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"I am going to court in a few days to get my divorce finalized. I am represented by an attorney. What should I expect when I go into court before the judge?"
If you were the one that initially filed for an uncontested divorce, your attorney will ask you a series of questions in order to “prove up” the terms of your divorce agreement. If your husband was the one that filed then the judge will ask some initial questions.
For the moment, let’s assume that you have filed for divorce and have hired an attorney but your husband has not. When you go into the courtroom your attorney will approach the judge and introduce themselves, state that they are representing you, and explain to the judge that your husband is representing himself without an attorney.
Next your attorney will lay out the “grounds” of the divorce. Most often this will be “irreconcilable differences” but many other grounds for divorce exist under Illinois law. When you file for divorce the court will not enter a final divorce order unless you and your husband have been living separate and apart for more than two years. If you have not been living apart for your husband for the required amount of time, you and he will have to sign a form agreeing to waive the two year separation requirement before the court will enter a final divorce order.
General Information for the Court
Once these grounds have been established the judge will swear both you and your husband in as witnesses and proceed with testimony. If you were the one that filed for divorce your attorney will begin to ask you a series of questions in order to establish your residence within the state, your employment status, the date of your marriage and where it was registered, and other procedural matters.
If you have children your attorney will ask you whether you have entered into a Joint Parenting Agreement with your husband. He or she will ask whether you are a fit and proper parent to share joint child custody with your husband. Your attorney will then show you the Joint Parenting Agreement and ask you to identify your and your husband’s signatures on the document. By answering these questions you are establishing that you agree that you and your husband will share joint custody of your child or children.
If you and your husband have previously entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement your attorney will ask you about this as well. He or she will ask you to identify your and your husband’s signatures on the document and whether you believe this agreement to be a fair one.
Many Marital Settlement Agreements contain maintenance waiver provisions. If your agreement contains such a provision your attorney will ask you about this as well. He or she will ask if you understand that you are agreeing to not seek maintenance from your husband, and if your husband has agreed to not seek maintenance from you your attorney will ask you about this as well. By agreeing to waive maintenance this means that you cannot later go back and ask the court to order your husband to pay you maintenance.
Unresolved Issues in Divorce
If there are any issues that were particularly contentious but eventually resolved during your divorce, and incorporated into your Marital Settlement Agreement, your attorney will likely ask you about these issues as well. Typically these issues will regard the cost of uncovered medical expenses for you or your children, sharing the cost of college contribution for the children, and the division of specific items of personal or real property.
Lastly, your attorney will ask you if you are satisfied with the terms of the agreement and whether you wish to be bound by the agreement. If you answer affirmatively your divorce agreement will essentially be finalized and you will not be able to go back and change the agreement. So be careful and think honestly before responding.
Important Tip: Be sure completely read your Joint Parenting Agreement and Marital Settlement Agreement before you come to curt. If not, read them at court completely before your case is called. If you have any questions, ask them now.
If you finalize the divorce and you did not understand any provision in your agreements you will be bound to that provision anyway. You must follow the language in your written agreements. It will be no excuse later that your lawyer or your spouses lawyer put a paragraph or sentence in the agreement that you did not fully understand or without your consent or knowledge. Likewise, you cannot later claim you did not know that a provision was left out of these agreements. If you agree to be bound by the agreement your attorney will present the Joint Parenting Agreement and Marital Settlement Agreement to the judge and offer them into evidence.
Finishing Up the Process
At this point the judge will take over and begin asking your husband a similar, if not identical, set of questions that your attorney asked you. Once this is complete the judge will make his or her final findings and your attorney should ask that the judgment be entered immediately. Once the judgment has been entered you and your husband will be divorced.
If you are filing for a contested or uncontested divorce in Illinois, contact a qualified Hinsdale divorce attorney today.