Approved Statewide Forms - Divorce, Child Support, and Maintenance Forms
Courts, especially family-law courts, are no longer the arena of the judge and lawyers, with rules created for the benefit of both. Now a great majority of people in family-law cases are self-represented, and the court system must meet the needs of the judge, the litigants, and lawyers when present , not just the judge and the lawyers. This suggests that we need to figure out how to make the court system more responsive to needs of the users of the court system, including people without lawyers.
Expectations of the courts have also changed since the time of Roscoe Pound. In the ever-changing world of technology and the era of instant access to nearly everything via a smartphone, people want the court to change to meet their expectations. This is true even for those who cannot afford an attorney. Most states have created access-to-justice initiatives to develop strategies to promote better access to the court system. These initiatives were further affirmed by the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators with the adoption of Resolution 5, in which the aspirational goal of percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs was established.
This court-based and court-managed program provides self-represented litigants with early limited assistance from legal professionals to help parties resolve their issues, which, in turn, frees up time for judges to focus on more complex cases. RAP has three main objectives: to provide meaningful and efficient access to the court, to fit within the local legal culture, and to meet the needs of the self-represented litigants, especially those who largely agree on the direction of their family-law cases.
The 22nd Judicial Circuit of McHenry County—similar to many other jurisdictions within Illinois and nationally—has a considerable number of divorce cases involving self-represented litigants: nearly 30 percent of all divorce cases filed in McHenry County involve self-represented litigants as both plaintiff and defendant. As part of this pilot program, all divorce cases filed with the 22nd Judicial Circuit are screened to determine if the case meets program criteria, which were established as follows:. If a divorce case satisfies all the criteria, both parties are invited to participate in RAP.
A letter is electronically generated advising them of the program, their eligibility, and the location and date of the next RAP session, and it provides an informational brochure outlining the program, its goals, and what the litigants can expect, as well as providing links to available simplified family-law forms.
Both parties must attend the program session to proceed. If either party fails to appear, the case is returned to the traditional calendar.
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Because parties are given the necessary legal documents before their RAP hearing, the parties themselves can come to their court hearing prepared and ready to finalize their divorce. A local family-law judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit presides over each RAP session and opens the hearing with an overview of the expectations of the court and what litigants can expect from the program.
Litigants then meet with a partnering civil-legal-aid attorney from Prairie State Legal Services, or a court research attorney, who assists the self-represented litigants to ensure that the case is appropriate and ready for court review and, if necessary, aids in the completion of paperwork.
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To be successful, the parties must work together to come to an amicable resolution of their case. The court reporter's transcript is a typewritten booklet that contains everything that was said in court in the presence of a court reporter. Typically, all of the testimony by witnesses, attorney arguments, and statements by the judge or parties.
The main form of argument on appeal is the written appellate "brief ," filed by counsel for each party. A brief is a document containing a legal argument, supported with reference to applicable case law, statutes, the reporter's transcript, and documents in the clerk's record. The lawyers for the parties submit their briefs to the appeals court and they may be granted the opportunity to make oral arguments. If an oral argument is granted, it will typically be for no more than 15 or 30 minutes for each side to present its argument.
No witnesses will be presented and no new evidence will be considered. Once the appellate court has the Record on Appeal, the Appellate Brief, and has taken any oral argument that it desires, it will make a ruling. The time varies from state to state, but thirty to sixty days after the court has a complete record is typical for a decision to be reached. The appellate decision most likely will uphold the trial court's decision.
However, if they don't do so, the case will be sent back to the trial court to either modify the decision or to conduct a new trial. The appeals process is expensive and may not provide the results you are seeking. However, a modification is far less expensive and is the best way to change certain aspects of the divorce decree -- including property division, spousal support alimony , child support, child custody arrangements, and visitation.
A request for a change is made by filing a "motion to modify" the divorce decree or judgment. This motion is usually filed with the same court where the divorce judgment was issued. Many states provide forms, check with your local state and county courts to see if they are available. When drafting your motion to modify you must demonstrate changed circumstances that make a change warranted. For instance, loss of a job or a promotion can be grounds for modifying spousal or child support.
