Typically, unless a divorce is agreed to, both parties are going to incur attorney’s fees and court costs throughout the dissolution proceedings. Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/503) provides that a party may generally file a Petition for Contribution said fees and costs against the other party either before the final hearing or within fourteen (14) days of the closing of proofs in the final hearing. A final hearing is one that resolves all outstanding issues between the parties, besides contribution, unless the parties have agreed to decide the issue of contribution in conjunction with the final hearing. If the parties do not agree to decide the issues of contribution during the final hearing on all other issues, then the issue will be decided before a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered.
However, many parties agree to waive their right to a contribution hearing altogether. This often happens when the parties enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). Many MSAs address attorney’s fees and costs by one of the following ways: (1) the parties agree to pay their own attorney’s fees and costs, (2) a party agrees to contribute a certain dollar amount or percentage towards the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs, or (3) the parties agree to pay all of their attorney’s fees and costs from their marital assets. Maybe they have property they have agreed to sell or maybe they have a financial account they have agreed to divide. When a judge is deciding the issue of contribution they will look at several factors to determine if a party should contribute to the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs and if so, how much should they contribute? It is highly recommended that you speak with an experienced attorney if you are involved in dissolution proceedings and especially prior to signing any sort of settlement.