The Cost Effectiveness of the “Fight” in Dissolution Proceedings

I often hear from clients that “justice must prevail” in their dissolution of marriage cases.  They have been wronged, and they feel that they should be vindicated.  Unfortunately, dissolution proceedings take place in civil court in Illinois.  That means that the Judge is not there to punish the parties, as they are in criminal court.  They are there to divide assets, allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time for the minor children and move on to the next case.  Additionally, Illinois is a “no fault” state, so the Judges cannot award property based upon the divorce being someone in particular’s fault.  (I.e., you had an extra-marital affair, so no property for you.  That doesn’t happen in Illinois).  So, sometimes this feeling of being vindicated can cloud the judgment of parties going through a divorce and cause them to spend money that is not cost effective.

For example, someone might insist that they need retroactive child support.  They feel that it is wrong that their spouse has not paid child support for the minor children during the divorce proceedings and that they shouldn’t have the sole obligation to provide for the minor children. They believe that justice should prevail, and they should receive the retroactive child support because their spouse is wrong, and it is just the principle of the matter.  These people are not incorrect.  However, when the retroactive support is $570.00, and there is no agreement to payment of retroactive support, a hearing has to be had in order to get the retroactive support. In these scenarios, parties need to look at the big picture and determine what is cost effective.  What is cost effective is not always “right” and justice doesn’t always “prevail”.  Both parties, presumably, have to pay their attorneys to go to Court and fight for retroactive support.  The attorneys both have to prepare for this fight.  They have to submit courtesy copies of documents to the Judge, to help the Judge prepare for this fight.  The attorneys have to prepare the witnesses for this hearing, to fight for that $570.00.  One can assume that paying two attorneys to prepare for this battle in Court is going to cost much, much more than $570.00.  So, no matter what the outcome is in Court, everyone loses, because everyone is spending more money than is cost –effective.  This is what litigants often lose sight of in dissolution of marriage cases, and it is something that is important to pay attention to.

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