Frequently Asked Questions
The judge hearing your case as well as the court clerk and other court personnel are not permitted to provide legal advice to litigants or attorneys. There are many legal service agencies in the Cook County area that offer free or low cost legal advice and services.
You must request to have court fees waived. First, you must fill out the application and affidavit to sue or defend (Page 1 & Page 2) as an indigent person (also known as a 298 Petition) and the order to sue or defend as an indigent person. Please see (link to clerk of court’s website) to obtain the petition and a sample of a petition already completed, and the order. Next, you must bring the completed forms to Room 1901A in the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, Chicago. Or, you may see the Domestic Relations Division clerk in the courthouse where your case has been or will be filed for more information as to where you should deliver the forms. The person who completed the application must also be the one who delivers it for processing. Then, a judge in the Domestic Relations Division will review your application and either deny or grant your petition for a fee waiver.
If you are a pro se litigant, you are required to appear at every court date unless excused by a previous order of the court. If you do not appear in court on your court date, there can be serious legal ramifications. If you know ahead of time that you cannot come to your next court date, you can file a motion and come to court at an earlier date to ask that your court date be continued. In that event, you must give notice to the other party. For more information, visit the CARPLS Domestic Relations Self Help Desk on the 30th Floor of the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, Chicago, or contact the agency at (312)738-9200.
You are allowed, as a matter of right, one substitution of judge without having to provide a reason why you are seeking a new judge. The request for a substitution of judge must be made in the form of a motion filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office, and you must provide notice of your motion to the other party. Any motion for a substitution of judge as a matter of right shall be granted only if it is presented before trial or hearing begins and before the judge on your case has made a substantive ruling in the case. In addition, if a party has not entered an appearance in the case and has not been found in default, rulings in the case by the judge on any substantial issue before the party’s appearance shall not be grounds for denying an otherwise timely application for substitution of judge as of right by the party.
If your judge has already made a substantive ruling on your case, then you can only substitute your judge for cause. A request for substitution of judge for cause must be made in the form of a petition setting forth the specific cause for substitution and filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office in the Domestic Relations Division. You must provide notice of your motion to the other party. A hearing on your motion will be held by a different judge who will determine whether or not there is cause for your current judge to be removed from your case.
Both parties are entitled to receive notice about any proceedings in court. The general rule is that you must provide notice to the other party of any court dates you create and you must provide copies to the other party of any and all pleadings, motions, and any other paperwork you file with the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Proof that you gave notice to the other party and provided copies of paperwork is in the form of a notice of service or notice of motion or notice of filing. You can find forms for notices on the Clerk’s website or at www.illinoislegalaid.org.
A notice of motion shall show the title and number of the action, the name of the judge before whom the motion will be presented, the time and date, and where the motion will be presented. If the motion is presented in writing, a copy of the motion or a statement that it previously has been served, shall be served with the notice.
If notice is given by mail, the notice shall be deposited in a United States Post Office or Post Office Box on or before the fifth court day preceding the hearing of the motion.
There are exceptions to giving notice in certain rare circumstances. For more information regarding these exceptions, you will need to seek legal advice.
The cases will be consolidated by the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division. This means the cases will be heard together before one judge. The judge assigned to the case with the lowest case number will be the judge that hears both cases. If there is a pending independent order of protection case involving both parties while both parties also have a domestic relations case pending, the order of protection case will be consolidated with the domestic relations case and heard by the domestic relations judge.
Every order should state the time and date of your next court date. Courtrooms usually open at 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., and are closed during lunch hours (anywhere from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.). The courtroom will be opened by the scheduled time in your order unless the judge is out for the day. In that case, there will be a sign on the door indicating in which courtroom your case is being heard. If for some reason the courtroom does not open by your scheduled court time, you may go to room 1901a for further assistance.
Guardianship cases are heard in the Probate Division. For more information about filing for a guardianship, or guardianships in general, please visit the Circuit Court of Cook County’s website and click on the probate division link-- www.cookcountycourt.org .
