Finalizing a Divorce: Prove Up
After both spouses have reached an agreement on all matters in their divorce case, and have agreed upon the final divorce papers, the judge will set a court date to finalize the divorce. This final court date is called the “Prove Up.”
Procedure on the Day of Prove Up
Generally, both spouses appear before the judge in divorce court, and are asked a series of questions to ensure that the divorce will be valid and to confirm that both parties are in complete agreement on the terms of their Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan. A basic summary of the procedure is that the Petitioner is questioned, then the Respondent, then the judge makes some findings and finalizes the divorce. Both spouses will be asked questions by their attorneys, and the judge. If neither party has an attorney, the judge will ask the questions. The answers that the spouses give will be their official testimony on the court record. These proceedings are often recorded by a court reporter or other method.
Generally the spouse who filed the petition for dissolution, or the “Petitioner,” is questioned first. After the Petitioner is questioned by his or her attorney (or the judge, if the Petitioner does not have an attorney), the other spouse, or “Respondent,” will have an opportunity to ask the Petitioner questions as well. The judge may also have additional questions for the Petitioner. Next, the Respondent will be questioned by his or her attorney. The Petitioner and judge will also have an opportunity to ask the Respondent questions. Whether or not the spouses have attorneys, they will be granted the opportunity to ask each other questions to confirm that they are both in agreement on the Marital Settlement Agreement and/or Parenting Plan.
After both spouses have been questioned, the judge will make some “findings” to make the divorce final. “Findings” here refers to facts or conclusions that the judge determines to be true, after examination of evidence and testimony. The judge will state his or her findings on the record. An example of findings at a Prove Up can include:
- That irreconcilable differences have caused an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage
- That the court has proper jurisdiction
- That the terms of the agreements are not unconscionable
After the judge makes findings, the judge will declare that the marriage has been dissolved.
Questions Asked at a Prove Up
The parties will be asked different types of questions. The first set of questions will usually be to confirm that the court has jurisdiction over the case, and to confirm some of the allegations in the initial Petition for Dissolution. Here are some examples:
- Were you a resident of Illinois for 90 days before the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage?
- Were you married to Mr. Smith on June 21st, 1993 in Chicago, Illinois, Cook County?
- Have irreconcilable differences caused an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage?
The questions can then move on to confirm specific terms of the Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan, such as:
- Do you agree that Mr. Smith will retain all rights to the 2013 Toyota Corolla?
- Do you agree to be responsible for any remaining debts listed under your name?
- Do you agree to waive any right to receive maintenance from Mrs. Smith?
- Do you agree to equally share with Mr. Smith all parenting responsibilities relating to your minor children?
- Do you agree to pay 50% of your child’s educational, extracurricular, day care and uncovered medical expenses?
Other questions may be asked to confirm whether the parties have reviewed the Agreements and that they are absolutely certain that they wish to have the final divorce papers entered:
- Have you read and reviewed all the terms of these Agreements?
- Is this your signature on page 20 of the Marital Settlement Agreement?
- Are you of sound mind to enter this agreement today?
- Did anyone force or coerce you into entering into this agreement?
The questions asked at Prove Up will be specific to each case. Attorneys will often make sure to ask specific questions relating to issues which were of particular contention or dispute during negotiations. This is to ensure that a party will testify on the record that they clearly agree to a specific provision or term, and that they cannot later claim they were unaware of the provision, or did not agree.
In many divorce cases, especially uncontested cases with no hearings, the Prove Up might be the only time that the parties will actually appear in court. The party who did not file the initial divorce petition (Respondent) might not be required to appear for Prove Up. However, every case is different; be sure to confirm with your attorney or the judge on whether attendance of the Respondent is required or recommended.
If you or someone you know requires professional assistance with reviewing, drafting, negotiating, or proving up a Marital Settlement Agreement or Parenting Plan, contact our attorneys for an initial consultation at (815) 207-9570 or (815) 409-8858. Our family law attorneys assist clients throughout Will County, Dupage County, and Kendall County.
The information on this site is not legal advice. Retain an attorney licensed in the state which has jurisdiction over your matter before taking any action which affects your legal issues, legal marital status or custody arrangements, and follow the advice of your retained lawyer.