You’ve gone through the process of filing for a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You and your attorney have navigated discovery, and you’ve made it through rounds of negotiations with your spouse and their attorney over parenting time and responsibilities, allocation of debts and property, and other contested issues. Finally, the end of the divorce process is in sight. Now, there is one important final item on the checklist to prepare for: the prove-up.
What Is a Prove-Up?
The “prove-up” is the final court date for a divorce. It is at this hearing that the judge will confirm that all of the legal requirements have been met, and that they have the authority to grant the divorce.
The prove-up allows the judge to review and approve any agreements that the parties have reached regarding the division of marital assets, allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities, and so on. A prove-up finalizes a divorce that no longer has contested issues. As such, it is different from a divorce trial; a trial occurs only when there are outstanding conflicts that require a judge to hear evidence and issue a binding judgment.
While the prove-up is a routine and essential element of the divorce process, we understand that it can feel intimidating. Let’s explore a few important FAQs about the prove-up to know in advance of this important court date:
What happens at a typical prove-up?
The goal of the prove-up is for the judge to examine the proposed judgment, review the petition, and question the parties about the contents of their signed settlement agreement, parenting plan, order for support, and other documents, as relevant.
The court will issue a judgment granting the divorce if it finds the terms that the parties have reached to be “not unconscionable.” (Generally speaking, in order for an agreement to be found unconscionable, the terms must be plainly and egregiously lopsided and unfair.)
The exact process and requirements for a prove-up will vary from county to county, and it is important to discuss the specifics of your circumstances with a knowledgeable family law attorney. With that said, the prove-up can usually be completed within a matter of minutes in most circumstances.
At the prove-up, the petitioner (the person who initially filed the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage) and the respondent (the responding party) will testify that they agree to the terms in the proposed judgment and settlement agreement, and acknowledge that they have not been coerced. Generally speaking, the petitioner will testify first; their attorney will ask them questions summarizing the terms of the agreement and confirming their personal information — usually in the form of simple “yes” or “no” questions. For instance, the parties may be asked to confirm that they signed certain documents; to confirm important dates; to confirm that they understand the terms of their settlement agreement; to verify that they have taken required parenting classes; and so on. The respondent will then follow. During testimony, the judge may follow-up with additional questions to either party at his or her discretion. Once the judge is satisfied, they will sign the order dissolving the marriage.
Who needs to be present for a prove-up?
Broadly speaking, the petitioner will always be required to attend a prove-up hearing in Illinois, along with their attorney. The respondent and their representative will generally appear in court, as well — though it is not strictly required. Because the prove-up occurs in open court, friends or family may attend for support, but witnesses are not required and generally do not attend.
In circumstances where the respondent can’t be reached or otherwise refuses to be present for the prove-up, the divorce can still move forward as long as the petitioner can prove that they made a good faith attempt to reach the other party and the court issues its permission. This is known as a “default” prove-up. Your attorney will help you understand the nuances of a default prove-up going into the process.
What documents are required before a prove-up? How do you prepare for your prove-up?
You and your attorney should come prepared with a number of important documents on hand for the prove-up, in order to satisfy the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and all state and local procedural rules. Generally speaking, this list includes a proposed Judgment of Dissolution, a Marital Settlement Agreement, a Parenting Agreement, and other documents as needed. You can find a sample checklist of what may be required for a Cook County prove-up here.
Ahead of your prove-up, your attorney will help you compile all of the necessary paperwork and information, and give you a clearer picture of what you can expect based on your specific circumstances — such as briefing you on the questions you should anticipate, walking you through when to attend and how to dress for court, and so on.
Facing a Divorce in Illinois? We’re Here for You
Have any more questions about what goes into a prove-up or finalizing your divorce in Illinois? Interested in discussing your unique situation with an experienced Chicago family law attorney?
Navigating a divorce can be confusing and exhausting, even under the best of circumstances. Here in Illinois, there are many details and conditions in family law that can be difficult to fully understand. At the Law Offices of J. Jeltes, Ltd., we make it our mission to ensure that our clients understand the divorce process at each and every step of the way.
Our attorneys and staff are skilled in handling legal matters in some of life’s most challenging family transitions, including divorce and the many considerations that go along with it — such as issues of property division, maintenance (formerly spousal support or alimony), child support, allocation of marital debt, and parenting time.
Our legal professionals are driven, attentive, and dedicated to achieving the best results possible. We truly understand that every situation is unique, and before hiring our firm our attorneys will provide you with a comprehensive one-on-one consultation to discuss your legal concerns and goals.
If you have any more questions about any aspect of divorce in Illinois, we are here for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of experienced and compassionate advocates to continue the conversation.