Legalities, a weekly column that appears in the Help section of the Southern Illinoisan, is a free service of the Self Help Legal Center. You can visit the Southern Illinoisan website at: http://www.southernillinoisan.com
Q: My husband filed for divorce three months ago and he had me sign a form called an Entry of Appearance, Waiver, and Consent. I never heard back from anyone until recently when I was told that a judgment has been entered against me. After reading the judgment, I didn't like the way that certain property was divided. What can I do?
A: You need to see an attorney now.
The Entry of Appearance, Waiver, and Consent form, while short and simple, is very powerful and by signing it, you essentially gave up a lot of your rights. To understand what rights you gave up, you need to look at each part of the form separately.
By filing your "Entry of Appearance" you told the court that you were not going to have an attorney represent you and you gave the court jurisdiction (power) to decide the case and divide your property and debts.
By filing the "Waiver" you told the court that you waived your right to be served with a Summons and a copy of your ex-husband's divorce petition by the Sheriff. This allowed your ex-husband to proceed with a hearing because the judge knew that you knew that the lawsuit had been filed against you.
The "Consent," however, is the most important part of the form. By filing the "Consent," you told the court that you agreed with everything that was in your ex-husband's divorce petition. This allowed the judge to basically give your ex-husband everything he had requested without your presence at a hearing.
Consequently, you should have been given a copy of your ex-husband's divorce petition before you signed an Entry of Appearance, Waiver, and Consent form. If you didn't, or if you did not understand the form, you may have the right to ask the court to set aside the judgment. Because this argument may be difficult to make, you should try to find an attorney to represent you with this argument.
You also need to know that in Illinois, you usually only have 30 days from the date that the judgment was entered to ask that it be set aside or vacated. If you cannot find or afford an attorney within the 30-day time limit, our Center has a form that you can use to ask the court to set aside the judgment. You can find this form in the packet entitled "What you can do if you lose a civil trial" on our website at /selfhelp. When you reach our site, click on the Court logo.
Do you have a legal question? Write us at Self Help Legal Center, SIU School of Law, Mailcode 6804, Carbondale, Illinois or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all questions will be answered and may be edited for space or content.
Legalities is written by the Self Help Legal Center, a public service of the SIU School of Law. The Self Help Legal Center cannot provide legal representation. It can, however, help you find the answer to your legal problem. This column is for general legal information purposes only and the advice given in this column may not apply to your situation. For specific legal advice about your situation, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice in Illinois. This column is not meant to give legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.