Served with Divorce Papers in Chicago? Here’s What to Do Next

Introduction: Almost every divorce plays out according to a similar scenario. Spouses go through multiple psychological and emotional stages until the final dissolution of their marriage. From disillusionment and blaming to dissatisfaction, anger, and resentment – a period before accepting a new reality and a new beginning is difficult for everyone involved.

Receiving divorce papers is one of the stages in divorce in which one party (a non-initiator) usually reacts with shock and disbelief. No matter how upsetting the news is, it is vital to stay calm and composed and act swiftly toward drafting an informed and meaningful response. The outcome of the proceedings depends on how you react in this challenging situation.

This blog post will shed light on the Illinois divorce papers basics, explain the importance of remaining calm during this period, and emphasize how crucial it is to secure legal representation, formulate the response, and protect your rights and well-being along the way. Stay tuned!

Understanding the Basics

Before dwelling on the topic, let us go through the basics of the divorce documents you received:

  1. Petition for Divorce: In this document, a spouse initiating the divorce outlines their reasons and provides the grounds for seeking divorce. A Petition for Divorce is the initial request to start the court proceedings. It is worth noting Illinois is a no-fault state, meaning that the law does not require spouses to provide evidence of guilt (adultery or other marital misconduct). The court will grant a divorce if the irreconcilable differences cause the marriage breakdown or if the spouses live separately for six or more months.
  • Summons: The summons is simply a legal notice informing the non-initiating spouse that the other party initiated the divorce proceedings and instructing them how and when to respond.
  • Time Frame: The Illinois law allows 30 days to respond to a Petition for Divorce. Staying within this timeframe is crucial. A respondent who fails to file a response on time risks losing their rights in the divorce proceedings. More specifically, the divorce case will go forward, and the judge will decide based on what your spouse claims by issuing a default judgment.

Remain Calm and Composed

Experiencing intense emotions, ranging from anger and resentment to sadness, guilt, and disbelief, is natural after receiving the divorce papers. However, it is vital not to succumb to those emotions and remain calm and composed. After you receive the Petition for Divorce and the Summons, you have a brief period to draft an effective and meaningful response and avoid the legal consequences of failing to respond.

As difficult as it may be, you must approach the situation rationally for your own sake and the sake of your children. On the one hand, staying calm during this challenging period will help you make the right decisions (relating to legal representation and response). On the other hand, your composure affects the children and their well-being. The news of divorce is shaking their world. They need parents who act rationally and support them in times of crisis.

So, do not underestimate the 30-day timeframe. It is a short period in which you must act swiftly and rationally.

Review the Papers Thoroughly

After recovering from the initial shock and disbelief, sit down and thoroughly review all the documents. Go through the Petition in detail to understand the claims and demands. Illinois law recognizes two grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences between the spouses and separate life for more than six months. See what your spouse cites as reasons for seeking the marriage dissolution.

Equally vital is noticing any immediate deadlines or dates, such as court appearances. Missing important deadlines can compromise your rights during the divorce proceedings. Understanding the key facts, demands, and important dates is fundamental for formulating an appropriate response.

Secure Legal Representation

One of the crucial steps you must take immediately after receiving the divorce papers is securing high-quality legal representation. Hiring an attorney in Illinois divorces is not obligatory, especially in uncontested cases. But no matter how simple your divorce is, it is vital to understand that the judge and the court clerks cannot provide the parties with legal advice. So, hiring an experienced family attorney is always a wise decision.

  • Finding the Right Attorney

Choosing the right attorney for your case means seeking family law specialists with relevant divorce experience. Finding the family lawyer that best fits your needs and individual preferences requires you to do the research, consult databases, websites, and client reviews, and ask for recommendations. Make a concise list of the best candidates and interview each professional in person.

  • Initial Consultation

Once you hire an attorney who resonates with you, prepare for the initial consultation. Come to the meeting with a list of questions. Express your concerns, doubts, and uncertainties. Do not forget to gather and present the relevant documentation, such as financial records, communication history, and other materials related to your divorce case.

Formulating a Response

After consulting with your attorney, the next step is to formulate a response to the divorce papers. To draft an appropriate response, you need to understand what available options are, as well as follow the submitting procedure.

  • Options when Responding

First, you can agree with the Petition and choose not to respond. That is acceptable when you agree with everything stated in the document. Your choice not to participate will result in the court issuing the default judgment. However, if you miss the 30-day deadline and fail to respond (despite not agreeing with the Petition), you can challenge the default judgment by filing the appropriate forms within 30 days.

