To begin a divorce in Cook County, the filing spouse (Petitioner) e-files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Domestic Relations Cover Sheet (Form CCDR 0601) (and also a Summons for a default divorce). The Court Clerk sends an acceptance e-mail with the case number, usually in 24-48 hours. E-filing is mandatory in Illinois.
A Summons is used to notify the other spouse (Respondent) that the Petitioner has filed for divorce. A Summons is only needed for default divorce. It is not needed in a divorce by agreement because the Respondent will be entering an Appearance and Waiver, and paying the $251.00 appearance fee. If the Petitioner has any concerns about whether the Respondent will sign the Waiver of Service and Consent form, a Summons should be filed at the same time as the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Domestic Relations Cover Sheet.
Do not begin this step until Petitioner receives an e-mail confirming that the Court Clerk has accepted the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and has been assigned a case number.
Illinois requires divorcing couples with minor children together to complete a parent education program. Each parent must attend either Focus on Children (FOCUS) (an in-class parent education program) or Children in Between Online (CIBO) (an online parent education program). Parents may attend either program and do not have to attend with the other parent. After completing the class, the program provider will e-mail a Certificate of Completion to the parents for e-filing. Both programs are at least four hours long. CIBO is an online course so you can access it any time from your computer over a 30-day period. To register for Focus on Children, the in-person class, call (312) 603-1550. To register for the CIBO online course, go to https://www.divorce-education.com/il/cook/.
In a divorce by agreement, Petitioner can hand-deliver or mail the Petition to the Respondent since Respondent will be signing an Appearance and a notarized Waiver of Service and Consent. This is known as voluntary service.
Unlike with divorce by agreement, in default divorce, Respondent must be served by the Sheriff or a private process server, and then Petitioner must wait thirty-one (31) days to begin the default process before scheduling the prove-up hearing to finalize the divorce. Petitioner should have e-filed the Summons when the Petition was e-filed, which the Court Clerk will issue/sign when they accept the case. Log-in to your Odyssey account to access the signed Summons. Contact the Sheriff or private process server in the county where Respondent lives and provide them with a copy of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage along with two (2) copies of the signed Summons and the Affidavit of Service. The fee is approximately $60.00 if the Respondent will be served in Cook County. If Respondent lives outside Cook County, contact the Sheriff or process server there to arrange service.
When service is complete, the Sheriff or process server will complete the Affidavit of Service and provide Petitioner with a completed copy. In Illinois, the Respondent has thirty (30) days to file an Appearance from the date of service, which is why Petitioner must wait thirty (30) days plus one (1) day (not counting holidays and weekends) from the date of service listed in the Affidavit of Service to e-file the documents below.
Convert each document into a PDF and e-file each individually. Once you submit the filing, the transaction will end and should trigger a calendar pop-up. Select a date and time for the hearing on the Motion for Default that is at least five (5) business days from then. Petitioner should receive an e-mail confirming the hearing date in 24-48 hours. If you were unable to select a hearing date, contact the office of the judge assigned to your case for assistance in scheduling the Motion for Default for hearing.
In a default divorce, Petitioner cannot move to Step 3 yet. You must schedule and attend the hearing on the Motion for Default (and get the judge to grant that Motion) before scheduling the prove-up hearing. Once the default hearing date is set, Petitioner fill it in on the Notice of Motion. Mail or hand-deliver your Motion for Default to the Respondent, along with a Notice of Motion that states the date, time and location for appearing before the Judge for hearing on the Motion. Mail those to the Respondent. Complete the Certificate of Service on the Notice of Motion and e-file the completed form.
Petitioner appears in court in person or by Zoom at the specified date and time to present your Motion for Default to the Judge, and gives testimony. Sample testimony is provided below.
Hello, Your Honor. My name is ___________ and I am the Petitioner in this dissolution of marriage action, which was filed on ________________. The Respondent was served with a copy of the Summons and Petition by [Sheriff/private process server] on _______________. On ______, I filed the Affidavit of Service along with a Motion for Default as more than 30 days had passed since service and the Respondent has not appeared in this case or filed any other responsive pleading. I am asking the Court to grant the Motion for Default and set this case for prove-up hearing. Thank you, Your Honor.”
If your spouse does not appear at that time, the Judge may enter an Order of Default. The Motion for Default also asks the judge to set the case for a prove-up hearing so you should receive a prove-up hearing date at the hearing for the Motion for Default.
Step 3: E-mail the final documents to your judge’s office five (5) days before the prove-up hearing. The prove-up hearing is usually online, but hearing by phone or in-person may be an option. The judge will sign the final documents ending the marriage at the hearing. The Petitioner will request a copy of the prove-up hearing transcript from the court reporter and e-file the transcript within twenty (28) days.
