Frequently Asked Questions

The information below is not intended to be construed as legal advice and is only intended to answer general questions regarding the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County and relevant legal principles.

May I speak directly to the judge?

Out of court written or oral communications to the judges of the Circuit Court of Cook County regarding pending matters are known as ex parte communications. The Illinois Supreme Court and the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct do not permit judges to engage in ex parte communications with litigants involving the substance of a pending case.

Consequently, you may only speak directly to the judge upon filing a written motion or petition with the court, scheduling a court date, and providing due notice to the other party. At your court date, in presenting your motion or petition, you may discuss your issue or grievance with the judge hearing your case. 

May I ask the judge for legal advice?

What if I cannot come to my next court date?

Each party is required to appear at every court date unless excused by a previous order of the court. If you have an attorney, your attorney will inform you when your presence is required or when, in the alternative, their presence in court on your behalf will suffice. If you represent yourself, however, you need to appear at each scheduled court date. 

If you, or an attorney acting on your behalf, 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, providing due notice to the other party, and come to court at an earlier date to ask that your court date be continued.  Note that a phone call or letter to your judge will not suffice to reschedule your date or to excuse your absence.

What will happen if the judge to whom my case is regularly assigned is absent?

If your judge is absent on the day your case is to be heard, your case may be heard by another Domestic Relations judge designated by the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division or by the Preliminary Juddge to hear your judge’s cases for that day. 

Please proceed to your regularly-assigned courtroom for further information if your judge is absent. If you are unsure of where to go, please contact the Domestic Relations Division administrative staff by visiting room 1901A at the Daley Center or by calling (312) 603-3025.

What is a motion or a petition, and why do I need one?

The court is required to have a properly filed written motion or petition in order to act and in order to consider the requests or hear arguments of either party. Letters to the court or informal oral requests will not suffice. This protects everyone because the court record always reflects what issues have been raised by the parties and are properly before the court. It also ensures that all parties receive proper notice.

Every motion or petition must, at a minimum, comply with the following requirements:

• You must specify the relief you seek (such as allocation  of parental responsibility, child support or its modification, parenting time etc.) and the statute under which you are asking the court to act. 
• If you are seeking to enforce or modify a prior order, attach that order to your pleading.  If you don’t have it, you may obtain a copy from the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Click here or call (312) 603-6300 for more information. 
• Be specific about the date, time, place or events causing you to seek relief so that the other side knows, when they read your pleading, what it is they need to respond to.

 When you present your motion, you should come prepared with the following: 
•A copy of the petition or motion that brings you to court. Note that you may also want to provide the judge with a courtesy copy a few days before you are scheduled to appear, and that some judges require you to do so. In fact, some judges have a standing order detailing when to deliver courtesy copies. To review your judge’s information and see if they have a standing order, you can click here and click on your judge’s name. Courtesy copies are helpful because, though the Clerk of the Court receives a copy when you file it, the judge herself does not. 
• Proof that all parties (or their attorneys if they have one) were served with notice of the pending petition or motion and the court date and time
• Any relevant financial documentation (if there is a financial issue pending), such as:
• A completed financial affidavit 
• Your last check stub if it shows year-to-date income and deductions; if it does not, then your last 5 check stubs
• Proof of any and all other income, paid or deferred this year, but not shown in your check stubs
• Your last two federal income tax returns with all exhibits attached, or, if you have not filed last year’s federal tax return yet, copies of all W-2’s, 1099s and K-1s
• Proof of the cost of any particular expenses at issue (i.e. bills, receipts, etc.) 

What does it mean to "give notice" to the other party?

“Giving notice” to the other party means that you must notify the other party* of any court dates you create and that you must give the other party a copy of anything you provide to the judge**.  You must give notice because both parties are entitled to be notified about any proceedings in court.  

Proof that you complied with this requirement by giving notice to the other party and providing copies of paperwork is added to the record via a separate document titled notice of service, or notice of motion, or notice of filing. You can find forms for notices on the Clerk’s website. Many litigants also choose to bring any verification of service they have (i.e. a signed receipt of certified mail, a print out that your email sent, etc.). 

You can learn more about the notice requirements at  For further information regarding acceptable forms of service and the appropriate notice window for the document you are filing, please see Cook County Rule 2.1(c)(i) and all relevant Illinois Supreme Court Rules including but not limited to Rules 11 and 12

*Please note that, if the other party is not represented by an attorney, you must serve the other party with your notice of motion and copy of your motion.  If the other party is represented by an attorney, you must serve the attorney - not the other party.  If the other party has an attorney who filed a Limited Scope Appearance in accordance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 13(c)(6), you must serve both the other party and the Limited Scope Attorney. Serving the wrong person can result in a denial of your motion/petition.

**Please note that most items you provide to the judge will need to be filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

What does "prove up" mean?

In general, when the parties have settled any and all outstanding issues in their case and  reduced their understanding to a finalized written agreement, the petitioner will set a date for the “prove up.” The “prove up” is a hearing where the judge reviews the parties’ proposed agreed judgment and the parties testify as to their understanding of the provisions in the agreement. If the judge is satisfied with the parties’ agreement that the parties fully understand the judgment, the judge will enter the judgment and the parties’ case will be resolved. 

If the respondent did not file an appearance, then the petitioner will set the matter for a “default prove up” and the judge will consider not only the petitioner’s proposed judgment itself but also whether the respondent received proper notice of the proceedings. 

For more information regarding what documents you need to provide at prove up, click here.

Do I have to live in Cook County to file my domestic relations case in Cook County?

Yes, either you or your spouse must live in Cook County in order to file for dissolution in Cook County. You may file your case at the Daley Center or at the suburban municipal district court locations if at least one of the parties resides within the geographical boundaries of the respective suburban district. Please note that, in accordance with 750 ILCS 5/401, the Court will not be able to enter a judgment in your case unless you or your spouse has resided in Illinois for at least 90 days.

Can I transfer my case to the Daley Center if the other party filed the case in suburban court?

If you are the Respondent in a Domestic Relations case that was filed in a suburban district, you have the option of having the case transferred to the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington, Chicago, IL 60602.  Such a transfer shall not be deemed an exercise of your statutory right for Substitution of Judge.  You must file a district transfer form with your appearance in order to have the case transferred to the Daley Center.  You cannot file a district transfer form after you have filed your appearance.  Once you properly file your district transfer form, your case will be automatically transferred to the Daley Center where it will be randomly assigned by a computer to a judge at the Daley Center.

How much does it cost to file a Domestic Relations case in Cook County?

Click here for more information regarding the fees involved for filing a domestic relations case.

Can I get my court fees waived?

Yes, if you qualify for a fee waiver (aka 298 Petition or an Application for Waiver of Court Fees). To learn more about fee waivers and for guidance on completing and filing your petition, click here.

What happens if both parties file cases at the same time?

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. For example, if wife files first and receives case number 18 D 1, and husband files second receiving case number 18 D 2, the cases will be consolidated into 18 D 1 and heard by the judge assigned to 18 D 1.  If there is a pending independent order of protection case involving both parties during the pendency of the parties’ domestic relations case, the order of protection case will be consolidated with the domestic relations case and heard by the domestic relations judge.

What happens to my case if the other party and/or I are on active duty for the military?

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.

Where do I go to file for an adoption?

Adoptions are heard in the County Division. For more information about filing for an adoption, or adoption procedures in general, please click here.  

Where do I go to file for guardianship?

Guardianship cases are heard in the Probate Division. For more information about filing for a guardianship, or guardianships in general, please click here.
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