What Is a Default Judgment of Divorce in Illinois?

What Is a Default Judgment of Divorce in Illinois?

The answer to the question, “What is a default judgment in divorce?” is that it is an option to move marriage dissolution cases forward through the system, even if respondents fail to appear or otherwise participate. A default judgment of divorce can be granted if not all parties appear in court or respond to the petition for divorce. For varying reasons, people may not respond at all or within the allowed timeframes to divorce petitions, delaying the ability of filers to achieve resolutions and move forward.

To avoid losing any property or having to pay a large amount of child support or spousal maintenance, divorcing spouses should appear at all of their court dates and respond to the appropriate paperwork. An attorney experienced with divorce cases can help to navigate this process and make sure that people know what to expect after filing for divorce

What Are Default Judgments in Illinois Divorce Cases?

The initial document filed to start the divorce process is called a petition for dissolution of marriage. Generally, respondents have thirty days to respond to the claims in the petition once they have been served with the paperwork.  

A court date is set when the divorce process begins, and this will allow both parties to appear before a judge and settle any issues of property and finances that they don’t agree on. The petition will outline how the filer wants the assets and responsibilities to be resolved. If the respondent has a different idea of how things should be split up, then he or she needs to respond to the petition and appear at court dates to dispute the matter. If he or she fails to do either of these things, then a judge can grant a default judgment in the favor of the petitioner. This allows the divorce proceeding to continue out without the participation of the respondent. 

How to Get a Default Judgment of Divorce in Illinois

For a judge to be able to grant a default judgment, the petitioner would need to file the appropriate paperwork with the court. Once this process has begun, the petitioner will need:

  • To provide the address for the other party to be served
  • To wait to see if the respondent files an answer to the court with his or her disagreements within the thirty-day time period 
  • To check to see if the respondent has filed to court asking for an extension to file his or her answer to the petition
  • To file a motion to hold the respondent in default due to the lack of response 

A copy is not only filed with the court, but must also be sent to the last known address of the respondent, even if he or she had not responded to any of the court proceedings

This motion, along with the lack of filings by the respondent, will allow the judge to grant a default judgment of divorce in favor of the original filer. A divorce lawyer can handle filing all the appropriate documents that the court requires, as well as sending out any copies that may be required to allow for the default judgment to be granted.

What Can I Ask For in an Illinois Default Judgment?

The petitioner should ask to have any property that is involved in the marriage resolved and divided, including any debt associated with this property. Issues of child and spousal support can include medical insurance that still needs to be covered by a specific party. Parental responsibility (child custody) assignments can designate how often the child or children go back and forth between both parties. Any other issues that might need to be resolved can also be written into the divorce decree. 

The filer can be as specific as he or she needs to be to get all the details outlined to his or her satisfaction. This should be done even if the respondent does file an answer and appear so that any disagreements can be worked out. However, with a default divorce, the judge might approve the document as it has been originally filed with the other party’s non-appearance, despite any objections made by the respondent down the line.

What Happens After a Default Judgment in a Divorce?

After a default judgment has been awarded, the respondent has one last chance to contest it. He or she will have thirty days to ask the court to vacate this judgment. After this time period has passed, the default judgment is considered final. 

To ask the court to vacate the default judgment, the respondent will have to have a legitimate reason for why he or she waited so long to respond to the divorce proceedings. Most judges do not like to set aside default judgments, especially if the petitioner has followed all the required guidelines. In such cases, the missing spouse would have been served with the summons and had the allotted time to file an answer or extension if he or she felt like he or she needed more time to file an appropriate answer. 

The respondent’s answer does not have to include all the disagreements, just an appearance form filled out to let the court know he or she is responding. This form must be filed by at least the last day he or she has to respond. Both parties to the divorce should cooperate with the court during their divorce proceedings. 

Appearing when requested and providing any information that is requested to resolve any disputes will help move a divorce along amicably. This can also mean providing information in a timely manner. If either party fails to do this, it can affect the outcome of the proceedings and diminish the chances of a favorable outcome. Even if both parties appear at some court dates, if they continue to ask for extensions due to lack of preparation, then the judge might rule against them as well.

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