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Modifying a divorce judgment in Illinois

Most residents of Illinois believe that the entry of a judgment ending their marriages is the final step in a very unpleasant process. In many cases, this belief is accurate, but its accuracy depends upon the wishes of the parties and not upon Illinois' family laws. The parties in a divorce proceeding have two essential rights to modify or amend a judgment of divorce after it is ended: a motion to the court to amend certain portions of the order, or an appeal to the Illinois courts of appeal.

An appeal to the appellate court is time-limited: it must be filed not later than 30 days after the entry of the judgment in the circuit court. An appeal can challenge one or more aspects of the order for judgment. The hearing on the appeal is preceded by the filing of briefs by each party, in which the party's position on the issues raised in the appeal is presented in writing. After the briefs have been submitted, the appellate court will schedule the case for an oral argument in which the attorneys present their clients' cases and answer the judges' questions. The court will enter its decision on the appeal in about 60 days.

The second method of challenging the final order is bringing a motion to amend the order based upon either newly available evidence or a showing that the order is unjust. A post-trial motion for amendment is not limited by a specific deadline, although the motion must be made in a timely fashion. Such motions are usually based upon a showing that the original order is unduly prejudicial to the moving party. The party bringing the motion must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the court erred in making its original order. If one of the parties is dissatisfied by the court's decision on the motion to amend, that party can take an appeal from that order to the court of appeals.

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