Protecting Yourself From Domestic Violence During an Illinois Divorce

The decline of a marriage and the divorce which usually follows are times fraught with intense emotions. For most, those intense feelings will at worst manifest themselves as angry words or petty insults. For others, however, the inability of one spouse to control their emotions crosses the line into domestic violence.

While domestic violence is not a problem exclusively directed at women, they are overwhelmingly the victims of abuse and physical violence arising out of marriages and romantic relationships. There is no excuse for it, and it is a serious criminal offense, as it should be.

Whether domestic violence is the cause of or a response to divorce proceedings, victims and potential victims need protection from their abusers. While imperfect, Illinois law provides tools that can help shield spouses and their children from abuse and minimize the potential for future violence.

Orders of Protection: Available for More Than Physical Violence

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act (750 ILCS 60/101, et seq.) was enacted into law in 1986 with the express purpose of, among other things:

“Support[ing] the efforts of victims of domestic violence to avoid further abuse by promptly entering and diligently enforcing court orders which prohibit abuse… so that victims are not trapped in abusive situations by fear of retaliation, loss of a child, financial dependence, or loss of accessible housing or services…”

Under the Act, victims of domestic violence at the hands of their spouse can petition the court for an order of protection. The Act as written defines “violence” expansively; Orders of protection can be obtained against an abuser for transgressions beyond just physical acts. In addition to physical violence, a petition for a protective order can be filed against a spouse who engages in:

  • Harassment, which includes:
    • creating a disturbance at petitioner’s place of employment or school;
    • repeatedly telephoning petitioner’s place of employment, home or residence;
    • repeatedly following petitioner about in a public place or places;
    • repeatedly keeping petitioner under surveillance by remaining present outside his or her home, school, place of employment, vehicle or other place occupied by petitioner or by peering in petitioner’s windows;
    • improperly concealing or threating to kidnap the petitioner’s child;
    • threatening physical force, confinement or restraint on one or more occasions.
  • Intimidation of you or your children
  • “Interference with personal liberty,” which means threats that cause the petitioner to do or not do things he or she otherwise would do

Obtaining an Order of Protection

If you have yet to file for divorce, you can seek an order of protection by filing a petition with the court. If a divorce proceeding is pending, you can file a petition for a protective order in that case before the same judge who is presiding over your divorce. This allows the judge to take the abuser’s actions into consideration for matters beyond just the issuance of a protective order, such as custody, visitation, child support, and property division.

If the judge does enter an order of protection, that order can prohibit the abuser from having any contact with you or your children, restrict their rights to visitation with your children, and place other limitations on their conduct. Any violation of the court’s order can result in fines and jail time and further impact the abuser’s rights in your divorce case.

Additional Resources

Orders of protection can be a powerful deterrent against acts of domestic violence and offer victims a sense of security and peace of mind. Of course, victims should not hesitate to call the police in the event of violence, abuse, or harassment. Additionally, the Illinois Department of Human Services offers a free, confidential, 24-hour Domestic Violence Helpline at 1-877-TO END DV or 1-877-863-6338.

There are also many private organizations in Illinois that provide assistance and support to victims of domestic violence. One such organization is Apna Ghar in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. You can find a list of additional organizations in Chicago and Illinois here.

Louis R. Fine – Trusted Chicago Divorce Attorney

If you are considering divorce and are looking for counsel, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation. When we meet, we can go through all of your questions, and I will be there to listen to you as well as advise you. Together, we will turn the page so you can begin the next chapter of your life with clarity and confidence.