When a couple makes the extremely difficult decision to end their marriage, they may be able to come to a full agreement on all issues regarding their finances and any children of the marriage. Alternatively, the couple may be able to come to an agreement on some issues and require the court’s intervention to decide other issues. In some instances, the couple may not be able to agree to anything, and they may need to proceed through a full trial and have the court make the final decision on all their disagreements. In the end, all divorces must be finalized by the Judge signing a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage containing the parties’ agreements and final decisions on all financial issues.
Once the parties have written and signed their agreements confirming they understand and agree to the resolution of issues on their case, the parties or their attorneys give the judgment containing these agreements to the judge and schedule a time to appear in court to review the judgment and ask the judge to review, approve and sign it. This is the Prove Up.
A Prove Up is typically performed in person, but due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, many courts are allowing Prove Ups to occur through Zoom video conference calls, meaning that couples can finalize their divorces from the comfort of their own homes without having to be in the same room with each other. In all cases, the person who filed for the divorce, the “Petitioner” will need to be present in court, whether in person or through Zoom, while in some cases, the other person, the “Respondent”, may choose not to be present if they have already signed the judgment; however, many judges prefer that both people are present in the Prove Up, to ensure that both people fully understand and agree to the terms of the judgment.
In a Prove Up, the present party(ies) is sworn in and asked to testify. The Petitioner is usually questioned first, typically being asked by either their own attorney or the judge to confirm the important details of the marriage, such as the date of marriage, the names, and ages of any children in the marriage, the date of separation, and whether he or she does, in fact, wish to be divorced. Then the Petitioner will be asked to confirm the most important details contained in the judgment, such as whether they did in fact read the judgment fully, understand it fully, and whether they personally signed the judgment. Next, the Petitioner is asked to confirm the important financial agreements, such as child support, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), division of property (such as homes, cars, furniture, etc.), division of retirement accounts, and division of debts. Finally, the Petitioner is again asked to confirm whether they do in fact wish to be divorced. Typically, this questioning is a series of simple “yes or no” questions and takes between five to ten minutes. The Respondent’s attorney is then given a chance to ask the Petitioner questions, which usually consists of small clarifications of the Petitioner’s previous answers. Next, the Respondent is questioned. This is typically a much quicker series of questions, often simply being asked to confirm that they read, understood, and signed the judgment and that they also wish to be divorced, and if asked the same questions that the Petitioner was asked, that they would answer in the same way. The judge will then make a statement that he or she has read the judgment, believes the agreements to be fair, and pronounces the couple to be divorced.
Often, a court reporter will be present during the Prove Up and will record everything that was said and prepare a written transcript. The Judge will then order the Petitioner to purchase a copy of the written transcript from the court reporter and file it with the court clerk’s system in order to preserve a record of the Prove Up in case any disagreements arise in the future.
Prove Ups can be very emotional, as, for many couples, the finalization of the divorce process can bring relief that the fighting has come to an end but can also bring grief that the marriage is finally over.
Regardless of whether the couple is able to agree to everything, some things, or nothing; regardless of whether the process has been quick or long; regardless of whether the Prove Up proceeds smoothly or there are arguments or tears; Kiswani Law, P.C. can be there to help. Call our office to see how our attorneys can help you, at 708-210-9247.
Written By: Stephanie Gilbert