Zoom divorces a godsend for some

Chicago’s Melissa Kalil is singing the praises of the technology as the ‘best possible solution for me.’

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Melissa Kalil

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The Zoom of it all.

Last March, a Chicago mother of three named Melissa Kalil ... was divorced online in the midst of the deadly COVID pandemic.

A 10-year marriage was officially dissolved in the blink of technology’s eye.

No hugs. No tears. No observed anger ... because the “room” where it happened only existed online via a computerized video conferencing app called “Zoom.”

Why? Because prior to the COVID shutdown, the final divorce decree — officially known as the “prove up” — would have happened in an actual courtroom with participants present.

“I was stunned how quickly 10 years of marriage could be dissolved in 12 minutes of technology,” said Kalil, who prefers only using her maiden name. “It caught me off guard.”

“Back then, Zoom seemed so cold. So technical,” added Kalil, who writes an online blog about recovery from difficult transitions called “Life In Lilak,” and is in the process of being fully certified as a divorce coach.

“But Zoom got me through what could have been a catastrophe,” she said.

“For a moment in that Zoom room, I suddenly thought if we were in a real courtroom with real human contact, we might not have to go through with the divorce.

“Yet, it didn’t take me very long to figure out how it wound up being the best possible solution for me in so many ways I had not considered. I might have broken down in that courtroom,” said Kalil. “Instead, Iwas in my own home with my parents with the support I needed when it happened.”

Zoom is now a household word, a mediation juggernaut, a place to elope and wed and hopefully not Zoom bomb.

On March 18, 2020, the day after Cook County’s Domestic Relations Court went remote because of the deadly threat of the virus, Presiding Judge Grace Dickler entered an administrative order also allowingthe final hearing in a divorce to be remote rather than to be held in personin a courtroom.

“The data that we were able to obtain from the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office reflects that from April 1, 2020, through June 17, 2021, we conducted 11,500 Zoom divorces,” said Mary Wisniewski, spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Judge of Circuit Court of Cook County.

And it looks like divorce filings are on an upward ladder this year.

“Although filings for divorce dipped a bit in 2020 to 12,170 from 14,009 filings in 2019, the number of divorces filed already in 2021 are up to 8,873 and might be slightly more if it continues at this pace,” she added.

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Lawyer Beth McCormack

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Kalil said she “hadn’t met my divorce attorney or most of my advisory team in person until the divorce was final.” They had become a collection of small blocks of faces on a computer screen.

“But we had already spent a ton of mediation time via computer before the final decree, and it worked; it saved me commuter costs, particularly if you had children ... and I was denied the nightmare described to me by a friend who had met her husband in an elevator just after the decree.

“All the preparation with my lawyer, Beth McCormack, prepared me for the outcome,” said Kalil, who is now “focused on moving on since the divorce.”

McCormack, a family law partner at Beermann LLP, said one of the benefits of Zoom can be minimized emotion.

“Before the pandemic hit, many divorce cases were settled out of court through mediation or with meetings,” she added.

“But the final decree, which was in a courtroom,could be gut wrenching,” she added.

Amen.

Sneedlings . . .

A Kennedy addendum: Many, many thanks to Stephanie Vegliante Photography on dispatching us on deadline the marvelous Hyannis Port wedding photos taken of Erin and Chris Kennedy, son of our town’s Chris and Sheila Kennedy, who raised their kids on Chicago’s North Shore ... Saturday’s birthdays: Mike Trout, 30; Charlize Theron, 46; and Sydney McLaughlin, 22 ... Sunday’s birthdays: Shawn Mendes, 23; Roger Federer, 40; and Anthony Rizzo, 32.

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Chris and Erin Kennedy and Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Provided/Stephanie Vegliante Photography

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