Amidst the reopening of the state, it is easy to adopt a mindset of a return to “normal” or “business as usual.”Illinois is entering Phase 5 of its reopening plan and life is starting to look very similar to a time before COVID-19. Vaccines are readily available with many individuals being fully vaccinated, mask mandates are being treated with increasing leniency or lifted in their entirety, and capacity limitations are no longer. Important for those facing divorce proceedings, the courthouses are opening and meetings with lawyers aren’t limited to Zoom or phone calls. On the surface, life is returning to normal.

Below the surface, the unknown and long-term effects of COVID-19 are lurking. The harsh reality of the post-COVID world is we do not know how far the effects will reach or how exactly they will continue to impact divorce proceedings. An obvious example of how COVID has impacted divorce proceedings is found in the courts.  Courthouses had to convert to fully virtual operations with little to no warning, cases were delayed, and on a national scale, divorce rates, in general, have spiked.

Something that gets to the core of many divorce proceedings is the economic impact of COVID-19. The economy was deeply impacted by COVID and the recovery will not be as quick as administering a vaccine or removing a mask. The economy will be in flux for the foreseeable future for a variety of reasons. For many facing divorce, the parties’ finances become a central matter of concern. How deeply the effects of COVID will influence divorce settlements has yet to be seen.

Many people faced job loss or were forced to leave their jobs for reasons such as personal health or staying home with children that had to attend school from home or could no longer go to daycare. The loss of one or even both jobs in a partnership would dramatically affect the financial dynamics between partners. Even in cases where people did not lose their jobs, business owners, for example, the value of the business was likely impacted due to the loss of business or workers during the pandemic.

Divorce settlements are not just based on a snapshot in time of the moment partners decide to divorce—they consider the entirety of a marriage, especially when it comes to financial aspects like the division of the marital estate, spousal support, and payment of attorney’s fees. How much consideration to give to the past year and the unknowns people are facing will be a challenge for many people considering divorce, as well as their lawyers, especially since many lack a clear picture of their economic future. It could be a time to lean into more creative solutions for divorce settlements to ensure the best outcomes for clients.


John M. D’Arco, Partner

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