Appearances in Chicago Family Law Cases

What is an “Appearance?”

An Appearance is a legal document that officially notifies the court that you are going to participate in the lawsuit and identifies who is going to represent you. For family law cases (divorce, custody, child support, etc.) in Cook County, Illinois, you should use the court’s Appearance form, which you can download here: Cook County Domestic Relations Division Appearance Form

You can file an Appearance in person or by mail. It costs $206 to file an Appearance in Cook County. Click here for step by step instructions on how to file your Appearance

Do I have to file an Appearance?

No, you only need to file an Appearance if you are going to participate in the lawsuit. You have to file an Appearance if you want to do any of these things:

  • Contest any part of the Petition
  • Sign a settlement agreement
  • Have joint custody of your children
  • Talk to the Judge
  • Show up in court

How soon do I need to file an Appearance?

If you have been served papers in a family law case, you have 30 days to file an Appearance and a Response to the Petition. If you don’t file your Appearance within 30 days, your spouse or the other parent can ask the court to find you in “default” and everything thing they’ve asked for in their Petition will usually be granted by the court.

Do I have to be served papers first before filing an Appearance?

No, as soon as you know that your spouse or the other parent of your children has filed a case, you can file your appearance. In uncontested divorces, many people file appearances on the same day the case was filed. In contested divorces, people often wait to be served.

Do only lawyers file Appearances?

If you have a Chicago divorce attorney, your attorney will file an Appearance on your behalf. If you are “Pro Se” (that is, you represent yourself), you need to file it.

What is the cost to file an Appearance?

It costs $206 to file an appearance in Divorce, Child Support or Custody cases. The court clerk accepts cash, check, money order or credit cards. If you pay by credit card, a surcharge is added to the fee. You can find more information about the court fees at this website: Cook County Court Fees.

I am Pro Se, how do I file an Appearance?

You can file it by mail or in person. Click here for step-by-step instructions.