If you know anyone who has gone through a divorce in the Chicago area, you’ve probably heard them talking about the emotional and psychological costs and the burden of the financial cost. It’s no secret that going through a divorce can be costly, but in reality that cost can vary greatly depending on many factors. So, how much does a divorce lawyer cost in Chicago?
Cost of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer vs. DIY
It’s no secret that going through a divorce can be costly, but in reality, that cost can vary greatly depending on many factors. If you are facing a divorce, you can hire a divorce lawyer to advocate on your behalf, or you can take the “do it yourself” approach by representing yourself.
DIY – Representing Yourself
If keeping the total cost of the divorce down is your main goal, then doing the divorce yourself without an attorney would be the cheapest option. Acting as your own “lawyer” allows you to save money on attorney fees. This means your biggest expenses will be legal costs for the initial filing fees for your case, whether you file or your spouse files, which generally range from $250 to $400, plus additional fees for process service by the Sheriff of your spouse. If you have children with your spouse, you will also have the added expense of required parenting classes.
Representing yourself also means you must attend all court appearances in your case. This means you will be required to take time off from work and therefore lose out on those earnings you would have made if an attorney appeared in court on your behalf.
If you are not worried about lost wages or taking time off of work, consider the cost of your future financial situation by not getting an attorney. A skilled divorce attorney can ensure you get the best financial deal possible from the divorce, including spousal support, maintenance, and property division, including debt allocation and investment accounts. Spending money on a lawyer has many benefits you would not get by representing yourself, so be sure to consider all of your options and not just the total overall cost.
Divorce Attorney Fees Arrangements
The normal fee arrangement for divorce attorneys in Chicago is for the attorney to take a lump sum upfront for a retainer and then charge their hourly rate based on the work they do against that lump sum retainer. Other law firms may take a lump sum retainer as security that they hold on to until the conclusion of your case and send you bills during the case based on how much work they performed on your behalf at their hourly rate each month. The security retainer can then be applied to the last bill in the case or refunded back to you. Another payment arrangement available for your case is a fixed rate or flat fee retainer. This type of retainer is usually only accepted in uncontested cases, which means you and your spouse have an agreement on everything involved in your divorce and need the proper paperwork to be prepared and necessary court appearances to be covered. All of these payment arrangements involve using the retainer to pay the initial filing fees in a case, as well as the cost for the service of your spouse.
Paying for Attorney Fees in a Divorce
Most of the time, you are responsible for your own attorney’s fees for the duration of your divorce case. However, there are specific circumstances when your spouse could be required to pay your attorney’s fees if the situation arises.
Contempt of a Court Order
The first is if your spouse is held in contempt of court because they violated a court order. This involves filing a petition for rule and the court holding a hearing about the contempt. If the court finds that your spouse is not doing what they’re required to do in a court order, your attorney can request that your spouse pays for your attorney fees associated with having to go to court to enforce the court order. It’s important to note this would not require your spouse to pay for attorney fees unrelated to the violation of the court order.
Substantial Difference in Spouses’ Income
The other circumstance where your spouse might be ordered to pay your divorce attorney’s fees is when there is a substantial difference between your income and your spouse’s income. In this situation, your attorney may recommend that you file a Petition for Interim and Prospective Attorney Fees to request a contribution to your current and future attorney fees during the case from your spouse. These are decided on a case-by-case basis by the Court. If you hire a divorce attorney, it’s important to know that you will be responsible for most of your own attorney fees, except in the special circumstances just mentioned. Be sure to discuss fees with your attorney so you understand how they will be paid throughout the case and to determine if you might be able to have some of your attorney fees covered by your spouse.