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

DATE POSTED: September 28, 2023 1:24 am

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.