There are only two ways to get a divorce in the State of Illinois: (1) you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, and enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement, which the Court incorporates into a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage; or (2) you and your spouse do not agree, your case is set for trial and, after considering the evidence, the Court enters a judgment for dissolution of marriage based upon the evidence presented. Although most cases settle, some cases are so highly contested that the parties must have a trial.
Trials should not be taken lightly. In order to persuade the court to award you the relief you are seeking, you must present evidence showing you are either entitled to or in equity should receive the relief you are requesting. If you do not present any evidence, you will lose. In divorce cases, the most common types of evidence are documents evidencing the parties' income, assets, expenses, and debts, such as However, evidence comes in many forms and doesn't necessarily need to be documents or other tangible evidence. In fact, much of the evidence the court will consider is the testimony of the parties and other witnesses.
Unfortunately, it is not enough to just give the Judge and the other party your evidence at the trial. Rather, there are rules in place that provide you must compile your documents and other evidence into “exhibits” and provide those in advance to the other party. In addition, the rules also state you must provide a written list of your witnesses in advance to the other party. This is done so that neither party can surprise the other with exhibits or witnesses on the day of trial. It also allows the parties to object to exhibits if necessary, depose witnesses prior to trial, and further investigate issues involved in the case prior to trial. In order to make sure all of this is done properly, it is wise to set dates to (1) exchange discovery updates, (2) exchange witness lists; (3) exchange exhibits, and (4) deadlines to depose witnesses prior to trial. To make things a little easier on the parties and their attorneys, most Judges have a form trial order for their courtroom that provides all the discovery deadlines, exhibits exchange deadlines, and witness list exchange deadlines in preparation for trial. These dates should be far enough in advance of trial to provide the parties with time to review the other's exhibits and witnesses, object to same, and/or depose the witnesses.
Preparing for a trial is a daunting and time-consuming task. As a result, trials are very costly. Depending on the circumstances, it is usually better to try and settle your case as opposed to incurring the costs of an expensive trial. However, there are some situations in which going to trial would be advisable, provided the parties have the resources to do so. If you feel your case needs to go to trial and you need some help, feel free to contact our office today for your free consultation!