Divorce can be an incredibly emotional experience. One moment, you’re looking across the aisle at your spouse with uncontainable love. Next, you’re glaring at them across a conference table with explosive animosity. This is particularly true in marriages that dissolve as a result of personal betrayal or a festering resentment.
While divorce may be the correct course of action for people in toxic relationships, the litigation process for dissolving your marriage can quickly become stressful.
One would think that litigation costs would be enough to deter many people from hiring experienced counsel—and it’s true: a significant number of divorces involve one or both parties acting as self-represented litigants. Unfortunately, people can end up unnecessarily sacrificing important rights and wealth, potentially costing them more than what they would have paid in attorney’s fees.
Sometimes divorces involve one spouse with access to a disparate amount of resources, while the other is effectively broke. In such David versus Goliath cases, the financially-disadvantaged party does not—and should not—represent themselves in their divorce. Fortunately for them, Illinois law thinks so too.
What Are Interim Attorney’s Fees?
Interim attorney’s fees are a type of monetary award where one party contributes funds towards the other party’s legal representation. Courts are authorized under Section 501 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) to award interim attorney’s fees. The purpose behind awarding interim attorney’s fees is to “level the playing field” of litigation by equalizing the uneven resources between the parties.
Under Section 501 of the IMDMA, courts must consider the following factors if applicable:
- Each party’s respective level of wealth, including marital property in their possession;
- Each party’s needs;
- The earning capacity of each party;
- Any conditions impairing either party’s earning capacity;
- The marital standard of living;
- How complex the relevant legal issues are;
- The parties’ access to relevant information;
- Past payments or reasonably expected future payments made to opposing counsel; and
- Other factors the court deems just and equitable
How Do You Get Interim Attorney’s Fees?
A party can request the court to award interim attorney’s fees based on affidavits (sworn statements) regarding the relevant factors under Section 501. Such a request is procedurally accomplished by filing a petition with the court. The petition must contain enough information to allow the court to conclude that there is disparity in the abilities of the parties to pay their respective attorney’s fees.
At a minimum, a petition for interim attorney’s fees should be supported by sworn statements including, but not limited, to the following facts:
- Employment status and income level of each party
- Any financial hardships the requesting party is experiencing
- Any caregiving to dependent children or elders for which the requesting party is responsible
- Any complex legal issues raised by the divorce
The petition must also assert that awarding interim attorney’s fees would further the interests of justice by leveling the playing field so the requesting party can effectively litigate the matter. If granted, the court will order the opposing party to contribute towards your attorney’s fees.
For Justice in Family Law Proceedings, Call the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C.
If you are going through a major divorce, you shouldn’t have to litigate it alone. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., we are committed to helping you secure your legal rights and interests during divorce proceedings. If you are worried about having enough resources to retain a member of our legal team as counsel, we can help you explore the prospect of an interim fee award to help alleviate that concern.
Call the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. to get in touch with one of our esteemed attorneys to review your case and discover the extent of your legal rights.