The short answer is: It depends.
Filed in Divorce, on July 18, 2017
This answer may sound like a “cop-out,” but it depends on several factors. If you have a large estate that has a mixture of property you want to claim is part marital property and part non-marital property, depending on the documentation available, your divorce will probably be more expensive. If you want to use tactics to delay or are seeking to “make your spouse pay” for all the horrible things he or she did to you during the marriage, your divorce will be more expensive. I’ve heard many clients say “I’d rather you [meaning the attorney, me] get the money than my spouse.” However, when all is said and done, these clients have a hard time writing the check because it is so expensive, and “winning” did not deliver the satisfaction desired.
The best way to save money on attorneys fees is to “divorce” yourself from the emotional issues. Illinois is a no-fault state, so no matter how many times your spouse cheated on you, it will not be considered a relevant factor (unless your spouse dissipated marital assets). Focus on an equitable division of the marital property, realistic maintenance (formerly called alimony), reasonable custody/visitation arrangements, and child support based on the statutory guidelines.
If cost is an issue for you, make sure you pay attention to how much time your attorney is spending on your case. Remember, attorneys sell their time for a living. Make sure you are getting your money’s worth. Keep in mind, the average amount of time an attorney will spend in court on a contested hearing is 2.5 hours, although this is driven by the courtroom that your case is assigned. Some attorneys charge higher rates for time spent in court as opposed to office time. Office time can also become cost prohibitive if the issues are complex requiring extensive legal research and briefing.
The two real “hot button” issues that drag emotional issues into your divorce are child custody and support. The faster you and your spouse can come to an agreement on child support and custody, the less expensive your divorce will be. If custody becomes a contested issue, the court may require the appointment of a Section 604(b) custody evaluator a Section 215 mental evaluator, a Guardian Ad Litem, and/or a mediator, all of which come with significant price tags. The appointment of one or more of these professionals in addition to each spouse being represented by an attorney can drive an average middle class family into debt and/or bankruptcy very quickly. Appointment of a mediator is required in contested custody cases, unless there is a history of domestic violence between the spouses.
Pick your battles wisely, and remember, whether you win or lose, the result comes with a price tag.