Wife Elects to Represent Herself in the Divorce Action so the Court Denied Her Request for Attorney’s Fees

gavelTrials are tricky, and we would never suggest that you handle one yourself.  It’s a lot like doing brain surgery on yourself.  You may think that you can do it yourself, like Victoria Heindl, but her case demonstrates the need for counsel.

Victoria appealed the judgment handed down to her in Kane County.  Her case is Keith Heindl v. Victoria Heindl.  The record reflects that, on September 5, 2012, Victoria’s counsel, Pamela Brunkalla petitioned the court to: (1) to withdraw; (2) “if Pamela Brunkalla is not given leave to withdraw,” for interim attorney fees under section 501(c-1) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Act) (750 ILCS 5/501(c-1) (West 2010)); (3) regardless of whether Brunkalla was allowed to withdraw, that Keith be ordered to pay a private entity for its investigation and report regarding the parties’ assets and liabilities; (4) regardless of whether Brunkalla was allowed to withdraw, that the trial be postponed; (5) regardless of whether Brunkalla was allowed to withdraw, that the judge conduct an in camera interview with the parties’ minor child regarding visitation; and (6) to conduct further discovery.

Victoria’s attorney was allowed to withdraw, and then she tried to bring a fee petition without having an attorney.  She was unaware of the rules however, and she failed to secure the funds necessary to obtain counsel.  Generally, a person is responsible for their own attorney’s fees.  But if you can demonstrate that you cannot afford to pay for fees, and your spouse can, and especially if he has money for an attorney himself, the Courts will attempt to keep one spouse from “outligating” the other.  Victoria filed no affidavit with her petition however, and it was denied by the Court.

She then attempted to delay the trial date because she was having surgery.  Again, this is something that the Courts would normally allow, but because she is not an attorney, she fails to provide the necessary proof to the Court.  The Court noted that the trial had been continued twice already and the case was pending for over two years.

The Appellate Court has just ruled in this case, and affirmed the trial court’s decision.


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