and preserving their health and that of the public. Thus, persons seeking legal relief for domestic violence should rest assured knowing that they can still avail themselves of the justice system for their protection or that of another household member.

You Can Rely on the Dedicated Attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C.

We understand that people generally do not look forward to legal disputes. However, we deeply appreciate the need to count on a justice system to resolve important legal matters that arise under Illinois family law. That is why you can count on the legal team at the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. for continued legal advice and advocacy during these trying times. We can conduct phone or video chat consultations to help ensure you and your family’s legal interests are preserved.

For a free phone or video consultation, please call our firm at (312) 487-2795 or contact our office online today.

Categories