FAQ: Final Court Date for Uncontested Divorce

As an Illinois uncontested divorce lawyer, I know people often have questions about what happens in court. For most uncontested divorces, there is only one court date (the “prove up”). In this article I address frequently asked questions about the final court date for an uncontested divorce in Illinois. Contact us, if you’d like.

#1: What is a prove up?

The final court date in an Illinois uncontested divorce is called a “prove up.” It basically means you are “proving up,” or putting on the record the terms of your agreement with your spouse.

#2: Who has to attend the prove up?

There are two parties in a divorce. The person filing is the “Petitioner,” and the other person is the “Respondent.”

The Petitioner must attend the prove up because it is the Petitioner that is moving the case forward.

The Respondent is always welcome to come to the prove up. But technically speaking, absent an order from a judge, the Respondent need not appear if the Respondent has signed all settlement agreements with a notarized signature. However, there is a slim chance that the judge will require the Respondent to appear – but that usually in rare cases where there is something very unique about the parties’ settlement agreement. That being said, to play it safe, the Respondent can simply show up – just to be on the safe side.

All that being said, the Respondent shows up to only around 10% of the uncontested divorces I handle, and most of the time they aren’t even necessary.

On important thing to know is that if the Respondent didn’t get settlement agreement signatures notarized, then he or she MUST appear in court. That way the judge knows – absent a notarization – that the Respondent actually signed the settlement agreements.

#3: Is court in person, or on Zoom?

Zoom has been a great gift to lawyers and litigants who have simple and quick matters before the court.

Many courts will handle an uncontested divorce in Illinois with Zoom, or some other video conferencing. So you might not have to physically come to court.

Your uncontested divorce lawyer should let you know if your prove up will be on Zoom, or physically in court. Additionally, you should pay attention to any “Notice of Prove Up” and any court order setting a prove up, because those documents would likely tell you not only if the prove up will be on Zoom, but should also give you the details you need to properly log on.

If you don’t know if your uncontested divorce prove up date is on Zoom on in person, you should probably ask your uncontested divorce lawyer.

#4: What do I do when I get to court?

Sometimes when you get to court there you have to wait – like the DMV.

Of course, the procedure differs depending upon whether your uncontested divorce is on Zoom, or physically in court. Below I give examples of how each option might work.

  1. On Zoom: You enter your details at Zoom.us to login. There might be a short wait for the clerk to let you into the Zoom room. After you are let in, you will wait for your case to get called. It is a good idea for you to keep your microphone muted unless you need to speak (see the little red microphone icon). If for some reason your lawyer is not present, you can simply tell the clerk that you need a bit more time for your lawyer to connect. If your case is called and you and your lawyer are ready to proceed, the prove up will commence as described below.
  2. In person: Going to court in person usually takes longer than Zoom, but it is essentially the same. You walk in and sit down at one of the seats. Your uncontested divorce lawyer will check in with the clerk – you don’t have to do that. Then, you wait for your case to be called.

Once your case is called, the lawyer and/or the judge will state the name of the case, and introduce the case. Then you will be sworn in by the clerk, or the judge.

At that point, your uncontested divorce lawyer will ask you basic questions about facts that appear on your petition for dissolution (like when you are married, if you have kids, establishing that your marriage suffered “irreconcilable differences,” etc. The lawyer will also hit the main points in your settlement agreements (all details aren’t necessary, that would take too long).

The questions are normally asked in the form of leading questions, allowing you to simply state “correct.”

For example, questions about the Petition for Dissolution would go something like this:

  1. Lawyer: You were married on January 1, 2020?
  2. You: Correct.
  3. Lawyer: You have been living in Illinois for at least 90 days prior to the filing of your petition for dissolution?
  4. You: Correct.
  5. Lawyer: Your marriage suffered irreconcilable differences, you made efforts to reconcile, and those efforts failed?
  6. You: Correct.

Questions about the marital settlement agreement (MSA) might go something like this:

  1. Lawyer: You executed this MSA with your spouse to resolve all the financial aspects of your divorce?
  2. You: Correct.
  3. Lawyer: You and your spouse agreed to mutually waive the right to receive spousal maintenance, formerly known as alimony, and you understand that you can never come back to this court or any other court and ask for maintenance?
  4. You: Correct.
  5. Lawyer: There is a house at 123 Main Street presently titled in both your names, the house is awarded to you, your spouse moved out, and your spouse will quit claim the house to you thereby taking his name off the title?
  6. You: Correct.

Of course, if you have kids, the uncontested divorce lawyer will also go over the main points in the Judgment for Allocation of Parenting Responsibilities.

The judge can ask questions of the parties, or the lawyer. If the judge asks you a question, the best thing to do is answer truthfully, and to keep it short. It’s not a big deal, so don’t stress.

#5: When will I be divorced?

You will be divorced after the prove up.

However, you may not receive the proof of your divorce until a couple days later. It takes some time for the court to process the necessary documents.

#6: What documents will I get showing I’m divorced?

Your settlement agreements should contain all the terms of your divorce. But it is the “Judgment for Dissolution,” aka “divorce decree,” which is actually the document that grants the divorce; it is essentially a court order. The Judgment for Dissolution will have some standard language in it, and state that the terms of the divorce are in the settlement agreements.

The Judgment for Dissolution might have a provision allowing a name change back to a pre-marital name. The person wanting a name change will need a “certified” copy of the Judgment for Dissolution, then will need to take that to the Social Security Administration office (where name changes are handled).