Prove Ups

What is a Divorce Prove Up?

In Cook County, Illinois, one of the parties always has to appear before a Judge to get a divorce. For an Uncontested Divorce in Chicago, this court appearance is called a “Prove Up.”

At a prove up, the court hears some brief testimony from you. Then it reviews your judgment or settlement agreement to make sure all of the requirements have been met and that the agreement is fair and complete.

Who needs to attend the prove up?

For most prove ups in Cook County, both parties and their divorce attorneys attend, but only the Petitioner (the party who filed the case) is required to attend. The respondent (the other party) must be notified of the date, time, and location of the prove up, but his or her attendance is not required.

Witnesses are rarely required, but you can bring family or friends. They can sit in the courtroom for moral support. Do not bring your children. Most divorce judges in Cook County will not allow children in the courtroom.

At most prove ups, there is a court reporter present. The court reporter types a record of everything said during the proceeding. This transcript will be available a few weeks later. You must purchase it and file with the court so it becomes part of the formal record of your divorce.

What can I expect at my prove up?

You and your spouse (if present) will testify before the Judge. You will briefly outline the facts of your marriage and give a summary of the details in your settlement. The Petitioner goes first. The Petitioner’s attorney will ask simple questions, usually only requiring a “Yes” or “No” response. For example:

  1. Did you and your wife get marriage on June 23, 2005 in Chicago, IL?
  2. Is it true that you and your husband have lived separate and apart since January 1, 2011?
  3. During the marriage, you and your wife had two children: Tom, age 3 and Jared, age 1, is this correct?
  4. You and your husband have agreed that you will be award the Green Ford Escape and she will be awarded the White Toyota Camry?

If the respondent is present, they go next. The respondent is usually asked if the testimony of the Petitioner is accurate. If necessary, the testimony of the Respondent will elaborate or clarify the details from the Petitioner’s testimony.

Finally, the judge has the opportunity to ask a few follow-up questions. Sometimes the judges will ask questions and sometimes they don’t. Once the judge is satisfied with the testimony and the proposed judgment, he or she will sign the judgment and the parties are divorced immediately.

How long does a prove up last?

It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to testify before the judge. However, in Cook County multiple prove ups are scheduled at the same time. From the moment that you enter the courtroom until the moment that you leave, it often takes between 1 to 2 hours.

I recommend you take off at least a half day for your prove up. If the prove up is scheduled in the morning, don’t expect to return to work until lunchtime. If your prove up is in the afternoon, don’t expect to be back at work before the end of the day.

What should I wear to my prove up?

Business casual is recommended. You don’t need to wear a suit, but probably shouldn’t wear jeans, a tank top, or a sleeveless shirt. I recommend, for men to wear khaki or dress pants and a button-down shirt, and for women to slacks or a skirt, and a blouse or sweater.

What do I need to bring to my prove up?

Nothing, unless your attorney specifies otherwise. If you need a certified judgment, you should bring cash. In Cook County divorce cases, the clerk’s office charges $9 on the day of your prove up. If you have to buy a certified judgment later, they will charge $15 to $20, depending on the length of your judgment.

Does the judge ever reject a settlement agreement?

Yes, if the judge thinks the agreement is unfair or incomplete, or if all of the requirements to get a divorce haven’t been met.

Usually the judge will tell the parties how he or she wants the paperwork to be fixed. The parties can hand write any changes and still get divorced that same day. However, sometimes the judge will make the parties come back another day. This often happens when the parties haven’t hired attorneys to handle their divorce.

Will I be divorced after my prove up?

Yes, you will be divorced as soon as the judge signs the Judgment for Dissolution. However, this does not necessarily mean it’s a good idea for you to get remarried right away. The best advice is to wait at least 30 days.

What happens next?

After the prove up, there are usually some tasks that still need to be completed before your case is closed. Usually your attorney handles most of these for you.

The tasks differ from case to case, but many cases need to do the following:

  • purchase and file the transcript of the prove up;
  • set up withholding of income for child support and maintenance;
  • record a quitclaim deed;
  • draft and enter a QDRO (for dividing retirement accounts);
  • and obtain a certified judgment (to change wife’s last name).