After an adverse ruling in an Illinois divorce trial, the parties to the divorce need not tuck their tail between their legs and say “Well, I guess that’s it.” In an Illinois divorce, it ain’t over until it’s over…and that’s, usually, only when someone gives up.
If either party is willing to go to trial, they are probably willing to continue the divorce process after the trial via post-trial motions and appeals.
A post-trial motion that outlines the contested issues is usually required for a successful appeal (otherwise those issues are deemed waive). But, the rule requiring post-trial motions only applies in cases with juries.
“In a non-jury civil case the failure to include a point in a post-trial motion does not preclude its being raised on appeal.” City of Chicago v. Mid-City Laundry Co., 289 NE 2d 233 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist. 1972
Illinois divorce cases do not have juries. So, no post-trial motions are mandatory in order to preserve your Illinois divorce case for appeal.
“There shall be no trial by jury under th[e Illinois Marriage And Dissolution of Marriage Act].” 750 ILCS 5/103.
Post-trial motions in an Illinois divorce must be filed within 30 days unless the judge gives permission for more time.
“In all cases tried without a jury, any party may, within 30 days after the entry of the judgment or within any further time the court may allow within the 30 days or any extensions thereof, file a motion for a rehearing, or a retrial, or modification of the judgment or to vacate the judgment or for other relief.” 735 ILCS 5/2-1203(a)
Sometimes a post-trial motion may be an act of futility but a post-trial motion at least keeps the court from enforcing the final order for a while.
“Except as provided in subsection (a) of Section 413 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a motion filed in apt time stays enforcement of the judgment except that a judgment granting injunctive or declaratory relief shall be stayed only by a court order that follows a separate application that sets forth just cause for staying the enforcement.” 735 ILCS 5/2-1203(b)
The exception of the stay of enforcement is that the parties to a divorce MUST be divorced within 60 or 90 days?
“A judgment of dissolution of marriage or of legal separation or of declaration of invalidity of marriage shall be entered within 60 days of the closing of proofs; however, if the court enters an order specifying good cause as to why the court needs an additional 30 days, the judgment shall be entered within 90 days of the closing of proofs” 750 ILCS 5/413(a)
Everything contested gets stayed by a post-trial motion except the divorce itself.
Post-trial motions in other types of civil cases usually ask for…a new trial. But, asking for a new trial does not make sense in a divorce trial with no jurors. In an Illinois divorce case, a post-trial motion for new trial would simply be telling the trial judge who ruled against you that they were wrong.
“[T]he correct standard of review where the trial court has granted or denied a motion for a new trial is…whether the…verdict is against the “manifest weight of the evidence.” Tedrowe v. Burlington Northern, Inc., 511 NE 2d 798 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist. 1987
Instead, post-trial motions in Illinois divorce cases are usually motions to reconsider.
Motions to reconsider are only to alert the divorce court to new evidence or law that could have impacted the divorce judge’s final verdict.
“The purpose of a motion to reconsider is to bring to a court’s attention: (1) newly discovered evidence; (2) changes in the law; or (3) errors in the court’s previous application of existing law. A reconsideration motion is not the place to raise a new legal theory or factual argument. Trial courts should not allow litigants to stand mute, lose a motion and then frantically gather new material to show that the court erred in its ruling. As a result, legal theories and factual arguments not previously made are subject to waiver…A motion to reconsider is not the place for the inclusion of new arguments that could have been raised earlier. Actions like that simply waste everyone’s time and money” Liceaga v. Baez 2019 IL App (1st) 181170 (citations are omitted)
What new evidence or law could possibly be discovered within the 30 day timeframe as allowed by 735 ILCS 5/2-1203(a)?
However, it cannot hurt to tell a judge that their decision was wrong and why that decision was wrong. The worst that an Illinois divorce judge can do is reaffirm their previous verdict.
In the meantime, the verdict you disagreed with is stayed for a few more months (hopefully).
Pointing out the court’s alleged error in applying the law is not especially expensive. A motion to reconsider based on misapplication of law is done without a court appearance and by affidavit alone.
“[It] has long [been] held that [post-trial] motions may be decided on the basis of affidavits alone.” In re Marriage of Varco, 158 Ill. App. 3d 578, 580 (1987)
If your motion to reconsider is denied in whole or in part, you will have 30 days again in which to appeal the trial court’s decision.
In an Illinois divorce, an appeal must be filed “within 30 days after the entry of the order disposing of the last pending postjudgment motion directed against that judgment or order” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 303(a)(1)
To reiterate, if you think you are likely to file for an appeal, at the very least, practice your appeals argument and presentation on your current judge with a post-trial motion.
If you’d like to discuss a post-trial motion with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer (and maybe buy a little more time before the judge’s ruling kicks in), contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to learn about yet another chance to get justice in an Illinois divorce court.