One question that comes up a lot from people who are going to be getting divorced is “Do I have to go to Court?” Most people who ask this don’t want to set foot inside a courtroom. (If they did, they would have become lawyers, right?)
If you are getting divorced in Illinois, chances are that your lawyer will be required to go to court on your case at least every 6-8 weeks to let your judge know where things stand. These are called “status calls”. Sometimes things will come up that need to be addressed while the details of your divorce are being worked out, like child support or parenting time issues. Usually these matters are brought to the court’s attention when one of the lawyers files a written motion to have it addressed. You may not have to personally show up to court for motions either, unless the court schedules a hearing. A hearing will require your testimony and you will need to be present. Do not let this intimidate you. Your lawyer will talk to you ahead of time about what to expect and will do most of the talking.
Depending on the course of events, a Pre-Trial conference might also get scheduled in your case. This is an informal meeting with between the lawyers and the judge and it happens usually before a trial date is set as an attempt to resolve matters based upon the judge’s recommendations. You should be present in court for a pre-trial but will not be going before the judge or have to “take the stand”. Some people chose to wait in the hallway but it is important that you be there since it is possible that an agreement may be reached immediately following the pre-trial conference. Pretrial conferences are usually conducted when the divorce is not progressing over an issue or several issues that are still in disagreement. You may also want to consider mediation at this point.
When it is time to finalize your divorce at a “prove-up” (in the case of divorces in which the terms are ultimately agreed upon), if you are the one who filed, or the “Petitioner”, you need to come to court to answer some questions for the benefit of the judge. Don’t worry- they will all be questions that you know the answer to and your attorney will address any concerns that you have ahead of time. If you are the “Respondent” to the divorce, it is not required that you go as long as you have signed documents in advance and your lawyer is present- but it is still a very good idea to be in court on the final date.
Of course, if your case goes to a formal trial where the judge is going to making decisions based upon evidence and testimony, then you will have to be in court.
Many of the people that I represent who do have to show up at court at some point, tell me afterwards that it was not as bad as they had thought it would be. It can be nerve-wracking for people whose cases are before a judge, but if you know what to expect and are in the hands of a good, capable attorney, the prospect of “going to court” doesn’t have to be scary. It is, however, extremely expensive. If you are looking to keep costs down - I urge you to try mediation from the outset as it will be a lot cheaper than going the traditional route.