Yes. You have to come to court during your Chicago divorce.  At least once, if you’re both agreed, unless you’re the Respondent (the person who didn’t file) then you don’t go to court, you just need to sign the final documents and the Petitioner will go to court. 

If you and your ex are not agreed, sooner or later you’re probably going to have to give testimony in court…but it’s rarer than you would think. 

When do people appear in court?

In Cook County, Illinois, whether you have a lawyer or not court dates get set by the clerk.  Usually, the first 6 months after the filing of a Petition for Dissolution have no court dates if all the parties are getting along (at least getting along for divorcing parties).  Cook County Local Rule 13.4(h) requires that “All cases shall be called for status report no later than six (6) months after the case is filed.” So, the first status court date will be 6 months after the filing of the Petition For Dissolution of Marriage.

After that first court appearance, the judge will assess the status of the case and give another date that may be anywhere from 30 to 60 days out so that the judge may learn what progress (if any) was made in that 30 to 60 days.

But, lots of things can happen in that first six months that require a visit to court.

There could be a temporary motion to resolve some issue that cannot wait until the finalization of the case.   

Things like parenting time, child support, maintenance and selling a house need to get resolved well in advance of the final divorce decree’s entrance.

Still, the court dates for these matters don’t always require a party’s testimony.

Status Dates Vs. Hearings

A court date may merely be for status so that the court can inquire as to the progress of the case and make orders to help the case move along. 

Typically, no orders are issued on a status date and therefore, no party’s presence is required.

But sometimes, a court can issue an order on a status date but that order is usually something procedural. If the order is substantive, a lawyer can remind the judge that the matter isn’t set for that day.  The usually responds by setting that issue for hearing at the next court date.

A hearing is where the judge MUST decide on a matter.  Each judge has his or her own particular procedures in requiring courtesy copies and other matters in advance of hearing.  It would be well advised for a party to attend a hearing whether you are requesting something or being requested to do something.  

Hearings That Do Not Require a Party’s Presence.

“Issues concerning temporary maintenance or temporary support of a child entitled to support shall be dealt with on a summary basis based on allocated parenting time, financial affidavits, tax returns, pay stubs, banking statements, and other relevant documentation” 750 ILCS 5/501(a)(3)

So, these types of motions don’t require a party to testify but rather just require a party to have submitted their financial documents, which the court then examines and makes a “summary” ruling based thereon.

But still, testimony can be required if needed. “[E]xcept an evidentiary hearing may be held upon a showing of good cause.” 750 ILCS 5/501(a)(3)

Hearings That Do Require a Party’s Presence

If you’re asking the court for something and the matter is set for hearing, you should go to your court date.  Your testimony may clarify the issue so that the judge rules in your favor.

Still, many motions are supported merely by an attached affidavit alleging that the facts are true.  That is typically sufficient. 

Often, a motion requires the testimony of the other party and in this situation, a 237(b) notice is issued. “The appearance at the trial or other evidentiary hearing of a party or a person who at the time of trial or other evidentiary hearing is an officer, director, or employee of a party may be required by serving the party with a notice designating the person who is required to appear” Illinois Supreme Court Rule 237(b)

If you don’t have a lawyer

You’re going to have to come to court on every court date so you know what is happening and so you can request that your motions be heard. 

The opposing counsel should send you copies of the order if you’re not present but don’t count on it.

Uncontested or agreed divorces

The petitioner in a divorce must appear to “prove-up” their case on the final day of court.  A prove up is largely just the petitioner’s attorney reading off the salient details of the agreed divorce documents and the petitioner confirming that those details are correct.

The respondent is not required to be present at the prove-up but is welcome to appear and offer their testimony as well.  Often that testimony is merely responding to the question, “You’ve heard all the questions I asked the petitioner.  If I were to ask you the same questions would you respond with the same answers?”

For many people, this is the only day they ever appear in court for their divorce case.

Trial

If there’s a trial (or almost any hearing) and you do not appear, the other side will present their evidence without rebuttal and the court will rule on that evidence alone.  Invariably, this results in the court accepting that evidence and the present party’s interpretation of the evidence.

Will I Help My Chicago Divorce Case If I Appear At Every Court Date?

Probably.  Over the course of time judges will recognize people that appear in front of them again and again.  Divorce judges may develop opinions about those people based on their mere composure and appearance

An opposing counsel once brought his client to a status court date in Chicago and let the judge know that his client is here to see “how justice works.”

The judge replied curtly, “Justice works…swiftly”

Contact my Chicago, Illinois law office if you’d like to learn more about divorce in Chicago.