Can an Illinois Judge Refuse to Grant Me a Divorce?

divorce, Wheaton divorce lawyerNobody wants to be trapped in a failed marriage. Depending on where you live, however, getting a divorce may not be so easy. Consider a recent story from the United Kingdom where a 66-year-old woman is fighting in an appeals court to obtain a divorce. The woman previously told a family court judge in England that she has been “desperately unhappy in her marriage for many years” and there was “no prospect of reconciliation” with her estranged husband.

Despite that, the judge refused to grant a divorce, dismissing the wife’s misery as routine complaints “of the kind to be expected in a marriage.” If the appeals court does not reverse the family judge’s decision, the wife will have to live separate from her husband for a period of at least five years before she can finally receive a divorce.

Illinois Is a Pure “No-Fault” State

Could a similar scenario play out in Illinois? Not under current law. Illinois, like England and many parts of the United States, traditionally maintained a “fault-based” divorce system, where one spouse was required to prove some sort of misconduct by the other spouse. For example, Illinois previously recognized adultery, alcohol abuse, physical or mental cruelty, or one spouse’s conviction on felony charges as grounds for seeking a divorce.

However, Illinois lawmakers decided to abandon fault-based divorce as of January 2016. Under current law, all divorces are considered “no-fault.” This means an Illinois court is required to grant a divorce if certain conditions are met, regardless of whether either spouse committed any misconduct against the other.

In legal terms, a no-fault divorce means the parties have decided to end their marriage due to “irreconcilable differences” that have led “the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” To meet this requirement, in most cases, the spouses may provide testimony that the marriage is beyond repair and that future attempts to reconcile would not be worth the effort.

If there is disagreement between the spouses regarding the status of the marriage, the law provides an alternative for proving irreconcilable differences. To do so, the estranged spouses must live “separate and apart” for a period of at least six months prior to the entry of a divorce judgment. Such a separation creates an “irrebuttable presumption” of irreconcilable differences.

Divorce Can Be Resolved Amicably

Just because Illinois divorce is no-fault does not mean all divorces are without controversy. Before making a divorce final, a court must still ensure certain other issues are resolved, including child custody, spousal support, and the division of marital property. This process need not involve litigation. A passionate DuPage County collaborative law attorney can advise you regarding methods of alternative dispute resolution. In many cases, mediation or collaborative law can help parties reach a mutually beneficial settlement privately and without extensive court proceedings. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation with an attorney who can help explain your options.



When Will an Illinois Court Modify a Parenting Plan?

parenting, Wheaton family law attorneyDetermining parental responsibilities (previously referred to as child custody) is often the most contentious issue in an Illinois divorce. It is common practice for a court to award one parent primary residential responsibilities while requiring consultation with the other parent over major decisions affecting the child’s living arrangements, health care, education, and other matters. In many cases, the court will also direct each parent not to disparage the other to the children or take any action designed to interfere with their respective parent-child relationships.

Mother Loses Custody Due to False Allegations, Refusal to Seek Therapy

This is important because the court may reconsider and alter custody arrangements if one parent actively tries to undermine the other. In extreme cases, the court may transfer sole decision-making authority from one parent to the other. A recent case from Cook County illustrates the type of circumstances where this can happen.

The case in question involves a divorced couple with three minor children. The mother filed for divorce in 2008, and, in 2010, the court awarded her sole custody with scheduled parenting time for the father. The father also retained the right to attend certain educational and medical events involving the children.

About two years later, the father filed a petition to change the original order asking for sole custody on his part. He cited the “increasingly bizarre and erratic behavior” of his ex-wife and what he described as her “relentless campaign to alienate the children from him.” Notably, the mother “made multiple false allegations of abuse against him,” which led to law enforcement investigations that were ultimately closed as “unfounded.”

