Did your court have
Subject-Matter Jurisdiction?

In a divorce action, in Illinois and probably in all states, a court cannot create a dissolution of marriage. A proper pleading, as established by law, must be filed by a party to confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon the court. In Illinois the statute that controls the requisite statements in a proper proceeding for dissolution of marriage is found in 750 ILCS 5/403. The court, in Ligon v. Williams, 264 Ill.App.3d 701, 637 N.E.2d 633 (1st Dist. 1994), held that "the circuit court's jurisdiction is not boundless, and where no justiciable issue is presented to the court through proper pleadings, the court cannot adjudicate an issue sua sponte. Orders entered in the absence of a justiciable question properly presented to the court by the parties are void since they result from court action exceeding its jurisdiction."

Should a judge hear and rule on a dissolution of marriage (divorce) where the Petitioner did not file a Petition of Dissolution of Marriage in the court that strictly complied with the statute, the resulting Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, as well as all other orders issued by the judge, are void.

In Illinois, the 1970 Illinois Constitution gave all circuit courts subject-matter jurisdiction to hear all "justiciable matters". However it did not do away with the concept of courts of limited jurisdiction. In all courts hearing a statutory proceeding (such as divorce, adoption, eviction, traffic, etc.) and in all appellate and federal courts, the court is governed by the rules of limited jurisdiction. In a court governed by the rules of limited jurisdiction, no subject-matter jurisdiction is conferred upon the court without a valid Petition being filed and found in the record of the case.

"Justiciable matters" will be reviewed later on another web-page.

The Illinois Supreme Court, in Brown v. VanKeuren, 340 Ill. 118, 122 (1930), held that "The petition required to put the court in motion and give it jurisdiction must be in conformity with the statute granting the right and must show all the facts necessary to authorize it to act, -i.e., it must contain all the statements which the statute says the petition shall state, - and if the petition fails to contain all of these essential elements the court is without jurisdiction.".

An inspection of the record of your case must affirmatively show that subject-matter jurisdiction had been lawfully conferred upon the court.

If the purported Petition for Dissolution of Marriage did not strictly comply with the mandatory requirements of 705 ILCS 5/403, then the court acted without jurisdiction.  Then you are not legally divorced!

Was your court legally conferred with subject-matter jurisdiction?

Subject-matter jurisdiction can never be waived. There is no statute of limitations to challenge the orders of any court which has acted without subject-matter jurisdiction, as the orders are a legal nullity and are void ab initio. And the void orders can be challenged in any court, in any state, as they are, as one court stated, nothing more than a blank piece of paper.


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Created June 5, 1999

Revised March 4, 2002