Posted on March 31, 2020

Are Chicago Courts Still Open During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

The simple answer is yes, the Chicago courts are still open during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. But, there is much more to it or we wouldn’t be writing this article. Chicago divorce courts fall under “Civil” courts category. As you would see in our previous article, “Is My Chicago, Cook County Divorce Or Paternity Case On Hold Because Of The Coronavirus?, Chicago and Cook County courts were open but operating in very limited capacity until April 15, 2020. They were set to resume normal business and operations starting April 16, 2020.

On March 30, 2020, Chief Judge of Cook County, Timothy Evans, issued an administrative order that extends this through the middle of May, now continuing until May 18, 2020. The Order reads, in part, that “except as provided below, all matters in all Districts and Divisions of the court are rescheduled and continued for a period of 30 days from the originally scheduled court date or a date not more than 30 days after May 18, 2020, whichever is later, unless the 30th day falls on a weekend or court holiday, in which case it shall be continued until the following business day.”

The natural question becomes, what happens to my case? Depending on the posture (or circumstances) of your case right now, different things may happen. Given this extended closure, the Court has begun implementing a variety of electronic and virtual systems to ensure that cases are still moving along. There are now provisions for virtual court appearances, virtual hearings, virtual prove-ups, and remote entry of Agreed Orders. This allows us to continue practicing law and minimize the disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet ensure that we are practicing social distancing and following the Governor’s stay home mandate.

For purposes of your Chicago divorce, please note that a) judges will be available in person in each division and district to hear emergency matters, as determined by the Presiding Judge of the respective division or district; and b) no later than April 16, 2020, except as otherwise ordered by the assigned judge, to the extent it is reasonably possible, all hearings shall be conducted by videoconferencing, so that the only persons physically in the courtroom are those persons essential to activities that require that person to be in the courtroom; at the discretion of the judge presiding, if it is not reasonably possible to conduct a hearing or by videoconference, it may be conducted by teleconference.

In part to combat the closure and to minimize disruption, the Domestic Relations Division of Cook County has enacted several additional administrative orders to streamline litigation to the extent possible. To that effect, the following are the most important rules/procedures to be mindful of:

  1. Mediation and Parenting Classes: GAO 2015 D 2 is amended temporarily to allow all parents to complete required parenting courses through Children in Between Online. In person Family mediation services are suspended and will be conducted by phone. Children and Teens Speak suspended. All matters continued for 30 days except those listed in the order.
  2. Orders of Protection: Any emergency or Interim Orders of Protection that are set to return and/or expire on 3.17.2020 through and including 4.15.2020 are rescheduled. Rescheduled dates are already set and displayed in the order.
  3. Emergency Motions: Emergency pleadings or motions pursuant to Cook County Rule 13.4(a)(ii) shall be emailed to by 4:00 p.m. the evening before the motion is to be presented unless it is an overnight emergency. Parties are to notify opposing parties and/or counsel by carbon copying them to the email. The Emergency Judge will determine whether a prima facie case of an emergency has been shown. Then staff will send email notification of that determination with instructions by 8:30 a.m. If a prima facie case of an emergency is NOT shown, the court will either: (1) deny the pleading or motion as a non-emergency; or (2) deny the same as a non-emergency and refer the case to an approved mediator for maximum two-hour remote conference at no cost. If the parties reach an agreement with help from the mediator, parties may submit the proposed order pursuant to GAO 2020 D4. Parties are free to refile the matter to be heard when regular scheduling resumes. If a prima facie case is shown, the court will either: (1) enter an ex parte order; (2) all Respondent to respond; (3) conduct a telephonic or Zoom hearing; or (4) as a last resort, have the parties appear for a hearing.
  4. Agreed Orders: Agreed Temporary Orders must be submitted to the Court for entry via email by either party with all counsel of record or parties included as recipients: Upon Court approval, the Agree Temporary Order will be distributed to all counsel of record. The Court may decline to enter an agreed temporary order, but will promptly communicate the reasons for declining.
  5. Parenting Time: A parenting order includes any temporary order allocating parenting time, any allocation judgment, and any joint parenting agreement. The parties regular parenting time schedule shall govern for determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court ordered parenting time schedule. Possession and access shall not be affected by school closure due to COVID-19, which is not considered “a day off from school” Parties shall continue following parenting time schedules. But nothing prevents parties from altering a possession schedule by agreement if allowed by court order.

These are some general and important rules and procedures that Chicago divorce courts have implemented. This applies not only in Chicago, but in the majority of Cook County, Illinois.

Different counties, however, have their own applicable rules and procedures, and you should be mindful in looking at the rules pertaining to your jurisdiction before determining what applies to you.

This are not the full extent of the new orders. There are additional procedures that provide for oral prove ups electronically, entry of final orders, and what happens to cases involving the State’s Attorney, plenary orders of protection, special process servers and temporary restraining orders.

Please contact us if you want additional information or would like to discuss your ongoing Cook County divorce or parentage case.

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Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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