In a default divorce, only Petitioner’s signature is required on the documents below. In a divorce by agreement, both spouses will sign. The judge will sign the Parenting Plan, Allocation of Parenting Responsibility, Uniform Support Order (Form CCDR 0107) and Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
Uniform Prove-up Sheet
The judge will fill in the remaining information at the hearing.
Order on Prove-up (also known as a 28-Day Order for Transcript)
In some cases, the judge may check the box on the Order on Prove-up that requires the Petitioner to order a transcript of the prove-up hearing from the court reporter. The prove up checklist also indicates that an order for filing transcript is needed, unless it is waived. Paragraph 3 on the Order on Prove Up form included with the documents gives the option to waive a transcript of the proceedings to avoid the transcript fee.
Free Transcript Order
This is only needed if (1) the judge orders Petitioner to get a transcript in the Order on Prove-Up and (2) you were granted a fee waiver when you filed the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
Court Reporter Information Sheet
Certification of Completion for Parenting Education (Children in-Between On Line)
Scan and/or save each of the required documents separately in the pdf format. Then, e-mail all required documents to the court five (5) days before your scheduled prove-up date. You can find e-mail addresses for your judge's courtroom by calendar at the end of these procedures. If it will be a Zoom hearing, you should receive information on how to log-in to the Zoom hearing from the Clerk’s office prior to the hearing date. For an In-Person Hearing, arrive at the assigned courtroom approximately 15 minutes before the scheduled hearing time. Generally, there will be a clerk at a desk in the courtroom where you can check in. Then, wait for your case to be called.
When your case is called, you will be sworn in. In some courtrooms, you will be required to stand in front of the Judge for your hearing. In other courtrooms, you will be directed to sit in the witness seat. Several cases are usually scheduled at the same time. When the case is called, Petitioner will be sworn in. At your prove-up hearing, it is important that you speak clearly and loudly enough for the judge and the court reporter to hear you.
The goal of the prove-up hearing is for the Judge to take oral testimony from Petitioner that satisfies the requirements for obtaining a dissolution of marriage (divorce) in Illinois. This information is usually contained in the Petition filed when you first started your case. Additionally, depending on your county, the Judge may want to hear some specific information as to how you and your spouse will be handling matters regarding any debts and property. The Judge may begin by asking questions or may expect the Petitioner to give testimony without his or her direct questioning. The sample testimony below provides a general guideline for divorce testimony.
Your Honor, my name is __________ and I am the Petitioner in this case. I reside at __________in __________ County, xxActionState*. My spouse’s name is __________. We were married on __________ and separated on __________. I filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in this case on __________. I/my spouse have/has lived in xxActionState* for at least 90 days before the filing of this Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. My Petition for Dissolution should be granted because we have irreconcilable differences, our marriage is irretrievably broken, and attempts at reconciliation would not be practical. My spouse and I have no minor or legally dependent children. I/my wife is not currently pregnant. My spouse and I have executed a Marital Settlement Agreement that states our agreement as to all matters regarding the minor children as well as division of our property and debts. Wife is/is not requesting a name change. If yes, state the name. Are there any questions, Your Honor?
During your court appearance, there will be a court reporter present who will be recording the proceeding and produce a transcript. It is your obligation to obtain a copy of the transcript from the court reporter and file the transcript with the clerk of the circuit court. This is the final step to finalize your divorce. You have up to 28 days to file the prove-up transcript. You can e-file the prove-up transcript for your case. If you cannot e-file, you can file it in-person at the court clerk’s office. If a spouse requested a name change in the divorce documents, you can obtain a certified copy of the Judgment from the Clerk.
If you were granted a court filing fee waiver when you filed for divorce, ask the judge to enter an Order for Free Transcript during your prove-up hearing so you won’t need to pay for the transcript. (Remember to take the judge-signed order with you when you go to get the transcript later. Call the court reporter’s office at (312) 603-8405 to make sure the transcript is ready and ask what you will be charged for the transcript (unless 1 above applies). Pick up the transcript at W. Washington St., 9th Floor, Chicago. Sign the last page of the transcript and return it to the judge’s clerk in the courtroom where you got the divorce. (Note: If the judge or clerk tells you to e-file your transcript, you will log back into your e-filing account and file it into your existing case the same way as you filed the Step 3 documents. The Filing Code for a transcript is “Report and Record of Proceedings Filed.”)
Regardless of the type of hearing you have, the judge will sign the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage finalizing your divorce once he or she is satisfied that adequate testimony has been given and that there are no matters left to be resolved. You and your spouse are no longer married once the Judgment is signed by the judge. If you have a Zoom hearing, you will be able to log in to your account in a few days to access a judge-signed copy of the Judgment.
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