Final Divorce Decree In Illinois

Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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What Is A Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage In An Illinois Divorce?

Final Divorce Decree In Illinois

A Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage is the final written document at the end of the divorce process. A married couple in Illinois remains married until the final Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage is entered by an Illinois court with the words “the bonds of matrimony existing between Petitioner and Respondent are hereby dissolved.”

What Is A Judgment In An Illinois Divorce

A judgment is “the official and authentic decision of a court of justice upon the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action or suit therein litigated” Black’s Law Dictionary 970 (10th ed. 2014)

In Illinois, “[t]he court shall determine the rights of the parties and grant to any party any affirmative relief to which the party may be entitled on the pleadings and proofs” 750 ILCS 5/2-1301

“Judgments shall be in the form required by the nature of the case” 750 ILCS 5/2-1301

The nature of a divorce case is a little unusual compared to other civil actions that focus on a single incident such as an accident of the breach of a contract. A divorce is the unwinding of both an intimate and financial relationship that involves both money and, often, minor children.

Agreed Judgments Of Dissolution vs. Judgments Of Dissolution At Trial

The vast majority of Judgments For Dissolution of Marriage are entered by agreement.  Agreed Judgments of Dissolution of Marriage even incorporate additional agreements such as Allocations of Parental Responsibility and Parenting Time and Marital Settlement Agreements.

Issues related to the divorce that aren’t agreed to by the parties will be resolved by trial.

In reality, divorce trials are rare because the facts germane to the divorce are rarely ever contested. But, rather, the interpretation of those facts are the contested matter. Issues regarding children are so textured that the interpretations of what is in the best interests of the children always have a different interpretation.  So, the court will rely on the report of a Guardian Ad Litem (an attorney for the children who investigates independently) to determine the facts regarding the children.

Parties to an Illinois divorce will often present those facts to a judge at a pretrial hearing where the judge will say, “unless you can both show me different facts whose veracity I have to weigh, I would make the following decisions…”

Parties usually realize that a trial is futile when they’ve already heard the assumed findings of the court.  The parties usually negotiate around those findings and enter into an agreed Judgment of Dissolution shortly thereafter.

If the parties don’t agree, a trial will be held to determine the court’s findings.  At the end of that trial, the divorce court will issue its own Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage with the judge’s own findings and orders. 

What Is Included In An Illinois Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage?

A reiteration of the relevant facts is usually included as findings of the court under the caption.

  1. The court has jurisdiction over the parties since both Petitioner was a resident of Illinois at the time the action was commenced, and has maintained that residence for at least 90 days next preceding the making of this finding, and because Respondent has not filed an appearance.
  1. The court has jurisdiction over the subject matter in this cause.
  1. The parties were lawfully married on [date] in [city,state, country] where the marriage is registered.  
  1. Petitioner filed Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on [date]
  1. Petitioner has proven that grounds exist for dissolution of marriage as alleged in the Petition.
  1. The parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of six (6) months, and irreconcilable differences have caused the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. Past attempts at reconciliation have failed, and future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interest of the parties.
  1. [Whether children were born to the parties and what their ages are]
  1. [Whether the parties acquired marital property or debts]
  1. Respondent’s maiden name was [maiden name]

After the findings of the court are listed, the actual order is written.

The order in a Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage in an Illinois divorce is going to require certain elements

First of all, the marriage must be declared dissolved. The Illinois statute requires it in a very long-winded way:

“A judgment of dissolution of marriage or legal separation, if made, shall be awarded to both of the parties, and shall provide that it affects the status previously existing between the parties in the manner adjudged.” 750 ILCS 5/413(d)

Most divorce attorneys dissolve the marriage using simpler language such as: “The parties are awarded a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage and the bonds of matrimony existing between Petitioner and Respondent are hereby dissolved”

The Judgment For Dissolution of Marriage must make certain orders if certain facts regarding money or children exist.

“Judgment shall not be entered unless, to the extent it has jurisdiction to do so, the court has considered, approved, reserved or made provision for the allocation of parental responsibilities, the support of any child of the marriage entitled to support, the maintenance of either spouse and the disposition of property.” 750 ILCS 5/401(b)

These matters are always included in two separate documents: the Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities and the Marital Settlement Agreement.

The Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities is an agreement or judgment which determines how each parent will interact with children and with the other parent in regards to the children.  The Allocation is largely a schedule for the children and a delineation of which parent will make what decisions on behalf of the children (decisions are usually shared).  Financial matters such as child support and children’s expenses are almost never included in the Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities.

The Marital Settlement Agreement is a contract between the two parties regarding how they will divide their marital assets, determine their non-marital assets, resolve ongoing payments such as maintenance, child support and children’s expenses.

These two documents are separate documents for a very practical reason: money and children should never be traded for one another. 

The Allocation of Parenting Time And Parenting Responsibilities and the Marital Settlement Agreement are usually acknowledged as agreed in the Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage and “incorporated herein” thus becoming part of the Judgment.

If the Judgment For Dissolution of Marriage is a default judgment and, therefore, it is impossible to determine the alimony, child support, parenting time, or disposition of property, those matters must be included in the Judgment of Dissolution Of Marriage as being reserved.

If a spouse changed their name, they must have the option to change their name unless they specifically don’t want that option.

“Unless the person whose marriage is dissolved or declared invalid requests otherwise, the judgment under this Section shall contain a provision authorizing the person to resume the use of his or her former or maiden name” 750 ILCS 5/413(c)

Finally, a Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage should restate the statutory requirement that any matters that arise in the future must return to the jurisdiction of this court.

“Any judgment entered within this State may be enforced or modified in the judicial circuit wherein such judgment was entered or last modified” 750 ILCS 5/511(a)

When Does A Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage Get Entered In Illinois.

Illinois courts really need to try to resolve everything before entering the final divorce document, the Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage.

“[T]he court shall enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage, including an order dissolving the marriage, incorporation of a marital settlement agreement if applicable, and any other appropriate findings or orders, only at the conclusion of the case” 750 ILCS 5/403(e)

If the Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage and its terms are agreed, the Petitioner in the case will schedule a “prove up” date with the judge.

The final proposed Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage and its incorporated documents may be submitted to the court in advance depending on that individual judge’s court rules.

“If at the time of announcing final judgment the judge requires the submission of a form of written judgment to be signed by the judge or if a circuit court rule requires the prevailing party to submit a draft order, the clerk shall make a notation to that effect and the judgment becomes final only when the signed judgment is filed.” Illinois Supreme Court Rule 272

The Petitioner will then testify to the alleged facts contained in the Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage, then testify to the relief requested and the nature of the agreement. The court will then enter the Judgment of Dissolution Of Marriage and return a stamped copy to the Petitioner who should immediately forward a copy to the Respondent.

If the parties were not agreed and a trial occurred, the court has 90 days to issue its Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage.

“A judgment of dissolution of marriage or of legal separation or of declaration of invalidity of marriage shall be entered within 60 days of the closing of proofs; however, if the court enters an order specifying good cause as to why the court needs an additional 30 days, the judgment shall be entered within 90 days of the closing of proofs” 750 ILCS 5/413(a)

If you’re struggling with finalizing your Illinois divorce case and getting a Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage prepared and entered, contact my divorce law firm in Chicago, Illinois to schedule a free consultation.