Divorce 101 – Part 2

In the second installment of my series on the most frequently asked questions among people considering divorce, I’m addressing attorney selection strategy and attorney’s fees.
Q: We’ve all heard of those really bitter divorce battles between husbands and wives, like the one portrayed in the movie The War of the Roses. Should clients look for an attorney who takes no prisoners?
A: You’ll want to avoid that type of lawyer. Although the “win at all costs” approach may sound appealing at the beginning of a case when someone wants revenge, in the end it never pays.
Q: Why fault and no fault divorce not?
A: If you’re looking for the court to punish your spouse who wronged you, you’ll be disappointed. Illinois law doesn’t allow wrongdoing as a factor in custody awards or in the division of property.
Although these types of attorneys may satisfy some primal urge of revenge, they won’t effectively and efficiently represent your best interests. If you have children, remember you and your spouse will always be parents and your kids will benefit if you and your ex get along.
This still applies even after your children reach adulthood. You don’t want them feeling torn between two sides. Wouldn’t it be nicer if they could invite both parents to their grandchild’s birthday party, rather than choosing between you and your ex-spouse?
Also, these Rambo-type attorneys rarely take cost effectiveness into consideration. Unnecessary fighting only delays the resolution of your case and adds a lot of cost. Much of the work to be done on a case can and should be looked at in a business like fashion, columbia law school public interest law weighing the costs against the benefits. There are many tasks that may provide some value, but it just doesn’t pay to do all of them. Clients need to prioritize their goals, and the money they spend on a case should be allocated based upon those stated goals.
Q: What if my spouse controls all our money, how can I get the funds to hire a lawyer?
A: In Illinois the assets and income of the marriage are to be used to pay attorney fees. If you cannot access your money, whether they are in your name, your spouse’s name or tilted jointly, your lawyer may be able to file a request for fees with the court. Requests for fees can be made periodically during the case, including at the beginning and conclusion of your case.
Q. Do attorneys accept credit cards?
A. Many attorneys do accept credit cards; but it is up to the individual attorney or firm.
Q. How do I find a lawyer if I cannot afford a lawyer?
A. Most areas have services that provide representation to people who cannot afford a lawyer. A good place to start is local bar associations and law school clinics.

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