You should always remember to dress in an appropriate manner to show respect for the court. Women should wear slacks, jeans (without holes), or capris. Women’s tops should not display excessive cleavage or bare midriff. Men should wear slacks or jeans (without rips) and neat shirts. Men should not wear hats in court. If women or men choose to wear t-shirts, the t-shirts should not contain offensive sayings or pictures. Neither women nor men should wear shorts, pajama bottoms, or sweat pants to court nor chew gum when appearing before the judge.
You should check in with the clerk and wait for your case to be called. When your case is called, you step before the judge. The person presenting the motion usually speaks first and hands the papers to the court. Please remember that the judge can only listen to one person speak at a time. The person presenting the pleading will speak first. The person responding to the pleading will speak next. Often times, the person responding to the pleading will be given time to prepare a written response to the initial pleading and the judge will set a second court date. Always remember to be respectful to the court and the opposing party.
There is no way of knowing how long a particular case will take to obtain a resolution since the resolution depends on a number of factors and the specifics of the case. Generally, however, resolving something in court often takes much longer than parties imagine. The length of time that a person will spend going to court depends on various factors, like the type of case that the person is trying to resolve, the relief being sought, the information and preparation that the person has about the case and the objections or problems that the other party (spouse or other parent) presents to the court. The most difficult cases for judges to resolve generally involve custody disputes between parents and cases that involve allegations about abuse or neglect. Cases that involve the welfare of the minor child(ren) are typically the ones that take the longest to resolve as judges often have to obtain additional information about the parents and the children from experts or outside evaluators.
Often persons go to court because they are in a bad situation and want a court or judge to resolve their problem immediately. Often those persons are angry or disappointed when the judge is not able to meet their expectations or provide a quick fix to their problem. A quick resolution of legal problems is often not possible for a variety of reasons. For example, the person may not be prepared and does not have the information the judge needs to reach a decision. The person could be seeking something that a judge is unable to grant in the situation. Obviously, the more disputes and problems the parties have with each other, the longer it will take to resolve the case.
In general, when the parties have settled any and all outstanding issues in their dissolution of marriage or civil union, the petitioner will set a date for the “prove up.” The “prove up” is a hearing where the judge reviews the parties’ judgment and the parties testify as to their understanding of the provisions in the agreement. If the judge is satisfied that the respondent received proper notice of the dissolution proceedings and the parties fully understand the judgment, the judge will enter the judgment and the parties’ marriage or civil union will be dissolved. If the respondent did not file an appearance, then the petitioner will set the matter for a “default prove up.”
For more information regarding what documents you need to provide at an uncontested prove up see Prove Up Checklist
If your judge is absent on the day your case is to be heard, your case will be heard by a Domestic Relations judge designated by the Presiding Judge of Domestic Relations to hear your judge’s cases for that day. This judge will have the authority on that date to enter court orders related to your case.
It is also possible that your judge will permanently cease hearing your case due to outside circumstances such as: retirement, death, or reassignment. In these instances, a new judge will be assigned to your calendar by the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division or the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and will hear and decide matters in your case.
If you or the other party is engaged in active military service at the time your case is pending in the Domestic Relations Division, the case may be transferred to the Military Calendar. The Military Calendar ensures that no court action will take place while a party is engaged in active military service and that no default will be taken against a military member based upon an absence or inability to comply with court orders. However, all existing orders in the case will remain in full force and effect. Cases transferred to the Military Calendar shall remain on the Military Calendar until such time as the court transfers the case back to the regular active calendar. Any party may petition the court for the return of the case to the court’s regular calendar sixty (60) days after the termination of the active military service or upon a showing that the party is now able to participate in the court proceedings.
In order to place a case on the Military Calendar, the party engaged in active military service is required to demonstrate to the court by documentation from the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) or commanding officer or other ranking member stating that the party will not be able to participate in court proceedings on account of active military service. If you are in the military, you should consult a military attorney as to what steps need to be taken in order to move your case to the Military Calendar.
See Circuit Court of Cook County Rule 13.2(h) for more information regarding the Military Calendar.
Parentage cases can be filed at one of the following Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County locations:
1st Municipal District
28 North Clark Street, Room 200
Chicago, Illinois 60602
Ph: (312) 345-4125 or (312) 345-4015
TDD: (312) 345-4004.
