1) What does it mean to have an uncontested versus a contested dissolution of marriage/civil union?
In an uncontested dissolution, both sides agree on the dissolution, division of marital property, and child custody and visitation issues, if any. A contested dissolution is where the parties disagree about one or more of these areas, which must then be negotiated or litigated.
2) What documents are required to file for dissolution of marriage/civil union?
Both contested and uncontested dissolutions require the following:
· State Certificate
· Domestic Relations Division Cover Sheet
· Self-drafted Petition
Additionally, an uncontested divorce requires:
· The Respondent's Appearance;
· A Certification and Agreement by Counsel, verifying that there are no contested issues.
A contested dissolution requires a summons.
3) How do I file for my own dissolution of marriage/civil union?
For contested or uncontested dissolutions, the Clerk's Office can give you a prepared packet of forms. Fill out these forms and self-draft a Petition for Dissolution. Once the paperwork is filed, you will receive a case number and judge (Calendar) assignment. You may set up a court date at the Motion Counter. At a later date, if there has been no activity on the case, you will receive a white postcard in the mail notifying you of your first court date.
4) What if I cannot afford an attorney?
If you cannot afford an attorney, you can:
· Find a lawyer's group that will represent you for no fee or a reduced fee. The Clerk's Office can provide you with a list of Lawyer Referral Services. That information is available in Room 802 or online (Finding an Attorney).
· By filling out an Application and Affidavit to Sue or Defend as an Indigent Person, otherwise known as a "298 Petition", you may qualify to proceed Pro Se (Self Representing Litigant) without having to pay any fees. This form is available in Room 802 or online (CCGN689).
5) How long will it take to get a dissolution of marriage/civil union?
There is no set time period. Key factors in the timetable include the schedules of the judge and the parties involved as well as whether or not the dissolution is contested.
6) Is there a waiting period to obtain a dissolution of marriage/civil union judgment?
It depends on the grounds being alleged. For example:
· If the alleged grounds are mental and physical cruelty, there is no required separation period.
· If the alleged reason is irreconcilable differences, there is a statutory two-year waiting period, but this can be waived and reduced to 6 months if both parties agree.
7) How can I get a certified copy of my Cook County judgment for dissolution of marriage/civil union?
You can come to Room 802 of the Daley Center or call (312) 603-6300. The Clerks there will tell you how much the copy will cost, depending on the number of pages in your divorce decree. The state legislature has set certain fees that the Clerk's Office must charge:
|Copying Fee:||$2.00 for the first page|
| ||$.50 per page for pages 2 – 20|
| ||$.25 per page for page 21 on.|
· If you also want it certified, it's an additional $9.00.
· If you live in a state that requires exemplified copies, you are charged $18.00 plus the cost of copying.
· There is also a mailing fee of $15.00 plus the cost of weight based postage.
8) How do I file for Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union?
The legal requirements, which are also listed on the Joint Simplified Dissolution form, are as follows:
- The duration of the relationship must not exceed 8 years;
- There are irreconcilable differences, the parties have been separated 6 months or more, and efforts at reconciliation have failed or future attempts would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family;
- There are no children and neither party is pregnant by the other party;
- Neither party is dependent on the other for support;
- Each party waives the right to spousal support;
- Neither party has an interest in real estate;
- The total fair market value of all marital/civil union property, after deducting all debts owed, is less than $10,000.00;
- The total annual income of both parties is less than $35,000.00 and neither party has a gross annual income from all sources in excess of $20,000.00;
- Both parties have disclosed to each other all assets and tax returns for all years of the marriage/civil union; and
- The parties have executed a written agreement dividing all assets in excess of $100.00 in value and allocating responsibility for debts and liabilities between themselves (you must file a copy of this written agreement with the Petition).
Both parties to the marriage/civil union must both be present to file the paperwork in Room 802 of the Daley Center. You must file the paperwork by 12 noon in order for a judge to hear your case on the same day.
9) What should I do with the Summons?
If the Respondent (the person the case is against) resides in Cook County, take the completed Summons and a copy of the Petition to the Sheriff's Office in Room 701 of the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington, so that they can serve it on the opposing party to your case. There is a fee for this service, unless you have a granted Indigent Person Application or some other fee waiver.
If the Respondent does not reside in Cook County, you are responsible for ensuring that the Respondent receives a copy of the Summons and Petition. You must contact the local police agency in the Respondent's county regarding this and request that they bring or mail an affidavit of service to the following two addresses:
Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County
Richard J. Daley Center
50 West Washington Street, Room 802
Chicago, IL 60602
Cook County Sheriff's Office
Richard J. Daley Center
50 West Washington Street, Room 701
Chicago, IL 60602
10) What are the filings fees for a new case?
The regular fee for filing all cases in the Division is $337.00. If you cannot afford this fee, you can fill out an application and affidavit to sue or defend as an indigent person and see a judge to determine if the filing fees will be waived or perhaps, deferred.
11) Is there someone at the Daley Center who can help me with my Domestic Relations case?
Yes. There is a service on the 30th Floor of the Daley Center called C.A.R.P.L.S. that is available to assist you for free. C.A.R.P.L.S. stands for Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services and is staffed by volunteer lawyers. The C.A.R.P.L.S. Self-Help Desk in the hallway on the 30th Floor of the Daley Center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Services are free if you meet income eligibility requirements. C.A.R.P.L.S. also has a Legal Aid Hotline: (312) 738-9200.
