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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article explains what happens when a divorce goes to trial in Illinois, including: “when does an Illinois divorce go to trial?” and “how does a divorce trial work in Illinois?”

When Does a Divorce Case Go to Trial? 

To begin, even in a divorce that does settle outside of court, one or both parties may still need to make various court appearances. Although these things occur in a courtroom, they are not an official trial. To learn more about what happens at these court appearances and when they are required, check out our previous article, Illinois Uncontested Divorce Explained.

A trial only becomes necessary when issues such as spousal maintenance, allocation of parenting time and responsibility, asset division, or child support cannot be resolved through a marital settlement agreement or joint parenting agreement by the parties and their lawyers. The purpose of a divorce trial is for the court to decide any issues the parties cannot agree on. 

How Does a Divorce Trial Work? 

Unlike many civil trials, juries are not used for divorce trials. The judge is the decision-maker. Witnesses may be called by each side. However, often the parties’ own testimony and documentary evidence will be the only evidence presented.

Between the date that the divorce petition is filed and the official trial start date, attorneys and each party will be gathering facts that will be relevant in court. This is often done through written discovery and depositions. There will also be a pretrial meeting, which the lawyers will attend, in which the facts of the case are presented to the judge, and each side’s position is explained. At this meeting, the judge may try to persuade one side or the other to take a particular settlement based on what the judge’s decision in court is likely to be. Right before the trial starts, some judges will give lawyers the opportunity to work out a last-minute settlement.

Other than the absence of a jury, a divorce trial operates very similarly to how a civil trial: each attorney gives an opening statement, testimony, and documentary evidence is presented to the court by the parties, and if witnesses are called, they can be cross-examined by the other attorney. Depending on the complexity of the issues involved, divorce trials can take multiple days to be completed.

Once the judge has made a final decision, if you are unhappy with the settlement, you can appeal the decision to the appropriate appellate court. The appellate court does not hear any new evidence. It will simply receive the paperwork from the trial and review it along with a written brief stating the argument of each party.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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