What to Expect During Court Appearances in an Illinois Divorce Case
The divorce process involves multiple steps, even if the spouses are able to reach an agreement and execute a settlement on their own without the need for court intervention. However, if litigation ensues, and a trial is required to resolve any outstanding issues, the process can be especially involved. Typically, if a judge is asked to decide any legal issues between a divorcing couple, multiple requests for information and motions related to the claims each party is making will be filed, ultimately culminating in a trial, where the judge will hear arguments, accept evidence and render a judgment.
Even in uncontested divorces, attending multiple hearings is not uncommon before the final divorce judgment is issued, and this can be a nerve-racking experience, regardless of the level of mutual agreement. By contrast, if a couple’s divorce gets to the trial stage, this event can trigger a lot of stress and worry for each spouse. Emotions run high during divorce, and the thought of appearing before a judge to find out what the terms of the settlement will be is understandably overwhelming for both parties. However, as in all things, information is power, and having a basic understanding about how hearings and trials work during the divorce process can go a long way toward defusing some of the anxiety that these appearances provoke.
When Are Court Appearances Necessary?
How often and how extensive court appearances will be depends on the outstanding issues that must be resolved in a divorce case. Some appearances can be handled by a spouse’s attorney without his or her involvement, but other issues do require the attendance of both spouses before the court will enter an order. For example, if there are requests for temporary child support, alimony, and/or child custody arrangements while the case is pending, each spouse will be expected to appear in person.
Basically, any proceeding that requires the production of evidence will require an appearance by each spouse, and this is also true for any hearings that relate to central issues of the case, such as child support obligations or parental responsibilities. If a divorce is uncontested, most couples typically need to make at least two appearances: one to settle any temporary issues mentioned above and a final hearing to enter the settlement agreement into court records and finalize the divorce. If a case is highly disputed, the number of court appearances may be significantly higher.
Participating in a Trial
Hearings make up the bulk of divorce proceedings, and they should be differentiated from trials, which only occur if the couple cannot agree on outstanding issues through an agreement or settlement. In other words, a trial is only necessary when the spouses want the judge to have the final say on parenting, alimony, property division, etc.
A trial is an opportunity for each side to present evidence, through documentation and testimony, of their demands to the judge. This information is generally gathered over the course of the case through disclosures from both spouses, interviews and document discovery. The judge will consider the information offered and make a binding decision on both parties.
The components of a divorce trial basically mirror those of civil trials. That is, each side will make an opening statement, call witnesses, perform cross-examinations, present documentary evidence, and offer closing remarks. The length of the trial will depend on the complexity of the issues under consideration and the amount and type of evidence offered by each side. An experienced divorce attorney is critical in cases that reach this stage, since the steps taken before and during a trial are pivotal to the outcome.
Contact an Arlington Heights Divorce Lawyer
Divorce, even in amicable splits, is a complex legal process, and knowing how that process works can help ensure that it proceeds as quickly and smoothly as possible. Skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson has the experience you need to navigate your divorce efficiently and effectively. Contact our law firm at 847.873.6741 for a free initial consultation.