Inside The Courtroom

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What To Expect When You Go to Court in Illinois

      What should you expect when going to court in Illinois? The idea of having to go to Court only adds to the stress our clients experience. Most of us have never actually been inside a courtroom, or had any court experience beyond what we see on TV. Therefore, it is our job to educate our clients on what to expect should you have a required court appearance in the state of Illinois. Below is a comprehensive overview of what you can expect when going to court in Illinois for a divorce proceeding, guardianship, or other legal matter.

Types of Illinois State Courts:

There are 23 judicial circuits cover the 102 counties in the state of Illinois. Some circuits only cover one county, while others cover more than one.

Types of Illinois Federal Courts:

Who Can Be Found Inside a Courtroom?

  • Judge
  • Lawyers
  • Court Reporter
  • Defendants
  • Court Deputy
  • Witnesses

What To Bring Inside an Illinois Courtroom:

 We recommend that you take as little as possible with you to Court. You will need to pass through security to enter the building. Unless we specifically ask you to bring documents relative to your case with you to Court, our family law attorneys will carry all necessary paperwork. We recommend that you bring something to read to pass the time in case there is an unforeseen delay, which tends to happen quite frequently in our busy Illinois Courthouses.

Parking In and Around Illinois Courthouses:

Ample time to park needs to be factored in when determining a time to leave for court. Depending on what county in Illinois your case will be heard in, the cost of parking will vary and may be expensive. You should be prepared for this cost, and have cash or a credit card with you when traveling to court, to arrange for payment.

Can I Bring My Cell Phone in an Illinois Courtroom?

On January 6, 2022, the Illinois Supreme Court announced the adoption of a policy that will require every state courthouse in Illinois to adopt individual orders or rules regarding the use of portable electronic devices in their courthouse buildings and in their courtrooms. Until this policy has been fully implemented, per the Order, please check with our staff or the appropriate county’s website to ensure you are able to bring your electronic device into that courthouse.   In the event your case is in a courthouse that hasn’t implemented its policies to adhere to the Order, please have access to your cell phone until you get ready to enter that courthouse.  If you are not able to bring in your device, you should leave your cell phone in the car, as you will not be able to get through security with the device, and security will not hold it for you 

If you are allowed to bring your cellphone into the courthouse, there are limitations on where you can use it. Under the Supreme Court Rule, each Court will be required to post signs with information about their portable electronic device policies prominently in the courthouses, including at the entrances, in the clerks’ offices, and outside each courtroom however, there are some best practices that we encourage.  While you may be able to use your device in common areas, such as lobbies or hallways, while in the courtroom, you should leave your device silenced and put it away in your bag or pocket unless you are requested by the Judge to use the device. You are prohibited from taking photographs, audio, and/or video recordings in all areas of Court facilities.    

Will I Have to Go Through Security in the Courthouse?

As previously indicated, you will need to go through security similar to the security lines at any airport. Allow plenty of time to enter, the Illinois Courthouse as the lines can be rather long.

What to Do Once Inside the Courtroom:

Generally, our office will be able to provide you with the number of the Courtroom where your case will be heard prior to your court date. (If we cannot provide you with a courtroom number, our staff will advise as to where you can meet one of our family law attorneys or team members prior to your court time). When you arrive in the courtroom, simply wait for an attorney team member to meet you. Oftentimes more than one client’s case is scheduled for the same date as your case, therefore it is important not to be alarmed if someone from our Group is not immediately present in the courtroom when you arrive, as they may be delayed in another courtroom. 

Notwithstanding the same, there will generally be no need for you to “check in” for your case, as an attorney team member will do so on your behalf. However, if your case is called by the Judge’s clerk, and a representative of our office has not yet arrived, simply advise the Judge or court personnel that someone from our office will be arriving, and ask that the case be passed until the arrival of your family law attorney.

How Much Time Will Be Spent Waiting in the Courtroom in Illinois?

It will not be uncommon for extensive waiting periods to be a big component of your court experience. You should plan to allow for a half a day for your court appearance, unless we advise you that we are scheduled for the entire day. That is to say, if you have a morning court date, you should expect to be in court until 12:30 p.m. If you have an afternoon court call, you should expect to be in court until 4:30 p.m. Of course, times will vary, but as a general rule you should ensure that you have made adequate child care and/or employment arrangements to accommodate the above schedule. This will allow you to be fully available to the attorney on the date of your court appearance. Be mindful that your family law attorney may have several court appearances on a given morning. Additionally, the Judge may be not be available, or may be running late. Opposing counsel may be delayed. The case in front of your case may be taking longer than expected. Simply be prepared to wait.

How Should I Act in the Courtroom?

Your demeanor is being judged by the Court and measured by opposing counsel from the minute you step into the courtroom. The best attitude you can present is one that is very business like. Avoid demonstrating anger, frustration, fear, or any other emotion that may give the other side leverage, or which may cast a negative perspective on you. Never reduce yourself to random outbursts in the courtroom. Let our family law attorney team members be your voice.

How Do I Dress Inside the Courtroom?

Dress as if you were dressing for a job interview. Shorts, tank tops, flipflops, hats etc. are discouraged. There is no formal dress code in an Illinois courtroom, but anything deemed inappropriate may result in you being removed from the courtroom.

What is a Pretrial?

A Pretrial is a conference between the Judge, your family law attorney and your spouse’s attorney, conducted in the Judge’s chambers. A Pretrial conference is an opportunity which allows each side’s attorney to apprise the Court as to the facts of your case and thereafter, the Court will make a series of recommendations to help resolve the issues at hand. Pretrial conferences are a common practice in domestic relations cases, and are used as a tool for settlement. Be advised that during this conference, you may be required to sit in the courtroom with your spouse, therefore, it is a good idea to bring a book or magazine to occupy your time. 

Do not engage your spouse. Simply wait for our family law attorney team member to return and advice as to what occurred during the Pretrial conference.

What Should I Do If I’m Asked to Give Testimony?

Should you be required to testify at your court appearance, remember to be honest, clear, and precise with your responses. Answer only the question that is asked of you. As a general rule, a simple “yes” or “no” is sufficient. Avoid lengthy replies. Do not tell a story. Do not elaborate beyond the scope of the question asked of you. Focus on the directions of the attorney in court and be respectful at all times of the Court and opposing counsel. Our team will provide additional guidance and will prep you ahead of time if you are expected to testify on a given court date.

Am I Safe Inside the Courtroom?

No matter what has occurred in your marriage, you will have to be present in court with your spouse at some point during your litigation. Especially in cases where domestic violence has occurred, this prospect can be very frightening. You may feel intimidated and fear the unknown. However, you can be assured that the Court has personnel such as sheriffs or bailiffs who are available to assist you should a confrontational situation arise in court. Further, if you believe your safety is at risk after your court appearance, you can seek an escort to walk with you while you leave the building. Additionally, our family law attorneys and team members will do everything we can to look out for your safety as well.

Begin Your Journey To Self-Healing

Sterk Family Law Group is a firm of experienced family law attorneys in Orland Park, IL. Contact us to schedule your free family law or estate planning consultation today!