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Divorce Evidentiary Hearing: What Can I Expect?

witness testifies in a Russian court

Any type of legal proceeding can feel overwhelming. Most people will avoid court for the majority of their lives, if not entirely. When a court case involves something as deeply personal as a divorce, it can feel even more challenging. The best way to avoid the anxiety of legal procedures is to eliminate the mystery behind them. If you know what to expect, you can prepare adequately and walk in without the fear of the unknown. Continue reading to learn about what to expect at an evidentiary hearing in your divorce case, and call a dedicated Chicago family law attorney for help with an Illinois divorce or other family law matter.

What is an Evidentiary Hearing?

An evidentiary hearing is a legal proceeding in court during which witnesses will testify about matters relevant to the case and evidence will be presented. Witnesses will be subject to examination by the attorney for the party who introduces the witness (to elucidate supportive testimony for their side), as well as cross-examination by the other party (to undermine the credibility of their testimony and introduce evidence supporting the other side of the matter).

In a divorce proceeding, there may be separate evidentiary hearings on a number of issues. There may be hearings about specific motions (such as to include or exclude certain types of evidence), as well as on certain issues pertinent to the divorce (child custody, requests for restraining orders, division of assets, etc.). Parties may request an evidentiary hearing or the court may order a hearing on its own.

What Can You Expect at an Evidentiary Hearing?

An evidentiary hearing plays out like the court proceedings you might see in a TV drama: Witnesses take the stand, attorneys question them and introduce specific pieces of evidence, and attorneys make arguments. The judge might also direct questions to the parties and the witnesses. The difference is that the arguments and testimony are all for the benefit of the judge. There will be no jury present.

The purpose of the evidentiary hearing is for the judge to make a final decision about one part of the case, as opposed to a trial where all remaining issues will be resolved and a final judgment will be issued. The judge may hold a hearing, for example, to determine the child custody rights (or “parental responsibilities”) of each party. The court will listen to testimony from each party, child psychologists, friends and family, social workers, and anyone else whom the parties have brought to testify about facts relevant to the custody dispute. Witnesses will be identified in advance, and each party may contest the relevance of a given witness. The parties might introduce evidence including medical records, report cards and school commendations, communications between the parties, and other documents to prove that one party or the other should retain legal or physical custody.

Your family law attorney will walk you through the evidentiary hearing before it happens. If you can and should testify at the hearing, your attorney will walk you through the examination process and what questions to expect and will practice with you in advance so that you are ready to go through the process. In an evidentiary hearing on child custody, for example, the parents will often testify. Talk to your family law attorney in advance of your hearing if you have any questions or concerns.


If you are dealing with divorce, child custody, spousal support, or any other family law issue in Illinois, contact the talented and compassionate Carol Stream family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt for a consultation on your case at 630-665-9600.

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