The father also presented evidence that all three children suffered from “emotional problems,” which led one child to be removed from school. The court ordered family therapy in which the mother refused to participate. A court-appointed psychiatrist later told the court that the mother “has not done a good job in regard to being the sole decision maker for the children” and noted her ongoing resistance to addressing the “mental health concerns of the children.”

The judge ultimately granted the father’s petition for sole custody. The court found the father had proved “changed circumstances” warranting an alteration of child custody arrangements. The “strongest factor” according to the judge, was the mother’s “failure, unwillingness or inability” to promote a good relationship between the children and their father. The mother appealed the judge’s ruling, but the Illinois First District Appellate Court affirmed the decision to award the father sole custody.

Work Within the System, Not Against It

The key takeaway from this case is the importance of following court orders. You may be dissatisfied with a judge’s ruling regarding your rights as a parent, but the answer is not to try to ignore or get around the decision. Doing so will only hurt your own credibility with the court and, as the case above illustrates, may lead to an even more unfavorable decision down the road.

The best way to address your concerns about parental responsibilities is to work with an experienced DuPage County family law attorney who can help you work within the system to achieve the best outcome for you and your children. Contact one of our three convenient offices today to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.



Can You Blame Social Media for Your Divorce?

social media, Wheaton divorce attorneyThanks to social media and a host of smartphone apps, it is now possible to essentially track your every movement throughout the day. This can be a dangerous thing, especially if you are in the midst of a divorce. Information gleaned from a Twitter or Facebook account—or even location data from a partner’s mobile device—can be used as evidence against you in court.

French Lawsuit Says Uber App Bug Caused Spouse to Suspect Cheating

Many people enjoy a false sense of privacy when they use a social media account or app. They assume that just because they use a password to log in, that means their data is hidden from a spouse or any other party. That is not always the case. Virtually all software contains bugs that may be exploited, and, in some cases, a person’s unfamiliarity with the software may lead to the accidental disclosure of potentially damaging information.

To what extent are the software providers themselves liable for failing to protect a user’s identity? A European court may soon offer an answer. A French man recently sued Uber, the San Francisco-based developers of a popular ride-sharing app for smartphones, for causing his divorce. According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, the man alleges a “technical flaw” in Uber’s iOS app allowed his wife to receive notifications of his trips and related details on her phone. He claims his wife used the Uber data leaks to track his movements, which ultimately led her to suspect infidelity and prompted the couple’s eventual divorce.

The man apparently used his wife’s phone to log into his own Uber account. When he logged out, he assumed she would not be able to see his data. According to his lawsuit, however, such was not the case. Le Figaro confirmed through its own testing that it was possible for one iPhone to “remotely” receive data from an Uber account accessed from another device without knowing the user’s password. Uber has since corrected the flaw, which did not affect Android-based devices.

Protecting Your Digital Assets

Of course, it should go without saying that if you are trying to sneak around without your spouse finding out, using her phone in the first place is probably a mistake. You never know what kind of digital “footprints” are left on your spouse’s device or how that information could be used against you in a subsequent divorce case.

More importantly, you need to make sure your own electronic devices are secured from a spouse’s potential snooping. Here are a few basic tips for practicing good “digital hygiene”:

  • Change all of your important passwords, including the login for your computer and any separate financial accounts. Also, make sure the new passwords are not easily guessed. Do not use your children’s names, for example;
  • Encrypt all of your devices. This is a simple thing that many people never bother to do. All modern operating systems—Windows, macOS, Android, Linux, etc.—make it possible to encrypt data. This means if you lose the device or someone (your ex-spouse) tries to access the data contained without knowing your password, all they will find is scrambled bits of gibberish; and
  • Use two-factor authentication where possible. Many email and online apps, such as Gmail, provide an additional layer of protection beyond a simple password. With two-factor authentication, if a person tries to login to your account from somewhere other than a device you have authorized, you will receive a notification.

If you have any questions regarding electronic devices, social media, and divorce and would like to speak with a qualified DuPage County family law attorney, contact one of our three convenient offices today to schedule a consultation.