In this article, we explain what to expect from a divorce prove-up in Illinois. We answer the questions:
A “prove-up” is a term used to refer to the final hearing regarding a divorce proceeding. In order to have a “prove-up hearing,” both parties must agree upon the terms of the divorce, including the division of assets and allocation of parenting time. If the parties do not agree on a settlement, the case will proceed to trial for final judgement, and a prove-up hearing will not be necessary.
Be it through settlement or by trial, a divorce cannot be finalized without approval from the court. If a judge finds a settlement agreement to be incomplete or unconscionable (meaning one-sided or unfair), the settlement agreement can be rejected for further modification. You should consult with an attorney before scheduling a prove-up hearing to ensure your settlement will be upheld by the court, avoiding unnecessary court fees.
The prove-up itself is a short hearing, lasting anywhere from 5-30 minutes. The amount of time a prove-up takes can vary widely from case to case. There are other extraneous factors to consider as well, such as all parties arriving on-time and whether or not the court is running on schedule. It could be 1-2 hours from the moment you set foot in the courthouse until you are able to leave, so be sure to plan accordingly.
In the state of Illinois, the petitioner (person who first filed for divorce) is always required to attend the prove-up. In most cases, attendance of the respondent (person whom was served divorce papers) is optional, though recommended. Laws can vary from county to county, so make sure you know whether or not your presence is required. If you are being represented by an attorney, each party’s counselor will also attend the prove-up. You can bring witnesses to the prove-up, as it takes place in open court, but it is more common for the parties and their legal representatives to be the only people in attendance.
The petitioner is the only person required to attend the prove-up hearing. If the respondent cannot be reached or refuses to attend, your case can still move forward as long as an effort was made in good faith to notify the respondent of the date, time and location of the prove-up. This is known as a “default prove-up,” as opposed to an “uncontested prove-up,” with both parties agreeing to the terms of their settlement prior to the hearing.
The petitioner and respondent (if present) will testify before a judge, acknowledging that each party agrees to the terms of the settlement, has not been coerced, and that the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage is deemed fair and accepted by the state.
After being sworn in, the petitioner will go first. The petitioner’s attorney will ask a few standard questions which, apart from their name, can typically be answered with a “yes” or “no.” The questions being asked essentially summarize the terms of your settlement for the judge. Then, the respondent will follow the same process. The judge may ask a few follow-up questions, but this is not always the case. Once the judge is satisfied, your decree will be signed then and there, and you will officially be divorced. Your attorney will likely brief you on the content of the questions right before your prove-up. None of the questions are meant to put you on the spot or be surprising in any way.
After the prove-up, if both parties are present, it is likely you will both sign the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. If the respondent is not present, your divorce will still be official at the end of the proceedings. Typically, your attorney will tie up any loose ends you may have after the prove-up, such as setting up a withholding of income for child support and/or maintenance. It may take a few days to receive all of the paperwork, but after your prove-up hearing, your divorce will be concluded.