Generally, there are two types of divorce in Illinois: contested and uncontested.
A contested divorce occurs when either spouse doesn't want to end the marriage or when the spouses just cannot agree on the terms of their separation, like alimony, child custody and support, property division, etc.
When the parties fail to enter into a written settlement agreement out of court to make their divorce uncontested, the case goes to trial. As a result, the judge makes decisions for them.
A contested divorce is typically more time-consuming and expensive than an uncontested one, so most couples strive to avoid it at all costs. However, as every case is unique, sometimes the inevitable happens.
To prepare for this divorce scenario, let's learn more about different options for contested cases and the expenses involved.
Contested Divorce With Children
Children are one of the main factors making the divorce process more challenging and, therefore, expensive. In addition to discussing property and alimony, the spouses who have kids must also resolve child custody, child support, visitation, and other child-related issues.
This process requires the following steps:
- The plaintiff files the petition for dissolution of marriage, initiating the case and outlining what they want from the divorce.
- Then, the plaintiff serves copies of the initial divorce papers to the other spouse (the defendant), following the rules of civil procedure. The defendant has to respond to the petition within 30 days, telling the court what terms of the petition they agree or disagree with.
- The next step is the discovery process. The spouses must provide each other with detailed information about their income, property, assets, debts, etc., needed for deciding on child custody and support.
This process can be complex, involving written interrogatories and in-person depositions, so it is usually handled by the lawyers who advocate the parties' interests in contested divorce cases.
- Then, the spouses typically attend a pre-trial hearing, where they can be ordered to participate in mediation to resolve child custody and visitation issues peacefully.
- If the spouses fail to reach a settlement, their divorce goes to trial. During litigation, each party's attorney presents their arguments, including any evidence, like expert witnesses, etc. The judge makes a final decision about child custody based on all the provided information and following the child's best interests.
To sum it all up, contested divorce with children comes with high costs at different stages of the process.
First, in a contested divorce, the spouses typically hire separate lawyers, whose fees range from $260 to $330 per hour in Illinois. If the spouses agree to mediation, they may need to pay between $150 and $600 per hour. Sometimes, only one consultation is enough. However, a divorce with child custody issues often requires four-eight sessions.
Finally, if the spouses have minor children, they must take a court-ordered parenting class. The price of such an educational program is about $60 in Illinois, varying slightly depending on the jurisdiction.
Given all these expenses, any additional divorce services, and mandatory court filing fees, the average cost of divorce in Illinois is more than $20,500 for couples with children.
Contested Divorce Without Children
To file for a contested divorce without children, the plaintiff must take the same steps as if the couple has children. The only difference is that the spouses' disputes are limited by other matters, such as property and real estate division, alimony, etc.
When filing the initial divorce paperwork, the plaintiff must pay a court filing fee (ranging between $210 and $388 in Illinois) and serve copies of divorce papers to the defendant. Then, to answer the divorce petition, the defendant must also pay a court fee (about $200-$250).
From that point, the divorce is contested, and each party hires a lawyer to advocate their interests before the court and ask the court to grant temporary and final orders.
The average cost of divorce in Illinois is about $14,000 for couples without minor children, the 13th highest in the nation.
Thus, a divorce without children is usually cheaper as the spouses might have fewer issues to resolve through the formal trial process.
However, each divorce case is unique, and some contested divorces without children can still be more expensive than contested child custody cases. It depends on how quickly the spouses can reach the best possible settlement in their divorce and how many meetings with their lawyer or other professional each party needs.
Contested Divorce Attorney Cost
Legal fees commonly make up the largest portion of the overall cost of a contested divorce and primarily depend on the length of the process.
The hourly rate of a divorce lawyer in Illinois varies between $150 and $600.
Besides, in addition to divorce lawyers, the spouses often need to engage other professionals and experts to resolve their disputes in a contested divorce. In particular, they may need the assistance of a mediator (between $150 and $600 per hour), a forensic accountant (between $300 and $500 per hour), a real estate appraiser (starting from $300), and more.
To lower the divorce costs, the spouses should plan all their steps and cooperate when it's possible. For example, they may review free information about the divorce process available on the Illinois Courts website to prepare for the initial consultation with a lawyer or gather some of the required documents in advance.
Besides, they can save money by approaching the attorney's support staff (paralegals or legal assistants) concerning some matters of their case.
Contested Divorce Online
Online divorce is an affordable and straightforward way to select and fill out all the necessary divorce forms in only two business days.
To obtain your ready-to-sign divorce papers without leaving home, you just need to choose the online divorce provider and complete the questionnaire on the website. After providing your case details, you'll have a full package of unique divorce forms customized according to your state's laws, local court rules, and other circumstances.
Online divorce fees typically start from $139 for the base package, but these services are suitable for uncontested cases only.
Only a few top-notch online divorce websites provide services specifically designed for a contested divorce. This usually includes free revisions of the divorce documents by the expert team, online legal consultations, etc. However, it involves additional costs. So many spouses do their best to make their divorce uncontested and, therefore, cheaper.