Posted on March 15, 2020

Is My Chicago, Cook County Divorce Or Paternity Case On Hold Because Of The Coronavirus?

The short answer is that, yes, your paternity or Chicago divorce case will be put on hold for 30 days because of the coronavirus.  For more details see below.

On March 13, the chief judge in Cook County Courts, Timothy Evans, issued the following court order because of the coronavirus:

This order is an off-center PDF so google can’t seem to scan it.  Thankfully, Illinois attorney Jack Lehayne typed the order out so we can properly read the order and search for the order online.

This order covers all aspects of one of the biggest court systems in the world, Cook County.  This includes criminal, juvenile, chancery and other civil matters.  You’re here to find out about what will happen to your divorce or parentage action in the coming weeks. So, I have highlighted the parts that are relevant to the domestic relations division where divorce and family law is practiced.

So, without further ado, here is the March 13 order typed in its entirety:

“In light of global coronavirus pandemic, and in order to protect the health and safety of the general public, the court’s judges and employees, and elected officials, after conferring with the offices of the Cook County State’s Attorney, Public Defender, Sheriff, Clerk, County Board President, the Circuit Court Executive Committee, and representatives of the private bar, and pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 21(b) and the court’s inherent authority,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that except as provided below, all matters in all Districts and Divisions of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, are rescheduled and continued for a period of 30 days from the originally scheduled court date, unless the 30th day falls on a weekend, in which case it will be continued until the following business day;

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that except as necessary for the purposes enumerated below, all judges and employees of Circuit Court of Cook County shall be encouraged to work remotely and conduct business telephonically or via videoconference for a period of 30 days from the effective date of this order;

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Sheriff of Cook County shall cease execution of eviction orders relating to residential real estate effective March 14,2020, The Sheriff shall resume execution of said orders in 30 days;

ALL DIVISIONS: Judges will be available in person in each division and department to hear emergency matters
PRETRIAL DIVISION: Bail hearings, including motions to review bail, will be conducted daily at all locations;
a) Preliminary hearings and arraignments that have commenced as of the effective date of this order will proceed as scheduled,
b) court will be in session for plea agreements,
c) Jury trials in progress as of the effective date of this order will proceed as scheduled and juror deliberations in progress as of the effective date of this order will continue until concluded,
JUVENILE JUSTICE DIVISION: Juvenile detention hearings and demands for trial will be conducted daily at 1100 S. Hamilton Ave., Chicago.
CHILD PROTECTION DIVISION: All temporary custody hearings and emergency motions will be heard as scheduled.
CHANCERY DIVISION: There shall be a moratorium on final judgments and executions of judgments in mortgage foreclosure proceedings.
MUNICIPAL DIVISION, ALL DISTRICTS All traffic and misdemeanor cases are continued to the next key date at least 30 days following the originally scheduled court date. The Clerk of the Circuit Court shall provide postcard notice to the defendant.
ADULT PROBATION DEPARTMENT, SOCIAL SERVICE DEPARTMENT, AND JUVENILE JUSTICE AND COURT SERVICES DEPARTMENT: In-person meetings between probation officers and social service caseworkers and the persons under their supervision will be reserved for high-risk clients. For low- and moderate-risk clients, probation officers and social service caseworkers will contact clients to schedule essential meetings to be held via either video or telephone conference.
CIVIL MATTERS IN ALL DIVISIONS: Matters agreed by all parties to be emergencies will be heard and may be conducted either in-person or via video or telephone conference. Discovery in civil matters will continue as scheduled.
EMERGENCY CIVIL ORDERS OF PROTECTION will be heard at 555 W. Harrison St., Chicago, and in Municipal Districts 2,3,5, and 6, and when sought in connection with a Domestic Relations matter, at the Richard J. Daley Center.
MENTAL HEALTH HEARINGS will continue as scheduled.
GRAND JURY: No new grand jury shall be empaneled before May 1,2020. Grand juries whose terms expire on or before March 31, 2020, shall be extended until April 30, 2020.
FILINGS OF INITIAL PLEADINGS OR RESPONSIVE MOTIONS: Initial pleadings or responsive motions may be filed in person or via electronic filing through the Clerk of the Circuit Court.
MANDATORY ARBITRATION: All hearings shall be rescheduled and continued for a period of 30 days from the date originally scheduled.
FORENSIC EXAMINATIONS: All forensic examinations of criminal defendants, both adult and juvenile, shall be rescheduled for a period of 30 days from the originally scheduled date or the date of the order requiring such examination, whichever is later.
OTHER: Non-essential gatherings, meetings, and travel are canceled, and programs including Traffic Safety School and SWAP are entered and continued until rescheduled. No marriages will be performed in Marriage Court during the 30-day period following the effective date of this order.
The Court may issue further Orders regarding this matter as necessary to address the circumstances arising from this pandemic. Further information will be published on the court’s website.

Dated this 13th day of March, 2020, and effective March 17,2020. This Order shall be spread upon the records of this Court and published.”

So, everything is continued for 30 days after March 16.  If you have a court date scheduled for March 17, your new court date is April 16th (30 days later).  If your court date is March 19, your new court date is April 20 (30 days + as many days as it takes to get to the first business day, that Monday, April 20).  This rescheduling system applies to both status dates and previously scheduled hearings.

Judges will be available for emergency motions. We presume that you may get an emergency judge that is not your regular judge.  But, rather a judge who handles all emergencies.

Cook County gave further instructions on their website as to this order.

“For domestic violence matters, petitioners may seek orders of protection during the 30 days. Litigants may also seek an order of protection related to an existing civil domestic relations case (such as dissolution of marriage). Emergency petitions may also be filed in child-support matters.

For the 30-day period, all civil matters not deemed an emergency by party agreement are postponed to a future date. Emergency requests in civil matters will be permitted.”

There is language in the order saying that the emergency hearings may be done by phone or video-conference. Many emergency motions have a quasi-criminal element to them. I don’t know how you can do an emergency hearing by video without violating the 6th amendments “right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”  But, if it’s just for a temporary restraining order about something financial, video conferencing is probably fine.

Not everything is on hold. You can still file for divorce during this period.  You are still required to answer all pleadings during this period per statute or per previous order.  You are still required to perform discovery as previously scheduled or per the local and state supreme court rules.

In the wake of this pandemic you may want to your end-of-life directives and specifically your short form power of attorney for health care…otherwise your soon-to-be ex-spouse will have control of your health care if, God forbid, you are no longer fully conscious.

Crises like this corona virus pandemic bring out the best and the worst in people.  I wish you all well and hope that you only see the best.  If you need to talk to a Chicago divorce attorney during this time about how it can or will affect your family law matter, I will be at home by my phone.

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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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