233 W. Wilson Street, Batavia, IL, 60510

Can I Still File for Divorce in Kane County Amidst COVID-19?With COVID-19 and social distancing orders still duly present throughout the U.S., especially in Illinois, many families have spent months together in close-quarters. For some, this time in quarantine has brought spouses and their children closer than ever. For others, the time together has only reaffirmed their thoughts of filing for divorce. Because the pandemic came on so suddenly, with businesses closing their doors at a moment’s notice, those who were considering divorce or were even in the middle of divorce proceedings may have had to put their plans on hold for the past few months.

Luckily, attorneys were deemed essential workers and many law firms remained open, either physically or virtually, to continue working with clients. Courthouses, including Kane County courts, closed for a period of time to protect their employees and avoid infecting those coming in and out of the courthouse for their legal proceedings. As Illinois public health orders have progressed from one phase to the next, the Kane County courthouses have reopened at limited capacity.

Reopening Plan

The 16th Judicial Circuit, also known as the Kane County court system, announced its first phase of reopening on June 1, 2020. Though the court reopened on that date, all jury trials were suspended until August 3, 2020. This date has now come and gone, but most family court cases are continuing to happen on a remote basis. These remote proceedings are occurring over Zoom, with each spouse’s attorney present and a judge logged in as well. Common divorce proceedings and parenting determinations are being performed over Zoom, but more contentious proceedings, such as domestic violence cases, may be brought back to the courtroom.

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I Have Just Been Granted Supervised Visitation – What Now?In most divorce and parenting cases, the court wants to keep both parents in the child’s life. What this looks like, exactly, varies from family to family. For parents who both have played an integral role in the child’s upbringing, the court will attempt to split parenting time equitably, though not necessarily equally. Most arrangements will have one parent keep the children throughout the week, with the other parent caring for the kids over the weekend. However, some families do not have healthy enough relationships to have this type of parenting plan. In the instance that a child’s safety is at risk, the court will need to reconsider what these parenting plans will look like. Depending on the details of the situation, the court may grant supervised visitation in order to keep the parent-child relationship alive while protecting the child from potential harm.

Reasons for Supervised Visitation

For parents with a history of neglect and abuse, the court will advocate for the child by not letting them be alone with the parent. Unfortunately, these accusations are not always true — it is not unheard of for one parent to make false claims about the other to restrict their parenting rights. Courts will grant supervised visitation to watch the relationship between the parent and child and assess the child’s safety with the parent. The following are reasons why someone may be subject to supervised visitation with their child:

  • Fear of the parent kidnapping their child from their co-parent
  • Accusations or evidence of physical or emotional abuse
  • A history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Previous inappropriate sexual behavior
  • A mental illness diagnosis
  • Claims that the child feels unsafe when they are alone with the parent
  • Incarceration of the non-custodial parent

How to Handle the Supervision

If you have recently been restricted to supervised visitation with your child, your instinct is likely to fight for you and your child’s rights to be together. While this may seem like an admirable response, it can be taken in the wrong way by the court. The best way to earn your way back into your child’s life, unsupervised, is by respecting the regulations of your current arrangement and working to keep your relationship with your child. It is important that you understand that all of your conversations and interactions with your kids are being recorded throughout your visit — any slip-up can be used against you. It is a good idea to plan activities for your time together since it can be awkward to have a genuine interaction while a third party is present. Having a plan can distract you from the stranger in the room and will also show that you care for your child and your time together. Be sure to monitor your tone and language throughout the visit. You should avoid talking about your former spouse and using crude language. You want to appear to be a good influence for your child, rather than a bitter ex. For your own personal sanity, it may be a good idea to find a friend who you can vent to or even speak with a counselor or other mental health specialist. If you do not take the time to process the arrangement and your feelings about it, you may end up boiling over during your supervised visit.

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Is Filing for Divorce Right for Me?Recognizing that your marriage may be coming to an end can take you months, if not years, to put into words. You have likely felt your relationship deteriorating over time but have not been ready to accept that ending the marriage may be what is best for you and your spouse. Before filing for divorce, many couples will live apart to gauge their feelings towards their spouse and their life together. In fact, Illinois may require you to live separately for six months before you are legally able to divorce if your spouse does not agree to the divorce. With the thought of divorce swirling in your head, you are likely having a number of feelings come over you all at once — remembering the good times you have had together, but feeling unsure if this outweighs your current discontent. Every marriage is different and there is no “right” or “wrong” answer, but divorce experts have recognized a few common signs that may point towards a need for divorce.

