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DuPage County remote court appearancesThe world as we knew it has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes how domestic relations court proceedings are being handled. After initially halting court proceedings in March and April of 2020, courts in most counties in the state of Illinois have now mastered dealing with the pandemic restrictions and have implemented remote procedures, including those for statuses, pre-trials, settlement conferences, temporary hearings, prove-ups, and even multi-day evidentiary trials.

In some ways, the pandemic has made the domestic relations process easier for families. For example, litigants do not have to deal with the hassle of driving to court, parking, going through security, or finding the right courtroom. Instead, litigants can attend court from the comfort of their own home or office. For example, in DuPage County, the court currently allows individuals who have entered into a complete agreement with their spouse to get divorced without ever having to come to court at all.  Instead, they can simply submit affidavits to the court along with their proposed agreements.  

However, when a case is contested and parties are unable to resolve their differences amicably, there is still a need for regular and sometimes frequent court appearances.  Since courts have moved to largely a remotely operated system, it’s important to understand the rules and expectations of the process.  Almost every county in Illinois is operating using the Zoom video platform. To be prepared, you should have this downloaded onto your computer or phone well in advance of your scheduled court date. It is also important to become familiar with the Zoom platform beforehand.  In particular, become familiar with the video and audio settings, so that you are comfortable using it and the Judge and attorneys can see and hear you when your case is called. This will save a significant amount of time. To obtain the zoom login information for your case, visit the county clerk of court website.

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Wheaton attorney for divorce interest

Interest on Divorce Judgments

The question of whether interest applies within the context of a domestic relations proceedings depends on the nature of the obligation—whether it be child support, maintenance, or a property obligation. The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure provides that judgments recovered in any court shall draw interest at the rate of nine percent per annum from the date of the judgment until satisfied. But does this apply to your divorce decree?

Interest on Child Support and Maintenance

While it wasn’t always the case, in 2000, Illinois clarified its legislation by requiring mandatory statutory interest on all missed child support payments. Specifically, the law states that a support obligation, or any portion of a support obligation, which becomes due and remains unpaid at the end of each month, shall accrue simple interest. Later, in 2006, this same principle became the law  for maintenance as well. The law provides that any maintenance obligation including any unallocated maintenance and child support obligation, or any portion of any support obligation, that becomes due and remains unpaid shall accrue simple interest. In other words, 9% interest is mandatory for unpaid child support and/or maintenance obligations.

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Wheaton divorce lawyerStarting on January 1, 2015, the Illinois maintenance statute changed to provide a formula that calculates a party’s maintenance obligation to the other party in a divorce.  The change was meant to provide more certainty with respect to how much maintenance someone will be paying and for how long. However, one thing that did not change the fact that maintenance will not be awarded and can be terminated if the party receiving maintenance “cohabits with another person on a resident, continuing conjugal basis.” 750 ILCS 5/510. What does that mean you ask? The answer is not as straightforward as you might imagine and can lead to uncertain results.

Assume John married Annie in 2008 and recently decided that he wants to get a divorce because he believes that Annie has taken up with a lover in the past couple of months. On November 1, 2014, she moved out of the marital residence and into the home of her long-time friend, Al. However, before she left, she asked John if he would help her get her own apartment to live in while the divorce was pending. John refused to give her a dime and she has nowhere else to go.  John believes that Annie may be having an affair with Al because he saw a picture of him kissing her on the cheek on Facebook and he’s always suspected that she had feelings for him. Annie, however, denies that she is in a romantic relationship with Al, has only lived in his house for about a month, spends a few nights each week with Al, sleeps in a separate room than Al, does not contribute to bills, and does not have any joint accounts with him.  Annie has, however, gone on a weekend trip to Lake Geneva with Al, and has spent Thanksgiving with him. With these set of facts, would Annie be entitled to maintenance from John?

Under Illinois law, before awarding a party maintenance in divorce proceedings, the court must consider factors listed in Section 504 Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act providing for initial maintenance awards in addition to those listed in Section 510, providing for modification and termination of maintenance awards. This means that even if you are still married if you believe your spouse may have moved in with a significant other, you should tell your attorney so that they can determine whether a basis to negate any maintenance award exists.  After an initial maintenance award is made, however, the court will then consider only the factors listed in Section 510 to determine whether the award should terminate.

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