I Cannot Afford A Divorce Attorney! What Do I Do?
Normally, when one brings a civil suit in Illinois, it is that person’s responsibility to cover all the attorney’s fees and other costs associated with bringing suit. This can frighten many people when they begin divorce proceedings, especially if they are in a precarious financial state, have no savings, or cannot access their savings due to the actions of their spouse or another party. However, divorce is an exceptional case, and there are options by which attorney fees can be paid.
Pro Se and Payment Plans
Many parties to a divorce choose, at least at first, to go it alone and represent themselves pro se. Many courts, including Cook County, offer resources to assist with doing so, but stories abound of pro se parties who make mistakes, or who wind up signing away far more than they should. While handling your divorce pro se is possible, it is generally not recommended, especially if you and your spouse actually have disputes to resolve.
Perhaps the simplest way to avoid the problem is to consult with an attorney—most offer a first consultation at a reduced cost—and work out a payment plan up front if you are satisfied that they will represent you appropriately. Attorneys are entitled to be paid for their time, but they also genuinely want to help people, or they would not be practicing family law. If you happen to encounter a family law attorney who is an exception, keep trying.
Remedies in Court
Another option is to go to court, either yourself or with an attorney, and file motions for temporary relief (and possibly for attorney fees, as well). Illinois permits motions for temporary relief for child support, as well for either selling assets or borrowing money in the appropriate circumstances. The rationale is that it is simply inequitable to allow one spouse to exist near penury while the means to assist them is available, especially if children of the marriage are involved.
The same rationale applies in motions for attorney fees. Illinois has a vested interest in such cases being decided equitably, lest one spouse wind up dependent on state programs for aid. Both spouses, by the state’s rationale, deserve to have equal opportunities to have their voices heard and to have adequate representation in their case, so as to preserve their rights to their portion of the marital estate. Usually, a motion for temporary relief in the form of attorney fees will be filed, sometime after the conclusion of discovery, and will be ruled on at the end of proceedings. This can sometimes leave an attorney unpaid, but it is rare that no fee award of any kind will be assessed, especially when one spouse makes significantly more than the other.
Need Help Getting to Divorce Court Prepared?
It is not uncommon for people to believe they can manage their divorce alone, and while a rare person will do so, the majority of divorcing spouses do better with an experienced attorney on their side. Our dedicated Kane County divorce lawyers are happy to sit down with you and work out a plan of attack, as well as a plan for payment if need be. Call the office today for a confidential initial consultation.