Illinois divorce filings are usually not too sensitive. You can do just about anything and undo just about anything without any regard to time. There are exceptions, though, where filing deadlines do matter in an Illinois divorce
Specifically, Illinois divorce courts seek a degree of finality.
Divorce “courts should seek a high degree of finality so that parties can plan their future with certainty and are not encouraged to return repeatedly to the courts.” In re Marriage of Hellwig (1981), 100 Ill. App.3d 452, 459, 426 N.E.2d 1087, 1092.
This preference for finality is found in the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure which only allows a short window of time to vacate or reconsider any final order. Both motions to vacate and motions to reconsider have a hard deadline of 30 days after the entry of the order.
“The court may, in its discretion…may on motion filed within 30 days after entry thereof set aside any final order or judgment upon any terms and conditions that shall be reasonable.” 735 ILCS 5/2-1301(e)
“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)
There are some exceptions for motions to vacate which require extra proof of due diligence where the deadline is extended to 2 years.
“[T]he petition [to vacate] must be filed not later than 2 years after the entry of the order or judgment. Time during which the person seeking relief is under legal disability or duress or the ground for relief is fraudulently concealed shall be excluded in computing the period of 2 years.” 735 ILCS 5/2-1401(c)
While motions to reconsider and motions to vacate have hard statutorily determined deadlines, any divorce judge can set their own deadlines as well.
“[T]he trial court possesses the inherent authority to control its own docket and the course of litigation.” J.S.A. v. M.H., 863 N.E.2d 236, 244-45 (Ill. 2007)
Additionally, at pretrials, status dates and case management conferences Illinois divorce courts can set “deadlines for the disclosure of witnesses and the completion of written discovery and depositions” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 218(a)(iii)
If you miss a deadline…be prepared to beg. Remind the judge that justice is more important than arbitrary dates.
“Th[e Code Of Civil Procedure] Act shall be liberally construed, to the end that controversies may be speedily and finally determined according to the substantive rights of the parties.” 735 ILCS 5/1-106
“The law prefers that controversies be determined according to the substantive rights of the parties” In re Haley D., 2011 IL 110886
Court decisions about deadlines “must be made within the framework of the legal philosophy that litigation should be determined on its merits if possible and according to the substantive rights of the parties” (Kirk vs. Michael Reese Hospital Medical Center, 275 Ill. App.3d 170, 174, 655 N.E.2d 933, 936 (1995))
In fact, there is a greater than 28% chance you did not blow your deadline if the deadline fell on a weekend or holiday. In such a case, the filing deadline is always extended to the next business day.
“If the first or last day fixed by law to do any act required or allowed by this Code falls on a State holiday or a Saturday or a Sunday, the period shall extend through the first business day next following the day otherwise fixed as the first or last day, irrespective of whether any election authority or local election official conducts business on the State holiday, Saturday, or Sunday.” 10 ILCS 5/1-6(a)
Damn near anything is a holiday in Illinois.
“For the purposes of this Section, “State holiday” means New Year’s Day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, President’s Day, Casimir Pulaski’s Birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Juneteenth National Freedom Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and any other day from time to time declared by the President of the United States or the Governor of Illinois to be a day during which the agencies of the State of Illinois that are ordinarily open to do business with the public shall be closed for business.” 10 ILCS 5/1-6(a)
Nothing is worse than thinking you blew a deadline…but, nothing is better than filing something at 4:45 PM on the last day…and ruining your opposing counsel’s weekend.
If you would like to discuss the very few deadlines imposed by Illinois’ divorce law, contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to schedule a consultation with an experienced Illinois divorce attorney.