If you are contemplating filing for divorce or learn that a spouse recently filed, you likely have many questions and concerns about the divorce process. For many Illinois residents facing the divorce, a common problem centers on how much a divorce will cost.
The average divorce in Illinois costs is $13,800, including $10,900 in attorneys' fees. Attorneys' fees are a significant chunk of the cost of divorce because the average hourly rate for attorneys in Illinois is $260. Your attorney's hourly rate—plus the rate of any paralegals and other firm staff—factored with the total time spent on your divorce case will determine the number of attorney’s fees you'll pay.
Other expenses include fees for things like court filings, the cost of copying and sharing documents, and compensation for expert witnesses and consultants (like child custody evaluators, appraisers, or financial analysts).
Types of Cost Involved in A Divorce in Illinois
There are two main costs involved in a divorce: Court Fees and Attorney Fees. Of course, the more continuous the divorce, the more hours you should expect your attorney to work on your case. On the bright side, no matter how complicated your divorce is, court fees are the same for everyone.
Most divorce attorneys in Illinois offer a flat fee for an uncontested divorce, which is a great way to keep costs down. For a divorce to qualify as uncontested, you and your spouse should able to settle everything (dividing money and property, for example) before hiring an attorney. In that case, the attorney’s role is to guide you through the court process and assist with the required paperwork and filings.
The cost of your divorce is directly related to the number of issues between spouses that need to be worked out. The biggest determinant of attorney fees is whether your divorce is contested or uncontested.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide property or who gets custody of kids, you have a contested divorce. In this situation, there is almost no way to know in advance how many hours your lawyer will be working on your case. Contested divorces can last years, but some can settle within a few months. As a rough guide, a contested divorce generally takes at least 10 hours, for which you will pay an hourly rate. This time estimate includes phone calls, emails, documents, filings, and court time.
What Can Affect the Cost of a Divorce?
Exactly how much you will pay for a divorce depends on several factors. However, some overarching principles can help you decide how to proceed.
Going to trial almost always adds expense. Research shows that in 2018, the average contested divorce that goes to trial costs $19,433.
Bring children into the picture, and divorce costs skyrocket to $20,700 on average in Illinois. Disputes over child support as well as child custody battles increase the costs of divorce proceedings, especially when a judge resolves the issues. Divorcing spouses save costs significantly when they can settle divorce issues involving children before the case goes to trial.
Filing for divorce based on fault will ensure the cost of divorce is higher than average. Spouses who claim faults, like impotence, abandonment, infidelity, drug, or alcohol abuse or cruelty will witness the price of their divorce proceedings ascend markedly.
Alimony also drives the cost of divorce upwards, in Illinois as well as in every state. Spousal support or spousal maintenance are interchangeable terms for what is known as alimony. In Illinois, alimony spurs the costs of divorce to $19,100 on average. Spouses with unequal earning power tend to fight out alimony battles, leading to soaring divorce costs.
High-income couples will have a high-cost divorce. The steep rise of costs in a divorce that includes property division occurs when multiple assets are involved. When property division issues achieve resolution out of court, the cost to divorce drops significantly. On average, Illinois divorcees can expect to pay $19,400 in divorces that include property division.
An uncontested divorce where parties can agree to all terms is typically cheapest, whereas contested divorce where attorneys help you agree are more expensive.
Using a mediator often helps defray costs.
Mediators work with the couple to discuss and work out all aspects of the divorce. In these cases, attorneys are not required, and the divorce does not go to court, which means the divorce is typically more affordable. You do have to pay for the mediator, but their fees are usually reasonable. In our comparison of divorce cost studies, we found that settling a divorce without going to court can save you an average of $4,000.
Other things that may affect the cost of divorce include the complexities of the case. For example, if there is huge debts and/or properties involved, child custody issues, or problems with domestic violence, incarceration, and/or substance abuse, the case will likely take more time and thus may become more expensive. The employment and income of both parties can also affect divorce costs.
Tips Make a Divorce as Cost-Efficient as Possible
Legal costs can be a big part of divorce expenses. However, hiring an attorney does not have to mean breaking the bank. Here are some tips on how to keep attorney costs down during a divorce.
Get all fee agreements in writing so that you know exactly what you’re paying for. Pay attention to details like what time increments the attorney bills in
If you can, try to agree on issues with your spouse outside of court
Be careful with cheap attorneys: be sure they are experienced and read the fine print to make sure you will get the support you need
Don’t treat your attorney as a therapist: you are likely being billed for the time you spend with your attorney, so stick to the facts
Never withhold relevant information from your attorney. This can slow down the process and end up costing you more in time and money
Keep track of what your attorney is doing. Typically, you will be billed for all calls and correspondence, and these items will appear on your bill Keeping track on your end can help you catch any mistakes