12) Can I review my file?
Yes. Come to Room 802 of the Daley Center and go to the File Request Counter. If your case was filed within the last four years, your file is on-site and can immediately be reviewed by you -- all you will need is a valid photo identification. You should schedule enough time to review the file, as you are not allowed to remove the original file from Room 802. If your file is off-site, we will order it for you and let you know when to return to review it. If you would like to order a file that is older than four years you may order it at Counter 4a in the Daley Center or order it over the telephone by calling (312) 603-6228.
13) Is it possible to get a copy of a dissolution of marriage/civil union that was filed over 20 years ago?
Yes, for dissolution of marriage. Civil Unions became legal in 2011 so there are currently no records for dissolution of civil unions prior to 2011.
For dissolution of marriage cases:
- You can phone, mail, e-mail, or deliver your request in person.
- Tell the Clerk's Office the party names or the case number.
- The Clerk can look your case up on the computer and get the microfilm or microfiche number.
- The Clerk can then obtain a copy of your judgment on microfilm (for cases filed from 1986-present) or microfiche (for cases filed from 1970 to 1985).
If the case is older than 1986, you can get it from the Archives Department in Room 1113 of the Daley Center, (312) 603-6601. If you want to see the entire file, the Clerk can order it from the Record Center.
14) Where do I go to apply for Child Support?
If the parents of the child were never married, you should go to the Child Support Division at 28 North Clark, Room 200. If the parents were married at any point in time, or are still married, you should go to Room 802 of the Daley Center.
15) How can I see the judge to express my concerns?
In order to see the judge regarding an issue in your case, you must file a written Motion describing the relief you request. The Clerk's Office has blank Motion forms available for you. Then, you should obtain a Notice of Motion form and go to the Motion Counter to schedule a court date. File the Motion and Notice of Motion with the Cashiers, and then a copy should be mailed to the respondent or his or her attorney.
16) How long will I have to wait to see the judge?
For a Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, you will see the judge on the same day if you file your completed paperwork by noon. Petitions for emergency relief will also be heard right away. For other court dates, every effort is made to give you a court date seven business days away from the date on which you come in to request it.
17) What time does my judge hear motions?
Each judge has a different schedule. The Motion Clerks at the Motion Counter in Room 802 of the Daley Center has a complete list of all the judge's schedules. Domestic Relations Division judges generally hear motions at 9:30 a.m. or 10:00 a.m., but may also hear motions at other times.
18) If I am acting as my own attorney (pro se), what do I do on the day of my court date?
Arrive early to the location of your court date dressed neatly for court. Review the computer printout of the cases to be called, which is posted outside the courtroom. Check-in with the Courtroom Clerk, who is inside the courtroom. Tell the Courtroom Clerk your name and the line number from the computer printout that lists your case. Be sure to turn off any cell phones or pagers, or set them to vibrate mode. Men should remove their hats in the courtroom. Listen attentively until the Courtroom Clerk announces your case and then approach the judge's bench. Introduce yourself and be prepared to answer questions the judge may have for you regarding your case. You should address the judge as “Your Honor.” Always be respectful and courteous.
19) What courtroom is my case in? Who is my judge? What year was I divorced? Has my case been dismissed? When is my next court date?
The Clerk's Office can research case information on the computer for you in person or by phone. Contact the Domestic Relations Division at (312) 603-6300. There is a $9.00 record search fee set by Illinois statute if a staff member performs the search for you over the telephone. However, there are Public Access Terminals in Room 802 if you want to research case information on your own for free. Or, you may view this information on-line (Electronic Full Case Docket Search). All you need is your case number or the name of one of the parties.
20) If a Domestic Relations Division case is filed in the Daley Center, can it be transferred to another location? Or, if a case is filed in a Suburban location can it be transferred to the Daley Center?
Yes. Cases may be transferred to another district or county. If the parties motion the court to transfer the case to a suburban district and the judge grants this request, the Clerk will transfer the case for no fee to that district.
Cases can also be transferred out of Cook County if the judge orders it, but there is a fee for this $85.15 ($65.00 Transfer fee, plus $15.00 mailing fee, plus $2.85 Certified Mail Rate, plus $2.30 Return-Receipt Rate, plus the cost of weight based postage $.44 minimum).
Cases filed in the suburbs may be transferred to the Daley Center if the judge orders it, or pursuant to Circuit Court Rule 13.3(e). Rule 13.3(e) provides that pre-judgment cases shall be transferred to the Daley Center when the Respondent files his/her appearance together with a District Transfer form (CCDR 0050).
21) Is it recommended that parties hire an attorney when filing cases in the Domestic Relations Division?
There is no recommended direction in this matter. Many people file Domestic Relations Division cases pro se, meaning that they act as their own lawyer. Others prefer representation. You can do it either way; it's up to you. If you proceed pro se:
· The Clerk's Office will provide the forms for you, but you will have to draft the Petition and Judgement yourself. The forms are also available online by clicking the FORMS tab on this web site and identifying Domestic Relations Division forms. Please note that, the Clerk's Office is not allowed to help you fill out forms and cannot give legal advice.
· The Clerk's Office can provide sample forms for you to review (excluding the Petition and Judgement).
· The Clerk's Office can provide a list of attorneys that may be able to represent you for free or for a reduced fee. This list is also available on the website. Also, many bar associations, such as the Chicago Bar Association, have a lawyer referral phone line, but these lawyers typically charge fees.