A Summons provides a formal notification to you that a case has been filed. In a divorce case, it informs you that your spouse filed for divorce. The service of summons summons is a key event. If one fails to take certain steps after service, you risk the court finding yourself in default.
Below we discuss questions that you may have after being served with a divorce summons.
Out of the blue I was served with a divorce summons. What do I do?
The practical answer is that as soon as possible you should hire the best lawyer you can afford.
How much time do I have after I am served with summons?
If you fail to take action within the 30 days you may be defaulted. This means that the court assumes you have no interest in what your spouse does in the proceedings. After you have been defaulted, the case may proceed to conclusion without notice to you.
What happens if I am defaulted?
Your spouse will be able to have a divorce judgment entered giving him whatever relief he wishes as long as what he is asking for is not “unconscionable.” A practical definition of an unconscionable result occurs if the judge views the proposed judgment as completely one-sided. One recent Illinois appellate decision stating “not fair does not equal unconscionable.”
I am thinking of representing myself. What are the pros and cons?
There is saying that is true—a lawyer who represents himself as a lawyer has a fool for a client. The reason for this is that even if one has training as a lawyer, the terms of a divorce can make a difference for the rest of your life. It is important that you have advice from a an experienced family lawyer to help you. It has also been said that representing yourself is like doing surgery on yourself. You have the legal right to perform surgery on yourself, but it is usually a bad idea.
What should I do to prepare?
NOTICE: Case set for Scheduling Conference. Is this the trial date?
On the petition for dissolution of marriage with which I was served there is stamped a “NOTICE,” which states that the case is set for a “scheduling conference” on a certain date. Is this the trial date?
No. It is merely a time when the judge determines the status of the case and if necessary the judge schedules future action in the case. Assuming you have a lawyer, you do not need to be present for this court appearance as a general rule.
Notice of Motion with a Petition for Temporary Relief
Together with the summons and petition for dissolution of marriage, I was served with a “Notice of Motion” with a “Petition for Temporary Relief.” The Notice of Motion states a date, time of day, and identity of a judge. Should I be concerned?
Yes. Definitely. This means that the other side is seeking temporary relief. Forms of temporary relief include temporary maintenance (alimony) and temporary child support. It is unwise not to be represented by counsel at a hearing for temporary relief. But if you have not yet had time to retain a lawyer after being properly served, appear before the judge at the time and place indicated (whether virtual or in court). Ask the judge to continue the hearing to give you an opportunity to hire a lawyer.