What To Do After Being Served Divorce Papers in Illinois

Updated on October 21, 2021
Updated: October 15, 2022

There are several essential things to keep in mind if you are served with divorce papers, including the first steps you should take and how best to respond to your spouse's actions. Read through our tips below to find answers to common questions and if you are facing a divorce contact our team at Tommalieh Law for a free case review. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer at Orland Family Lawyers can help you protect your interests and future after being served divorce papers in Illinois

Divorce can the the most difficult experience many people face. With asset and property division, as well as the possibility of disputes over child custody, there can be an enormous amount of stress to face. To help manage these issues, hire an experienced divorce attorney to see you through the divorce process.

What Do I Do After Being Served Divorce Papers?

It's common to be unsure what to do after being served with divorce papers. At the simplest, you have two options moving forward:

1) Do Nothing

While this is usually a bad idea, you can simply choose to do nothing. If you do not respond to your divorce papers your spouse can request that the court enter a default judgment. The divorce case will proceed without you and the judge will make a default judgment based on what your spouse says, which can include granting the divorce petition without your being present. This may be fine if between the two of you, or if you simply have no opinion about the potential outcome of the case, but if you choose to proceed with an uncontested divorce and the judge makes a decision you don't like you may come to regret it.

couple considering divorce in Orland Hills, IL

While it is possible to have a default judgment vacated, the decision to do so is left to the divorce judge. In most cases you will find it far more difficult to convince them to do so when you ignored a court summons. You will be better off protecting your legal rights and aiming for the best outcome for your case from the beginning. To do this you will want to hire a divorce attorney and take the second option. 

2) Respond to the Divorce Papers and Engage in the Case

Your better choice is to be proactive. Respond to the divorce papers and take part in the case, which will give you the opportunity to present your side to the judge. 

Fill out and file an Appearance form and an Answer form with the court by the deadline to officially respond to your divorce papers. This will let the Court know you are planning to participate in the legal proceedings. Make sure you make extra copies for your spouse and your personal records.

  • The Appearance form tells the court and your spouse that you will be taking part in the court case. If you intend to be involved in your case you must submit this, as you will not be permitted to offer your side if the form is not on file. 
  • The Answer form is a written response telling the court whether you agree or disagree with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage filed by your spouse.

Once the correct forms have been filled out you will need to file them with the circuit clerk and pay your filing fee. This will need to be submitted through electronic filing unless you meet one of several exemptions.

You will also need to send a copy of them to your spouse's lawyer. You will be able to find contact information on the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

As with any legal documents, be sure you keep a copy of these forms for your own personal records.

Be Prepared: Illinois Divorce Checklist

The filing fee filing can be different from county to county, but you can likely expect to pay around $250. It's important to take the time to make sure that everything is correct, because paperwork that isn't filed correctly may need to be filed again. If you want to avoid delays, it is advisable to have an attorney prepare the paperwork for you.  You can file for a Waiver of Court Fees if you can't afford the filing or service fees.

Who Serves Petitions and Summons in Illinois Family Law?

When your spouse files for divorce the State of Illinois requires them, as the filing party, to provide the you with notice. This is called the Service of Process. The recipient receives this notice by being served a legal Summons and as well as a copy of the document that was filed.

For most circumstances your summons will be served by the local Illinois County Sheriff's Department or a private process server. Divorce papers will usually be served at your residence or place of employment. 

What to do after being served divorce papers

Illinois considers the Service of Process complete once the process server has delivered the summons and the filed document to the recipient. This does not mean that you can simply dodge the special process server to make the problem go away. The summons form can legally be delivered to a resident of your home over the age of 13 if you are not home on the day of service, and this will be accepted as proof of service.

The court may also allow for alternate methods for service of process if the usual options prove difficult, such as when the recipient is attempting to avoid the process server. In some cases the court may allow for the summons and filed court documents to be sent through the mail or for service by publication, where the notification will be published in the newspaper for a specified time.

What Information Can I Find in the Summons?

The summons form will let you know the type of proceeding that has been filed and will explain the process for responding appropriately. It will also let you know the date your Appearance and Answer forms must be filed by.

Hire an Experienced Illinois Divorce Attorney

There is a lot at stake in divorce proceedings. It can be a complicated and emotional time, fraught with problems concerning the division of property, child support, alimony, and child custody issues, which makes it all the more likely that you may be confused by the court proceedings and intricacies of divorce law. If you have been served with divorce papers and need counsel to protect your best interests in the face of legal action you should contact our experienced team of family lawyers at Tommalieh Law.

Learn More: What to Expect at a Divorce Consultation

Our dedicated team has the experience and knowledge necessary to help ensure you and your family reach the best possible outcome. To protect your parental rights, reach the fairest division of assets, and help facilitate the quickest and smoothest end to the marriage throughout the entire divorce process, contact Tommalieh Law to schedule a free case review.

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