You have made it to the finish line of the Chicago divorce process! Whether you have been enduring a divorce for years or months, finally knowing that settlement is reached and finalized, all your I’s are dotted and your T’s crossed, is likely bringing you some much needed relief at the end of an undoubtedly bumpy ride; your prove up is finally scheduled with the Judge, which is the term widely used for the day of a divorce. Now that you have a signed Marital Settlement Agreement outlining the allocation of assets, debts, maintenance, insurance, attorneys’ fees, and so much more (along with an Allocation Judgment outlining parenting time and decision making, if you have children) and all negotiations, drafting, revisions, and disclosures involved in your divorce have been finalized, you are ready to proceed to your prove up hearing, which is the day you will officially be divorced.
So, what exactly is a prove-up hearing? Why is it important? And, more importantly, what can you expect on the day of prove up?
A prove-up hearing is the final, mandatory step in an Illinois divorce proceeding. It is a Court date (either in person or via Zoom) in which the Judge assigned to your case looks over all of the agreements and documents and finalizes the divorce. At every prove-up hearing the Petitioner (the party who filed for the divorce) is required to appear, as it is their responsibility to confirm with the Judge that the requirements for divorce have been met, as they are the petitioning party. The Respondent may appear if they so choose, but their appearance is not mandatory so long as all documents are completed and signed off for judicial entry prior to that day of the divorce.
So, why is this date so important? Well, besides it being a mandatory step, it is the date in which the Judge grants your divorce. Once the Judge has reviewed all the documents and heard the appropriate testimony they can then officially, and for the record, grant a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage dissolving the bonds of matrimony. Without this date, not only will you remain married but any and all agreements made in a Marital Settlement Agreement will not be incorporated into a Court order (Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage) and will, for all intents and purposes, remain unenforceable.
Now you are probably asking yourself what to expect on the day of your divorce. Well, the first, and most important thing to note is that it is important that you treat the day as you would any Court appearance. Specifically, it is important that you conduct yourself with the appropriate decorum and professionalism required in a Courtroom and in front of a Judge’s presence. This is especially important to remember if you are appearing via Zoom, as Judge’s do not treat Zoom Court any differently than they would an in-person appearance. Therefore, on the date of your prove-up hearing, remember to dress respectfully and conduct yourself in a polite and respectful manner. For more specifics on how to conduct yourself in Zoom Court click HERE.
The first step in any prove-up divorce hearing is the swearing in of the Petitioner as a witness (and Respondent if they are present). To do this, the Judge will ask you to raise your right hand and swear, under oath, that the testimony you are giving is true. In most prove-ups a Court Reporter will also be present to transcribe the proceedings for Court record. However, whether a Court reporter is provided depends on the Judge and so it is important to check with your attorney to check with the Judge in advance of your Court date if a Court reporter will be provided, or, if you need to provide one yourself.
If you are the Petitioner, the primary focus of the hearing will be on you as it is your responsibility to prove that all the jurisdictional and procedural requirements for a divorce have been met. In order to ensure this burden is met, either the Judge, or your attorney, will ask you a series of questions. These questions will relate to the jurisdictional and procedural requirements of a divorce in Illinois as well as the terms and in your Marital Settlement Agreement and Allocation Judgment, if you have children. Some examples of questions related to the jurisdictional and procedural requirements are:
It is important to note that while these are examples of standard jurisdictional/procedural questions asked during a prove up, other questions may be asked by either your attorney or the Judge as they deem appropriate. It is important, prior to a prove-up hearing that you consult with your attorney, or hire an attorney to assist you, to ensure you are properly prepared for any questions the Court may ask.
Some examples of questions related to your Marital Settlement Agreement and Allocation Judgment are:
As with the procedural/jurisdiction questions mentioned above, these are only a handful of examples of standard questions asked during a divorce prove-up proceeding. Before any proceeding it is important that you know the terms of your Marital Settlement Agreement and Allocation Judgment backwards and forwards in order to properly prepare for any potential questions asked. Your Chicago divorce attorney should be able to guide you smoothly through the process.
Once the Court and/or Petitioner’s attorney is done questioning the Petitioner, Respondent’s attorney, if there is one, will be given a chance to ask questions of the Petitioner. These questions will be limited to matters raised by the questions asked of Petitioner by their attorney and/or matters in the Marital Settlement Agreement and Allocation Judgment.
Once the Court and any attorneys are done with questioning the Petitioner, if the Respondent is present, the Judge and/or the Petitioner’s attorney or Respondent’s attorney will be given a chance to ask the same or similar questions of Respondent. In many cases, the Court and/or attorneys will ask the Respondent if they heard the questions asked of the Petitioner and, if those same questions were asked of the Respondent, would his/her answers be the same or similar.
After both parties have been properly questioned, the Judge will state, for the record that the jurisdictional requirements of a divorce have been met and grant your Judgement for Dissolution of Marriage finalizing the divorce. At which time, you will be officially considered divorce.
Following the prove-up hearing you will receive the entered copies of your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage (incorporating the terms of your Marital Settlement Agreement) and Allocation Judgment which will, at that time, be considered official court records.
While a prove-up hearing may seem relatively easily and straightforward, it is undoubtedly the most important point of your entire divorce process. Therefore, it is important that you are thoroughly prepared for that day. In order to make sure you have gone over all possible scenarios and to ensure you are prepared, ask your Chicago divorce attorney for a brief call in the days leading up to your prove-up hearing to go over any questions/concerns you may have. If you do not already have an attorney and are either considering a divorce or are in the midst of a divorce, the attorneys at Ward Family, LLC are here to help you! Contact our founder, Jennifer R. Ward, Esq. today for your free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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