Divorcing spouses rarely have equal access to income and assets. Chicago divorce courts have recognized that the wealthier spouse will have a greater ability to afford an attorney and that this may prevent the less wealthy spouse from being able to fairly litigate his or her divorce case. The less wealthy spouse may ask the court to order the wealthier spouse to contribute to some or all of his or her attorneys’ fees. This permits the less wealthy spouse to have access to a “level playing field”.
This can be one of the first things sought by the less wealthy spouse once the divorce case is started. The less wealthy spouse can seek money for fees that he or she already incurred or for future anticipated fees. The less wealthy spouse’s attorney can file a petition with the court seeking interim attorney’s fees.
Illinois divorce courts consider several factors when deciding to award interim attorneys’ fees. These factors include each spouse’s income and assets, needs, realistic earning capacity, any impairment to earning capacity, the standard of living established during the marriage, the complexity of issues in the divorce, each party’s access to relevant information, the amount of fees that the other spouse has already paid to his or her attorney, and other factors that the court deems important. The court is supposed to schedule hearings on interim attorneys’ fees relatively quickly.
An interim attorneys’ fees award does not prevent a final hearing at a later point in the case on the issue of attorneys’ fees.