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Will County family law attorneysUnder any circumstances, divorced parents may find it challenging to share parenting time in a way that meets the children’s needs, fosters a strong relationship between the children and both parents, and minimizes co-parenting conflicts. Over the course of the past year, the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have only further complicated these issues. Whether you are already divorced or you are going through a divorce now, an experienced attorney can help you handle parenting time to account for the current situation.

How Has COVID-19 Affected Parenting Time in Illinois?

The pandemic has brought about many changes to our way of life in Illinois and throughout the United States. Some of the changes that can directly affect divorced or divorcing parents include:

  • Family health concerns - Many parents are concerned about the spread of the virus when children transition between households, especially if each parent has a different perspective on upholding health precautions. Parents who are at risk of severe complications from the virus, or who live with grandparents and other older relatives, may be especially worried.
  • Changing work schedules - The increased prevalence of working from home means that many parents are sharing close quarters with their children during the day and trying to balance the responsibilities of work and parenting. Alternatively, health care employees and other essential workers may find themselves working greater or irregular hours, which can detract from their scheduled parenting time.
  • Remote learning - Whether a child’s school is closed for in-person learning or parents have chosen to keep their children at home, parents now often find themselves responsible for ensuring that their children are staying on task and keeping up with their education, and for ensuring that their children have the space and materials to learn effectively.
  • Travel limitations - Parents who rely on public transportation to exchange their children between households may be exposed to greater risk of contracting the virus. Additionally, parents who live across state lines may find themselves subject to restrictions on interstate travel, making it difficult to regularly exchange their children.

Adapting to Changing Realities

With all of these new challenges in mind, it is important for parents to take extra care when creating a parenting plan, or when carrying out the terms of an existing plan. Parenting plans may need to be adapted based on a parent’s work schedule, or to allow for the children to have a dedicated space for at-home learning. Parents may also need to be flexible and consider options including virtual parenting time via phone or video chat, or rearranging schedules to make up for missed parenting time due to an unexpected circumstance.

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What Can I Do If I Am Facing Domestic Abuse During the Illinois Stay-at-Home Order?Unfortunately, a high number of Americans are victims of abuse in their own homes. No spouse, significant other, family member, or child should be subjected to domestic violence, yet many struggle to survive at home. Recognizing this domestic violence epidemic is especially relevant during these unprecedented times. With Illinois stay-at-home orders still in place, many domestic violence victims are finding themselves unable to escape their perpetrators. Luckily, the state of Illinois has taken action to help those who find themselves in these unfortunate situations.

Support During COVID-19

Since March, Illinoisians have been asked to remain within their homes to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. While this allows some people a chance to spend much needed time with family members, those in abusive living conditions no longer have the time or space to get away from their abuser. Illinois has recognized this apparent issue and addressed domestic violence survivors in the details of its stay-at-home order. Illinois was one of the 17 states that listed domestic violence survivors and those seeking physical safety as exempt from the stay-at-home order. The state even went so far as to list domestic violence shelters and employees as essential businesses and workers.

Obtaining an Order of Protection in Will County

Another issue that many victims have seen in these past few months is courts closing or restricting their case numbers. Many of these courts closed their doors until the beginning of June, Will County included. This presented a problem for those looking to file for an order of protection during those early weeks of the pandemic. This problem has since been mitigated as the Will County court system reopened on June 1. Though still restricting the number of cases allowed in court, Will County courts are hearing most of their family law cases through virtual means. However, domestic abuse cases may be deemed necessary to be seen in the courthouse due to the severity and urgency of the situation. This is under the discretion of the judge, but regardless, Orders of protection can be filed during the pandemic. If your case does happen in person, the following precautions have been put in place:

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Will COVID-19 Force Me to Leave the U.S. If I Am an International Student?The insurgence of COVID-19 throughout the world has left many universities unsure of how to proceed for the upcoming fall semester. This past spring semester, many colleges went fully online after it became clear that COVID-19 was highly contagious and no vaccine was on the horizon. Things have not cleared up as much as expected since then. As higher education institutions begin to roll out their plans for the upcoming school year, the eligibility of international students may be on the line. Recent guidelines set in place by the Trump administration will leave many international student visas invalid, forcing them to return home.

Do I Have to Return Home?

In early July, the Trump administration announced its new policy for international students in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many universities are turning to an all-online platform for the upcoming fall semester, there were questions about whether international students who rely on visas could live in the U.S. while taking these online classes. Every college’s fall plan differs as they decide what is best for their institution, professors, and students. Some universities will have a hybrid course system where select courses are offered in-person while others are offered online. Other universities are not offering any in-person courses to avoid possible exposure and contagion on campuses across the country. 

Originally, the Trump administration had banned all international students from remaining in the U.S. if they were taking only online courses. These regulations placed universities in a difficult spot, having to choose between offering in-person courses and placing their professors and students at risk of contracting COVID-19 or losing thousands of dollars in student tuition as many international students return home. Displacing these international students also could have increased the risk of contagious students returning to their home countries and further spreading COVID-19.

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