Distributing the Costs of Divorce
Financially, divorce can be expensive. Hence, the cost can deter some spouses from pursuing the dissolution of marriage. Various costs associated with divorce are unavoidable, but generally, choosing a process other than litigation to accomplish the dissolution of the marriage can greatly reduce the overall financial outlay. Such financial considerations may be of high importance if there is significant concern over maintaining financial stability after divorce.
Mediation and collaborative divorce give spouses more control over what expenses are incurred, and more easily allow couples to share costs. These options also give the parties more control over the outcome. Further, if a divorce is uncontested, i.e., all relevant issues are settled, the costs are relatively minimal. However, the more traditional route to divorce through litigation is sometimes necessary if the parties want very different outcomes, or if concerns over misconduct/misrepresentation are present.
Since one spouse is typically at a financial disadvantage, the prospect of litigation can be daunting, and potentially push him or her to agree to a quick settlement to avoid high legal fees and Court costs.
Divorce Costs Generally
Similar to getting married, divorce brings some fixed administrative costs of several hundred dollars associated with filing the petition, serving the divorce papers on the other spouse, parenting classes (if applicable), and transcript/copy fees for documents submitted with the Court. The specific amounts vary by county, but they are the same for everyone.
Beyond these costs, the ultimate cost of divorce will depend upon the amount and complexity of any contested issues, and the consequent amount of time a divorce attorney must spend to address these matters. Foregoing a divorce attorney, even in simple cases, is rarely a good idea. Most couples need the service of an experienced divorce attorney to ensure any settlement is fair and proper, and to effectively navigate the divorce process so that documentation and/or filing issues do not unnecessarily delay or damage the outcome of the case. Further, an experienced divorce attorney can help a spouse unable to financially support protracted litigation level the playing field.
Shifting Fees and Costs to the Other Spouse
In the interests of fairness and justice, though, the law does allow shifting the costs of divorce generated through litigation to the spouse better able to absorb the expense. While a divorce is pending, either party has the ability to request the Court order the other spouse pay all or some of the attorney fees. Allowing these requests while the case is still pending means an economically disadvantaged spouse may leverage the assets of the other party so he or she has the opportunity to adequately litigate the case. This step is usually prudent when one party uses his or her ability to control assets to direct the litigation, making mounting a defense difficult for the other spouse.
Before a Court can order a spouse to pay attorney fees, the Judge must first decide the financial ability of both parties to pay an attorney. In some cases, a Court can order a spouse who paid a large retainer for legal services to disgorge this amount if done to shield assets or otherwise make participating in litigation difficult for the other spouse. The Court must assess a number of factors related to each party’s financial situation, the circumstances of the case, and access to relevant information when deciding an ability to pay, and the services of an experienced divorce attorney are particularly valuable at this juncture, given the importance of the issue to the case generally.
Talk to an Illinois Divorce Attorney
Getting divorced is the final end of a relationship that cannot be undone once granted. Thus, you want to get the best possible outcome on the first try, and the experience and knowledge offered by a dedicated Inverness family law attorney at the Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. can help get you to the next stage of your life without sacrificing your rights or interests. Contact the office today for a free initial consultation.