The other option is contesting the Petition. When you disagree with the divorce papers, you must respond within the deadline and address each statement in the Petition. You can also file a Counter-Petition, stating that you are seeking divorce and providing the reasons. In addition to a response and potentially a Counter-Petition, you must file the Appearance form, notifying the court that you want to participate in the proceedings.

Finally, if you agree with some statements in the divorce documents while contesting the others, you can seek modification.

  • Submitting the Response

After filling out the necessary forms, you must submit them to the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse lives. It is vital to do this within the deadline. The filing process is electronic, meaning you must use the e-file system unless you have an exemption.

Protect Your Assets and Rights

Protect Your Assets and Rights

Regardless of your attitude toward the divorce, staying alert and protecting your rights throughout the proceedings is vital.

  • Separate Financial Accounts

Divorce is the right time to consider separating financial accounts while dealing appropriately with joint accounts. In addition to having an experienced family attorney on your side, you should seek help from a financial advisor. While protecting the assets you acquired before the marriage is crucial, you must not overstep the boundaries of marital property when separating financial accounts. Your attorney and financial advisor will help you avoid accusations of hiding the assets that belong to joint property.

  • Document and Inventory

To keep track of all the assets and debts, document everything and collect all the financial records you can find. Tracking every transaction, you made during the marriage and locating all financial records is difficult. But keeping track of the most vital assets and debts is decisive for determining what belongs to marital property (and is subject to equitable distribution) and what is a separate property of each spouse.

If you and your spouse have children, dealing with child custody and parental rights becomes a necessary part of the equation. Decide if you are capable and willing to care for the children and whether you oppose granting custody to your spouse. Likewise, envision the future parenting plan and visitation schedule. Try to agree with your spouse to avoid a contested process that will hurt children and their well-being.

Emotional and Psychological Care

Divorce is a legal process, but its many aspects are emotional and psychological. While seeking legal assistance to navigate the legal landscape of divorce is crucial, taking care of your emotional well-being is equally important.

  • Seeking Counseling or Therapy

Maintaining your mental health and emotional integrity during divorce should be one of your top priorities. Acknowledging your emotions and practicing self-care is critical. In addition, countless trained mental health professionals can help you deal with stress, anxiety, and other emotions typical for this challenging period. Do not hesitate to reach out and seek professional help.

  • Relying on a Trusted Support System

Besides professional help and therapies do not underestimate your family, friends, and support groups. Personal bonds with the closest people we create and nourish during life prove helpful in times of crisis.

Educate Yourself on the Divorce Process in Chicago

Despite hiring an experienced family attorney, you should keep up to date with the relevant local laws and regulations. Knowing the basics of the proceedings will help you communicate with your lawyer more effectively and understand the importance of each stage of the process.

There are unlimited resources that enable non-lawyers to grasp the basic concepts of Illinois divorce rules. You can consult online databases, attend workshops, and find helpful resources online or at the local library.

Prepare for the Next Steps

Illinois divorce proceedings include mediation sessions and court appearances. Knowing what comes next and how to conduct yourself during each stage can help you navigate the process more confidently.

  • Mediation

Illinois law allows spouses to attend mediation before, during, and after the divorce proceedings. If you and your spouse agree on most issues related to divorce, you will likely benefit from pre-lawsuit mediation that results in a separation agreement.

After filing for divorce, the spouses may decide that negotiating the divorce terms before a neutral third party is more beneficial than letting the court decide their fate.

Often, finalizing the court divorce proceedings does not resolve all the disagreements. In such cases, mediation proves helpful in dealing with co-parenting, child support, and alimony issues.

  • Court Appearances

Your divorce case may involve multiple court appearances. Knowing what to expect and how to conduct yourself in court is vital. Some court appearances are summary, while others include complex evidentiary hearings. Consult your attorney and practice different scenarios to prepare for each court session.



Receiving divorce papers can be a challenging, stressful experience. While intense emotions, such as shock, anger, and disbelief, follow each case of learning about the ensuing divorce, it is vital to stay calm and composed.

One cannot overstate the importance of acting rationally and drafting an appropriate response on time.

Although there are countless resources from which you can learn about the process, nothing can replace legal representation by a well-versed, experienced family attorney.

At Cooper Trachtenberg Law Group LLC, we believe in professionalism, excellence, and integrity. Our guiding professional and ethical principles are the cornerstone of our legal practice.

With more than three decades of experience and hundreds of satisfied clients, we can confidently claim superiority in Illinois divorce cases. Have you been served with divorce papers? Let us guide you through the process while helping you maintain your emotional and psychological well-being.

Reach out to us today at 847-995-8800 to schedule your consultation.

What Happens When Someone Ignores Court Orders in an Illinois Divorce?

