A prove-up hearing is used in divorce cases to request approval from the state of the property settlement agreement and any custodial arrangements. A “prove-up” is another word for a final hearing regarding a divorce proceeding. It is usually no more than thirty minutes and conducted in front of a judge in open court. The proceedings are considered uncontested if the parties have reach a settlement concerning all their marital assets/property/etc.
wiProve-up hearings can be very different depending on the state or county which is why it is extremely helpful to have a local attorney represent you regardless of how contested the divorce is. Having a divorce attorney who is familiar with the local rules can save you a lot of headache and time and ensure your case is handled correctly. This could be crucial in the future if an issue arises.
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Cook County Prove Up Hearings
In Cook County, Illinois, one party must always be present at the prove-up hearing to get a divorce. If the initiator of the divorce is unable to locate the other spouse, after proof of a good faith attempt and with permission of the court, the divorce can still occur. If this is the case, it will not be called an uncontested prove-up, but a default prove-up.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR PROVE UP HEARING
If you have an attorney to represent you in your divorce, you will be asked for personal information and financial documentation. This is needed to prepare forms and draft required documents to get divorced. Your part is fairly simple, merely gathering the requested documentation and giving it to your attorney. Examples of documents for an Illinois include your recent paycheck stubs and last year’s tax returns. If there are variations in your financial situation, you may have to provide more than the most recent. As much detailed information is required, it is a good idea to review the document to ensure accuracy prior to appearing in court.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A PROVE-UP HEARING
Brief Testimony from the Parties in the Divorce
At a prove up, the court needs to hear brief testimony from the parties concerning the division of assets and decisions concerning any minor children of the marriage. The Judge wants to ensure the parties fully understand the repercussions of their decisions, that the parties really want to get divorced, and are entering into a fairly reasonable agreement or settlement.
Testimony Regarding the Marital Settlement Agreement
The Marital Settlement Agreement is signed before the prove-up date and lays out the specific distribution of assets/property/debts and how those assets/property/debts are to be apportioned between the parties. At a prove-up in Cook County, you will give testimony regarding the main points of your Marital Settlement Agreement in front of the judge agreement so it will can be recorded by the court reporter. Due to this, it is imperative to speak loudly and clearly so that the court reporter can accurately take down every word you are saying. At the end of your prove-up, you can order the transcript and obtain it for your records. It typically takes a month for the court reporter to finish typing the document.
During the prove-up, the client will stand immediately next to their attorney and facing the judge. This helps diffuse any potential negative communication with the opposing party. In contested divorce cases, things can get pretty heated.
Attorneys questioning their client typically like to use leading to make the testimony simple and straightforward. Sometimes clients only state their name and the word “yes”.
EXAMPLE OF TESTIMONY at a Prove-Up Hearing:
Below is an example of typical testimony you may hear at a prove-up:
- Name: (state & spell for the record)
- You are the Petitioner in this action?
- Your Address:
- You have lived in this state for at least 90 days preceding the filing of this case?
- You were married to X on X date?
- You were married in Chicago, Illinois and the marriage was registered therein?
- No children were born to or adopted during this marriage? (if children were born during your marriage, there are many more questions to ask)
- The wife is not pregnant?
- Questions regarding spousal support/alimony/maintenance depending on if one spouse is paying another. If neither party is paying the other, the Judge will be interested to hear how the parties will be supporting themselves.
- That irreconcilable differences have arisen between the parties causing an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Both of you have attempted reconciliation and all attempts at reconciliation have failed. Future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and would not be in the best interest of the family.
- You have been living separate and apart and not as husband and wife since X date?
- Showing you what I will mark Exhibit “A”, do you recognize this document, is this your Marital Settlement Agreement?
- Have you and your spouse in this agreement attempted to settle between you, questions of property rights, maintenance, and all other issues?
- Do you recognize the signatures on the last page of your marital settlement agreement?
- Are those yours and your spouse’s signatures?
- Here are some important agreements within this document:
- Marital debts – how have you divided them?
- Real Property – how have you divided it?
- Bank Accounts – how have you divided them?
- Retirement Plans – how have you divided them?
- Personal property in the house – how have you divided them?
- Vehicles: – how have you divided them?
- Did you freely and voluntarily enter into these agreements?
- Nobody forced you into entering into the agreements?
- You are not under the influence of anything that impairs your ability to understand what is taking place today?
- Did you make a full and fair disclosure of all of your assets and Liabilities in negotiating this agreement?
After the judge asks the above questions, the other spouse will be called to testify. The Judge may have a few follow up questions at the end, and then you will be officially divorced.
If you are contemplating divorce or were just served divorce papers, it is important to make smart decisions and seek advice from experienced divorce attorneys. Contact our office today to schedule a confidential consultation to get answers to your divorce questions including what happens at a divorce prove-up hearing.