In this article...
We explain whether you have to attend court in order to get a #divorce in Illinois. We explain the differences between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce as well as when court attendance is required in each circumstance.
Going through a divorce is not easy; it can be a very emotional and stressful time for all involved. The prospect of attending court for hearings throughout the process can make it even more stressful and nerve-wracking. For most court appearances, both parties appear by the representation of their lawyers – meaning they do not have to be personally present.
No two divorces are the same, however. Specific instances may require both spouses to appear at hearings throughout the divorce process. In this article, we will look at examples where both spouses do not have to attend court appearances and instances where both must be present. Often, this is determined by whether a divorce is uncontested or contested.
Spousal Attendance in an Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on the terms of the divorce via a marital settlement agreement. This includes matters such as property being divided, whether any financial support will be granted to either spouse, and any child custody issues.
For an uncontested divorce to be finalized, the spouse who petitioned for divorce by filing with the county court must appear at the final hearing. The other spouse is not required to attend as long as they have signed all the necessary documents regarding the marital settlement agreement.
The petitioner, or plaintiff, is required to testify as to the identity of both parties, as well as the terms of the settlement. The spouse’s lawyer may ask the spouse questions to acknowledge they fully understand the terms of the settlement. The defendant’s attorney will also be present and verify the agreement with the judge.
Once the judge is satisfied, they will sign the divorce judgment indicating the divorce has been made final. This hearing usually lasts between five and ten minutes.
For a more in depth look at uncontested divorce read our article, Illinois Uncontested Divorce Explained.
Spousal Attendance in a Contested Divorce
Unfortunately, marital settlement agreements are not always reached easily. When this is the case, both spouses may need to be present at special hearings called “pre-trials” along with their lawyers. These are typically informal and require both attorneys to present their client’s side of the argument. A judge then provides both attorneys with a non-binding opinion on how to proceed, which is then reported back to the spouses.
Both spouses must be present for this (although they may not have to be in the room with the lawyers and judge) because a resolution on an issue could be made. The amount of time spent at these pre-trials depends on much is disputed within the agreement.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a final divorce hearing will be held in which both spouses must be present. A judge will hear all evidence and arguments and decide on all issues. Both parties must abide by the judge’s final decision.
To answer the initial question: you may not have to attend court to get a divorce in Illinois. If you’re the one who petitioned for the divorce, you would have to appear at the final hearing. You would have to stand up and testify, but your lawyer would ensure you’re well prepared for what you’re answering.
If the goal is a quick and efficient divorce in which you don’t have to attend court, the best approach is to agree on terms of a marital settlement agreement promptly and before the final hearing.
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