Introduction: In addition to being life-changing, emotionally charged events, divorces involve complex legal issues that parties resolve in court proceedings. One of the central aspects of divorce proceedings in each state, including Illinois, is court orders. Regardless of the nature of divorce (contested or uncontested), court orders are crucial for ensuring parties comply with the court decision. In other words, they are not mere suggestions, but legally binding documents parties must comply with or otherwise face legal ramifications. 

This article will explore the meaning of court orders in Illinois and emphasize the immediate and long-term consequences of ignoring court orders while suggesting ways to address potential non-compliance. Read on to learn more.

What are Court Orders?  

Before digging deeper into the legal consequences of ignoring court orders, let us explain what they are and what their purpose is in court proceedings.  

Court orders are legally binding documents that resolve and direct various aspects of divorce and post-divorce life for both parties. A judge issues court orders to provide clarity, order, and structure to what is often one of the most turbulent periods for ex-spouses and their children. 

Some typical examples of court orders include child support, alimony, property division, custody, and parenting time (previously referred to as parenting time) arrangements. An Illinois court can award custody over minor children to one parent and order one or both parents to pay a specific amount for child support. Likewise, the court can order temporary or long-term alimony, depending on the circumstances of the case. An Illinois property division order directs property distribution between spouses after the divorce.

Immediate Consequences of Violating Court Orders

Non-compliance with court orders results in immediate and long-term consequences. Legal repercussions immediately affecting the non-compliant party include contempt of court, financial penalties, changes in custody or parenting time, and enforcement measures for child support and alimony. Let us investigate each in more detail. 

  •  Contempt of Court  

Courts issue legally binding decisions, affecting both parties. Not everyone is satisfied with the outcome, so the courts have legal means of enforcing their rulings. When a party abuses or misuses the legal process by ignoring court orders, they are in contempt. Illinois law recognizes two types of contempt of court: civil and criminal.   

Disobeying a child support order is civil contempt, triggering civil law consequences, such as financial penalties. When determining whether the non-compliant party is in contempt, the judge considers various factors, including the history of violations, whether it was intentional, and the severity and nature of the abuse. The judge also evaluates all mitigating circumstances that justify court order violation. If the party disobeyed a court order intentionally, they are held in contempt and issued a financial penalty. Failing to pay child support despite the financial penalty can lead to imprisonment, but (unlike criminal contempt), the non-compliant party can avoid going to prison if they comply with the order by paying the child support. Persons found to be in contempt of court could also be ordered to pay the other side’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

  • Changes in Custody or Parenting Time

Violating court orders can lead to other serious consequences, such as modifications in child custody or parenting time arrangements. Child custody and parenting time are closely associated – the non-custodial parent has parenting time rights according to the schedule determined by the court order. On the other hand, the custodial parent must not interfere with scheduled parenting time. Non-compliance with court orders can result in suspension, modification, or termination of custody or parenting time rights, depending on which party has disobeyed the order. For example, the judge can modify the parenting time schedule, changing the dynamics and reducing the visit time for non-compliant parties.

  • Enforcement Measures for Child Support and Alimony

Child support and alimony order non-compliance often have significant implications for persons depending on the financial support. Disobeying the court order by failing to pay support for a child or former spouse can result in contempt of court, financial penalties, and even jail time. However, the court can authorize measures that prevent negative consequences for persons receiving financial support. Below are the most common:

  1. Wage Garnishment: Following the court order, employers withhold a portion of the wage from the paycheck of a non-compliant party and transfer it to the custodial parent or spouse receiving the support.
  2. Seizure of Assets: If wage garnishment does not cover the amount needed to pay child support or maintenance, a custodial parent or a spouse can seek a court order seizing the assets (cars, boats, houses, rents, stocks, etc.) belonging to a disobeying party.
  3. Suspension of Licenses: Another instrument used to compel the disobeying party into following court orders is the suspension of licenses. A driver’s or professional license suspension for a father who avoids paying child custody can represent a valid reason to start complying with the court orders.

Long-Term Implications of Non-Compliance

Non-compliance with court orders often results in consequences beyond the immediate implications. Disobedience of court orders can produce long-term repercussions, damaging the relationship between parents and children, leading to loss of credibility in court, and even criminal charges.

  • Damage to Parent-Child Relationship

Any modification or suspension of custody or parenting time rights disrupts the relationship between parents and their children. That applies to both parents, custodial and non-custodial. When non-compliance with court orders results in a change in parenting time rights, both parents feel the implications of such changes. The non-custodial parent gets to see their child less frequently, which negatively affects their relationship. On the other hand, the custodial parent is under fire, too – a child can hold them responsible for not seeing their other parent.

