By: Toni Conrad
COVID-19 and the various shelter-in-place orders across the country have led to several unforeseeable consequences, including a rise in domestic violence. While being faced with a pandemic, most everyone these days is under enormous amounts of stress whether it be about getting sick, financial issues due to the pandemic, or dealing with the loss of a loved one. These stressors, along with the shelter-in-place order, have led to an uptick in domestic violence incidents in Illinois.
Oftentimes these added stressors cause abusive environments to flourish as victims of domestic violence are placed in environments with their abusers alone. The situation often worsens when children are involved. Notably, while domestic violence calls are on the rise, reports about abuse to children have dropped. This could be because mandated reporters, such as teachers and social workers, are not seeing kids in school every day to report the abuse. Nevertheless, in Illinois, victims of domestic violence, along with their children, have several legal options.
Many courthouses, including Cook County, have not officially “reopened”. However, all counties in Illinois have policies in place to hear emergency orders of protection. This is covered under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, which defines abuse as “physical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation” 750 ILCS 60/103. Of note is that this Act also covers dependents such as children.
Victims of domestic violence can ask for an Order of Protection on an “ex-parte” basis, which means that they do not have to give the abuser notice of the case. This is especially important for victims of domestic violence who fear that by merely requesting an Order of Protection will be placing themselves in further harms' way. Emergency orders of Protection obtained this way will be in place for 21 days. Victims who wish to obtain a longer order of protection can ask the Court for a plenary order of protection, which lasts up to two years. As stated above, these orders would also cover victims' dependents.
If you or someone you know may be in this situation, it is imperative that you contact an attorney. Attorneys at CTM Legal Group are experienced in handling orders of protection and can guide you through that process or similar family law issues. Feel free to call 312-818-6700 for a free consultation. Additionally, the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline is available for those who cannot afford an attorney by calling 1-877-863-6338.