Divorce and Family Law
Status Hearing in a Divorce Case
Getting Your Case Set for Trial
After the parties comply with various discovery requests, temporary orders are established, and the litigants are given an opportunity assess their positions regarding the apportionment of property and debt, the assessment of whether a divorce will be pursued on specific grounds or under the no-fault provisions of Illinois law, and all assessments relating to custody and access are in place, the attorneys will pursue setting your case for trial. Unfortunately, by the time this event occurs your children have probably celebrated several birthdays, you know your attorney’s telephone number by heart and your divorce litigation has existed longer than your marriage. However, the process of pursuing a trial is extensive. Upon motion by either party, or during a status conference, either the court may set final deadline dates for discovery/disclosure and will most likely set a pretrial conference for the purpose of limiting the issues involved in the divorce trial or motivating the parties to settle outstanding contested issues.
The pretrial conference requires both parties to submit pretrial memorandum, which sets out all of the evidence that will be presented at the time of trial and each party’s position regarding each issue involved in a trial. Typically, it is the court’s hope that many issues are resolved at the pretrial conference or at least many significant contested issues are resolved during that process.
Often the attorneys will present (orally) to the judge the evidence that would be presented at the time of trial and the court may then provide those attorneys with an assessment of what judicial decision would follow. If the court provides an informal opinion regarding the resolution to certain issues, attorneys would then communicate that information to their clients, and their clients could then assess whether they wish to pursue the issues further at trial.
If the parties agree with the judge at pretrial, their attorneys would then prepare settlement documents in accordance with the ultimate agreements and set the case for an uncontested prove-up hearing. An uncontested prove-up hearing requires the parties to appear in court and testify under oath that the prepared agreements are fair and equitable, and if children are involved, that the agreements involving the children are in the best interests of those children. If the court agrees, a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered along with incorporation of any other marital settlement agreements. The Petitioner then, within 28 days after the prove-up hearing, must file with the court a transcript of those proceedings, which concludes the divorce litigation.
If the parties were unable to reach agreement at pretrial, the court would set a trial date. The parties would then, appear at the time of trial for the purpose of presenting formal evidence relating to their contested issues. At trial, documentation is presented through various witnesses, expert opinions are presented either by live testimony or by the presentation of Evidence Depositions, and the parties are given their opportunity to testify and explain to the court why they believe their position relating to any particular issue is correct. After the presentation of information, the court makes their decisions and renders its judgment. If either party feels the court erred in its decisions, each party has the right to appeal that decision to the Illinois Appellate Court within thirty (30) days from the date the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered.