Who Pays the Attorney’s Fees?

Discussing Fees

Often times a person will wait for months, and sometimes years before filing for divorce for one simple reason… he or she cannot afford the attorney’s fees to be incurred during divorce proceedings. The Illinois legislature has taken steps to ease this financial dilemma when they enacted Public Act 89-712, commonly referred to as “The Leveling of the Playing Field Act.” The purpose of enacting into Illinois law “The Leveling of the Playing Field Act” was to make it easier for spouses not in control of the family wealth to hire competent counsel and seek immediate relief from the court for payment of prospective attorneys fees.

For example, assume Jed Clampett from the town of Hillbilly Village strikes oil in his backyard during his marriage to Mary Jo. Jed becomes wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, but never allows his wife access to the family bank accounts, certificates of deposit, stocks, brokerage accounts or Jane, the investment advisor. Mary Jo only receives enough money each week to buy groceries. Mary Jo knows that Jed has been having an affair with Jane, the investment advisor, for years; however, she has always thought she could not retain competent counsel to file for divorce without having a $10,000.00 retainer fee.

The Leveling of the Playing Field Act added a new statute to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/501(c-1)) which allows for the immediate payment of interim attorney’s fees to the attorney of your choice, to be paid by the spouse in control of the family wealth.

Upon the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, a spouse can request that his or her attorney immediately file a Petition for Payment of Interim Attorney’s Fees. It is incumbent upon the courts in this State to adjudicate these petitions promptly, even before substantial work has been completed in the case.

This statute has been in effect since June 1, 1997, and it is becoming an increasingly popular tool to allow spouses that do not control the family wealth to litigate their divorce proceedings on an even financial ground with his or her spouse.

This statute may even curtail the litigation process because once individuals like Jed Clampett realize that the wealth he controlled throughout the marriage is now being depleted to pay both spouses’ attorneys fees, there is a likelihood that Jed Clampett and people in his financial situation will become more conciliatory and attempt to resolve many divorce-related issues amicably, rather than pay an “oil field full of money” to both attorneys that otherwise could be shared by the parties at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings.

Contact the Law Offices of Michael P. Doman, Ltd. for your divorce attorney needs.

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