Think You Can't Afford an Attorney For a Divorce – Think Again.
Generally, in Illinois, each party to a lawsuit bears responsibility for his or her own attorney's fees. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as divorce cases. The divorce exception arose from the idea that it is not uncommon for one spouse to lack the financial resources to pay for a divorce, often causing that spouse to stay in a bad marriage because he or she believes they cannot afford an attorney.
Illinois fixes this issue in several ways. Early on in a divorce case a party may file a petition for temporary relief containing a request for spousal support or interim attorney fees. In effect, one spouse is asking the court to order the spouse with better means to help with the cost of an attorney while the divorce is proceeding. A judge can determine interim attorney's fees shortly after a party files a petition for dissolution, assuming that the parties cannot agree on a solution themselves. A party may also file a petition for contribution to attorney's fees and costs at the conclusion of a divorce proceeding. A court will consider the financial resources of both the parties to the litigation, and if an award of attorney's fees is granted, such an award will be set at a reasonable amount.
Procedurally, the attorney for the party seeking attorney's fees and costs will file a motion for the court to award interim fees. Usually this happens after some discovery has taken place, though hearings on interim fees are supposed to be summary in nature because the awards are temporary and entered without prejudice to a full hearing at the conclusion of the divorce. At the hearing, each side will briefly present his or her financial situation and the Court will determine if temporary support and/or interim attorney's fees are appropriate.
More often than not, a judge will look at the assets and income of the parties, with particular emphasis on liquidity, and reach what the judge sees as a temporary equitable solution. This usually means that the person who makes more money will pay a portion of their income to the other party so that each party has access to the income and assets to meet their reasonable and necessary monthly expenses as well as have funds to obtain an attorney during the proceedings.
If you or someone you know is considering divorce contact one of Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC's knowledgeable and dedicated attorneys for a free consultation.