A divorce can occur for many reasons, and domestic violence is one of the most serious issues that may lead to the end of a marriage. This type of abuse can take many forms, including harassment, stalking, and electronic monitoring. Stalking is often thought of as the act of physically following someone, and it is not uncommon for an abusive spouse to continue to stalk his or her partner even if one party has moved out of the marital home they once shared together. In today’s online world, a person can also stalk or harass someone electronically via computers or phones. Electronic monitoring refers to videotaping or tracking an individual’s movements without consent by placing video cameras or audio recording devices in his or her home. Fortunately, there are actions victims of this kind of harassment can take to protect themselves and punish their stalkers.
Stalking is often defined as the act or crime of willfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person with the intent of causing anxiety, fear, or harm to that individual. It is important to note that a person can be charged with stalking someone if he or she remains outside of that individual’s home for more than 10 minutes at a time or for more than 30 minutes total in a 24-hour timeframe for a minimum of five times.
Stalking does not only occur face-to-face, but it can also occur electronically via text messages, over the phone, or on the Internet. In 2019, Illinois updated the stalking and harassment laws in the state to officially include digital and social media. This is often referred to as “cyberstalking.”
In the state of Illinois, stalking is considered a Class 4 felony. This type of offense can include any of the following actions or behaviors:
Knowingly engaging in conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or suffer other emotional distress.
Knowingly and without legal justification following a person on at least two separate occasions and threatening or placing the victim in reasonable apprehension of harm.
Aggravated stalking is stalking while also causing bodily harm, confining or restraining the victim, or violating a court order or injunction.
Penalties for Stalking
In Illinois, a Class 4 felony for stalking is punishable by one to three years imprisonment and fines of up to $25,000. Second or subsequent offenses are Class 3 felonies that carry punishments of two to five years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. Aggravated stalking is also classified as a Class 3 felony.
In instances where a spouse is in fear of his or her ex during a divorce, he or she can request an order of protection from the court. These restraining or no-contact orders can restrict the stalker from contacting his or her spouse in person or electronically, and it can also order him or her to stay a specified distance away. If a person violates a protective order, they may be charged with aggravated stalking.
If someone is the victim of stalking, he or she should document or keep track of the instances of harassment. Taking screenshots of threatening social media posts, texts, or email messages is a good form of documentation. This can be helpful in providing evidence to a judge when seeking an order of protection. It can also benefit the victim when it comes to the court making decisions about parental responsibility or parenting time if children are involved.
Contact a Cook County Divorce Attorney
Stalking is a form of harassment, and unfortunately, it happens during many divorces. If you fear for your safety or that of your child due to the actions of your former partner, it is important to know that you have legal options. The law firm of Wakenight & Associates, P.C. has years of experience handling complex divorce and family law cases. Our compassionate Oak Park stalking and harassment lawyers will ensure you are protected during the legal proceedings to finalize your divorce. We have more than 95 years of combined experience, and we can help you secure a safe future for yourself and your family members. To schedule your free consultation, call our office today at 708-848-3159.