Insights from the Bench: Divorce Court
by Elizabeth K. Flood, Kane County, Illinois, Circuit Court Judge
If you're embarking down the heavy road of divorce, it's important to manage expectations and know exactly what you can, and what you cannot, anticipate from lawyers, the judge presiding over your case, and your spouse.
Here are 10 insights to consider when entering into divorce court:
1. Divorce court still requires some formal procedure; courts cannot address issues or make rulings unless the issues are set forth in a written motion with notice given to all parties.
2. Generally, judges cannot change the past. Illinois law requires judges to allocate and assign assets and debts which exist at the time a divorce judgment enters and to determine issues relating to financial support and children going forward.
3. Courts have the authority to try to change people’s behavior, but a court order will not change who they are.
4. In Illinois, the only basis for divorce is “irreconcilable differences”. That means the causes of the divorce do not affect a court’s financial decisions or determinations relating to parenting unless they affect the best interest of the children.
5. Just because you disagree with your spouse’s parenting style, that does not mean your children will not spend time with him or her. Generally, a restriction of parenting time is not warranted unless there is a showing there is mental or physical harm. Additionally, the fact that you don’t get along with your spouse does not mean he or she cannot be a good parent.
6. Modern parenting schedules are more creative than ever: do not expect that your spouse will only see the children on alternate weekends.
7. If you have children, you and your spouse will, at a minimum, need to communicate about schedules and budgets until the children have completed college. Working to maintain a civil relationship will help you and your children for years to come.
8. Divorce is a major life change. However, other major life changes such as health issues, changes in employment, and responding to the needs and wants of children at different stages would occur even if you had stayed together. You cannot expect that life will always continue as it was at the time of or before your divorce.
9. The process will proceed faster if you have access to all of your financial information.
It is rarely possible to live as efficiently in two households as one. If one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent, he or she may likely have to return to the workforce in some capacity.
10. Divorce will cause change in budgets, schedules, and time spent with your children. The more forgiving and flexible you can be, the easier it will be for everyone. Your children want you to be happy.
One of the most important things to remember is: the more unreasonable you are, the more expensive and drawn-out the process will be. Fighting in court, calls to attorneys and hiring guardians to investigate parenting complaints all take time and money.
You are ultimately in charge of your case, not your attorney. It is up to you to decide what makes sense for you and your family, even if your attorney recommends further litigation.
About the author:
Judge Elizabeth Flood was appointed Associate Judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit in 2013, and was recently appointed by unanimous vote of the Illinois Supreme Court as a Circuit Judge in Kane County. As a judge, she has presided over traffic, criminal, and civil matters, and has been assigned to the Family Division since 2016. Judge Flood has been highly rated by the Kane County and Illinois State Bar Associations. She also frequently spends time outside of the courtroom speaking in schools about internet safety and giving presentations about the role of the judiciary to community groups.
Elizabeth began her law career in 1995 with the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office as a criminal prosecutor. During her 8 years in the criminal division, Elizabeth prosecuted in every criminal courtroom, including traffic, misdemeanor, D.U.I., and felonies.
Elizabeth then transferred to the Kane County State’s Attorney’s civil division, where she represented county officials and employees in state and federal courts in cases involving election law, employment law, personal injury, property damage, and federal civil rights litigation. She was able to argue before the Illinois Second District Appellate Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Elizabeth currently lives in Saint Charles, Illinois, with her husband of 24 years and daughters, ages 12 and 15. When not in court, Elizabeth enjoys running, yoga, traveling and exploring the outdoors with her family.