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Do I Have to Attend Court in Order to Get a Divorce in Illinois?

Updated on
October 28, 2019
Article written by
Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Spousal Attendance in an Uncontested Divorce

Going through a divorce is not easy; it can be a very emotional and stressful time for all involved. The prospect of having to attend 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, and 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. A lot of times 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 terms of the divorce via a marital settlement agreement. This includes matters such as property being divided up, 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 he or she has 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, he or she will sign the divorce judgment indicating the divorce has been made final. This hearing usually lasts between five and ten minutes.

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 in nature, 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.

It’s important for both spouses to 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 are unable to 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 will make a decision on all issues. Both parties must abide by the judge’s final decision.

Conclusion

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 make sure you’re well prepared for what you’d be 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.

Do I Have to Attend Court in Order to Get a Divorce in Illinois?
Author

Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

Kevin O’Flaherty is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has experience in litigation, estate planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and comprehensive business representation.

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