What is a Prove-Up Hearing?
How a Prove-Up Affects Your Divorce
Divorces can go many different directions. Obviously, some divorces are going to be very contentious, akin to how the media likes to portray them. However, in my many years as a divorce attorney I have witnessed far more divorces ending amicably with a settlement than acrimonious ones.
What is a Prove-Up Hearing?
A prove-up is a specific type of hearing during which the parties to a divorce proceeding “prove-up,” or present their Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (the original written request for divorce) and their Marital Settlement Agreement, along with testimony regarding same, to the judge.
If applicable, a prove-up hearing could also include the presentation of a Parenting Agreement. The judge can either approve or disapprove these documents in accordance with specific standards set forth under Illinois’ divorce laws.
What this means is, if both parties agree on a settlement, rather than waiting to go to trial, the two sides and their attorneys can go to the judge and present their documents. If the judge agrees to their terms, then in most cases the divorce becomes final right then and there.
Prove-up hearings are often much more informal because they are non-adversarial. As a result, the general rules of evidence are often more relaxed.
What Standards Are Used in a Prove-Up Hearing?
The specific standards used in a prove-up hearing depend on the family law issues being resolved. For example, a prove-up hearing may solely involve divorce terms affecting the parties involved. Some of these terms may include: maintenance, division of assets, and allocation of debts. Here, a judge will approve an agreement if it is not unconscionable (unreasonable). This is typically considered a low standard and is easily met.
A prove-up hearing may also involve issues affecting children to a divorce. Some of these issues may include: parental custody, visitation, and support. Here, a judge will approve an agreement if it is in the best interests of the children. In terms of child support, an agreement’s approval also requires that the support at issue be within statutory guidelines. If it falls outside of these guidelines, the judge must approve why the support deviates above or below the guidelines.
Having a lawyer in your corner who knows how to help you negotiate a favorable settlement so that you can prove-up your case and avoid a costly trial is important. Please contact me with any questions.
Michael C. Craven is a partner at Beermann Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove LLP. (Formerly of Beermann, now a Partner at Harrison & Held, LLP)
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