2nd Municipal District
5600 Old Orchard Road, Room 136
Skokie, Illinois 60077
Ph: (847) 470-7250
3rd Municipal District
2121 Euclid Avenue, Room 121
Rolling Meadows, Illinois 60008
Ph: (847) 818-3000
TDD: (847) 818-2035
4th Municipal District
1500 Maybrook Avenue, Room 236
Maywood, Illinois 60153
Ph: (708) 865-6040
TDD: (708) 865-6056
5th Municipal District
10220 South 76th Avenue, Room 121
Bridgeview, Illinois 60455
Ph: (708) 974-6500
TDD: (708) 974-6550
6th Municipal District
16501 South Kedzie Parkway, Room 119
Markham, Illinois 60428
Ph: (708) 232-4551
TDD: (708) 232-4799
Either you or your spouse must live in Cook County in order to file for dissolution in Cook County. Also, your case may be filed at the suburban municipal district court locations if at least one of the parties resides within the geographical boundaries of the respective suburban district.
In your Petition for Dissolution, you must provide the court with a “ground” or reason for why you are seeking a dissolution of your marriage or civil union. Grounds for dissolution can be found in section 401 of Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act 750 ILCS 401. The most common grounds used are:
Mental Cruelty: To prove this ground, you must describe in your petition repeated behavior by your spouse that made you feel sad, nervous, or upset. You must also show that you did nothing to make your spouse treat you in that way.
Irreconcilable Differences: To prove this ground, you must be separated from your spouse for at least two years. You can waive the two year requirement if you have been separated for at least six months by signing the two year waiver form. Parties do not have to live in separate residences to meet the “separation” requirement. You must state in your Petition for Dissolution that both of you have made all efforts to try to work out your problems, but your marriage cannot be saved. You do not need to describe any specific behavior your spouse did to prove irreconcilable differences.
Desertion: To prove this ground, you must prove that your spouse has willfully deserted or absented him/herself from you for the space of one year.
If you and the other parent are currently still married or were previously married to the child’s other parent, then you should file your child support case with the Clerk of Circuit Court’s Office in Room 802 of the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington, Chicago, Illinois.
A “joint simplified dissolution” of marriage or civil union was designed to simplify and speed up the dissolution process for parties who meet the following requirements:
If you qualify for a joint simplified dissolution, then contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court for the necessary forms to file a joint simplified dissolution and for more information about the procedure at (312) 603-6300 or at www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org.
If you and your spouse reconcile, you have the option of requesting a dismissal of your dissolution of marriage or civil union or requesting that the case be put on the Reconciliation Calendar. Both options require filing a motion making the specific request to dismiss your case or to have your case placed on the Reconciliation Calendar, providing notice of the motion to the other side, and presenting the motion to the court.
Dismissal of Case:
If the court grants your request to dismiss your case, your case will no longer be pending in court. This means all court orders will be terminated and no longer be enforceable. If you or your spouse decide later to proceed with your divorce, you or your spouse will have to file a new case with the Clerk of Circuit Court’s Office and pay all the initial filing fees again.
If the court grants a request for your case to be placed on the Reconciliation Calendar, the case will remain pending. However, all prior orders of court, including access to the court for enforcement and discovery, shall be considered suspended, unless otherwise expressly agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court. Cases can remain on the Reconciliation Calendar for a period not to exceed one (1) year.
All cases on the Reconciliation Calendar will be given a status court date within one year. If on the status date your case has been on the Reconciliation Calendar for one (1) year, the case will either be dismissed or proceed to divorce. If on the status date your case has been on the Reconciliation Calendar for less than one (1) year, the case may be allowed to remain on the Reconciliation Calendar for the remainder of the one (1) year. If no one appears in court on a Reconciliation Calendar status date, the case will be dismissed.
Either you or your spouse may ask the court to remove the case from the Reconciliation Calendar and place it back on the court’s regular calendar to proceed with the divorce. A benefit of the Reconciliation Calendar is that should you or your spouse decide to proceed with your divorce, you will not have to re-file your case and pay the requisite filing fees again.
See Circuit Court of Cook County Rule 13.2(g) for more information regarding the Reconciliation Calendar.
50 W. Washington, Room 802
Glossary of Legal Terms Illinois Supreme Court