Easier standardized forms: ATJ’s family law commission improves important materials

In 2012, the Illinois Supreme Court created the Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission to promote equal access to the civil court system. First District Appellate Court Justice Mary K. Rochford is chair of the commission and works tirelessly with other justice partners and dozens of volunteers to ensure access to justice for all.

The ATJ Commission has a specialized Family Law Forms Subcommittee charged with improving and providing resources for those representing themselves in a divorce or family law case. The subcommittee has toiled for years to create a useful and comprehensive suite of forms that have been approved by the Supreme Court and are required to be accepted in all Illinois Circuit Courts statewide.

For a current version of all forms, visit the new and improved Supreme Court website. Here you will find Circuit, Appellate, and Supreme Court forms in English, Spanish, Polish and other languages.

These forms are not just useful for self-represented litigants. They are helpful to practitioners and judges alike. Don’t be afraid to use them! They provide tremendous cost savings, detailed instructions and consistency throughout the state. They are particularly useful to lawyers representing individuals in pro bono and legal aid cases and to judges with self-represented litigants.

If you surf the Supreme Court website, you will find introduction videos, written instructions, infographics, and guided interviews to help navigate the civil court system and complete the standardized forms. The family law forms begin with Getting Started? on a divorce case and include templates for a petition for dissolution of marriage, summons, appearance, fee waiver, parenting plan, financial affidavit, child support and maintenance, interim fee award order and final judgment. There also is a place to make suggestions for the ATJ Commission. If you have ideas to improve the forms, say something. Fill in the comment form and submit online.

In June, the subcommittee updated the financial affidavit suite of forms by adding several new forms and revising the financial affidavit itself. The forms are ADA accessible, fillable online and contain warnings about filing misleading or false information. The robust set of forms has separate addendums for more complex cases with additional assets, investment accounts, real estate, retirement benefits, and debts. There is also a guide to getting started and instructions on how to complete a financial affidavit. While this does not supplant legal advice, it is a handy tool on calculating monthly income and expenses, and explains what supporting documents are necessary in conjunction with the affidavit.

If you previously downloaded the financial affidavit suite of forms from 2016 through 2020, now is the time to scrap them and start using the forms approved in June. Click here for easy access to the financial affidavit suite of forms at ILLINOISCOURTS.GOV/DOCUMENTS-AND-FORMS/APPROVED-FORMS/FORMS-APPROVED-FORMS-CIRCUIT-COURT/FINANCIAL-AFFIDAVIT/.

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