  • Loss of Credibility in Court

Consistent violation of court orders can undermine the credibility of a non-compliant party in future court proceedings. That is especially important in cases related to family matters. For example, the parent who consistently disobeys court child support orders can hardly expect to have a favorable outcome in the proceedings where they seek parenting time schedule modification.

  • Potential Criminal Charges

As mentioned, failing to comply with court orders can result in contempt of court and further lead to financial penalties. If the non-compliance continues, the court can consider such intentional disregard for the law as a criminal offense, issuing a prison sentence as a last resort.

How to Address Non-Compliance

Life often puts hard choices before us. Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations where we violate the court order. Other times, the other spouse is not complying with the court decrees. Here is what to do when you experience either of the two scenarios:

  •  Seek Legal Counsel

Whether you face a situation where you cannot comply with a court order or allege non-compliance, you need to seek and consult with an experienced divorce attorney. A well-versed family lawyer will assess your situation and recommend the steps to help you avoid legal consequences (or compel the other side to comply with court orders).

  • Mediation and Communication

Sometimes, disputes over court order enforcement can arise around minor issues. In such situations, spouses can resolve infractions through open dialog and mutual understanding. Entrusting your dispute to a mediator can also help deal with minor disagreements.

  • Modification of Court Orders

Because life circumstances change constantly, former spouses often find themselves in situations where complying with court orders is no longer possible or represents an unreasonable burden. In such a scenario, seeking order modification is necessary to avoid non-compliance and potential legal consequences. An experienced divorce attorney can help you come up with the right solution.

Protective Measures

Protective Measures

Whether you suspect your former spouse is not complying with court orders or you find yourself in such a situation, it is vital to protect your interest by taking these protective measures:

  • Document Everything

If you notice your ex-spouse developed a non-compliance pattern, make note of each instance of disobeying the court orders. Your records should include precise dates, times, and the content of your communication regarding the enforcement of orders. Detailed notes can prove invaluable evidence in potential court proceedings.

  • Stay in Touch with Your Attorney

Keeping your attorney up-to-date with the latest developments is crucial. Communicate regularly and inform your lawyer of potential or actual non-compliance.

  • Always Prioritize the Well-Being of the Children

Regardless of the relationship with your former spouse, always prioritize the well-being of your children. Putting their interests first can help reduce the harmful effects of non-compliance.

Case Study: A Real-Life Example

Susan and Daniel have been married for 15 years and have two children. Their divorce is underway, and the court issued orders addressing child custody, parenting time arrangements, and marital property division.

  • Child Custody and Parenting Time Orders

Daniel, the non-custodial parent, constantly ignores the parenting time schedule defined by the court order. He refuses to pick up the children every second weekend and fails to return them on time.

Susan has two choices. She can file a motion for contempt against Daniel, seeking the court to issue financial penalties or sentence Daniel to imprisonment. The other option is court order modification – Susan can ask the court to change the parenting time schedule, claiming that his behavior harms the interests of the children.

  • Property Division Orders

Illinois is an equitable distribution state, meaning the court ordered equitable division of marital assets (family home, retirement savings, and bank accounts). But Daniel refuses to comply with the order by hiding assets and hindering division efforts in other ways.

In this scenario, Susan can file a motion to enforce the court orders. Further refusal to comply can result in financial penalties or imprisonment. Alternatively, the court can order the sale of marital property, awarding each spouse their fair share.

  • Child Support and Alimony Orders

Daniel has a court-ordered obligation to pay child and spousal support. He consistently refuses to comply with the order, claiming financial difficulties prevent him from paying for the ordered amounts.

Susan has two alternatives. She can file a motion for contempt against Daniel. If the court finds his non-compliance unjustified, the judge can order wage garnishment, asset seizure, or even imprisonment. In the second scenario, Susan can seek the court to modify the court order due to a change in the financial situation of her former spouse.



Illinois court orders are vital legal instruments ensuring a smooth and harmless transition in post-divorce reality. Ignoring them can result in severe financial, legal, and personal repercussions.

Thus, whenever you face issues related to court order enforcement, seek legal advice from experienced professionals who can help you avoid immediate and long-term consequences of non-compliance. By hiring proven legal experts, you ensure a harmless transition in the post-divorce future, protecting the peace of mind and well-being of those you care about the most.

In Illinois, a court orders non-compliance cases, choose the legal team at Cooper Trachtenberg Law Group, LLC.

With a proven record of success and multi-decade experience stretching back to 1988, our legal team is experienced in all divorce order enforcement-related matters. Whether your spouse is repeatedly ignoring court orders, or you find yourself in a situation where complying with orders is challenging – consult with our divorce specialists to help you through the proceedings unharmed.

Please reach out to us today at 847-995-8800 to schedule your consultation.