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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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How to Successfully Co-Parent After a Contentious DivorceRarely do couples walk away from their spouse without some conflict arising in the divorce process. For some, the property division process can reveal hidden assets or greedy intentions that you never experienced with your spouse throughout your marriage. For parents, deciding their future parental arrangements can bring out an ugly side of them. You may argue over who will be the primary parent, what legal rights you each have, or how often each parent will spend time with the kids. Whether you deliberate over every little detail or have one, large argument that damages your relationship further, it can be difficult to move forward as co-parents. With a combination of good communication and self-recognition, you and your co-parent can begin to transform your damaged romantic past into a well-working, co-parenting relationship.

Self Responsibility

As silly as it may sound, taking good care of yourself – mentally, physically, and emotionally – can in turn improve the way that you treat others. It is important to recognize your successes and faults from your marriage so that you can make progress moving forward. Many divorcees will continue to blame their ex for the breakdown of their marriage and age-old arguments will never be left in the past. If you do not take the time to heal or work on yourself, your past can continue to damage your future relationship with your former spouse. 

Focus on Common Goals

The reason that you and your spouse filed for divorce was a lack of romantic or lifestyle compatibility, not your inability to care for your kids. Even if you still see and do things differently in the parenting department, recognizing that you have a common goal – your child’s happiness – can help bring you back to the real purpose of your continued relationship. If you both acknowledge that your child is your priority, this can help mitigate any other disagreements that you may have about how to raise your child.

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What Happens to the House During an Illinois Divorce?Looking back on your life with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it can be emotional to imagine the big steps that you have taken together — buying your first home, moving in together, and making memories under its roof. For many, homes can be a symbol of love, family, and security. For those considering divorce, their home can still represent all of these things, which makes it difficult to determine what you should do with it. Is one of you adamant about keeping the home or are you both looking for a fresh start? Depending on you and your spouse’s circumstances, there are a number of options available to you during the asset division process.

Equitable Division

Illinois is an equitable division state when it comes to marital property division. In other words, you and your spouse’s belongings will be divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. A number of factors, such as each spouse’s income and savings, will be considered when determining who gets what. For most couples, their home is their largest asset, making it a prized possession during asset division. Couples involved in a collaborative divorce can determine how they would like things to be handled, while those involved in litigation will have a judge make this decision for them. Regardless, there are a few common options available if your intention is to keep the house and not sell it.

Divide the Large Assets

For couples that have a number of large assets, such as a vacation home, expensive cars, or a large stock portfolio, they may decide to allot certain assets to each other. One spouse gets the marital home, while the other gets the vacation home. Since one spouse is typically more inclined to keep the marital home than the other, this can often be an easy decision to make. If you and your spouse have kids, the custodial parent will usually stay in the home with their kids, while the other parent finds a new place to live.

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What Unique Issues Do LGBTQ Couples Face in Divorce?In June 2015, history was made as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples in every state had the legal right to marry. Illinois had already legalized same-sex marriage the year before. Despite only gaining the legal right less than a decade ago, many LGBTQ couples considered themselves married, or life partners, long before Illinois passed its legislation. A lack of legal recognition may not have kept same-sex couples from being together, but it did prevent them from having the legal rights given to married couples. The legalization of same-sex marriage, unfortunately, did not remove all discrepancies that exist between heterosexual spouses and same-sex spouses. If you are a member of the LGBTQ community and wish to file for divorce, there are a few unique circumstances that you may experience. 

The Length of the Marriage

Many LGBTQ couples have been together for much longer than their marriage certificate says. Couples who have been together for decades, but only legally married for the past five years, may have difficulties during the asset division process and alimony determination. Illinois is an equitable division state, meaning that property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. External factors will be taken into consideration when determining who gets what. For couples who have been together for decades but have legal recognition of the marriage for only the past few years, property that they purchased together before getting legally married may not be considered marital property. Similar discrepancies exist when determining who will pay spousal maintenance. The number of years that you are legally married plays a significant role in how much is paid and how long the payments will last. Without proof of your decades-long relationship, you may have difficulties obtaining proper maintenance amounts.

Parenting Determinations

Divorcing parents will have to spend time formulating a parenting plan, determining who the primary caregiver will be, and deciding how much child support will be paid. If you and your spouse are involved in a collaborative divorce, then you may be able to make these decisions between each other. However, if you are seeking divorce litigation, the judge will make decisions about your allocation of parental responsibilities. Depending on who the biological parent is, they may be granted primary parenting time with the child simply based on their biological connection, not their parenting skills. If you are not the biological parent and never formally adopted your child, the judge can make the decision to grant your co-parent full parental responsibility and give you very few legal rights as a parent.

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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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