Illinois Default Divorce Judgments

divorce-default-judgmentWhen someone files a petition for a divorce, known as dissolution of marriage, the petitioner (the one who filed first) has to make sure the other spouse is legally served with the paperwork. Once the spouse has been served, they have a limited time to respond. Failing to respond on time could mean the court enters a default judgment. In a default judgment, the court finds the respondent failed to file on time and that the petitioner is given what they asked for in his or her divorce petition.

Filing a Response and Asking for an Extension

Because it takes time to find a lawyer and sometimes the facts are complicated, it is possible to ask for an extension to respond to a divorce petition. The key is communication. Lawyers often ask for, and receive, extensions from the other side.

The problem comes if the respondent just ignores the paperwork or never received the papers for some reason. This will usually cause the plaintiff to ask for a default judgment.

Consequences of a Default

When a default judgment is entered, it is a final judgment. The divorce case is over and the petitioner usually gets whatever they asked for in the petition, with some exceptions. This can lead to garnishments for child and spousal support, liens against property, and a host of other actions that can ruin your finances.

What to Do If a Default Was Entered against You

If a default divorce judgment was entered against you, time is of the essence. The faster you can take action the better. If the judgment is less than 30 days old, you can ask the court to reconsider the judgment. You usually need a reasonable explanation as to why you failed to respond.

Some possible reasons for failing to respond are:

  • You never received notice of the divorce;
  • You were on active duty in the military;
  • You had a health emergency; or
  • You had a personal or family emergency.

If it has been more than 30 days since the judgment was entered, you will need to file a motion to vacate the judgment. This is more difficult to win. You must have a strong reason why you did not take action sooner. As a practical matter, the judge may require additional proof of your excuse beyond just filing an affidavit.

If you have been served divorce papers, contact a knowledgeable and experienced Hinsdale divorce attorney today. The longer you wait, the more difficult and expensive your case may be. Call right away to schedule a consultation.


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