Everything Falls on You

Marriage is a partnership that requires patience and an ability to compromise. When arguments come up, do you feel as if the blame is always on you? In many cases, one spouse can feel forced to compromise during every disagreement, and after years of blame, their marriage will feel less like a partnership and more one-sided. If your partner makes you feel as if everything is your fault and fails to listen to your ideas or opinions, your unhappiness is likely stemming from this imbalance and it may be a sign that the relationship is no longer right for you.

You Are Tired of Fighting

It is normal and healthy for couples to argue because two people cannot agree on everything. However, when arguments are a daily occurrence and you are no longer interested in fixing the problem, you have likely detached yourself from the relationship. Couples who are willing to seek out additional support to better themselves and their marriage are actively working on improving their future. Those who are uninterested in putting in the additional effort should reconsider their feelings about their life moving forward.

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What Can You Do If Your Co-Parent Violates Your Parenting Plan?A parenting plan created during a divorce is more than a simple agreement between two parents. It is a legally binding document that outlines how parenting time with the children will be divided and who has the right to make decisions about the children. A parent who ignores the terms of the agreement is violating a contract and could be held legally responsible for their actions. How should you respond to a violation of your parenting plan? Should you immediately take your co-parent to court after they break your agreement? Filing a court order is usually not the first step you should take when dealing with a violation.

How Might Your Co-Parent Violate Your Plan?

The first thing that comes to mind with a parenting plan violation is not following your parenting schedule. Your co-parent may be late in dropping off the children or coming to pick them up, which throws off your schedule. However, they could also violate the agreement by making a decision without consulting you first or not following your agreed-upon rules for raising the children, as long as those rules are explicitly stated in the plan.

Communication First

You should give your co-parent a chance to explain themselves after the first time they break your parenting agreement. There may have been circumstances that were beyond their control or a misunderstanding about the parenting plan. After repeated violations, you need to have a serious conversation about your parenting arrangement. It could be that:

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Preserving Your Retirement Benefits During Your DivorceDivorce has a way of affecting every aspect of your life – including your retirement plans. Getting a divorce can deplete your retirement savings, disrupt your scheduled contributions, and throw off your planned retirement age. Those who are most affected are people going through a grey divorce, which is when people age 50 and older divorce after several years of marriage. A person in their 50s has less time to adjust their plans before they retire. No matter your age, divorce does not have to decimate your retirement plan if you are prepared during your negotiations:

  1. Prioritize Retirement Benefits: The value of your retirement account is marital property that you include in the division of assets. In order to keep valuable property, such as your marital home, you could agree to give up a portion of your retirement benefits or forgo your claim to your spouse’s benefits. Making this deal may be short-sighted because you are depleting your retirement plan and paying for maintenance and property taxes on the home. It may make more sense to downsize your home and preserve your retirement benefits.
  2. Review Your Budget: Your individual expenses can increase after divorce because you no longer have two incomes to pay for everything. Some divorcees are also responsible for child support or spousal maintenance payments. One option to free up more income for immediate expenses is to decrease your regular contributions to your retirement plan. You should take a close look at your budget to determine how much money you need – including for your retirement – and conduct your divorce negotiations with that target amount in mind.
  3. Claim Your Share: Some people have not put much effort into their own retirement plans because they intend to live off of their spouse’s retirement benefits. You are still entitled to a share of your spouse’s retirement after your divorce, especially if you were married for a long time. You can receive Social Security benefits valued at half of your spouse’s benefits, as long as the benefits you would receive on your own are less than that amount. You can file a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to receive a portion of your spouse’s retirement plan. Payment can be delayed until you have reached retirement age.

Contact a Kane County Divorce Lawyer

Your retirement benefits may be one of the most important properties that you decide on during your divorce. A Batavia, Illinois, divorce attorney at Van Larson Law, P.C., understands that it is vital to include your retirement plans as part of your divorce. Schedule a free consultation by calling 630-879-9090.

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