By Sara Schlecht, Court Guide, Access to Justice Division, AOIC
Court users are referred to Illinois Court Help (ILCH) throughout their cases, from the time they first consider filing to post-judgment actions. Some are referred for one specific issue in their case and do not feel the need to reach out for more help. Others contact ILCH multiple times as they continue to navigate the court system.
One such user began contacting ILCH after filing a petition for dissolution of marriage in Cook County in April. She used an automated interview system to help prepare her forms, which she credited as being extremely helpful. The filing was accepted through the e-filing system but she did not know what she needed to do next.
“Being someone that isn’t too familiar with the court system, I needed someone to guide me through the process,” she said.
This court user first consulted with a lawyer about her case but ultimately decided to represent herself, as she thought her case was simple enough that she could not justify the cost of representation. The lawyer she spoke with referred her to ILCH.
She spoke with several different Court Guides and found these interactions to be “a very comforting experience.” In these interactions, she received the forms and information needed to move the case forward.
Among her biggest challenges in being a self-represented litigant was scheduling hearings, as she did not always find Odyssey’s scheduling tool to be cooperative. “It’s not the most easy system to use,” she said.
Aware of this difficulty, she made use of other resources and reached out to court staff and the circuit clerk’s office several times. She realized that resources and handouts to help self-represented litigants existed, they just weren't always circulated well. That's why she appreciated Illinois Court Help, she said.
“When [court staff and judges] had the time and patience to explain things to me, they would,” she said. But sometimes this just wasn’t feasible.
She continued to contact ILCH throughout her case, often calling after hearings to ensure she understood what had happened in court and what was expected of her next. “I felt like having Illinois Court Help by my side was extremely beneficial,” she said.
After five months of court proceedings and interactions with court staff and ILCH, her divorce judgment was entered. “I really believe Illinois Court Help helped expedite the whole process,” she said.
Court users from across Illinois can contact Illinois Court Help by phone, text message, and email to get help navigating the court system. Users can call or text 833-411-1121 or visit ilcourthelp.gov
to send a message.