When people think of divorce, sometimes they envision years-long battles played out in wood-paneled courtrooms with thousands of dollarsbeing spent on attorneys’ fees. While this happens occasionally, it is much more rare than most people believe. The vast majority of Chicago divorce cases never go to trial. Most cases are settled between the parties and their attorneys.
People going through a Chicago divorce often learn of their rights and obligations, conduct discovery to ascertain the other party’s financial situation, and attempt to reach an agreement either by themselves or through their attorneys. In Illinois, after the parties reach an agreement the next step is to prepare a document called a “marital settlement agreement”. This document outlines the parties’ agreement on how to divide marital and non-marital property, whether one of the parties will receive maintenance, and other issues. If children are involved, the parties also execute a “parenting agreement” in which they address legal custody (decision-making), physical possession of the child, visitation, child support and other expenses, vacation time, and any other important child-related issues.
The parties review the marital settlement agreement and parenting agreement, if any, with their respective attorneys. Further negotiation may take place. After the parties reach final terms and all the necessary documents are signed, the final court date can be scheduled. The final court date is known as a “prove-up hearing” in Cook County, Illinois. At the prove-up hearing, the party who initiated the divorce case will be asked questions by his or her attorney establishing the grounds for the divorce and going over the important parts of the parties’ agreement. They will present the marital settlement agreement and parenting agreement, if any, to the court for its approval.
If the court finds that it has the power to enter the divorce decree that day, then it will enter a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage that incorporates the parties’ marital settlement agreement and parenting agreement. Parents who are divorcing in Cook County, Illinois are usually required to complete a parenting education class called Focus on Children before the court will enter the final parenting agreement. Parents should not delay in scheduling the parenting education class. Parents may also be eligible to take the new online course, Children In Between, found at http://online.divorce-education.com/.