Also, residency requirements vary. However, issues of division of property are typically determined by the law of the jurisdiction in which the property is located. In Europe, divorce laws differ from country to country, reflecting differing legal and cultural traditions. In some countries, particularly but not only in some former communist countries, divorce can be obtained only on one single general ground of "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage" or a similar formulation. Yet, what constitutes such a "breakdown" of the marriage is interpreted very differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, ranging from very liberal interpretations e.
Netherlands  to quite restrictive ones e. Divorce laws are not static; they often change reflecting evolving social norms of societies. In the 21st century, many European countries have made changes to their divorce laws, in particular by reducing the length of the necessary periods of separation, e. A new divorce law also came into force in September in Belgium , creating a new system that is primarily no-fault. Also in Italy , new laws came into force in and with significant changes in Italian law in matter of divorce: apart from shortening of the period of obligatory separation 6 months or 1 year from the previous 3 years , are allowed other forms of getting a divorce — as an alternative to court proceedings, i.
The liberalization of divorce laws is not without opposition, particularly in the United States. Indeed, in the US, certain conservative and religious organizations are lobbying for laws which restrict divorce. In , in the US, the Coalition for Divorce Reform was established, describing itself as an organization "dedicated to supporting efforts to reduce unnecessary divorce and promote healthy marriages. The magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church founds the concept of marriage on natural moral law , elaborated by St.
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Thomas Aquinas , supplemented by the revealed Divine law. The doctrine of Doctor Angelicus has been partially shared by the Eastern Orthodox Church in the course of history. In some jurisdictions, the courts will seldom apply principles of fault, but might willingly hold a party liable for a breach of a fiduciary duty to his or her spouse for example, see Family Code Sections and of the California Family Code. Grounds for divorce differs from state to state in the U. Some states have no-fault divorce ; some states require a declaration of fault on the part of one partner or both; some states allow either method.
In most jurisdictions, a divorce must be certified or ordered by a Judge by a court of law to come into effect.
The terms of the divorce are usually determined by the courts, though they may take into account prenuptial agreements or post-nuptial agreements, or simply ratify terms that the spouses may have agreed to privately this is not true in the United States, where agreements related to the marriage typically have to be rendered in writing to be enforceable. In absence of agreement, a contested divorce may be stressful to the spouses. In some other countries, [ where?
The effect of a divorce is that both parties are free to marry again if a filing in an appellate court does not overturn the decision. Contested divorces mean that one of several issues are required to be heard by a judge at trial level—this is more expensive, and the parties will have to pay for a lawyer's time and preparation. In such a divorce the spouses are not able to agree on issues for instance child custody and division of marital assets. In such situations, the litigation process takes longer to conclude. Less adversarial approaches to divorce settlements have recently emerged, such as mediation and collaborative divorce settlement, which negotiate mutually acceptable resolution to conflicts.
This principle in the United States is called 'Alternative Dispute Resolution' and has gained popularity. Before the late s, nearly all countries that permitted divorce required proof by one party that the other party had committed an act incompatible to the marriage.
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This was termed "grounds" for divorce popularly called "fault" and was the only way to terminate a marriage. Most jurisdictions around the world still require such proof of fault.
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In the United States, no-fault divorce is available in all 50 states, as is the case with Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other Western countries. Fault-based divorces can be contested; evaluation of offenses may involve allegations of collusion of the parties working together to get the divorce , or condonation approving the offense , connivance tricking someone into committing an offense , or provocation by the other party.
Contested fault divorces can be expensive, and not usually practical as eventually most divorces are granted.
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Comparative rectitude is a doctrine used to determine which spouse is more at fault when both spouses are guilty of breaches. The grounds for a divorce which a party could raise and need to prove included 'desertion,' 'abandonment,' 'cruelty,' or 'adultery. In 'no-fault' jurisdictions divorce can be obtained either on a simple allegation of 'irreconcilable differences,' 'irretrievable break-down', or 'incompatibility' with respect to the marriage relationship, or on the ground of de facto separation.
A summary or simple divorce, available in some jurisdictions [ which? Some Western jurisdictions have a no-fault divorce system, which requires no allegation or proof of fault of either party. For example, in countries that require "irretrievable breakdown", the mere assertion that the marriage has broken down will satisfy the judicial officer.