Who Pays the Attorney Fees in My Divorce?
Generally, Illinois law does not require that attorneys' fees be paid by one spouse or the other. However, there are situations in which a court may step in and award attorney fees to a spouse, especially if the financial situation in the marriage is significantly lopsided. In these situations, the burden is on the spouse needing help to show that he or she has no ability to pay an attorney.
The most well-known Illinois decision on this topic is In re Marriage of Earlywine, which was decided in 2013. Neither Earlywine had funds to hire a divorce attorney, but the husband's family loaned him enough to do so. The court held that since Mr. Earlywine now had a concrete advantage over his wife, he was obligated to contribute toward her attorney's fees so as to level the proverbial playing field. This was held despite the fact that a significant portion of the money had already been paid to Mr. Earlywine's attorney; the concept of a “level playing field” in divorce litigation was deemed more important in terms of public policy by the court.
If Court Orders Are Disobeyed
The other common reason for which payment of attorney's fees is demanded is if one spouse disobeys a court order without sufficient justification, or otherwise is held in civil or criminal contempt. For example, if your spouse disobeys a court order to provide certain documents or refuses to pay child support, then an order may be entered requiring him or her to pay the reasonable attorney fees incurred in connection with the litigation.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
Regardless of the state of a client's finances, you are entitled to competent representation at the same level as your spouse. Contact us today at 630-665-7300 or via our website to schedule a free consultation.